Monday, 3 April 2017

A Duchess of Burgundy VI

The Burghers of Ghent surrender to Philip the Good
Ghent Humbled

Needing funds to continue his war Philip dropped his prohibition on the transport of English cloth. By this point Isabella had decided to support the Duke of York[i], who was pro-trade with Burgundy, in the internecine war in the English court. She now prepared to travel to Gravelines. Charles VII became aware of her intentions which would interfere with the final stages of the Hundred Years War; Charles was hopeful of throwing the English out of his country for good[ii].

Ghent finally surrendered to her lord after the Battle of Gavère on 23rd July 1453 where 17,000 Ghentish men died. The Burgundians had rallied behind Philip in his fight with the men of Ghent.

‘And their dead were estimated at seventeen or eighteen thousand men, both killed and drowned. Among others several of their captains and deans were killed, including a good ten or eleven of their echevins. Besides this, a number of prisoners were taken.’[iii]

During July 1453 Henry VI lost his hold on reality for the first time; Queen Margaret managed to keep the matter hidden for three months until the birth of her son Edward of Westminster in October. Richard of York was the logical choice to become protector of the realm in the king’s stead and he had Suffolk arrested and replaced him as Captain of Calais with Richard Neville[iv], Earl of Warwick. The war in France was coming to a stuttering close; after the fall of Châtillon[v] in July there was little left save the Pale of Calais to fight over.

A New Wife for Charles

Pope Nicholas V
Charles VII was now looking to his investigation into the legality of Joan of Arc’s trial to yield dividends; the case was going to Rome and Charles anticipated that he would be given sovereignty over all of Burgundy. He hoped to go down in history as the king who reunited France.

In his turn Philip was looking to join the Pope Nicholas V’s call for a crusade against the Ottomans following the fall of Constantinople[vi]. Philip spent much of the early part of 1454 celebrating his victory over the men of Ghent and working to forge his men into a fighting unit that would win him renown in the east. Isabella supported Philip in this ambition.

While Philip was planning a French bride for Charles, now 21, to consolidate any alliance he might be able to make with Charles VII, Isabella had her eye on one of the Duke of York’s younger daughters for her son. To that end she started negotiations with the duke, now Regent[vii].

Sadly for Isabella her plans came to naught as Philip put his foot down; he decided that the potential for peace with France would be best served if Charles was to marry his cousin[viii] Isabella of Bourbon, daughter of Charles I, Duke of Bourbon. Neither Charles nor his mother wanted the match which Philip insisted on. The young Isabella had been living in Isabella’s household; she was favoured by Philip who was fond of his sister’s child.

Philip obtained a release from the pope for the marriage between first cousins even as he started fund-raising for the crusade. He also decided to attend the Imperial Diet at Regensburg to that end. He made Charles;

Governor and Lieutenant General , in the absence of my most redoubted lord and father, of his lands and lordships in the Netherlands.’[ix]

in his absence. Philip also issued edicts on expenditure that curbed the magnificence of his court, although he prudently allowed sufficient monies to overawe the German princes at the Diet. Feasts, games, jousts and concerts were severely curtailed and the pensions of court officials reduced.

The Heir’s Second Wife

Charles and Isabella of Bourbon
Philip suddenly discovered Isabella’s plans to marry their son to a member of the English royal family. He was probably apprised of Isabella’s manoeuvrings by one of the de Croy brothers[x]. Concerned that Isabella would have her own way while he was at Regensburg Philip pushed through the betrothal without the approval of Isabella of Bourbon’s parents and that of Charles VII.

At home Isabella had spent the winter at La Motte-au-Bois[xi] before returning to the Rihour Palace in Lille[xii] in the spring. Her representatives had been meeting with the English since January. Charles joined his mother in Lille in early May. Not long after Philip left Salins for Nevers where he met his sister, the Duke of Orléans and Pierre Amboise the representative of the Duke of Bourbon[xiii]. Philip’s demands for the seigneury and lands of Chinon to be given to Isabella of Bourbon were rejected during several weeks of negotiations[xiv].

Unable to come to an agreement Philip left Nevers for Dijon, prepared to wait until his demands were met. He stayed there throughout August and September. In the north Isabella was struggling to keep the Anglo-Burgundian talks alive. More and more Burgundian ships were being taken by the English and in August both Charles and Isabella wrote to Philip warning of a possible English attack. They wrote again in September.

By October Charles VII was becoming worried that Isabella might prevail upon Philip to accede to the English marriage she was chasing and wrote to Philip explaining that he was unable to allow Chinon to be incorporated in the marriage contract;

‘So pray do not postpone the marriage….for any cause, if by permission of the church and or our Holy Father it can be lawfully completed.’[xv]

Philip ordered Charles to marry Isabella of Bourbon straight away under the original terms of the marriage contract signed by the Duke of Bourbon the previous year, which included the lands of Chinon. The marriage took place as ordered on 31st October 1454. Isabella was so chagrined that she failed to pay due deference to her new daughter-in-law. Charles returned to his position as temporary governor based at Termonde[xvi] while Isabella of Bourbon stayed with her mother-in-law.

Drifting Apart

Philippe of Renty
The marriage did nothing to repair the problems with France; the raids on Burgundy’s northern borders continued and Charles VII refused to allow Philip to recruit crusaders in France. In addition Isabella’s power was waning as that of the de Croy family increased. As chamberlain Antoine was the most influential at court, even more so than Chancellor Rolin, but his brother Jehan[xvii] and their sons Philippe of Renty and Philippe of Sempy also benefitted not only from Philip’s largesse but also from the hand of Charles VII. They were powers in their own rights[xviii].

The de Croy family were able to keep Philip focussed on France as Burgundy’s partner, despite the depredations that France’s soldiers were making on Burgundian lands, despite the French enclaves set up thereon. Philip’s blindness to French intent is remarkable as are his ignoring of Isabella’s advice.

Philip, now 59, had taken his eye off the ball. He was distracted by his plans to go on crusade and he still hoped to gain recognition  for his imperial holdings. The de Croy family meanwhile were looking forward to a French victory over Burgundy after which they would reap their just rewards for supporting the victor. They increased their involvement with the French even as Philip’s trust in Isabella decreased. He now had no-one to counter the de Croy influence.

Philippe of Sempy
The Burgundian coasts were plagued by French pirates who preyed mainly on English shipping. The trade treaty that Isabella had stitched together with such care was falling apart. The Burgundians did not help matters by holding up Staple merchant caravans as they crossed Burgundian territory. Philip refused to send Isabella to smooth matters over as she had done in the past.

The couple were divided physically as well as mentally; Isabella was staying at Cassel. Isabella wanted to free her son from the de Croy influence. Charles was very vocal in his opposition to his father’s policies and the two men argued a lot throughout the winter of 1455-6. Charles was described as;

‘Hot-blooded, active and irritable and, as a child, wanted his own way and disliked rebuke. Nevertheless, he had such good understanding he resisted his natural tendencies and, as a youth, there was no one more polite and well-tempered.’[xix]

In this Charles was like his father; Philip was normally the most polite and courteous to all, unless he was crossed and this rarely happened to him.


The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

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

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] Queen Margaret was now voicing her suspicions of her husband’s uncle openly
[ii] Bar the area around the Pale of Calais
[iii] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[iv] Known as the Kingmaker
[vii] Margaret had demanded the regency for herself, but too many of the nobility viewed her as siding with Charles VII
[viii] Through her mother Agnes, daughter of John the Fearless
[ix] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[x] Both highly influential with Philip
[xii] A town of some 25,000 inhabitants
[xiii] Incapacitated with gout
[xiv] Bourbon had promised Charles VII that he would leave Chinon to his son John
[xv] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[xvi] Known as Dendermonde
[xvii] Who fielded his own army independent of Philip’s
[xviii] Jehan was Count of Chimay and Antoine was Count of Porcéan and Guînes and Lord of Aarschot
[xix] Philip the Good - Vaughan

1 comment:

  1. there aren't many people who can make me turn to a dictionary, echevins was a new one for me.
    Dynastic marriage is a recipe for personal disaster; maybe some of these despots would have been less martial if they had married for love and stayed at home happily rogering their wives and enjoying their children. Interesting that marriage to first cousins was illegal then without a dispensation, consanguinity laws for a good reason, I suppose, as royal intermarriages got more and more incestuous to seal deals.