Archduchess Margaret of Austria Princess of Asturias and Duchess of Savoy by her two marriages, was Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1507 to 1515 and again from 1519 to 1530.
Margaret was born on 10 January 1480, the second child and only daughter of Maximilian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy, co-sovereigns of the Low Countries. She was named after her step grandmother, Margaret of York, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy. Margaret’s mother died and her older brother, Philip the Handsome, at three years of age, succeeded her as sovereign of the Low Countries, with his father Maximilian as regent.
In 1482, her father and the King Louis XI of France signed the Treaty of Arras, whereby her father pledged Margaret in marriage to Louis's son Charles. The ceremony, in1483. Margaret, with Franche-Comté and Artois as her dowry, transferred guardianship of King Louis XI of France, who died soon afterwards.
Margaret was educated at the French royal court and groomed for a future role as queen of France. She was raised as a fille de France by Madame de Segré, under the supervision of her fiancé's sister and regent, Anne of France.
In the autumn of 1491, Charles renounced the treaty and entered into a political marriage with Margaret's stepmother Anne, Duchess of Brittany. The French court ceased treating Margaret as queen early in 1491. The Duchess of Brittany had been married to Margaret's father by proxy but their marriage was annulled. Margaret returned to her step grandmother's in June 1493, after the Treaty of Senlis in May. Princess of Asturias.
For an alliance with Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, Maximilian negotiated the marriage of their son and heir, John, Prince of Asturias, to Margaret, and the marriage of daughter, Joanna, to Philip.
Margaret left the Netherlands for Spain late in 1496. The marriage took place in 1497. John died after only six months, on 4 October. Margaret was left pregnant, but on 2 April 1498 she issued a stillborn daughter. The Dowager Princess of Asturias returned to the Netherlands early in 1500, to be godmother to new born son, Charles of Austria.
In 1501, Margaret married Philibert II, Duke of Savoy ,1480–1504, the marriage was childless and he died after three years. She vowed never to marry again and court historian and poet Jean Lemaire de Belges gave her the title "Dame de deuil" (Lady of Mourning).
Her father Emperor Maximilian named her governor of the Low Countries and guardian of her young nephew Charles, the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1507. From her new palace at Mechelen, Margaret acted as intermediary between her father and her nephew's subjects in the Netherlands, negotiated a treaty of commerce with and played a role in the formation of the League of Cambrai in 1508. After his majority in 1515, Charles rebelled against her influence, later recognized her as one of his wisest advisers. She was again governor of the Netherlands from 1519 until her death in on 1 December 1530.
In 1529, together with Louise of Savoy, she negotiated the Treaty of Cambrai, the so-called Ladies' Peace.
Margaret died at Mechelen, after appointing her nephew, Charles V, as her universal and sole heir. She is buried at Bourg-en-Bresse, in mausoleum ordered for her second husband and herself.
There is a statue of her next to the cathedral of Mechelen.