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Duchess Margaret of Tyrol: The Ugliest Women in History

Duchess Margaret of Tyrol was born in 1318, the daughter of Henry, duke of Carinthia and of Tyrol, a claimant to the throne of Bohemia. Since Duke Henry had produced no sons, Margaret was eventually to inherit his dukedom. In the meantime, in order to strengthen his family’s claims to the throne, the duke arranged the marriage of 12-year-old Margaret to John Henry, son of the king of Bohemia.

Duchess Margaret of Tyrol: The Ugliest Women in History

By Mr Ghaz, March 20, 2010

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Duchess Margaret of Tyrol: The Ugliest Women in History

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During her adventure in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, Alice meets a very sour tempered duchess who treats a baby badly, sing “Speak roughly to your little boy,” and-much to Alice’s dismay-commands, “Chop off her head.” John Tenniel’s classic illustration in the edition of Alice portrays the duchess as a grotesque, wide-mouthed old woman in medieval dress.

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This unpleasant character is not purely the product of a vivid imagination: she is almost certainly modelled on a real duchess who was one of the most evil women of all time.

 

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Duchess Margaret of Tyrol was born in 1318, the daughter of Henry, duke of Carinthia and of Tyrol, a claimant to the throne of Bohemia. Since Duke Henry had produced no sons, Margaret was eventually to inherit his dukedom. In the meantime, in order to strengthen his family’s claims to the throne, the duke arranged the marriage of 12-year-old Margaret to John Henry, son of the king of Bohemia.

 

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Brief Affair

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It was not long before Margaret decided to divorce Prince John on grounds of his impotence, resulting in a sensational (and in  its day, rare) court case and the threat of excommunication from the church by the pope.

 

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Even before the case was concluded, Margaret married Louis, the son of the emperor of Germany. This, too, appears to have been an unsatisfactory partnership: Margaret openly conducted numerous liaisons with young peasants, whom she frequently rewarded with titles and lands.

 

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As a result of her involvement in many sex scandals and political intrigues, Margaret was regarded by her contemporaries as the most “wicked and licentious” woman in Europe.

 

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Grotesque Portrait: John Tenniel’s well-known illustration of the Ugly Duchess (above) appeared in the first edition of Alice in Wonderland. It is probably based on a sketch of Duchess Margaret of Tyrol attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

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Her chief political weapon seems to have been the poison bottle. She is reputed to have poisoned many of her opponents as well as her husband and her son-just as the latter was about to wrest power from her.

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Margaret’s many love affairs are all the more remarkable when one considers her unattractive appearance: she had a vast gaping mouth that led to her being nicknamed Margaretha Maultasch ( “ Pocket-mouthed Meg”) and the reputation of being one of “ the ugliest women in history.”

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  1. Darla Beck

    On March 20, 2010 at 8:31 am


    Very interesting article.

  2. Susan

    On March 20, 2010 at 10:08 am


    Good lessons to be learned from this. If she was a beautiful woman spiritually, none of her physical attributes would have mattered. From what you’ve written, she worked for the destruction of all around her and was not aware of others as people, only as objects to dramatize her hatred on.

    Just as a note: If she had been a man and had done any of the things mentioned, this would not have been worthy of historical mention.

    Excellent article.

  3. Phill Senters

    On March 20, 2010 at 10:10 am


    There sure wasn’t much to like about he….It seems she was as cruel as she was ugly.

  4. Christine Ramsay

    On March 20, 2010 at 10:46 am


    Not someone I would have liked to meet. I wonder what attracted the men. A great piece.

    Christine

  5. Hettie

    On March 21, 2010 at 12:07 am


    Very interesting story,I hope she came to a bad end, not some one I would like to have anything to do with.

  6. Neva Flores

    On March 21, 2010 at 8:20 am


    How sad…………….

  7. sexysunshine143

    On March 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm


    Back in the days I guess looks were not as important as they are now. Perhaps this lady has other attributes that compensated for her looks. thanks for sharing

  8. Gurudatta

    On March 13, 2012 at 5:27 am


    I just randonly found this article this morning as I was searching for information on The Ugly Duchess. I recently saw a puppet play in Halle, Germany of a rendition of this story.

    Jennifer, my Love plays the character of Agnes as Margerete friend that strives for power against her. It was all in German as I do not speak it I wanted to find a translation and more information.

    I am also a huge “Alice in Wonderland” fan and I find the synchronicities to the Duchess funny and flawless.

    Here is a link to the play…it is amazing: http://www.buehnen-halle.de/index.php/puppentheater/ensemble/647-die-haessliche-herzogin-margarete-maultasch.html

    Thank you,
    Gurudatta

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