Margaret II, Countess of Flanders

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Margaret II, Countess of Flanders
Marketa Constantinopol.jpg
Margaret II, Countess of Flanders
Spouse(s) Bouchard IV of Avesnes
William II of Dampierre
Noble family House of Flanders
Father Baldwin I of Constantinople
Mother Marie of Champagne
Born (1202-06-02)2 June 1202
Died 10 February 1280(1280-02-10) (aged 77)
Margaret's Seal

Margaret, called of Constantinople (2 June 1202 – 10 February 1280) was countess of Flanders from 1244 to 1278 and also countess of Hainaut from 1244 to 1253, and again from 1257 until her death.

History and Family[edit]

She was the younger daughter of Baldwin I of Constantinople, who was also count of Flanders and Hainaut, and Marie of Champagne. He left on the Fourth Crusade before she was born, and her mother left two years later, leaving Margaret and her older sister Joan in the guardianship of their uncle Philip of Namur.

After her mother died in 1204, and her father the next year, the now-orphaned Margaret and her sister remained under Philip's guardianship until 1208, when he gave their wardship to King Philip II of France. During her time in Paris, she and her sister became familiar with the Cisterian Order, probably under influence of Blanche of Castile, the future Queen consort of France.

In 1212 Margaret married Bouchard d'Avesnes, a prominent Hainaut nobleman. This was apparently a love match, though it was approved by Margaret's sister Joan, who had herself recently married. The two sisters subsequently had a falling-out over Margaret's share of their inheritance, which led Joan to attempt to get Margaret's marriage dissolved. She alleged that the marriage was invalid, and without much inspection of the facts of the case Pope Innocent III condemned the marriage, though he did not formally annul it.

Bourchard and Margaret continued as a married couple, having 3 children, as their conflict with Joan grew violent and Bouchard was captured and imprisoned in 1219. He was released in 1221 on the condition that the couple separate and that Bouchard get absolution from the pope. While he was in Rome, Joan convinced Margaret to remarry, this time to William II of Dampierre, a nobleman from Champagne. From this marriage Margaret had two sons: William and Guy of Dampierre.

This situation caused something of a scandal, for the marriage was possibly bigamous, and violated the church's strictures on consanguinity as well. The disputes regarding the validity of the two marriages and the legitimacy of her children by each husband continued for decades, becoming entangled in the politics of the Holy Roman Empire and resulting in the long War of the Succession of Flanders and Hainault.[citation needed]


At the death of her sister Joan, Margaret succeeded her as Countess of Flanders and Hainaut. In 1246 king Louis IX of France, acting as an arbitrator, gave the right to inherit Flanders to the Dampierre children, and the rights to Hainaut to the Avesnes children. This would seem to have settled the matter, but in 1253 problems arose again. The eldest son, John I of Avesnes, who was uneasy about his rights, convinced William of Holland, the German king recognized by the pro-papal forces, to seize Hainaut and the parts of Flanders which were within the bounds of the empire. William of Holland was theoretically, as king, overlord for these territories, and also John's brother-in-law. A civil war followed, which ended when the Avesnes forces defeated and imprisoned the Dampierres at the Battle of Walcheren. Guy was ransomed in 1256 and the death of Margaret's son John strengthened their position.

Like her sister, Margaret conducted an economic policy designed to encourage international commerce. She removed restrictions on foreigner traders, despite pressures from local traders, who wanted to maintain monopolies. She also issued a new coinage. Her policies helped Bruges turn into an international port. In 1278, she abdicated in Flanders in favour of her son Guy. She ruled Hainaut until her death in 1280.[citation needed]


Like her sister, Margaret supported religious houses. In 1245, she founded the Béguinage in Bruges. She also had an interest in architecture and patronized writers and poets.[citation needed]


With Bouchard of Avesnes:

With William II of Dampierre:


  • Shahar, S. (1997). Growing Old in the Middle Ages: 'Winter Clothes us in Shadow and Pain'. Routledge. 
  • Wheeler, B. and Parsons, J. (2002). Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady. Palgrave Macmillan. 

External links[edit]

Margaret II, Countess of Flanders
House of Hainaut
Born: 2 June 1202 Died: 10 February 1280
Preceded by
Countess of Flanders
Succeeded by
Countess of Hainaut
Succeeded by
John I
Preceded by
John I
Countess of Hainaut
Succeeded by
John II