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

Monday, 22 January 2018

Hungry Coyote III

The Hanging Gardens

Nezahualcoyotl had a favourite residence on the side of a mountain known as Texcotzingo. The mountain was a sacred site for the Aztecs. Nezahualcoyotl’s villa there was surrounded by gardens similar to the palace gardens in Texcoco. They were embellished with four ritual baths[i], ponds and watercourses; one pond was flanked by the statues of three frogs, representing the three cities of the Triple Alliance.

The gardens also contained shrines and a cave where rituals were believed to take place[ii]. The gardens at Texcotzingo were designed to;

‘Address the eternal forces and phenomena seen and experienced in the natural environment.’[iii]

The gardens were extensive, providing food in the way of maize, beans and squash, there was a collection of medicinal plants in the extensive grounds which were dedicated to the rain god Tlaloc. The gardens were used for study of the plants that were collected from all parts of the Mexica Empire. The gardens were surrounded by woods through which Nezahualcoyotl used to hunt upon occasion. It was here too that he entertained his fellow Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan.

Texcotzingo was used to administer water rights; it was here that Nezahualcoyotl allocated water sources and aqueducts to specific towns and to his relatives, appointees, allies and their families. The ceremony was a sign of increasing centralisation and the personal involvement of the Tlatoani in control of resources.

Prince of Poets

Huehuetl drum
Nezahualcoyotl was considered by his peers to be the greatest poet of his times. His compositions influenced other poets both stylistically and content wise; his thoughts, symbols and use of myth affected Mexican culture. Long after his death poets would stand by the huehuetl drum and cry ‘I am Nezahualcoyotl, I am Hungry Coyote’ and sing his poems to keep them alive[iv]. The following three poems and portions of poems are examples of his work;

‘I begin to sing, I elevate to the heights the song for He By Whom All Live. Yayahue ohuaya ohuaya.

The festive song has arrived: it comes to reach up to the Highest Arbiter. Oh lords, borrow precious flowers! Ahuayya ohuaya ohuaya.

Already they are being renewed: how will I do it? With your branches I adorn myself, I will fly: I am unfortunate, for that reason I cry. Ohuaya ohuaya.’[v]

‘Flowers of raven, flowers you scatter, you let them fall in the house of flowers. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Ah, yes: I am happy, I prince NezahualCóyotl, gathering jewels, wide plumes of quetzal, I contemplate the faces of jades: they are the princes! I gaze into the faces of Eagles and Jaguars, and behold the faces of jades and jewels! Ohuaya ohuyaya.

We will pass away. I, NezahualCóyotl, say, Enjoy! Do we really live on earth? Ohuaya ohuaya!’[vi]

‘I erect my drum, I assemble my friends. Aya! Here they find recreation, I make them sing.

Thus we must go over There. Remember this. Be happy. Aya! Oh my friends! Ohuaya ohuaya!

Perhaps now with calm, and thus it must be over There? Aya! Perhaps there is also calm There in the Bodyless Place? Aye! Ohuaya ohuaya!

Let us go. But here the law of the flowers governs, here the law of the song governs, here on earth. Ehuaya! Be happy, dress in finery, oh friends. Ohuaya ohuaya.’[vii]

Modern critics view Nezahualcoyotl’s works as philosophical, showing great depth of feeling, mourning over the transitory nature of life and enjoyment of life’s brief pleasures.

Like all Nahuatl poets Nezahualcoyotl used extended metaphors in his work which followed the ceremonial language, for instance the waters of lakes, springs and streams were often referred to as ‘skirt of jade’, one of the names of Chalchuitlicue, the goddess of water. Nahuatl poetry used extended metaphors for not only the gods and goddesses, but also places, actions, heroes and significant objects and concepts. Poetry was referred to as ‘flowers and song’, valued items were ‘precious stones, gold, jade, flowers, fine feathers’.

More than a Poet

Isthmus of Tehuantepec and Gulf of Mexico (L)
Nezahualcoyotl was not only a great lyric poet, but was famed as an architect, engineer, city planner, warrior, law-giver and philosopher. The cultural institutions he established included a library of hieroglyphic books and a self-governing academy of scholars and poets. He transformed Texcoco into a centre for art and culture.

According to one Texcocan chronicler Nezahualcoyotl was charitable, often buying items for twice their worth from the poor and them giving them to the sick and indigent. In periods of scarcity Nezahualcoyotl would remit taxes from his vassals and give out donations from the royal granaries.

From 1450-4 a great famine spread across the central valleys of Mexico. The famine started with early frosts that killed off the maize cobs in two successive years. Some sources state that people started selling their children into slavery in return for food. 

The famine resulted in the Triple Alliance becoming more aggressive and spreading their armies far and wide to conquer the cities of the valleys. They took the rich food producing region of Totonacapan and from there marched onto the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the coastal region. Following the famine the Mexica rulers opted to reduce the number of consumers by increasing human sacrifice, rather than increasing agricultural output.

Apparently Nezahualcoyotl, during a period of fasting at Texcotzingo, had a vision of;

‘The unknown God, the Cause of causes’[viii]

to whom he dedicated a mountain top temple which had no replicas of the ‘invisible god’ and nor were blood sacrifices allowed. The only sacrifices permitted were those of sweet scented gum and flowers. He also reduced the huge numbers of human sacrifices down to a basic minimum to keep the support of his peoples, but he taught his children to only give lip service to the bloodthirsty gods.

‘He taught his children not to confide in idols, and only to conform to the outward worship of them from deference to public opinion.’[ix]

Nezahualcoyotl promoted a renewal of Toltec learning, based on the peaceful religion of Quetzalcoatl, at a time when the Aztec cult of sacrifice was in the ascendant. All the Nahuatl-speaking city-states in the Valley of Mexico looked to Hungry Coyote's Texcoco as the cultural centre of their world.


The date of Nezahualcoyotl's death is recorded as being June 4, 1472 at the age of seventy. Nezahualcoyotl was succeeded as Tlatoani by his eight year old only legitimate son[x] Nezalhualpilli[xi], born in Eight Rabbit (1464) who was to continue his father’s patronisation of the arts.

Shortly before his death Nezahualcoyotl called to him those of his children he bestowed his confidence upon, along with his advisers and the ambassadors from Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan. Before this audience Nezahualcoyotl bestowed upon Nezahualpilli his robes of state. He asked one of his sons to guide Nezahualpilli as he grew and then allegedly said to those assembled;

‘Do not bewail me with idle lamentations. But sing the song of gladness and show a courageous spirit, that the nations I have subdued may not believe you disheartened, but may feel that each one of you is strong enough to keep them in obedience!’[xii]

Nezahualcoyotl was survived by many concubines and an estimated 110 children. He was deified after death and enshrined on the sacred mountain. At Texcotzingo personal shrines to Nezahualcoyotl were erected in the gardens, these had monuments commemorating his achievements as well as a sculpture of a seated coyote. The monuments faced east to associate Nezahualcoyotl with the rising sun.


The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico – Nigel Davies, Penguin 1985

The New World – Nicholas Hordern, Aldus Books/Jupiter Books 1971

The Ancient American Civilisations – Friedrich Katz, Phoenix Press 2000

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Aztecs and Maya – Charles Phillips, Hermes House 2010

The Conquest of Mexico – WH Prescott, JM Dent and Sons Ltd 1978

The Aztecs – Richard F Townsend, Thames & Hudson Ltd 2010


[i] Carved out of the bedrock, these baths were part of a ritual zone on the mountain about 180’ below the summit
[ii] The statues and shrines were defaced by the Spaniards during the conquest, as were all such religious places across the empire
[iii] The Aztecs – Townsend
[iv] Poetry was passed on by oral tradition and one of Nezahualcoyotl’s descendants Juan Bautista Pomar collated Nezahualcoyotl’s works some fifty plus years after his death. More works were collected by a Fra Bernardino da Sahagun in the Florentine Codex
[vi] Ibid
[vii] Ibid
[viii] The Conquest of Mexico - Prescott
[ix] Ibid
[x] He married late in life
[xi] Fasting Prince, possibly named after the period of fasting Nezahualcoyotl is said to have undertaken before Nezhualpilli’s conception
[xii] The Conquest of Mexico - Prescott