Margaret of York, Princess of England and Duchess of Burgundy, 1446-1503: female power, influence and authority in later fifteenth-century North-Western Europe
Margaret of York, princess of England and duchess of Burgundy (1446-1503), is the central figure in this examination of the role and function of women within the power structures of fifteenth-century north-western Europe. Born into the English royal family, she was closely involved in the process that turned the Low Countries from the lands of the duke of Burgundy into a part of the Habsburg domain, and, as such, was important in ushering in the political constellation of the next century. Her role in all this as a woman is all the more striking, as she lacked that essential female contribution to the medieval political process: children. By carefully distinguishing Margaret's influence from her power, and her power from her authority, her life challenges conventional ideas about boundaries imposed upon late medieval women through gender.In addition, her life sheds light onto the cultural as well as the political relationships between England and the Low Countries. Margaret of York's role within this relationship asks some pertinent questions of long-held beliefs on the importance of Burgundy as the source of late medieval culture. The context of her own powerbase in the Low Countries also calls into question the standard theories on the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses. Finally, Margaret's life adds to our understanding of the role of piety, and of the Church, in the wider culture and society of the period. Her fine manuscript collection, as well as her involvement with new devotional cults, and her reliance upon men of the Church as her political allies, combine to provide a more holistic picture of piety and devotion amongst aristocratic ladies of the fifteenth century.