Jacquetta de Luxembourg Posted by Elizabeth Schmermund on Oct 2, 2017 in Uncategorized
Recently, I’ve been enjoying the historical novels of Phillipa Gregory. While she might be best known for her series on the Tudors, Gregory has also written a series on the Wars of the Roses. The Wars of the Roses were fought in the fifteenth century between two rival branches in the Plantagenet family: the House of Lancaster and the House of York. But, wait a second, you might be saying to yourself. Wasn’t this an English War? Well, yes. But the history of France and England has often gotten intertwined.
During the fifteenth century, territory over lands in modern-day France was often fought over between the French and the English. In fact, during the later part of the Hundred Years’ War in the early- to mid-fifteenth century, much of northern France was controlled by the British, including the city of Paris. It is during this time period that Phillipa Gregory’s first novel in the Cousin’s War series is set, The Lady of the Rivers.
The Lady of the Rivers follows the real life of Jacquetta de Luxembourg, a prominent aristocrat whose life mirrored the complex allegiances and betrayals between French and English during the later part of the Hundred Years War and into the Wars of the Roses.
Jacquetta was born in northern France to a family that could trace its lineage back to Charlemagne. Little is known about her early life, but it seems like she was raised and educated in the city of Brienne, now known as Brienne-le-Château in the Aube department of France. Jacquetta’s family were loyal to the English, and by the age of seventeen she was married to the Duke of Bedford, King Henry V’s brother, and an English regent of France. The couple spent some time in England, before moving back to Paris, living in the Hôtel de Bourbon, and then Rouen.
However, their marriage ruffled some feathers. The brother of the Duke of Bedford’s previous wife, who died shortly before he married Jacquetta, felt that his sister had been disrespected. This led him, the Duke of Burgundy, to switch sides, making a pact with the French and abandoning the English cause. This proved to be one of many disasters for the English, who lost the Hundred Years’ War in 1453 and lost all of their territory in mainland France. Eventually, Jacquetta would play an important role in the War of the Roses, too, supporting first the House of Lancaster before supporting the House of York. Her oldest daughter, Elizabeth, would eventually marry Edward IV and become Queen of England.
Jacquetta’s history shows a bit about the complexity of the medieval relationship between England and France. If you’re interested in learning more, I suggest reading Phillipa Gregory’s wonderful novels on Jacquetta and her family.
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