Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Philip the Good X

Philip the Good
Philip the Duke

Philip was unimaginably rich; he was probably richest man of his times not to wear a crown. Not only did he have, among other residences, his palace in Brussels, the Prinsenhof in Bruges, the ducal palace in Dijon, the castle at Hesdin in Artois, a residence in Lille, but the family’s Hôtel d’Artois was kept ready for his infrequent visits to Paris.

Philip’s court in Brussels was the repository for much of Philip’s wealth held as jewellery and plate. According to one visitor, Leo of Rozmital, the contents of Philip’s treasure chests would take three days to inspect. The principal items were worth 110,000 crowns[i]. The list included

‘A clasp with King Richard’s device of a stag, ornamented with twenty-two large pearls, two square balais[ii], two saphires on one side and a ruby, with a large square diamond the size of a hazel-nut.’[iii]

Gille Binchois (R)
The treasures were both for general use; Philip daily used a gold goblet with a lid, and for pawning when Philip needed to fund an army. In May 1456 many of the treasures were put on public display in Holland when rumours abounded that Philip could not afford to pay an army to conquer Utrecht.

Philip was a patron of the artists Jan van Eyck, who was his valet de chambre, and Rogier van der Weyden, but preferred tapestries of which he had an inordinate number. One such tapestry still survives in part; ‘the History of Gideon and the Golden Fleece’[iv] by Jehan le Haze. The composer Gille Binchois was Philip’s chaplain and Robert Morton and Guillaime Dufay were also in Philip’s employ. The poet Michault Taillevent was his joueur des farces.

Philip the Man

Philip was not a morning person and often slept in late. He had a papal dispensation to hear mass in the afternoon not the morning. Parisian chronicler Jehan Maupoint commented;

‘It is noteworthy that the duke heard mass every day between two and three o’clock in the afternoon. This was invariably his habit, for he stayed up at night almost till dawn, turning night into day to watch dances, entertainments and other amusements all night long….it was said that he had a dispensation to do this.’[v]

Notre Dame de Boulogne
Philip gave alms to the poor and made pilgrimages much like any other rich noble, visiting Notre Dame de Boulogne at least 12 times. Like others of his station Philip had a mobile chapel designed to be carried on a wagon when he took to the field. Despite the munificence of his table Philip was a moderate eater.

The main activity of the Burgundian court was falconry and hunting. By 1463 Philip employed a master-falconer, three falconers and three assistants. Only the master was fully employed and the others took turns at serving at court; the falcons were based in Philip’s northern territories. The ducal hunt was based in Burgundy and in 1427 the master-huntsman had a budget of £2,000[vi].

Philip owned one of the greatest libraries of illustrated books of the time containing over 1,000 books[vii]. He enjoyed reading romantic literature and farces. He was not a great talker but when he spoke it was to the point; his surviving letters show that he had a sense of humour that he showed to his close relatives. Philip was always polite to women, claiming that they ruled over 39 households out of 40.


Isabella of Burgundy
For most of his life Philip enjoyed good health but in June 1458 Philip fell ill with a fever after playing tennis, losing consciousness for 36 hours. Early in 1462 he again fell ill and his son and heir and his wife were summonsed to his sickbed. They begged him to take sustenance. The flurry of doctors who attended the duke insisted on bloodletting and demanding that Philip have his head shaved to speed on his recovery. He refused to do so until all his courtiers had shaved their heads.

Philip’s life was saved by the Duke of Milan’s doctor, Luca Alessandro who was accompanying a Milanese embassy. Philip began to recover from his illness during the spring, although he was still quarrelling with his son about the de Croy family. Philip’s bouts of illness were becoming worryingly frequent and he required the attendance of his wife when he was ill.

On 22nd July 1462 Philip appointed his son as his representative in Holland. Charles went to visit the state his father had made him responsible for during August and September. He did not stay long as he was concerned that Philip would depart on crusade leaving his lands in the care of someone other than himself, or that he might be disinherited. In 1463 Charles negotiated with the Dutch for his recognition as Philip’s heir in the Netherlands, exacerbating the quarrel between himself and his father.

In an attempt to create harmony between Burgundy and France Philip agreed to sell back the French towns in the Somme that Charles VII had given him in 1435. In 1461 Charles VII’s death meant that Louis was now king of France and Philip had high hopes of his nephew. Louis agreed to pay Philip 400,000 livres[viii] for the return of the lands, a further cause of discontent between Philip and Charles who strongly disagreed with the agreement.

In February 1464 Louis asked Philip to postpone his crusade; if the negotiations with the English to end the war failed Philip would be needed to fight shoulder to shoulder with France. Louis wrote to Philip urging that;

‘It would scarcely be honourable for him to help…..others to recover their kingdoms from the Turks while leaving the kingdom of France open to an attack from the English who have done more harm here than the Turks in the lands they have conquered.’[ix]

Philip had always taken Charles VII and Louis as men of good faith. He failed to understand that their aim was to reinsert the Burgundian lands back into the kingdom of France, with Philip as a vassal rather than an independent prince. Charles did not make that mistake.

Death of a Duke

Charles the Bold
Charles and Philip were reconciled in Lille in June 1464 but it was not until the September that Charles finally gained ascendancy in the Burgundian court when a relative of the de Croy family[x] was arrested for seeking to kill Charles in Gorinchem. On October 7th Philip left Hesdin, where he had spent most of the year, just before Louis was due to arrive. It took Charles a further six months to bring about the downfall of the de Croy family. From then on the policy of Burgundy was increasingly hostile to France.

Charles was in the policy driving seat from this point on, but Philip still ruled his domains. He retained the use of his faculties until shortly before his death in Bruges on 15th June 1467.

‘At two o’clock after midnight a quantity of phlegm gathered in his throat and he was so troubled by this that it seemed he would die then….he was in great difficulty and soon afterwards developed a high temperature which continued from 6.0 am on Saturday until Monday when he gave his soul to God.’[xi]

Philip was much mourned by many of his subjects but they were blinded to his many faults. Philip failed to create an effective state machinery to administer his territories and was content to be advised by men who did not have the best interests of Burgundy at heart. Philip allowed himself to be bullied by the French monarchs and allowed the de Croy family to create a state within the state.


Europe – Norman Davies, Oxford University Press 1996

The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997

Louis XI – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books Ltd 1974

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] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £76,070,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £578,100,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £2,628,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £47,370,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[ii] A delicate rose red spinel ruby from the district of Balas in Iran
[iii] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[iv] Now in the Historical Museum in Bern
[v] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[vi] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,521,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £12,250,000.00. economic status value of that income or wealth is £43,330,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £767,200,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[vii] About one quarter still survive in the Royal Library of Belgium
[viii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £312,500,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £2,498,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £10,120,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £183,500,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[ix] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[x] Sent by Louis
[xi] Philip the Good - Vaughan

Monday, 18 September 2017

Philip the Good IX

Violence in Ghent

Philip resolved on military intervention in Ghent; he was no longer prepared to allow the townspeople to run his town as they felt fit. He declared war in a letter dated 31st March 1452 and upon receiving it the captains of Ghent organised a procession through the town. At the same time they sent an embassy to Philip composed in the main of churchmen.

On 7th April Ghent occupied Philip’s castle of Gavere and a week later the civic militia, led by one of the three captains, Lievin Boone, attacked and besieged Oudenaarde[i]. Simon de Lalaing, one of Philip’s captains, led the defence. Messages were shot into the town for the edification of the townspeople trying to divide them from Philip’s men. The messages;

‘Requested and urged the said Sir Simon to surrender and deliver up the town on the day he had fixed with them and stated that the money they had promised him was all ready.’[ii]

Philip sent two armies to the relief of Oudenaarde, one of them led by his cousin Jehan de Bourgoyne, By May Philip’s armies were attacking Ghent and on 16th June the Ghent army was tempted away from their fortified lines at the battle of Bazel where the favourite of Philip’s bastard sons, Corneille, was killed[iii]. His was the only death from the duke’s forces while 1,500 Ghenters died. Philip and his heir Charles were both present at the battle.

By early July much of the countryside east of Ghent had been overrun by Philip’s soldiers. Philip was joined by his nephew John of Cleves as Philip prepared to invest Ghent itself. He had taken good care to retain the support of other Flemish towns who supported their liege lord in diverse ways[iv].

Philip receives the surrender of Ghent
In June Charles VII had instructed ambassadors to negotiate a settlement between the two warring parties and by mid-July Philip was forced to sign a six week truce. He then bribed the ambassadors to prepare a treaty that very much favoured himself which was rejected by Ghent. Philip had his captains garrison the surrounding towns as he laid off his armies for the winter.

Throughout the winter and spring various offers and counter-offers were made between the two warring parties. Philip’s final offer was dismissed in early June and on 18th he and his army set out from Lille. His fleet was mobilised at Sluys, blockading the sea route up to Ghent.

En route to Ghent Philips’ army took the few outlying castles held by his enemies and on 23rd July 1453 at the Battle of Gavere the men of Ghent broke ranks and made for the local woods where they were annihilated. Philip refused to destroy the town after this victory and the terms he imposed on the town were little different from the terms refused the previous year.

Visiting the Holy Roman Emperor

Feast of the Pheasant - Isabella (2L) and Philip (3L)
On 17th February 1454, at the Feast of the Pheasant at Lille, Philip swore to go on crusade. His vow was hedged about with conditions that meant he was very unlikely to actually leave for the Holy Land. He was followed by about a hundred of his courtiers eager to please their duke. Even Hue de Lannoy, now seventy, took the vow.

Late the following month Philip was summonsed by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, as a Prince of the empire, to attend the Imperial Diet. Frederick wanted to discuss the projected crusade. Philip left Lille on 24th March 1454 with an escort of just thirty men. The fifty-four year old pushed himself hard and arrived at Regensburg in the company of the Duke of Bavaria on 23rd April[v].

Louis of Bavaria
‘We met Duke Louis of Bavaria…..coming towards my lord [Philip] accompanied by Cardinal Peter[vi] of Augsberg and a large company of chivalry. He received my lord the duke there and took him to his town of Lauingen that evening.’[vii]

Philip was disappointed to find the emperor unavoidably detained with fighting on his southern Hungarian border. He would have liked to have had the emperor invest him with his imperial landholdings. Philip did manage get himself on good terms with a number of the great and good of the Holy Roman Empire and laid the foundations of future alliances. Philip hoped to have secured his northern borders while he was on crusade.

Philip’s return journey was via Landshut where he stayed for a few days as the guest of the Duke of Bavaria; once again he was struck down by illness. He was unwell for ten days, probably an intestinal complaint. Philip finally returned home in early May, locating himself at Salins.

An Unexpected Visitor

The ruling in Rome in July 1456 that Joan of Arc had been tried illegitimately by the English with the assistance of the Burgundians was a feather in Charles VII’s cap. It confirmed his legitimacy as ruler of France. In October of that year Philip found himself with an unwelcome visitor; the Dauphin Louis was a refugee from his father’s court and paternal animosity[viii]. Louis arrived in Louvain accompanied by one hundred followers. He was informed that Philip would meet him in Brussels on the 15th October.

Louis was greeted by Isabella and Isabella of Bourbon who insisted that the Dauphin precede them into the building. Louis was not a great one for formality but Isabella, in view of the formality of the Burgundian court, protested;

‘Monsieur you must be making fun of me. Otherwise you would not urge such an impropriety.’[ix]

When Philip arrived in Brussels Louis again had to be dissuaded by Isabella from breaking with the formality of Burgundian court tradition[x] by riding out to meet Philip. Philip housed Louis and his entourage, giving him a pension of 36,000 livres per annum[xi] and allowing him the use of the castle at Genappe.

By the end of October Philip and Louis sent a joint conciliatory embassy to Charles VII; Louis claimed that he had come to Burgundy to join in Philip’s crusade. But the French king had taken advantage of Louis’ departure from the Dauphiné to take the region’s fortresses. Philip’s deputation to Charles VII was met with the response that Charles VII held Philip responsible for Louis’ behaviour. He informed his intimates that;

The Duke of Burgundy has taken in a fox that will eat his chickens.’[xii]

A Familial Dispute

Philip (CL) and Charles (CR)
There had long been disagreement between Philip and his son over the influence of the de Croy family at court. The two senior de Croys were on the duke’s council and were both founding members of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Both brothers amassed amazing fortunes in Philip’s service that included bribes taken from France.

Antoine de Croy was one of two principal governors of the Netherlands, governor of Luxembourg, Namur and Boulogne and Captain of St Omer. His son was ducal chamberlain and his brother Jehan was succeeded as bailiff and captain-general of Hainault by his son Philippe.

The two brothers behaved as rulers in their own right, toadying to Philip who seemed unable to understand that the de Croys supported Charles VII despite Philip’s continuing advancement of the interests of the de Croy families. Descended from a mere banneret, Philippe de Croy demanded the daughter of the Count of St Pol as his son’s bride. St Pol refused and found his lands confiscated by Philip.

In 1456 Antoine de Croy seized some lands that were due to be inherited by Charles. In January 1457 the dispute between Philip and Charles broke out into a series of violent quarrels. Charles refused to give Philippe de Croy a post in his household, a position he had reserved for Antoine Rolin, the Chancellor’s son. The quarrel took place in the oratory of the ducal palace at Brussels and Isabella hastily removed her son from the scene.

Forest of Soignes
Philip decided to leave for Hal at night, on his own, arranging to meet the de Croy brothers there. He got lost en route in the forest of Soignes and sought shelter in a charcoal burner’s cottage as search parties scoured the countryside.

Not long after this affair the duchess abandoned the court and her retirement was attributed to;

‘The discord that had arisen between her son and her husband. The Duke thought this had been caused by her, therefore he would no longer speak to her.’[xiii]

She was not alone in deserting the court, Nicolas Rolin followed suit shortly thereafter. His departure was engineered by the de Croys.


The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997

Margaret of Anjou – Helen E Maurer, Boydell Press 2003

Louis XI – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books Ltd 1974

Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014

The Hapsburgs – Andrew Wheatcroft, The Folio Society


[i] Which Philip had recently provisioned; its garrison was positioned to help cut off Ghent’s river trade
[ii] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[iii] His lands and titles were passed to Anthony, Philip’s second favourite illegitimate son
[iv] Some towns and provinces provided fighting men; others sent boats or tents etc.
[v] Philip had been ill on the journey and had stayed with the duke for several days at Lauingen
[vi] Bishop-Prince of Augsberg
[vii] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[viii] Louis had rebelled against his father in 1440 and incited the nobility to revolt. He was pardoned but continued to intrigue against Charles VII. In addition Louis passionately hated his father’s mistress Agnes Sorèl who caused his mother much grief
[ix] Louis XI - Kendall
[x] The strict etiquette of the Burgundian court was inherited by Philip’s descendants and was adopted in the Spanish court and spread from there to the French court at Versailles in the 17th century
[xi] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £26,680,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £214,400,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £868,100,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £16,070,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[xii] Louis XI - Kendall
[xiii] Philip the Good - Vaughan

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Philip the Good VIII

Margaret of Anjou
Tumult In England

As a result of the Anglo-French agreement the English, now on the losing side of the war, were looking to ally themselves closer to Charles VII, in the hope that this might at the very least slow the rate of attrition. The death of the Duke of Somerset in May 1444 and Cardinal Beaufort’s retirement to his see of Winchester, meant that The Earl of Suffolk was able to step in to fill the power vacuum. His mishandling of the Truce of Tours;

‘Set the seal on the recovery of the Valois [Charles VII] and confirmed his conquests.’[i]

As part of the truce Suffolk promised to return the County of Maine to the French, but kept his promise secret for fear of a popular uprising.

Duke of York
Suffolk proposed a marriage between the twenty-three year old Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, daughter of René of Anjou. Margaret’s marriage to Henry in April 1445 and her dominance of her biddable husband meant that an inveterate enemy of Philip’s was now, in alliance with Suffolk, in the driving seat in England.

In 1447 Suffolk’s power increased with the deaths of Cardinal Beaufort and Duke Humphrey of Gloucester[ii], six weeks apart. Henry VI’s other uncle the Duke of York was sent to Ireland as Lieutenant there[iii]. Suffolk made himself a duke and made his ally the new Duke of Somerset Lieutenant of France in York’s place.

Somerset was not a natural soldier and found himself facing a reinvigorated Charles VII who returned to the fight when Suffolk failed to make good on his promise to return Maine. Optimistically Suffolk had been reducing his forces while Charles increased his military capabilities.

France Resurgent

Duke of Somerset in Rouen
Early in July 1449 Charles asked Philip whether he should wage war against the English; he did not wait for a reply before placing his four armies on the borders of lower Normandy. The invasion converged on the duchy from north, east and west. The eastern army found itself outside Rouen in October.

Holed up in Rouen, Somerset was helpless to fend off the French onslaught and was only saved by the arrival of John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. Talbot’s presence was not sufficient to assuage the fears of the English living in the town and Somerset weakly asked the Archbishop of Rouen to negotiate a surrender. Charles VII rode into the city on 10th November 1449;

‘The king of France rode into his said city….to meet the king there came on horseback into the fields the archbishop of the said city, accompanied by many bishops, abbots and other churchmen.’[iv]

This aroused the fury of the folks back home when the news arrived in England. The war was still popular with the populace who felt little effect from its terrors.

Fortress at Caen 
It took seven months for Charles VII to take Caen where the Duke of Somerset was hiding out after fleeing Rouen[v]. This last English stronghold in Normandy held out as Suffolk lost favour with the English for his role in the loss of English holdings in France. Isabella returned to Brussels in the spring of 1450 to the news that Suffolk, enemy to all her hopes of an English alliance, had been arrested for treason.

Henry VI exiled Suffolk but he was picked up crossing the channel by one of the king’s ships and Suffolk was decapitated by the sailors[vi]. Queen Margaret was viewed as supporting French interests over the English who viewed her as partly responsible for the English defeats. On the other side of the channel, to bolster his own legitimacy as king[vii] Charles VII decided to resuscitate the reputation of Joan of Arc. The legality of her trial was questioned by Guillaume Bouille, one of Charles’ councillors  and head of the College of Beauvais.

Trouble was rife throughout Philip’s realm. Apart from the troubles in Ghent, Bruges was also a trouble spot as was Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Leiden. In 1451 revolt flared up in Besançon; taxes were not paid and citizens plotted to seize control of the city government.

Philip sent the Marshall of Burgundy Thibauld de Neuchâtel to negotiate with the town. When the negotiations failed Neuchâtel was attacked as he made a clandestine departure from the town. Philip authorised the use of force and Neuchâtel returned in October with 1,600 men. He found the town in the grip of the plague and the ringleaders of the plot were given up for execution.

During early 1450 Philip was embroiled in another financial dispute with the burghers of Ghent who had refused his demand for an increase in taxes[viii]. During this period many medieval towns were discontented with their rulers[ix] and Ghent was no exception. Burgundian hegemony had been won at the expense of thousands of Ghent dead in the previous century[x] and it was to remain a thorn in the side of all of the Burgundian dukes. Ghent was;

‘The most powerful town in the duke’s territories, extremely wealthy in all respects, incredibly large, and with an exceptionally numerous population[xi].’[xii]

Ghent was part of France and held from Charles and the city appealed to Charles for help staving off any revenge Philip took against the town for refusal of his demands. Charles was eager to involve himself in the Ghent debacle to undermine Philip and weaken his authority. .

Philip attempted to interfere with the annual elections in Ghent to place his own men on the town council. In this he failed. In January 1450, at a meeting of the three Estates of Flanders, attempting to negotiate Philip complained;

‘About the aggressions which the Ghenters have committed and are still committing against the duke and his government.’[xiii]

Ghent agreed to hold new elections. In August Philip moved from negotiation, legislating a change in the status of non-resident burgesses[xiv] making them subject to the rule of law.

A Turn of the Screw

The following year an attempt was made to seize power in the city on Philip’s behalf, organised by two of his secretaries, Pieter Baudins and Jooris de Bul. The coup failed and when Philip ordered the town to give up the three leaders of the rebellion his demand was refused on the grounds that it infringed Ghent’s civil liberties. The three finally appeared before Philip at Termonde on the promise of a pardon.

In the winter of 1451-2 the common people of the town rose up, revolting against the burgesses, Philip and his officials and anyone else who courted their disfavour by not agreeing to their demands. In October two of Philip’s supporters in Ghent were executed for their parts in the attempted coup of the previous summer.

A general strike was proclaimed when Philip withdrew his bailiff and other officials in protest against the executions. On 16th November the town chose a rechter ende justiciar to fill in for the bailiff until such time as Philip agreed to allow his return. The Justiciar

‘Will swear to look after your rights, prerogatives and privileges, to receive your fines and dues and keep account of them in good time, just as your bailiff has been doing.’[xv]

This did not suit the townspeople who chose their own representatives and overturned the civic constitution and elected government of Ghent, replacing it with rule by three hoofdmannen or captains.

Several of Philip’s partisans were executed in the market place. The new representatives of Ghent wrote to Charles VII, Bruges, Liège and Brussels for aid and support in their rebellion. The executions of opponents of the new rulers of Ghent continued as a lengthy dossier of misdeeds and peculations of the old rulers was drawn up.

The discovery that Philip had prohibited the supply of corn to Ghent and set up a blockade around the town, did not go down well with the townspeople. The appeals to other towns were extended to Termonde, Courtrai, Oudenaarde, Aalst and Ninove. Bruges refused assistance and only Tournai[xvi] offered support. Most of Flanders supported their duke.


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

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


[i] The Hundred Years War - Burne
[ii] After an arrest of trumped up charges laid by Suffolk – he was possibly murdered with a slow poison
[iii] Formerly Lieutenant of France 
[iv] Henry VI - Griffiths
[v] His handing over of Rouen to the French was a blow to the prestige of the Duke of York who was captain of Rouen and responsible for its safety; York and Somerset were never to see eye to eye again
[vi] Whose captain Henry Holland was the Duke of York’s son-in-law
[vii] His mother Isabeau had disavowed Charles’ claim to the throne of France in favour of her grandson Henry VI
[viii] Philip promised to abolish all other taxes in return for 24 Flemish groats on all sacks of salt sold in Flanders
[ix] There was a burgeoning middle-class of artisans and Guild members who opposed Philip’s desire to wipe out the gains proffered the townspeople of Ghent following the Battle of the Golden Spurs
[x] At the battle of Roosebeke in 1382
[xi] Circa 200,000
[xii] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[xiii] Ibid
[xiv] Who were almost immune from justice, as were resident burgesses as part of liberties granted in 1297
[xv] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[xvi] A French town