The Duchy of Burgundy: a lovely little spot right in the heart of Europe. Originally settled by an East Germanic tribe of the same name, it went through the usual kingdom growth, reorganization, invasions, and political turmoil typical for the time.
Around the 15th Century, Burgundy was under the watchful eye of Philip the Good. And if you ask me, we should get back to giving ourselves cool monikers as part of our name. Mine’s Alyssa the Freaking Awesome.
So Philip the Good became Duke near the beginning of the Century: son to John the Fearless (see? Totally cool. Start doing it, let’s make it a thing), and because they didn’t have big hiked-up trucks back then or sports cars, they had to use titles as a way of expressing themselves; so he was also count of Flanders, count of Artois, and Count of Franche-Comté.
His liege lord was the King of France: Charles VII, but he blamed Charles for the murder of his dad, blocked him on Facebook, and tended to say “you’re not the boss of me, uhuh!” whenever in his presence.
And because the 100 Years War is raging and England is knuckle-sandwiching every French knight within reach, Philip thinks that it would be a spiffy idea to be best buds with Henry V of England. What better way to stick-it to France?
His court was the most extravagant in Europe. He was the accepted leader of taste and fashion, which meant that Burgundy became a great exporter of luxurious goods. The dude was a PIMP, but he had problems deciding who he wanted to be friends with.
England and Burgundy were best buds right up to and just after Burgundy captured a pesky little bint known as Joan of Arc, where they gave her to England, and brought a six-pack for the trial and execution. Selfies were taken, Burgundy and England got drunk, and traffic cones were stolen. Good times.
But in 1435 France called everyone together: the Hundred Years was still going on, England was running all over the country sticking little English flags on every French hill in sight, and Burgundy was still all kinds of upset over his dad’s death. Things were getting out of control. So King Charles VII sat Henry V and Philip down at a table:
Charles VII: “Okay, Phil, that block man was uncool, but – look – I’ll totally punish the guys who curb stomped your dad, but you have to recognize me as King, okay?”
Philip: “Do I have to do all that bowing stuff? Pay homage and junk? *sneer*.”
Charles VII: “No … no … *sighs* … just recognize me as king and let’s bury the hatchet.”
Philip: “I can get behind that.”
Charles VII: “Henry … HENRY … stop sticking flags … take that flag out of the table … “
Charles VII: “Look, we’re burying the hatchet here … let’s get some peace going on. Look, we’ll go out for drinks, first round is on m-GET THAT FLAG OUT OF MY COURTYARD!”
Henry: “Nope. Oh, and Phil, I’m so blocking you.”
Philip: “Pfft, whatevs. I’m attacking Calais.”
But Philip being Philip, he tended to switch sides quickly and only a few years later he ended up supporting an uprising of French nobles, which naturally had Charles VII going “What the living fuck?” At this point Philip clearly starts showing a wonderful aptitude at “pissing off everyone” and unlocks the achievement “untrustworthy bugger.”
And as if to illustrate just how untrustworthy he was: in 1463 he offered to give lands back to France that had been stolen over the years, while simultaneously raising funds … for a war against France. “Sorry mate, it’s all good, here’s that thing I took off you … *psssssst, pass me a club so I can brain this tosser and steal that shit back …*”
Enter into the scene one Louis de Bourbon, nephew to Philip on his sister’s side. Louis was raised by Philip, so it was only natural that a little family nepotism would exist. Phil wanted to look after Louis, but in so doing he had a chance to increase the sphere of his influence. So he had a word in the shell-like of Pope Callixtus III and managed to get a venerable 69-year-old Jean de Heinsberg removed as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, instead installing the 18-year-old Louis. Louis was chuffed, naturally, but he was also still studying at the University of Leuven for 7 more years … which meant Philip was now the de facto ruler of Liège.
Liège was not impressed. They were not part of Burgundy, they were the Roman Catholic Diocese of Liège, so suddenly having Philip at the helm and they were all kinds of upset. The ringleader was Raes van Heers, bailiff of Heers, and Raes – knowing that France really wasn’t a fan of Burgundy – contacted King Louis XI for help in an uprising. Louis XI was all “oh heck yes! Count me in! *highfive*,” but when shit kicked off the next year Raes found himself standing in a field with 4,000 civilians facing a proper, full-on army from Philip the Good under the commander Charles the Bold. The peasants were summarily beat up, drop-kicked, and choked-out.
Liège lost all rights and Charles the Bold plopped Louis of Boubon into position with a steely glare. “Stop fucking about, this is the way of things, you little bastards.” He said.
But the citizens of Liège would not behave, and only the following year they rebelled again at the city of Dinant. Philip, doubtlessly pinching the bridge of his nose and exhaling slowly, ordered in Charles the Bold again, who emphasized just how bloody serious they were about this whole thing by throwing 800 burghers into the river and promptly burning the city to the ground. Charles stood in front of the burning city with a foot on a burgher’s head; “any questions?”
Apparently there were questions, because the very next year in 1467 Philip the Good died, and Liège again went into upheaval, chasing out Louis of Bourbon, Raes van Heers again raised an army, and again went to Louis XI for support. Louis was all “oh, m8, sorry for a couple of years ago, I didn’t know you were serious. Yeah, sign me up for this throw-down, I am so your man! Troops ON-THE-WAY. Honest.”
Charles the Bold once more arrived with his army of 25,000 men, and probably started to ask himself if he should just get a time-share going in the area, as he was certainly spending a lot of time here. Raes was defiant: he had raised 12,000 militia this time – three times what he had a couple of years ago – and with France lending support, this battle could be won!
But at the moment he was outnumbered, so he spread his troops out between marshes to reduce the effectiveness of the superior numbers arrayed against him. When Charles the Bold ordered an initial attack, Raes told his line to hold and wait for France’s reinforcements, but the militia were … well … militia, so they ignored him and counter-attacked anyway. They were successful in this endeavor and managed to kill a lot of Charles’ archers, but Charles knew this was going to happen and had planned for it. In reserve behind the archers he had a whole line of bad-ass, two-handed-sword wielding, battle-frenzied, plate-clad, murderous monsters. And they SMASHED into the peasants in a blood-spraying, body-hewing orgy of violence.
Raes van Heers ran the hell away, and Liège suffered some 4,000 casualties, only nightfall preventing even further carnage.
France failed to show up for the fight.
On a historical note, Liège still refused to accept Burgundian rule. LOL! The following year 240 rebels invaded the city, chased out the garrison, and occupied the Prince-Bishops’ palace. They then attacked Tongeren and killed all Burgundians there. Viva la Résistance!
But Charles the Bold had other plans. He rode up with an army … get this, accompanied by Louis XI. Promptly kneed the city into submission, and – to impress his point home YET AGAIN – he tied up hundreds of Liègois townsfolk and threw them into the river. Then he burned down the city … again.
Louis of Bourbon remained Prince-Bishop until he was murdered on 30 August 1482 by William de La Marck, who was supported by Louis XI of France.