Words: Arne Boedt
The Duchy of Burgundy is regarded as one of the major powers in Europe of the 15th century and the early 16th century. The Dukes of Burgundy were among the wealthiest and the most powerful princes in Europe and were sometimes called "Grand Dukes of the West". Including the thriving regions of Flanders and Brabant, the Burgundian State was a major centre of trade and commerce and a focal point of courtly culture that set the fashion for European royal houses and their court. It nearly turned into a kingdom of its own right, but Charles the Bold's early death at the Battle of Nancy put an end to his Lotharingian dream and his legacy passed to the House of Habsburg through the marriage of his daughter Mary to Maximilian of Austria. Meanwhile Picardy and the Duchy of Burgundy were conquered by the King of France.
Table of Contents / Timeline
The Battle of Poitiers was fought on 19 September 1356 between a French army commanded by King John II and an Anglo-Gascon force under Edward, the Black Prince, during the Hundred Years' War. It took place in western France, 5 miles (8 km) south of Poitiers, when approximately 14,000 to 16,000 French attacked a strong defensive position held by 6,000 Anglo-Gascons. Resisting multiple attacks by the Anglo-Gascons, The French King and his son Philip were surrounded. Philip stood by his fathers' side protecting him from those trying to capture him. They were eventually able to flee, but this brave act will forever grant Philip the nickname: "the Bold" and will eventually lead to his father awarding him with the Duchy of Burgundy.
While many of the greatest rulers gained their power through conquest by military means, this is not true for the Burgundians. Most of the gains they made were of clever diplomacy and political marriages. This marriage with Margaret of Male is exactly that. Louis II of Male the father of Margaret ruled over the county of Flanders with crucial cities such as Bruges - a metropolis at the time, Ghent - the heart of the cloth industry and Ypres. When Margaret was widowed, Philip saw the opportunity to get his hands on these counties. And so it happened on June 19th 1369 the event of a lifetime for all people around Flanders, the wedding of Philip the Bold and Margaret of Male in the city of Ghent. Securing his second major title, the county of Flanders.
John of Burgundy was born in Dijon on 28 May 1371 to Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy and Countess Margaret III of Flanders and Heir to the lands his parents hold; the Duchy of Burgundy and the County of Flanders.
Reims Cathedral, Rue Guillaume
King of France Charles V is on his deathbed and since his eldest son Charles VI is only 11 years old and thus too young to rule. Philip grabs the opportunity to make himself regent of France until the young King is of age. Charles VI was crowned King of France on November 4th 1380, but in reality it was Philip the Bold who was really in charge. This gives Philip full access to the French war chest and influence.
The Revolt of Ghent (1379-1385) was an uprising by the city of Ghent against Count Louis II of Flanders, Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy and King Charles VI of France. It was an expression of the growing power of the Third Estate (the Burghers) and of economic ties with England that had been strained by the Hundred Years' War. After six years of war, Ghent submitted to the ducal authority while avoiding further punishment. The dream of an autonomous city-state has failed and the era of royal centralization continued. The people of Ghent were a force to be reckoned with, and they managed to hold out for a good 6 years, but when Philip became regent of France, he raised the French army and marched on the city, putting a swift end to the revolt.
John was getting of age so Father Philip was looking for a good partner for his son. Margaret of Bavaria, daughter of Albert of Bavaria, Count of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault looked like a good fit. Marriage negotiations were tough. Both sides wanted more from the deal, but nobody wanted to offer anything so negotiations didn't really go anywhere. Luckily a mediator came along. Johanna of Brabant Countess of Brabant wanted to see this wedding through because she was also related by blood with Margaret and it would mean peace between all these parties. So Johanna proposed that daughter of Philip, Margaret would also marry William of Bavaria, son of Albert.
On 12 April 1385, the Burgundian double wedding took place in Cambrai, John of Burgundy married Margaret of Bavaria. At the same time as William II, Duke of Bavaria also married Margaret of Burgundy, daughter of Philip. With this genius move, Philip managed to put his son and daughter right in the line of succession of these lands and would greatly increase his influence in the area on top of that.
John of Burgundy in awe of glorious knights like Richard the Lionheart and King Arthur was looking for his own glory. He wanted to participate in the crusade against the Ottomans and was allowed to go by his father Philip. The allied crusader army of Hungarian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, French, Burgundian, German, and assorted troops (assisted by the Venetian navy) finally met the Ottoman army at Nicopolis on 25 September 1396. The battle ended in a massacre. Most knights were killed or captured in battle. Because of the status of the Burgundians John was spared, but the same fate did not go for his comrades. John had to watch while the rest of the captures were slaughtered one by one. John's father Philip had to pay a huge ransom to the Ottomans and the whole expedition was a debacle, but with some clever propaganda techniques Philip made a hero of his son and when he arrived home 2 and a half years later he would be known as John "the Fearless"
In 1390, Philip persuaded old Johanna of Brabant to appoint his wife Margaret (daughter of Johanna's older sister) as successor to the County of Brabant. Johanna was old and could be manipulated.
In 1404, he made her appoint his second son Antony as Regent of Brabant. The Burgundians now rule over the Duchy of Burgundy, the Counties of Flanders and Brabant, and the Counties of Holland, Zeeland and Hainaut.
After the last negotiations with Johanna of Brabant, Philip fell ill. His condition worsened quickly he had to be transported to Dijon as soon as possible, but he did not get far. On April 27th, 1404 the Grand Duke of the West Philip let his last breath in the "Den Hert Inn" in Halle, county of Hainaut. John the Fearless of Burgundy had to carry his fathers once so lively body all the way to Dijon with a mourning parade behind him. He was buried in Chartreuse de Champmol just outside of Dijon where he still rests today.
With his legendary father buried it is time for the new Duke of Burgundy John the Fearless to ascend, but times are different now. The lavish lifestyle of his father has left the finances of Burgundy in near bankruptcy. Even the 255 mourning gowns for the funeral were bought with borrowed money. On top of that the current King of France Charles VI has gone mad and now Louis of Orleans rival of John is Regent of the French crown! The situation for John is a lot more difficult right from the start than what it was of his father.
Philip the Bold built his realm up from nothing into one of the most prosperous regions in the west. Starting his legacy by saving his father King John II of France at the battle of Potiers and being awarded his name the Bold and the Duchy of Burgundy. He then went on to secure the county of Flanders which was the richest county of the west. Then went on to secure Holland, Zeeland, Hainaut and Brabant by marrying his children John and Margaret of Burgundy to the family of Bavaria. By doing this he conquered most of what we now call Belgium and the Netherlands without having fought a single battle to conquer it. But now it is time for John the Fearless to shine. Will he be able to live up to his fathers legacy?
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Get our monthly newsletter sent to your inbox, no spam.
- Notifications on new HistoryMaps
- Find out which HistoryMaps are updated
- Find out which HistoryMaps are coming out next
As you journey along the path, you meet an old man…
He tells you that modern neuroscience has proved that all our actions and decisions are merely the machinations of a predetermined universe and that our concept of 'free will' is naught but a comforting illusion.