Monday, 17 April 2017

A Duchess of Burgundy VIII

Sandal Castle from whence Richard of York rode out to give battle at Wakefield

Changing Circumstances

In England the Yorkist fight to the death with Margaret and her supporters was dealt a grievous blow with the death of Richard of York on the penultimate day of 1460 at the battle of Wakefield[i]. The Lancastrian army returned south leaving a thirty mile wide swathe of destruction in their wake in;

‘A whirlwind from the north….a plague of locusts covering the whole surface of the earth.’[ii]

Following the news Edward, now Duke of York in his father’s stead, prepared to return home from Calais, to reclaim the York family lands. The Lancastrians’ success persuaded the anti-Burgundian faction at the French court that now was a good time to attack Burgundy while their allies were laid low.

Cloistered in Genappe with Charles of Charolais, the Dauphin was waiting for his father to die. His spies at the French court kept him informed of his father’s doings. Louis was secretly allying himself with the Earl of Warwick and Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. Sforza was hoping to persuade the English to attack France and divert them from attacking his territories.

Countryside around le Quesnoy
In January 1461 Charles of Charolais decided the time was ripe to attack his enemies, Antoine and Jean de Croy. Charles levelled charges that the de Croys were spreading a rumour that Charles was intending to hand Louis over to Charles VII. He demanded that Philip take action against the pair of them. Tired and ill, Philip tried to stop the quarrel and the government of Burgundy was paralysed by the fight.

Unable to look after himself, Philip called Isabella to his side in Abbeville once again and she prayed for his recovery as the doctors’ remedies were not working. Isabella ordered the bells of Abbeville to be rung continuously and exhorted the citizens to pray for the duke. By the end of January Philip had recovered sufficiently to drink almond flavoured milk and broth. At which point Isabella returned to her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter at le Quesnoy[iii].

A Brace of New Kings

George Plantagenent
It was not until late January that Edward of York and the Earl of Warwick sailed for England with two thousand English and Burgundian soldiers On 4th March the English parliament proclaimed Edward of York the rightful king of England[iv]. Edward and his army chased after the Lancastrians, meeting and defeating them at the battle of Towton on 29th March 1461. Margaret, Henry VI and Prince Edward fled into exile[v].

Edward’s brothers George and Richard came to stay with Isabella in Brussels while the excitement was ongoing in England. She treated the two young men to the splendours of the Burgundian court while leaving no stone unturned to persuade their brother of the advantages of an Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Warwick, meanwhile, was pressing for an alliance with France.

There was turmoil in the relations between Philip and his royal guest and the Duke of Milan’s envoy Prospero di Camogli commented;

‘Every day the danger grows that this hostility will uncover itself. On the side of the Dauphin only his needs hold it hidden; on the side of the Duke, only the opportunity offered by the Dauphin’s presence if war with France should break out.’[vi]

On 22nd July 1461 Louis’ greatest wish was granted; his father died and he finally became Louis XI, King of France. He departed for France without a word of gratitude to his host and hostess. As king Louis was to continue the anti-Burgundian policies he had pressed for during his father’s reign despite the support he had received from Philip.

To appease Philip he appointed the post of Grand Master of the Royal Household to Antoine de Croy. Philip and Isabella attended Louis’ coronation in Rheims and then followed the court to Paris for the coronation banquet where Philip far outshone the habitually quietly dressed king.


Philip the Good 
n July 1462 one of Philip’s servants, Jehan Coustain, premier valet de chambre, was accused of attempting to poison Charles. Antoine de Croy was responsible for Coustain’s elevation
[vii]. It is not known whether the accusation was true or false but Charles used the accusation to bring down one of de Croy’s men, leaving the de Croys believing that Charles would stop at nothing to ruin them.

Louis was trying to create an Anglo-French alliance and persuaded Philip to smooth his path. He also used Warwick’s services to get into Edward’s good books. In the autumn of 1463 a meeting between the old enemies was arranged at St Omer. Isabella was kept away from the meeting which ended in a one year truce. Louis also hoped to inveigle Edward into marrying a French princess.

Louis’ opinion of Philip was very unflattering;

‘He was a prince who always had his own way, never sharing power with a companion or equal, and that he was not of great intellect.’[viii]

He managed to persuade Philip to sell him the lands on the Somme granted by Charles VII; Charles was livid that his father had sold off some of his inheritance and by October arguments between father and son had reached fever pitch. Charles departed for his lands in Holland until summonsed back to court by his father.

Isabella was concerned that Louis was distracting Philip from his crusade; It can only have been piety ruling Isabella’s actions, as a trip to the Holy Land by an sick old man, at the end of his life, would not have been beneficial. Louis’ plans to marry off Edward was stymied when, in May 1464, the English king married Elizabeth Woodville, an action that caused a breach between him and his chief supporter Warwick.

Deaths in the Family

Margaret of York
The following year saw the death of Countess Isabella on 25th September 1465. Within weeks Isabella had sent an envoy to England to discuss the possibility of a marriage between her son and Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV. Louis XI tried to stop the marriage negotiations by offering his daughter Anne, then four years old, as a bride[ix]. The French offer was refused.

Isabella was residing at La Motte-au-Bois when Philip died alone on 15th June 1467 at the Princehof. The last few years the married couple had spent apart, except for when Philip was ill. Charles was in Ghent and he was immediately sent for. Isabella did not return to Bruges until 18th June to find her son bewailing the fact that he had left his father alone in his last hours.

On the 28th the town of Ghent challenged Charles’ right to rule and the following morning Charles visited the town where he was faced with demands to overturn the constraints forced on them by his father. Charles lost his temper and slapped one of the town’s representatives. Other towns flared up into violence and Charles responded with draconic severity. Isabella attempted to ameliorate her son’s brutal responses to opposition, not always successfully.

Charles was determined to complete the English alliance by his marriage to Edward IV’s sister and on 9th July 1468 Margaret of York became his third wife. His new wife retained her right to the English throne and Edward promised 200,000 crowns[x] dowry. Edward proclaimed that his sister was to marry;

‘One of the mightiest princes of the world that beareth no crown.’[xi]

After the wedding Isabella returned to La Motte-au-Bois where she supported a diplomatic resolution to the conflict between France and Burgundy. Isabella’s attempts to work round the problems caused by Charles’ violent reactions to events were often stymied by her son.

The plague had been prevalent throughout Picardy, Brabant Flanders and Hainault throughout the summer and autumn. When Charles visited his mother in October he was concerned about her appearance. She died in her son’s arms on 17th December 1471.

Philip might have appreciated his dynasty’s end even if Isabella would not have done. The reckless Charles the Bold died young, leaving his duchy to his daughter Mary who married Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor.


The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

Edward IV – Keith Dockray, Fonthill Media Limited 2015

Wars of the Roses – John Gillingham, Weidenfeld Paperbacks 1990

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] At Sandal Magna; the Duke of Somerset launched a surprise attack
[ii] Wars of the Roses - Gillingham
[iii] The duke’s summer residence
[iv] Parliament claimed that Henry VI had authorised the attack on Richard of York, who was acting as Protector of the Realm. By doing so Henry had broken his oath and forfeited his right to be king
[v] In 1470 Warwick, who had quarrelled with Edward, forced a reversal of the situation, sending Edward into exile again and returned Henry VI to his throne.
[vi] Louis XI - Kendall
[vii] Coustain was deep in his confidence
[viii] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[ix] Her dowry was to include Ponthieu and Champagne
[x] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £136,800,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £1,222,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £4,752,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £84,910,000,000.00
[xi] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor

1 comment:

  1. Edward IV was a randy toerag who swived his way across Britain and had already gone through a kind of marriage ceremony before he bigamously married Elizabeth Woodville. He wasn't interested in dynastic marriage, his brain resided two feet lower than his head.