Book Five, Chapters 2-15

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What happened after the battle of Granson and how the King, informed of this event, conducted his affairs sagaciously
IT is now necessary to examine how the world changed after this battle, how people changed their opinions and how our King conducted everything sagaciously. It will be a very fine example to those young lords who foolishly take up enterprises without realizing what can happen to them and disdain the counsel of those whom they ought to consult.

First, the duke himself sent the lord of Contay to the King with a humble and gracious message which was completely contrary to his nature. See how one single hour had changed him! He begged the King to keep the truce with him faithfully and apologized for not coming to the interview which had been arranged at Auxerre, assuring him that he would come within a short time there or anywhere else the King wished. The King made Contay very welcome and reassured the envoy on every point he raised, because he did not yet think it was the right moment to do otherwise. The King fully recognized the loyalty of the duke’s subjects and that they would rally round, and he wanted to see the end of this adventure without giving the two sides an opportunity to come to terms. But however well the King treated the lord of Contay, he must have heard many gibes in the town because songs were sung publicly praising the conquerors and pouring scorn on the vanquished.

As soon as Duke Galeazzo of Milan, who was still alive then,5 learned about this battle he was very pleased even though he was the duke’s ally, because he had made the alliance out of fear as he could see the duke of Burgundy’s great popularity in Italy. The duke of Milan very hurriedly sent to the King a very insignificant-looking burgess of Milan and through an intermediary he was directed to me, bringing the duke’s letters. I told the King of his arrival and he ordered me to listen to his message because he was not pleased with the duke for having abandoned the alliance with him and joining the duke of Burgundy, especially considering that his wife was the Queen’s sister.6 The ambassador’s mission was to state that his master, the duke of Milan, had been informed that the King and the duke of Burgundy were about to meet each other to make a great peace treaty and alliance. This would have been most displeasing to the duke, his master, and he gave reasons, which were not very convincing, why the King ought not to do this. But at the end of his speech he said that if the King would agree not to make a peace or truce with the duke of Burgundy, the duke of Milan would give the King a hundred thousand ducats in ready money.

After the King had heard the gist of the ambassador’s message, he sent for him. I was the only other person present and the King told him briefly, ‘My lord of Argenton here has reported certain things to me. Tell your master I don’t want any of his money, that once a year I raise three times more money than he does and that I make peace or war as it pleases me. But if he’s sorry about abandoning an alliance with me for one with the duke of Burgundy, I’m happy to return to our former relationship.’ The ambassador thanked the King very humbly and decided that the King was not avaricious. He strongly urged the King to proclaim the alliances unaltered and said he had authority to promise that his master would adhere to them. The King agreed to this. After dinner they were published and immediately a messenger was dispatched to Milan, where they were proclaimed with great solemnity. So here already was one of the changes brought about by adversity, with one powerful man changing his alliance when only three weeks previously he had sent a great and solemn embassy to the duke of Burgundy for a similar purpose.

King René of Sicily was arranging to make the duke of Burgundy his heir and to deliver Provence to him. My lord of Châteauguion,7 who is now in Piedmont, and others were to take possession of the country for the duke of Burgundy. They were to raise troops and had at least twenty thousand crowns in cash. Immediately the news was known it was only with the greatest difficulty that they were able to avoid being captured and my lord of Bresse, who was in that region, seized the money. The duchess of Savoy, as soon as she had news of the battle, informed King René, explaining it away and reassuring him over the losses. The mesengers, who were Provençals, were captured, and by this means the agreement between the king of Sicily and the duke of Burgundy was discovered.

The King straight away stationed men-at-arms close to Provence and dispatched ambassadors to the king of Sicily to ask him to appear. He assured him of a good welcome; otherwise the King threatened to use force. The king of Sicily was so easily persuaded that he came to meet the King at Lyon.8 He was treated with very great honour and given fine hospitality.

I was present when they exchanged greetings on his arrival. Jean de Cossa, seneschal of Provence, a wealthy man of good family from the kingdom of Naples, acted as spokesman, saying, ‘Sire, do not be astounded that my master, the king, your uncle, offered to make the duke of Burgundy his heir, since was counselled to do so by his advisers, especially by me, because you, his sister’s son and his own nephew, have done him great injury by taking away from him the castles of Angers and Bar and by treating him so badly over all his other affairs. We wanted to press ahead with this agreement with the duke so that you would hear news of it which would make you give us justice and remember that the king, my master, is your uncle. But we never intended to bring the negotiations to a conclusion.’ The King took the words which Jean de Cossa spoke very well and wisely, knowing they were true because Cossa had been in charge of negotiations. A few days later the differences between them were settled; the king of Sicily received a sum of money, as did all his men, and the King feasted him with the ladies, had him entertained and humoured him in everything according to his tastes as best he could. They became good friends and no more was heard of the duke of Burgundy, abandoned by King René and rejected everywhere else. This was yet another misfortune springing from this setback.

My lady of Savoy, who hated her brother, the King, for a long time, sent the lord of Monragny on a secret mission. He came to me to arrange a reconciliation with the King. He set out the reasons why she had broken off relations with her brother and voiced the fears she had of the King. Nevertheless she was very wise and a true sister to the King, our master, and did not intend publicly to break with the duke. It appeared that she wanted to temporize and to begin to pick up the threads of her relationship with the King. He had me convey to her all the appropriate replies and attempted to get her to come to see him. Her messenger was sent back to her. Here again was another of the duke’s allies who was negotiating to abandon him. Everywhere in Germany men began to declare themselves against the duke and all the Imperial towns such as Nuremberg, Frankfurt and several others, allied themselves to the Old and New Alliances against the duke, and seemed that many wrongs would be righted by doing him harm.

The spoils from his army greatly enriched the poor Swiss who at first did not realize, especially the ignorant ones, the value of the wealth which they had acquired. One of the most beautiful and costly tents in the world was cut into several pieces. There were many who sold a great quantity of silver plate and silver dishes for two blancs9 apiece, thinking that they were pewter. The duke’s largest diamond, one of the biggest in Christendom, with a pearl pendant, was picked up by a Swiss then put back in its box and thrown under a cart. Then he came back to look for it and offered it to a priest for a florin. The latter sent it to the leaders who gave him three francs for it. They also acquired the identical rubies known as the Three Brothers,10 another ruby called the Hotte and another called the Ball of Flanders, which was one of the largest and finest ever found, as well as other priceless treasures which have since taught them what money is worth. For their victories and high opinion which the King held of them from then on and the goods he gave them have enabled them to become very rich. Every one of their ambassadors who came to the King after this received very large money gifts from him. By this means he made amends for not having declared himself on their side and he dispatched them dressed in silk clothes and with bulging purses. He also agreed to promise them pensions which he later paid (but not before he saw the results of the second battle) and promsed them forty thousand Rhenish florins every year, twenty thousand for the towns and twenty thousand for the men who governed them. And I do not think I am lying when I say that I believe that from this first battle at Granson until the time of our King’s death the towns and individual Swiss received from the King, our master, a million Rhenish florins, and I mean by this only four towns: Berne, Lucerne, Fribourg, Zurich and their territories (that is their mountains). Schwyz is one of them but it is only a village. I have seen its representative, an ambassador with the others, but he was very plainly dressed.

  •  He died on 26 December 1476.
  • The envoy was Giovanni Bianca and the duchess of Milan was Bonna of Savoy (cf. Introduction.)
  • Hugues de Chalon-Arlay, d. 3 July 1490.
  • April 1476.
  • A small silver coin.
  • Acquired by the contingent from Basle, these rubies passed through the hands of the Imperial banks, the Fuggers, in the sixteenth century, and were part of the English crown jewels from the reign of Henry VIII to Charles I.

[The battle of Morat]

i How the duke of Burgundy gathered his men and restarted the war against the Swiss by going to besiege Morat

TO return to the duke of Burgundy; he collected troops from all quarters and within three weeks he had reassembled a great number of those who had fled on the day of the battle. He stayed at Lausanne in Savoy11 where you, my lord of Vienne, gave him good counsel during a serious illness, caused by this shameful defeat which he had suffered, which had made him very sorrowful and depressed. And indeed, to speak the truth, I believe that his mind was never again as sound as it had been before the battle. I am able to speak about this great new army which he had assembled from the reports which my lord the prince of Taranto12 gave the King in my presence. About a year previously, this prince had come to the duke with a very large retinue, hoping to obtain the hand of his daughter and sole heiress. He appeared a true king’s son by his bearing, his clothing and his company. The king of Naples, his father, showed plainly that he had not spared any expense. Yet the duke had not been completely open and was even then negotiating with my lady of Savoy over her son, Don Federigo of Aragon, was very unhappy at the delays and, together with his counsellors, sent a competent herald to the King to ask for a safe-conduct so that the prince could pass through the kingdom on his way back to his father, the king, who had sent for him. The King very willingly gave him one because he clearly thought it would diminish the duke of Burgundy’s credit and reputation. Nevertheless before the messenger had returned all the German leagues had assembled and camped close to the duke of Burgundy. The prince took his leave of the duke the evening before the battle, obeying the orders of the king, his father, for at the first battle he had shown himself a worthy man. Also, some say he was following your counsel, my lord of Vienne, for after he had arrived at the King’s camp I heard him swear to the duke of Atri, Count Guilio13 and several others, that you had written to Italy about the first and second battles and predicted what would happen several days before it did.

As I said, at the time of the prince’s departure, the troops of these alliances were already quartered close to the duke. They had come to force him to raise the siege he had laid before Morat, a little town near Berne, belonging to my lord of Romont. The allies, as I have been told by some who were there, may easily have numbered thirty thousand well-chosen and well-armed infantry, eleven thousand pikemen, ten thousand halberdiers, ten thousand culverineers and four thousand cavalry.14 The alliances had not yet all assembled and only those whom I have mentioned were at the battle. But they were enough. My lord of Lorraine arrived there with a few men and this turned out to be to his advantage later, because the duke of Burgundy had occupied all his lands. The duke of Lorraine realized that people were beginning to tire of him at our court, for a powerful man who has lost all his possessions usually annoys those who support him. The King had given him a small sum of money and had him escorted through Lorraine with a strong force of soldiers, who took him to Germany and then returned. This lord had not only lost his duchy of Lorraine but also the county of Vaudémont and most of the Barrois. The King held the rest, so nothing was left to him and, what was even worse, all his subjects, including his household servants, had voluntarily sworn an oath to the duke of Burgundy, so that it seemed he nad no means to restore his fortunes. But God always remains the judge of such causes if He wishes.

ii The battle of Morat, where the duke of Burgundy was defeated for the second time by the Swiss

When the duke of Lorraine had completed this journey, after riding for several days, as I said, he arrived at the camp of the alliances, together with a few soldiers a few hours before the battle. This journey brought him great honour and profit because if he had done otherwise he would have found a poor welcome. At the moment of his arrival the armies were marching out on both sides, because the alliances had already been encamped for three days in a strong position close to the duke of Burgundy. After some small resistance the duke was routed and put to flight and he did not come out of it as well as in the last battle, when he had lost only seven men-at-arms. This was because the Swiss did not then have any cavalry but on this occasion, close to Morat, the Germans had four thousand well-mounted horsemen who pursued the duke of Burgundy’s men a very long way and their infantry fought his, which was very numerous. For besides his own subjects and some English troops, of which he had a good number, he had many troops newly arrived from Piedmont as well as subjects of the duke of Milan, as I have said. The prince of Taranto told me after coming to the King’s court that he had never seen such a fine army and that he had himself counted and ordered others to count whilst the army was crossing a bridge and they had counted more than twenty-three thousand mercenaries, besides all the rest who followed the army and were part of the artillery train. This number seems very large to me, although many people speak lightly of thousands and make armies much larger than they are.

The lord of Contay, who came to the King shortly after the battle, told him in my presence that eight thousand of the duke’s regular soldiers had been killed in the battle as well as many common people. And I believe from what I could gather that altogether at least eighteen thousand people died. It is easy to believe this, considering the large number of horsemen present, who had been sent thither by many German lords, and the number who were still at the siege of Morat. The duke fled as far as Burgundy, totally desolated as he had reason to be, and stayed at a place called La Rivière, where he gathered what men he could. The Germans only pursued that night and then withdrew without marching after him.

  •  In April and May 1476.
  • Federigo of Aragon, second son of Ferrante I, king of Naples, d. 1504.
  • Ascoli in MS. Mlle Dupont identifies him as Guilio Antonio Acquaviva, duke of Atri, killed fighting the Turks, 6 February 1481.
  • A gross exaggeration.

{Here I speak about the events which occurred after the battle of Morat and how the duke of Burgundy seized the duchess of Savoy and how the King, her brother, delivered her]
THIS disaster drove the duke to despair and he realized that all his friends were forsaking him because of the signs which he had seen after his first defeat at Granson only three weeks before this one I have just spoken about.15 And because of his fears, following the advice of certain counsellors, he had the duchess of Savoy and one of her children, who is today the duke of Savoy, brought to Burgundy by force. Her eldest child was saved by some of the officers of the house of Savoy because those who did this kidnapping did so in fear and were forced to act quickly. It was the fear that she would withdraw to the court of the King, her brother, and that made the duke perform this deed, and he said that all his troubles stemmed from helping the house of Savoy. The duke had the duchess brought to the castle of Rouvres, near Dijon, where there was a small guard. Yet everyone who wanted to visit her was allowed to and amongst those who did so were the present lord of Ch&$226;teauguion and the present marquis of Rothelin. The duke had arranged for these two to marry two of the duchess’s daughters. These marriages had not taken place but they have since. Her eldest son, Philibert, who was then duke of Savoy, was taken by his rescuers to Chamb&$233;ry where he found the bishop of Geneva, a member of the house of Savoy, who was a very wilful man and governed by a Commander of de Ranvers.16 They placed the duke of Savoy and his younger brother, called the Protonotary, together with the castles of Chambéry and Montmélian, in the bishop’s hands and he kept another castle in which were all the duchess of Savoy’s jewels.

As soon as the duchess found herself at Rouvres, accompanied by all her women and a large number of servants, she saw that the duke was very involved in collecting men together and that those who were guarding her were not as afraid of their master as they used to be. She decided to send word to the King, her brother, to arrange a settlement and to ask him to take her under his protection. Were it not for her present situation she would have been very scared of falling into his hands because the hatred between the King and herself was deep and of long standing.

The duchess sent a nobleman from Piedmont called Rivarola, who was master of her household. Someone directed him to me and, after I had listened to him and reported to the King what he had told me, the King himself heard him. Whereupon the King told him that he would not abandon his sister in this emergency, notwithstanding their past differences, and that if she wanted to ally with him he would send the governor of Champagne, Sir Charles d’Amboise, lord of Chaumont, to fetch her. Rivarola took his leave of the King and hurriedly returned to his mistress. She was delighted with this news. Immediately she had heard Rivarola’s message she sent another man back asking the King to give her an assurance that he would allow her to go to Savoy and that he would deliver the duke, her son, and the other child, as well as the places, and that he would help her maintain her authority in Savoy. She, for her part, would be content to renounce all her alliances and to join him. The King promised her everything she asked for and immediately dispatched a messenger directly to the lord of Chaumont to carry out the plan. This was well organized and efficiently executed. The lord of Chaumont went with a strong body of men to Rouvres without harming the countryside and carried off my lady of Savoy and all her train to the nearest place owing obedience to the King.

When the King dispatched the last message to the duchess he had already left Lyon, where he had been staying for six months in order to break up the duke of Burgundy’s schemes cleverly without infringing on the truce. But, recognizing fully the duke’s position, the King caused him more harm by allowing him to go his own way and by stirring up his enemies secretly than he would if he had openly declared war on him, because if the duke had seen such a declaration he would immediately have abandoned his plans and what did happen to him would not have occurred.

The King, continuing on his way after leaving Lyon, embarked at Roanne on the river Loire and came to Tours. Immediately after his arrival there he learnt of his sister’s deliverance which pleased him a great deal. He quickly sent word that she sould come to him and ordered the payment of her travelling expenses. When she arrived he sent out a large number of people to meet her. He himself went to receive her at the gates of Plessis-du-Parc17 and greeted her in a friendly manner saying, ‘Welcome, Madame Burgundy!’ She recognized easily from his face that he was only joking and very wisely replied that she was a good Frenchwoman and ready to obey the King in whatever he wished to command. The King conducted her to her room and had her treated very well. But the truth is he was very anxious to get rid of her. She was very shrewd and both of them knew each other very well. She was even more anxious to leave. I received the King’s instructions about what had to be done, first, to find money to pay for her expenses and her return journey, then for a quantity of silk and for having their alliance and future relationship drawn up in writing. The King wanted to make her change her mind over the marriages of her two daughters, which I mentioned, but she excused herself and blamed them, saying that they were obstinate, as indeed they were. When the King knew their wishes he consented. And after the duchess had been at Plessis for seven or eight days she and the King swore an oath together to be good friends in the future and letters were exchanged. The duchess took leave of the King, who had her well escorted home and delivered her children, all her castles, her jewels and all the goods which belonged to her. Both were very pleased to leave each other and they remained as good brother and sister until death.

  •  The battle of Granson was fought on 2 March and that of Morat on 22 June 1476.
  • Jean le Monchenu, commander of Saint-Antoine de Revel, nick-named M. de Ranvers.
  • The castle of Plessis-les-Tours, near Tours, made notorious by Sir Walter Scott in Quentin Durward.

[The consequences of the Burgunidan disasters]

i Charles of Burgundy after Morat

TO continue my story, it is necessary to speak about the duke of Burgundy who, after his flight from the battle of Morat in 1476, had gone to the Burgundian frontier at La Rivière where he spent six weeks and still had enough courage to gather troops together. However he did not hurry and lived like a hermit. And it appeared that he did this more out of obstinacy than anything else, as you will hear, because the grief which he experienced as a result of losing the first battle at Granson was so great, and it disturbed his mind so much, that he fell seriously ill. His choleric humour and natural heat had been so great that he did not drink wine but, in the morning, he normally drank an infusion and ate rose-hip syrup to refresh himself. This sadness changed his disposition so much that he had to be forced to drink strong wine undiluted by water and, to make him more sanguine, some people put burning tow in a container which they placed whilst still warm above his heart. You, my lord of Vienne, know more about this than I do because you were the man who helped to heal him of this illness and induced him to shave off the beard which he had allowed to grow. In my opinion after that illness he was not as wise as he was before and his capacity was much diminished; such are the passions of those who have never experienced misfortunes and do not know how to remedy them, especially proud princes. For in this case and in similar ones a man’s first refuge should be to turn to God and to consider whether one had offended Him in any way, to humble oneself before Him and to confess one’s misdeeds, because it is He who determines such events and one can attribute no error to Him. After that it does a lot of good to talk to a particular friend and to bewail one’s griefs openly; one should feel no shame in exposing one’s sorrows to a special friend, because that relieves and comforts the heart and revives a man’s spirits. Since we are men we cannot avoid experiencing such sorrows with great emotion, either in public or in private, and one ought not to do what the duke did in hiding himself and remaining alone. Then, because he was so terrible to his servants, no one dared to approach him or give him any solace or counsel. They left him to do whatever he liked, fearing that if they remonstrated with him over anything he would take it badly.

ii I speak about the duke of Lorraine, who had been expelled from his duchy by the duke of Burgundy and how, when he saw the duke in great difficulties because of the two battles he had lost, he undertook to reconquer Lorraine with Swiss help and the favour and secret assistance of the King and how the duke of Lorraine retook Nancy

During the six weeks or thereabouts which the duke spent with so few troops — which was hardly surprising after losing two such large battles as you have heard — and after several new enemies had declared themselves against him, his friends cooled in their affections and his subjects, beaten and defeated, began to grumble about their master and to despise him, as is so often the case after such misfortunes.

Several small places were taken from him in Lorraine such as Vaudémont; (which had already been recaptured); Épinal and others were later. On all sides men were prepared to attack him and the most insignificant now became the boldest. The duke of Lorraine, hearing this news, assembled a few troops and came to camp before Nancy. He held the majority of the small towns in the neighbourhood. But the duke of Burgundy still held Pont-à-Mousson, which was about four leagues from Nancy. Among the besieged was my lord of Bièvres, a good honest knight of the Croy family.18 He had some fine men with him, including one called Colpin, who was a very valiant man although from humble stock, whom he had brought with others from the garrison of Guines into the duke’s service. Colpin had some three hundred Englishmen under him at Nancy and, although they were not feeling any great pressure from the siege or from attacks, they were annoyed that the duke was so slow in coming to help them. And, in truth, he was very wrong not to come to them, because he was at a place which was a long way from Lorraine and where he could not be of any assistance to them. It would have been better to defend what he still possessed than to attack the Swiss in the hope of avenging his losses. But his obstinacy, for which he would take no counsel but his own, caused him great loss. For whatever efforts were made to persuade him to succour Nancy he needlessly remained at La Rivière for about six weeks. Had he done otherwise he could easily have reinforced Nancy because the duke of Lorraine had no men there, and by guarding Lorraine he would always have had a route to get from his other lordships through Luxembourg and Lorraine to Burgundy. Thus if his judgement had remained as acute as it had been before he would have acted more speedily.

Meanwhile, as the garrison at Nancy awaited relief, Colpin, who was the leader of the company of Engilshmen as I said, was killed by a cannon-shot. This was a serious loss for the duke of Burgundy because one man can sometimes save his master from great inconvenience, even when he is neither a member of his household nor from a great family, provided he has good judgement and courage.19In this particular respect I have observed that the King, our master, had great wisdom because no prince feared losing his servants more than he did. As soon as Colpin was dead the English, who had been under his command, began to complain and to despair of help. They did not know how small the duke of Lorraine’s forces were nor how great were the resources of the duke of Burgundy for collecting troops. Futhermore, because the English had not fought outside their kingdom for so long, they began to press for negotiations and told the lord of Bièvres, who was the town’s governor, that if he did not surrender they would do so without him. Although he was a good knight he had little strength of character and he begged and pleaded with them when, it seems to me, if he had spoken more boldly he would have done better, unless God had ordained otherwise (which I beleive to be the case), because had they held out for another three days they would have received help. But, to put it briefly, he gave in to the English and delivered Nancy to the duke of Lorraine, thereby saving their lives and goods. The next day, or at the latest, two days after the town had been handed over,20 the duke of Burgundy arrived with a strong force, considering his position, because some men from his other lordships had come from Luxembourg to join him and he and the duke of Lorraine confronted each other. But no important action took place because the duke of Lorraine was not strong enough.

  •  Jean de Rubempré, killed 5 January 1477, was the son of Jacqueline de Croy.
  • i.e. Commynes himself.
  • Nancy surrendered on 6 October 1476. Charles arrived at Toul on 11 October.

How the duke of Burgundy, informed of the capture of Nancy from him by the duke of Lorraine, laid siege to the town in order to recapture it, and what happened during the siege
THE duke of Burgundy began to run after the ball21 and once more laid siege to Nancy. It would have been better for him if he had not been so obstinate in remaining [at La Rivière]. But God makes princes act arbitrarily when it pleases Him to change their fortunes. If the duke had willingly followed his adviders and reinforced the small neighbouring places strongly he would have quickly recovered Nancy, because the town was very poorly provided with supplies and there were more than enough troops to reduce it; he could have refreshed his army and built it up again. But he tackled it another way. In the meantime, whilst he was undertaking this siege, which turned out so unfortunately for him and all his subjects, as well as for several others for whom the quarrel meant nothing, some of his men began to intrigue. And already, as I said, enemies had arisen against him on all sides, including among others, Count Niccolò di Campobasso, a native of the kingdom of Naples (whence he had been exiled for his support of the Angevin family), and one of those servants of Duke Nicholas of Calabria to whom the duke had given refuge after their master’s death.

The count was very poor, as I said elsewhere, in terms of goods and landed wealth. The duke of Burgundy had given him forty thousand ducats at the outset to go to Italy to recruit four hundred lances, which he paid through him. And from that point onwards Campobasso began to plot the death of his master, as I have already said, and had continued to do so right up to the moment I am now speaking about. When he saw his master in difficulties he once more began to intrigue, both with my lord of Lorraine and with other captains and servants whom the King had sent to Champagne, close to the duke’s army.

He promised the duke of Lorraine he would see to it that the siege would not advance quickly and that he would make sure that the most necessary supplies for the siege and battery would be lacking. He could do this easily because he was the principal officer in charge and possessed great influence with the duke of Burgundy. With our men he bargained more readily, for he always offered to kill or capture his master, asking in return for pay for his four hundred lances, twenty thousand crowns and a good county. Whilst he was arranging this several of the duke of Lorraine’s gentlemen arrived to enter Nancy, and some did so. The others were captured, including a Provençal gentleman called Syffredo [di Baschi] who had managed all the count’s negotiations with the duke of Lorraine. The duke of Burgundy ordered Syffredo to be hanged immediately, saying that once a prince laid siege to a place and fired his cannon at it anyone who came to enter it and to reinforce it against him deserved to die, according to the laws of war. Nevertheless this custom is not applied in our wars, which are in other respects more cruel than the wars in Italy or Spain where the custom is used. Yet the duke wanted this gentleman to die. When he saw that there was no hope of escape and that they wanted to kill him, Syffredo sent word to the duke of Burgundy begging him to grant him an audience and saying that he would tell him something concerning the duke’s person. Several gentlemen to whom he said this came to report it to the duke and by chance the count of Campobasso, whom I have mentioned, was present when they spoke to the duke. He may have been there by chance, but since he knew of Syffredo’s capture he may have been there on purpose. He was afraid that Syffredo would reveal all he knew about him, since he was informed of all the count’s intrigues with both sides and everything had been communicated to him; that was what he wanted to talk about.

The duke told those who had reported this to him that Syffredo only said this to save his life and he should talk to them. The count supported this view. There was no one with the duke except the count and a secretary, who was writing, for the count was in complete charge of the army. The prisoner said that he would speak only to the duke of Burgundy. At once the duke ordered him to be taken out and hanged. This was done. When he was being taken away, Syffredo begged several people to plead with their master on his behalf and said he would tell them a piece of information he would value more than a whole duchy. Many who recognized him had pity on him and decided to speak to their master to ask him to listen to him. But this evil count was at the door of the wooden chalet where the duke was staying and stopped anyone entering and, in particular, refused entrance to those men, saying, ‘My lord has ordered the hanging to be carried out.’ He sent messengers to hurry the provost. Finally Syffredo was hanged, to the great disadvantage of the duke of Burgundy. It would have been far better for him if he had not been so cruel and had listened humanely to this gentleman. Perhaps if he had done so he might still have been alive and his house strong and much increased in power, considering the things which have happened in this realm since then. But one must believe that God had ordained otherwise.

You have heard already in these memoirs about the disloyal trick which the duke had played a little while before on the count of Saint-Pol, Constable of France; how he had captured him by granting him his own safe-conduct, then handed him to the King for execution and, moreover, delivered all the sealed documents and letters which he had received from the Constable to serve as evidence at his trial. And although the duke had just cause for mortally hating the Constable and procuring his death for many reasons, which would take too long to write down, he should have done so without giving him his word. All the excuses which I might make for this action could not atone for the disloyalty and dishonour which the duke showed by giving a good and valid safe-sonduct to the Constable and then taking and selling him out of pure avarice, not only for the town of Saint-Quentin and other places, lands and chattels of the Constable, but also for fear of not taking Nancy when he besieged it for the first time. After many prevarications he handed the Constable over at that time because he was afraid that the King’s army, which was in Champagne, would thwart his attack on Nancy since the King was threatening him through his ambassadors, on account of their agreement that whichever one of them captured the Constable should hand him over to the other within eight days or have him put to death. Now the duke had already exceeded this time-limit by many days and it was only this fear and his ambition to take Nancy which forced him to deliver the Constable as you have heard. And just as it was at Nancy that he had commited this crime, after he had laid a siege a second time and had Syffredo executed (whom he did not want to listen to, like a man who had already had his ears stopped and his judgement impaired), it was quite rightly at the same place that he was deceived and betrayed by one in whom he had the most confidence and was by chance paid his just deserts for the things which he had done to the Constable through his greedy desire for Nancy. But such judgement belongs to God; I only mention it to make my account clearer and to show how a good prince should avoid such wicked conduct and disloyalty, whatever other advice he may be given on the subject. It has happened many times that whose who counsel in this way do it to please princes and because they dare not contradict them even though they are very upset when the advice has been followed because they are aware of the punishment they could receive both from God and the rest of the world. Thus such counsellors are better at a distance than close at hand.

You have heard how God had established the count of Campobasso as his agent in this world to take vengeance on the duke of Burgundy for his treatment of the Constable at the same place in in the same way, even more cruelly. For just as the duke had delivered the Constable to be put to death, despite the safe-conduct and the trust which the Constable had in him, so he was betrayed by the most loyal member of his army (or rather the man in whom he trusted most). By the man, I say, whom he had welcomed when old, poverty-stricken, and friendless, to whom he had given a hundred thousand ducats a year, and whose troops he had paid for, besides the other great favours which he had given him. And when he began these intrigues he had gone to Italy with forty thousand ducats in cash, which he had received for recruiting, as they say, that is to raise his men-at-arms. In order to carry out this treason he had approached people in two places. First, he approached a doctor living in Lyon called Master Simon of Pavia, and secondly, a man whom I have mentioned in Savoy. On his return his troops were quartered in certain small places in the county of Marle in the Laon district. From there he started his intrigues again, offering to hand over all the places he held, or, if the King were to find himself in battle with his master, that there should be a certain signal arranged between the King and himself. When that was sent to him he would turn against his master and join the King’s side with all his company. This second proposition would not have pleased the King very much. He also proposed again that on the first occasion that his master set up his camp he would capture or kill him whilst he was inspecting the army. And, in truth, he could hardly have failed in this third plan because the duke had the habit, as soon as he had dismounted at the place where he was going to camp, of taking off most of his armour, keeping on only his breastplate. He then got on a small horse and kept only eight or ten foot-archers with him. Sometimes two or three gentlemen of his chamber followed him and he went all round his camp on the outside to see whether it was securely enclosed. So the count could have carried out his plans without any difficulty with only ten horsemen.

After the King had seen the continual efforts of this man to betray his master and that his most recent offers had been made during a truce, and since he did not know for what reason he was making the propositions, he decided to be very frank with the duke of Burgundy and sent him word through the lord of Contay (who has been mentioned several times in these memoirs) about all the intrigues of the count. I was present and I am sure that the lord of Contay acquitted himself loyally towards his master. But he took it the wrong way and said that if it were true then the King would never have let him know about it. This happened a long time before he came to Nancy and I truly believe that the duke said nothing about it to the count.

  •  Courir apres son esteuf — a phrase borrowed from tennis meaning, picturesquely, that he was wasting his time.

[The duke of Lorraine obtains help; the mission of the king of Portugal]
WE must return to our main subject and to the siege which the duke laid to Nancy in the depths of winter with a few badly armed and ill-paid soldiers, many of whom were sick, whilst many leading officers were scheming against him, as you have heard. In general all were grumbling about him and condemned his actions as always happens in adversity, as I have previously said at length. But nobody except the count of Campobasso was planning to harm him personally or his position, and none of his subjects was disloyal. Whilst he was making his first preparations, the duke of Lorraine negotiated with the Old and New Alliances, which I have already mentioned, for troops to fight the duke of Burgundy before Nancy. All the towns were very eager to provide them. It only remained for him to find the money. The King reassured him through ambassadors he had sent to the Swiss, and also furnished him with forty thousand francs to help pay for his German troops, whilst my lord of Craon, who was the King’s lieutenant in Champagne, camped with him in the Barrois with seven or eight hundred lances and franc-archers under a number of fine officers. The duke of Lorraine was able to do so much with the King’s favour and money that he enlisted a great number of Germans, both on foot and on horseback and, in addition to those he paid for, they provided some troops at their own expense. He also had with him a large number of gentlemen from this kingdom; the King’s army, which was encamped in the Barrois, as I said, was not fighting but was waiting to see who would get the upper hand. The duke of Lorraine camped at Saint-Nicolas, near Nancy, with the Germans.

The king of Portugal had been in this kingdom for about nine22 months. Louis had formed an alliance with him against the present king of Spain.23 The Portugese king had come in expectation that the King would provide him with a great army to use in a war against Castile, directed through the Biscay coast or through Navarre, because he held a large number of places in Castile, both on the Portugese frontier and in the districts bordering our territories, such as the castle of Burgos and others. I truly believe that had the King helped him, as he had sometimes wanted to do, the king of Portugal would have been victorious and successful in his enterprise. But the King changed his mind and the king of Portugal had been kept in a state of expectation for a year or more. In the meantime his affairs in Castile began to go badly. When he came to France nearly all the lords of the kingdom of Castile were on his side but when they saw him staying so long their attitude changed little by little and they made their peace with King Ferdinand24 and Queen Isabella,25 who reign today.

The King made excuses for not giving his promised aid, alleging that it was because of the war in Lorraine and because he was afraid that if the duke of Burgundy recovered he would come to attack him. The poor king of Portugal, who was a very good and upright man, decided that he would go to visit the duke of Burgundy, who was his cousin. He planned to settle all the differences between the King and the duke so that the King would be free to help him and because he was ashamed to return to Castile and Portugal without this aid and without accomplishing anything here. For he had decided to come impetuously and against the wishes of his council.

So the king of Portugal set out in the middle of winter and went to find his cousin, the duke of Burgundy, before Nancy. He began to tell him what the King had told him in order to achieve this reconciliation. But he found it would be a very difficult task to get them to agree because they differed on every issue. So he only remained there two days before he took his leave of his cousin, the duke, to return to Paris, whence he had come. The duke begged him to stay a little longer and go to Pont-à-Mousson, which is quite close to Nancy, to guard the crossing, because the duke had already learned of the arrival of the Germans who were camped at Saint-Nicolas. The king of Portugal excused himself by saying that he was not sufficiently armed or well attended for such a military action and he returned to Paris where he spent a long time. In the end the king of Portugal began to suspect that the King wanted to capture him and turn him over to his enemy, the king of Castile. For this reason he disguised himself, and with two others decided to go to Rome to enter a religious order. While they were travelling in disguise they were captured by a Norman called [Robin] Le Beuf. Our master, the King, was very sorry and a little ashamed about this so he had several ships from Normandy armed and with George the Greek26 as commander, they took the king back to Portugal.

The cause of his war against the king of Castile was his niece, his sister’s daughter. His sister was the wife of the late King Don Enrique of Castile and her very beautiful daughter is still alive and unmarried today in Portugal. She was ousted from the succession to Castile by Isabella, sister of King Enrique, on the grounds that her mother had concieved her adulterously. Many people held this same opinion, claiming, for reasons I shall say nothing about, that the King Enrique could not have fathered her. Whatever the case may have been, and notwithstanding the fact that the daughter was apparently born in wedlock, nevertheless the crown of Castile was kept by Queen Isabella and her husband, the King of Aragon and Sicily, reigning today. The king of Portugal tried to bring about a marriage of his niece and our present King, Charles VIII. This was the main reason for his journey to France which was to his great detriment and displeasure, for soon after his return to Portugal he died.

Thus, as I have said towards the beginning of these memoirs, a prince should consider carefully what ambassadors he sends abroad. For if those who came here to make an alliance on behalf of the king of Portugal (at which negotiations I was present as one of the King’s deputies) had been wiser, they would have informed themselves better about affairs in France before counselling their master to make this journey, which caused him so much harm.

  •  Alfonso V (1438-81) had been about two months in France at this point in November 1476.
  • Ferdinand, King of Aragon 1479-1516.
  • All MSS. read Alphonse, an obvious slip for Ferdinand.
  • Isabella of Castile, eife of Ferdinand, and queen of Castile 1474-1504.
  • George Paleologus, naturalized French 1477, died before 1500.

[The death of Charles the Rash at Nancy]

[i The resistance of Nancy]

I COULD well have left out this digression, had it not demonstrated that a prince should think twice before putting himself in another’s hands, and that he ought not to go to seek help in person. So, to return to my principal concern, the king of Portugal had not travelled for more than a day after leaving the duke of Burgundy when the duke of Lorraine and the Germans who were with him, broke up their camp at Saint-Nicolas and came to fight the duke of Burgundy. And, on the very same day, to carry out his scheme the count Campobasso came out to meet them and joined them with about a hundred and sixty men-at-arms. He was very displeased that he could not do his master more harm.

The defenders of Nancy were informed of the count of Campobasso’s intrigues, which encouraged them to resist. Also a man27 who had swum the moat entered the town and assured them of help, for otherwise they were on the point of surrender. Had it not been for the count’s dissumulation they would not have held until then. But God wanted to bring this extraordinary affair to a conclusion!

ii Here I begin to speak about the battle of Nancy, and how the duke of Burgundy was defeated and killed

The duke of Burgundy, informed of the army’s approached, held a short council, although he was not accustomed to doing so as he usually acted on his own judgememt. Several of those present said that he ought to retreat to Pont-à-Mousson close by and that he ought to leave some of his men at the places he held around Nancy, saying that as soon as the Germans had revictualled Nancy they would leave and the duke of Lorraine would run out of money, and he would be unable to raise such a large army again for a long time. The supplies which they brought would not be adequate, and before half the winter had passed they would be in as much difficulty as they were then. In the meantime the duke could collect his troops. For I have heard from those who considered themselves well informed that the army numbered not more than four thousand men, of whom not more than twelve hundred were fit to fight. The duke had plenty of money because he had more than four hundred and fifty thousand crowns at the castle of Luxembourg near by and he could have collected enough men. But God did not want to grant him the favour of recognizing this wise counsel, nor of realizing how many enemies surrounded him on all sides. He chose the wrong course, regardless of all the arguments put to him about the great number of Germans who were with the duke of Lorraine and also about the King’s army camped close to him. He decided to fight the battle with this small force of demoralized soldiers.

When the count of Campobasso came to the duke of Lorraine, the Germans told him to go away and said that they did not want any traitors with them. So he withdrew to Condé,28 a castle and crossing place near by, which he fortified as best he could, hoping that when the duke of Burgundy and his men fled he could fall on them, as indeed he did.

The negotiations with the duke of Lorraine were not the count’s principal intrigues, for a little before the count’s departure he had spoken to some others and he had agreed with them that since he could not see a way of getting his hands on the duke of Burgundy he would change sides when the hour of battle came. He did not want to leave sooner because he wanted to give the biggest possible shock to all the duke’s army. But he would make sure that if the duke fled he would not escape alive. The count would leave behind twelve to fourteen people who would be loyal to him. Some were to begin the flight as soon as they saw the Germans approaching, and others were to keep an eye on the duke and if he ran away they were to kill him as he fled. There was nothing wrong with this plan, because I knew two or three of those who had remained to kill the duke. When he had laid these treacherous plans, he returned to the camp and then turned against his master when he saw the Germans arriving, as I have said. Then, when he saw that the Germans did not want him in their company, he went to Condé.

The Germans advanced. With them was a large number of cavalry from France, who had been allowed to join them there. Many more lay in ambush close by to see whether the duke would be defeated so that they could seize prisoners or booty. And so you can see the position this poor duke had got himself into because he did not follow the advice given him.

When the two armies met, the duke’s, which had already been defeated twice and was made up only of a few badly armed men, was immediately defeated and everyone was killed or put to flight. A large number managed to save themselves. The rest were captured or killed there. Among those who died on the field of battle was the duke of Burgundy. I do not want to talk about how he died because I was not there, but I was told about his death by those who saw him struck to the ground; they could not help him because they were prisoners. Yet in their view he was not killed then. But later a great crowd of people, who arrived at that spot, killed and stripped him, together with a large number of other people, without recognizing him. This battle took place on 5 January 1477 on the eve of the Epiphany.

  •  A draper from Mirecourt called Thierri.
  • Condé-Northern arr. Metz. dép. Moselle.

[An assessment of Charles the Rash and his family]
I HAVE since seen a signet seal at Milan which I had many times observed hanging from the duke’s doublet. It represented a lamb and a flint set in a cameo with his arms and it was sold for two ducats in Milan.29 It had been taken from the duke by a dishonest chamber valet. I have often seen the duke dressed and undressed with great reverence by high ranking people, yet at this last hour all these honours were gone. He and his house perished, as I have said, at the place where only a little time before he had agreed through avarice to hand over the Constable. May God forgive him!

I knew him as a great and honourable prince, for a time at least, as highly esteemed and sought after by his neighbours as any other prince in Christendom, and perhaps more so. I have not discovered any reason why he should have so quickly incurred the wrath of God, except that he thought that all the favours and honours which he received in this world were the result of his own judgement and virtue and he did nto attribute them to God as he ought to have done. For, in truth, he had some good qualities and virtues. No prince ever exceeded him in wishing to maintain great men and to give them a pleasant way of life. However, his gifts were not very lavish because he wanted everyone to experience his liberality. Nobody ever gave audiences more freely to his servants and subjects. During the time when I knew him he was not cruel, but be became so before his death, which was a bad omen. He dressed and acted in all other ways very ostentatiously; a little too much so. He was very courteous to ambassadors and foreigners and they received a very lavish and warm reception in his court. He craved great glory, and it was for this reason more than for anything else that he was led into these wars. He would have liked to resemble those princes of antiquity about whom so much has been said since their deaths. He was as daring as any man of his generation. Yet all his schemes are finished and they all turned out to his dishonour and shame; for those who win always get the honour. I cannot say toward whom our Lord showed the greatest anger; to the duke who died suddenly upon the battlefield without lingering long, or to his subjects who have never since enjoyed prosperity or peace but have either been in continual warfare against people they could not resist or quarrelling among themselves in cruel and deadly strife. The hardest thing for them to bear has been that their defenders were foreigners who had previously been their enemies — the Germans. And, in effect, since the death of the duke there has not been a man who wished them well of those from whom they have sought help. Judging from their actions, their senses were as disturbed as their prince’s. For, a short while before his death they rejected all good and sound counsel and followed the courses which were harmful to them. And they are still in a position where great troubles could beset them or there is at least a fear of their return.

I am inclined to agree with someone’s opinion which I saw somewhere; that God provides the people with a prince according to the way He wants to punish or chatise them and He provides the prince with subjects whose hearts are disposed towards him according to whether to God wanted to exalt or humiliate him. And so in the case of this house of Burgundy He made everything equal. For after their long period of a hundred and twenty years of happiness and great prosperity under three powerful, good and wise princes before this one, God provided Duke Charles, who kept his subjects continuously engaged on great, arduous and costly wars, almost as much in winters as in summer. Many rich and prosperous people were either killed or deprived of their possessions as a result of their capture during these wars. They began to incur great losses at the siege of Neuss and those continued through three or four battles up to the moment of his death. So much so that in this last battle all the strength of his country was destroyed by the death, destruction or capture of all the men who were willing or able to defend the position and honour of his family. And also, as I have said, it seems that this loss was equal to their former happiness. For as I remarked that I had seen him famous, rich and highly respected, so I can say the same about his subjects, for I have known and seen the better part of Europe, yet I have not known any lordship or country of an equal size, not many of even bigger size, which was so abounding in riches, possessions and buildings nor so free with prodigalities, expenses, feasts and entertainments as I experienced in the time I lived there. And if some who did not visit Burgundy in the time I am speaking about think that I have exaggerated, perhaps there are others who lived there as I did who will say that I say too little.

Yet our Lord in on fell swoop caused the overthrow of this great and magnificent edifice; this powerful house which has produced and maintained so many fine gentlemen and which was so renowned both far and wide for so many great and victories and glories than any of its neighbours in its time. It had enjoyed this good fortune and God’s favour for a hundred and twenty years whilst all its neighbours like France, England and Spain were suffering. And all of them had on occasion come to seek help from Burgundy, as you have seen in the case of the King, our master, who in his youth in the lifetime of his father, Charles VII, had to withdraw to Burgundy for six years in the time of good Duke Philip, who received him warmly. I have seen there from England the two brothers of King Edward, the duke of Clarence and the duke of Gloucester, who later called himself King Richard. From the other party, that of the Lancastrian King Henry, I saw all or most of them there. On all sides I have seen this family honoured and then suddenly overthrown and turned upside down and its prince and people more desolated and defeated than any of their neighbours. These and similar works has Our Lord performed before we were born and He will continue to do so after we are dead, because we can be sure that the great prosperity or great misfortunes of princes proceed from His divine command.

  •  The lamb and flint were emblems of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

How the King was informed of the duke of Burgundy’s death and how he proceeded after it
TO continue with my account, the King, who had already set up a postal service in this kingdom (there had never been one before), was very quickly informed about the duke of Burgundy’s defeat. He expected further news every hour, because he had been told previously about the arrival of the Germans and all the other things which depended on this. There were many people keeping their ears open to be the first to hear the news and to report it to him, because he frequently gave something to the first person to bring him important news, not forgetting the messenger. He used to take the pleasure in saying before the news arrived, ‘I’ll give so much to the man who brings me the news of this.’ My lord of Bouchage and I jointly received the first news of the battle of Morat and together we told the King about it. He gave us each two hundred silver marks.

My lord of Lude, who was staying outside [the castle of] Plessis, was the first to learn of the arrival of the courier who brought letters about this battle of Nancy, which I have been relating, and he asked the messenger for them. He did not dare withhold the letters from him because he had great authority with the King. The lord of Lude came very early next morning, scarcely after daybreak, and knocked on the King’s door. He was let in and he delivered the letters which had been written by my lord of Craon and others. But these first letters did not confirm the duke’s death. Some said he had been seen fleeing and that he had escaped. The King was at first so overcome with joy when he received the news that he scarcely knew what attitude to adopt. On the one hand he feared that if the duke had been captured by the Germans, they would only ask him for a large ransom which the duke would easily be able to give them. On the other hand he was in some doubt whether he ought to take over the duke’s Burgundian lands if the duke had escaped after this third defeat. He thought that he could easily do so, seeing that almost all the leading men of those lands had been killed in these battles. On this point he decided (as few people except myself, I believe, knew) that if the duke was safe and well he would have his army, which was in Champagne and Bar, enter Burgundy immediately and seize the country during this time of great fright. As soon as he was established there he would inform the duke that he had done this in order to safeguard his lands for him lest the Germans ravage them (because the duchy was held under his sovereignty and he did not want it to fall into the hands of the Germans at any price), and that he would hand back to him whatever he had taken. And he could have done this without much difficulty, although many people find it hard to believe, because they do not know the reason for his plan; but when he learned of the duke’s death he changed his mind.

As soon as the King had received the letters I spoke about, which did not mention the duke’s death, he sent for all the captains and many other important people in Tours and showed them the letters. All showed signs of very great joy but it seemed to those who were observing them closely that many forced themselves to act in this way and, despite appearances, they would have been much happier if the duke’s affairs had turned out differently. This may have been because the King was greatly feared and they were afraid that if he found himself rid of so many enemies he would only want to change several things at home, especially honours and offices, because there were many present who during the disputes either over the Public Weal or with his brother, the duke of Guyenne, had found themselves opposed to him.

After speaking to them for a while he went to hear Mass and then had a table set up in his room and made them all dine with him. His Chancellor and some of the members of his council were present and whilst he dined he spoke all the time about these events. And I know well that I and others took notice of how the rest ate and what kind of appetites they had. Yet truthfully I do not know whether it was for joy or sorrow but not a single person seemed to eat half his fill. This was not because they were nervous about eating with the King, because there was no one in the company who had not often eaten there. On leaving the table the King went off and gave away to certain people some of the lands which had belonged to the duke, as if he were really dead. He dispatched the Bastard of Bourbon, who was Admiral of France, and me, giving us the necessary powers to admit into his obedience all those who wanted to be admitted. He ordered us to leave straight away and told us to open all the letters coming by post or by messenger which we encountered on our way, so that we should know whether the duke was dead or alive.

We left and went very quickly even though it was the coldest weather which I have ever experienced in my life. We had not gone half a day’s ride before we met a messenger. We made him hand over his letters. These contained the news that the duke had been found among the dead by an Italian page and by his doctor, Master Lope [de la Garde], a Portugese, who assured my lord of Craon that it was the duke, his master, and the King was at once told of it.

[The occupation of Picardy and Artois]
AS soon as we had learned all these things we proceeded to the outskirts of Abbeville and were the first to break the news to the duke’s supporters in this district. We found that the townspeople were already negotiating with my lord of Torcy, whom they had liked very much for a long time. The soldiers and ducal officers negotiated with us through a messenger whom we had sent on ahead, because of their confidence in us they dismissed four hundred Flemings whom they had with them. But when the townspeople saw they had gone they opened the gates for my lord of Torcy. This was a great loss for the captains and other officers of the town because there were seven or eight to whom we had promised money and pensions (on the authority given to us by the King), and they were unable to receive anything because the places were not handed over by them. Abbeville was one of the places which King Charles VII had handed over at the peace of Arras, all of which were to be returned to France in default of male heirs, so it is not surprising that they opened their gates to us so readily. From there we proceeded to the Doullens and sent a summons to Arras, captial of Artois, long the patrimony of the counts of Flanders, which had always descended to daughters as well as sons.

My lords of Ravenstein and Cordes, who were in Arras, undertook to come to speak to us with men from the town of Mont-Saint-Éloi, an abbey close to Arras. It was decided that I should go, accompanied by several others because it was very much feared that they would not comply with all our wishes. For this reason the Admiral did not go. Shortly after I arrived at the abbey the lords of Ravenstein and Cordes, several other noblemen and some men from Arras arrived, and among others representing the town was their pensioner and spokesman, Master Jean de la Vacquerie, who has since become premier président of the Parlement of Paris.30On this occasion we asked them to open the town to the King and let us in, saying that the King claimed the town and the surrounding district as his by right of confiscation and that if they did not do so they would be in danger of being captured by force, seeing that their lord had been defeated and all the country lacked soldiers to defend it because of the three lost battles. The lords informed us through Jean de la Vacquerie that the county of Artois belonged to my lady of Burgundy, Duke Charles’s daughter, and it was hers by direct succession from Countess Margaret of Flanders, who was countess of Flanders, Artois, Burgundy, Nevers and Rethel and had married the first Duke Philip of Burgundy, who was son of King John and brother of King Charles V.31 They begged the King to respect the truce between himself and the late Duke Charles.

Our words were moderate because we had expected this kind of reply, but the main reason for my journey was to speak to certain individuals who were there to persuade them to join the King. I spoke about this to some of them who soon afterwards became good servants of the King.

We found the whole region very alarmed and not without reason, for I believe that in eight days they could not have managed to find eight men-at-arms nor were there any other soldiers in all the surrounding areas, except about fifteen hundred infantry or cavalry who were stationed in Namur and Hainault. They had escaped from the battle in which the duke of Burgundy was killed. They had changed their tune and now talked quietly and very humbly. I do not mean to say that in days gone by they had spoken more arrogantly than they ought to have done, but it is true that when I lived there they thought themselves so powerful that they did not speak to or about the King with the deference they have since shown. If people were always very wise they would so moderate their words in times of prosperity that they would not have reason to change them in times of adversity.

I returned to my lord the Admiral to make my report and I discovered there that the King was coming. He had set out soon afterwards and had had several letters written both in his own name and in those of his officers ordering men to join them. By this means he hoped to reduce these lordships to his obedience.

  •  Appointed president 27 February 1482, d. July 1497.
  • See Book Four, Chapter 13-i, & fn. 33.

[Louis XI mishandles the Burgundian succession]
THE King was overjoyed at seeing himself triumph over all those whom he hated and who were his enemies. He had taken revenge on some like the Constable of France, the duke of Nemours32 and several others. His brother, the duke of Guyenne, was dead and he had taken over his possessions. All the members of the house of Anjou like King René of Sicily, Dukes John and Nicholas of Calabria and their cousin, the count of Maine, later count of Provence, were dead.33 The count of Armagnac had been killed in Lectoure.34 From all of these the King had acquired both their lands and their belongings. But as the house of Burgundy was so much greater and more powerful than all the others and had fought his father, Charles VII, for thirty-two years without a truce, with English assistance, and because their territories bordered his own and the duke’s subjects were disposed to wage war on him and his kingdom, so his pleasure and profit were much greater [from the duke’s fall] than from all the others combined. He thought that for the rest of his life he would meet no more opposition in his kingdom or in neighbouring states. He was at peace with the English, as you have heard, and he desired to remain so and did all in his power to maintain the peace with England.

Yet although all his fears were allayed, God did not allow him to handle this affair, which was so important, in the way that he ought to have done. For through marriage and friendship he could easily have joined these great territories, to which he could not otherwise claim any right, to his crown. He could have done what he liked and forced the people to allow him his own way as a condition of the marriage, in view of the great discomfort, improverishment and weakening which these lordships had suffered. In this way he would have easily strengthened his kingdom and enriched it by the long peace which he could have maintained. He could have lightened its burdens in several ways, especially by limiting the passage of troops incessantly riding from one end of the kingdom to the other, usually for no very good reason, as they did then and still do now. Whilst the duke of Burgundy was still alive, the King told me several times what he would do if the duke would try to arrange a marriage between his son, our present King, and the duke’s daughter, who later became duchess of Austria. If she refused (since my lord the Dauphin was much younger than she was) he would try to make her marry some young French lord in order to maintain good relations with her and her subjects and to recover, without a struggle, the things which he claimed were his. The King still intended to keep this plan a week before he learned of the duke’s death. But he had already begun to change this wise scheme, which I have told you about, on the day he received the news of the duke’s death and at the tme when he dispatched the Admiral and me. Nevertheless he said little about it although he made promises of lands and lordships to some people.

  •  Nemours was executed on 4 August 1477.
  • René died on 10 July 1480 and Maine on 11 December 1481.
  • 6 March 1473.

[The Burgundian succession]
WHEN the King was on the road following us he received heartening news from all quarters. The castles of Ham and Bohain were delivered to him. The inhabitants of Saint-Quentin took over the town and placed their neighbour the lord of Moy in it. The King was well assured of the town of Péronne which Guillaume Bische held and was confidant that, through us and others, the lord of Cordes would be won over to his side. He had sent to Ghent his barber, Master Olivier,35 who was born in a village near Ghent, and he had sent numerous others of whom he thought highly to several towns because many served him better in words than deeds.

As the King neared Péronne I went to meet him, and there Guillaume Bische and others rendered the homage of the town to him, which pleased him greatly. The King stayed at Péronne that day and I dined with him as I usually did because he liked to have at least seven or eight people, and sometimes many more, eating at his table. After dining he withdrew and was not at all pleased with the little that the Admiral and I had achieved. He said that he had sent Master Olivier, his barber to Ghent, and he would bring this town to his obedience; Robin d’Ooudenfort had gone to Saint-Omer where he had friends who would obtain keys to the town and would admit his troops. He also mentioned people in other large towns and got my lord of Lude and others to dispute with me over this. It was not my place to argue with him or to say anything contrary to his wishes. But I told him that I doubted whether Master Olivier and the others whom he had mentioned would be able to succeed with these large towns as easily as he thought.

What made the King say this to me was that he had changed his mind, and the good fortune he had experienced at the outset gave him hopes that everyone everywhere would surrender to him. He was advised by certain people and was also himself entirely committed to ruining and destroying this house and dividing the lands up among several people, and he named those to whom he intended to give the counties, such as Nemurs and Hainault, which were situated close to his own lands. He was going to help some German lords to obtain other large territories like Brabant and Holland. They would become his friends and help him to carry out his plans. He was pleased to tell me all about this because I had on previous occasions spoken to him and counselled him to adopt the other policy, as described above. He wanted me to understand his reasons for changing his mind and why this policy was more beneficial to his kingdom, which had suffered so much because of the greatness of the house of Burgundy and the wide lordships it possessed.

From a wordly point of view there was much substance in what the King was saying, but as a matter of conscience, I thought the opposite. Nevertheless the King’s judgement was so much greater than mine or any others in his company that we could not comprehend his affairs as clearly as he could himself. For without any doubt he was one of the cleverest and most subtle princes of his generation. But in these great matters God disposes of the hearts of kings and powerful princes which He holds in His hand so that they will follow the policies which lead to the results He wants to happen. Had it been His pleasure that our King should continue this scheme, which he had himself formed before the duke’s death, there would have been no great difficulty and the wars which occurred later, and still continue, would not have happened. But we on either side were not worthy of God’s sight to receive this long peace and from that proceded the error which our King committed, and not because of a fault in his judgement, for that was very great as I have said.

I am speaking at length about these matters to demonstrate how, when one is about to begin some very important business, one should consult and discuss it fully in order to be able to choose the better course. One should, in particular, commend oneself to God and pray that it will please Him to point out the best way, because everything proceeds from Him and this is evident from writings and experience. I do not mean to blame our King by saying that he erred in this matter, for, perhaps, others who know and understand more than I do would have been, and indeed were, of the same opinion as he was, although the matter was not discussed at all there nor anywhre else. Chroniclers usually write only praiseworthy things about those of whom they speak and they omit many things or are sometimes ignorant of the truth. I decided to speak about nothing that was untrue or which I had not seen or learned about from such important people that their words can be trusted, whether or not these things are praiseworthy. For it is good to think that there is no prince so wise that he does not err once in a while, and very often if he lives a long time. This would be seen from their actions if the truth were always told. The highest and most important senates and consuls have frequently erred and still do as we have seen and still see every day.

After the King had stayed in the village close to Péronne, he decided to make his entry into the town on the following day, since it had been delivered to him as I said. The King drew me on one side just as he was about to leave and sent me to Poitou and the Marches of Brittany. He whispered in my ear that if Master Olivier’s enterprise did not succeed, and if my lord of Cordes did not abandon his friends, he would burn the county of Artois around l’Alloeue along the River Lys and then return immediately to Touraine. I recommended to him some who had changed to his side as a result of my efforts, promising them pensions and other benefits from him. He took down their names from me in writing and he kept the promises I had made to them on his behalf. So I left him on this occasion.

As I was about to mount my horse my lord of Lude came up to me and shrewdly spoke some mocking words to me. He was very useful to the King in some things and was very concerned about his private fortune; he was never afraid to abuse anyone and was often deceived. He had been brought up with the King in his youth and knew very well how to please him, for he was a very charming man. ‘What’s this?’ he said. ‘Are you leaving when now’s the chance for making your fortune, in view of the great prizes which are falling into the King’s hands, and when he’ll be able to advance and enrich all those he likes? For my part I expect to be governor of Flanders and to turn myself into gold!’ And he laughed heartily. I did not feel like laughing because I suspected that his remark stemmed from the King. I replied that I would be very happy if this happened and I hoped the King would not forget me, and then I left.

A knight from Hainault had arrived there to see me less than half an hour before and he brought me news from several people to whom I had written begging them to enter the King’s service. The knight and I were related and he is still alive. For this reason I do not want to name him nor those from whom he brought me news. In a couple of words, he proposed to deliver the chief castles and towns in the county of Hainault and I briefly reported his message when taking my leave of the King. Immediately the King sent for him but he told me that neither he nor the others I had named were the sort of people he needed. One displeased him for one reason, another for another, and he thought that their offers were worthless and that he could get all he wanted without them. So I left him, and the King told the knight to speak to my lord of Lude. He was amazed by this and soon left without entering into serious discussions because the lord of Lude and he could never have agreed or understood each other, since he had come in the hopes of making a profit and enriching himself, and the lord of Lude asked him straight away what the towns would give him in return for looking after their interests.

Here again I consider the King’s refusal and contempt of the knights to have been inspired by God, for I have seen him since in a position where he would have held them in high esteem if he could have come to terms with them. But perhaps Our Lord did not wish him to fulfil all his desires for several of the reasons I have mentioned. Or perhaps He did not want him to usurp the county of Hainault, which was held from the Empire, both because he had no title to it and also because of the ancient alliances and oaths existing between the Emperors and the kings of France. The King has clearly shown since that he recognized this because he held Cambrai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain in Hainault but then he returned this part of Hainault and restored the neutrality of Cambrai as an Imperial town.

Although I was not on the spot I was informed about the events which occurred and I could easily understand them because of my experience and upbringing on both sides, and later I learned about them from those who were in charge on either side.

  •  Olivier le Dain, hanged 21 May 1484.

[The mission of Olivier le Dain]
MASTER OVIVIER, as you have heard had gone to Ghent with letters of credence addressed to my lady of Burgundy, daughter of Duke Charles. He had been commissioned to make certain secret proposals to her so that she would allow herself to be won over to the King’s side. That was not his main commission, however, because he was afraid that he would be unable to speak to her alone and that even if he spoke to her he might not be able to persuade her to do what he wanted. He intended rather to cause some great revolution in the town of Ghent, recognizing that it was always so inclined and that under Dukes Philip and Charles the town had been held in great fear and the townspeople deprived of certain privileges when they made their peace with Duke Philip after their wars. Duke Charles had also deprived them of one privilege respecting the creation of their own magistrates for an offence which they had committed against him on his entry into the town the first day he set foot in it as duke. I have discussed this earlier so I will say no more. All the factors gave Master Olivier, the King’s barber, as I said, great confidence to carry out his plan. He spoke to several whom he thought would willingly listen to what he wanted to do, and he offered to get the King to return their lost privileges and to give other benefits to them. But he did not go to their town hall to speak about this publicly because he wanted first of all to see what he could achieve with this young princess. Nevertheless he learned something about it. When Olivier had been in Ghent a for a few days, he was asked to state his business. He came into the presence of the princess, dressed much better than his position warranted. He delivered his letters of credence. The lady was on her throne and at her side were the duke of Clèves, the bishop of Liège, many other high-ranking persons and a large number of people. She read his letters and Master Olivier was ordered to deliver his message. He replied that he had no orders but to speak to her privately. He was told that this was not the custom, especially with regard to this young lady, who had yet to be married. He persisted in saying that he would say nothing further except to her. They told him that they would make him speak and he became very frightened. And I believe that up to the moment when he presented his letters he had not thought out what he ought to say, because that was not his principal business, as you have heard. Some of that council made fun of him, because of his mean status and the sort of language he used, especially the men of Ghent since he was a native of a small village close to the town, and they made all sorts of fun of him. Then suddenly he fled from the town because he had been warned that if he did not do so he was in great danger of being thrown in the river and I believe that is true.

Master Olivier, who called himself count of Meulan, after a small town close to Paris of which he was captain, fled to Tournai after his departure from Ghent. This town is neutral and has a great affection for the King because it belongs to him and pays him ten thousand livres parisis a year, but otherwise it enjoys complete freedom and everybody is welcome there. It is a very fine and strong town as everyone in that area knows well. The churchmen and burgesses of the town got their income from and had all their assets in Hainault and Flanders, because the town is on the borders of these two territories. For this reason, they had always been accustomed, during the former wars between King Charles VII and Duke Philip of Burgundy, to giving ten thousand livres a year to the duke and I have seen them give as much to Duke Charles of Burgundy. At the time when Master Olivier entered the town it paid nothing and was enjoying great prosperity and peace. Although the mission which Master Olivier had undertaken was too difficult for him to carry out, he was not so much to blame as those who gave it to him. The exploit turned out as might have been expected. But nevertheless he did show judgement and courage in what he did, because he recognized that Tournai was so close to these two territories that I have mentioned that it could not possibly have been closer and that it would be very easy to cause damage to either of them from there, provided he could place in the town the soldiers which the King had near by. Not for anything would the townspeople have agreed to this, since they had never shown themselves supporters of one side or the other but had always remained neutral between those two princes. Master Olivier, therefore, sent word secretly to my lord of Moy, whose son was bailli of the town36 (although he did not reside there), to bring his company, which was at Saint-Quentin, and some other troops which were in the area. At the appointed time he came to the gate, where he found Master Olivier, accompanied by thirty or forty men who had the courage, half through love and half through fear, to open the gate. He placed the men-at-arms inside. The inhabitants were happy enough but the rulers of the town were not. Olivier sent seven or eight of them to Paris and they did not dare to leave as long as the King lived. After these troops had entered the town others did the same and they later did a tremendous amount of harm to the two territories by pillaging many fine villages and farms, altough this caused more loss to the inhabitants of Tournai than anyone else, for the reasons I have explained. And they did so much damage that the Flemings marched against them and released the duke of Guelders from the prison in which Duke Charles had put him, in order to make him their leader. They laid siege to the town but only for a short while, since they left in great disorder and fled from there losing many men, including the duke of Guelders, who put himself in the rearguard to help resist the attack. But he was badly served and died there. Thus the King gained honours as a result of Master Olivier and the King’s enemies received much injury. A very much wiser and more outstanding person than he might well have talked to accomplish his mission.

I have said enough about the mission which was given by this wise King to this insignificant man who was unsuited to the management of such an important affair. It seems clear that God had disturbed our King’s judgement in this matter, for, as I have said, if he had not thought his objectives so easy to achieve and he had restrained his passion and the vengeance which he desired upon this house, without a shadow of a doubt, he would today have held all this territory under his jurisdiction.

  •  Appointed 28 June 1484.

[Louis XI and the Burgundian lords]

i Operations and negotiations in Picardy and Artois

PÉRONNE was handed over to the King by Guillaume Bische, a man of small estate. Bische, a native of Moulins-Engilbert in the Nivernais, had been enriched and raised to a position of authority by Duke Charles of Burgundy, who handed him over this place to his keeping because close by was his property, called Cléry, which Bische had acquired and where he had made a very fine, strong castle. Afterwards the King received at Péronne certain ambassadors, representing my lady of Burgundy, who were the greatest and most important people on whom she could call for help, although it was not a wise decision to send them all together. But their grief and fear were so intense that they did not know what to say or do. The ambassadors included their Chancellor, Mast Guilllaume Hugonet, a very remarkable and wise man who had enjoyed great favour with Duke Charles and received great benefits from him. The lord of Humbercourt was there — enough has been said about him in these memoirs. I cannot remember ever having seen a wiser gentleman nor one more capable of handling the most important affairs. Also present were the lord of Veere, a great lord in Zeeland, and the lord of Gruthuse and several others, noblemen and churchmen as well as town officials.

Our King, before granting them a general or private audience, took great pains to win over each one of them and he got from them humble and respectful replies as is usual from fearful people. Yet those who held lands in places they did not expect the King to seize did not want to commit themselves in any way to the King, unless the marriage between his son, my lord the Dauphin, and the lady were to take place.

The Chancellor and the lord of Humbercourt, who had exercised great authority for a long time wanted to continue to do so and whose lands bordered on the King’s, one in the duchy of Burgundy and the other just in Picardy in the direction of Amiens, lent an an ear to the King and his offers. They agreed upon certain limiting conditions to help him arrange this marriage and when it had taken place they were to put themselves entirely in his hands. And even though this was the best policy, all the same it did not please the King and he became dissatisfied with them when [he realized that] they would not remain on his side as soon as they knew this. But he did not let them see his feelings because he wanted to make use of them in whatever way he could.

Already the King had reached a good understanding with my lord of Cordes, who was commander and master of Arras. Counselled and advised by him, the King requested the ambassadors to order the lord of Cordes to open the citadel of Arras to him, because at that time there were walls and a moat between the town of Arras and a citadel and gates closed against the citadel, whilst at present it is the other way round with the citadel closed against the town. After making several representations to the ambassadors, saying that it would be for the best and peace could be achieved more easily by obeying these orders, they consented to do it, especially the Chancellor and the lord of Humbercourt. They sent letters discharging the lord of Cordes and allowing him to deliver the citadel of Arras, which he willingly did.37 As soon as the King was inside the citadel he had earthworks thrown up against the gate and at other places near the town and by the terms of the agreement my lord of Cordes marched out of the town and made the soldiers who were with him do likewise. And everyone went where he pleased and joined whichever side he liked.

ii How the King drew the lord of Cordes into his service and how through his help he recovered the towns of Arras, Hesdin and Boulogne

The lord of Cordes, considering himself discharged from the service of his mistress by the agreement which the ambassadors had made that he should admit the King into the citadel of Arras, decided that he should swear allegiance to the King and to become his servant, bearing in mind that his name and arms were derived from this side of the Somme, close to Beauvais, because his name was Sir Philip de Crèvecoeur and he was the second brother of the lord of Crèvecoeur. Also these lands, which the house of Burgundy had occupied on the River Somme during the lifetime of Dukes Philip and Charles and about which I have said enough, returned without any difficulty to the King by terms of the treaty of Arras in which they had been handed over to Duke Philip for himself and his male heirs alone, and Duke Charles left only this daughter of whom I have spoken. So Sir Philip de Crèvecoeur became the King’s man without difficulty. For which reason he would not have been considered in the wrong for placing himself in the King’s service had he not taken a new oath of allegiance to the duchess and done homage to her for what he held from her. This has been talked about and will be discussed from many points of view, so I report merely what happened. All I know is that he was provided for, promised and put in high authority by Duke Charles, that his mother had partly helped to bring up the lady of Burgundy and that he was governor of Picardy, seneschal of Pontheiu, captain of Crotoy, governor of Péronne, Roye and Montdidier and captain of Boulogne and Hesdin for Duke Charles when he died; he still today holds these offices from the King in the form and manner which the King, our master, gave them to him.

After the King had done what I have described in the citadel of Arras, he left and went to lay siege to Hesdin, taking with him the lord of Cordes who had held the place only three days before. His men were still there and it appeared that they wanted to hold it for the lady, saying that they had sworn allegiance to her and they fired their guns for a few days. Then they listened to their master (and truthfully those both inside and outside understood each other well) and so the town was delivered to the King, who then went on to Boulogne, where the same thing happened. They held out, perhaps, for one more day. Yet this ruse would have been dangerous if there had been more troops in the district. And the King who told me about it later, fully realized this, because there were men in Boulogne who clearly knew what the situation was and were trying to put troops into the town if they could do so in time in order to defend it adequately.

Whilst the King was halted before Boulogne for five or six days, the inhabitants of Arras considered themselves betrayed on seeing that they were enclosed on all sides by considerable forces and a large number of guns. They tried to find troops to reinforce their town and wrote to neighbouring towns like Lille and Douai about this. At Douai there were a few horsemen, including the lord of Vergy and some others whose names I cannot remember. They were some of the survivors of the battle of Nancy and they decided to station themselves in the town of Arras. They assembled as many as they could — about two or three hundred horsemen, all told, and five or six hundred infantry. The men of Douai, who were at that time still a little proud, urged them to leave in broad daylight whether they wanted to or not. This was a great mistake on their part, as it happened, for the countryside beyond Arras for about five leagues is flat as a man’s hand. Had they waited until night they could have carried out their scheme as they had intended. When they were on their way, those who remained in the citadel, such as the lord of Lude, Jean du Fou and the soldiers of Marshal Lohéac, were warned of their approach. They decided to go out as quickly as possible to confront them and to risk everything rather than let them enter the town, because they thought that they would be unable to defend the town if others entered it. Their enterprise was very dangerous but they executed it boldly and destroyed the company which had set out from Douai. Those men were almost all killed or captured, including the lord of Verby who was taken. The King arrived there the next day and was very pleased by this exploit and had all the prisoners take into his own custody. He had several of the foot soldiers put to death, in the hope of frightening the few troops remaining in this district. He kept the lord of Vergy in prison for a long time. Nothing in the world would persuade him to take the oath to the King; so he was closely guarded and well-shackled. In the end, on the advice of his mother and after spending a year or more in prison, he wisely obeyed the King’s wishes. The King restored all his own lands and those which he claimed and made him possessor of more than ten thousand livres in rents and other good offices.

Those who escaped the rout entered the town but they were few in number. The King had his artillery, which was very powerful and numerous, brought up to fire. Neither the ditch nor the wall offered much protection. The bombardment was heavy and everyone was frightened. There were few soldiers inside. My lord of Cordes had good informers there and since the King held the citadel, the town could not hold out against him. For these reasons they made an agreement to surrender the town; this was badly kept, partly through the fault of my lord of Lude. The King had several burgesses and many other wealthy men killed. The lord of Ludes and Master Guillaume de Cirisay made great profit there — the lord of Lude told me that he gained twenty thousand crowns and two martens’ furs on this occasion. The townspeople made a loan of sixty thousand crowns which was a large sum for them. Yet I believe that the money was returned; because the people of Cambrai loaned forty thousand crowns, which was certainly returned to them later, and for this reason I believe that the other sum was returned.

  •  Royal troops entered the citadel on 4 March 1477.

Text copyright © [1972], Michael Jones. This edition is still a work in progress. We are grateful to Professor Jones for permission to place this edition online while he completes a review of the text, and will correct any errors found by Professor Jones on completion of this review.