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Useful Notes / Margaret of Austria

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"Fortune Infortune Fort Une."
—motto of Margaret of Austria

Archduchess Margaret of Austria (10 January 1480 – 1 December 1530) was the second child of Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was named after her stepgrandmother Margaret of York, to whom her mother was very close.

Her mother died when Margaret and her brother Philip were very young. Her father Maximilian became regent for Philip. As mark of his alliance with France, she was sent to France as a young girl, to marry the French dauphin and later king Charles VIII. Here, Margaret received an excellent education as the future Queen of France, under the tutelage of Anne de Beaujeu, who had taken up the regency of France while Charles VIII was still young. This bethrothal was broken when Anne of Brittany inherited the dukedom of Brittany and a marriage to her became more advantageous to the French Crown.


Margaret then married Juan, the son of Isabella, Queen of Castile, and Ferdinand, King of Aragon and became pregnant. Shortly after, Juan died. All hope for the Spanish inheritance was then on Margaret's unborn child, but this was dashed with a stillbirth.

Once more Margaret was persuaded to marry. This time, her spouse was Philibert, Duke of Savoy. It was a happy marriage, in which Margaret took control of government in the duchy, as he preferred to enjoy himself. It didn't last long, for Philibert died in 1504. Margaret returned to the Low Countries. Her brother also passed away in 1506, and she then took up the regency of the Low Countries for his son Charles V, who was still a young child. In addition to Charles, she also took care of the other children of her brother who were present in the Low Countries: Eleonor, Isabella and Mary.


Margaret gained a reputation for stable and able government. She persuaded her father to make peace with France, as this power threatened the Low Countries. She also took in the daughter of the English ambassador, named Anne Boleyn, as Lady-in-waiting. This girl would go on to become Queen of England and mother of Elizabeth I.

When Charles came of age, she laid down the reigns of government briefly, but soon took them up again when it became important he would need to be away to travel to his other lands as well.At the death of her father Maximilian, she organized the campaign to have Charles elected Holy Roman Emperor, which succeeded. Charles was then lord of a great variety of domains, which made it difficult to stay in the Low Countries for extended periods of time.

In matters of state, she favored England, as trade had always been important to the Low Countries. She distrusted France, but was instrumental in peace negotations with this country on several occassions. Most notably, when she negotiated a peace with Louise of Savoy, the mother of French king Francis I and the sister of her last husband.


After her death, Margaret was succeeded by her niece Mary as the governor of the Low Countries.

Tropes associated with Margaret of Austria:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: To avert making this too literally, Margaret became Governor of the Low Country during her nephew's minority.
  • Arranged Marriage: Her marriages were arranged, but happy enough.
  • Balance of Power: While Charles V and Francis I of France were often hostile to each other, England was the one power that could shift the balance between them. This is part of the reason why Margaret was always working to establish good relations.
  • Big Bad: Tended to be France for the Habsburgs.
  • Blue Blood: Her mother Mary descended from a junior branch of the French Royal house of Valois. Her father and grandfather were both Holy Roman Emperors.
  • Decadent Court: Averted. Margaret's court and palace were quite modest for an Imperial child and as the seat of government. She wasn't also continuously chopping heads off like a certain English contemporary of hers.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Her brother had been at odds with his father-in-law Ferdinand over who should wield power in Castile. Philip's wife Juana was technically queen at the death of her mother, but her outbursts made both of them claim governance there on basis of her insanity. Known to be travelling around with her husband's corpse after his death, she was basically incarcerated in Tordesillas. Margaret's father also kept her out of his plans sometimes, as his interests didn't always exactly allign with those of the Low Countries.
    • Became averted as the years went on, as Charles and his siblings got on well enough most of the time.
  • Parental Substitute: Margaret to Eleonor, Charles, Isabella and Mary. They had two more siblings, but they were raised in Spain.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: And how.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: There was some grumbling at points over a woman wielding power, but her able government and trust of her relatives did not make this obstacle unsurmountable.

Portrayals of Margaret of Austria in fiction:

  • Úrsula Corberó in Spanish series Isabel (2012).
    • Úrsula Corberó reprised the role in movie La Corona Partida
    • Mónica López in series Carlos, Rey Emperador
  • Appears in Jean Plaidy's Daughters of Spain, the last book in a trilogy about Isabella of Castile.
  • Mentioned in The Tudors (2007)