Margarete, Countess of Tyrol

Margarete Maultasch (1318 – October 3, 1369) was the last Countess of Tyrol from the Meinhardiner dynasty. Upon her death, the Tyrol became united with the Habsburg patrimony.

The daughter of Henry, Duke of Carinthia and Count of Tyrol, she succeeded him in the Tyrolean county in the year 1335. The Carinthian duchy then passed to Albert II von Habsburg, the Austrian Duke and eldest son of the founder of the House of Habsburg, Albrecht I von Habsburg, and Elisabeth of Tyrol, Margarete's paternal aunt.


In 1330, Margarete was married, at the age of twelve, to John-Henry, the margrave of Moravia, a son of John "the Blind" the count of Luxembourg -who had deposed Margarete's father from the throne of Bohemia in 1310- and also the younger brother of Charles IV Luxembourg, the future Holy Roman Emperor and promulgator of the Golden Bull.

In 1341 Margarete expelled her husband with the help of the Tyrolean aristocracy and married Louis I, the margrave of Brandenburg, without being granted a divorce from John-Henry. Louis at that time was the eldest son of the incumbent Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV "the Bavarian" of Wittelsbach, and his first spouse, Beatrix von Schlesien-Glogau .

Louis "the Bavarian" took it upon himself to declare Margarete's marriage to John-Henry null and void. William of Ockham and Marsilius of Padua defended this "first civil marriage" of the Middle Ages. The new Avignon Pope, Clement VI, however, excommunicated both Margarete and her new husband in 1342. The scandal spread across Europe. In 1359, due in large part to the influence of the new connections provided by the marriage of her son by Louis, Meinhard III von Wittelsbach, to Margaret of Austria, the youngest daughter of Albert II von Habsburg, in 1358, Margarete and her second husband were absolved from the excommunication by a new Pope, Innocent VI. The annals and historians in Germany and Italy (Florence, Milan, Padua, Monza) make reference to these events. In ecclesiastical propaganda of the day she received the nickname "Maultasch" (literally "bag mouth"), which means "whore" or "ugly woman".

After the death of her husband, Louis, in 1361, her son, Meinhard, became the Count of the Tyrol. However, Meinhard died less than two years later, in the year 1363, without heirs and just under a month away from the age of twenty-one, precipitating an invasion by Louis' younger full-brother, Stephen von Wittelsbach, a duke of parts of Bavaria (Lower Bavaria-Landshut and Upper Bavaria). Stephen, allied with Bernabò Visconti, occupied Tyrol until the Peace of Schärding, the financial compensation for which was exigent upon Margarete's death. Margarete was then induced to contract the County over to her late son's brother-in-law, the Duke of Austria (and self-proclaimed Archduke), Rudolph IV von Habsburg, who eventually united it with the "dominion of Austria".

Margarete died at Vienna in 1369.


Margarete's feudal heir would have been her elder cousin's son, Frederick III of Aragon, ruler of the island of Sicily. After his line, the succession would have gone in 1401 to Joanna of Aragon, Countess of Foix, and in 1407 to Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Naples (both daughters of John I, King of Aragon). Only in 1740 would that descent converge with the actual holders of the Tyrol, when Maria Theresa, wife of the Aragonian heir Francis III, Duke of Lorraine, succeeded in Tyrol as well.

Margarete's mock portrait was Sir John Tenniel's model for the "Duchess" in his illustrations of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lion Feuchtwanger utilized her story in his novel The Ugly Duchess and in 1816 Jacob Grimm collected the "Legends of Margarete" in his book German sagas.


  • Baum, Wilhelm (1994). Margarete Maultasch. Erbin zwischen den Mächten. Graz-Wien-Cologne:

Preceded by:
Countess of Tyrol
John Henry (1335-1341)
Louis (1341-1361)
Meinhard III (1361-1363)
Succeeded by:
Rudolf IV of Austria

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