Sunday, November 18, 2007

Charles the Bold
Charles the Bold or Charles the Rash (French: Charles le Téméraire), he was the last Valois Duke of Burgundy and his early death was a pivotal, if under-recognised, moment in European history. After his death, his domains began an inevitable slide towards division between France and the Habsburgs (who through marriage to his heiress Mary of Burgundy became his heirs). Neither side was satisfied with the results and the disintegration of the Burgundian state was a factor in most major wars in Western Europe for over two centuries.

Early battles

Main article: Treaty of Péronne Treaty of Péronne
Other matters, moreover, engaged his attention. Relinquishing, if not the stately magnificence, at least some of the extravagance which had characterized the court of Burgundy under his father, he had bent all his efforts towards the development of his military and political power. Since the beginning of his reign he had employed himself in reorganizing his army and the administration of his territories. While retaining the principles of feudal recruiting, he had endeavoured to establish a system of rigid discipline among his troops, which he had strengthened by taking into his pay foreign mercenaries, particularly Englishmen and Italians, and by developing his artillery.

Charles the Bold Domestic policies
Furthermore, he had lost no opportunity of extending his power. In 1469, the Archduke of Austria, Sigismund, had sold him the county of Ferrette, the Landgraviate of Alsace, and some other towns, reserving to himself the right to repurchase.
In October 1470, his brother in law, Edward IV of England, the King of England, and many Yorkist followers, took refuge in the Burgundian Court while the deposed Henry VI was placed back on the throne in the Readeption of Henry VI. The following March, with Burgundian support, Edward landed back in England and by May had reclaimed the crown.
In 1472-1473, Charles bought the reversion of the Duchy of Guelders (ie the right to succeed to it) from its old Duke, Arnold, whom he had supported against the rebellion of his son. Not content with being "the Grand Duke of the West," he conceived the project of forming a kingdom of Burgundy or Arles with himself as independent sovereign, and even persuaded the Emperor Frederick to assent to crown him king at Trier. The ceremony, however, did not take place owing to the Emperor's precipitate flight by night (September 1473), occasioned by his displeasure at the Duke's attitude.

Building a kingdom
In the following year Charles involved himself in a series of difficulties and struggles which ultimately brought about his downfall. He embroiled himself successively with the Archduke Sigismund of Austria, to whom he refused to restore his possessions in Alsace for the stipulated sum; with the Swiss, who supported the free towns of Upper Rhine in their revolt against the tyranny of the ducal governor, Peter von Hagenbach (who was condemned by a special international tribunal and executed on May 9, 1474); and finally, with René II, Duke of Lorraine, with whom he disputed the succession of Lorraine, the possession of which had united the two principal portions of Charles's territories— Flanders and the Low Countries and the Duchy and County of Burgundy. All these enemies, incited and supported as they were by Louis, were not long in joining forces against their common adversary.
Charles suffered a first rebuff in endeavouring to protect his kinsman, the Archbishop of Cologne, against his rebel subjects. He spent ten months (July 1474 – June 1475) besieging the little town of Neuss on the Rhine (the Siege of Neuss), but was compelled by the approach of a powerful imperial army to raise the siege. Moreover, the expedition he had persuaded his brother-in-law, Edward IV of England, to undertake against Louis was stopped by the Treaty of Picquigny (29 August 1475). He was more successful in Lorraine, where he seized Nancy (30 November 1475).
From Nancy he marched against the Swiss, hanging or drowning the garrison of Grandson, a possession of the Savoyard Jacques de Romont, a close ally of Charles, which the Confederates had invested shortly before, and in spite of their capitulation. Some days later, however, he was attacked before Grandson by the confederate army in the Battle of Grandson and suffered a shameful defeat, being compelled to flee with a handful of attendants, and leaving his artillery and an immense booty (including his silver bath) in the hands of the allies (March 2, 1476).
He succeeded in raising a fresh army of 30,000 men, with which he attacked Morat, but he was again defeated by the Swiss army, assisted by the cavalry of René II, Duke of Lorraine (22 June 1476). On this occasion, and unlike the debacle at Grandson, little booty was lost, but Charles certainly lost about one third of his entire army, the unfortunate losers being pushed into the nearby lake where they were drowned or shot at whilst trying to swim to safety on the opposite shore. On October 6 Charles lost Nancy, which René re-entered.

Making a last effort, Charles formed a new army and arrived in the depth of winter before the walls of Nancy. Having lost many of his troops through the severe cold, it was with only a few thousand men that he met the joint forces of the Lorrainers and the Swiss, who had come to the relief of the town, at the Battle of Nancy (5 January 1477). He himself perished in the fight, his naked body being discovered some days afterwards, the face so mutilated by wild animals that only his physician was able to identify him by old scars on his body.

Death at Nancy
Charles left his unmarried nineteen year-old daughter as his heir; clearly her marriage would have enormous implications for the political balance of Europe. Both Louis and the Emperor had unmarried eldest sons; Charles had made some movements towards arranging a marriage between the Emperor's son, Maximilian, before his own death. Louis unwisely concentrated on seizing militarily the border territories, in particular the Duchy of Burgundy (a French fief). This naturally made negotiations for a marriage difficult. He later admitted to his councillor Philippe de Commynes that this was his greatest mistake. In the meantime the Hapsburg Emperor moved faster and more purposefully and secured the match for his son, the future Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, with the aid of Mary's step-mother, Margaret.
Charles the Bold has often been regarded as the last representative of the feudal spirit—a man who possessed no other quality than a blind bravery. He cannot however be said to have embodied chivalric notions, as did his father, for even by the standards of the time, he displayed wanton cruelty. In view of Charles' irrational behaviour in the last year or so of his life, it has even been suggested that he became mentally unstable.
Charles was also a great admirer of exotic animals and had the first peacocks imported into Burgandy. His attempts to import an elephant for his daughter ultimately failed however.



14335 January 1477: Count of Charolais as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Duke of Burgundy as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Duke of Brabant as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Duke of Limburg as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Duke of Lothier as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Duke of Luxemburg as Charles II
15 June 14675 January 1477: Margrave of Namur as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Count Palatine of Burgundy as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Count of Artois as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Count of Flanders as Charles II
15 June 14675 January 1477: Count of Hainault as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Count of Holland as Charles I
15 June 14675 January 1477: Count of Zeeland as Charles I
23 February 14735 January 1477: Duke of Guelders as Charles I
23 February 14735 January 1477: Count of Zutphen as Charles I Further reading

Burgundian Netherlands
Burgundian Wars
Jacques, Duke of Savoy
Dukes of Burgundy family tree

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