Burgundy


Burgundy
   Burgundy was the wealthiest and most powerful state in fifteenth-century Europe. During the WARS OF THE ROSES, the principality was the chief rival of FRANCE, and thus always a possible ally for whichever English faction lacked French support. Burgundy was also England’s chief trading partner and an important influence on English art, music, and COURT ceremonial during the Yorkist and early Tudor periods.
   Burgundy comprised a patchwork of territories stretching from the English Channel to western Germany. The heart of the principality was the Duchy of Burgundy, an appanage (territorial grant to a younger son) in northeastern France given by John II to his son Philip the Bold in 1363. By marriage, Philip also acquired the County of Burgundy (Franche-Comté), which lay east of the duchy in the Holy Roman Empire, and the County of Flanders, which lay across the Channel from England. In the fifteenth century, Philip’s successors became rulers of Luxembourg, most of the modern states of Belgium and the Netherlands, and parts of northern France. Because each province jealously guarded its own laws, privileges, and language, Burgundy’s Valois dukes had difficulty imposing a centralized administration on their far-flung territories.
   However, by the early fifteenth century, the dukes of Burgundy were effectively independent of either the king of France or the Holy Roman Emperor.
   In 1419, while contending for control of the French government during the rule of his deranged cousin Charles VI, Duke John the Fearless (1371–1419) was murdered by servants of the future CHARLES VII. This act drove the new duke, PHILIP the Good (1396–1467), into an alliance with Henry V that allowed the English to seal their conquest of Normandy and portions of northern France.Although he broke with the English in 1435, Philip remained at odds with his royal cousin. Thus, when Charles VII and his son LOUIS XI supported the house of LANCASTER in the early 1460s, Philip assisted the house of YORK, pressing his kinswoman, Queen MARY OF GUELDRES, to deny the Lancastrians asylum in SCOTLAND, sending Burgundian handgunners to fight for EDWARD IV at the Battle of TOWTON, and nullifying the Franco-Lancastrian CHINON AGREEMENT by refusing French troops permission to attack CALAIS across Burgundian territory. Although wary of any permanent ties with the insecure Edward IV and involved in commercial disputes with the English government, Philip, by his death in 1467, was being drawn into alliance with the house of York by a mutual distrust of France and the vital Anglo-Burgundian trade relationship. Philip’s son, CHARLES the Bold (1433– 1477), having inherited Lancastrian blood from his Portuguese mother, was personally inclined to the cause of HENRY VI. However, being more anti-French than his father, Charles concluded a commercial agreement with Yorkist England in 1467 and a formal alliance in 1468, the latter sealed by the duke’s marriage to MARGARET OF YORK, Edward IV’s sister. This Burgundian connection was one of the grievances of Richard NEVILLE, the pro-French earl of Warwick, who overthrew Edward in 1470 (see Edward IV, Overthrow of). The ANGERS AGREEMENT of 1470, which created Warwick’s alliance with MARGARET OF ANJOU and the house of Lancaster, was brokered by Louis XI, who won Warwick’s promise that a Lancastrian England would wage war against Burgundy as France’s ally.When Warwick fulfilled his promise in January 1471, Charles dropped his refusal to assist Edward IV, who had fled to Burgundy the previous October, and allowed Edward to obtain men, money, and ships for the March 1471 invasion of England that ultimately restored him to power (see Edward IV, Restoration of).
   In the 1470s, Burgundian cultural influences permeated Yorkist England; Edward IV adopted the elaborate ceremony of the Burgundian court, and English music, art, and architectural design borrowed heavily from Burgundian developments. By 1475, Charles, seeking to establish a Kingdom of Burgundy between France and the empire, began forcibly expanding his domains in the east. When the duke died in battle against the Swiss in 1477, Burgundy passed to his only child, Mary, whose husband, Maximilian of Habsburg, heir to the Holy Roman Emperor, contended with Louis XI for control of the principality. The Duchy of Burgundy was reabsorbed into the French state, and the county returned to imperial control, but the Netherlands remained in Habsburg hands and continued its diplomatic and commercial partnership with England. Also, from 1485 until her death in 1503, Duchess Margaret remained hostile to HENRY VII and the house of TUDOR and gave valuable assistance to numerous Yorkist pretenders, including both Lambert SIMNEL and Perkin WARBECK.
   See also Yorkist Heirs (after 1485)
   Further Reading: Davies,C. S. L.,“The Wars of the Roses in European Context” in A. J. Pollard, ed., The Wars of the Roses (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), pp. 162–185;Vaughan, Richard, Valois Burgundy (Hamden, CT:Archon Books, 1975).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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