Burgundian archers and handgunner, Hundred Years War.
Jean de Vergy, Marshal of Burgundy at the Siege of Vellexon, Hundred Years War.
One of the political factions that fought the FRENCH CIVIL WAR, the Burgundian party comprised adherents of the dukes of BURGUNDY, particularly those supporting the political supremacy of JOHN THE FEARLESS between 1404 and 1419. The Burgundians were opposed by the ARMAGNACS, a faction derived from supporters of LOUIS, DUKE OF ORLEANS, chief rival of the dukes of Burgundy for paramount influence within the royal government. After 1420, the ANGLO-BURGUNDIAN ALLIANCE created by the Treaty of TROYES fostered development of an independent Burgundy and maintained Lancastrian rule in NORMANDY and northern France for two decades.
PHILIP THE BOLD, first VALOIS duke of Burgundy, became a dominant figure in the royal government in 1380, when his nephew CHARLES VI ascended the throne. Following the onset of the king’s schizophrenia in 1392, the duke filled the royal administration with men devoted to his interests. Although Burgundy’s position was increasingly challenged by LOUIS, DUKE OF ORLEANS, Charles’s younger brother, the dukes’ rivalry did not become violent until after Burgundy’s death in 1404. Because John, the new duke of Burgundy, lacked his father’s experience and authority, Orléans, in alliance with Queen ISABEAU, was able to frustrate many of his rival’s plans and ambitions. In consequence, Burgundy arranged Orleans’s murder in November 1407. In early 1408, Burgundy, taking advantage of the king’s mental instability, returned to court, where he issued the JUSTIFICATION OF THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY, a document that, by way of condoning Burgundy’s action, brazenly detailed the many alleged crimes and enormities of Orleans. When public opinion largely accepted the Justification, Burgundy quickly established his dominance over the court, and, by 1409, the Burgundians enjoyed a near monopoly of power.
Civil war began in 1410, as the Armagnacs-the name given to supporters of CHARLES, DUKE OF ORLEANS, and his father-in-law, BERNARD, COUNT OF ARMAGNAC-besieged the capital. Because he controlled the royal person, Burgundy was able to portray himself as the king’s lieutenant and his opponents as rebels and traitors. In 1411-12, both Burgundy and the Armagnacs sought military assistance from HENRY IV of England. Although an expedition led by THOMAS, DUKE OF CLARENCE, landed in 1412 in accordance with the Anglo-Armagnac Treaty of BOURGES, Burgundy used his control of the government to raise an army under royal authority and force the Armagnacs to repudiate the agreement. In 1413, the dauphin, LOUIS, DUKE OF GUIENNE, attempted to form a royalist party capable of reconciling the factions, while members of the ESTATES-GENERAL leveled charges of corruption against the Burgundian administration. In response, Burgundy, who was popular in PARIS, instigated a riot by his supporters in the city. Led by a member of the butchers’ guild named Simon Caboche, the rioters, who thus became known as CABOCHIENS, rampaged through Paris on 28 April, seizing or killing the dauphin’s officers. Moving quickly beyond the duke’s control, the Cabochien uprising became a reign of terror that alienated many Parisians, who turned to the dauphin and the Armagnacs for deliverance. In August, Burgundy fled the capital, leaving the king and the government to his rivals.
Excluded from power, Burgundy withdrew to his domains until 1418, taking no part in the interval in negotiations with HENRY V, in the AGINCOURT campaign, or in the defense of Normandy and ROUEN. Anxious only to regain power in Paris, Burgundy supported the queen when she fled the capital in 1417 after quarreling with her surviving son Charles, who was now dauphin and nominal leader of the Armagnacs. In May 1418, an uprising in Paris overthrew the Armagnac regime, forcing the dauphin to flee and allowing Burgundy and his adherents to resume control of both king and government. Believing he could dominate the dauphin, who was young and inexperienced, Burgundy sought some accommodation whereby he could eliminate the Armagnacs, unite the kingdom, and expel the English. However, when the two parties met at MONTEREAU in September 1419, old servants of Orléans in the dauphin’s entourage avenged their late master by murdering Burgundy.
Since no accommodation was possible with his father’s killer, PHILIP THE GOOD, the new duke of Burgundy, allied himself with Henry V in 1420. By accepting the Treaty of Troyes, Philip recognized Henry as regent and heir to the French throne. Although the royal administration remained largely in Burgundian hands, the Crown itself was pledged to the House of LANCASTER. After the deaths of Henry V and Charles VI in 1422, Burgundy took little direct part in English efforts to defend HENRY VI’s rights against the dauphin and his party, which was now essentially an amalgam of Armagnacs and others who supported the continuance of Valois rule. Rather than pursue his father’s dream of ruling in Paris, Burgundy concentrated on consolidating his holdings in France and on expanding his territory in the Low Countries, efforts that made the state of Burgundy a power in northwestern Europe and turned the one-time Burgundian faction into the administration of an independent principality. In 1435, the duke abandoned the Anglo-Burgundian alliance at the Congress of ARRAS, thus allowing the dauphin, now CHARLES VII, to enter Paris in 1436 and finally end the factional divisions of the civil war.
In the fourteenth century, the term “Burgundy” referred both to a duchy of eastern France owning homage to the French king and to a county across the Saône owing homage to the German emperor. In 1363, the duchy of Burgundy became a VALOIS APPANAGE, which, in the fifteenth century, became the center of an autonomous principality that also encompassed the county of Burgundy, other lordships in northern and eastern France, and most of the Low Countries. This accumulation of territory allowed the fifteenth-century dukes of Burgundy to play a central role in both the FRENCH CIVIL WAR and the HUNDRED YEARS WAR.
Until 1361, the duchy of Burgundy was ruled by a cadet branch of the House of CAPET. Upon the death in that year of Philip de Rouvre, the last Capetian duke, the duchy passed to JOHN II, who granted it to his youngest son, PHILIP THE BOLD, in 1363. CHARLES V enabled his brother to expand his holdings by arranging for Philip to marry MARGUERITE DE FLANDERS, the only child of LOUIS DE MALE, count of FLANDERS. Besides her father’s provinces of Flanders, Nevers, and Rethel, which she inherited in 1384, Marguerite was her grandmother’s heir to Artois and to the county of Burgundy (the Franche-Comté), which she inherited in 1382. Through her mother, Marguerite also had a claim to Brabant, although this duchy did not come to the dukes of Burgundy until 1430. Ruling both his own and his wife’s territories, Philip, thanks to the mental illness of his nephew, CHARLES VI, also dominated the French government after 1392. Following Philip’s death in 1404 and Marguerite’s in 1405, their eldest son, JOHN THE FEARLESS, inherited his parents’ lands and his father’s political rivalry with LOUIS, DUKE OF ORLEANS, the king’s brother. Descending to violence, this rivalry led in 1407 to the murder of Orléans by assassins hired by Burgundy and to the development of the BURGUNDIAN and ARMAGNAC (Orléanist) factions, whose struggle for political dominance in PARIS led after 1410 to eruption of the French civil war.
Expelled from Paris in 1413, Burgundy did not fight at AGINCOURT in 1415 and took no part in defending NORMANDY against HENRY V, preferring to concentrate on overthrowing the Armagnac regime in Paris, which he did in 1418. On 10 September 1419, partisans of the dauphin, who was nominal head of the Armagnacs, murdered Burgundy during a peace conference on the bridge at MONTEREAU. Rejecting any agreement with his father’s murderers, the new duke, PHILIP THE GOOD, allied himself with Henry V, whom, through acceptance of the Treaty of TROYES, he recognized as heir to the French throne. Establishment of an Anglo-Burgundian government in Paris allowed Philip to consolidate his holdings in France and to enlarge his territories in the Low Countries. By 1440, Namur, Brabant, Luxembourg, Holland, Zeeland, and Hainault had all been incorporated into the Burgundian state, which, thanks to the weakness of the French monarchy, was now effectively independent.
However, despite the ANGLO-BURGUNDIAN ALLIANCE, Philip provided little military assistance to the English, and in 1435 abandoned his allies at the Congress of ARRAS, where the dauphin, now CHARLES VII, agreed to exempt the duke from paying homage for his French fiefs and to send a courtier to apologize on the king’s behalf for the murder at Montereau. Although Burgundy remained a culturally influential state, particularly in terms of music, art, and literature, the reconciliation effectively ended Burgundian involvement in the Hundred Years War or in royal administration. The expulsion of the English from France in 1453 and the subsequent revival of French royal authority gradually reduced the ability of the dukes to thwart French designs on Burgundy. After Philip’s son, Charles the Bold, died without male heirs in 1477, the duchy of Burgundy was eventually reincorporated into the kingdom of France.
ANGLO-BURGUNDIAN ALLIANCE (1420-1435)
Made possible by the murder of JOHN THE FEARLESS, duke of BURGUNDY, in 1419, and formalized by the Treaty of TROYES in 1420, the Anglo-Burgundian alliance established a joint administration in PARIS, recognized Lancastrian succession to the French throne, permitted the growth and maintenance of a Lancastrian state in northern France, and fostered the development of an independent polity in territories controlled by PHILIP THE GOOD, duke of Burgundy. Created by HENRY V’s claim to rule France and by Burgundy’s desire to avenge his father’s murder, the alliance was maintained after Henry’s death by the personal relationship of Burgundy and JOHN, DUKE OF BEDFORD, who were linked by the latter’s marriage to the former’s sister, ANNE OF BURGUNDY, duchess of Bedford. The alliance ended in 1435, when Burgundy realized that his desire to exercise paramount influence in the French government was better served by recognizing a VALOIS rather than a Lancastrian monarch.
Although uncomfortable with an English king of France, Burgundy could not acknowledge the dauphin as such after the dauphin’s servants treacherously slew Burgundy’s father during a peace conference at MONTEREAU in September 1419. The duke thus became party to the Troyes agreement, whereby he recognized Henry V as heir to the French throne and regent of France for the remainder of CHARLES VI’s reign. Henry agreed to exercise his authority in consultation with the duke, and Burgundian officials, who had controlled the royal administration since 1418, were retained in office. Henry also promised not to interfere in those French provinces ruled directly by the duke, including FLANDERS, Artois, Rethel, Nevers, Charolais, Boulogne, and the duchy of Burgundy. By thus transforming one party in the FRENCH CIVIL WAR from a potential foe into an active ally, Henry was able to win power and territory in a divided France. Although, in practice, the duke took little direct part in the ongoing war between the English and the dauphinists, his alliance with the House of LANCASTER denied the dauphin access to Paris and to the allegiance, wealth, and manpower of a significant part of France. The alliance thus became vital to the maintenance of Lancastrian rule, especially after 1422 when the infant HENRY VI succeeded his father and grandfather on the English and French thrones.
Upon his brother’s death, Bedford became regent of France when Burgundy, still unwilling to be too closely associated with a Lancastrian regime, refused the office. In 1423, Bedford fortified the Anglo-Burgundian alliance by concluding the Treaty of AMIENS, a tripartite defensive agreement whereby Bedford, Burgundy, and JOHN V, duke of BRITTANY, recognized Henry VI as king of France and pledged to aid one another against the dauphin. The treaty also arranged Bedford’s marriage to Burgundy’s sister, whose influence over both men became vital to the maintenance of good relations. Anne’s mediation was particularly important in the mid-1420s, when HUMPHREY, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER, Bedford’s brother, made an impolitic attempt to enforce his wife’s rights in Holland, Zeeland, and Hainault, thus threatening Burgundy’s ambitions in the Low Countries. In 1432, Anne’s death snapped the personal link between the dukes, and Bedford’s remarriage to Jacquetta of Luxembourg five months later offended Burgundy, whose interests were, in any event, beginning to diverge from those of his ally.
By 1433, Burgundy, whose contacts with the dauphin (now crowned as CHARLES VII) were never completely broken, began exploring the possibility of a Franco-Burgundian reconciliation. While the Lancastrians, particularly since the advent of JOAN OF ARC in 1429, were becoming increasingly dependent on the Burgundian alliance, Burgundy was becoming increasingly disillusioned by his inability to dominate the French administration and fearful that continuance of the war would diminish his popularity in Paris. Believing that Charles was weak and controllable, the duke sought honorable means to end the English alliance. Such means were provided by Nicholas Rolin, the Burgundian chancellor, who argued that since Henry V had predeceased Charles VI and had thus not actually assumed the French Crown, Henry VI could not inherit something his father had never held. With Charles eager for reconciliation, Burgundy agreed to the convening of the Congress of ARRAS, an all-party peace conference from which the English withdrew when they realized that its true purpose was the conclusion of a Franco-Burgundian accord. Under the Treaty of Arras, signed on 20 September 1435, one week after Bedford’s death, Charles recognized all grants of territory made to Burgundy by the English, exempted Burgundy from paying homage for his French lands during Charles’s lifetime, and humbly apologized for the murder of Burgundy’s father. With this agreement, the Anglo-Burgundian alliance was terminated chancellor, who argued that since Henry V had predeceased Charles VI and had thus not actually assumed the French Crown, Henry VI could not inherit something his father had never held. With Charles eager for reconciliation, Burgundy agreed to the convening of the Congress of ARRAS, an all-party peace conference from which the English withdrew when they realized that its true purpose was the conclusion of a Franco-Burgundian accord. Under the Treaty of Arras, signed on 20 September 1435, one week after Bedford’s death, Charles recognized all grants of territory made to Burgundy by the English, exempted Burgundy from paying homage for his French lands during Charles’s lifetime, and humbly apologized for the murder of Burgundy’s father. With this agreement, the Anglo-Burgundian alliance was terminated
Further Reading: Perroy, Edouard. The Hundred Years War. Trans. W. B. Wells. New York: Capricorn Books, 1965; Vaughan, Richard. John the Fearless. London: Longman, 1979; Vaughan, Richard. Philip the Good: The Apogee of Burgundy. Woodbridge, England: Boydell Press, 2002. Vaughan, Richard. Philip the Bold: The Formation of the Burgundian State. Woodbridge, England: Boydell Press, 2002; Vaughan, Richard. Valois Burgundy. London: Archon, 1975. Williams, E. Carleton. My Lord of Bedford, 1389-1435. London: Longmans, 1963.