Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Philip the Good IV

Siege of Orleans
Fighting the French

It was in March 1429 that the woman who was to be the saviour of France, Joan of Arc, arrived at the French court at Chinon. She met both Charles and Yolande of Aragon, the mother of his wife Marie. Yolande had been planning to relieve the siege of Orléans which the English were currently prosecuting and she decided to send Joan with the troops to aid the Bastard of Orléans[i], in charge of the besieged.

‘Shortly afterwards orders were given to the marshal to take provisions and other necessaries to Orléans, with a strong escorting force. Jeanne the maid asked to go with him and to be given arms and armour, which was granted.’[ii]

The arrival of the French army turned the tide and in May the siege was lifted[iii]. Now Joan was determined to have Charles crowned at Rheims. She wrote to Philip in June requesting his attendance at the ceremony as one of the premier peers of France. He did not avail himself of the invitation. On 17th July 1429 Philip received a second letter from Joan;

‘Prince of Burgundy, I pray, beg, and request as humbly as I can that you wage war no longer in the holy kingdom of France, and order your people who are in any towns and fortresses of the holy kingdom to withdraw promptly and without delay. And as for the noble King of France, he is ready to make peace with you, saving his honor; if you're not opposed.’[iv]

Joan was trying, unavailingly, to persuade Philip to set aside his quarrel with Charles. She even held out the temptation of a crusade. Philip was unmoved; he was determined not to conciliate the man who had had his father murdered.

The Order of the Golden Fleece

Isabella and Philip
The thirty year old Portuguese Princess Isabella was the lady chosen by Philip as his third wife from a shortlist of five. As the cousin of Henry V[v], Philip believed that Isabella would strengthen his ties to the English. He sent an offer to her father John I of Portugal which was received on 14th December 1428[vi]. Philip’s chamberlain and chief counsellor, Seigneur de Roubaix headed the delegation and he also sent his court painter Jan Van Eyck to paint Isabella’s portrait. Philip would not confirm the offer until he’d inspected the resultant portrait.

The painting was acceptable and John and his sons agreed that Isabella could marry one of the foremost nobles of Europe. The couple married in Bruges on 7th January 1430 and on 10th January Philip instituted the Order of the Golden Fleece. The order was instituted;

‘For the reverence of God and the maintenance of our Christian Faith, and to honor and exalt the noble order of knighthood, and also ...to do honor to old knights; ...so that those who are at present still capable and strong of body and do each day the deeds pertaining to chivalry shall have cause to continue from good to better; and .. so that those knights and gentlemen who shall see worn the order ... should honor those who wear it, and be encouraged to employ themselves in noble deeds...’[vii]

Jean le Fevre de St-Remy
There were originally twenty five members[viii], including Hue de Lannoy, Guibert and Baudoin de Lannoy, Jehan de la Trémoille and Jehan de Luxembourg. The orders first King of Arms was Jean le Fèvre de St-Remy. The knights all wore a heavy scarlet mantle lined with sable and embroidered with gold thread. Each knight had a gold collar of fire-steel links with a ram medallion signifying the wealth of Burgundy.

The order created an inner circle of courtiers, counsellors and captains. They met regularly to indulge in self-criticism and were also allowed to criticise Philip. The annual festivities of the order originally took place in November but in 1435 the date was moved back to spring or early summer. The location of the meetings varied; the first one took place in Lille, but the seat of the order was based in the chapel of the ducal palace in Brussels. The shields of the members were set up above their stalls in the chapel.

Philip had already refused an offer to join the English Order of the Garter and this new order may have been his response to that offer. The order may very well have been created to help unite his disparate lands and bind his nobles into close dependence upon the person of the duke. The order was later opened to Philip’s allies.

The Womaniser

After the wedding Philip took his bride on a tour of his domains. He abruptly ordered that Isabella leave Noyon, where she was currently staying, when in May 1430 Joan attacked Compiègne; one of Philip’s secretaries noted;

‘There are those in the court who would have wanted the duchess to win her argument and accompany her husband into battle as this would have delayed his actions and given the French forces more opportunity to defeat him.’[ix]

Clearly some of Philip’s courtiers were more than disaffected.

The couple’s first child Anthony was born on 30th September 1430 and died two years later. A second son died within two weeks of his birth in April 1432. Philip’s eventual heir, Charles, was born in 1433.

Throughout his adult life, taking after his father, Philip was known as a lover of women, in addition to his three wives he had an estimated twenty to thirty-three mistresses and fifteen to twenty-four bastards. Philip had mistresses spread throughout his domains, so that wherever he travelled within his own lands he had one available to him.

Anthony of Burgundy
Philip gave them gifts of jewellery and cloth, arranged marriages for some of them[x] and helped them purchase homes. He provided for his bastard children, paying for clothing and upkeep. At least one mistress, Isabel de la Vigne, received a pension. Philip did exclude his mistresses from state affairs although he used his sons in the military.

Catherine Schaers was the mother of Corneille of Burgundy[xi], born in 1420, one of Philip’s two favourite sons. He was named the Grand Bâtard de Bourgogne[xii] until his death in the Battle of Bazel when all his titles and possessions were handed over to Anthony of Burgundy, son of Jeanne de Presle, born in 1421 and Philip’s other favourite child.

In the Burgundian court bastards were treated almost the same as legitimate children, being dressed, fed and educated similarly to his heir. Philip married off his daughters well and found positions for his sons. David of Burgundy, born 1427, was made bishop of Thérouanne and then Utrecht. Anne of Burgundy (born 1435) was married twice, the second time to Adolph of Cleves. Raphael of Burgundy was made an abbot, Philip of Burgundy was made Admiral of Flanders and then bishop of Utrecht.

Expanding Burgundy

Philip's domains
On 1st March 1429 Philip added the county of Namur to the list of lands he owned. John III of Namur sold his county to Philip in order to help fund a luxurious lifestyle the county could not afford. To support himself John had raised taxes and the ensuing revolt led to mounting debts and the eventual sale of his inheritance to the richest noble in Europe

Following more turmoil in Brabant finally in 1429 Jacqueline agreed to the Reconciliation of Delft. Her marriage to Gloucester had been annulled the previous year. On 4th August 1430 Philip became the sovereign Duke of Brabant, Lothier and Limburg following the death of Philip of Brabant.

In April 1432 Philip became regent of the counties of Hainault, Holland, Zeeland. When Jacqueline died in October 1436 Philip then inherited the three counties. In 1441 Philip made a treaty with Elizabeth of Görlitz and he assumed the duties of the Duke of Luxembourg. When Elizabeth died in 1443 Philip inherited the title as well as the duties of ruler of Luxembourg.


The Fifteenth Century - Margaret Aston, WW Norton and Company Inc. 1979

The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

Joan of Arc – Kelly Devries, The History Press 2011

The Maid and the Queen – Nancy Goldstone, Penguin Books 2012

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

Orléans 1429 – David Nicolle, Osprey Publishing 2001

Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014

The Hapsburgs – Andrew Wheatcroft, the Folio Society 2004


[i] Acting for his half-brother Charles, now in the Tower of London; the brangling over his enormous ransom was to keep him in England for decades
[ii] Orléans 1429 - Nicolle
[v] Her mother was Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt
[ix] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[x] Jeanne de la Presle was married to a minor court official in 1432
[xi] Lord of Beveren and Vlissingen, and was also Governor and Captain-General of the Duchy of Luxembourg
[xii] Burgundy was a court which gave illegitimate children almost equal standing with their legitimate siblings. Philip’s heir was brought up with his half-brothers and sisters

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