Margaret (sometimes spelt Margareth) Loxley was 6th Ræswa of Huntingdon and a skilled and respected military leader. A captain in Empress Matilda’s army, under the command of her partner, General Gabriella Fitzwalter, during the First Hycath War, she was instrumental in securing victory for the Empress and, in doing so, became the first historically significant ancestor of East Mercia’s founding Loxley family.
Margaret was born into luxury as the eldest daughter of the 5th Earl of Huntingdon, Eric Loxley, and his wife Valentine. As a child, Margaret proved herself to be an accomplished athlete, regularly challenging her male cousins to races and feats of strength as they roamed the Loxley estate. This caused some conflict with her mother, who had hoped her eldest daughter would limit herself to needlework and gossip along with other cultured ladies of the age.
On the death of her father in 1118, with her younger brother Alfred not yet of age and her mother having died in childbirth the year before, 22-year-old Margaret became acting Ræswa of Huntingdon with control over the Earldom’s small detachment of soldiers.
Relationship with Gabriella Fitzwalter
By this time, Margaret had met and begun a relationship with Gabriella Fitzwalter. Gabriella’s grandfather Guillem Fitzwalter had come over from Normandy with Willem the Conqueror, but although Guillem was granted lands and titles in reward for his service, the family lost everything after his relationship with a Hycatha, Cyneburg Seely, became known. Guillem married Cyneburg and together they restored an old mill and founded a successful bakery business.
His daughter, Theresa, Gabriella’s mother, took over the business and the Loxleys became one of her regular customers. Gabriella worked delivering bread and it is in this way that Margaret first met the person who was to become the love of her life. Gabs and Mags, as they were affectionately known, became inseparable. Four years older than Gabriella, Margaret initially assumed the role of elder stateswoman, but by the time Margaret inherited her Earldom they had formed an equal and loving relationship.
Gabriella’s ancestry had instilled in her a passion for justice, so when she and Margaret witnessed a young man being whipped for falling while at his work, they had to intervene. As acting Ræswa, Margaret had little difficulty in staying the foreman’s hand and the young man was released. The young man’s name was Archibald Lane and he became a loyal friend to both Gabriella and Margaret, with Margaret also employing him on the estate as head groundsman.
This incident began an extended period in which Margaret and Gabriella actively sought out ways to redress the balance of justice around Nottingham, with Margaret utilising her soldiers to support their activities as they engaged in what would now be described as social vigilantism. Margaret also took on the responsibility of co-parenting Gabriella’s daughter, Alviva, alongside her own daughters, Theresa and Prudence; Gabriella similarly co-parented the latter two. Theresa and Prudence were tragically killed in a fire as infants whilst both mothers were away, leaving only Alviva; Margaret’s grief at this is recorded, and historians identify this as a pivotal event in strengthening the motherly bond she felt with Alviva.
Role in the First Hycath War
Margaret served as a captain under Gabriella during the final battle of the war, both abandoning their social vigilantism to serve the wider cause of Empress Matilda. Although her brother Alfred had long been of age and inherited the Earldom, under the old patriarchal system, the influence of Margaret and her sisters on him meant that he was supportive of the Empress’s cause and willingly sent his soldiers to fight for her under Margaret’s leadership.
Margaret proved herself a brave and loyal captain in battle, helping to secure victory for the Empress at the Battle of Lincoln, supporting the Nyridia Elmira of Aktau. As a result, after the war, she was awarded the right to the now Ræsdom of Huntingdon, taking on the title of Ræswa officially. Her brother Alfred raised no objection to the transfer of the title to his sister.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, Margaret built a house ten miles outside of Nottingham which became known as Hunting House. It was the first of the Loxley properties to be built and provided a home for Margaret and Gabriella and their daughter Alviva.
Gabriella remained overprotective of Alviva, however, and this caused resentment between her and her daughter. Margaret regarded herself as Alviva’s co-parent and took it upon herself to make peace between them over these turbulent years, most effectively in YE 7 when Alviva ran away in protest and Gabriella mounted a full search party including soldiers from Margaret’s Huntingdon company. An adult Alviva, in her own diaries, credited Margaret’s ‘firm magnanimity’ with averting the collapse of the family during this phase of her life she would come to regret; historians and chroniclers down the years have echoed this view, with Professor Gilbert Arlin in The Fitzwalters hailing Margaret as ‘the glue which held the nascent Fitzwalter-Loxley family unit together’.
Margaret also took time to forge new alliances, entering into business with Isabel Alledyne, a Scottish noblewoman who had inherited an estate not far from Hunting House. Together they developed a new method of tilling fields which Alledyne tested successfully on her own estate, before Margaret and Archie Lane put it to use on the Loxley Estate; a plot used in the present day for cultivating carrots still bears the name Alledyne’s Field in Isabel’s honour, although it is mostly only referred to in business documents concerning the lease of the land.
Death and Legacy
Margaret Loxley died on 17th October YE 23. As she had no biological children, her estate passed to her niece Erica Loxley, eldest daughter of her sister Delilah. She was buried under a tree outside of Hunting House, later being reburied in the Loxley plot of Sherwood after its creation.