Margaret of Anjou’s Will

Margaret of Anjou’s starkly simple will, executed on August 2, 1482, is a vivid testament to her reduced fortunes at the end of her life. Here’s an excerpt from it, as translated into English by J. J. Bagley in his biography Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England:

I, Margaret of Anjou, . . . sound of mind, reason and thought, however weak and feeble of body, make and declare this my last will and testament in the manner following. First I give and recommend my soul to God . . . my body also I give to God . . . and it is my will and desire that it be buried and interred in holy ground according to the good will and pleasure of the King [i.e., King Louis XI of France], and, if it pleases him, I elect and choose to be buried in the Cathedral Church of Saint Maurice d’Angers with Monseigneur, my late father, and Madame, my mother. . . . Item, my will is . . . that the few goods which God and he [Louis] have given and lent to me be used for this purpose and for the paying of my debts as much to my poor servants . . . as to other creditors to whom I am indebted. . . . And should my few goods be insufficient to do this, as I believe they are . . . I implore the said lord, the King, to meet and pay the outstanding debts as the sole heir of the wealtth which I inherited through my father and my mother and my other relations and ancestors. . . .

Margaret’s will was witnessed by, among others, Katherine Vaux, who had been one of Margaret’s ladies since at least 1452-53 and whose husband had fallen at Tewkesbury. Katherine returned to England and was still alive at the time of Henry VIII’s coronation; her two children became pillars of Tudor society.

The French version of the will is given by Lecoy de la Marche in the second volume of his 1875 work entitled Le roi Rene. It’s on the Internet Archive, but in the spirit of one-stop blogging, here’s the entire will as it appears in Lecoy de la Marche. Note that Margaret refers to herself as “Queen of England.”


2 août 1482.

Je, Marguerite d’Anjou, fille du feu roy de Sicille, reyne d’Angleterre, seyne d’entendement, raison et pensée, combien que débille et inferme de corps, faitz et ordonne mon testament et dernière voulenté et ordonnance en la manière qui s’ensuit. Premièrement, je donne et recommande mon âme à Dieu, mon créateur, à la glorieuse vierge Marye et à tous les benoitz sainctz et sainctes, par espécial à monseigneur saint Michel, prince des anges, et à mon bon ange depputé à ma garde, afin que, à l’eure de mon trespassement, il leur plaise la recevoir en leur compagnye et la garder et deffendre des assaulx et invasions de tous mauvaiz esperiz et ennemys de humain lignage, et qui leur plaise la conduire et recevoir en paradis. Mon corps aussi je donne à Dieu et ausdits saincts, et est mon vouloir et désir qu’il soit enterré et ensevely en sépulture ecclésiastique, selon le bon vouloir et plaisir du Roy; et, si lui plaist, je esliz et choisiz pour ce estre mise et ensevelye en l’esglise cathédralle de Saint-Maurice d’Angers, avecques feu monseigneur mon père et madame ma mère et mes autres parens et antécesseurs, en telle manière qu’il plaira au Roy ordonner, ou en autre tel lieu qu’il plaira au Roy. Item, mon vouloir est, si plaist audit seigneur Roy, que le petit de biens que Dieu et luy m’ont donnez et prestez soient pour ce faire employez, et aussi pour payer mes dettes, tant à mes pouvres serviteurs, lesquelz je recommande très humblement et affectueusement à la bonne grâce et charyté dudit seigneur Roy, que aussi aux autres crédicteurs à qui je suis tenue, soit pour vitaille, denrées ou services et autres nécessitez qu’ilz m’ont faictes et administrées, comme raison est. Et ou cas que mesdits petitz biens ne souffiroient pour ce faire, comme je croy que ne font ilz, en ce cas je supplye audit seigneur le Roy qui luy plaise de sa grâce, pour la descharge de son âme et de la myenne, faire satisfaire et payer le surplus comme mon seul héritier des biens qui m’appartiennent â cause de succession de père et de mère et de mes autres parens et antécesseurs, comme en luy en est mon espoir et fiance ; car despieça j’ay esleu ledit seigneur Roy mon héritier seul et principal, et maintenant le choisiz et esliz mon principal héritier et exécuteur, et telz autres exécuteurs qu’il luy plaira ordonner pour parfaire mondit exécucion de ce présent testament et dernière voulenté, en luy suppliant très humblement qui luy plaise y ordonner et entendre. Laquelle ordonnance de ladite dame soit faicte en nostre présence, le deuxiesme jour d’aoust, en l’an de grâce mil cccc quatre vingts et deux, en la présence de Jehan Lespinay, escuier, et Macé de Lespinay, escuier, Jehan Whithil, escuier, et Jehan, eschançon, et madame Catherine de Vaulx, Perrecte de la Rivière, Blanche Alorretc et autres, et signé à sa requeste de noz sings manuelz.

G. de la Barre, Poynet, prebstres et noctaires.

Margaret, born on March 23, 1430, died on August 25, 1482, less than a year before the death of her nemesis, Edward IV. She spent the last two years of her life in the chateau of Dampierre near Saumur, in Anjou. Having relinquished her rights in her Angevin inheritance to Louis XI, she died as the guest of Francois de la Vignolles, a servant of her late father. Famously, Louis promptly wrote to a Madame de Montsereau, “I am sending to you my equerry, Jean de Chasteaudreux, to bring me all the dogs you have had from the late queen of England. You know she had made me her heir, and that this is all I shall get; also it is what I love best. I pray you not to keep any back, for you would cause me a terribly great displeasure.” (Quoted in Cora Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth.)

9 thoughts on “Margaret of Anjou’s Will”

  1. I do so love wills! I was lucky in that my Doge Giustiniano left one too, in fact it's one of the few surviving documents of that type from 9th C. Venice. He ended up much more well-off than poor Margaret seems to have: throwing herself on the mercy of the King, even in death… or is that simply the formula for the time?

  2. Poor Margaret, not even what you could call 'genteel' poverty in the end. Louis certainly was a piece of work.

  3. Poor Margaret! How awful for a queen to die in such poverty. Louis really was a piece of work.

  4. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, Richard! I would say that the begging Louis to pay her debts was due to Margaret's particular situation, as he was heir to all of her goods. I think the saddest thing about Margaret's will is that she was unable to arrange for prayers for her soul and that of her husband and son, which she would surely have wanted to do.

    Ragged Staff and Kathryn, I agree! I do wish there was some description of her funeral, but it appears to have been so obscure as to excite no comment–which in itself is indicative.

  5. Louis was a piece of work. Why is everybody so reluctant to say a nasty piece of work?

    We are talking about the fifteenth century equivalent of Hitler not only dreaming about Anschluss (Burgundy and Britanny )but extending the Franken Reich at same time.

    For the record the German name for France is Frankreich

  6. trish wilson

    Why is the term 'nasty' redundant?

    Particularly when both Paul Murray Kendall and I share the same view?

    PMK's book about King Louis is entitled 'The Universal Spider'. A pretty good summing up I would say.

  7. Because for me 'piece of work' clearly implies 'nasty' (or something synonymous). Just a standard use of ellipsis, really. There's a lot of it around.

  8. trish wilson

    One final comment The will of her successor Elizabeth Wydeville. It's almost like reading a repeat of history and perhaps it is given the reverses of fortune both of them suffered.

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