Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Fall of Charles the Bold (1477)

Charles had become entangled in many difficulties. He was a harsh, stern man, much disliked; and his governors in Elsass were fierce, violent men, who used every pretext for preying upon travellers. The Governor of Breisach, Hagenbach, had been put to death in a popular rising, aided by the Swiss of Berne, in 1474; and the men of Elsass themselves raised part of the sum for which the country had been pledged, and revolted against Charles.

The Swiss were incited by Louis to join them; René of Lorraine made common cause with them. In two great battles, Granson and Morat, Charles and all his chivalry were beaten by the Swiss pikemen; but he pushed on the war. Nancy, the chief city of Lorraine, had risen against him, and he besieged it. On the night of the 5th of January, 1477, René led the Swiss to relieve the town by falling in early morning on the besiegers' camp.

There was a terrible fight; the Burgundians were routed, and after long search the corpse of Duke Charles was found in a frozen pool, stripped, plundered, and covered with blood. He was the last of the male line of Burgundy, and its great possessions broke up with his death. His only child, Marie, did not inherit the French dukedom nor the county, though most of the fiefs in the Low Countries, which could descend to the female line, were her undisputed portion. Louis tried, by stirring up her subjects, to force her into a marriage with his son Charles; but she threw herself on the protection of the house of Austria, and marrying Maximilian, son of the Emperor Frederick III., carried her border lands to swell the power of his family.