Monday, 29 January 2018

Philip the Bold

Launching the Hundred Years War

Bonne and John
Born in Pontoise, on 17th January 1342, Philip the Bold was the youngest son of the Dauphin of France John II, and his wife Bonne of Bohemia. Philip was named after his grandfather Philip VI, King of France. Bonne died of the plague in 1349 when Philip was seven. Bonne also had six daughters, two of whom predeceased her, Margaret died in 1352. Joan[i] was born the year after Philip, Marie[ii] born in 1344 and Isabelle[iii] in 1348.

In July 1346, when Philip was four years old, Edward III of England launched a major invasion of France[iv] and on 26th August the English annihilated the French, who were caught unawares, at the Battle of Crécy. The chronicler Matteo Villani wrote;

‘The English guns cast iron balls by means of fire. They made a noise like thunder and caused much loss in men and horses….the whole plain was covered by men struck down by the arrows and cannonballs.’[v]

Battle of Crecy
Over 1,500 French lords and captains died along with 10,000 other ranks. King Philip fled to Amiens and Edward cast his eyes on Calais to regroup and re-victualise his army.  He proceeded to besiege the town which fell to the English in 1347. Edward III allied himself with Charles the Bad, the king of Navarre who had been offered the hand of Joan of France, albeit without any dowry. Charles had been turned down as Constable of France in favour of Don Carlos de la Cerda, and now Charles was prepared to make John pay for what he deemed insults.

Philips’ grandfather King Philip did not die until August 1350 when Philip was eight. John lacked his father’s capabilities, lacking any subtlety; he was a bluff cheerful man.


the Black Prince
In September 1355 the Black Prince conducted a grande chevauchée from Bordeaux to Narbonne and back. In the spring of 1356 John gathered together a mighty army to put in the field against the invaders. He and his military advisers lacked the strategic brilliance of the Black Prince and Sir John Chandos.

On 19th September 1356 the two sides met again at the Battle of Poitiers; once again the English routed the French army. In the midst of battle the Dauphin Charles fled the fighting while his father laid about himself with his battle-axe cheered on by the fourteen year old Philip, who cried out warnings to his father;

‘Beware father to the right, beware to the left.’[vi]

Philip’s exemplary behaviour during the frenzy of battle meant that thereafter he was endowed with the soubriquet of Philip the Bold.

The Battle of Poitiers
John II was taken prisoner during the battle despite having dressed nineteen members of his entourage in identical raiment to himself. In the aftermath of John’s capture English lords jostled to claim him as prisoner when he told them

‘I am so great a lord that I can make all of you rich.’[vii]

Chivalry was set aside when it became a question of making money from ransoms and booty; aside from John’s ransom the English made over £300,000[viii] in money from this one battle alone, more than covering Edward’s outlay for the war that year.


The Savoy Palace
Philip and his father were taken to England while Edward awaited the payment of John’s ransom. He was paraded through the city of London on a;

‘Whyte courser, well apparelled, and the prince on a lyttell black hobbey by hym.’[ix]

Father and son were to spend the first months of their captivity at the Palace of the Savoy, recently built by Edward’s third son John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster at a cost of 52,000 marks[x]. They were frequently visited by Edward and his queen Philippa of Hainault[xi]. Philip played chess with the Black Prince and was taught the art of falconry by the French royal chaplain, Gace de la Buigne[xii], who had gone into captivity to be with his master. John and Philip were guarded to ensure they did not escape and to prevent any attempt at a rescue.  

Windsor Castle
The first winter of their imprisonment John and Philip were treated to extravagant festivities by the English court, including a tournament held by torchlight. In the summer John and Philip were moved to Windsor Castle where they were able to enjoy hunting and hawking.

A number of the imprisoned French nobles were placed on parole to enable them to visit their monarch. Languedoc sent a delegation of nobles and bourgeois and a gift of 10,000 florins[xiii], along with the assurance that their lives, goods and fortunes were dedicated to the king’s delivery from this shameful imprisonment. Laon and Amiens were among towns that sent money to succour their monarch.

John spent the monies on elaborate clothing for himself, his son and his jester who received several hats trimmed with ermine, gold and pearls. He also purchased horses, dogs, falcons, a chess set, an organ, a harp and a clock. In addition the money from his loyal subjects went towards an astrologer and a ‘king of minstrels’ along with an orchestra.

The negotiations for John’s release were hampered by Edward’s demands; he wanted outright cession of Guyenne, Calais and all former Plantagenet holdings in France. In return for that and three million eçus[xiv] Edward would give up his claim on the French throne.

Turmoil in Paris

When the Dauphin returned to Paris after Poitiers he was

‘Received with honour by the people, grief-stricken by the capture of his father the king.’[xv]

They believed that the Dauphin would bring about his father’s release and save the country. John’s capture at Poitiers resulted in a power struggle between the Dauphin, Regent in his father’s absence, and Charles of Navarre who claimed the throne of France in his own right. Charles of Navarre was allied with Estienne Marcel[xvi], leader of the third Estate[xvii] in Paris.

Instead the Dauphin found himself beleaguered by Marcel’s plans to contain the monarchy. The delegates of the Estates General of Paris met in October and the Dauphin, embarrassed by his failure at Poitiers had to ask for aid to help deliver the king from the English and to defend the kingdom.

Robert le Coq (front L)
Marcel demanded that seven of the most venal of the king’s advisers be dismissed. The royal advisers were to be replaced by a council of twenty-eight nominated by the estates and Charles of Navarre was to be released from prison[xviii]. These demands were deliberately made to pressure the Dauphin who refused the demands.

The crown’s opponents were not united which gave the Dauphin some leeway when Marcel tried to raise Paris against his regency. In March 1357, with a general strike declared the Dauphin was forced to come to terms with Marcel and his opportunistic cronies who included Robert le Coq, Bishop of Laon who longed to be Chancellor of France and bore a grudge against the Valois rulers of France for failing to give him the post. Prince Charles was browbeaten into signing off the demands of his opponents by the threat of mob rule in Paris.


Edward III – Bryan Bevan, the Rubicon Press 1992

The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Books 1968

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

The Fourteenth Century – May McKisack, Oxford University Press 1997

The Perfect King – Ian Mortimer, Vintage Books 2008

Hawkwood – Frances Stonor Saunders, Faber and Faber 2004

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Papermac 1989

Philip the Bold – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2011


[i] Joan was to marry the king of Navarre
[ii] She married the Duke of Bar
[iii] She was to marry Gian Galeazzo Visconti
[iv] He had put forward his claim to the French throne in 1337 as the only male grandchild of Philip IV of France. The French chose the grandson of Philip III
[v] Edward III - Bevan
[vi] Ibid
[vii] Hawkwood - Saunders
[viii] In 2016 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £197,200,000.00, labour earnings of that income or wealth is £2,412,000,000.00, economic status value of that income or wealth is £5,411,000,000.00, economic power value of that income or wealth is £107,800,000,000.00
[ix] Edward III – Bevan
[x] In 2016 the relative: historic opportunity cost of that project is £31,810,000.00, labour cost of that project is £418,000,000.00, economic cost of that project is £18,680,000,000.00
[xi] Who had acted has her husband’s regent the previous year
[xii] Author of Le Roman de Deduis written circa 1377, a book of the hunt
[xiii] In 2016 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £6,573,000.00, labour earnings of that income or wealth is £80,390,000.00, economic status value of that income or wealth is £180,400,000.00, economic power value of that income or wealth is £3,592,000,000.00
[xiv] In 2016 the relative; historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,972,000,000.00, labour earnings of that income or wealth is £24,120,000,000.00, economic status value of that income or wealth is £54,110,000,000.00, economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,078,000,000,000.00
[xv] A Distant Mirror - Tuchman
[xvi] The head of a reform movement that tried to institute a controlled French monarchy, confronting the royal power of the Dauphin
[xvii] The other two estates were the noblesse de epée (nobility) and the noblesse de robe (the clergy)
[xviii] John had arrested Charles in 1356 for trying to foment discord between John and his heir


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