Marguerite of Austria: Life Story

Chapter 10 : Scandal

Following these gains in France, Henry went on a victory parade, arriving at Lille on 19th September 1513 to be welcomed by Marguerite with all the ceremony available to her. She was accompanied by Charles, who was still supposed to marry Princess Mary of England the following year. In Henry’s train was his friend, Charles Brandon. Feasts, pageants and tournaments were held to mark the victories over the French and the alliance between Burgundy and England. Brandon excelled himself in the tournament, and was much praised.

In the spirit of courtly love, or perhaps feeling some genuine attraction, Marguerite was gracious to Brandon. In a flirtatious game, he took a diamond ring from her hand and put it on his own finger. She laughed and called him a thief, and requested it back again, as it was well-known to be hers. He did not return it, so the next day, Marguerite asked Henry to force him to give it back – she would give Brandon one of her bracelets instead. He did return the ring, but later took it again and refused to return it – Marguerite thought it undignified to keep arguing, so only requested that he keep it hidden.

Observing the flirtation, Henry suggested to Marguerite that she might marry Brandon - saying that it was not uncommon for widows in England to remarry men of lower birth (for example, the wedding of Katherine of Valois to Owain Tudor, or Jacquetta of St Pol to Richard Woodville). Marguerite responded that such a marriage for her would be considered dishonourable and that she had no plans to remarry after two distressing losses.  After more flirtatious talk, in which Henry pointed out that she would be forced to marry someone, and that Brandon would be her devoted servant, Marguerite, knowing she would never agree to remarry, had consented to promise that she would not remarry until Brandon returned. He promised in response that he would not marry either (despite the fact that he was betrothed to Elizabeth Grey, Viscountess Lisle, and used her title).

By January, rumours were circulating that Marguerite did plan to marry Brandon who had apparently been brandishing her diamond ring as proof of the agreement. Henry was thought to be supporting the notion as it would both reward his friend and bind Marguerite closely to England. Henry was also a romantic at heart, provided promoting romance cost him nothing. It was reported in a January 1514 letter from London to Venice that Henry intended to reinvade France, marry Mary to Charles, his widowed sister, the Dowager Queen Margaret of Scotland, to Maximilian and Brandon to Marguerite. 

Marguerite and Henry had agreed that the marriage of Charles and Mary, would take place before 15th May 1514, nearly three months after Charles attained marriageable age and preparations now began. Henry consulted Marguerite on the particulars of dress and ornaments to be provided for Mary, and the structure of her household. This match was not, however, universally popular. There was a faction that thought Charles could be better bestowed on Renée of France, second daughter of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany. It appears that the Lord de Chièvres, who was close to Charles was inclined to a French alliance.

Meanwhile, Ferdinand was sounding Maximilian out on the prospect of making peace with Louis. He sent envoys to Marguerite in January to explain why such a move would be advantageous to the Emperor. Marguerite was not impressed – she wrote to her father that the French could not be trusted, and that it was hardly surprising that Ferdinand sought peace, as he had gained what he wanted, but was still obliged to support Maximilian and Henry with money and troops. She also warned him that, if the alliance with England was lost, Henry would still be able to pursue his ambitions in France, but would not be easily won back as a friend.

By March, Henry knew of Ferdinand’s proposed betrayal of England, but still thought that Marguerite and Maximilian would maintain the league. He did, however, withhold a previously promised loan to Maximilian – a matter of some moment to the Emperor, who had been relying on the funds to continue his campaign in Milan. Marguerite also had to pass on the bad news to her father that the States-General of the Low Countries would not advance any more cash either – they awaited Charles’ majority, and would then make any grants to him.

Marguerite urged Maximilian to come to come for the celebration of the marriage between Charles and Mary, but he continued to put the matter off. She repeated over and over the importance of the alliance, the fat dowry that Mary would bring, and penalties that the burgesses of Burgundy would have to pay if the match did not go ahead, yet still he delayed.

Marguerite of Austria

Marguerite of Austria

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