Today’s installment concludes France Annexes Burgundy,
our selection from The Reign of Louis XI 1461-83 by Philippe De Comines published in 1524.
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Previously in France Annexes Burgundy.
And certainly, although God Almighty has shown, and does still show, that his determination is to punish the family of Burgundy severely, not only in the person of the Duke, but in its subjects and estates, yet I think the King our master did not take right measures to gain his end. For, if he had acted prudently, instead of pretending to conquer them, he should rather have endeavored to annex all those large territories, to which he had no just title, to the crown of France by some treaty of marriage; or to have gained the hearts and affections of the people, and so have brought them over to his interest, which he might, without any great difficulty, have effected, considering how their late afflictions had impoverished and dejected them. If he had acted after that manner, he would not only have prevented their ruin and destruction, but extended and strengthened his own kingdom, and established them all in a firm and lasting peace. He might by this means have eased, his own country of its intolerable grievances, and particularly of the marches and counter-marches of his troops, which are commanded continually up and down from one end of the kingdom to the other, sometimes upon very slight occasions.
In the Duke of Burgundy’s lifetime the King often talked with me about this affair, and told me what he would do if he should outlive the Duke, and his discourse at that time was very rational and wise; he told me he would propose a match between his son and the Duke of Burgundy’s daughter, and if she would not consent to that, on the ground that the Dauphin was too young, he would then endeavor to marry her to some young prince of his kingdom, by which means he might keep her and her subjects in amity, and obtain without war what he intended to lay claim to for himself; and this was his resolution not more than a week before he heard of the Duke of Burgundy’s death; but the very day he received that news his mind began to change, and this wise counsel was laid aside when the Admiral and I were dispatched into those provinces. However, the King spoke little of what he intended to do — only to some few that were about him he promised sundry of the Duke’s lordships and possessions.
As the King was upon the road toward us, he received from all parts the welcome news of the delivering up the castles of Han and Bohain, and that the inhabitants of St. Quentin had secured that town for themselves, and opened their gates to their neighbor, the Lord of Mouy. He was certain of Peronne, which was commanded by Master William Bische, and, by the overtures that we and several other persons had made him, he was in great hopes that the Lord des Cordes would strike in with his interest. To Ghent he sent his barber, Master Oliver, [*] born in a small village not far off; and other agents he sent to other places, with great expectations from all of them; and most of them promised him very fair, but performed nothing. Upon the King’s arrival near Peronne, I went to wait on his majesty, and at the same time William Bische and others brought him the surrender of the town of Péronne, with which he was extremely pleased.
[* This personage will be familiar to all who have read Sir Walter Scott’s novel of Quentin Durward. Oliver le Mauvais was valet-de-chambre and chief barber to Louis XI; in October, 1474, he received letters of nobility from that Prince, authorizing him to change his name of Mauvais to that of Le Dain. On November 19, 1477, the King conferred the estates of the deceased Count of Meulant on Oliver le Dain and his heirs; and to this gift he added the Forest of Senart in October, 1482. On May 21, 1484, Oliver was hanged “for various great crimes, offences, and malefactions.”]
The King stayed there that day, and I dined with him, according to my usual custom, for it was his humor to have seven or eight always with him at table, and sometimes many more. After dinner he withdrew, and seemed not to be at all pleased with the Admiral’s little exploit and mine; he told us he had sent his barber, Master Oliver, to Ghent, and he doubted not but he would persuade that town to submit to him; and Robinet Dodenfort to St. Omer, as he had great interest there; and these his majesty extolled as fit persons to manage such affairs, to receive the keys of great towns, and to put garrisons of his troops into them. He also mentioned others whom he had employed in the same negotiation in other places.
While the King was busy in subduing towns and places in the marches of Picardy, his army was in Burgundy, under the command, apparently, of the Prince of Orange, a native and subject of the county of Burgundy, but one who had recently, for the second time, become an enemy of Duke Charles, so that the King made use of him, because he was a powerful noble in both the county and duchy of Burgundy, and was likewise well connected and greatly beloved. But the Lord of Craon was the King’s lieutenant, and had the real charge of the army, and was the person in whom the King reposed most confidence; for he was a man of great wisdom, and thoroughly devoted to his master, though somewhat too fond of gain. This Lord of Craon, when he drew near Burgundy, sent forward the Prince of Orange and others to Dijon to use persuasion, and require the people to render obedience to the King; and they managed the matter so adroitly, principally by means of the Prince of Orange, that the city of Dijon and all the other towns in the duchy of Burgundy, together with many in the county, gave their allegiance to the King.
This ends our series of passages on France Annexes Burgundy by Philippe De Comines from his book The Reign of Louis XI 1461-83 published in 1524. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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