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
[xii] Louis XI - Kendall
[xiii] Philip the Good - Vaughan

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