Universiteit Leiden

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Margreet Brandsma

PhD candidate

Dr. M. Brandsma
+31 71 527 1646


My current research is aimed at Margaret of Burgundy’s instruments of power as a princely widow, such as her financial position and her Court. I am approaching these subjects from a broad perspective, comparing her situation with that of other late medieval princesses and princely widows in the Netherlands.

Margaret of Burgundy (1374-1441) was the eldest daughter of Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy. Through her marriage with William of Bavaria she became Countess of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault. Like many medieval princesses, she sometimes had to stand in for her husband, who was often away from home, waging war. As countess of Holland she was involved in international diplomacy as well.

Princely widows were relatively independent, compared to other women. Margaret of Burgundy is a good example: she possessed an extensive dower (widow’s pension), which provided her with a substantial income. This enabled her to support her only child, Jacqueline of Bavaria, in her struggle for power against male family members from the Bavarian as well as the Burgundian dynasty. After the death of her husband in 1417, Margaret of Burgundy became one of the main players (albeit sometimes in the background) in a period of turmoil in the history of Holland. In the end, the battle was won by the next Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good (Margaret’s nephew), who incorporated Hainault, Holland and Zeeland into his collection of principalities.
An intriguing question is what determined Margaret of Burgundy’s political agenda in different periods of her life: the interests of her own Burgundian family, or those of her husband’s? Was she first of all a leader of the Hook party (Hoeken), which competed for power with the Cods (Kabeljauwen) in Holland, or did she mainly serve her own financial interests? I am trying to provide answers to these questions by a biographical approach. 

Fields of interest

  • Margaret of Burgundy
  • Princely widows
  • Countesses of Holland

Curriculum vitae

From brine shrimps to medieval history

Margreet Brandsma was born in Tiel, The Netherlands, in 1968. Before becoming a historian, she did a PhD in biology on the regulation of protein synthesis in the brine shrimp Artemia (Leiden University, 1996). From 1997 until 2009 she worked as a policy officer and program manager at the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) in The Hague. From 2009 until 2013 she was program manager of the national biobanking research infrastructure BBMRI-NL at Leiden University Medical Hospital (LUMC).

She completed a Master in medieval history in 2010. The subject of her Master thesis was the Burgundian Duchess Isabel of Portugal’s intervention in Holland in 1444-45. Since 2013, she works on a thesis on Margaret of Burgundy (1374-1441). 

PhD candidate

  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Institute for History
  • Geschiedenis diversen


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