Margaret, Duchess of Austria

Margaret, Duchess of Austria

Margaret of Austria (b. ca. 1204 - d. Krumau am Kamp, 29 October 1266), was a Queen Consort of the Romans 1225-35, titular Duchess of Austria in 1252-60, and Queen consort of Bohemia 1253-60.

She was the eldest daughter of Leopold VI, Duke of Austria and Theodora Angelina, the latter from the Byzantine imperial family.


In Nürnberg on 29 November 1225 she married with Henry, King elected of Germany and eldest son of the Emperor Frederick II. The groom was only fourteen-years-old and the bride already twenty-one.

Her coronation as German Queen took place sixteen months later, on 23 March 1227 in Aachen. Henry and Margaret had two sons, Henry (who died young ca. 1242/1245) and Frederick (who also died young ca. 1251/1252).

In 1235, Henry rebelled against his father, but was defeated and dethroned. Confinated in several castles in Apulia, he died possibly on 12 February 1242 after a fall from his horse, in an attempted suicide. In the meanwhile, Margaret (who possibly never see her husband again) moved to Würzburg, where she lived in seclusion in the Markuskloster.

Margaret's brother Frederick II, Duke of Austria, last Duke from the Babenberg dynasty, died childless in the Battle of Leitha (1246), leaving a succession crisis. The two principal claimants over the succession in the duchies of Austria and Styria were two women: Margaret (who, as the eldest sister of the late Duke, claimed proximity of blood) and her niece Gertrude (who, as the only daughter of Henry of Mödling, the eldest brother of the Duke Frederick II -who predeceased his father, Duke Leopold VI- claimed primogeniture).

Wenceslaus I, King of Bohemia wanted to take control over the duchies by the wedding of his eldest son and heir, Vladislav with Frederick II and Margaret's niece, Gertrude. The couple were proclaimed Duke and Duchess of Austria, but Vladislav died in the following year (1247). The next ruler of Austria, was Gertrude's second husband, Hermann VI, Margrave of Baden, who died in 1250 leaving Austria and Styria without ruler again.

The Austrian aristocracy offered the government of the duchies to Ottokar of Bohemia, second son and new heir of King Wenceslaus I. However, one condition was imposed by the nobles: Ottokar only can take the control over Austria and Styria if he married with one of the heiresses of the Babenberg dinasty. Ottokar refused a wedding with the widow of his brother and decided to marry with Margaret. The ceremony took place on 11 February 1252 in the Castle Chapel (German: "Burgkapelle") of Hainburg an der Donau. She was about twenty-six years his senior.

Besides, Ottokar allowed to hand over to itself the imperial privileges sealed with a Golden Bull on the basis of the Privilegium Minus, who legitimazed his claim over the duchies of Austria and Styria, since Margaret was the heiress of the last duke by proximity of blood. Thereby she transferred the government of the duchies to Austria and Styria to her husband. Pope Innocent IV -who had previously changed sides several times between Gertrude and Margaret- confirmed the lawful government of Margaret and Ottokar over both duchies on 6 May 1252. Bohemian administrators ruled the duchies their names.

One year later, on 23 September 1253, King Wenceslaus I died. Ottokar became King of Bohemia as Ottokar II and Margaret as his Queen consort. However, by this time, was evident that Margaret (who was already fifty-years-old), was barren. King Ottokar II tried with the Pope the recognizion of the illegitimate son who he had with one of Margaret's ladies-in-waiting as his lawful successor. After the Pope refused this, in 1261 the King obtain the annulment of his marriage with Margaret. The repudiated Queen left Bohemia and return to Austria, settled her residence in Krumau am Kamp, and, during the winters, in Krems.

Ottokar II kept Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, claiming to be the heir designated by Margaret in their divorce settlement. He held the duchies until deposed by king Rudolf I of Germany in 1276.

After her divorce she was called "Romanorum quondam Regina"; however, she maintains the title "ducissa Austrie et Stirie". Only in 1266 she change her title as "quondam filia Livpoldi illustris ducis Austrie et Stirie et Romanorum Regina" as a reference of her father.

Prior her death, she chose the Lilienfeld Abbey as her burial place. The date of her death is controversial. Some sources stated 1266, while others stated 2/12 October 1267 as the real date. According her wish, she was buried in the Lilienfeld Abbey next to her father.


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