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Burgundian Ordonnance

Historical Overview Section

Charles the Bold was born in Dijon, the son of Philip the Good and Isabel of Portugal. In his father's lifetime (1433-1467) he bore the title of Count of Charolais; afterwards, he assumed all of his father's titles, including that of "Grand Duke of the West". He was brought up under the direction of the Seigneur d'Auxy, and early showed great application to study and also to warlike exercises.

Following his accession he relinquished, if not the stately magnificence, at least some of the extravagance which had characterized the court of Burgundy under his father, he had bent all his efforts towards the development of his military and political power. Since the beginning of his reign he had employed himself in reorganizing his army and the administration of his territories. While retaining the principles of feudal recruiting, he had endeavoured to establish a system of rigid discipline among his troops, which he had strengthened by taking into his pay foreign mercenaries, particularly Englishmen and Italians, and by developing his artillery. Once in power Charles involved himself in a series of difficulties and struggles which ultimately brought about his downfall.

He embroiled himself successively with the Archduke Sigismund of Austria, to whom he refused to restore his possessions in Alsace for the stipulated sum; with the Swiss, who supported the free towns of Upper Rhine in their revolt against the tyranny of the ducal governor, Peter von Hagenbach and finally, with René II, Duke of Lorraine, with whom he disputed the succession of Lorraine, the possession of which had united the two principal portions of Charles's territories— Flanders and the Low Countries and the Duchy and County of Burgundy. All these enemies, incited and supported as they were by Louis, were not long in joining forces against their common adversary, and Charles and his new Ordannance army suffered a series of crushing defeats at the hands of the Swiss and was killed at the Battle of Nancy (5 January 1477).

Charles the Bold has often been regarded as the last representative of the feudal spirit—a man who possessed no other quality than a blind bravery. He cannot however be said to have embodied chivalric notions, as did his father, for even by the standards of the time, he displayed wanton cruelty. In view of Charles' irrational behaviour in the last year or so of his life, it has even been suggested that he became mentally unstable


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