Jacqueline, Countess of Hainault

Jacqueline of Hainault was born in The Hague in 1401. She was born into an illustrious family. Her father was William, Duke of Bavaria, her mother was Margaret of Burgundy, daughter of Duke Philip II Duke of Burgundy and a sister of John the Fearless. This meant that from birth Jacqueline was highly significant. With links to the French royal family through her mothers family, and electors of the Holy Roman Empire through her father’s, she would be at the heart of political changes in Western Europe throughout her life.

Jacqueline’s Political Importance and a Royal Wedding

Jacqueline’s importance as a noblewoman was recognised in her infancy. As the first child of William of Bavaria and Margaret of Burgundy, it was important for her family to make arrangements that would secure her rights should she be be an only child. This led to Jacqueline being betrothed before her second birthday, to John, Duke of Touraine the fourth eldest son of King Charles VI of France. It was an astute arrangement. Much of the lands held by William and Margaret were in the Low Countries. Jacqueline, and John to whom she was betrothed, were raised in Hainault. A part of the Low Countries that nominally answered to the King of France but which had held virtual independence for many years and had close links with the German states. A marriage between Jacqueline and John would reduce the risk of any third party attempting to seize control of the territories. So important was this matter that the betrothal was reaffirmed when jacqueline was four years old.

The couple received papal dispensation to marry in 1411. The marriage then took place in 1415. It was the beginning of a tumultuous period for Jacqueline. Her husband’s elder brother died, elevating John to the rank of Dauphin. It made the couple hugely important for a period. Jacqueline’s father used the rank now held by Jaqueline and John to try and secure acceptance of her inheritance rights from Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor: attempts that were flatly rejected. If Duke William were to die, the issue of inheritance would be hard fought.

Jean de Touraine, dauphin of France from 1415 to 1417
Jean de Touraine, dauphin of France from 1415 to 1417. Jaqueline of Hainault’s first husband

Jacqueline’s husband and father pass away

The potential problem of Jacqueline’s inheritance soon became more complex. In April 1417 her husband died, presumed by some to have been the victim of poisoning. Aged 16, Jacqueline was now a widow and no longer a potential Queen Consort of France. Matters became worse as her father passed away in May of the same year.

At the age of just 16 and with limited experience of political intrigue, bargaining, or management of political affairs, Jacqueline now faced the prospect of fighting for her inheritance. It was a considerable one. Her father held lands in Hainault, Holland, Zeeland, as well as in Bavaria. The areas in the Low Countries had separate bodies of governance. Each had organisations at a local level, meaning that to ensure her inheritance, she would need to be accepted by the authorities of Hainault, Holland and Zeeland. It was no easy task, as her rights were disputed almost immediately.

A Problematic Succession

The different parts of Jacqueline’s inherited lands had very different views on the rights of women. In Hainault there was a long standing tradition of women being in positions of power. Jacqueline’s mother had been the de facto leader of the province for many years. Here, Jacqueline was accepted as Countess with little argument. The same was not true of Holland and Zeeland. There, Jacqueline’s uncle, John bishop of Liege, was accepted as being the rightful heir to his brother’s titles and roles. Jacqueline now faced the daunting prospect of having to fight against her own uncle for a sizeable part of her inheritance.

Remarriage and Challenges from the Holy Roman Empire

Jacqueline soon remarried, to John IV, Duke of Brabant. It was a union that would bolster the rights of both parties in the Low Countries. Most probably instigated by jacqueline’s uncle, John the Fearless, it faced problems very quickly. Though the pair had been formally betrothed, and had Papal Dispensation granted, they soon found the marriage being challenged. Jacqueline’s uncle, the bishop of Liege, had a powerful ally in the form of the Holy Roman Emperor. Together they challenged the marriages validity, which resulted in the Papal Dispensation being revoked after the marriage ceremony had taken place.

Hook and Cod War reignited

Whilst these political challenges to Jacqueline’s marriages were taking place, she also faced war. The rival claims of herself and the bishop of Liege reopened rifts that had caused the sporadic fighting of what is known as the Hook and Cod Wars. The reopening of war saw Jacqueline taking an organisational role. The clashes began well, with a victory for Jacqueline’s army at the Battle of Gorkum in 1417. However, soon afterwards she was forced to abandon Dordrecht. Her husband then pledged the City of Mons in a bungled attempt at a diplomatic solution: it infuriated Emperor Sigismund.

Compensation of Workum

Matters appeared to draw to a conclusion in 1419. An agreement was signed called the Compensation of Workum. The Compensation saw Jacqueline cede Dordrecht, Gorkum and Rotterdam to her cousin, Philip of Burgundy, in return for financial compensation. As this was being arranged, so too was the matter of the Papal Dispensation for her marriage, which was reinstated in May 1419. It did not bring an end to the clashes between her supporters and Holland and Zeeland.

Wider European political issues soon began to impact on matters in hainault, Holland and Zeeland. France was in turmoil. The Treaty of Troyes granted right of inheritance to King Henry V of England, Burgundy allied with the English in the wake of the assassination of Jacqueline’s uncle, John the Fearless. The French matter was complicated by the fact that Jacqueline’s former brother-in-law was disinherited and beginning to wage war for his rights in France, drawing in Burgundian forces and at times threatening to impact physically on territories in the Low Countries.

Jacqueline of Hainault’s flight to England

The complexities saw the clashes between Hainault, Holland and Zeeland spark into life once more. And for Jacqueline, matters became even more complicated. In 1420 John IV of Brabant, her husband, allied himself with her opponents in the Hook and Cod Wars. This was after the couple had signed the Treaty of St. Martinsdyk which leased all of Jacqueline’s lands, except the county of Hainault, to her uncle john III. It left Jacqueline in a position where her cousin, Philip Duke of Burgundy would not intervene for political reasons, the Holy Roman Empire supported the rival claim and could move against her, and her links with the French court were effectively worthless as a result of the French capitulation at the hands of the English. Jacqueline saw little option but to flee Hainault. In March 1421 she sailed to England to seek the assistance of King Henry V. At the same time she requested an annulment of her marriage.

A questionable annulment and marriage to Humphrey Duke of Gloucester

The matter of Jacqueline’s marriage to John IV of Brabant then became somewhat confusing. An annulment was agreed by the Avignon Papacy and accepted in England. It was not accepted everywhere. Nonetheless, Jacqueline felt able to remarry. Her third husband was the youngest brother of King Henry V, Humphrey the duke of Gloucester. The couple married in private in march 1423. At this point she had not received Papal agreement of the annulment of her marriage to john IV of Brabant. It was sought only after the marriage to duke Humphrey became public knowledge. It reignited political divisions in Europe. The Holy Roman Emperor and her uncle John III both opposed the annulment. Her cousin, Philip duke of Burgundy supported it as a means of preventing English military action in an area in which he held great influence.

For Duke Humphrey, the marriage was a political coup. Coming shortly after the death of his brother, Henry V, it gave him titles by right of his wife on the continent. This posed a problem. Humphrey’s elder brother was Regent of France, there was an alliance with Burgundy. Jacqueline’s lands were all in areas claimed by either France or Burgundy, and the infant King of England was also King of France. Humphrey was determined to claim the lands that his wife was entitled to. It was a political minefield, but Humphrey was now in a position where very few people could prevent him from acting as he wished. So, he decided to invade and reconquer lands in his wives name.

Jacqueline of Hainault and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester’s invasion of the Low Countries

In December 1424 Jacqueline accompanied her husband on a military campaign into the Low Countries. They landed at Calais and marched into the lands that they claimed were Jacqueline’s by right. Humphrey was quickly recognised as being Count of Hainault. It was the high point of the campaign. Shortly after the couple had arrived in Hainault Jacqueline’s uncle, John III of Bavaria died. This may have opened the door to Jacqueline being accepted as the rightful heir by the people of Holland and Zeeland, ending the conflict. However, John IV of Brabant was very much alive and the annulment of his union with Jacqueline had not been accepted in the region. This, in his eyes, gave him the rights to the lands that were now subject to succession. And to make matters worse for Jacqueline and Humphrey, John IV of Brabant was to use a powerful diplomatic tool to his advantage. John signed over the lands to Jacqueline’s cousin, Philip Duke of Burgundy.

Map of the Low Countries at the time of Jaqueline of Hainault
Map of the Low Countries at the time of Jaqueline of Hainault

Humphrey and Jacqueline now found themselves at war with Burgundy. This was hugely damaging to diplomatic relations between England and their Burgundian allies. It was also a devastating blow to Humphrey’s aim of holding a continental domain to rival that governed by his elder brother. Humphrey’s army and his military leadership were simply not strong enough to compete with the highly experienced Burgundian forces.

Jacqueline’s capture and subsequent escape from Ghent

By April the fight was futile, Humphrey recognised that he had little chance of victory and set sail back to England. Jacqueline was not with him though, she had been captured by her cousins men and was held captive in Ghent. Jacqueline’s captivity was quite short-lived. She still had supporters and this enabled her to acquire mens clothing. She then made an escape disguised as a man and found her way to the relative safety of her lands. This meant that she was still isolated and vulnerable, but still determined to fight for her rights. Messages were sent to Humphrey and the English Parliament requesting further military assistance. No response was forthcoming. Even upon the death of john IV of Brabant in 1427 she remained unaided. Despite that obstacle to her inheritance being removed, Jacqueline found her cousin, the duke of Burgundy, adamant that the lands were now his. To add to her woes the matter of her annulment of the marriage with John IV had by now been rejected by Pope Martin V in Rome: the annulment had been granted by the Avignon papacy, for widespread acceptance it would need to have been annulled by both sides in the Western Schism.

Reconciliation of Delft

With Rome saying that her marriage to John IV of Brabant was legal, this made the contracts John had agreed with Philip the Good of Burgundy valid. Jacqueline now found her marriage to Humphrey invalid, and Humphrey did nothing to contest the decision as he was now involved with Eleanor Cobham. In July 1428 Jacqueline had little option but to sign the Reconciliation of Delft. In this agreement Jacqueline was able to retain her titles but the counties were administratively in the hands of the Duke of Burgundy. It left jacqueline struggling financially, and to ensure that there was no recurrence of war, Philip ensured that the loyalties of those neighbouring Jacqueline’s lands were to him. The final humiliation was the ‘voluntary’ Treaty of The Hague in 1433. In this treaty Jacqueline signed her lands and titles to Philip of Burgundy in exchange for an income.

Jacqueline retired from public political life at this point, moving to lands in Zeeland after signing the Treaty of The Hague. here she fell in love with Frank van Borssele, a local noble. With the approval of her cousin the Duke of Burgundy and the towns of the region, Jacqueline married Frank in 1434. They were not to enjoy a long married life, Jacqueline contracted tuberculosis and died in October 1436.


Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester – from one of my other websites, this is a 10-15 minute read, providing a reasonably detailed narrative of Good Duke Humphrey’s life, including his marriage to Jaqueline and the failed campaign to take control of her lands.


History the Interesting Bits

Rebecca Starr Brown

Image Credits

Featured Image: Portrait of Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut. At half-length, facing right. Carrying a chain with the cross of the Order of Saint Anthony. Her coat of arms top right. 16th-century copy after a lost original dating from around 1435.

Jean de Touraine, dauphin of France from 1415 to 1417. Albert Châtelet et Jacques Paviot, Visages d’antan : le Recueil d’Arras (XIVe-XVIe siècle), Lathuile, Éditions du Gui, 2007, 475 p. Wikimedia

Map of the Low Countries. File creator unknown.

Dan Moorhouse

Dan Moorhouse graduated in History and Politics and has since undertaken postgraduate studies in Medieval History and Education. Dan is a member of the Royal Historical Society and has previously been a member of the Historical Association’s Secondary Education Committee. Dan’s early publishing was in the Secondary School History Education field. This included co-authoring the Becta Award shortlisted Dynamic Learning: Medicine Through Time series for Hodder Murray and contributing to the Bafta Award winning Smallpox Through Time documentary series by Tmelines.tv. A former teacher, Dan now concentrates on research and writing, predominantly in Medieval English history. Books by Dan Moorhouse On this day in the Wars of the Roses On this day in the Hundred Years War

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