Matilda of Hainaut

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Coat of arms of the principality of Achaea.

Matilda of Hainaut (29 November 1293 – 1331) was the Princess of Achaea from 1313 to 1318. She was the daughter of Isabella of Villehardouin and her husband Florent of Hainaut.

In 1299, while still a child, she had been married to Guy II de la Roche, Duke of Athens. Widowed in 1308, she was engaged to Charles of Taranto until 1313, when she remarried to Louis of Burgundy, who held the titular dignity of the long-extinct Kingdom of Thessalonica. The marriage was intended to unite the Angevin and Burgundian houses. So was the betrothal of the Empress Catherine II to Hugh V of Burgundy, Louis's elder brother. However, Charles of Valois, Catherine's father, nixed the marriage and instead married her to Philip of Taranto. It was in an effort to compensate the Burgundians that Philip renounced his claim to Achaea in favour of Matilda and gave her hand to Louis.

From 1307, when Philip of Savoy relinquished his claim, to 1312, when Isabella of Villehardouin died, Achaea was disputed between two claimants: Isabella and Philip I of Taranto. In 1313, Philip granted it to Matilda, daughter of Isabella and her first husband Florent of Hainaut. On Isabella's death, however, Ferdinand of Majorca laid claim to the principality in right of his wife, Isabella of Sabran, the daughter of Isabella's younger sister Margaret of Villehardouin.

The new couple quickly left for Greece to take possession of their fief, which was then occupied by their rival Ferdinand. At the Battle of Manolada on 5 July 1316, Ferdinand was vanquished and killed and Louis took control of the Elis. However, he was poisoned soon after, leaving a twice-widowed 23-year-old in charge of the Morea. It was soon disputed by the varying claimants and Matilda was solidly dispossessed of her fief by 1318, in which year John, Duke of Durazzo, an Angevin, abducted the princess and forced her to marry him. She did not give him children, however, and he repudiated her in 1321. Matilda married yet again to Hugh de La Palice and retired to Aversa, where she died in 1331.



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