Margaret of Burgundy

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Entry by Anne-Cécile Gilbert, 2006

Margaret of Burgundy was the eldest daughter of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria. She was born in the summer of 1393 in Dijon. By 1395, she was betrothed by her grandfather on her father’s side, the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Bold, to the young dauphin Charles of France, the eldest son of Charles VI. As she was too young to leave her family for the French court at that point, she remained home until July 1400, when she was brought to Paris to be introduced to the Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, in preparation for the wedding celebration. That union, however, never came to be, as the dauphin died prematurely in 1401. Yet Philip the Bold did not give up on his plans to strengthen the bonds between his House and the royal family and he soon negotiated the marriage of Margaret to the new dauphin, Louis of France, the Duke of Guyenne. The wedding took place in Paris on 30 august 1404. From then on, Margaret lived at the French court by the side of Isabeau of Bavaria, who was in charge of her education and of the management of her daily life. The life of the dauphine did not escape the troubles that disrupted the realm, as the mental illness from which the king had been suffering for more than 10 years was increasingly preventing him from performing his duties. In the conflict between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians, Margaret and her spouse, heirs to the throne, represented key trumps for both parties, who kept a close watch on the young couple. The abduction of the dauphin, the dauphine, and of other royal children marked the start of the conflict. It took place in August 1405 and had been plotted by his mother, Isabeau of Bavaria and Louis of Orleans, the king’s brother, A few years later, in 1413, when the kingdom plunged into civil war, the Cabochiens decided to purge the Dauphine’s household and had some of her ladies-in-waiting and companions arrested. After the death of the duke of Guyenne in December 1415, the young widow returned to Burgundy where she lived with her mother and two of her sisters, Anne and Agnes of Burgundy.

Her brother, Philip the Good, who had been the head of the dukedom of Burgundy since his father’s murder in 1419, planned a second marriage for his sister as early as 1422; this time to Arthur of Brittany, earl of Richmont. This marriage was intended to seal the alliance between Burgundy, Brittany and England, whose king was also staking a claim over the kingdom of France. Margaret did not immediately agree to the union and demanded that some changes be made to the initial contract. Margaret eventually married Arthur of Brittany in October 1423. However, the latter changed allegiances in 1425 when Charles VII, the last son of Charles VI and Isabeau of Bavaria, made him Constable. From that moment, Margaret was compelled to play a political and diplomatic role. In fact, in October 1425, during the encounter between Charles VII and John V, duke of Brittany, she was entrusted by the king himself with the difficult task of reconciling him with Philip the Good. She worked hard at it until 1435, when the treaty of Arras that cemented the peace between the King of France and the duke of Burgundy was concluded. In November 1436 Margaret, along with her husband, arrived in Paris after it had been liberated from the English. She settled there permanently, at the express request of Charles VII. She would not then leave the French capital until she died on the 2nd of February 1442. She left behind her a will full of piety and charity, demonstrating her involvement in the Parisian religious life. She was buried in the church of the Carmelite Convent in Paris.

From a very early age, Margaret of Burgundy was required to play an important political role. She was most politically active during her second marriage, particularly as a peacemaker who endorsed her husband’s policies. In her first marriage she played a more passive role, as a potential heir to the crown of France. She did not make a mark on the records of her day except on the work of Guillaume of Gruel who, given the silence of the rest of his contemporaries, devoted a large amount of space to her deeds in his biography of Richmont. He reported her presence at some events and commented on her relationships with some of the major figures of the realm. As for the historians who deal with the life of the princess through the narratives of her husbands’ lives, they have acknowledged that she had a significant part to play in bringing Charles VII and Philippe the Good closer to each other.

(translated by Armel Dubois-Nayt)

Selected bibliography

- Cosneau, E., Le Connétable de Richemont, Paris, Hachette, 1886.

- Gruel, Guillaume, Chronique d’Arthur de Richemont, connétable de France, duc de Bretagne, 1393-1458, éd. Achille Le Vavasseur, Paris, H. Laurens, 1890.

- Plancher, Urbain, Histoire générale et particulière de Bourgogne, Dijon, impr. A. de Fay, puis impr. L.N. Frantin, 1739-1781, 4 vol. -- Paris, Éd. du Palais royal, 1974.

- Pocquet du Haut Jussé, Barthélemy-Ambroise, «Le connétable de Richemont, seigneur bourguignon», Annales de Bourgogne,t.7, 1935, p.309-336 et t.8, 1936, p.7-30, 106-138.

- Schnerb, Bertrand, Jean sans Peur. Le prince meurtrier, Paris, Payot, 2005.

Selected bibliography of images

- 16** : François-Roger de Gaignières, Tombe de Marguerite de Bourgogne(dessin en noir et en couleurs des Tombeaux de Gaignières), Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France (Gaignières, Pe 11a, f.6) -- Émile Raunié, Epitaphier du vieux Paris, Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1893, t.II, p.206-207.


- «La duchesse de Guyenne était morte à Paris, le 2 février [1442]. Richemont perdait la compagne de sa jeunesse, de ses années d’épreuves, celle qui, veuve d’un dauphin de France, l’avait, par son choix, élevé au plus haut rang, celle qui avait encouragé son ambition, hâté sa fortune, partagé fidèlement sa disgrâce et secondé ses efforts. Le rôle de cette princesse dépasse la sphère du foyer domestique. En travaillant à réconcilier son beau-frère, Charles VII, avec son frère, le duc de Bourgogne, en préférant à la cour le séjour de Paris, où elle représentait en quelque sorte la famille royale, elle avait rendu service au roi, à la France et mérité ainsi une place dans l’histoire de ce règne mémorable.» (E. Cosneau, Le Connétable de Richemont, voir supra, choix bibliographique, p.329-330)

Margaret of Burgundy
Title(s) Dauphin of France
Duchess of Guyenne
Countess of Richemont
Spouses Louis de France, dauphin of France, duke of Guyenne
Birth date 1393
Death 1442
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