Mary of Burgundy: Wikis


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Duchess of Burgundy
Reign 5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Predecessor Charles I
Successor Philip IV
Spouse Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Philip I of Castile
Margaret, Duchess of Savoy
House House of Valois-Burgundy
Father Charles the Bold
Mother Isabella of Bourbon
Born 13 February 1457
Brussels, Brabant
Died 27 March 1482 (aged 25)
Wijnendale Castle, Flanders
Burial Bruges, Flanders

Duchy of Burgundy-
House of Valois, Burgundian Branch
Blason comte fr Touraine.svg
John the Good
   Charles V of France
   Louis I of Anjou
   John, Duke of Berry
   Philip the Bold
Philip the Bold
   John the Fearless
   Margaret of Burgundy, Duchess of Bavaria
   Catherine of Burgundy
   Anthony, Duke of Brabant
   Mary, Duchess of Savoy
   Philip, Count of Nevers
John the Fearless
   Mary of Burgundy, Duchess of Cleves
   Margaret, Countess of Richemont
   Philip the Good
   Anne of Burgundy
   Agnes of Burgundy
Philip the Good
   Charles the Bold
   Anthony the Bastard
Charles the Bold
   Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy

Mary, called Mary the Rich (13 February 1457 – 27 March 1482), was suo jure Duchess of Burgundy from 1477 – 1482. As the only child of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife Isabella of Bourbon, she was the heiress to the vast Burgundian domains in France and the Low Countries upon her father's death in the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. Her mother had died in 1465, but Mary was on very good terms with her stepmother Margaret of York, whom Charles married in 1468.



Heiress of Burgundy

Mary of Burgundy was born in Brussels, at the Ducal castle of Coudenberg. Her birth, according to the court chronicler, Georges Chastellain, was attended by a clap of thunder ringing from the otherwise clear twilit sky. Her godfather was Louis the Dauphin, in exile in Burgundy at that time; he named her for his mother, Marie of Anjou. Reactions to the child were mixed: the baby's grandfather, Philip the Good, was unimpressed, and "chose not to attend the [Baptism] as it was only for a girl"; his wife, Isabella, was simply delighted at the birth of a granddaughter.[1]

As the only child of Charles the Bold, Mary was heiress to a vast and wealthy domain, made up of the Duchy of Burgundy, the Free County of Burgundy, and the majority of the Low Countries, and her hand was eagerly sought by a number of princes. The first proposal was received by her father when she was only five years old, to marry the future Ferdinand II of Aragon. Later the younger brother of Louis XI, Charles de Valois, Duc de Berry made an approach, to the intense annoyance of his brother the King, who attempted to prevent the necessary Papal dispensation for consanguinity.

Coat of arms of Mary of Burgundy.

As soon as Louis produced a male heir who survived infancy, the future Charles VIII of France, Louis wanted his son to be the one to marry Mary, despite his son being thirteen years younger than Mary. Nicholas I, Duke of Lorraine was a few years older than Mary, and his Duchy lay alongside Burgundian territory, but his plan to combine his territory with hers was frustrated by his death in battle in 1473.

When her father fell upon the field at the siege of Nancy, on 5 January 1477, Mary was only nineteen years old. Louis XI of France seized the opportunity afforded by his rival's defeat and death to attempt take possession of the Duchy of Burgundy proper, and also of Franche-Comté, Picardy and Artois.

Louis was anxious that Mary should marry Charles, the Dauphin of France, and thus secure the inheritance of the Low Countries for his descendants, by force of arms if necessary. Mary, advised by Margaret, distrusted Louis, declined the French alliance, and turned to her Netherland subjects for help. Sensing her weakness, she obtained their help only at the price of great concessions.

The Great Privilege

On 10 February 1477 at Ghent on the occasion of her formal recognition, known as the Joyous Entry, as Charles' heir, she was compelled to sign a charter of rights, called the Great Privilege. Under this agreement, the provinces and towns of Flanders, Brabant, Hainaut, and Holland recovered all the local and communal rights which had been abolished by the decrees of the dukes of Burgundy in their efforts to create a centralized state on the French model out of their separate holdings in the Low Countries. In particular, the Parliament of Mechelen (established formally by Charles the Bold in 1470) was abolished and replaced with the pre-existing authority of the Parlement de Paris, which was considered an amenable counterweight to the encroaching, if informal, centralisation undertaken by both Charles and Philip the Good. Mary also had to undertake not to declare war, make peace, or raise taxes without the consent of the States, and to employ only native residents in official posts.

Such was the hatred of the people for the old regime that two of her father's influential councillors, the Chancellor Hugonet and the Sire d'Humbercourt, having been discovered in correspondence with the French king, were executed at Ghent despite the tears and entreaties of the youthful duchess.


Mary of Burdundy (right) with her husband and children

Mary now made her choice among the many suitors for her hand, selecting the Archduke Maximilian of Austria (after her death the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I). The marriage took place at Ghent on 18 August 1477. By marrying Archduke Maximilian of Austria, son of the Archduke of Austria, she became Archduchess Mary of Austria. In this way the Low Countries came to the Habsburgs, initiating two centuries of contention between France and the Habsburgs, later of Spain, then of Austria, for their possession, which climaxed in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1701–1714.

In the Netherlands, affairs now went more smoothly, the French aggression was temporarily checked, and internal peace was in a large measure restored.

Death and legacy

Five years later, the 25-year-old Duchess met her death by a fall from her horse on 27 March 1482 near the Wijnendale Castle. She loved riding, and was falconing with Maximilian when her horse tripped, threw her, and then landed on top of her, breaking her back. She died several days later, having made a detailed will. She is buried in Bruges. 

Louis was swift to re-engage, and forced Maximilian to agree to the Treaty of Arras (1482) by which Franche-Comté and Artois passed for a time to French rule, only to be exchanged for Burgundy and Picardy in the Treaty of Senlis (1493), which established peace in the Low Countries.

In 1490, Maximilian married by Proxy Anne of Brittany but it was dissolved by the Pope in 1491

In 1493, Maximilian married secondly Bianca Maria Sforza (5 April 1472- 31 December 1510), the daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Bona of Savoy but had no children by her.


Mary's tomb effigy in the Church of Our Lady, Bruges.

Three children had been the issue of her marriage, and her eldest son, Philip, succeeded to her dominions under the guardianship of his father.

Her children were:



Mary and Maximilian

See also


  1. ^ Taylor, Aline, Isabel of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy
Cadet branch of the House of Valois
Born: 13 February 1457 Died: 27 March 1482
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles the Bold
Duchess of Brabant, Limburg and Lothier,
Duchess of Luxemburg, Margravine of Namur,
Countess of Artois and Flanders,
Countess of Charolais,
Countess of Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland and Dukes of Burgundy,
Countess Palatine of Burgundy

5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Succeeded by
Philip the Handsome
Duchess of Guelders
Countess of Zutphen

5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Now title
Duchess of Burgundy
5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Succeeded by
Philip IV

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