Margaret of Holland, Countess of Henneberg
Margaret of Henneberg (1234 – 1276) was a daughter of Count Floris IV of Holland and his wife, Matilda of Brabant.
The legend of the 365 children
Evelyn mentions that he
“now rode out of town to see the monument of the woman, pretended to have been a countess of Holland, reported to have had as many children at one birth, as there are days in the year. The basins were hung up in which they were baptized, together with a large description of the matter-of-fact in a frame of carved work, in the church of Lysdun “
A legend formed that Margaret had died in childbirth after giving birth to 365 children. An early form of this legend can be found in the 14th-century Tafel van Egmond, which can be found in the University Library of Utrecht. It briefly reports that she died after giving birth to 364 sons and daughters. The children did not survive. They were all buried together in Loosduinen, where an epitaph still exists.
The vessel (referred to by Evelyn as a basin) in which they had been baptized, was on display and became a pilgrimage destination for childless women who hoped to become fertile if they washed their hands in it.
Dr. Schumann and Dr. Brews, published the theory that it could have been a case of hydatidiform mole. Ejected cysts would have been mistaken for children. (Source: wikipedia)
In Margaret’s time, the new year began on March 25th. So if Margaret gave birth to twins on March 26, the number of children would have been equal to the number of days in the (new) year. This theory, that she gave birth to twins named John and Elizabeth, has been repeated many times. (Source: wikipedia)
- Wikipedia for background