Countess and Duchess of Norfolk
Born c. 1320 Died 1399
Born around the year 1320 Margaret was the daughter of Thomas of Brotherton, (Earl of Norfolk and younger brother of king Edward II), by his first wife Alice Hayles. On the death of her father in 1338 she became, together with her sister Alice, co-heir to her father's estates.1 As the elder of the two sisters, Margaret appears to have been regarded as the Countess of Norfolk in her own right, although it is noticeable that neither of her husbands John de Segrave or Walter de Mauny were ever styled as earls themselves. This however may have less to do with the conventions of the age, and more to do with Margaret's own sense of her own lineage and status.
Her father had also led the office of Marshal of England and Margaret clearly believed that she had a hereditary claim to that office. Although it would not have been possible for a woman in fourteenth century to have preformed the duties of that office, she did claim the right to appoint a deputy in her place. In particular at Richard II's coronation in 1377 she claimed the right to perform the office of marshal at the coronation by deputy. Her claim was however quietly ignored, and the office was granted to Henry Percy later Earl of Northumberland, in the same manner as the office had previously been granted to a succession of appointees since Thomas of Brotherton's death.
Neverthless, she was referred to as "Margaret, marshal, Countess of Norfolk"2 when she was created the Duchess of Norfolk on the 29th September 1397, at which time king Richard expressed his desire to "honour, increase and enhance the name and estate of his honourable cousin" and to "make her from a countess into a duchess" by conferring upon her the "style, title, honour and name of duchess of Norfolk, for the term of her life".
Margaret later died on the 24th March 1399 and was buried at Grey Friars Church in Greenwich.
She was first married (sometime after 3rd March 1327) to John de Segrave, 4th Baron Segrave, and by whom she had two surviving daughters; Anne de Segrave who became the Abbess of Barking and died circa 1377 and Elizabeth de Segrave who married a John de Mowbray, but died in 1368.
Since she was married or betrothed to the Baron Segrave at the age of around seven, she obviously did not have much choice in the matter, and later appears to become disenchancted with the selection that had been made on her behalf. Her subsequent attempts to have the marriage annuled were rendered academic by the death of her first husband in 1353. Sometime around the 30th May 1354 she then married for the second time, chosing as her second husband Walter de Mauny, 1st Baron de Mauny. This marriage also produced two children, a daughter named Anne who died in 1384, and a son named Thomas who died shortly after his birth in 1372.
Having outlived all her children and both husbands, Margaret's sole heir was her grandson Thomas Mowbray, son of her daughter Elizabeth and John de Mowbray, in recognition of which he had been made Duke of Norfolk on the same day as she'd been made a duchess. As it happens Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk never got to enjoy any of his grandmother's wealth as he had been sent into exile shortly before her death in October 1398, and himself died of the plague at Venice on the 22nd September 1399. Thomas's elder son experienced similar problems and suffered execution as a result of his involvment in Scrope's rebellion of 1405. It was left to Thomas's younger son John who eventually managed secure the Norfolk inheritance.
1 And after the death if her sister in 1351-2, sole heir.
2 And thus she is sometimes referred to as 'Margaret Marshal' or even Marshall.
J.E. Powell and K. Wallis, The House of Lords in the Middle Ages, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968)
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