Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford

(c. 1416–1472)
   Jacquetta of Luxembourg, duchess of Bedford, was the mother of Queen Elizabeth WOOD134 JACQUETTA OF LUXEMBOURG, DUCHESS OF BEDFORD Some of the leaders of Jack Cade’s Rebellion are hanged to frighten their followers into obedience. (British Library) VILLE and the matriarch of the WOODVILLE FAMILY.
   The daughter of Pierre, Count of St. Pol, a French nobleman who traced his family to Charlemagne, Jacquetta married John, duke of Bedford, the uncle of HENRY VI, in April 1433. After her husband’s death in 1435, the duchess shocked her royal nephew by marrying Richard WOODVILLE, a Northamptonshire gentleman whose father had been Bedford’s chamberlain. Because Woodville had nothing but looks to recommend him as a husband for the duchess, the government fined the couple £1,000 for their misalliance. Besides social rank and a connection to the house of LANCASTER, Jacquetta brought her husband land and wealth, and bore him at least fourteen children.
   On the outbreak of civil war, the duchess accompanied her husband, now Lord Rivers, to Sandwich, where Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU had ordered him to assemble a fleet. In January 1460, Jacquetta, Rivers, and their eldest son, Anthony WOODVILLE, were captured by Yorkist raiders and carried to CALAIS. Although the duchess was shortly released, her husband and son remained in Yorkist custody. A year later, after the Battle of ST. ALBANS, the LONDON authorities sent Jacquetta to Queen Margaret as part of a deputation seeking the queen’s assurance that her army would not plunder the city (see March on London).
   In May 1464, after the Woodvilles had made their peace with the house of YORK, Jacquetta witnessed the secret union of EDWARD IV and her eldest daughter Elizabeth, a match that constituted an even greater misalliance than the duchess’s own marriage. Edward spent the next three days with the Woodvilles, and each night Jacquetta brought her daughter secretly to the king. By 1468, Jacquetta and her family were influential enough to be accused of ruining Sir Thomas COOK, a wealthy London merchant who owned a rich tapestry supposedly coveted by the duchess. The traditional account is that Cook refused Jacquetta’s demand that he sell her the tapestry at far less than its worth, and that she then accused him of being a Lancastrian sympathizer. Because Cook’s name had surfaced during the recent investigation of the CORNELIUS PLOT, Edward allowed Rivers, as constable of England, to proceed against the merchant. Although Cook had refused a Lancastrian request for money, he had not revealed the contact and was convicted of misprision of treason. A fine of £8,000 ruined Cook, and the duchess obtained her tapestry when Woodville servants ransacked the merchant’s house. Much of this story has been called into question by modern historians who suggest that the involvement of the duchess and her family in the Cook case was greatly exaggerated by the anticourt propaganda of Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, and that Cook may indeed have been an active Lancastrian.
   In August 1469,Warwick, angered, in part, by the rise of the Woodvilles, rebelled and seized temporary control of the king. After executing Rivers,Warwick arrested Jacquetta on charges of witchcraft; although the basis for these charges is uncertain,Warwick may have accused Jacquetta of using black magic to bewitch Edward into contracting marriage with her daughter. The duchess wrote to the mayor of London, who, remembering her efforts to protect the city from the Lancastrian army in 1461, interceded on her behalf with the COUNCIL. Further investigation revealed that the witnesses against her had been bribed, and the case fell apart. Jacquetta was released and formally exonerated by Edward in February 1470, although the charge of witchcraft resurfaced in 1483 when RICHARD III included it in TITULUS REGIUS as one of his justifications for taking the throne from Jacquetta’s grandson, EDWARD V. The duchess died in April 1472.
   Further Reading: Hicks, Michael,“The Changing Role of the Wydevilles in Yorkist Politics to 1483,” in Charles Ross, ed., Patronage, Pedigree and Power in Later Medieval England (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton, 1979); MacGibbon, David, Elizabeth Woodville: Her Life and Times (London: A. Barker, 1938);Weir, Alison, The Wars of the Roses (New York: Ballantine Books, 1995).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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