Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy

(1446–1503)
   After 1485, Margaret of York, sister of EDWARD IV and RICHARD III, used her wealth and influence as duchess of BURGUNDY to support plots to overthrow HENRY VII and restore the house of YORK. The daughter of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, and his wife, Cecily NEVILLE, Margaret was fourteen when her eldest brother assumed the throne as Edward IV. In March 1466, the king commissioned Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, and William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, to negotiate Margaret’s marriage with CHARLES, Count of Charolais, son of Duke PHILIP of Burgundy. Because the marriage was to be part of a political and commercial alliance between England and Burgundy, LOUIS XI of FRANCE stalled the negotiations with counter proposals until after Philip’s death in 1467. Charles, now duke, reopened talks and concluded an agreement in September. Announced to PARLIAMENT in May 1468, two months before Margaret’s wedding in Burgundy, the AngloBurgundian agreement convinced Louis XI to facilitate the reconciliation of Warwick and MARGARET OF ANJOU, an alliance that enabled the earl to overthrow Edward IV and restore HENRY VI in the autumn of 1470 (see Angers Agreement; Edward IV, Overthrow of). Edward IV immediately fled to his sister and brother-in-law in Burgundy, where Warwick’s agreement with Louis to make war on Charles convinced the duke to assist his brother-in-law in regaining the English throne. Margaret was instrumental in detaching George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence, her favorite brother, from his alliance with Warwick; when Edward IV returned to England in March 1471, Clarence rejoined his brother with a large body of much needed troops.
   As duchess of Burgundy, Margaret was a noted patron of the arts and of the Church. By 1471, the English merchant William CAXTON had entered her service, probably as a financial advisor. Caxton showed the duchess his half finished English translation of Raoul Lefevre’s Recueil des Histoires de Troie, a retelling of the legends of Troy. Margaret corrected Caxton’s English and encouraged him to complete the work. By late 1471, Caxton was on the duchess’s service in Cologne, where he learned the use of the new movable-type printing press. The duchess was thus partially responsible for the first book ever printed in English, Caxton’s 1476 edition of The History of Troy.
   After the death of Richard III and the overthrow of the house of York at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD in 1485, Margaret, whose husband had died in 1477, became a 160 MARGARET OF YORK, DUCHESS OF BURGUNDY persistent supporter of efforts to overthrow Henry VII. Her COURT became a haven for Yorkists exiles, many of whom joined Lambert SIMNEL in IRELAND in 1487. Margaret supported Simnel, who claimed to be her nephew Edward PLANTAGENET, earl of Warwick, with men and money. She provided similar support to Perkin WARBECK, who claimed to be Edward IV’s son Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York. In 1492, Margaret met and publicly recognized Warbeck as York, whom she had last seen in 1480, three years before he disappeared in the TOWER OF LONDON (see Princes in the Tower). Whether her acceptance of Warbeck rested more on hope than belief is now difficult to gauge; however, she wrote letters to the courts of Europe affirming her belief and helped sustain Warbeck for six years as a significant threat to Henry VII and the house of TUDOR.Although Warbeck’s eventual capture and confession of his imposture forced Margaret to ask Henry to pardon her, she remained a partisan of York until her death in November 1503.
   Further Reading:Weightman, Christine, Margaret of York (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton, 1993).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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