43. The Ugly Duchess

During her adventures in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice meets an ugly and sour-tempered duchess. A classic illustration by John Tenniel in the First edition portrays the duchess as a grotesque, wide mouthed old woman, in a medieval dress!

The loathsome character is not a product of the author’s pure and vivid imagination. She was modeled on a real duchess, who certainly was one of the wicked women of all times!

Duchess Margaret of Tyrol was born in 1318. Since she had no brothers, she inherited the dukedom from her father Duke Henry. When she turned 12 years old, she married John Henry, the King of Bohemia.

Soon she divorced her husband–something unheard of among Royal families at that time! Later she married Louis, the son of the German Emperor.

She got rid of her political rivals and persons by whom she felt threatened, with the help of her bottle of poison.

She is believed to have killed even her husband and her son, just to remain in power. She was ugly beyond description. Her wide gaping mouth had earned her the nick name of “Pocket- Mouthed-Meg”.

She was as ugly as she was wicked. Her ugly form and wicked character were very well matched. She was rightly called The Ugly Duchess.

Visalakshi Ramani


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