Monday, 27 March 2017

A Duchess of Burgundy V

Charlotte of Charolais
A Death in the Family

On 13th July 1446, at the age of thirteen, Charles became a widower. Catherine’s death was partly caused by the local climate which was insalubrious[i]; the lowlands being damp and cold which could have affected chest problems. Catherine suffered from fainting fits brought on by coughing. Her health was also affected by the large amounts of travelling required for those following the peripatetic Burgundian court on its journeyings through Philip’s territories.

Charles and Catherine had become friends and when Philip required Charles to attend him in Arras and enter a jousting tourney there in the late spring of 1446 Isabella and her entourage followed. Isabella wanted to protect her enthusiastic son from himself. Charles was to spend his life unable to accept or understand his own limits.

On the day of the joust Catherine had to return to her apartments as she was too ill to sit out in the cold misty air. Charles VII sent two doctors to restore his daughter’s health and Catherine’s husband sat at his wife’s side and played the harp to her, to no avail. Catherine died at about the age of eighteen.

Philip was a soldier and not a diplomat; having been disappointed in his attempts at an alliance with the French he finally gave Isabella free rein to extend the hand of friendship to her English relations. Philip was interested in gaining official confirmation for his imperial lands and seemed unaware of increasing French determination to bring Burgundy completely under French rule. One of Isabella’s aims was to set up a marriage for her son Charles with a member of the English royal family.

The Queen’s Machinations

Richard, Duke of York
Isabella realised that she would have to work with the Duke of York, who was the heir to the throne, in order to achieve a lasting relationship between Burgundy and England. The main thorn in the package was Margaret of Anjou, still violently opposed to all things Burgundian. Her marriage to Henry VI placed her in a position where she could seriously hurt her enemy Philip and she was not afraid to use her influence.

Henry VI was very unlike his father; he’d grown up to become a quiet religious man who wanted nothing more than peace. His wife was a fiery aggressive woman who can have given him no peace at all[ii]. Richard of York, who had governed England in his nephew Henry’s name, was removed from his post as Lieutenant Governor of Normandy and transferred to the wilds of Ireland.

The English court separated into anti and pro-Burgundian factions. Margaret was interested in furthering her father’s prestige at the French court. The queen, along with her allies the Marquess of Suffolk[iii] and the Earl of Somerset[iv], vied for power with the Duke of York[v]. Isabella’s uncle Cardinal Beaufort had retired from the political fray which meant that Isabella needed a new source of gossip and support.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
The queen and her allies were in the ascendant at court, although the marriage was not popular amongst Henry’s subjects as the county of Maine had been negotiated away by Suffolk.

‘And thus the king of England, Henry VI, granted and gave Maine and Anjou at the request of his queen Margaret….and that aforesaid queen of ours begged the King of England that [they] so be given to her father at the urging of William Pole [Suffolk].’[vi]

Margaret’s coterie were soon able to remove another potential rival, the Duke of Gloucester[vii] who was arrested for treason on 20th February 1447 and died mysteriously three days later.

A Burgundian Misstep

The Flemish weavers were dependent on the English merchants selling good quality goods at an acceptable price from the Staple at Calais[viii]. At the moment only inferior grade wool was available for the Burgundians at prices that were far from attractive. Isabella hoped to work with the English merchants to persuade the Crown to change the rules and regulations governing the Staple.

Anthony, Grand Bastard of Burgundy
In August 1446 the Burgundian representatives were able to sign a continuation of the Anglo-Burgundian mercantile agreement extending the treaty until 1458. Isabella spent the autumn in Coudenberg monitoring the factions in the English court. She felt herself to be isolated and sought out the company of Anthony; the Grand Bastard of Burgundy[ix]. Anthony joined with Isabella and Hue de Lannoy preparing plans to persuade Philip to revoke his prohibition against the transportation of English cloth throughout Burgundy.

With Gloucester dead and when her Uncle Beaufort died in April 1447 and with the Duke of York in Ireland, Isabella found herself short on allies and information from the English court. Philip’s imposition of a further 5% tax on English wool coming from Calais only exacerbated the situation.

Burgundian merchants in London were attacked and Henry VI had to place them under his own protection. At the same time, he needed to protect his lands in Normandy from French attack[x],

‘Four armies converged on the duchy from the east, south and west. King Charles attached himself to the eastern one, commanded by Dunois[xi], and directed on the capital [Rouen]….the mob so worked on Somerset that he weakly allowed the archbishop to negotiate for a surrender.’[xii]

War in Burgundy

It took Isabella until the spring of 1451 to persuade the merchants of the Staple to lower their prices and to pay 16,000 gold saluts[xiii] as an indemnity payment in return for an exemption from duty on wool and cloth in Burgundy.

Simon de Lalaing
When Philip amassed his troops outside the walls of Ghent he was infuriated to find the gates of his city closed against him. All his men in the city were executed, runners were sent to neighbouring towns for support and the government was closed down. On 30th March 1452 Philip declared war on one of his own possessions and laid waste to the land thereabouts.

‘Considering the obstinacy and continuing wickedness of the Ghenters….we have summoned some of our noble vassals and loyal subjects from around here….to reduce them to obedience and humility towards us with God’s help.’[xiv]

Isabella’s journey from Brussels to Bruges was across war-torn countryside. Not long after arriving in Bruges Isabella was informed that Oudenaarde, one of Ghent’s allies, had been taken by Simon de Lalaing[xv]. The men of Ghent responded by attacking Oudenaarde and besieged it for two weeks, threatening to kill Lalaing’s two sons. Philip’s armies, one from Seclin and the other from Grammont, raised the siege. Philip attacked Ghent twice in May and other towns allied with Ghent were attacked.

The townspeople of Ghent turned to Charles VII as Philip’s overlord; he was only too happy to interfere in Philips’ affairs. He sent envoys to arrange peace between the two belligerents. One of Charles’ demands was that Philip return of the towns of the Somme valley to France.


The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

The Reign of Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1998

Europe: Hierarchy and Revolt 1320-1450 – George Holmes, Fontana 1984

The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997

Margaret of Anjou – Helen E Maurer, Boydell Press 2003

Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014

Charles the Bold – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2002


[i] She is believed to have died from tuberculosis
[ii] Henry inherited a form of madness (possibly schizophrenia) through his mother, whose father Charles VI of France had suffered bouts of insanity. Their son Edward was born in 1453
[iii] William de la Pole had been upgraded in rank from Earl to Marquess in 1444 as a result of the successful negotiations for the Anglo-French marriage of which he had been the main proponent. He would later be made Duke of Suffolk
[iv] Edmund Beaufort was made Duke of Somerset in 1448
[v] Quondam Lord Protector of England
[vi] Margaret of Anjou - Maurer
[vii] Another of the king’s uncles
[viii] The designated Staple port
[ix] Unlike other courts, in Burgundy the bastard children of the ruler were treated very much as the legitimate children were; the boys had careers and the girls were married off. Isabella was on good terms with many of Charles’ half siblings. Anthony received an official salary of 3,840 crowns per annum worth in 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £2,741,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £22,610,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £93,890,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,748,000,000.00 Anthony went on to serve Charles after their father died.
[x] The French invaded Normandy in early November 1447 and took Rouen on 10th.
[xi] Half-brother of Charles of Orléans
[xii] The Hundred Years Way - Burne
[xiii] On the assumption that a salut was roughly worth the same as a guilder, pound or livre this would be worth in 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £11,710,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £91,260,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £393,800,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £7,418,000,000.00
[xiv] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[xv] Admiral of Flanders

Monday, 20 March 2017

A Duchess of Burgundy IV

Hue de Lannoy
An Engagement

In May 1438 Hue de Lannoy led a Burgundian embassy to England to discuss matters of trade and commerce. By August the question of a general peace, mediated by Burgundy was on the table. The principal negotiator for the English was Cardinal Beaufort once again, while Isabella was entrusted with speaking for the Burgundians.

The first conference was held in Gravelines in the summer of 1439; Isabella’s quartermaster was in charge of preparing the scenery. Isabella arrived in St Omer in late May where she and Philip set up court for a long stay.

Charles VII had agreed to send two of his daughters to Burgundy so that Philip could choose one of them as a bride for his son. The older of the two princesses, the ten year old Catherine was chosen and the couple were formally betrothed on 14th June[i]. Catherine’s dowry was properties located on the territories already ceded to Philip when he allied with the French[ii].

In mid-June, whilst involved in the negotiations Isabella received notice from the Chamber of Accounts in Lille that there were a number of territorial officials who were;

‘Allowing their accounts to go to perdition.’[iii]

A furious Isabella immediately wrote to demand that the responsible officials;

‘By return messenger present to me at St Omer the reasons why this occurred and the necessary solutions.’[iv]

The resultant information had to be sifted through and analysed at a time when Isabella was involved in complex international affairs.

Her Finest Hour

Cardinal Beaufort
Isabella met with her uncle Cardinal Beaufort at the beginning of July at Calais, in preparation for the conference. She was accompanied by Hue de Lannoy and two of her counsellors, Jacques de Crèvecoeur[v] and Jean Chevrot. It was agreed that Isabella would decide on the English delegates’ credentials while her uncle was to do the same for the French delegates. Isabella was made responsible for deciding how many armed men each delegate could bring to the conference which opened on the 6th July.

One of Isabella’s first tasks was to have the English delegates’ instructions amended, deleting the assertions that English victories during the conflicts were the results of God’s approval of English claims to the French throne. The French refuted the idea that the English were entitled to the French throne (with or without God’s endorsement).

Philip remained at St Omer during the conference; Isabella kept him up to date with daily messages reporting each day’s outcome. He would respond with his comments and instructions. At one point Isabella returned to St Omer when Philip was reported to be ill, she returned with a new peace plan which was turned down by the English.

The only outcome of the conference was a temporary truce, signed in September, between the Burgundians and the English covering the area around Calais. The truce covered trade, fishing, pilgrimage and finally;

‘A fine road to be marked out through the dunes between Calais and Gravelines, passing north of the castles of Marck and Oye, for the use of merchants of either side. But they are not to take dogs with them, nor hunt for rabbits in the dunes.’[vi]

Chateau de Blois
The French and English were unable to agree on the vexed question of Henry VI’s title of ‘King of France’ and the war dragged on.

On 19th May 1440 Catherine and Charles were married at Blois. As Catherine was only ten and Charles was seven the children lived apart. Catherine lived with Isabella to be taught how to be a Duchess of Burgundy. She was treated as a substitute daughter by her mother-in-law. Catherine, who had a frail constitution found the Flemish weather did not suit her and she was frequently sickly. However she followed Isabella on her journeyings through the Burgundian holdings.

Chasing Peace

Pope Pius II
Isabella was determined to forge a separate peace with England and to that end began preliminary talks with the English in Rouen, without Philip’s explicit permission. It was rumoured that Philip allowed Isabella to do as she wished. Pope Pius II claimed of her;

‘This woman soon applied herself to increasing her power and, exploiting her husband’s indulgence, she began taking everything in hand, ruling the t0wns, organizing armies, levying taxes on provinces and ruling everything in an arbitrary fashion.’[vii]

It was not until 31st May 1443 that a letter signed by the Duke of York announced the Perpetual Treaty of Peace. The treaty re-established peace between England and Burgundy and allowed for increased trade.

Meanwhile Charles VII was doing his best to undermine Philip’s imperial holdings. From his base in Nancy Charles threatened Toul, Verdun and Metz. Charles also refused to allow Philip the special privileges his rank entitled him to; allowing pardons or giving leniency to Philip’s Flemish vassals in the Paris Parlement. Charles of Orléans was unable to soften his cousin’s antagonism towards Burgundy, despite promising Isabella that he would make the attempt.

Philip meanwhile was ramping up his demands for René of Anjou’s ransom even as French troops attacked Flanders, Hainault and Picardy in the north while more attacks were made on Mâcon and the imperial county of Burgundy. At a meeting with the French Dauphin Louis in Laon Isabella was informed that the French wanted to absorb Philip’s lands into France. France’s attitude towards the Burgundians was sufficient to make many of the French supporting courtiers to reconsider their sympathies. Isabella was more than ever convinced that the secret of Burgundian security lay in an alliance with England.

Inter Family Rivalry

Philip (4th L) and Charles (5th L)
As a senior prince of the House of Valois[viii], Philip found it difficult to believe that his relations desired the destruction of his inheritance. In 1445 Philip turned to Isabella to deal with the rift in Franco-Burgundian relations. She travelled to Rheims to discuss a meeting in the summer. Burgundian demands were for the French to cease;

·         Their border raids on Burgundian territory

·         Pirate raids on Burgundian shipping

·         And to make reparations for the destruction of Burgundian villages and attacks on Burgundian merchants.

At Chalons in the summer Isabella was informed by the Marshal of Burgundy, Thibault de Neuchâtel, that French atrocities continued despite the negotiations;

‘Many times we have notified you of the damages done daily to your territories here by the écorcheurs[ix], daily they do unimaginable things to Montbéliard.’[x]

The faction at the French court who were pressing for the attacks on Burgundy were led by Queen Marie of Anjou, sister of René of Anjou, and René’s daughter Margaret, joint proponents for the Angevin[xi] faction. They wanted Philip to drop his calls for the payment of René’s ransom which was one of Philip’s main demands during the conference along with the confirmation of the Treaty of Arras by the Dauphin and other notables who had unaccountably failed to do sign the document. Philip’s other demand was for the French to leave Montbéliard.

All that Isabella could negotiate from the French in return for dropping René’s ransom was the promise to evacuate French troops from Montbéliard and a letter from Charles (obtained after paying a bribe of 6,000 gold crowns[xii]) postponing cases in the Paris parlement against Flemish merchants for non-payment of taxes and duty on goods. The letter was thereafter ignored by the French who also refused to fully ratify the treaty.


The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

The Reign of Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1998

Europe: Hierarchy and Revolt 1320-1450 – George Holmes, Fontana 1984

The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997

Margaret of Anjou – Helen E Maurer, Boydell Press 2003

Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014

Charles the Bold – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2002


[i] The engagement lulled the Burgundians into a false sense of security
[ii] Charles had the option to buy back the territory and that buyback increased in value with the marriage to 520,000 eçus; In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £281,000,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £3,054,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £9,609,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £175,200,000,000.00. Charles could not afford the buyback as his treasury was empty and any monies he had were spent fighting the English
[iii] Isabella of Burgundy - Taylor
[iv] Ibid
[v] His son Philippe was to work for Philip’s son when Charles became duke
[vi] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[vii] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[viii] Albeit head of what was the Valois-Burgundy House
[ix] Flayers – whether this was meant literally or whether Neufchâtel meant that they were flaying the countryside is not known
[x] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[xi] Another junior branch of the House of Valois
[xii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £4,818,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £35,400,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £169,700,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £3,150,000,000.00

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A Duchess of Burgundy III

Coudenberg (1659)
Isabella gave birth to her first child on 30th December 1430 at Coudenberg. The child, named Antoine was christened on 16th January 1431. He was a sickly child who was left alone by his parents who focussed on matters pertaining to Philip’s domains. Philip and Isabella were seldom apart during the spring and summer and Isabella was pregnant again by the autumn of that year with her second son Joseph.

While she was away in Ghent during January 1432 Isabella despatched someone to ensure that Antoine was well looked after. A short time later she also sent a member of the Ghent council. The council member returned to say that Antoine was feverish, his lungs were congested and he was eating very little. He was also irritable in the care of his wet nurse. Isabella despatched a further member of the court who returned with the sad news that Antoine had died alone in his nursery on February 5th.

Isabella blamed herself for leaving her son during his first major illness, although she was but obeying her husband’s orders, directing affairs in Ghent. On 11th February Isabella was presented with the Great Seal of Ghent which authorised her to conduct business in Philip’s absence. Isabella was assisted by Jean de Thoisy, Bishop of Liège.

With spring Isabella was able to travel and moved between Ghent and Brussels. Coudenberg Castle was filled with soldiers wounded fighting the French; Isabella had the oversight of the men’s treatment and as well as responsibility for the court at Ten Waele.

Joseph was born on April 24th 1432 at Ten Waele. Joseph was weak and listless and not very interested in feeding and was gradually growing weaker. He was baptised on 6th May and died when he was about four months old. Joseph was buried in the Abbey of St Michael in Ghent. His parents conducted pilgrimages to the Abbey of Ponthier and the shrines of St Anthony and St Josse. They returned to Ghent, a city in turmoil, in early August.

Nicolas Rolin (L)
The winter of 1432-3 saw Isabella and Philip spend most of their time while keeping an eye on the, for now quiet, Ghent. Isabella was pregnant again. But Philips’ southern territories were under French military pressure and Philip’s chancellor Nicolas Rolin[i] had been the potential victim of a kidnapping plot masterminded by Georges de la Trémoille[ii],

In mid-June 1433 Isabella joined Philip to travel to the southern half of Philip’s lands. Philip ordered that Isabella was to take over the administration of Dijon while he was in the field against the French. The ducal couple travelled in convoy until they reached Châtillon-sur-Seine. Isabella told Nicolas Rolin;

‘Be aware that your lady duchess demands that you always be in attendance to her advising her in the affairs of your lord. Further, in all the affairs of my lord and his lands, you will consult and advise me because I desire to use all my ability in the employ [of my lord] and to accomplish all the good I can.’[iii]

She was to find the men, supplies and money for Philip’s army.

It was not to be an easy task as Dijon’s economy was dictated by the needs of the great merchant families settled there. The French were continuously attacking the duchy, which impeded Isabella’s progress in dealing with the mayor, guilds and merchant families who controlled Dijon.


Isabella was able to obtain a loan from Odet Molain, who was Philip’s official salt merchant. She then called a meeting of the Estates of Dijon who grudgingly agreed to pay 4,000 francs[iv] to repair the city’s fortresses. Isabella ordered cannon from Ghent to place on the earthen ramparts that guarded Dijon.

Isabella managed to scrounge 1/20th of the city’s financial contributions towards Philip’s army from the controller of the mint. The town of Dôle gave her 23,000 francs[v] while Mâcon threatened to refuse her request. In return she threatened them with her personal attention. By the autumn Isabella had rallied the city’s defences.

Chartreuse de Champmol (1686)
Isabella had her last child Charles on 10th November 1433, he was born in Dijon. Within days, fearful that she would lose this third son of hers, Isabella had Charles consecrated to the Blessed Sacrament. Philip arrived in Dijon later in the month to attend his son’s baptism; the boy’s godfather was Charles of Nevers[vi]. Philip made his son Count of Charolais and inducted him into the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Isabella’s natural devotion to the church was intensified by her fear of losing Charles, lavishing gifts on the Chartreuse de Champmol. In the spring of 1434, when Philip returned to his campaigning, Isabella and Charles took refuge from the plague in the fortress of Talant. To avoid entering the plague-ridden city of Dijon to raise money to support Philip’s army, Isabella sold off many of the gifts she had been endowed with by the towns and cities of Philip’s domains.  

Journeying North

By early 1435 the danger of plague had passed and in April Isabella convoked the Dijon Estates to inform them that she and Charles were joining her husband in the north. Philip’s 1434 campaigning season had been a success and now he was meeting with the French king at Nevers.

Isabella left Dijon to the news that both English and French representatives were to join Philip at Arras for a congress between the warring parties Isabella and Charles arrived in Arras on 5th May. They did not stay there long as the party travelled on, arriving at Coudenberg on June 4th.

Arthur de Richemont
Isabella and her party returned to Arras on August 3rd where Isabella’s English uncle Cardinal Henry Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester, was to represent the English in negotiations. The two main French representatives were two of Philip’s brother-in-law’s; Arthur Count of Richemont and Charles Duke of Bourbon.

Philip wanted his wife to act as a behind the scenes lobbyist for Burgundian interests at the congress. There were about 5,000 visitors in the town[vii]. The English and the French spent most of their time denouncing one another[viii], refusing to meet in the same room or attend divine service at the same time. Eventually the English flounced out of town on 6th September, it having become clear to them that the French were only interested in detaching the Burgundians from their English allies.

Negotiating for Peace

In the summer of 1436 Flanders burst out into rebellion against her overlord. The civic militia were demanding payment for their services in Calais. Isabella was forced to find 2,400 livres[ix] to fund the defence of the Flemish coast against English attacks. Isabella found herself meeting with the members of the Four Estates of Flanders without her husband.

Isabella (R)
Philip placed Isabella on the Financial Review Commission for all his territories on 25th October 1437. Philip was not interested in the administrative side of ruling; he preferred campaigning and enjoying the life of the super-rich. With the assistance of Hue de Lannoy Isabella was to become adept at winkling out the abuses within the duchy’s financial administration.

On 8th May 1438 Isabella attended a ceremony in Bruges to forgive those who had revolted against their overlord. Philip had refused to return to Bruges unless he was in the company of a greater prince than himself, difficult as Philip was the foremost noble in the region.

Isabella enjoyed her new duties, but she was perceived as ‘moody; overbearing and unreasonably jealous’ by the court where Isabella had tried so hard to fit in. When she first arrived Isabella’s clothes had been considered provincial and ugly; now her wardrobe glittered with the rich costumes fashionable in Burgundy.

Isabella had become suspicious of Philip’s dalliances with women, normal for a man of his position at the time. Every time Isabella treated Philip to a tirade, accusing him of manifest iniquities he loaded her with more responsibilities, thus increasing the divide between the two.

Isabella found herself increasingly isolated from her husband’s court and dependent on the advice of Hue de Lannoy and upon the love of her son. From 1437 Isabella increased her contributions to church foundations, including the Poor Clares.


The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

The Reign of Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1998

Europe: Hierarchy and Revolt 1320-1450 – George Holmes, Fontana 1984

The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997

Prince Henry – Peter Russell, Yale University Press 2000

Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014

Charles the Bold – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2002


[ii] Charles VII’s Grand Chamberlain
[iii] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[iv] In 2015 the relative: labour cost of that project is £24,050,000.00 economic cost of that project is £1,491,000,000.00
[v] In 2015 the relative: labour cost of that project is £138,300,000.00 economic cost of that project is £8,570,000,000.00
[vi] Later accused of witchcraft in an attempt to supplant Charles as Philip’s heir
[vii] France alone sent 28 heralds and poursuivants while Bishop Beaufort had 800 horse in his train and he was only one of the English representatives
[viii] They were fighting for the control of Paris
[ix] In 2015 the relative: labour cost of that project is £14,810,000.00 economic cost of that project is £1,160,000,000.00