Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Isabella of Parma: "The Fate of Princesses"

Isabella of Parma, archduchess of Austria (born 31 December 1741)

Isabel María Luisa Antonieta was born a princess, the daughter of Felipe de Borbón y Farnesio, a younger son of King Felipe V of Spain, and Marie Louise-Élisabeth, the eldest daughter of King Louis XV of France. 

Isabella of Parma (right), with her cousin, 1743
(detail from a painting by Louis-Michel van Loo)
The girl, the eldest child of the Spanish prince and the French princess, was born in a royal palace, the Palacio del Buen Retiro, in Madrid, and spent the first years of her life there. 

She also spent several months of her childhood at the palace of Versailles, pampered by her maternal relatives. 

When her father was awarded the title of duke of Parma and Piacenza, regaining a title that had been lost by his mother's family, Isabella found herself living in the Farnese Palazzo di Colorno and in the Palazzo del Giardino in Parma. As palaces go, they were much less grand than she was accustomed to, more than a bit neglected, but, still, they were palaces.

Before going any further, I should say that Isabella of Parma, as she is best known to English speakers, had something to say about "the fate of princesses" (la sort des princesses), and, according to her assessment, the "fate" of a princess was not good. In a letter to her sister-in-law, she wrote:
What should the daughter of a great prince expect? Her fate is, without doubt, most unhappy. She is from birth the slave of people's prejudices; she is born only to see herself subjected to the weight of honors, to the innumerable bits of etiquette attached to greatness, although she is thrust into society [le monde] before she can barely stutter. The rank she holds deprives her of knowing the people who surround her--that rank, deprives her of the greatest pleasure of life which is given to all people, the [joy of] society. She often finds many things to make her unhappy, even in her own family. . . . And the many different characters at court and the all to frequent intrigues there put her in constant danger of corruption or of being caught up in some entanglement. [Nothing in such a life] compensates for the time she is obliged to waste on such unwelcome cares or boring ceremonies.  
   This is the portrait and life of a young princess who cannot find even in her own family the resources [she needs to survive] inside her little coterie--she is then forced to live in the middle of the great world, where she has neither acquaintances nor friends.
   This is not all. In the end, she must be "established." There she is, condemned to abandon everything, her family, her country--and for whom? For an unknown person, for someone whose character and thinking she knows nothing about, for a family that will perhaps view her with jealousy or, at the least, prejudice. A sacrifice to a supposed public good but more likely to the unfortunate policy of a minister who can find no other way for the two dynasties to form an alliance which he pronounces indissoluble--but which, immediately it seems advantageous, is broken off . . . 

In her edition of the letters written by Isabella to her sister-in-law, Marie Christine of Austria, Élisabeth Badinter describes the young woman as "the princess of four cultures" (la princesse aux quatre cultures), dividing her overview of Isabella's brief and difficult life geographically, and I've followed Badinter's fourfold division in what follows.

Isabella's early childhood (une petite enfance espagnole), from her birth, on 31 December 1741, until 26 November 1748, was spent in Spain. As the daughter of the king of France, Louise-Élisabeth was disappointed that she had been compelled to marry a man she considered beneath her, neither a king nor an heir to a throne. She was just twelve when she embarked on the two-month-long journey to Spain in order to join her nineteen-year-old husband and only fourteen when she gave birth to Isabella. And then, just two months after the birth, Felipe left his wife and daughter for the battlefield--he did not see his family again until Isabella was eight years old. Left behind, Louise-Élisabeth was consigned to a "melancholy existence," focused on her hope of establishing her Felipe in a "suitable" position outside of Spain.

Louise-Élisabeth displayed little affection for her daughter. Meanwhile, Isabella's grandmother, Elisabeth Farnese, queen of Spain, sent daily letters to Felipe during his absence, including descriptions of her granddaughter and anecdotes about her behavior and activities. Her only report of the relationship between her granddaughter and the child's mother occurred when the girl was three. The queen wrote that the little girl had thrown some tantrums, and that Louise-Élisabeth had reacted to them with notably harsh discipline (l'éxecution militaire).

Isabella would later describe her childhood in a letter to her sister-in-law, detailing her many "follies":
My childhood was noisy, a hundred thousand games were my invention, I jumped, climbed, made a splash, nothing was safe around me--not the most precious furniture or the most magnificent ornaments., nothing was safe. . . . I broke everything, I smashed whatever presented itself to me.
Isabella chased butterflies, rode pretend horses, played at war, turned somersaults, made--and fell off--a rope swing, she sang, she danced, and she was the despair of her "severe" governess. Her head was always filled with "a hundred thousand ideas." But, she writes, "In the end, I learned to be reasonable." 

Isabella of Parma, 1749,
Versailles, painting by Jean-Marc Nattier
By the terms of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, ending the war of the Austrian Succession, Isabella's father regained the duchy of Parma. On their way from Spain to join Felipe, now duke of Parma, Isabella and her mother spent ten months with the French court at Versailles in 1749 (l'impromptu de Versailles). The girl loved France--as she would write to her sister-in-law, she was "adored" in France, a country "made for gaiety." There she was "received like a gift from heaven."

But her stay with the French royal family was brief. By 20 November 1749, she was in Parma, meeting her father for the first time. 

About her time in Parma (jeunesse et adolescences italiennes, 1749-60), Isabella is not kind. The climate is either too hot or too cold, she tells Christine, and the people are ignorant, incapable of thought. And those unthinking people did not have a good opinion of the new duke and duchess of Parma. Isabella writes that, although she was still just a child, she was determined to leave right away--her parents compelled her to stay "in spite" of her wishes.

Although she would spend a decade in Parma, Isabella claims she was never reconciled to her life there. Her parents quickly added two more children to the family, a son and heir born in January 1750 and a second daughter born in December of the same year. Isabella mentions neither in the memoir she addresses to her sister-in-law, but she cared for both of her younger siblings, and sent regular reports to her father about their health and well-being--her mother was frequently absent, often in France, while her father lived apart from the children for most of the year. 

Isabella's mother retained her emotional distance from her eldest child--Badinter notes that Louise-Élisabeth's coldness to Isabella was a concern for many of her acquaintances, who commented on the relationship. The duchess of Parma was also on the receiving end of advice to be more loving to her daughter. The marshal of France warned Louise-Élisabeth's that her treatment of Isabella might make arranging a desireable marriage for the girl more difficult, the French ambassador to Parma later writing to the marshall to reassure him that more attention was being paid to the young girl.

Fears about Isabella's prospects in the marriage market proved unfounded. In the summer of 1759, Louise-Élisabeth secured a very desireable marriage for her daughter with Joseph, the son and heir of the Holy Roman Emperess Maria Theresa. The marriage was briefly delayed by the untimely death of Louise-Élisabeth on 6 December 1759 (she was just thirty-two years old and had developed a case of smallpox), but Isabella and Joseph were married by proxy in Parma on 7 September 1760, and six days later, the nineteen-year-old Isabella was on her way to Vienna.

About her departure from Parma on 13 September 1760 (l'archiduchesse d'Autriche), Isabella would later write, "I left Italy without regret" ("Je quittai l'Italie sans regret"). The wedding took place on 6 October, the lavish ceremonies memorialized by a cycle of paintings by Martin van Meytens.

Isabella of Parma, 
portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier,
dated 1758

Although her new husband was delighted with Isabella, she was not particularly thrilled with him. Nevertheless, she soon became pregnant. Eighteen months after her marriage and following a difficult pregnancy, on 20 March 1762, Isabella gave birth to a daughter, Maria Theresa. Two more pregnancies quickly followed: Isabella miscarried in August 1762 and again in January 1763. 

In November, once again pregnant, Isabella developed a fever. Suffering from smallpox, the same disease that had killed her mother, Isabella went into labor months early. She gave birth prematurely on 22 November. The  baby, a girl, was baptized but died. Isabella lived for a few more days, dying on 27 November 1763. She was just twenty-one. 

Isabella's daughter, the Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria, born on 20 March 1762, died on 23 January 1770, at the age of seven.

Despite her brief life, Isabella of Parma, archduchess of Austria, has gained a degree of recognition for her writing, notably the two hundred letters addressed to her sister-in-law, Joseph's sister, the Archduchess Maria Christina. For a complete list of Isabella's composition, including these letters, as well as letters to her husband, "divers morceaux interessantes," and "divers morceaux instructifs," click here. And for once I'll link you to the Wikipedia entry for Isabella of Parma--it has an excellent chart, describing the topics she writes about, including religion, philosophy, education, and history (click here). 

Isabella's life has also drawn attention for her passionate love for her sister-in-law, the Archduchess Maria Christina (see the entry at Making Queer History, for example, and Victoria Belim-Frolova's analysis at Bois de Jasmin) and for her complicated mental health issues--her difficult relationship with her mother, her fear of death, and her depression (see Emily Zorevich's "The Mental Afflictions of Isabella of Parma, 'The Melancholic Princess,'" for example). 

Some details of Isabella of Parma's life in English are available in extended biographies of her husband, Archduke Joseph, who later became Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, and even in biographies of the Empress Maria Theresa. In addition to Badinter's edition of Isabella of Parma's letters (linked above), which has a great biographical introduction, there are two fairly recent biographies: Ursula Tamussino's Isabella von Parma. Gemahlin Josephs II (1989) and Ernest Sanger's Isabelle de Bourbon-Parme : La Princesse et la Mort (2002).

If you don't read French or German, I recommend Monieck Bloks's three-part biographical essay on Isabella of Parma, available here.


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Jacoba Félicie de Almania, Fourteenth-Century Parisian Doctor

Jacoba Félicie, a Medieval Medical Practitioner (verdict issued 22 November 1322)

On 11 August 1322, Jacoba Félicie was cited for illegally practicing medicine by an official of the Bishop of Paris and the proctor of the dean of the medical faculty at the University of Paris.*

The proceedings took place over the course of the next few months, the records of her case preserved in the Cartulary of the University of Paris: "Witnesses were brought . . . in the inquisition made at the instance of the masters in medicine at Paris against Jacoba Félicie and others practicing the art of medicine and surgery in Paris and the suburbs without the knowledge and authority of the said masters, to the end that they may be punished, and that the practice be forbidden them. . . ."

Manuscript illustration of 
a female healer, 14th century
(MS 544, Miscellanea Medica XVIII,
from Wellcome Collection, London)
Among those providing evidence for the prosecution of Jacoba Félicie was John of Padua, a physician and one-time surgeon to King Philip IV of France. He claimed that "penalties and prohibitions" against those practicing medicine illegally had existed for more than sixty years. 

According to his testimony, Jacoba Félicie was "ignorant of the art of medicine," not having been "approved as competent in those things which she presumed to treat." He also asserted that she was "not lettered," presumably unable to read or write.

Evidence presented by the prosecution said that Félicie had "visited many sick persons afflicted with grave illness," diagnosed them, promised to make them well again, "visited them often," and prescribed various medications for them. She charged them money for her services. And she did all this despite the fact that "she has not been approved in any official studium at Paris or elsewhere. . . ."

A number of witnesses, both men and women, offered testimony on her behalf. One man who was questioned about her said that he had been "suffering from a certain sickness in his head and ears," and that Félicie had shown him "great care" and cured him. 

Another of the witnesses, one who had been treated by many "masters in medicine," consulted Jacoba Félicie, who treated him with such "great care" that he was "completely restored to health." She hadn't made any "contract" with him about her services--instead, he "paid as he wished when he got well."

When questioned, a female witness said that she had been "seized" by a terrible fever and sought help from "many physicians." But she became so "weighed down" with her illness that "the said physicians gave her up for dead." But Félicie had cured her "of the said illness."

In Félicie's defense, her counsel also noted there were many practicing medicine on a daily basis in Paris who did not have licenses--and that the "law" being used against her had no validity, being merely a "mandate" that had been asserted but never a legally established statute. 

To the prosecution's argument that "penalties of fines and excommunication" had been levied against "ignorant and illicit" medical practioners for more than sixty years, Jacoba Félicie defended herself. She said that the law was old, that sixty years was long before she was born (according to the record, "she is young, thirty years or thereabouts"), and thus all the "ignorant women" and "inexperienced fools" the law had been aimed at were long dead. She was not one of them. 

MS 544, Miscellanea Medica XVIII,
from Wellcome Collection, London)
Moreover, her defense added, it was surely better for a woman to examine and care for female patients than a male doctor--and surely it was also better for a woman to to examine and care for a male patient who "dare not reveal" all the details of his illness to a male doctor. It was altogether a "lesser evil" to allow a woman to "exercise the office of practice" than it was to let sick patients die. 

In the end, however, the case was decided without any examination of Jacoba's expertise and experience but for an altogether different reason, one that had been argued by John of Padua: since a woman couldn't practice law, couldn't even provide evidence in a criminal case, it was obvious that she couldn't practice medicine either. This argument by analogy seems to have been what determined the case.

According to the final verdict against her, issued 22 November 1322: "Her plea that she cured many sick persons whom the aforesaid master could not cure ought not to stand, and is frivolous, since it is certain that a man approved in the aforesaid art could cure better than any woman."

And so, despite the witnesses in her defense and Jacoba Félicie's own arguments, she was found guilty, fined heavily, and threatened with excommunication if she continued to practice medicine. 

This is all we know of Jacoba Félicie--if she was about thirty years old at the time of her trial, she would have been born in the last decade of the thirteenth-century, but where is unknown. Nor is there information in the surviving documents where she might have gained her medical experience. She was never tested about her knowledge during the proceedings--nor was she ever given the chance to prove whether she was "not lettered."

Nor is it known whether she gave up practicing medicine, remaining in Paris, or moved on. 

I've linked above to the two most substantial articles about Jacoba Félicie, Pearl Kibre's "The Faculty of Medicine at Paris, Charlatanism, and Unlicensed Medical Practices in the Later Middle Ages" (1953) and Monica Green's "Getting to the Source: The Case of Jacoba Felicie . . . "  (2006). Both are excellent--Kibre's covers other cases and provides the cases made by prosecution and defense, Green’s focusing on the arguments made in Felicie’sdefense.  

You may also enjoy W. L. Minkowski's "Women Healers of the Middle Ages: Selected Aspects of Their History" (1992) for a brief overview of women as medical practitioners.

*Three other women were charged (as were two men) and condemned for practicing medicine: Johanna, identified as convert, Margarita de Ypra, identified as a surgeon, and Belota, identified as a Jew. All three women received the same penalty as Jacoba Félicie. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Eleanor Cobham, duchess of Gloucester: "Beautiful, Intelligent, and Ambitious"

Eleanor Cobham, duchess of Gloucester (walk of penance, 13 November 1441)

I first came across a reference to Eleanor Cobham in a Shakespeare play--in Henry VI, part 2, she is depicted in a way not unlike Shakespeare's much later Lady Macbeth, tempting her husband to seize the crown for himself:
But list to me, my Humphrey, my sweet duke:
Methought I sat in seat of majesty,
In the cathedral church of Westminster
And in that chair where kings and queens were crowned,
Where Henry and dame Margaret kneeled to me
And on my head did set the diadem. (1.2.36-41)
Her husband, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, responds to Eleanor by calling her "presumptuous" and "ill-natured," insisting that he must "chide her outright" for such ideas and advising her to "[b]anish the canker of ambitious thoughts." 

But once her husband is gone and she is alone on stage, Gloucester's "sweet Nell" hints that she may not be as acquiescent as she seems: "Are you so choleric / With Eleanor for telling but her dream? / Next time I'll keep my dreams unto myself / And not be checked" (1.2.53-56).

Eleanor Cobham and her husband,
Humphrey, duke of Gloucester
(from The Benefactors' Book
of St. Albans Abbey,
BL MS Cotton Nero D VII
fol. 154r)
In Shakespeare's history play, Eleanor Cobham does not go mad like his Lady Macbeth, endlessly washing her hands because she can't get rid of a damned bloodstain. Instead, the duchess is brought down by her husband's political enemies, who use her and her ambition as a weapon against Gloucester. In the view of the duke of Buckingham, "She's tickled now; her fume needs no spurs; / She'll gallop far enough to her destruction" (1.3.154-5).

Although the history in this play is shaky, many of the details in Shakespeare's version of Eleanor Cobham's life do correspond to her biography, including the blame heaped upon her for being too "ambitious."* But I must admit that never thought much more about her until recently, decades after I first encountered her in Henry VI, part 2.

But there she was in Lauren Johnson's The Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI, which I read not too long ago and which has inspired today's post.

Eleanor Cobham (her name is sometimes given in genealogical sources as "Eleanor de Cobham”) was the daughter of Sir Reginald (or "Reynold") de Cobham, third baron Cobham, a knight who fought under Henry V in France during the Hundred Years' War, notably taking part in the battle of Agincourt in the "retinue of the Earl of Arundel." He then captained a group of "lances" and "archers" in the duke of Gloucester's "own retinue," taking part in the siege of Cherbourg in 1418.

Eleanor's mother was Reginald Cobham's first wife, Eleanor Culpepper, the daughter of Sir Thomas Culpepper. The pair were married about the year 1400. Eleanor Culpepper gave birth to three or four or five or six children, depending on which source you consult; the most reliable information I have been able to find indicates that the couple had four children, two sons and two daughters. I can't find any firm dates for the birth of these children, nor any source that details their birth order. According to a brass rubbing in the north chapel of Lingfield church (Surrey) where she is buried, Eleanor Culpepper, the wife of Reginald Cobham, died on 5 November 1420.** (Reginald Cobham would marry Anne Bardolf, widow of Sir William Clifford, in July 1422.)

Eleanor Cobham's date of birth is sometimes given as 1400 or "about" 1400 or 1404 or 1410. Nothing is certain, except that she was born after her parents' marriage in 1400 and before Eleanor Culpepper's death in 1420 or 1422. So "about" 1400 seems to be as close as we can get.

Aside from her birth, probably at the family's seat, Starborough, in Kent, Eleanor Cobham makes no mark in the historical record until she appears as a lady-in-waiting in the household of Jacqueline of Bavaria, countess of Hainaut, Holland, and Zeeland. 

Jacqueline, the would-be duchess of Bavaria, had been married at the age of fourteen, widowed at the age of sixteen, remarried at the age of seventeen, and then subjected to a relentless series of challenges about the validity of her second marriage. She had also been fighting for her inheritance since the death of her father, rejected as a female heir by those who had taken an oath to support her, challenged as an heir by her uncle, and subject to the vagaries of the politics of the Hundred Years' War. 

Fed up with the ongoing dispute over her second marriage, Jacqueline herself finally declared it to be invalid in 1420. A year later, just twenty years old, she fled to England, seeking aid in her fight for her inheritance. She not only found support from King Henry V, she found a husband in his younger brother. At the age of twenty-one, Jacqueline married her "third" husband, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester.

Gloucester's decision to marry Jacqueline of Bavaria was widely judged to have been rash--in the words of a contemporary French chronicler, Jean de Wavrin, Jacqueline already had a husband "who was still living" when she "married" Gloucester in England. "[M]any people were much dismayed" at their marriage, Wavrin claimed, "and not without cause." Although the couple had sought an annulment of Jacqueline's second marriage, they had hastily "married" before receiving any papal decree that would allow them to do so. And Gloucester's actions had also hurt England, damaging the country's interests on the continent: "from this marriage resulted great evils and losses," Wavrin opined.

It was at some point after Jacqueline's arrival in England that Eleanor Cobham joined her retinue. This date may suggest something about Eleanor's birthdate--if she were born about the year 1400, she would have become a member of Jacqueline of Bavaria's household when she was around twenty years old, but if she were born as late as 1410, she would have only been eleven or twelve years old. Possible, but less likely.

The timing also suggests that Eleanor may have come to the English court soon after her mother's death, though how exactly she gained her place in Jacqueline's retinue is not clear. Perhaps her father's earlier association with Gloucester made it possible. However it happened, Eleanor Cobham was with Jacqueline of Bavaria and Humphrey of Gloucester when they returned to the continent in October of 1424--Gloucester was determined to gain control of Jacqueline's inheritance. 

But with the validity of his own marriage now being questioned--the status of Jacqueline's second marriage had still not been clarified--and with his campaign to reclaim Jacqueline's titles and territories not notably successful, by April of 1425 Humphrey of Gloucester was back in England, leaving Jacqueline of Bavaria behind--he had begun "to wax weary of her, by whom he never had profit, but loss," explained the sixteenth-century historian John Stowe, who relied on a variety of fiftteenth-century chronicles in compiling his Annals of England. And, when Gloucester left Jacqueline and returned to England, he had brought Eleanor Cobham with him. 

Once again, the chronicler Wavrin had a few words to say: 
. . . the said duke of Gloucester took back to the land of England Eleanor Cobham, a very noble damsel and of grand lineage, whom he afterwards married . . . , and who had come with lady Jacqueline, the duchess his wife, to the country of Hainault by way of diversion, as young damsels are desirous of seeing new countries and foreign regions, for she was also marvellously fair and pleasing, and showed herself of good disposition in various places.
Wavrin didn't quite have the details right. Eleanor Cobham was the daughter of a minor knight, not a "very noble damsel," much less of "grand lineage." Whether she was "marvellously fair and pleasing," who knows? But she must have been fair and pleasing enough to Humprey, duke of Gloucester, because at some point, either before or after he had ditched his wife on the continent, Eleanor Cobham became his mistress. 

Despite his liaison with Eleanor Cobham, in 1427 Gloucester briefly considered returning to the continent in aid of Jacqueline of Bavaria, this time at the head of a new force and with full parliamentary support. The death of Jacqueline's second husband in April of that year might have made it possible for Gloucester and Jacqueline to have regularized their union, and popular opinion seemed to support such a reunion. 

As C. Marie Harker notes, for example, an entry in a "London city letter book record" in March 1427 referred sympathetically to "the miserable state of the most noble Duchess of Gloucester," meaning Jacqueline of Bavaria, while a contemporary report on events in parliament in January 1428 not only recorded support for her but also antagonism to Eleanor Cobham:
Also in this Parliament, a certain woman of Stokes came to Parliament publicly, with whom [came] other women of London respectfully dressed, proffering letters to the Duke of Gloucester . . . and to certain other lords appearing in that same place. The effect of the letters was loudly critical of the Duke of Gloucester, who was unwilling to snatch away his wife from . . . affliction . . . , but, [his] love having cooled, [leaving her] thus to remain perpetually in servitude; and because he held publicly with him another woman, an adulteress.
But if in fact such letters were presented to Gloucester, urging him to return to Jacqueline of Bavaria and continue his military pursuits on her behalf, they were useless. In the same month, the pope finally issued his decision on Jacqueline of Bavaria's second marriage--it had been a valid union, and even though this husband was now dead, "any marriage contracted by the former [Jacqueline] in the lifetime of the latter [her second husband] was declared to be illegal.

Eleanor Cobham and Humphrey of Gloucester,
detail, rom The Benefactors' Book
of St. Albans Abbey
And that was that. It's not clear when or where, but at some point after January 1428 and before July 1431, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, married Eleanor Cobham. 

(One more bit about Eleanor's age--if she had been born about the year 1400, she was about the same age as Jacqueline of Bavaria, who was born on 15 July 1401. If she became Gloucester's mistress at about the time she returned with him to England in 1425, she would have been about twenty-five to Gloucester's thirty-five. The age gap would obviously have been some twenty years if Eleanor were born in 1410, not out of the question, of course.)

Whatever the popular sentiment about her may have been, the "second" duchess of Gloucester seems to have been accepted by her husband's royal family. In July 1431, for example, by which time they had certainly married, Eleanor and the duke were honored as benefactors of the monastery of St. Albans (the occasion is commemorated in the Benefactors' Book, the illustrations from which are used in this essay--for the original, click here and go to fol. 154r). The next year, at the end of March in 1432, Eleanor became a lady of the Garter when she was rewarded with robes of the Garter of St. George. (Interestingly, Jacqueline, Humphrey's first duchess of Gloucester, had received these robes in 1423!)

Her status as duchess of Gloucester seems also to have been acknowledged later that year when, in May, the duke of Orleans, who had been an English hostage since the battle of Agincourt (1415), was transferred to the custody of Eleanor's father, Reginald Cobham. 

During these years, Gloucester also began to build in Greenwich on a site he had earlier acquired. In 1433, he "laid the foundations" of a "faire building" that he called "his Manor of Plesaunce." An old abbey on the site became known as "Bella Court," and a new tower of "rose-pink brick" was built alongside, intended to hold his library. The duke and duchess of Gloucester seemed to have spent much of their time at this, his "favorite residence," between 1432 and 1437, though Humphrey was called away by business at various times during these years. 

He was on the continent in 1433, for instance, conducting peace negotiations (England was still engaged in the Hundred Years' War). In 1436, he was back on the continent, this time at the head of an army. 

In between his various expeditions to the continent, Gloucester's personal situation changed dramatically--in 1435, after the death of his elder brother, the duke of Bedford, Gloucester became heir to the English throne--if anything were to happen to his fourteen-year-old nephew, Henry VI, the crown would fall to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester.

Rather than increasing Gloucester's popularity and ensuring his security, his status as royal heir aroused the jealousy of his political enemies. Even so, after returning from his foray on the continent in 1436, Gloucester had been greeted by Parliament with a vote of thanks, and in 1437, he and Eleanor receive lavish New Year's gifts from the king. In addition to the glittering jewels received by her husband, Eleanor was given a "brooch made in manner of a man garnished with a fair, great ball," the ornament set with five pearls, a diamond, and three "hangers," or pendants, each with rubies and pearls. In June of that year, Eleanor accompanied her husband to the funeral of his step-mother, Joan of Navarre, widow of Henry IV of England, after which the couple returned to Greenwich.

By the end of 1437, the sixteen-year-old Henry VI was considered old enough to no longer need a protectorship, and he had begun his personal rule. For a while, all seemed well enough for Eleanor and her husband. As late as 1439 the young king seemed to welcome his uncle's advice. In 1440, the duchess received another magnificent New Year's gift from the king: "a Garter of Gold, barred through with bars of Gold, and this reason made with Letters of Gold thereupon, hony soit qui mal y pense, and garnished with a flower of Diamonds on the Buckle, and two great Pearls and a Ruby on the Pendant and two great Pearls with twenty-six Pearls on the said Garter" (qtd. by James L. Gillespie, "Ladies of the Fraternity of St. George and of the Society of the Garter"). 

But it is clear that Gloucester's enemies were gaining ground in their attempts to deprive him of power. His stance against any kind of surrender in France weakened his position with the king and his more popular advisers, and by early 1440, Gloucester was losing influence with the king's Council. 

No longer so active at court or in France, Gloucester seems to have lived in a kind of retirement with Eleanor at Plesaunce. There Gloucester devoted himself to the "collection" and "study" of "rare manuscripts," and occupied much of his time with his "books of rare antiquity." (For an overview of Duke Humphrey's library, click here.) Among these books was a "semi-medical, semi-astrological work translated from the original Arabic"--a book that seems to have been given to him by Eleanor.
It is her interest in such a book--and her husband's continued position as heir to the English throne--that combined to propel the couple to a catastrophic end. 

By the time King Henry VI would marry in 1445, Eleanor Cobham had been brutally removed from the scene and Gloucester effectively isolated. By the time Henry's wife, Margaret of Anjou, at last gave birth to a son and heir in 1453, both Eleanor and Glloucester were gone, their deaths hastened by the ruthless actions of their political enemies.

Eleanor's fall was rapid. According to the account of a Latin chronicler, the duchess of Gloucester made a glorious entrance into the city of London on 28 June 1441, splendidly attired. She was welcomed by aldermen and the mayor, who escorted her over London Bridge and into the city. Her pride at this moment came right before her fall. She was, as the chronicler notes, "at the height of her fortune," altogether unmindful of the "fallible and deceptive Wheel of Fortune": "On, how wonderful is this change," he cries out, knowing that "this excellent lady" would soon find herself "destitute of all her worldly glory." 

That very night while at dinner, Eleanor received a message that Roger Bolingbroke, for some years a member of Gloucester's household and her personal clerk, had been arrested.*** With him was another cleric, Thomas Southwell, Eleanor's physician. According to a fifteenth-century chronicle, thee two men had been "taken as conspirators of the king's death," Bolingbroke charged with having attempted "to consume the king's person with necromancy" and Southwell suspected of having "said masses in forbidden and inconvenient places" with "certain instruments" that Bolingbroke, "a great and cunning man" practiced in necromancy, had supplied. A third priest was also accused, John Home, Eleanor's chaplain and the secretary for both Eleanor and her husband. 

Under examination about his activities by the king's Council on 12 July, Bolinbroke implicated the duchess of Gloucester--he confessed that "he wrought the said necromancy at the stirring and procurement of the said Eleanor, to know what should fall of her and to what estate she should come." 

That the duchess might be interested in the succession is not strange--the king, now nineteen years old, did not have a wife, much less a child, his uncle Gloucester was his heir. Eleanor's interest in knowing when and why the king might die was more problematic, especially when horoscopes, magical instrments, and necromancy were involved. The implication of all this was that Eleanor had sought to use witchcraft to bring about the king's death and thus to secure the crown for her husband.

In the mean time, after hearing of the arrests, Eleanor had taken sanctuary in Westminster, an action that only served to increase suspicions of her guilt, at least to contemporary chroniclers. Eleanor was "cited to appear" before "certain bishops of the king"--she could not claim the protection of sanctuary if she were accused of "articles of necromancy, of witchcraft or sorcery, of heresy, and of treason."

And so on 24 July Eleanor. duchess of Gloucester, was brought before the archbishops of Canterbury and York and the bishops of Salisbury "and others." On that day, she was "examined on twenty-eight points of felony and treason," and she asserted her innocence. Afterwards, she was allowed to return to sanctuary. She was called again for further examination on 25 July, when Bolingbroke appeared and reiterated his confession that all he had done had been at her "instance." She was the "cause," he said. 

At this point, the matter was turned over to a lay commission comprised of the mayor of London, aldermen, and commoners, as well as some of the aristocratic men who had participated in the Council's examination. This new examining body began a new set of inquiries, looking into "all manner of treasons, sorcery, and all other things that might in any way touch or concern harmfully the king's person." The danger in handing over the case to a lay power was great, for it could exact a death penalty.

These further explorations of the "plots" involving Bolingbroke, Southwell, Home, and the duchess of Gloucester uncovered the activities of Margery Jourdemayne, "the witch of Eye," a woman who lived near the manor of Eye, belonging to the abbey of Westminster, and whose "sorcery and witchcraft the said Dame Eleanor had long time used." It seems Margery had gotten into trouble for witchcraft ten years earlier, when, from November 1430 until May 1432 she was in royal custody at Windsor for her use of sorcery. She had been released only on the condition that she not involve herself any further in such activities.

The evidence uncovered by the commission indicated that Bolingbroke, Southwell, and Home were all involved in the necromantic treason--they had used the "instruments" of sorcery in order to learn when Henry VI would die. But they had acted on Eleanor's behalf--she was the one who wanted to know when the king would die and, thus, when her husband would become king.

Already examined, Margery Jourdemayne had offered different reasons for Eleanor's interest in the witch's services. She claimed Eleanor had sought love magic--Eleanor wanted potions to bring her Gloucester's love and to ensure that he would marry her. (Various accounts of the examinations of Eleanor and of Margery indicate that they had had dealings for some ten years--if Eleanor had been seeking a love potion from Margery, it must have been before Margery was taken into custody in November 1430, perhaps helping to clarify the date of Eleanor and Gloucester's marriage.)

A contemporary chronicler claimed that Eleanor pretended to be sick at this point, hoping to be returned to sanctuary. According to this account, Eleanor thought that she would be able to "steal away privily by water" from Westminster Abbey and make her escape. But if she had any such hopes, they were foiled--on 9 August, Henry VI ordered her to appear before the archbishop of Canterbury on 21 October. In the mean time, she was to be held in Leeds Castle.****

Two months later, on 21 October, Eleanor, duchess of Gloucester was back in London, hearing once more the articles of "sorcery, witchcraft, and treason" with which she had been charged. Over the course of her examinations, which continued on 23 October, again facing her accusers, she reiterated her innocence against all accusations of treason, though she did admit to having encouraged Bolingbroke and Southwell and to having consulted Margery Jourdemayne. 

I find her admissions quite touching. When confronted by Bolingbroke and his "instruments," Eleanor "withnayed" (denied) having used them against the king: "it was not so," she said. But she did consult with Margery Jourdemayne: "she did it forto have borne a child by hir lord, the duke of Gloucestre." After being convicted "of the said articles," she was offered the chance to "speak against" those who accused her. Eleanor declined, submitting herself "to the correction of the bishops." 

Those who were charged with her--Bolingbroke, Southwell, Home, and Jourdemayne--were also convicted. Fortunately for him, Thomas Southwell died on 26 October in the Tower before his execution could take place--one chronicler says he died "for sorrow," but he may also have committed suicide. Margery Jourdemayne was burned as a witch at Smithfield on 27 October. Roger Bolingbroke was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on 18 November. John Home was pardoned on the same day--evidently he was judged to have been more of a witness to all the treasonable activity rather than a participant.

As for Eleanor Cobham. On 27 October she "abjured" (renounced) the "articles" with which she had been charged. On 6 November, she was "forcibly divorced" from Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and three days later, she was judged to be guilty of sorcery and witchcraft but not of heresy and treason. 

The Penance of Eleanor,
E. A. Abbey (1900)
The archbishop of Canterbury delivered her sentence: she was to perform a public penance. On three separate days, "with a meek and demure countenance" and bearing a taper, she was to walk bare-headed through London. On 13 November she was to walk from Temple Bridge to St. Paul's; on 15 November, she was to walk from the Swan Stairs on Thames Street to Christchurch, Aldgate; on 17 November, she was to walk from Queenhithe to St. Michael's in Cornhill. The tapers she carried were to be "offered up" on each church's altar. According to one contemporary account, she performed her penance "meekly," and "the more part of the people had on her great compassion." (The Latin chronicler saw a potent lesson in Eleanor's prescribed penance: she had entered the city of London in pomp and circumstance, only "a short time afterwards" having to suffer humbling "through the streets and streets of the same city."

While witnesses to Eleanor Cobham's acts of penance may have had compassion for her and her great fall, her husband's enemies did not. In addition to her forced divorce and her penance,"she was committed to ward" again "for all her  life after." Her "pride, false covetousness, and lechery were the cause of her confusion," sniffed one chronicler. "Other things might be written of this Dame Eleanor," he added, "the which at reverence of nature and of womanhood shall not be rehearsed."

Whether or not Eleanor Cobham's involvement with sorcery was regarded as a continuing threat to the king's life, she was a valuable hostage. "As a prisoner, she could still guarantee Duke Humphrey's good behaviour," notes historian Ralph A. Griffiths; "accordingly, elaborate measures were taken to ensure that she remained safely incarcerated for the rest of her life, in the custody of royal Household officials."

Eleanor Cobham, once duchess of Gloucester, was moved from location to location over the course of the next decade: Cheshire Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Peel Castle, on the Isle of Man (perhaps), and Beaumaris Castle, in Wales. 

It's not clear where Eleanor was being held at the time Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, was charged with treason. In February 1447, he was summoned to a meeting of parliament to be held at Bury St. Edmonds--more than one chronicler claimed he had set out with a large but not "extraordinary" retinue for a man of his status, "hoping that he might procure for his imprisoned wife." Instead, he was arrested for treason. Before he could be tried of this crime, he died three days after his arrest, on 23 February 1447. Rumors circulated that he had been murdered, but historians believe he likely died of a stroke.***** 

Even after Gloucester's death, Eleanor Cobham was not released. Instead, on 3 March 1447, Parliament deprived her of any "claim to dowry after the recent death of Duke Humphrey, and she continued to be excluded from general pardons thereafter."

She lived for five more years. Eleanor Cobham, once duchess of Gloucester, died at Beaumaris Castle on 7 July 1452.

As an interesting note, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, had two illegitimate children. A son, Arthur, was with Gloucester when he was arrested in 1447 and was condemned for treason along with his father, but he was pardoned. Aside from his name and the fact that he was arrested and pardoned in 1447, nothing more is known of him. Gloucester also had a daughter, Antigone, born before 1424. She married twice, had three children, and died c. 1450. (She has descendants today, including Sophie Rhys-Jones, duchess of Edinburgh, wife of Prince Edward.)

There has been much speculation about whether Eleanor Cobham was the mother of these two children, but that is unlikely. While it's not known when Antigone was born, she gave birth to a child in 1436, making 1424 the earliest reasonable date for her own birth. If these two were his children with Eleanor, Gloucester might have had them legitimized after his marriage to their mother (as his grandfather, John of Gaunt, had his children with Katherine Swynford legitimized after their marriage). And if Eleanor had given birth to these two children, why would she having been using a love potion so that she could have conceived Gloucester's child?

*The phrase I've used as the subtitle for this post, "beautiful, intelligent, and ambitious," comes from G. L. Harriss's entry on Eleanor Cobham in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 

**According to G. L. Harriss's ODNB entry, Eleanor Culpepper died in 1422. Genealogical books by Douglas Richardson--Plantagenet Ancestry and Magna Carta Ancestry--also indicate that the year of Eleanor Culpepper's death is 1422, but I cannot find any source for that date. I am relying here on the date of death on the brass rubbing in Lingfield church.

***As Ralph A. Griffiths notes in "The Trial of Eleanor Cobham: An Episode in the Fall of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester" (1991), "Every fifteenth-century chronicle written in England" covers the events of the extraordinary events, at least one of which containing what must have been an eye-witness account. But their chronology of these accounts is "confused." I've relied here on the chronology offered by Griffiths, though I have considered as well the series of events as dated and told by K. H. Vickers, Duke Humprey's biographer, to which I've linked in this post many times. Jessica Freeman's much more recent essay on Margery Jourdemayne is also extremely detailed on the sequence of events (and far less filled with Griffiths' notable misogyny).

****The place of Eleanor's detention is notable. In 1419, the widowed Joan of Navarre--the second wife of Henry IV of England and thus step-mother to Henry V and to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester--had been accused of witchcraft. Her confessor claimed she had used witchcraft to try to kill the king. Joan was imprisoned, first in Pevensey Castle (from December 1419 to March 1420) before being moved to Leeds Castle, where she remained until July 1422. Although accused, Joan of Navarre was never tried, though her wealth was confiscated--after she was released by Henry V, just weeks before his death, her property was restored to her. She died in 1437--her funeral attended by Gloucester and his wife, who would later be imprisoned in the same castle as Joan of Navarre.

*****Although Gloucester never attempted to break Eleanor out of prison, as was feared by some, and never had a chance to ask for her pardon when summoned to Parliament in 1447, if that was what he was hoping, he had not forgotten her. Three years before his death, he arranged for masses to be said not only for his soul but for hers. After his death, it was claimed that he had died intestate, though references to the duke's will had been frequently made--it seems as if the document may have been made to disappear not only so that his great wealth became "plunder which fell to the King on his uncle's death" but also to obviate any claim Eleanor Cobham might make to a dower. This is underscored by Parliament's special act to deprive her of any claim on Gloucester's estate after his death.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

More Post-Dobbs News on Infant Mortality

When Women Became No Longer Human, Part 14: More Post-Dobbs News

I suppose this is great news for members of the forced-birth crowd, gratified by imposing their benighted views on women and reproduction. Mission accomplished, assholes! You're doing a great job not only in denying women personhood but also in making sure babies die while you're doing it! 

But I'm sure you're not worried about that unfortunate little side effect of your efforts to control women's bodies . . . 

A new study, published on 14 October 2023 in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, reminds readers that "The United States (U.S.) has the highest infant mortality rate among peer countries. Restrictive abortion laws may contribute to poor infant health outcomes. This ecological study investigated the association between county-level infant mortality and state-level abortion access legislation in the U.S. from 2014–2018."

The report--"Abortion Restrictiveness and Infant Mortality: An Ecologic Study, 2014-2018"--is an analysis of pre-Dobbs data. I don't have access to the full report--it's behind a paywall that’s too expensive for me--but the summarized results presented in the abstract make the link between restrictive abortion laws and increased rates of infant mortality undeniable.

As summarized, "increased IMR [infant mortality rate] was seen in states with . . . restrictive laws, with the most restrictive . . . laws having a 16% increased IMR." And, as I have noted here in writing about previous studies, "Black IMR . . . was more than twice that of White infants."

As for the study's conclusions: "State-level abortion law restrictiveness is associated with higher county-level infant mortality rates. The Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson and changes in state laws limiting abortion may affect future infant mortality."

Since I don't have access to the full study, you may wish to read more from Jessica Valenti's Abortion Every Day analysis--click here. Valenti's calling-attention to this study is the first I heard of it, which is a goddamn shame.

But, good work, forced birthers. . . . 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Jacqueline of Bavaria: Heiress, Countess, Duchess, Prisoner, Exile

Jacqueline of Bavaria, countess of Hainaut, duchess of Touraine, dauphine of France,  duchess of Brabant, duchess of Gloucester, lady of Borselen (died 8 October 1436)

In the heading of this post, I have listed the many titles Jacqueline of Bavaria acquired (and lost) through her multiple marriages--I've made the list as a tribute to Ruth Putnam's 1904 biography:
Jacqueline of Bavaria,
16th century copy of a portrait
from about 1435
A Mediaeval Princess, Being a True Record of the Changing Fortunes which Brought Divers Titles to Jacqueline, Countess of Holland . . .
"Divers titles"?  No kidding.

The title "duchess of Bavaria" should be added to this list, but it was a title she gained not through marriage but claimed from her father. Jacqueline of Bavaria (that's the Anglicization of her name in Dutch, Jacoba van Beieren) was the only legitimate child of Willem van Oostervant, who himself had "divers" titles--William II, duke of Bavaria-Straubing; William VI, count of Holland and Zeeland, and, after his marriage to Jacqueline's mother, William IV, count of Hainaut.* With her father's death, Jacqueline inherited the title duchess of Bavaria, but as historian Gerard Nijsten notes, it was "a title that, except prestige, yielded little."

Jacqueline's mother was Margaret of Burgundy, the daughter of Philip II, duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Margaret III, countess of Flanders. She was married to William of Bavaria on 12 April 1385. Theirs was half of a double marriage: on the same day, William's younger sister, Margaret of Bavaria, was married to one of Philip of Burgundy's sons. 

As part of Margaret of Burgundy's marriage settlement, the French king (Charles V, who was Philip II's brother and thus Margaret's uncle) granted her and her new husband the county of Hainaut (now part of France), and throughout the years of her marriage, the new countess resided mainly there, in the castle of Le Quesnoy. 

During the many childless years that followed her marriage, Margaret of Burgundy accumulated land, power, political experience, and independence. Margaret acted in her husband's stead and on his behalf during his frequent, extended absences and, later, his illnesses. On 16 July 1401, sixteen years after Margaret was married to William II, their only child, Jacqueline, was born  in the castle of Le Quesnoy. 

In his biographical essay on Margaret of Burgundy, Antheun Janse indicates that Jacqueline was "reserved" for marriage to a French prince by her father when she was not yet two years old. For Philip of Burgundy, the match he planned for Jacqueline of Bavaria was part of "a fourfold Franco-Burgundian marriage alliance" that he "arranged" just before his own death. According to the complicated set of proposed matches, Jacqueline was to marry Charles, the youngest son of Charles VI of France.

But this "elaborate scheme" was modified, and instead of four marriages, only three were made. And instead of Charles, Jacqueline was betrothed to his slightly older brother, Jean, duke of Touraine, the match celebrated in Paris on 5 May 1403 (when Jacqueline was two years old and Jean was four) and again in Compiègne on 29 June 1406 (when Jacqueline was five years old and Jean was seven). Just after the formalities, the French queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, was "persuaded" to allow her son to be taken to be taken back to Le Quesnoy in order to be brought up in Hainaut with Jacqueline so that he would know the lands and titles he would be expected to govern--as the French king's fourth son, his future was assumed to be in the territories his wife would inherit, not in France.

After the betrothal was celebrated, Jacqueline acquired the title duchess of Touraine. In the mean time, while all these marital alliances were being arranged and then confirmed by the celebrations of the betrothals, a three-year-old Jacqueline had awarded an "official" title, "daughter of Holland," in an effort to secure her place as her father's heir. 

In Le Quesnoy, the two children were raised and educated together. Given their close relationship, a papal dispensation for their marriage was sought and received on 10 May 1411. On 6 August 1415, when Jacqueline was fourteen, she was married to Jean, duke of Touraine, at The Hague. But fortune quickly changed for this newly married pair--just months later, in December, the French dauphin (heir apparent) died, and Jean became the heir to the French throne.** 

A miniature from a
Book of Hours, 
showing Jacqueline kneeling
before the Virgin Mary
Even though his daughter was now married to the heir of the French king, William of Bavaria "showed," in Putnam's words, "a far greater preoccupation about his daughter's inheritance than about that of his son-in-law [the dauphin, Jean]." In 1416, William met with Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, seeking his support for Jaqueline's position as his heir. When the emperor declined to promise his support, William called a meeting at the Hague; there, on 15 August 1416, 
did every noble and each representative of the cities ["Harlaam, Delft, Leyden, Amsterdam, Gouda, Rotterdam, Oudewater, Hoorm, Schiedam, Alkmaar, Dordrecht, and ten smaller places, besides the cities of Zeeland"] stretch out the fingers of one hand and place the other hand on saints' relics while swearing solemnly, each and all, to recognise Jacaqueline as their true sovereign, to aid her against her foes with body and health. . . . 

The same oath was repeated later in Hainaut. William then traveled to Paris to see both the duke of Burgundy (now John I, Philip II's son) and the French king to make his case.

But it was all for naught. On 4 April 1417, Jean, son and heir to the king of France, died, leaving Jacqueline a widow at age sixteen. And two months later, on 31 May, her father, William of Bavaria, died. Jacqueline was recognized as countess of Hainaut on 13 June but her right to inherit was not accepted elsewhere in the territories that had belonged to her father, and the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund finally made his position clear--he decided the titles and lands belonged not to Jacqueline but to William's younger brother, John, and then he made sure the new duke of Bavaria married Elizabeth of Görlitz, who just so happened to be Sigismund's niece . . .

Another marriage for Jacqueline was quickly arranged--her mother's Burgundian family selected the fourteen-year-old John IV, duke of Brabant (son of Antoine of Burgundy, who was Margaret of Burgundy's brother), a marriage contract agreed to and signed on 1 August 1417. The young man (boy?) who was to be Jacqueline's second husband was her first cousin, and thus so closely related to her that a papal dispensation was once again needed. The match was also, interestingly, further complicated because John of Brabant was also Elizabeth of Görlitz's stepson (her first husband had been Antoine of Burgundy!)--how could Jacqueline's Burgundian family have thought this match was a good idea? 

The rival claimants: 
John III and Jacqueline
(illustration by Hendrick von Hessel,
Chronique des comtes de Hollande,
c. 1415)
Whatever the reasoning of those who decided this match would be an advantageous one, the requisite dispensation was sought and granted in December 1417, but it was revoked the next month, in January 1418, at least in part because of the Emperor Sigismund's objections. Nevertheless, the young widow was married for a second time on 10 March 1418. The emperor ordered that the couple be immediately separated, and as emperor he declared that all of William II's lands, held as a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire, had been rightfully inherited by William's brother, now John.

And so, of course, war broke out, with Jacqueline's uncle, now John III, declaring war on her husband. Although Jacqueline's forces won an initial battle againt her uncle's, she would not prevail in her claim to be her father's legitimate heir. In the years that followed, her husband turned over territories to her uncle, truces were made and then unmade, and the legitimacy of her marriage continued to be questioned.

Her uncle was eventually willing to recognize the marriage when further concessions were made, another papal dispensation issued in 1419. But Jacqueline's position became even more precarious when the duke of Burgundy was assassinated and the French dauphin--the younger brother of Jacqueline's first husband--was disinherited. (By the terms of the May 1421 treaty of Troyes--Jacqueline's story is set against the background of the Hundred Years' War.)

A sixteenth-century print
depicting Jacqueline
In April 1420, in what Ruth Putnam calls her "revolt against marital authority," Jacqueline retreated to Hainaut (which seems to have been the only possession left to her), where she declared her marriage to John of Brabant to be invalid and asked for its annullment. She provided four reasons: she and John of Brabant were first cousins; her first husband was a "blood relation" of her second; her mother was John of Brabant's godmother (meaning she and John were "spiritual" brother and sister); and at the time of their marriage, the papal dispensation allowing their marriage had been revoked. 

Less than a year later, in March 1421, Jacqueline of Bavaria left for England, hoping to find support for her cause there. She was welcomed by Henry V (who had gained the French throne with the signing of the treaty of Troyes). He provided a monthly grant for her support, and she was a godmother for the English king's heir, son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois.

And Jacqueline found more than support at the English court--she found a third husband, even though she would discover that getting rid of her second would a bit of a problem. Her proposed new husband was the king's brother, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, a scholar, a soldier, and a statesman. She doubtless saw in him a husband who would fight for her claims; he doubtless saw in her a wife who would bring him valuable territories and titles (in Putnam's words, "Jacqueline's heritage was a tempting bait enticing him to the continent.")

While the legality of Jacqueline's marriage to her second husband had been questioned, declared legal and illegal by various parties for their own interests, it was now declared valid by those whose interests were best served by keeping Jacqueline of Bavaria from allying herself to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. Her uncle, now de facto duke of Bavaria, certainly did not want his niece to marry a powerful man who could defend her claims, her husband (or not-husband) John of Brabant did not want to give up his "wife" and her claims, and the new duke of Burgundy, Philip III, had designs of his own on her territories. And the English king--well, Burgundy was Henry V's ally in the Hundred Years' War. 

As for Jacqueline, she married her third husband anyway. After the unexpected death of Henry V in 1422, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, became one of the new king's guardians, and at some point in late 1422 or early 1423, he and Jacqueline married--in late October there was a report in Hainaut that Jacqueline had not only married Humphrey of Gloucester but was already pregnant, and a petition to him in March 1423 addressed him as "Duc de Gloucestre, Comte de Hanau, Hollande, and Zeellande." (Although she was pregnant in late 1422, Jacqueline subsequently suffered a miscarriage.)

At first, the two were willing to submit the question of the validity of their marriage and Jacqueline's claims to her inheritance to the judgment of Philip III of Burgundy, her rejected second husband even agreeing to giving up his claims in concession for a life interest in Hainaut. But the many parties ultimately could not come to satisfactory terms. With her husband--and an army--Jacqueline returned to Hainaut in the fall of 1424. In November they were welcomed into Mons, the capital. On 5 December 1424, Humphrey of Gloucester was recognized as count of Hainaut. 

I wish I could say Jacqueline had a happy ending with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester and now count of Hainaut, but she did not. Although her uncle, John III, died on 6 January 1425, Jacqueline's rejected husband, John of Brabant, joined forces with the Philip III of Burgundy. In February, the pope issued a decision on Jacqueline's marriage to Gloucester--it was declared invalid, and the two were ordered to separate. Although they did not do so immediately, Humphrey of Gloucester left for England in early April, leaving his wife (or "wife") behind. 

By June, the city of Mons surrendered after a brief siege. A treaty between the duke of Burgundy and John of Brabant gave Hainaut to Jacqueline's "husband," while Jacqueline herself was handed over to Philip III of Burgundy for her "protection." She was sent to Ghent, where she was held, for her protection of course, in the old fortress of Grafenstein. 

Humphrey of Gloucester didn't quite abandon all hope of gaining Jacqueline's territories, at least not at first. As for Jacqueline, in August she managed to escape from her imprisonment, and by September, Gloucester learned that she was in Gouda. She raised forces from among her supporters, winning a minor skirmish or two in the first part of October. For his part, the duke of Gloucester promised "speedy aid." The duke of Burgundy was on the lookout for the arrival of the rumored English troops--a small fleet of ships eventually made landing, its fighters winning a small victory. The English joined up with Jacqueline's supporters, but they were defeated on 13 January 1426 at the battle of Brouwershaven.

Jacqueline continued to resist the forces of Philip III. When John IV of Brabant, her second husband, died on 17 April 1427--he was just twenty-three years old--his claims to Holland, Zeeland, and Hainaut, as Jacqueline's husband, did not pass to Jacqueline, however. John had made the duke of Burgundy his heir. (Brabant was inherited by his brother.) And even though his death made Jacqueline an unmarried woman, the pope once again ruled that her marriage to Humphrey of Gloucester was invalid. On 9 January 1428 the pope reaffirmed the validity of her marriage to John of Brabant and declared any subsequent marriage "of no force or moment" (nullius roboris vel momenti).

Jacqueline continued to appeal to England, but no aid was forthcoming--and, by this point, Humphrey of Gloucester had taken one of Jacqueline's English waiting women, Eleanor Cobham, as his mistress--he married her after the January 1428 papal decree that his marriage to Jacqueline of Bavaria hadn't really been a marriage.*** By July, Jacqueline was forced into a truce with the duke of Burgundy. She was able to maintain her title of countess of Holland, Zeeland, and Hainaut, but that's it. She had to make Philip III, duke of Burgundy her heir, if she died childless, and any future marriage would be subject to his approval.

Portrait of Jacqueline of Bavaria,
attributed to Jan van Eyck
But that still wasn't enough. On 12 April 1433, her financial situation completely impossible, she was compelled to relinquish her titles and transfer the counties to Burgundy. She was left with a few manors and her father's Oostervant for support. 

Despite all this, Jacqueline of Bavaria married again. In 1434, she married Frank van Borselen, a nobleman from Zeeland who had been charged with managing her counties of Zeeland and Holland. When he had resisted turning over some of Jacqueline's assets to the duke of Burgundy, who had appointed him, Frank van Borselen had been arrested--and his arrest seems to have precipitated Jacqueline's April 1433 renunciation of her rights. 

This seems to have been a match made for love, but it did not last long. Jacqueline of Bavaria--once an heiress, once a countess, once a duchess, once a prisoner, and now something of an exile--died on 8 October 1436 at Teylingen Castle (in Voorhout). All this and she was just thirty-five years old. Her fourth and final husband was with her at the time of her death, as was her mother, Margaret of Burgundy.**** 

Unlike many of the women whose stories I have included in this blog, there is a great deal written about Jacqueline of Bavaria, although much of it is in Dutch. A Google search will lead you to many resources. I've linked you here to the wonderful biography in English by Ruth Putnam, who includes many transcriptions of original documentary sources into her story of Jacqueline's life. In addition, the essays published online by the Huygens Institute to which I've linked here are also excellent and accessible. 

As for me, I first learned about Jacqueline of Bavaria while reading Lauren Johnson's The Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI. (Which I was reading to see her interpretation of Henry VI's wife, Margaret of Anjou.) Johnson paints a very sympathetic portrait of Jacqueline, providing more information about her experienes in England and with Humphrey of Gloucester than I could include here. She regards Jacqueline as determined and courageous but lacking in "political shrewdness," which may well be true. It might be argued, however, that she was politially shrewd but, forced to make choices when all the options were horrible, shrewdness wasn't enough when dealing with so many ambitious, self-interested men who were interested only in their own power . . .  

*Jacqueline was William's only legitimate child, but he had at least three illegitimate children, including two sons.

**As an interesting note, the marriage of the dauphin Louis to Margaret of Nevers (the granddaughter of Philip II of Burgundy and thus the niece of Margaret of Burgundy) was one of those in that "fourfold Franco-Burgundian alliance." Margaret of Nevers had first been betrothed to the dauphin Charles, the eldest son of King Charles VI and Isabeau of Bavaria, but when the dauphin died in 1401, she was then matched with the new dauphin, Louis. When Louis died in 1415, the widowed madame la dauphine returned to Burgundy. She eventually married Arthur III of Richmond (very briefly duke of Brittany), a marriage she resisted because it was a step down (or two or three or more) after having been dauphine of France. But married she was, in 1423. She died, childless, in 1442. Arthur of Richmond went on to marry twice more, but neither of his subsequent wives bore any children.

***Eleanor Cobham came to an unfortunate end. In 1442 she was accused of witchcraft and convicted--as part of her punishment, she was forced to do public penance, divorced from her husband, and sentenced to life imprisonment. She died, still in prison, in 1452. Humphrey of Gloucester "retired" from public life after Cobham was accused of witchcraft, but he was arrested for treason on 20 February 1447--he died three days later. 

****Margaret of Burgundy would die at Le Quesnoy on 8 March 1441. Throughout her daughter's life, she supported her cause