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John, Duke of Burgundy

John I of Valois (Dijon May 28 1371September 10 1419 on the bridge of Montereau), also known as the Fearless (French: Jean sans peur) was duke of Burgundy from 1404 to 1419. John was son of Philip II, the Bold and Margaret III of Flanders and used the title of count of Nevers until his accession to the duchy.

In 1385, John married Margaret of Bavaria-Straubing to consolidate his position in the Low Countries, after cancelling his engagement with Catherine of Valois, daughter of king Charles V of France. From Margaret he had the following issue:

Before his accession to the Duchy, John participated in the war of Hungary against Sultan Bayezid I. John fought the battle of Nicopolis (September 25, 1396) with such enthusiasm and bravery that he was given the nickname of Fearless. Nevertheless he was taken prisoner and released only in the next year, against an enormous ransom paid by his father.

John vs Orleans

John was invested as duke of Burgundy in 1404 and almost immediately entered into open conflict against Louis of Orleans, younger brother of the increasingly mad Charles VI. Both men attempted to fill the power vacuum left by the demented king.

John played a game of marriages, exchanging his daughter Marguerite for Michelle of Voluoso, who would marry his heir Philip II. He did not overlook, however, the importance of the middle class of merchants and tradesman or the university.

Louis tried to gain the favor of Queen Isabella may have become her lover. After a game of hide and seek with in which his son in law, the Dauphin, was successively kidnapped and recovered by both parties, the Duke of Burgundy managed to gain appointment by royal decree as guardian of the Dauphin and the king's children. This obvious proof of royal favour did not improve the relations between John and Louis.

Meanwhile, hostilities had resumed with England (Hundred Years War), now centred in Calais. John was willing to send an expedition to recover the city. Soon the two rivals broke out into open threats. John of Valois, Duke of Berry, their uncle secured a vow of solemn reconciliation, but three days later, on November 23, 1407 Louis was assassinated in the streets of Paris. The order, no one doubted, had come from the Duke of Burgundy. After an escape from Paris and a few skirmishes against the Orléans party, John managed to recover the king's favour. In the treaty of Chartres, signed on March 9, 1409, the king absolved the Duke of Burgundy of the crime, and he and Louis's son Charles pledged to reconciliation. A later edict renewed John's guardianship of the Dauphin.

John vs Armagnac

Even with the Orleans dispute resolved to his favour, John would not have an easy life. Charles gathered allies, among them Bernard of Armagnac , to support his claims for the property that had been confiscated from him. Peace was solemnly sworn in 1410, and John returned to Burgundy, and Bernard remained in Paris and reportedly shared the queen's bed. Armagnac's party was not contented with political power, and, after a series of riots and attacks against the citizens, John was recalled to the capital. However, he was sent back to Burgundy in 1413.

At this time king Henry V of England invaded French territory and threatened to attack Paris. John participated in the peace negotiations, but with dubious intent. Although he talked of helping his sovereign, his troops took no part in the Battle of Azincourt (in 1415), where two of his brothers, Anthony Duke of Brabant, and Philip Count of Nevers, died fighting for France.

John vs the Dauphin

Two years later, John's troops invaded France and attacked Paris. On May 30, 1418, he captured the city, but not before the Dauphin, the future Charles VII of France, had escaped. John then installed himself in the city and made himself protector of the King. Although not an open ally of the English, John did nothing to prevent the surrender of Rouen in 1419. With the whole of northern France in English hands and Paris occupied by Burgundy, the Dauphin tried to bring about a reconciliation with John. They met in July and swore peace on the bridge of Pouilly, near Melun. On the grounds that peace was not sufficiently assured by the Pouilly meeting, a fresh interview was proposed by the Dauphin to take place on September 10, 1419 on the bridge of Montereau. John of Burgundy was present with his escort for what he considered a diplomatic meeting. He was, however, assassinated by the Dauphin's companions. He was later buried in Dijon.

See also: Dukes of Burgundy family treeHundred Years War

Last updated: 05-15-2005 22:21:49