Charles le Temeraire/Charles
the Bold (1467-77)
Valois Duc de Bourgogne
Battle of Nancy/Bataille de Nancy (January 5 1477)
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Charles the Bold, Duc of Burgundy (1467-77)
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AR blanc, 26mm, 2.86g. Obv: +KAROLVS:DVX.ET.COMES.BUR, shield with seven quarters surmounted by a briquet bracketed by two X's. Rev: +SIT.NOMEN.DNI.BENEDICTV, St. Andre cross, 2 briquets and 2 lis. R7824; Boud 1243; PdA 5745.
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AR double patard of Flanders, 27mm, 2.84gr. Obv: +K(?)AROLVS:DEI:GRA:DVX:BVRG:Z:COMES:FLA, divided central shield, 1 and 3 full quarters, 2 and 4 split. Rev: +SIT:NOMEN:DOMINI:BENEDICTVM, ornate cross with lis at center. R7884, Boudeau 2267; Duyts 211.
Strasbourg, Alsace (15th - 16th C)
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AR kreuzer (two deniers), 16mm. Obv: GLA IN EXCELS DO, central lis. Rev: MONETA ARGENS, central lis. R9070, Boudeau 1335.
Cope notes "At least from the reign of Robert II in the 1270s the dukes (of Burgundy) had pursued two objectives: Burgundy's independence from the French crown and its consolidation into a powerful state. (169)" Charles, son of Philip the Good, continued the pursuit of these objectives. He tackled this on two fronts, and failed on both.
He and his brother-in-law, Edward IV of England, signed a treaty in London (1474) planning the recommencement of the Hundred Year's War, with the idea of dividing the kingdom of France between them. They planned an invasion of France, where the English would land at Calais and be met by a Burgundian army and proceed with their invasion of France. Edward kept his part of the agreement and landed in France in 1475, but was not met by Charles and the Burgundians. Charles had gotten bogged down in a conflict in Lorraine and choose to resolve it rather than meet Edward. Edward was naturally angered that Charles had reneged on their agreement. Louis XI of France took advantage of this disarray among his enemies and offered Edward compensation for the costs of the campaign subject to Edward's retreat from France. Edward took this offer and withdrew, causing Charles to lose, by his own actions, a chance to attack France.
Charles fared just as unsuccessfully a year earlier on the front of establishing a strong and independent kingdom for himself in his negotiations with Emperor Frederick III of the HRE. Frederick was weakened and was willing to offer the crown of Burgundy to Charles in return for his support. They agreed in 1473 to reconstitute the kingdom of Burgundy. This was to have happened on November 25, 1473. Copes notes; "Historians tell of the influence brought to bear on him (Frederick) by his advisers and the pressure exerted by Louis of France, and how he was infuriated by the insufferable arrogance of the younger man with whom he had almost daily contact. But in addition Frederick may have been swayed by the conviction that Charles was doomed, and also perhaps, anyone closely tied to him. ...(so).. only a few hours before Charles' coronation as king of Burgundy Frederick slipped away under the cover of darkness, (172)" and the coronation did not occur. Even though there were promises this would happen at a later date, in fact, it never did occur.
Charles, therefore, in the span of two years, lost both the opportunity for an English alliance against the French and lost the chance for a crown in Burgundy. It was not even possible to maintain the status quo - in 1477 Louis XI occupied the duchy of Burgundy. Charles failed, Cope argues, because of his personality and the failed Anglo Burgundian alliance. This latter was triggered by a strategic blunder by Charles when he went to Lorraine rather than to Calais to support Edward.
In his troubles, Charles was confronted and consistently out maneuvered diplomatically by Louis XI of France. Louis had an extensive network of spies and diplomats and was able to hold Charles at bay. In addition to settling with the English, Louis was active in supporting Lorraine and the Swiss against Charles.
Charles not only lost the opportunity to establish an independent kingdom; he also lost his life in what historians see as a series of rash military moves. In January/February 1477 Charles crossed the Jura Mountains to confront the Swiss. This winter campaign was against the advice of many of his senior military officers. Instead it was the Swiss who closed on the Burgundian army at Grandson and soundly defeated it. Charles' defeat weakened his hold on many of his traditional territories, including Savoy. Milan, which had sided against Louis XI and favored Charles, recanted and switched alliances. Charles recovered quickly and recrossed the Jura again and established a military camp in the field. He regathered an army and in June was besieging Morat. On June 22, in a disorganized battle where Charles had spread his forces in vulnerable positions, not believing a Swiss attack was imminent, he was again attacked. The Swiss won a great victory and killed about 10,000 Burgundians, half of Charles army. Charles escaped with a guard of 300 troops and fled.
For details, maps and pictures of these battles and battlefields please visit two other pages on this site; the battle of Grandson and the battle of Morat. After Grandson and Morat, his story continues, and ends, at the battle of Nancy.
Battle of Nancy: January 5, 1477
By the start of the next year Charles was at Nancy confronting a Lorraine/Swiss army funded by Louis. Rene II of Lorraine provided troops and leadership in this battle. Much of the following English text, that in "", comes from Wikipedia, which offers a good descritption of the battle. Other descriptive material comes from Richard Vaughan's paper in Cinq-Centieme Anniversaire de la Bataille de Nancy.
"Charles was besieging the city of Nancy, capital of Lorraine, following its successful recapture by Rene, Duc de Lorraine's forces late in 1476. Despite the harsh winter conditions Charles was determined to bring the siege to an end at all costs as he was well aware that sooner or later Rene would arrive with a relieving army once the weather had improved somewhat." (Wik.) (Image: Bourgogne 154)
The siege was not going well. For example, a sortie from Nancy by two of Rene's captains succeeded in encircling and capturing 900 Burgundian cavaliers. Charles had the complication of commanding an army that was not linguistically unified. His force included Italian mercenaries, English archers, Dutch and Savoyard troops, as well as Burgundian forces. Further aggravating the situation was the fact that this was an unusually cold winter and Charles troops suffered extensively as a result. (Cinc-C.)
"By late December René had gathered some 10-12,000 men from Lorraine, and the Lower Union (of the Rhine) as well as 10,000 Confederation Swiss mercenaries to his banner. He began his advance on Nancy early in January 1477, moving cautiously through the snow covered landscape until they reached Nancy early on the morning of 5 January. Charles finally learnt that Rene's army was indeed close by and drew up the bulk of his army in a strong defensive position south of Nancy on a heavily wooded slope behind a stream at the narrowest part of the valley he knew the Swiss would have to advance down. The exact numbers available to Charles are hard to judge, but contemporary observers put the numbers between 4,000 and 8,000, though even his household troops were by this stage well below strength, while most of the Ordnance companies were at best at 50% of their theoretical strength." (Wik)
"Charles as usual deployed his troops to a precise battle plan despite the short notice he received of the approach of Rene's forces. The infantry companies and dismounted gendarmes formed up in a large square formation with some 30 field guns in front at the top of the slope, while on either flank were mounted knights and coustilliers. If Charles suffered from a lack of scouting (which had cost him so dearly at Murten six months earlier) the same could not be said for the Allied army. Despite the driving snow cutting visibility to a few yards the Allied scouts soon recognized that a frontal assault on the Burgundian position would be disastrous, so the largely Swiss Vorhut (Vanguard) of 7,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry was instructed to attack from the right while the principal thrust would come from the 8,000 infantry and 1,300 cavalry of the Gewalthut (Centre) which was dispatched on a difficult circuitous march round the left flank over thickly wooded snow covered slopes out of view of the waiting Burgundians. The small Nachhut (Rearguard) of 800 handgunners acted as a reserve." (Wik)
Vaughan describes the scene: "Le gros des troupes etait probablement porte entre deux affluents qui se jetaient dans la Meurthe par des ravines escarpees, celles,de Jarville et de la Madeleine. Le flanc gauche bourguignon etait protege pa la Meurthe, le droit par la foret." (Cinq-C). In other words, Charles army turned and faced south to confront Rene's forces.
Here are two maps of the battlefield. The left is from Cinq-Centieme Anniversaire de la Bataille de Nancy. The arrows coming from the lower right are Rene's forces and the generally oval shapes are forests. The Meurthe is to the right on the map. The second map is the area today. The battlefield is not recognizable today. The roughly red oval is what was the forest area but this is completely gone today. Today the battlefield is bisected by a newer canal. The smaller circle is Nancy's centre ville. The red line is the approximate location of Charles' army. The two water courses flowing into the Meurthe, the Ruisseau de Jarville and Ruisseau de la Madeleine, are gone today. Having driven through this area, it struck me as fairly flat but descriptions talk about hills where the calvary gathered. The red cross marks the approximate spot Charles was killed.
Rather than withdraw in the face of a 10,000 strong force, Charles, with his 3000 unenthusiastic troops stood and fought. It was a Burgundian rout, and Charles was killed. From Kendall (p.314) "The furious devotee of Mars, who had shown all the qualities of a great general except generalship and all the trappings of a conqueror except victories, lay face down on a frozen pond, stripped naked. His head had been cloven from top to chin by a Swiss halberd; his body was pierced through by Swiss pikes; the bloody ruin of his face was unrecognizable. Captured servants of his made positive identification by the long nails, the missing upper tooth and several scars on the body."
The next image is contemproary (15th C) showing Rene's Swiss mercenaries arriving at Nancy, followed by one of the battlefield showing dead Burgundian troops. They are from Cinq Centieme ...
Louis XI finally prevailed in his long conflict with Burgundy.
The picture on the left is by Eugene Delacroix titled "La Bataille de Nancy, 1831. It shows Charles (lower left) being attacked. The one on the right is by Auguste Feyen Perrin, titled "Charles le Temeraire retrouve apres la bataille de Nancy, done in 1865. Both are in the Musee de Beaux Arts in Nancy. Charles' body was identified several days after the battle by one of his servants.
After his body was found it was taken into Nancy. The building where it was held is a landmark today and the pavement in front of the house has a '1477' date mosaic embedded in it. In a touch Charles would certainly not appreciate, there is a restaurant a door or two away bearing his nick name.
Rene II of Lorraine (1473-1508)
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1/2 plaque d'argent (or gros), 23mm, 1.51gr. Obv: +RENATVS:D:G:R:SI:IE:LO'O, central ecu of Lorraine, surmounted by a three pointed crown. Rev: +FECIT:POTEN..ITM:IN:BRACHIO:SFF, central arm holding a sword (arme sortant d'une nue). Boud. ends the reverse inscription SVO. R9482; Boud 1499v.
Rene is buried in his family church in Nancy.
While Burgundy as a whole ceased to be an independent territory, parts of it did remain independent from the French. Brabant was one of these.
Philippe le Beau of Brabant (1482 - 1506)
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Florin d'or au St. Philippe, 24 mm., 3.3 gr. Obv: S PH'E INTERCD PRO NOBIS, central shield surmounted by crown. Rev: PHS DEI GRA ARCHID AVSTE DVX BVRG, central ornate cross. Mint is Antwerp, 1496-99. While Philippe le Beau is in Roberts, this coin is not.
Cinq-Centieme Anniversaire de la Bataille de Nancy
Cope, The Lost Kingdom of Burgundy
Kendall, Louis XI