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By 1504, however, Margaret’s husband, Philiberto II of Savoy, died of pleurisy. Grief-stricken, Margaret became suicidal and she threw herself out of a window, but was saved. After being persuaded to bury her husband, she had his heart embalmed so she could keep it with her forever. Her court historian and poet Jean Lemaire de Belges gave her the title “Dame de deuil” (Lady of Mourning).

Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands

Queen Isabella I of Castile died in late 1504, and Archduke Philipp and Infanta Juana went to Castile to claim the crown. Archduke Philipp of Austria is considered Felipe I of Castile (Spain).

At the death of Philipp (Felipe) in 1506, Charles was recognized Lord of the Netherlands with the title of Charles II of Burgundy. During his childhood and teen years, Charles lived in Mechelen together with his sisters Mary, Eleanor, and Isabella at the court of his aunt Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy. Despite being at his aunt’s court Charles was young and alone. Juana could not return to act as regent because her unstable mental state and her Castilian subjects would not allow their ruler to abandon the kingdom.

Fernando II of Aragon took control of all the Spanish kingdoms, under the pretext of protecting Charles’s rights, which in reality he wanted to elude, but his new marriage with Germaine de Foix failed to produce a surviving Trastámara heir to the throne. With his father dead and his mother confined, Charles became Duke of Burgundy and was recognized as Prince of Asturias (heir presumptive of Spain) and honorific Archduke (heir apparent of Austria).

Preoccupied with German affairs, Margaret’s father, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire Maximillian I, named Margaret governor of the Low Countries and guardian of Charles in 1507, along with her nieces Eleanor, Isabella and Mary. She became the only woman elected as its ruler by the representative assembly of Franche-Comté, with her title confirmed in 1509.

Some report that Margaret was considered a foreigner because of her childhood at the French court. According to Blockmans and others though, Margaret, Philip as well as Charles were considered autochthonous; only Maximilian was always a foreigner. The Governess served as an intermediary between her father and her nephew’s subjects in the Netherlands from her newly built palace at Mechelen. During a remarkably successful career, she broke new ground for women rulers.

Margaret soon found herself at war with France over the question of Charles’s requirement to pay homage to the French king for the County of Flanders (which was outside the Empire; and while a long-standing portion of the inherited Burgundian titles & provinces, legally still within France).

In response, she persuaded Emperor Maximilian to end the war with King Louis XII. On November 1508, she journeyed to Cambrai to assist in the formation of the League of Cambrai, which ended (for a time) the possibility of a French invasion of the Low Countries, redirecting French attention to Northern Italy.

By 1512, she told her father that the Netherlands existed on peace and trade, and thus she would declare neutrality while using foreign armies and funds to wage wars. She played the key role in bringing together the participants of Holy League: Pope Julius II, the Swiss, Henry VIII of England, Fernando II of Aragon and her father Maximilian (he joined the League only as Emperor, as not as guardian of his grandson Charles and thus, the Low Countries’ neutrality was maintained). The league targeted France. The treaty also would not prevent the more adventurous Netherlands seigneurs from serving under Maximilian and Henry when they attacked the French later.

The Spanish inheritance, resulting from a dynastic union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon, included Spain as well as the Castilian West Indies and the Aragonese kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Joanna inherited these territories in 1516 in a condition of mental illness.

Charles, therefore, claimed the crowns for himself jure matris, thus becoming co-monarch of Joanna with the title of Carlos I of Castile and Aragon or Carlos I of Spain. Castile and Aragon together formed the largest of Charles’s personal possessions, and they also provided a great number of generals and tercios (the formidable Spanish infantry of the time). However, at his accession to the throne, Charles was viewed as a foreign prince.

In 1519, Margaret’s father, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I died and his grandson, Charles II of Burgundy (Carlos I of Spain) inherited the Austrian hereditary lands in 1519, as Charles I of Austria, and obtained the election as Holy Roman Emperor against the candidacy of the French King François I. Since the Imperial election, he was known as Emperor Charles V even outside of the Empire and the Habsburg motto A.E.I.O.U. (“Austria Est Imperare Orbi Universo”; “it is Austria’s destiny to rule the world”) acquired political significance.

In 1520, Emperor Charles V made Margaret his governor-general in gratitude for her services. She was the only regent he ever re-appointed indefinitely from 1519 until her death in on 1 December 1530.

Her queenly virtues helped her to play the role of diplomat and peace-maker, as well as guardian and educator of future rulers, whom Maximilian called “our children” or “our common children” in letters to Margaret. This was a model that developed as part of the solution for the emerging Habsburg composite monarchy and would continue to serve later generations. As an older relative and former guardian, she had more power with Emperor Charles V than with her father Maximilian, who treated her cordially but occasionally acted in a threatening manner.

On November 15, 1530, Margaret stepped on a piece of broken glass. She initially thought little of the injury but gangrene set in and the leg had to be amputated. She decided to arrange all her affairs first, designating Charles V as her sole heir and writing him a letter in which she asked him to maintain peace with France and England. On the night of November 30, the doctors came to operate on her. They gave her a dose of opium to lessen the pain, but the dosage was reportedly so strong that she did not wake up again. She passed away between midnight and one o’clock. So basically her doctors accidentally overdosed her.

She was buried alongside her second husband at Bourg-en-Bresse, in the mausoleum of the Royal Monastery of Brou that she previously commissioned