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Margaret of Burgundy

Margaret of York (May 3, 1446 - November 23, 1503) was the sister of Edward IV of England and wife of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. She was born at Fotheringay Castle, Northamptonshire, and died at Mechelen near Antwerp, Belgium.

William Caxton, who introduced the new art of printing into England, was a staunch Yorkist, who counted Margaret as one of his patrons. The single surviving copy of The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy, his first English book, has a specially made engraving showing Caxton presenting the book to Margaret. The volume is now in the Huntington Library, San Marion, California.

Her marriage to Charles the Bold at Bruges, July 9, 1468, was a dynastic marriage that was long delayed by Charles' enemy, Louis XI of France, who entertained alternate matches for each of the partners with the royal senior line of Valois. Extravagant even by the standards of the most extravagant and cultured European court of its day, the celebrations surrounding the marriage constituted one of the undisputed pinnacles of display in the history of the court of Burgundy. Included in the wedding celebrations was the Tournament of the Golden Tree. The tournament was arranged around an elaborately detailed allegory, designed to honor Margaret.

Margaret wore a beautiful coronet (now in the treasury of Aachen Cathedral). trimmed with pearls and decorated with precious stones, and enamelled white roses for York between red, green and white enamelled letters of her name, with gold Cs and Ms, entwined with lovers' knots.

The parades, the streets lined with tapestry hung from houses, the feasting, the masques and allegorical entertainments, the jewels, impressed all observers as the marriage of the century. It is annually reenacted today at Bruges for tourists.

Later, following the deaths of her brothers, Edward IV and Richard III of England, Margaret as Dowager Duchess of Burgundy became a staunch supporter of anyone who challenged Henry VII's hold on the throne of England, including Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. Although Warbeck was undoubtedly an impostor, Margaret acknowledged him as her nephew, Richard, Duke of York.

Of the many splendid manuscripts commissioned by Margaret as Duchess of Burgundy, the richest, most powerful and stylish Duchess of Europe, pride of place goes to the illuminated Visions of Tondal illuminated by Simon Marmion (now at the Getty Museum; a facsimile has been published).

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