Chapter 23 - Brabant from 1503 to 1505
Chapter 23 – Brabant from 1503 to 1505

In March of 1503, Princess Beatrice of York would make the same journey across the English channel that her aunt and cousin had made before her thirty-five and twenty-two years ago. King Richard felt very pensive about her departure, as he had escorted his sister Margaret of York to Margate at the age of sixteen, his niece Mary of York to Bruges at the age of thirty and now at the age of fifty-one his third daughter was leaving Margate for her Flemish husband. Richard was older than his father had been now. The Duke of York had been forty-nine when he was slain at Wakefield. His brothers had not lived to see their fiftieth year. Edward had died a husk of himself at forty-two, Edmund had been brutally murdered by lord Clifford shortly after their father, barely a man at seventeen. George was put to death in the Tower aged twenty-six. His eldest sisters had died too, Anne in 1476 and Elizabeth in January, mere months ago. Of the ten children Duchess Cecily had born to her husband, seven had lived to adulthood. Now only he and Margaret remained. And in her letters to him, Margaret described her increasingly failing health. He had mercifully been spared severe illnesses so far and while the knocks and hard bruises from the wars and military campaigns he fought in his life occasionally flared up, it had not been as bad as feared. The moorish physicians Beatrice had taken with her from Portugal had tended to him with immense skills for years. Even his twisted spine and uneven right shoulder had bothered him less after 1485.

Perhaps Richard would be the last sibling standing in the end. To his surprise, he still lived at fifty, lived to turn fifty-one. Fifty, alive and king all at once. Truly the Lord had given him a miracle.

Dickon had accompanied them to Margate, riding up from Wales. Richard knew his son was reluctant to leave Ludlow right now. Princess Catherine was heavily pregnant with their first child and due to give birth in a week or two. His younger siblings, Thomas, Cecily, and Anne had travelled with their family to Canterbury, while Queen Beatrice’s last baby, little Lionel toddled around in the nursery in Eltham Palace. The Duke and Duchess of York were still up in the north, having married in 1501.

The laughter of his daughter made drew him out of his thoughts. Bea giggled with her friends, a handful of them would serve her in Brabant. He did not doubt his golden daughter with her dark falling hair and dark eyes would fail to charm her new family or court. Her mother and tutors had seen to her education, leaving Bea with a rich arsenal of knowledge to draw on.

A few days later the fleet of twenty ships left Margate for Ostend with the Countess of Namur onboard. With her she carried a letter to the dowager duchess of Burgundy. It had been written by her father the king.

“My dear Margaret. I am entrusting to you my beloved daughter Beatrice. I hope that in the times to come, the continuing union between our kingdoms shall last in perpetuity with new marriage of our blood and bone. I hope this renewed spring shall lift your spirits and prays to the saints for your health. May the Lord who has safeguarded our family for four decades protect you and yours. Your ever faithful brother, Richard III, King of England.”

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King Richard III of England in 1500

Princess Beatrice arrived in Ostend in the early morning almost two days after leaving Margate. The crossing over the engelse kanaal, as it was called in her new land had been fairly calm for once, but it turned out she had no tolerance for seafaring. She and a few of her ladies had to rest in a nearby abbey for over a day before the delegation began to move to Bruges where the Grand Duke and Philippe waited for her. Grand Duchess Philippa and her two eldest daughters, Margaretha and Katelijne arrived in the same evening to greet her. The reception went very well, and the ladies dined together in private. Beatrice’s first impression of her mother-in law was of a tall and stout woman in her mid-thirties with dark hair and brown eyes. Philippa was pregnant with her last child at the time and had looked forward to seeing her firstborn finally be married. Unlike the short and wispy Mary of York who had barely seemed substantial, this english princess seemed more appropriate for a future Grand Duchess. She could breathe a sign of relief after meeting Beatrice.

Both Philippa and Beatrice observed the strict court etiquette at the time. The morning after they set off towards Bruges where more pageants awaited her. Symbolism of weddings and peace were on display: Clovis, Paris and Helen, and the tapestries of Ahasuerus and Esther from the bible, who’s marriage had been a salvation from destruction. The same tapestries had been displayed when Margaret of York married Charles the Bold. Beatrice also saw the Hellenic myth of Jason and Medea at display since the Order of the Golden Fleece had been founded in Burgundy and it equalled the Order of the Garter in England.

Her arrival in Bruges was celebrated in grandeur almost as grand as her aunt. In the Belfry of the city the bells rang to announce her while she proceeded to the ducal palace just outside the city. Philip had ordered its construction in 1487 and it had been finished after nearly a decade. The vast and sprawling estate were constructed in a northern renaissance style with grand halls, splendid rooms and windows letting the sun filter in. It was in the great hall Beatrice met Philippe for the first time. The bridal couple seemed to be delighted with each other, and Philippe gave a show of romantic gesture before the court, leaving the girl blushing.

The new Countess of Namur had been received with great cheer.

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The Ducal Palace outside of Bruges

In July, the Countess Beatrijs, as she was now called, had been given the honours of carrying her new brother-in law to the christening in St Rumbold’s Cathedral. Baby Antoine had been named after Saint Anthony of Padua. While Philippa’s labour had been a short one, the infant was small, frail, and lethargic, making his parents worry that he would die in infancy. As the worried duchess withdrew from court life for a few months to stay with the baby and little Cecilia in Malines, Beatrijs assumed her mother-in laws role as first lady in the duchy. Despite all fears for his health, Antoine seemed determined to survive his first months. While he remained small and frail for the rest of his life, the little dark-haired boy would survive to adulthood. When Philippa returned to court in Brussels for the Christmas celebration, the mood was rather high. Beatrijs had delighted everyone as she announced her first pregnancy on the 15th. If all went well, a ducal heir would arrive in the middle of July of next year. The dowager duchess of Burgundy, Margaret had also joined her family for what would become her last Christmas. The dowager had been the first one told about her future great-grand child and her strength seemed to improve after hearing the news.

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Philippe of Brabant, Count of Namur in 1510

A second marriage was celebrated by the court in 1503. Jean of Brabant and Marie d’Albret had been betrothed since they were in the cradle and had grown up together in court, thick as thieves for years. Jean had been invested as Count of Eu and Guise at the age of seven and when he married Marie in the city of Mons on a golden autumn day in late September, he became Count of Rethel by jure uxoris as well. Two weeks afterwards, the couple left for their new lives in the Palatinate of Burgundy. Philip had appointed him as governor in the County as ducal authority needed to be strengthened. Jean and Marie would visit the ducal court often, as well as Rethel and Guise. Jean’s stewardship of Burgundy would make the region flourish. Jean was joyful and fair and Marie a gracious and charitable countess. They got on well with the estates and local nobility and filled the court down there with light and grandeur.

July of 1504 would become both a sorrow and a joy to Brabant. The dowager duchess Margaret of York passed away in Malines on the morning on the fifth. She was attended by Robert Camell, her chaplain, and the ladies in her household, while Henri of Witthem, lord of Beersel, dispatched messengers to both Limburg and Luxemburg where Philip and Philippa, ever traveling was. He had overseen the ducal children’s household at Malines and made sure that Cecilia and Antoine were properly attended to by their nurses. Both duke and duchess arrived in great haste, almost ahead of their entourage. Malines had plunged into great mourning and in the cathedral of St Rumbold tolled. The news spread quickly into the Low Countries, and in Binche, Rupelmonde, Oudenaarde, Dendermonde, Cassel, Brielle and Voorne, Margaret’s dower towns, grieving was plenty. Margaret was buried in the cathedral of Malines. The ducal family attended the funeral and remained in the city for over a month. Nobody commented on the unusual behaviour of the duke and duchess who were nearly always peripatetic. But grief had to be respected, and Philip and Philippa drew strength from each other and their children, who were delighted to have both parents in the same place for so long. Bereavement were not the sole occupation in Malines. Ducal councillors gathered to go over Margaret’s estates, dower, and possessions. Accountants collected documents to check remaining funds and debts. Philip, living up to his sobriquet, The Prudent, left nothing to chance. After extensive pouring, the value of the dower cities had been amassed. As by right, they now belonged to Philippa, who finally came into her full estates. Gerard of Assendelft, the man who had taken Margaret’s feudal oaths for Brielle and Voorne, now became the man who turned the dower to Philippa and rose to a high position in Holland and Zeeland. Guillaume de Baume, Margaret’s knight of honour entered her service, later becoming head of the duchess’s household. Philippa did not retain her mother-in laws doctors, Lambert de Poorter and William Roelandts, preferring the Moorish physicians that Queen Beatrice of England had recommended. She would later persuade Philip to give the position of court composer to Jean Richafort, the choir master at Rumbold’s cathedral from 1507-09.


Tomb of Margaret of York. Initially simpler, it was upgraded in 1530

The dowager’s possessions were divided amongst her family. The paintings of van Eyck, van der Weydens, Bouts and Memlincs ended up in Philippa and Philip’s hands, with a few going to the Count and Countess of Saint Pol. The plates and tapestries went to her granddaughters Margaretha and Katelijne as part of their dowries. The portrait of Charles the Bold, by Roger van der Weyden, went to the Count of Namur. Margaret’s books and illuminated manuscripts ended up in the Beatrijs possessions. Many of them had religious subjects, ranging from Augustinian collections to more novel styles, like the Les Visions du chevalier Tondal, a tale of a Irish knight who found himself on a journey into heaven and hell, as well lavishly made Hours of the Virgin, a book of hours, containing thirty-four miniatures.

During her thirty-six years in Burgundy, from 1468 to 1504, Margaret had played a vital role in the safekeeping of the Low Countries, both as consort and dowager in every way she were capable of. Perhaps the most important of all in the birth of her sons, which safeguarded the duchy’s independence, despite losing the Duchy of Burgundy to France. But Brabant, Flanders, Hainault, Artois, Holland, Zeeland, Boulogne, Picardy, Veluwe, Zutphen, Guelders, Limburg and Luxembourg all remained. And her son had enlarged the realm even more. She skilfully maintained the alliance with England, an important ally against France as well, as well the peace treaty with France itself, settling the dispute of the Valois-Burgundian inheritance for many decades. She vigilantly defended Hainault and oversaw the logistics and military campaigns during the war with France and guided her sons during the regency. She also undertook the education of her grandchildren, invited Erasmus to her court and made Malines into a centre of humanism in Brabant. One of her chief missions as consort were to uphold the relationship between England and Burgundy, something she ultimately succeeded in. During the trouble years of 1470 and 71 in England, when her brother Edward IV had been forced to flee his own kingdom, Margaret supported him in every way she could. She would end the Tudor threat with prejudice in the early years of Richard III’s reign and victoriously saw the betrothal of her grandson to Beatrice of York.

While Margaret lost her oldest daughter, ten years old Isabella, to France, it was to the knowledge of peace for the rest of her family and lands. Ultimately the Grand Duchy of the West owned its survival to Margaret and her efforts to preserve the foreign country she had arrived in as a glittering bride in 1468.


Gilded Statue of Margaret of York in at the façade of the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges.

Ten days after her death, Countess Beatrijs delivered Margarets first great-grandchild in the palace in Bruges, the same city that had given both aunt and niece a such a joyeuse entrée. Baby Marguerite would be named for the late dowager, her birth being one of the few joys in that summer.

The next year another Margaret would be in focus for the court. Philip’s eldest daughter Margaretha would leave for her marriage to Prince Christian, the heir to the throne of Denmark. The marriage had been agreed upon in order to guard the duchy’s border to the north and to weaken the Hanseatic League. Philip also aimed to acquire the west and east Frisia as well as Groningen. Christian held North Frisia, so they had a mutual interest in dividing up the area in the future. Margaretha would serve as the lynchpin in the alliance. Philippa and Bea had already begun to gather clothes, jewellery, plates of gold and silver for the dowry and trousseau. Parts of the dowry had been offset by Beatrijs, as Philip had promised 200,000 florins for his daughter. The duchy had also enjoyed over two decades of prosperity and its coffers were full to bursting. Everything had been gathered and prepared by the time Margaretha would leave in May of 1505.

The Binnenhof Palace complex in The Hague

The North Sea winds blew both cold and hard that April evening. It rattled in the windows of the complex and the candles flickered in Margaretha’s chamber. The sound pulled the young woman sitting in an armchair near the fireplace out of her thoughts. The three ladies sitting around her was occupied by needlework, while their mistress read. “Greetje, are you not nervous for the journey?” Heleen van Merode asked, pale slim fingers doing Spanish blackwork on a white silk shift. Her long golden hair reflected the light from the fire, and the green gown complimented her cream skin; in the chamber Heleen seemed to shimmer with an inner light. Margaretha put her book down, the tome of Gesta Danorum with its pages worn from the years of reading. “Heleen, it’s not the longest trip in the world. And we will travel across many cities on the way, imagine the sights we will see. Amsterdam, Zwolle, Oldenburg, Bremen, and Hamburg.”

Next to her Jolanda van Brugge perked up. “I have heard that Hamburg is an incredibly beautiful city to see.” Jolanda was cheerful about the journey, having a thirst to see more of the world. At sixteen she was a lanky girl with mousy brown hair and thin face. Her grandfather had been Louis de Bruges, Lord of Gruuthuse and Prince of Steenhuijs. He had been an important nobleman, councillor, and official from the time from Philip the Good, Charles the Bold, Margaret of York to Philip and Philippa. Jolanda had inherited three of his illustrated manuscripts and a few of his other books. “Hopefully the weather will get better when we are on the road. If it keeps up like this, we will not see a single thing at all. It is pouring a flood outside.” Their third companion, Lijsbeth of Burgundy-Beveren, was peering out of the window. She was the most outgoing of their circle. Tall and voluptuous with dark blonde hair and green eyes, Lijsbeth easily caught the eyes of the young men in court. No one had seen her return an ounce of affection at any point thou and she seemed practically attached to Margaretha’s hip.

Margaretha turned her head and looked out of the window. It was indeed pouring a flood down outside. “Well, it that is the case we better make ourselves comfortable for the evening. Lijsbeth, will you fetch some playing cards? I feel a game might be entertaining for us all.” Flagons of mulled wine, roasted quail, tart winter apples, manchet bread and spermyse cheese were brought in, cards were dealt, and the girls spent their last evening in the duchy of Brabant in high spirits before Margaretha’s departure to Denmark began in the morning.


Margaretha of Brabant, Crown Princess of Denmark in 1510

At the end of May two events happened almost simultaneous that would affect Brabant. The first was the passing of King Richard III of England on the 18th. At the age of fifty-three he left the throne to his son and heir, twenty-year-old Richard, Prince of Wales, now by the Grace of God, King Richard IV of England. The king’s death had come on the same day his granddaughter had been born at Windsor Castle. Perhaps the news that his daughter-in law Catherine had been delivered of another healthy child proved to be a sign from God that his blessings still shone on the House of York. If that was the case, then he could finally turn his soul over to the almighty in peace. The Crown was safe. And so, the last of the York siblings, born to the Duke who could have become king himself, passed away in peace at Westminster Palace shortly after dawn had risen.

Nine days afterwards Johann, the sole heir to the Duchy of Cleves and County of Mark, would die in a riding accident. And to Grand Duke Philip this proved to be a golden opportunity.

Author's Note: And so passes the Madam La Grande. Adieu to Margaret of York, who's grand marriage started this whole TL and my own very favorite lady. Fortunately, she lives to see her family flourish. Everything is going well in Brabant and England. And Richard III really proved to be the last man standing in the end. Now comes the reign of King Richard IV of England and his consort, Catherine of Aragon! Things are looking rather bright at the moment. Except for the duchy of Cleves thou. So far from God, so close to Brabant.
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Incredible chapter girl!

An era has truly ended the Last remaining of the York Siblings passes to their eternal Rest, but they did si satisfied and happy. Knowing their work had born fruit and that their legacies were safe
Incredible chapter girl!

An era has truly ended the Last remaining of the York Siblings passes to their eternal Rest, but they did si satisfied and happy. Knowing their work had born fruit and that their legacies were safe
A much better way for the Plantagenet to survive.
I felt like it was apporiate for Philippa of Guelders' last son to be named Antoine as in reality her oldest surviving son had that name. It's a little historical nod. And evidently her name was spelled Philippe de Guelders in french. But a Philip, Philippe and then little Philippe would just be too many Philips for me to write.
I know. But I wanted to make a grand palace in Bruges and Coudenberg fit my image of it.
I agree, Coudenberg was a grand palace indeed.
Nice to read that Margareth of York was mourned as well in Brielle and Voorne.
The castle of Voorne must be transformed by her in truly grand hunting estate, ext to the still remaining motte and keep. In OTL she did not had much time to be there