Margaret, Countess of Tyrol

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Countess of Tyrol
Margarethe Tirol.jpg
Margarete of Gorizia-Tyrol with Tyrolean, Bavarian and Carinthian coat of arms, 16th century depiction
Countess 1335–1363
Predecessor Henry II
Successor Rudolf IV of Austria
Spouse(s) John Henry of Luxembourg
Louis of Wittelsbach
Noble family House of Gorizia
Father Henry of Carinthia
Mother Adelaide of Brunswick
Born 1318
Died 3 October 1369(1369-10-03)
Buried Minoritenkirche, Vienna

Margaret, nicknamed Margarete Maultasch (1318 – 3 October 1369) was the last Countess of Tyrol from the House of Gorizia (Meinhardiner). Upon her death, Tyrol became united with the Austrian hereditary lands of the House of Habsburg.


Margaret was the only surviving daughter of Duke Henry of Carinthia, also Count of Tyrol, with his second wife Adelaide, a daughter of the Welf duke Henry I of Brunswick. As her father's three marriages had produced no male heirs, he reached an agreement with the Wittelsbach emperor Louis IV in 1330 that enabled Margaret to succeed him in his Carinthian and Tyrolean estates. In the same year, she was married at the age of twelve to eight-year-old John Henry of Luxembourg, a younger son of King John of Bohemia and brother of the future Emperor Charles IV. King John was himself responsible for deposing Margaret's father from the Bohemian throne in 1310.


Despite his agreement with Margaret's father, Emperor Louis IV in 1335 gave Carinthia to the Habsburg Duke Albert II of Austria, who raised inheritance claims as the eldest son of King Albert I of Germany and Elisabeth of Gorizia-Tyrol, Margaret's paternal aunt. When the Tyrolean lands were claimed by the Bavarian Wittelsbachs, young Margaret made use of her affiliation with the mighty Luxembourg dynasty and, at least, was able to succeed her father as Countess of Tyrol.

The situation worsened when young John Henry turned out to be a haughty and incompetent co-ruler disrespected by the Tyrolean aristocracy. The Luxembourgs sent his capable brother Charles IV to Tyrol, but his mediation efforts were rejected. On 1 November 1341, Margaret finally refused John Henry admittance to her residence Castle Tyrol with the support of the several local nobles and had him expelled from her lands. She escaped the revenge of the deprived Luxembourgs by turning to their Wittelsbach rivals and on 10 February 1342 married Margrave Louis I of Brandenburg, the eldest son of Emperor Louis IV, without being granted a divorce from John Henry.

Louis I, also Duke of Bavaria from 1347 as Louis V, took it upon himself to declare Margaret's marriage to John Henry null and void. The scholars William of Ockham and Marsilius of Padua defended this "first civil marriage" of the Middle Ages, claiming that John Henry had never consummated his matrimony. However both Margaret and her new husband were immediately excommunicated by the new Pope Clement VI in 1342. The scandal spread across Europe. Charles IV, King of the Romans since 1346, campaigned in Tyrol the next year, laid siege to Castle Tyrol, but had to pull out without having achieved anything. A new alliance was provided by the marriage of Margaret's son by Louis, Meinhard III, to Margaret of Habsburg, the youngest daughter of Duke Albert II of Austria. With the assistance of the Habsburg duke, the countess and her second husband were finally absolved from excommunication by the new Pope Innocent VI in 1359. In ecclesiastical propaganda of the day she received the nickname "Maultasch" (literally "bag mouth", cf. Maultasche), which means "whore" or "ugly woman".

After the sudden death of her husband Louis in 1361, her son Meinhard III succeeded his father as Duke of Upper Bavaria and Count of Tyrol. However, Meinhard died less than two years later without heirs and just under a month away from the age of twenty-one. His death precipitated an invasion by his Wittelsbach uncle Duke Stephen II of Bavaria-Landshut. Stephen, allied with Bernabò Visconti, re-united Landshut with Meinhard's Upper Bavarian lands and also claimed Tyrol. Again facing the threat of losing her patrimony, Margaret was finally induced to contract the County of Tyrol over to her late son's brother-in-law, the Habsburg duke (and self-proclaimed "Archduke") Rudolf IV of Austria, who eventually united it with the Austrian dominions. The conflict over Tyrol was settled by the 1369 Peace of Schärding between Rudolf's brother and successor Duke Albert III of Austria and Duke Stephen II of Bavaria, the financial compensation for which was exigent upon Margaret's death.

Margaret died in exile in Vienna in 1369 and is buried at the Minoritenkirche.


Margaret was known by a variety of nicknames, including Kriemhild, Maultasch, Medusa, Mouthpoke, Pocket-mouth, Satchel-mouth, the Big Mouth, the Mouth Bag, the Pocket-Mouthed, the She-Wolf of the Tyrol, the Ugly Duchess, and With the Pouch Mouth.[1][2][3][4][4]


Margaret's feudal heir would have been her elder cousin's son, Frederick III of Aragon, ruler of the island of Sicily. After his line, the succession would have gone in 1401 to Joanna of Aragon, Countess of Foix, and in 1407 to Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Naples (both daughters of John I, King of Aragon). Only in 1740 would that descent converge with the actual holders of the Tyrol, when Maria Theresa, wife of the Aragonian heir Francis III, Duke of Lorraine, succeeded in Tyrol as well.

Though contemporaries such as the chronicler John of Winterthur called her beautiful, the nickname Maultasch led to the widespread notion of a woman with deformed features. Quentin Matsys's 1513 portrait The Ugly Duchess (which was thought to have been made after a sanguine by Leonardo da Vinci, but it is more likely that the latter is a copy after Matsy's [1]) may refer to Margaret, and it was Sir John Tenniel's model for the "Duchess" in his illustrations of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lion Feuchtwanger used her story in his novel The Ugly Duchess and in 1816 Jacob Grimm collected the "Legends of Margarete" in his book German sagas. The tale of Margaret's unsuccessful siege of the Carinthian Hochosterwitz Castle and its shrewd garrison was popularized by the psychologist Paul Watzlawick.



  1. ^ "Chapter Xi. - Bayarian Kurfursts In Brandenburg". Retrieved July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Margarete Maultasch, Gräfin von Tirol". 2001-07-31. Retrieved July 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "Google Translate". Retrieved July 2012. 


  • Baum, Wilhelm (1994). Margarete Maultasch. Erbin zwischen den Mächten. Graz-Wien-Cologne. 
Margaret, Countess of Tyrol
Born: 1318 Died: 3 October 1369
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry II
Countess of Tyrol
with John Henry (1335–1341)
Louis (1341–1361)
Meinhard III (1361–1363)
Succeeded by
Rudolf IV of Austria