Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford

Jacquetta was the second wife of John, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France and the eldest surviving brother of Henry V. She came from the ruling family in Luxembourg and was much younger than her husband who died not long afterwards leaving no children.

Jacquetta, now a Dowager Duchess, found a new husband from amongst her former husband’s household: Sir Richard Woodville. This was regarded as a lowly match for a Duchess and she had to pay a fine to the King – that was one of the rules to try to control the marriages of the nobility. She and Richard produced fourteen children, one of whom, Elizabeth, became Edward IV’s Queen in 1465.

Despite Jacquetta’s personal status, Elizabeth was regarded amongst the nobility as the daughter of a poor Knight and not a suitable wife for a King. This jealousy led to accusations that Jacquetta had practised magic on the young King to trick him into marrying her daughter.  She was tried for witchcraft – a very serious charge in those days – and acquitted. Her sister-in-law by marriage (Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester) had been found guilty of practising witchcraft and died in prison. This was a time when some men in power could not understand how some women could be successful other than by practising the dark arts.

Having been a Lancastrian wife and mother-in-law, Jacquetta became a Yorkist mother-in-law (to Edward IV) and through her granddaughter, Elizabeth of York, the great grandmother of Henry VIII.


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