Margaret of Austria was regent of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1507 and 1530. Her residential palace was the Hof van Savoye (Court of Savoy), the first renaissance building in the Low Countries. The renaissance spread from here. Note the magnificent renaissance frontage and the charming garden. From 1616 to 1796 the palace was home to the Great Council, the highest court of law in the Southern Netherlands. The façade still features Margaret's coat of arms, alongside the coat of arms of Charles V and a figure of Lady Justice (Justitia). Today the building is the court of law.
Margaret of Austria
Margaret's life was turbulent from the outset. She was given in marriage no fewer than three times. The French crown prince sent her back at the age of eleven because he found a better match. Then the Spanish heir to the throne Don Juan died a few months after they were married. And Philibert of Savoy, the love of her life, died after three years of wedded bliss. The twenty-fouryear-old Margaret dressed as a widow ever after and refused to remarry.
Margaret was appointed regent of the Netherlands and settled in Mechelen in 1507. She took responsibility for raising (emperor) Charles and his sisters. According to her contemporaries, she ran the country with tack and foresight. One of her greatest successes was the 'Ladies' Peace of Cambrai', which she engineered in 1529 through tough negotiation with Louise of Savoy, mother of the French king and sister of the late Philibert.
In the meantime the arts and sciences flourished at Margaret's court. Notable artists and philosophers stayed at the palace. Polyphonic music was the regent's great passion. Her original gradual is preserved in Mechelen city archive and features on the list of 'Flemish highlights'.