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

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