Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Margaret of Bavaria: Defending Burgundy for Her Husband and Son

Margaret of Bavaria (died 23 January 1424)

Born in 1363 and married in 1385, Margaret of Bavaria was regent of Burgundy twice, first ruling the on behalf of her husband, John "the Fearless" (John II, duke of Burgundy), and then for her son, the equally well-named Philip "the Good" (Philip III, duke of Burgundy).

Margaret's first period of regency extended from 1405 to 1419, while her husband was repeatedly away at war in France and returning to Burgundy only for brief periods. Although historian Richard Vaughan notes that Margaret "was never formally appointed John's lieutenant or governor in Burgundy," he concludes that it "must have been John the Fearless's intention, from the early years of his reign, to make use of his wife . . . in the government of his territories." Margaret's responsibilities in her husband's absence included the administration of the Burgundy and its (successful) military defense.

When John II was assassinated in 1419, Margaret's son Philip became duke of Burgundy. While he continued the fight in France, Margaret of Bavaria once again acted as regent; her second regency extended from 1419 until  her death in 1424. Although Burgundy had a capable council--and a president of that council--to act on the duke's behalf, Philip III turned to his mother when he left the duchy: "a single person with wide powers and responsibilities, particularly in military affairs, normally acted as [Burgundy's] head in the early part of Philip's reign. The dowager duchess, Margaret of Bavaria, fulfilled this role until her death. . . ."

Tomb of Margaret of Bavaria,
Dijon, Museum of Beaux-Arts
There is no full-length biography of Margaret of Bavaria, but there is a chapter on her regency, "Burgundy under Margaret of Bavaria," in Richard Vaughan's John the Fearless: The Growth of Burgundian Power. His Philip the Good: The Apogee of Burgundy adds a few details to her story.