Friday, October 19, 2012

Charles the Bold, 1467

On the death of Philip the Good, in 1467, Charles the Bold succeeded to the duchy of Burgundy.

He pursued more ardently the plan of forming a new kingdom of Burgundy, and had even hopes of being chosen Emperor. First, however, he had to consolidate his dominions, by making himself master of the countries which parted Burgundy from the Netherlands. With this view he obtained Elsass in pledge from its owner, a needy son of the house of Austria, who was never likely to redeem it. Lorraine had been inherited by Yolande, the wife of René, Duke of Anjou and titular King of Sicily, and had passed from her to her daughter, who had married the nearest heir in the male line, the Count of Vaudémont; but Charles the Bold unjustly seized the dukedom, driving out the lawful heir, René de Vaudémont, son of this marriage. Louis, meantime, was on the watch for every error of Charles, and constantly sowing dangers in his path.

Sometimes his mines exploded too soon, as when he had actually put himself into Charles's power by visiting him at Peronne at the very moment when his emissaries had encouraged the city of Liège to rise in revolt against their bishop, an ally of the duke; and he only bought his freedom by profuse promises, and by aiding Charles in a most savage destruction of Liège.

But after this his caution prevailed. He gave secret support to the adherents of René de Vaudémont, and intrigued with the Swiss, who were often at issue with the Burgundian bailiffs and soldiery in Elsass—greedy, reckless men, from whom the men of Elsass revolted in favour of their former Austrian lord. Meantime Edward IV. of England, Charles's brother-in-law, had planned with him an invasion of France and division of the kingdom, and in 1475 actually crossed the sea with a splendid host; but while Charles was prevented from joining him by the siege of Neuss, a city in alliance with Sigismund of Austria, Louis met Edward on the bridge of Pecquigny, and by cajolery, bribery, and accusations of Charles, contrived to persuade him to carry home his army without striking a blow.

That meeting was a curious one. A wooden barrier, like a wild beast's cage, was erected in the middle of the bridge, through which the two kings kissed one another. Edward was the tallest and handsomest man present, and splendidly attired. Louis was small and mean-looking, and clad in an old blue suit, with a hat decorated with little leaden images of the saints, but his smooth tongue quite overcame the duller intellect of Edward; and in the mean time the English soldiers were feasted and allowed their full swing, the French being strictly watched to prevent all quarrels. So skilfully did Louis manage, that Edward consented to make peace and return home.

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