Biography: Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford and Countess Rivers

(Born around 1415/1416- Died May 30, 1472). Daughter of Pierre de Luxembourg and Margaret of Baux. Married to John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford and Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers. Mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England, Lewis Woodville, Anne Woodville, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, Mary Woodville, Jacquetta Woodville, John Woodville, Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl Rivers, Martha Woodville, Eleanor Woodville, Lionel Woodville, Margaret Woodville, Edward Woodville, Lord Scales, and Catherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham. Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a woman who married from love, just like her daughter Elizabeth of Woodville. She was accused of witchcraft later on in her life.

Jacquetta of Luxembourg was born either around 1415 or 1416, but many believe it was around 1416, to Pierre de Luxembourg,Count of St. Pol, Conversano and Brienne, seigneur of Enghien and Viscount of Lille, and his wife Margaret of Baux. Not much is known about Jacquetta’s early life. She was born during the Hundred Years War between France and England. In 1420, the Treaty of Troyes was signed, making King Henry V and his heirs the next heirs to the French throne. In 1422, the brother of Henry V, John Duke of Bedford was named regent in France for the young English King Henry VI. John was married to Anne, sister of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy in 1423. Anne died childless in 1432.

John wasn’t sure about marrying again, until Louis, Bishop of Thérouanne, convinced him to marry his niece Jacquetta; the couple was married by Louis in April 1433. The marriage was controversial because they had married so soon after the death of John’s first wife, making his brother in law, the Duke of Burgundy, upset. Humphrey Duke of Gloucester and the English regent to the young King Henry VI, requested that John come back to England to answer questions about neglect in his job in France. John also needed more funds for the war effort so he took Jacquetta with him to England in June of 1433. On July 8, Jacquetta was given the rights of English citizenship and that same year, her father Pierre de Luxembourg died. In 1434, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford was given the honor of joining the Order of the Garter.

The Duke of Burgundy was still fuming over the marriage of John and Jacquetta, decided to abandon his alliance with the English and join forces with the French. During this time, Sir Richard Woodville was appointed as lieutenant of the garrison at Calais. His father was Richard Woodville, the chamberlain of the Duke of Bedford. John Duke of Bedford, was very ill at this time, and would die on September 14, 1435; he was buried in Rouen. He had no children with Jacquetta.

Sir Richard Woodville was ordered by King Henry VI to bring Jacquetta to England under an agreement with Jacquetta’s uncle Louis. This allowed her to maintain one third of the Bedford estates and the title of Duchess of Bedford if she agreed to go to England and obtain the king’s permission to remarry. During the journey, Jacquetta and Richard fell in love and married in secret, without seeking the king’s permission. This angered the king and he fined the couple 1000 pounds and on March 23, 1437, Parliament recognized the marriage. Jacquetta did raise the money and was able to buy land in October. The couple had a long and happy marriage. They had 14 children, including Elizabeth Woodville, the future Queen of England.

Richard continued his military career even after his controversial marriage. He served under the Dukes of Somerset and York in France until 1442 and he was recognized as a premier jouster. In 1444, Jacquetta and Richard were part of a large group to help escort Margaret of Anjou to England; Jacquetta was related to Margaret through marriage as Jacquetta’s sister Isabel was married to Margaret’s uncle Charles, Count of Maine. Jacquetta was a favorite at court and in 1448, Richard Woodville was made Baron Rivers. In 1452, Jacquetta watched as her daughter Elizabeth was married to Lord Grey of Groby, a member of the Lancastrian family. The couple would have two sons.

In 1453, Jacquetta was there for the churching ceremony of Margaret of Anjou after she gave birth to her son Edward of Westminster. In 1457, Richard was made constable of Rochester Castle and his family was sent to live with him there. Richard’s job was not to guard against attacks from the French but to guard against an attack from Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. In 1461 at the Second Battle of St. Albans, Margaret of Anjou’s Lancastrian army were victorious over the Yorkist army, but Elizabeth Woodville’s husband and Jacquetta’s son in law Sir John Grey, was killed, leaving Elizabeth a widow.

After the Yorkist victory a few weeks later at Towton, Edward IV, the new king, stopped by at Grafton Regis for a couple of days, where it is said he fell in love with Elizabeth Grey, Jacquetta’s daughter. In 1464, the Lancastrian Woodvilles decided to side with Edward IV after he married Elizabeth in secret, angering his allies, especially Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was working on a marriage alliance with France. Jacquetta was there to see her daughter crowned queen and she was the godmother of Elizabeth’s first child, Elizabeth of York, born on February 11, 1466.

In 1469, Warwick decided to rebel against Edward IV and join the Lancastrian cause to put Henry VI back on the throne. After the Battle of Edgecote Moor, Jacquetta’s husband Richard and their son John were arrested and executed on August 12 at Kenilworth. Jacquetta was arrested by Warwick on the charges of witchcraft. She is said to have made two leaden figures of Edward IV and Elizabeth Grey and she practiced black arts to bring about the marriage between her daughter and the king. She was also accused of making a figure of Warwick and conspiring his death. These charges were dropped in February 1470, but they would resurface after Edward IV’s death in 1483.

In September 1470, Warwick invaded England and placed Henry VI back on the throne, forcing Edward IV to flee and Jacquetta, Elizabeth and her children sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. During this time, Elizabeth gave birth to her first son, the future Edward V. Edward IV returned and defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471. When Margaret of Anjou returned, she formed an army to march against Edward IV, which forced Jacquetta and Elizabeth to seek shelter at the Tower of London. After the Battle of Tewkesbury, Jacquetta and Elizabeth exited the Tower and Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI entered it; Henry VI would later die in the Tower. Jacquetta tried to bring charges against Warwick for the murder of her husband and her son, but they failed. Jacquetta would die on May 30, 1472.

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