Monday, 5 March 2018

Philip the Bold VI

Olivier de Clisson
Marriage of the King

The French army returned to Paris in January 1383; strengthened by the victory against the rebels of Ghent. The Parisians came out in force and were ordered to lay down their arms. The gates of the city were thrown down for the king to ride over as he entered his capital city and the chains, that blocked off city streets, were removed. Arms were to be handed in at the Louvre and were then transported to Vincennes. About one hundred rebels were executed.

A sales tax of twelve pence in the livre was instituted on all merchandise with additional taxes on wine and salt. Back taxes were demanded and the ordinances and privileges of Paris were revoked. The guilds were emasculated by the imposition of supervisors appointed by the Provost of Paris.

Both Philip and his brother of Berry were united against the encroachment of the king’s champion, Olivier de Clisson[i]. In February 1384 the two brothers signed a mutual defence treaty with Clisson’s enemy John de Montfort, Duke of Brittany.

Charles VI (Top C) and Isabeau (Bottom C)
In July 1385, in compliance with his father’s deathbed wishes, Charles VI was married to Isabeau of Bavaria[ii]. Philip and Albert of Bavaria had discussed the question of marriage between Charles and Isabeau during the celebrations of the double Valois-Wittlesbach wedding in April. Charles was seventeen and his bride was fifteen.

Problems arose when the French demanded that the bride-to-be be examined by the ladies of the court; a demand that the bride’s father refused. Charles spoke to his uncle Philip;

‘The Duke of Burgundy came in. ‘Uncle’ said the King, ‘it is our wish to be married in this fine cathedral of Amiens. We do not want any further delays.’ ‘Just as you say, my lord’ said the Duke.’[iii]

Philip and his brother Berry were to retain the reins of government until 1388 when Charles reached the age of twenty and took over control of his kingdom from his uncles. Clisson boasted that it was he who had made Charles;

‘King and lord of his kingdom and taken the government out of the hands of his uncles’[iv]

Charles reigned with the help of Clisson and his father’s Marmousets. In November 1388, notwithstanding the blow to his pride, Philip entertained the king, Clisson and Louis d’Orléans at his hôtel in Conflans. He also undertook diplomatic missions on behalf of the crown to Italy in 1391 and to Amiens in 1392.

Starting a Family Feud

The Madness of the King
Charles’ independent rule lasted until 1392 when Philip was able to take control of the kingdom’s affairs again. Charles was leading an expedition to punish the Duke of Brittany for harbouring Pierre de Craon, who had attempted to assassinate the Constable. He insisted that his uncles, who were allied with Brittany, accompany him.

En route, Charles was seized by a manic fit as the company rode through the forest of Le Mans. A stranger chanced to call out to Charles as he was riding by; immediately afterwards Charles was further startled by a page who dropped his lance. Charles drew his sword and fell on his entourage and killed at least one of them before being disarmed.

‘The Dukes of Berry and Burgundy rode talking together….the page carrying the lance forgot what he was about or dozed off…..There was a loud clang of steel, and the King, who was so close that they were riding on his horse’s heels, gave a sudden start….he imagined that a great host of his enemies were coming to kill him….The Duke of Burgundy….looked across and saw the King chasing his brother with a naked sword….Knights, squires and men-at-arms formed a circle right round the King, allowing him to tire himself out against them.’[v]

From Le Mans Philip and Berry dismissed the Marmousets and disbanded the army, seizing the reins of government. Philip and Berry’s high-handedness angered their nephew Louis d’Orléans[vi] who, as Charles’ closest relative, considered that he should be his brother’s regent. Clisson’s injuries kept him from supporting Louis and in short order found himself without a job; Philip having dismissed him summarily.

Attacking the Turk
In 1396 the Ottoman’s annual chevauchée wended its cumbersome way to Hungary where the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund called on Christendom to defend the country against the infidel. The call to crusade was answered by military from across northern Europe. Philip, as a committed Christian, was ready to answer the call and sent his eldest son John, now twenty-four, at the head of the Burgundian army.

In September 1396 the combined armies of the French, English, Bulgarian, Wallachian, Croatian, Hungarian and Burgundians were routed by the Ottomans led by Bayezid I. It was possibly the case that the Ottomans, with one supreme leader, were able to offset the vastly numerically superior enemy by a unified command, whereas the Christians had not one but eleven leaders, four of whom were taken captive[vii].

In January 1397 Philip sent an embassy to Bayezid with gifts that he hoped would appeal to the potentate;

‘Ten superb charges, complete with their harness and led by seventeen grooms in white and scarlet livery, hounds, gyrfalcons, the very finest examples of cloth and tapestry, a dozen pairs of gloves and some choice pieces of plate.'[viii]

By June an agreement was reached whereby the prisoners were to be exchanged in return for a ransom of 200,000 ducats[ix]. Philip had to turn to his subjects to raise his son’s ransom and the negotiations took months to agree; the Flemings and Burgundians had already been paying over the odds to fund the crusade in the first place

Regent and Patron of the Arts

Broederlam altarpiece
Like all major nobles Philip supported the arts; he was a patron of Christine de Pisan, enjoining her, shortly before his death, to write Le Livre des fais et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V. Philip also patronised Honoré Bonet, the Prior of Salon[x] and Eustache Deschamps. Philip and his wife shared a love of books and built up two libraries in Paris and Arras.

Philip used well-known sculptors, including Jean de Marville and Claus Suter[xi], to work on the Charterhouse of Champmol, a religious foundation he had long supported, arranging it as a sepulchral monument for himself and his heirs. The work started in 1377, and was built from locally quarried stone.

He also commissioned artists to work on this funerary monument, including Melchior Broederlam who painted two wings to decorate an altarpiece by Jaques de Braerze. Broederlam’s talents were mainly used to decorate Philip’s castle in Hesdin. Philip first employed the Limbourg brothers who were later to work for his brother Berry[xii].

Broederlam altarpiece
Throughout his time as Regent Philip was to find himself in conflict with his nephew Louis, over his determination to forcibly take control of his wife’s inheritance in Italy, over the great schism, over taxes Louis had imposed in his territories that disadvantaged Philip’s subjects and rivalry between the two duchesses.

In 1401 both men mustered troops in Paris. The situation was saved by intervention from the Queen, and the dukes of Berry and Bourbon. In 1403 Philip was able to exclude Louis from all but a very subordinate role in the regency. He further strengthened his position by marrying his grandchildren into the royal family. The feud exacerbated the realm’s internal disorder and reduced the effectiveness of foiling foreign interventions.

Philip died on 27th April 1404 leaving his eldest son John to inherit not just the duchy, but the ongoing feud with Louis d’Orléans which was to have tragic consequences for France[xiii]. Philip was buried in a tomb in the palace of the Dukes of Burgundy in Dijon. The tomb was the work of Marville and Suter and made of black marble. Philip’s statue is guarded by two golden angels


Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Books 1968

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

The Fourteenth Century – May McKisack, Oxford University Press 1997

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Papermac 1989

Philip the Bold – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2011

The Flower of Chivalry – Richard Vernier, Boydell Press 2003


[i] He was made the Constable of France after du Guesclin’s death in 1380
[ii] A scion of the Wiitelsbachs and granddaughter of Bernabo Visconti
[iii] Chronicles - Froissart
[iv] Translated from the French in Philip the Bold - Vaughan
[v] Chronicles - Froissart
[vi] Now married to Valentina Visconti, daughter of Gian Galeazzo Visconti
[vii] Almost all the Franco-Burgundian army were killed or captured including John the Fearless, Enguerrand de Coucy, Philip of Artois and John le Maingre, a Marshal of France
[viii] Philip the Bold - Vaughan
[ix] In 2016 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £155,800,000.00, labour earnings of that income or wealth is £1,417,000,000.00, economic status value of that income or wealth is £3,652,000,000.00, economic power value of that income or wealth is £88,170,000,000.00  
[x] A Benedictine priory in Provence
[xi] Suter was made court sculptor of Burgundy in 1389 and continued to hold the position until his death. The post carried the rank of valet de chambre
[xii] For whom they created the masterpiece les Trés Riches Heures de Duc de Berri

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