Monday, 31 July 2017

Philip the Good II

Henry V
25th October 1415

Henry IV’s bellicose heir had been champing at the bit throughout most of his father’s reign and when his father died in 1413 Henry V immediately pressed for an invasion of England’s enemy. He claimed the 1.6 million crowns[i] still owing for the ransom of John II of France, captured at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, along with Philip’s grandfather Philip the Bold. In addition Henry demanded the return of Normandy, Touraine, Brittany, Flanders, Anjou and Aquitaine; demands that were never going to be agreed. Henry also claimed the hand of the Princess Katherine in marriage along with a dowry of 2 million crowns[ii].

The French offered Princess Katherine with 600,000 crowns[iii] along with an enlarged Aquitaine, an offer Henry V deemed insulting. Henry was granted a double subsidy to allow him to take his quarrel to the French and in April 1415 the Great Council agreed to go to war. In August the English arrived off Harfleur and promptly besieged the town, which did not surrender until early October. Henry was left with little choice but to march through Normandy towards the English stronghold in France, Calais.

Battle of Agincourt
John the Fearless informed Charles VI that he had every intention of fighting for France and would join the French army at the head of his contingent. On 10th October the nineteen year-old Philip wrote to the gens de Compte[iv] at Lille;

‘My father has recently informed me of his departure with all his power to advance against the English in the service of the king….and he wishes to have with him everyone in his lands who is accustomed to bear arms, including we ourselves in person and[ the Knights and Squires] of Artois.’[v]

Two days later John wrote again to Charles to confirm the mobilisation of his men and his imminent arrival. Philip left Oudenaarde, evidently intending to join the royal army at Rouen. The French shadowed the English army as it marched northwards. The two armies came together at Azincourt.

But neither Philip nor his father fought on the field at Agincourt; Philip was restrained, probably on his father’s orders, from leaving Aire[vi], where he was staying at the time. His uncles Anthony and Philip were not so lucky and died at the battle along with the cream of the French nobility[vii].


Duke of Gloucester
John was not the only Duke of France to avoid death in battle. The Duke of Brittany failed to proceed beyond Amiens. John must have been pleased at the many deaths of Armagnac supporters during the battle. The Duke of Alençon and Charles d’Albret, the Constable of France were among the dead and the young Duc d’Orléans was taken prisoner.

Following the disaster Henry V wanted John’s support and John and Philip travelled to Calais to meet with the English king. Henry V hoped to gain John as an ally and possibly a vassal; John was determined to be no such thing. The two men met in Calais in October 1416 where John and his son were met by Henry’s brother, the Duke of Gloucester outside Calais;

‘The Duke of Burgundy was escorted to Calais by the English, while the Duke of Gloucester was accompanied to St Omer by the count of Charolais as hostage for the security for the person of the said Duke of Burgundy.’[viii]

The subject of the talks, attended by King Sigismund of Germany[ix] was kept secret. A draft of proposed treaty had John agreeing to give homage to Henry V at an unspecified future date when Henry was king of France. John did NOT sign the draft.

The following month John entered into an alliance with Duke William of Bavaria and the Dauphin John; John planned to install the Dauphin in Paris under his guidance. This plan fell apart with the death of the Dauphin on 4th April 1417 and the death of Duke William in May.

The deaths of Anthony of Brabant and William of Bavaria[x], resulted in turmoil in Brabant. The Brabantian problem was temporarily settled by Philip under the Treaty of Woudrichem on 2nd February 1419. The treaty, which favoured John of Bavaria, was not acceptable to Philip’s cousin and John’s niece Jacqueline Countess of Holland and Zeeland who fell out with her husband John IV of Brabant.

Taking Control

In April John charged the Armagnac faction with all manner of imaginary crimes including the murders of the Dauphins Louis and John and permitting Henry V to invade France. The charges revivified the Burgundian-Armagnac civil war.

By October 1417 John’s army was virtually besieging Paris even as the English were taking control of Normandy. Towns across France found themselves at odds as some declared for John or were divided internally between Burgundian and Armagnac supporters. John’s armies took a number of towns even as the new Dauphin Charles emerged as the leader of the anti-Burgundian forces.

ohn’s men rescued the queen from her Armagnac protectors and the two set up an alternative government at
Troyes and in January 1418 Isabeau empowered John with the same powers that she herself had to rule on Charles VI’s behalf. Immediately Burgundians were appointed to key roles throughout government.

John’s men tightened their grip round the perimeter of Paris, finally taking it 28-9th May.

‘On this occasion the troops met with no resistance, and there were only two or three persons killed in the streets of Paris. These, it was said, had tried to rally support for the Count of Armagnac.’[xi]

John followed this coup with a reign of terror in the capital and he had the Count of Armagnac, and as many of his men could be rounded up, put to death. The Dauphin set up his power base in Bourges.

In August 1418, not long after regaining control of Charles VI in Paris, John arranged the transfer of the towns and castellanies of Péronne, Roye and Montdidier[xii] to Philip. The transfer was made on the grounds that Michelle’s dowry remained unpaid. The grant was significant in that it extended Burgundy’s borders to the Somme.

Death of the Duke of Burgundy

Meanwhile, as the French were distracted by bitter infighting, the English were besieging Rouen; it fell after five and a half months on 19th January 1418. Spring found both John and the Dauphin negotiating with the English. Between May and June John had a series of meetings with Henry V at Meulan. They broke off without any agreement being made. John was also negotiating with the Dauphin and in July the two men met three times, resulting in the Treaty of Pouilly-le-Fort in which they agreed to govern France jointly.

On 31st July the English captured Pontoise and John took the king and queen to Champagne, breaking off negotiations with the English. John summoned his armies and restarted negotiations with the Dauphin. He agreed to a meeting with the Dauphin at the bridge at Montereau-Faut-Yonne on 10th September 1419.

Murder of John the Fearless
ohn the Fearless was
murdered by Tanneguy de Chastel[xiii] and Arnaud de Barbazon in the presence of the Dauphin. An enclosure was set up in the middle of the bridge, where the two men, surrounded by their advisers, met. John knelt to the Dauphin and put his hand on his sword when rising, possibly to aid levering himself off his knees.

You put your hand on your épée in the presence of His Highness the Dauphin?’[xiv]

One of the Dauphin’s companions asked; John was immediately attacked with an axe by de Chastel who did not wait for the duke’s reply. The Dauphin’s men rushed through the door from their side of the bridge and joined in hacking John to death.

The Dauphin and his advisers must have feared that John would take complete control of France, including the Dauphin himself as well as his parents, and consolidate his hold on power, possibly even overthrowing the king and making himself monarch of the country. Several of Charles’ advisers had worked for Louis d’Orléans and saw this as gaining vengeance for their former master’s death. The murder resulted in a catastrophe for France when John’s son and heir Philip threw his lot in with the English.


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

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Papermac 1989

John the Fearless – Richard Vaughan, Longmans, Green and Co Ltd, 1966

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014

[i] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,034,000,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £12,570,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £39,970,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £555,000,000,000.00
[ii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,445,000,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £12,430,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £43,880,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £767,300,000,000.00
[iii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £433,600,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £3,729,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £13,160,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £230,200,000,000.00
[iv] Accounts staff
[v] John the Fearless - Vaughan
[vii] Charles of Orléans was taken prisoner
[viii] John the Fearless - Vaughan
[ix] Future Holy Roman Emperor
[x] Leaving his daughter Jacqueline to inherit his lands
[xi] John the Fearless - Vaughan
[xii] All in the Somme region of France

Monday, 24 July 2017

Philip the Good

John the Fearless 
Unto Us a Child is Born

Philip[i] was born on 31st July 1396, the only son of the Count of Nevers, John the Fearless[ii] and his wife Margaret of Bavaria[iii]. The couple already had two daughters, Mary[iv]  born in 1393 and Margaret born in December 1393. They had three daughters who died young; Catherine, Isabella and Joan and then in 1404 came the birth of Anne and in 1407 their last child Agnes[v] was born.

There is no record of Philip’s upbringing, although he must have received a princely education as his father’s only son. He could read and write with great facility, in later life Philip read for pleasure and was known for his letter writing. He would have been taught Latin and undoubtedly spoke French and possibly German[vi]. And from the age of three he had a tutor who taught him to ‘read, write and speak Flemish’ although he does not seem to have made much progression under his masters Pierre Taquelin and Jehan de Rassighem.

Philip also rode and found great pleasure in the hunt. Philip was taught the knightly skills and had some knowledge of military command that he put into use as an adult. He may very well have been shown some of the skills of the armourer as, when he was old, one of his pleasures was mending knives[vii]. As a youth Philip also enjoyed tennis, archery, and jousting.

Margaret of Bavaria
From the very beginning John’s children were seen as assets by both their father and grandfather, who had used his own children similarly. Shortly before his death Philip the Bold planned a Franco-Burgundian four way marriage alliance;

1.        ‘Margaret, John the Fearless’s eldest daughter, to marry the dauphin Louis.

2.       Philip, son of John the Fearless, to marry Michelle of France.

3.       Another daughter of John the Fearless, unnamed, to marry John, Duke of Touraine, younger brother to the dauphin Louis.

4.      Jacqueline of Bavaria, daughter of William of Bavaria and Margaret of Burgundy, to marry Charles, youngest son of Charles VI.’[viii]

Between 1404 and 1407 the alliance began to take shape as Margaret duly married the Dauphin[ix]; but John’s niece Jacqueline married John of Touraine rather than Charles.

At the age of eight, on 28th January 1405 Philip was made Count of Charolais. About the same time Philip was engaged to Michelle. The couple were married in June 1409; Michelle brought with her the promise of a dowry of 120,000 francs[x], not all of which was paid.

Death of the Duke of Orléans

Assassination of Louis d'Orleans
In 1404 John’s father Philip the Bold[xi] died and John inherited the Duchy of Burgundy. He was now the head of the House of Valois-Burgundy, a cadet line of the House of Valois, whose head was the ruler of France[xii]. He passed the Countship of Nevers to his brother Philip. John inherited the Valois family infighting over who was to control France. Charles VI’s minority had been notable for the free-spending of the king’s uncles on their own interests.

In 1388 Charles had taken the reins of government into his own hands, but in 1392 suffered a mental breakdown[xiii], killing four of his knights and almost killing his brother Louis d’Orléans, in the forest of Le Mans. Charles bouts of insanity became more frequent and a battle royal developed between Louis d’Orléans and John the Fearless as to who would control the king and the kingdom[xiv].

In November 1407 John employed a gang of hired killers[xv] to attack and kill Louis on his way home one night. The Paris Parlement recorded;

‘This evening, at about eight o’clock, Messire Louis….was struck down and killed by eight or nine armed men, who had been hidden in a house…for a week or two. They cleaved his head in two with a halberd so that he was knocked from his horse and his brains strewn on the pavement.’[xvi]

John immediately justified the killing by accusing Louis of ‘vice, corruption and sorcery’ accompanied by a long list of public and private villainies. John gained the support of the masses by opposing the latest royal tax. He fled Paris on 26th November narrowly escaping being killed himself. The result of Louis’ murder was a vicious fight to the death between the Orléanists[xvii] and the Burgundians as the new young Duc d’Orléans joined with his father-in-law Bernard, Count of Armagnac to gain justice for his father.

Civil War

Queen Isabeau (L)
John was a member of the council advising Queen Isabeau who was in charge of the country while her husband was indisposed[xviii]. The civil war between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs was of no real account abroad when France’s bitter rivals, the English, were focussed on problems at home. Having recently taken control of his own country and placing himself on the throne, Henry IV did not have the time to take up the reins of the Hundred Years War; he was too busy consolidating his power following the usurpation of Richard II[xix].

By late 1407 John was viewed as the most powerful noble in France; the podestà of Lucca was informed that;

‘You may be quite sure that the Duke of Burgundy will remain the most influential and powerful prince of this kingdom. His power is based on the troops which he can raise in his lands. He can muster so many that he fears no one.’[xx]

John not only used his own men in his war with the Armagnacs, but also persuaded his relatives to loan their soldiers to help fight his battles. He was possessed of some military skills[xxi] and also employed capable captains whose advice he paid attention to.

While John was off fighting his wife and son ruled his Burgundian lands for him. Margaret of Bavaria spent much of her time in the southern Burgundian lands, based in Dijon[xxii]. In 1410 the fifteen year old Philip was made John’s resident personal representative in Flanders. John commissioned his son as;

‘Lieutenant and Governor-General in our absence of our lands of Flanders and Artois.’[xxiii]

He acted as ruler with the assistance of John’s Chancellor Jehan de Saulx. Philip stayed in Ghent, always a trouble spot, with the burgesses and townspeople jealous of their freedoms. Philip was an effective and active head of government acting in collaboration with the town council of Ghent. Philip also had two Flemish nobles attached to his hotel; Guillaume de Halewyn and Jacques de Lichtervelde.

John’s influence extended over the Netherlands and in 1409, 1411 and 1413 summonsed the rulers of the Low Countries to conferences over which he presided. At the 1409 conference John settled a dispute between Anthony of Brabant[xxiv] and William of Bavaria. Philip and Michelle were present at the 1413 conference.


The Fifteenth Century – Margaret Aston, WW Norton and Co 1979

The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

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

The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Papermac 1989

John the Fearless – Richard Vaughan, Longmans, Green and Co Ltd, 1966

Philip the Bold – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2011

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014


[i] Later given the sobriquet ‘the Good’
[ii] Known in French as Jean Sans Peur
[iv] Mary married Adolph, Duke of Cleves
[vi] There is no record of Philip taking a translator when he visited the Holy Roman Emperor’s court as an adult
[vii] Along with, inter alia, mending broken glasses and making clogs; Philip had a mobile room made, where he could indulge in his hobbies; it was taken with him on his peregrinations. His son had it destroyed after Philip’s death
[viii] John the Fearless - Vaughan
[ix] Who died in December 1415; Margaret then married Arthur de Richemont, Duke of Brittany. Louis’ brother John then became Dauphin and he died in 1417, possibly because of an abscess in the head or, as rumour had it, the old medieval standby – poison.
[x] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £76,240,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £770,200,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £2,539,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £44,120,000,000.00
[xi] Philip had been one of four of the king’s uncles who ruled France during the minority of Charles VI. The others were John, Duke of Berry, Louis, Duc d’Anjou and Louis, Duke of Bourbon (grandfather of Charles of Bourbon (see note vi above)
[xii] John was the grandson of Jean II of France and thus a Prince of the Blood
[xiii] There was evidence of insanity in his mother and on his maternal uncle Louis of Bourbon’s part
[xiv] There had been rivalry between Philip the Bold and Louis d’Orléans but the rivalry escalated once John took charge of Burgundian policy
[xv] The leader of the gang was pensioned off and lived in John’s capital in Bruges for the rest of his life
[xvi] John the Fearless - Vaughan
[xvii] Often referred to as the Armagnacs as the fight was led by Bernard of Armagnac
[xviii] Pope Pius II claimed that Charles VI believed that he was made of glass
[xix] There were numerous rebellions against his usurpation of power and he was also ill during the last years of his reign
[xx] John the Fearless - Vaughan
[xxi] See John the Fearless pp147-50
[xxii] The capital of the southern part of Burgundy
[xxiii] John the Fearless - Vaughan
[xxiv] One of John’s brothers