Duchess of Bedford, Countess Rivers
Born c.1416 Died 1467
Jacquetta was born about the year 1416, the daughter of Pierre or Peter of Luxemburg, Count of St. Pol and Marguerite del Balzo a daughter of the Duke of Andria. The designation 'of Luxemburg' signified that she was a member of the House of Luxemburg, one of the great European families that once rivalled that of the Habsburg, which produced sundry Monarchs of Bohemia and Hungary as well as one or two Holy Roman Emperors. She was therefore an ideal bride for the recently widowed John, Duke of Bedford, then Regent of France, or at least that part of it that the English controlled. They were duly married at Therouanne on the 20th April 1433, but the marriage was shortlived as John died on the 15th September 1435, leaving Jacquetta a widow still in her teens.
At that point Jacquetta seems to have broken with convention and made her own choice for her second husband. Her eye fell on a young knight who had been in her former husband's service by the name of Richard Woodville. Richard was of a similar age (unlike her first husband who was some thirty years her senior) but of comparatively humble birth. It was therefore of necessity that sometime in 1436 Richard and Jacqueeta were secretly married, although once details of the marriage became public it caused a great scandal. Richard spent a brief period in prison and was forced to pay a fine of £1,000 for the offence of neglecting to ask the king's permission, but Henry VI was of a forgiving nature and eventually took Richard into favour creating him the Baron Rivers in 1448 and a knight of the Garter in 1450.
Whilst there appear to have been no surviving children from her first marriage, Jacquetta was far more productive the second time around and bore a total of sixteen children. As might be expected a number of these children did not survive into adulthood, but the most important of these children turned out to be her daughter Elizabeth Woodville who married king Edward IV and was crowned queen at Westminster Abbey on the 26th May 1465. Elizabeth's marriage to Edward created an even greater scandal than Jacquetta's but it also brought her husband an earldom and high office and ensured that her other daughters all made good marriages. It also brought forth gossip that Jacquetta had used magic to bewitch the king into marrying her daughter.
Her later life was marred by the grief caused by the early death of both her husband Richard and second son John, who were both executed by the Earl of Warwick in 1469. Jacquetta survived her husband for only a few years, and died on the 30th May 1472.
Apart from the aforementioned Elizabeth, the most notable of her children were Anthony and Richard who both succeeded to the title of Earl Rivers in turn, and Lionel Woodville who pursued a career in the church and became Bishop of Salisbury.
Random but interesting fact: through her mother Marguerite del Balzo, Jacquetta could claim descent from both Simon de Montfort and Thomas Aquinas.
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for RIVERS, RICHARD WOODVILLE, or WYDEVILLE, EARL