Monday, 10 April 2017

A Duchess of Burgundy VII

Isabella of Burgundy
A Family Quarrel

On 17th January 1457 an argument broke out between Philip and Charles after Charles refused to accept one of the detested de Croy family into his household as chamberlain. Philip attacked his son with a dagger; Charles fled with his mother to the chambers of their guest, the Dauphin. The French Dauphin had chosen to exile himself in Burgundy after being banished from court after making a marriage unsanctioned by his father.

Angered that the family dispute had been aired before the heir to the French throne, Philip attempted to reign in his temper, telling Louis[i];

‘I will show Charles that I am his father – that I can appoint a little valet if I please! And better would it have been for his mother, if instead of burdening you with her woes, to have slept a long sleep!’[ii]

Louis asked Philip to pardon his son but Philip refused. Charles flung himself out of the castle and rode off to Tendermonde. His father too disappeared into the bitter January night. Louis and his followers rode out to seek for his uncle who had left without an escort. Philip had got himself lost after sending a message to the de Croy family ordering them to meet him at Halle. Philip was finally found in Genappe, where he was being tended for an injured leg.

The incident caused an estrangement between Charles and his father and Isabella sided with her son. Philip was persuaded by the de Croys that Isabella was the cause of the friction between father and son. So by the spring of 1457 Isabella was spending most of her time at La Motte-au-Bois.

February 1457 saw the birth of Mary of Burgundy, who was born on 13th. Charles went out hunting while Philip ignored the event, asking only to be informed if the baby turned out to be a boy. Louis asked that the baby be named Marie after his mother. Mary was baptised at Coudenberg and Louis stood as her Godfather. Chastellain recorded that;

‘Duke Philip chose not attend the ceremony as it was only for a girl.’[iii]


Louis chose to ingratiate himself with the de Croy family, to ensure that Philip did not send him back to France, whence he was determined not to return save as king. He also befriended Charles, an easy matter for the easy-going friendly Dauphin. Their joint love of hunting created a bond between the two men despite the ten year age difference.

During the summer Philip took Louis on a tour of his lands which Louis put to good use noting all the strategic landmarks and strongholds. Like his father Louis had every intention of making Burgundy part of France once. again

Once Joan of Arc’s conviction had been overturned by Rome Charles VII grew more belligerent in his position vis-à-vis Burgundy. He demanded that Louis give an account of himself and his failure to return to court and that in default Philip was to arrest his royal visitor. Louis paid largesse to all those who gave him services (ultimately paid for by Philip) and created a swelling of support for the French Dauphin. Short of money he wrote asking for his wife’s dowry;

‘We believed that by Christmas past we would have had money from there [Savoy]….but it has all come to nothing. This puts us in a bad way, for, trusting to have had the money, we have borrowed from a bank the sum of 1000 francs[iv].’[v]

He had borrowed money from Flemish banks to pay, inter alia, for the spies he kept around his father; the chief of whom was Antoinette de Maingnelais, his father’s mistress.

Isabella seized the chance and permanently retired to La Motte-au-Bois in the midsummer of 1457. Isabella’s self-imposed exile was saddened by the news of the death of her nephew John of Antioch, who had lived with her when he was fourteen[vi]. He had been poisoned (five of his attendants also died)[vii]. John had also been a favourite of Philip’s who had made him a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece and arranged for John’s marriage to the King of Cyprusdaughter.

France v Burgundy

Charles of Charolais
At La Motte-au-Bois Isabella amused herself by trying to arrange a marriage between one of her nieces and one of Richard of York’s daughters. York was looking to strengthen his power base even as Queen Margaret was determined to keep York away from the king. Consolidating her power Margaret was able to have the Chancellor and Treasurer replaced as  Yorkists were removed from positions of power at court. Margaret was also able to obtain aid from her uncles Charles.

Throughout early 1458 rumours spread that the French were preparing for an assault on Burgundy once they’d finished fighting the English in what little was left of the Angevin empire in France. Burgundian towns were overrun and others threatened by Charles VII’s armies[viii].

‘Daily there ran new wild rumours; everybody kept his ear to the wind and no one knew whether to expect peace or war.’[ix]

Beginning to lose confidence in the advice of the pro-French de Croys, Philip was stressed out by the situation and turned to amusing himself with hunting, in court revelries and sex. The summer of 1458 saw both Philip and King Charles fall ill; Philip had a fever brought on from over exerting himself playing tennis, while Charles had an ulcerated leg which had enfeebled his constitution[x]. Philip suffered a relapse on 17th June and fell into a coma lasting three days.

The Grand Bastard Anthony, his half-brother Charles and Isabella rode to Brussels where Isabella prostrated herself before Philip’s bed. He asked her to stay and look after him which she did and used the time to repair some of the damage done to their relationship.

Mayhem Abroad

Margaret of Anjou
Isabella was able to revivify Anglo-Burgundian trade relations and an embassy comprising of both Yorkists and Lancastrians was sent to both France and Burgundy where Philip welcomed the proposals. The English proposed marrying his baby granddaughter Mary to one of the Duke of York’s sons. Philip did not answer the proposal.

The embassy then continued on to Rouen where they offered a marriage between Edward Prince of Wales with one of Charles VII’s daughters[xi]. Charles agreed to think about the proposals. The Yorkists warned Philip that if the Anglo-French proposals were taken up the English would be barred from coming to the assistance of the Burgundians if they were attacked by the French.

In early 1459 Isabella wrote to inform the English envoys that she and her husband were prepared to discuss the matter when the English sent sufficiently high-ranking personages to negotiate terms. Philip sent an embassy to Charles VII at Montbazon complaining about the French attacks on his territories and the ignoring of Philip’s ducal rights in the Paris Parlement. The king’s lawyers refuted Philip’s claims, accusing him of disloyalty to the king.

Edward of York
Meanwhile Queen Margaret was working to destroy the alliance between the Yorkists and the Burgundians. On 23rd September Margaret sent her agents to arrest the Duke of York, his son Edward and the Earl of Warwick. The men had been pre-warned of the imminent arrests and York fled to Ireland while Edward of York fled to Calais with Warwick and his father Lord Salisbury.

The Yorkists were not without their sympathisers as this letter warning Norfolk gentleman John Paston[xii] shows;

‘A lewd doctor of Ludgate preached on Sunday a fortnight ago at St. Paul’s, charging the people that no man should pray for these lords, the traitors [York and his allies] etc.; and he had little thanks, as he deserved…..the Chamberlain [Margaret’s man] is not good to these lords.…[A number of persons] have commissions lately to take traitors and send to the nearest gaol all persons who are favourers and well-wishers to the said lords.’[xiii]

The struggle between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians was about to erupt into what was to become known as the Wars of the Roses.


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

Louis XI – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books Ltd 1974

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] According to Chastellain
[ii] Louis XI - Kendall
[iii] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[iv] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £696,600.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £5,955,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £25,340,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £466,200,000.00
[v] Louis XI - Kendall
[vi] Following the battle of Alfarrobeira where his father Pedro was killed during an uprising against John’s cousin King Alfonso V of Portugal, whose father Edward had died in September 1438. John arrived in Burgundy with his brother Jaime de Coimbre and sister Beatriz who later married one of Philip’s nephews, Adolf of Cleves
[vii] It is believed that John’s mother-in-law Helena Palaiologina ordered his death
[viii] This followed Ohip’s refusal to attend a Lit de Justice ordered by Charles VII into the treasonous behaviour of the Duc d’Alençon who was accused of treating with the English
[ix] Louis XI - Kendall
[x] Possibly the beginning of syphilis or diabetes symptoms
[xi] Prince Edward was not married until December 1470 when he was wed to Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker as he became known. After his death she married Edward VI’s younger brother Richard
[xiii] Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family – Virgoe

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