Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands

Claire Ridgway discusses the life of this remarkable Renaissance ruler and the influence of her highly cultured court on the young Anne Boleyn.
Spending the formative years of her life in France had not only made Margaret fluent in the language but also very French in her ways. She was also highly educated and was accomplished at music and poetry. Belgian historian, Ghislain de Boom, described her palace at Mechelen (Malines in French) as “un école d’éducation princière et un centre de haute civilisation”[3], “a princely school and a centre of high culture/advanced civilisation”, and so it was. Her court was visited by the likes of Erasmus, and other well-known Humanists, and was known for its superb library which contained poetry, missals, historical work and work by authors such as Christine de Pizan, who was known for challenging mysogyny and the stereotypical views of women, as well as the works of Boccaccio, Aesop, Ovid, Boethius and Aristotle. Margaret was a patron of the arts and her court was also known for Margarets’s collection of paintings by masters such as Jan van Eyck, her collection of illuminated manuscripts and her collection of music books. She surrounded herself with men of letters, poets and painters. Margaret also enjoyed the tradition of courtly love, which Eric Ives describes as “an integral element in chivalry, the complex of attitudes and institutions which was central to the life of the Tudor court and elite”, “a defence against boredom and vice” and a way “to constrain gender relationships within an accepted convention”[4].
In the 19th century, Louise-Marie d'Orléans, the first Queen of the Belgians, enjoyed dressing up as Margaret of Austria.

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