Margaret II of Avesnes (1311 – June 23, 1356) was Countess of Hainault and Countess of Holland (as Margaret I) from 1345 to 1356. She was Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Germany by marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig IV of Bavaria.
Margaret was the daughter of William I, Count of Hainault, and Joan of Valois, the daughter of Charles, Count of Valois, who was the third son of King Philippe III of France. She spent her childhood in Hainaut (also known as Hainault or Henegouwen) and also frequently visited France with her French mother.
On February 26, 1324, in Cologne, she married Ludwig of Bavaria, thereby becoming Queen of Germany. On January 17,01328, she was crowned Holy Roman Empress alongside her spouse in Rome.
In 1345 she succeeded her brother William II, Count of Hainaut and Holland (as William IV, Count of Holland) following his death in battle with her husband Ludwig IV of Bavaria, Holy Roman Emperor who designated that the counties of Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland and Friesland were his wife’s possessions.
Emperor Ludwig IV gave his support to his wife Margaret because he was reportedly worried that the domains of her late brother would otherwise be lost to the empire. Due to the dangerous hostility of the House of Luxemburg, Ludwig increased his power base ruthlessly.
Margaret traveled to Hainaut and was recognized there in her new position as ruler, and on March 26, she left Hainaut to visit her Northern domains of Holland and Zeeland. There were different difficulties in securing the position of Margaret in her three domains. In Holland and Zeeland, there were doubts as to whether female succession was legal, and while her gender was not a problem in Hainaut, there where still the question of her sister’s claims upon the domain.
Margaret granted the cities and citizens in Holland and Zeeland several economic privileges to secure her position. The claims of her sisters were also addressed.
A parchment dated September 7, 1346 in Frankfurt, of which the seal is destroyed, announces that Ludwig IV of Bavaria, Emperor of the Holy Germanic Empire bestows for himself and his heirs, in the name of his spouse, the empress Margaret, to never cede, divide or bestow the counties of Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland and the palatine of Frisia, which belong to his wife Margaret II (of Avesnes), Countess of Hainaut and to her heirs, excepting the rights of her sisters and after her death, to be passed to their second son William I, Duke of Bavaria (future William III, Count of Hainaut) Duke (I) of Bavaria, and after his decease to Albert (future Albert I, Count of Hainaut).
Margaret’s sisters, including Philippa of Hainault who was Queen consort of King Edward III of England, disavowed their hereditary claims.
Margaret ruled her three domains directly for seven months, after which she was called back to Germany by her spouse, and then appointed her son William to rule in her absence.
When Ludwig IV died on October 11, 1347, he was succeeded by his six sons, and in connection to this, Margaret resigned her sovereignty in favor of her son William in exchange for an allowance.
In 1349 Ludwig IV’s sons decided to partition their possessions: Ludwig V, Duke of Bavaria kept Brandenburg and Tyrol, his younger brothers Ludwig VI the Roman and Otto V the Bavarian received Upper Bavaria.
While Stephen II, Wilhelm I and Albrecht I received Lower Bavaria, Holland and Hainaut. Ludwig V and Stephen were the stepsons of Margaret from her husband’s first wife, and her youngest sons Albrecht and Otto were still minors.
Her eldest son Ludwig VI released Holland and Hainaut for his brothers Wilhelm and Albrecht in 1349 since he expected the Polish crown by his marriage with Cunigunde of Poland. In 1353 her son Stephen also released Holland and Hainaut to his brother Wilhelm.
The Hook and Cod wars
However, a conflict soon arose between Margaret and her son Wilhelm, as he refused to honor the terms in her abdication document by withholding the allowance she had demanded in turn for abdicating in his favor. Willem’s opposition among the nobles of Holland asked Margaret to return to run Holland again, and in March 1350, Margaret had returned to Henegouwen, where she retracted her abdication in June 1.
The Cod League was formed on May 23, 1350 by a number of supporters of Wilhelm, and on September 5, of the same year, the Hook League was formed in support of Margaret. Soon afterward these factions clashed and a civil war began, known as the Hook and Cod wars.
Margaret and the war between mother and son was controversial, and her right to Holland was always considered to be of dubious legality, as this domain was at that time regarded as reserved for men, though the same thing was not raised when it came to her right to Hainaut.
After the destruction of several strongholds of Margaret and a defeat of her forces at two sea battles in 1351, Edward III of England, Margaret’s brother-in-law through her sister Philippa of Hainault, came to her aid, winning a naval engagement off Veere in 1351; a few weeks later the Hooks and their English allies were defeated by Wilhelm and the Cods at Vlaardingen, a defeat which ruined Margaret’s cause.
Edward III shortly afterwards changed sides and in 1354, Margaret saw herself compelled to come to an understanding with her son: he being recognized as count of Holland and Zeeland, and she being secured as ruling countess of Hainaut in her lifetime.
Margaret ruled Hainaut for two more years, and died at Le Quesnoy Castle of infectious tuberculosis June 23, 1356, leaving Wilhelm in possession of the entire Holland-Hainaut inheritance. She was buried in the Minderbroeders Abbey in Valenciennes.