Sunday, June 28, 2020

2020 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 14: "Water" - Jacquetta of Luxembourg

Actress Janet McTeer as Jacquetta
of Luxembourg in the Showtime
hit series "The White Queen."
From the moment that I saw week 14's theme of "Water," I knew that I had to write about my 18th-great-grandmother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who was the inspiration for the best-selling novel The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory. As a member of the House of Luxembourg, Jacquetta claimed descent from the mythological water goddess Melusine, who is a prominent figure in European folklore.

The legend of Melusine dates from at least the 12th century, and possibly much earlier. Like all folklore there is much variation in Melusine's story, but the essentials are the same: Raymond of Poitou, who was claimed as an ancestor by the House of Luxembourg, came across Melusine in the forests of southern France. He fell instantly in love, and proposed marriage. Melusine agreed to marry him, but gave one condition: he must never enter her bedchamber on a Saturday, which was the day that she bathed. He agreed, and they were married and had children. But one day, after several years of marriage, Raymond broke his promise and spied on her as she bathed. He found that while she was in the water, she had two tails that resembled those of a water serpent. Melusine forgave him for this betrayal, but their reconciliation did not last long. When he called her a "serpent" in front of his court during a disagreement, Melusine assumed the form of a dragon and flew away, never to return to her husband and family. Although most people do not realize it, Melusine is a very familiar symbol to the millions of people who drink Starbucks coffee every day - their stylized mermaid logo is based on drawings of Melusine, and has evolved over time into the green twin-tailed mermaid that we see on every street corner today.

The female members of the House of Luxembourg were said to have retained some of their mythological ancestor's magic abilities. It was believed that most of them possessed "the sight," and that whenever one of the descendants of Melusine died, they could hear Melusine singing a mournful song over the waters. This belief would later cause some trouble for Jacquetta.

Jacquetta was born in July of 1415 to Peter I of Luxembourg and Margaret of Baux. The House of Luxembourg ruled the Holy Roman Empire between 1308 and 1437, and as such wielded great power in Europe. When Jaquetta was about 15, her family held Joan of Arc at their palace in Beauvoir while a ransom was being negotiated between the French and the English. It has been theorized that Jacquetta made the acquaintance of Joan of Arc during her stay there, and that she was present at her execution on May 30, 1431.

On April 22, 1433, Jaquetta was married to John, 1st Duke of Bedford. John was a royal duke, being the third son of King Henry IV of England and uncle of King Henry VI, whose wife Jacquetta would later befriend. John was Henry VI's regent in France, so a marriage to Jacquetta was mutually beneficial for them both. Jacquetta herself was also distantly descended from English royalty, as she was a descendant of both King Henry III and King John I of England. This marriage lasted for only two years, as the Duke passed away on September 15, 1435.

Sir Richard Woodville's
coat of arms.
Two years later Jaquetta secretly married Sir Richard Woodville, who had been the late Duke's chamberlain. Once their marriage became public knowledge in 1437, they faced heavy criticism at court. But after some time (and a fine of 1000 pounds for marrying without the king's permission), they were both not only welcomed at Court, but became favorites of the King and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou. As the widow of the Duke of Bedford and a relative of both the King and Queen by marriage, Jacquetta was the most powerful woman at court, second only to the Queen. In 1448 Queen Margaret influenced the King to grant the title of Baron Rivers to Sir Richard, making Jacquetta the Countess Rivers as well as the Duchess of Bedford. Sir Richard and Jacquetta had fourteen children together: Elizabeth (who later became Queen of England after her marriage to Edward IV), Lewis, Ann, Anthony, John, Jacquetta, Lionel, Eleanor, Margaret, Martha, Richard, Edward, Mary, and Katherine.

During some of the later events in the War of the Roses (which are far too complicated to even summarize here, so please see this summary from Wikipedia), her supposed descent from the water goddess Melusine certainly did Jacquetta no favors. She was accused of witchcraft by a supporter of the Earl of Warwick, who was known as "the Kingmaker." This supporter had supposedly found objects associated with witchcraft in Jacquetta's home. Edward IV, Jacquetta's son-in-law, had temporarily been unseated in favor of Henry VI, the king who he had previously defeated. These accusations could have been very serious indeed for Jacquetta; but fortunately her old friend, Queen Margaret of Anjou, vouched for her, and the charges fell apart. Any remaining suspicion was gotten rid of when Edward IV unseated Henry VI for the second time, and resumed his rein.

Jacquetta passed away in 1472, at only 56 years of age. The execution of her husband and son three years earlier, arranged by the Earl of Warwick during the brief time when her son-in-law was unseated in favor of Henry VI, weighed heavily on her during the the final three years of her life. It is unknown where Jacquetta was laid to rest, but it is thought that Jacquetta's daughters and granddaughters heard Melusine's song as she mourned for the loss of one of her descendants.

~ ~ ~

My descent from Jacquetta of Luxembourg is as follows:

Jaquetta of Luxembourg 1416-1472: 18th great-grandmother
Elizabeth "Queen Consort of England" Woodville 1447-1492: Daughter of Jaquetta of Luxembourg
Thomas Grey 1455-1501: Son of Elizabeth "Queen Consort of England" Woodville
Cicely Grey 1488-1554: Daughter of Thomas Grey
Henry Dudley 1517-1568: Son of Cicely Grey
Roger Dudley 1545-1586: Son of Henry Dudley
Gov. Thomas Dudley 1576-1653: Son of Roger Dudley
Samuel Dudley Rev 1608-1683: Son of Gov. Thomas Dudley
John Dudley 1635-1690: Son of Samuel Dudley Rev
Mary Dudley 1678-1742: Daughter of John Dudley
David Field 1697-1770: Son of Mary Dudley
Ebenezer Field 1736-1776: Son of David Field
Rachel Field 1761-1840: Daughter of Ebenezer Field
Medad Walter 1790-1865: Son of Rachel Field
Jay Clark Walter 1831-1909: Son of Medad Walter
Amzi Walter 1861-1920: Son of Jay Clark Walter
Mary Ellen Walter 1888-1952: Daughter of Amzi Walter
Clara May Schofield 1906-1989: Daughter of Mary Ellen Walter
Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn 1939-1986: Son of Clara May Schofield
Lora Marlene Quinn 1961-: Daughter of Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn
Allison Quinn Kessinger: You are the daughter of Lora Marlene Quinn

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