Margaret, the Last Countess of Tyrol

Margarete of Gorizia-Tyrol with Tyrolean, Bavarian and Carinthian coat of arms

Margarete of Gorizia-Tyrol with Tyrolean, Bavarian and Carinthian coat of arms (source)

When Margaret, daughter of Henry of Gorizia-Tyrol, died on October 3, 1369 her lands became part of the inheritance of the House of Habsburg, making her the last Countess of Tyrol. After three marriages, Henry had no male heirs and only one surviving daughter, so in 1330 he reached an agreement with Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV that allowed Margaret to succeed him in his Carinthian and Tyrolean estates. That same year, when Margaret was eight, she was married to eight year old John Henry of Luxembourg. (John Henry happened to be the son of John the Blind, King of Bohemia, who had deposed Margaret’s father from the throne of Bohemia 20 years earlier.)

In spite of their agreement, when Henry died in 1335, Louis gave Carinthia to Albert II of Austria. The Wittelsbachs of Bavaria also attempted to claim Tyrol, but with the help of her alliance with Luxembourg, Margaret was able to succeed her father as Countess of Tyrol. Unfortunately John Henry was incompetent as a co-ruler. He was disrespectful of the Tyrolean aristocracy and even rejected the attempts of his brother Charles to mediate. Finally, Margaret kicked him out of the castle and out of Tyrol with the help of local nobles.

In spite of the fact that the family at Luxembourg had apparently seen the problem with John Henry when they sent Charles to mediate, this was too much. In order to protect herself from their revenge, Margaret turned to their rivals, the Wittelsbach family. To ensure her alliance with them, she married Louis I of Brandenbury (later Louis V of Bavaria.) Margaret married Louis without a divorce from John Henry, so Louis took it upon himself to declare her marriage to John Henry as null and void. Although William of Ockham and Marsilius of Padua, leading theologians and scholars of the day, defended Louis’s actions claiming that John Henry had never consummated the marriage, Margaret and Louis were excommunicated from the church by Pope Clement VI in 1342.

News of the scandal spread and Charles IV, King of the Romans attempted an unsuccessful siege of Tyrol. Eventually a new alliance brought some stability when Margaret’s son Meinhard III (born in 1344) was married to Margaret of Habsburg, the youngest daughter of Duke Albert II of Austria. In 1359, the Duke also convinced the new Pope Innocent VI to absolved Margaret and Louis of the excommunication.

Louis died unexpectedly in 1361 and Meinhard succeeded him as Duke of Bavaria and count of Tyrol. Things might have proceeded smoothly, but Meinhard also died soon after, not yet 21 and leaving no heirs. Upon his death, his uncle Stephen II of Bavaria-Landshut invaded adding Meinhard’s Bavarian lands to his own and also claiming Tyrol. Once again Margaret needed to make another alliance, this time with Rudolf IV of Austria. The conflict was settled once and for all in 1369 with the Peace of Schärding between Steven and Duke Albert III of Austria and sadly Margaret died in exile in Vienna in 1369.

Find out what else happened on October 3 in Women’s History.

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