DUKE JOHN ‘THE FEARLESS’
HIS BRIEF BUT EVENTFUL CHAPTER IN THE DUCHY’S HISTORY SAW THE OUTBREAK OF OPEN WAR WITH BURGUNDY’S RIVALS
No sooner had John become the Second Duke of Burgundy, he began plans to further control the French crown. Named ‘the Fearless’ for his conduct during the 1396 Crusade against the Ottomans, during which he was captured, John was 33 when he inherited the duchy from his father.
John’s immediate rival at the French court was Louis, Duke of Orleans, the younger brother of King Charles VI. With the king intermittently ill, and mentally unstable, the two dukes vied for control of the government, as well as the king’s heir, the dauphin. In November 1407, Louis was stabbed to death in Paris on John’s orders, sparking open hostilities between the Burgundians and the new Duke of Orleans, Charles, and his ally the Count of Armagnac. This conflict caused a huge rift within the French nobility, causing animosity interspersed with open violence for decades. During Henry V’s invasion in
1415, John found himself unable to reach the battle at Agincourt, during which many of his rivals were killed or captured. However this did not settle the dispute, and John found himself exiled from Paris for several years, only returning in 1418 during a bloody coup. While attending a meeting to discuss peace terms with the dauphin (the future Charles
VII), John himself was himself assassinated by Armagnac supporters.
A YOUNG WARRIOR WHO BECAME A SLY POLITICIAN, HE CONSOLIDATED BURGUNDY INTO A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH IN EUROPE
The fourth son of King John II of France, Philip was just 14 years old when he fought at the Battle of Poitiers (1356), for which actions he earned the moniker ‘the Bold’. The battle was a disaster for the French crown, resulting in Philip becoming a hostage in England along with his father, where they remained for four years. Before his death in 1364, the king made Philip the Duke of Burgundy, and in 1369 he was married to the daughter and heiress of the Count of Flanders, Margaret. In
1384 the couple inherited the counties of Flanders and other territories, placing them under Philip’s control. At the time, Philip was acting as regent for his young nephew Charles VI, who had inherited the throne aged just 11. Responsibilities in Paris caused Philip to be largely absent from his territories in Flanders and Burgundy, which he governed from his residences in the capital. Through his prominent position at the French court, Philip was able to direct funds – either through nefarious or legal means – to his territories, building Burgundy up to be a powerful entity upon his death in 1404.
DUKE PHILIP ‘THE BOLD’
Charles the Bold, depicted by the 17th century artist Peter Paul Rubens
LEFT: Philip wearing the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the chivalric order he founded in 1430 LEFT: Philip II was responsible for building Burgundy as a powerful state, causing confrontations for subsequent generations
BELOW: King John II of France at the Battle of Poitiers