In the heart of the Hundred Years War, a real civil war pitted the Armagnacs, loyal to the royal family, and the Burgundians who allied with the English. Since 1389, King Charles VI has regularly suffered from attacks of dementia. A council of regency was exercised by his brothers, of whom Louis was the most influential at the start of the 15th century, despite the growing power of the House of Burgundy. This rivalry will come to a head with the assassination of Louis, Duke of Orleans, on the orders of Jean sans Peur, Duke of Burgundy, on November 23, 1407.
Charles VI and the Great
King Charles VI succeeded his father Charles V in 1380. The latter had significant success against the English, and he strengthened royal power. His successor, however, could not really take advantage of the situation: on his arrival on the throne he was young and power was exercised by Jean de Berry and Philippe le Bold, Duke of Burgundy. But the other grandees of the kingdom, including the Duke of Anjou, are claiming their share.
France then experienced a period of unrest and revolts. However, the king won at the battle of Roosebecke on November 27, 1382, in Flanders, and gradually managed to impose his authority. In 1388, he freed himself from the influence of his uncles, and surrounded himself with advisers called the Marmousets; the royal power is strengthened again. Unfortunately for Charles VI, he was seized with madness on August 5, 1392: his illness annihilated his power, and he fell back under the control of dukes more rival than ever ...
The rivalry between Armagnacs and Burgundians
Charles VI's madness brought Philip the Bold back to the government, which he soon controlled completely. The Duke of Burgundy then took the opportunity to negotiate truces with an England which was also divided after the struggles between Richard II and Henri de Lancaster. It also contracts alliances with Austria, Bavaria and Luxembourg. Finally, he finances a crusade led by his son Jean to come to the aid of the Hungarians threatened by the Ottomans in the Balkans. It was a failure following the disaster of Nicopolis in September 1396, Jean was taken prisoner. From the years 1400-1402, the Duke of Burgundy found himself facing a new rival, Louis, Duke of Orleans and brother of the king. The tension continues to mount, without reaching a great violence, except for a few scuffles.
The situation changes with the coming to power in Burgundy of the son of Philippe le Bold, Jean sans Peur. The latter, released from Turkish jails in 1398, succeeded his father in 1404. The following year, he inherited the counties of Flanders and Artois from his mother. John certainly paid homage to Charles VI, but he quickly opposed Louis of Orleans, who succeeded Philippe le Bold to the mad king. Reduced to his principality, cut off from his trade with the English, Jean sans Peur decides to settle the problem by violence.
November 23, 1407: the assassination of the Duke of Orleans
The Duke of Burgundy orders the assassination of his rival. Louis of Orleans, who is due to come and meet Queen Isabeau, is lured into a trap on rue Vieille-du-Temple, and his escort is unable to stop the fifteen killers who attack them. Jean sans Peur is not sure of the support of the Parisian population and, at first, he flees the capital. However, he returned at the beginning of 1408, and even had his murder validated by the theologian Jean Petit. He moved to the Hôtel de Bourgogne, fortified in 1409, with, among other things, the tower that now bears his name. The support of Paris and the act of tyrannicide of Jean Petit allow him to confess his crime to the king, who ends up supporting him.
The Duke Jean sans Peur continues the successes in the years following the murder of his rival: in 1408, he beats the Liegeois in Othée; in 1409, he took power in Paris after making peace (of Chartres) with the children of the Duke of Orleans. But the following year, the other Greats ganged up against him, at the initiative of Jean de Berry. Two parties then formed: the Burgundians, and the Armagnacs (the princes of Berry, Bourbon, Anjou, but also the queen and the Dauphin). It’s civil war, interspersed with never really respected truces. The Duke of Burgundy had to abandon Paris in 1413, but it was above all the English who took advantage of the situation: they landed and crushed the French at Azincourt in 1415. Having retaken Paris in 1418, Jean sans Peur tried to get closer to the Dauphin (the future Charles VII) to counter the English threat, but he was assassinated in his turn on September 10, 1419. His son Philippe le Bon then chose the English camp. The war between Armagnacs and Burgundians, which has only just begun, therefore has terrible consequences for France when the Hundred Years War resumes…
The assassination of the Duke of Burgundy Jean sans Peur on September 10, 1419 sparked civil war in France, betweenArmagnacs and Burgundians. Four years earlier, the King of England Henry V had landed and inflicted a severe defeat on the French at the Battle of Azincourt. The conflict that is tearing the kingdom apart falls badly, while theHundred Years War took over in the worst possible way. Its roots are deep, and its consequences decisive.
Armagnacs and Burgundians, two opposing parties
The civil war that truly breaks out with the assassination of John the Fearless has long-standing ramifications.
Since Philippe le Bold (not to be confused with the king of the same name) and the latter's marriage to Marguerite of Flanders, the Duchy of Burgundy has been extended by Flanders, Artois, Franche-Comté and the county from Nevers, then from Charolais in 1390; all these territories having been reunited under the authority of Jean sans Peur at the death of his mother. The latter then conquered other regions, such as Auxerrois or "the Cities of the Somme" (Amiens, Corbie, Doullens, Saint-Quentin). In addition, the Duchy exerts an influence on nearby territories, such as Hainaut, the County of Holland or the Duchy of Brabant. On the other hand, the Burgundian territory is not homogeneous, and the action of Louis of Orleans threatening to permanently separate the two main parts of the duchy partly explains the decision of Jean sans Peur.
The rivalry between Armagnacs and Burgundians can also be found in the influences on certain aristocratic clienteles. If the Burgundians are rather close to the nobles of the North and the merchant bourgeoisie, the Armagnacs are close to the nobles of the Center and the South and to financial circles. Here again, the Duke of Orleans is attempting to forge relationships in the heart of areas of Burgundian influence, or those they target, as in the Empire. This division and this competition between clienteles can be seen even in the entourage of King Charles VI, the partisans of the Burgundians being distinguished by certain symbols (cross of Saint Andrew, plane, etc.), the Armagnacs by others (a gnarled stick with the motto "I bored it").
To this must be added the influence on public opinion, which is also divided, and which chooses one side or the other, like Paris, which takes the oath to Jean sans Peur. "Bourguignon" or "Armagnac" become insults, appears a propaganda made up of rumors and accusations of witchcraft.
The opposition is also political and even religious. The Burgundians do not support the Pope of Avignon, unlike the Armagnacs. But it is especially against the English that the greatest differences can be seen: the Duke of Burgundy, because of his strategic position in Flanders, prefers to negotiate with them, while the Duke of Orleans is much more offensive against them. Finally, their conception of the State differs, each one defended by theorists (Christine de Pizan for example, for the Armagnacs): if for the Burgundians the model is rather to be found on the side of Saint Louis, admittedly idealized, the Armagnacs develop a less popular program, with significant taxation and radical justice; it is the strong state, inspired by the experience of the Marmosets, and a stronger royal power against the feudal lords. The Armagnac party is therefore that of the king.
The Cabochian episode
This rivalry between Armagnacs and Burgundians provoked many armed conflicts, as did struggles for influence at the court of poor Charles VI and revolts in the main cities, led by Paris.
On this last point, we must cite the example of the "Cabochian episode": in 1413, at the insistence of Jean sans Peur, the king united in Paris the States General of Languedoïl. The city is under tension, but in favor of the Burgundians, and "militias" led by a butcher, Caboche, roam the streets and threaten a general revolt. It is in this atmosphere that a reform ordinance, with a strong Burgundian influence and called “cabochienne”, was promulgated at the end of May 1413. This did not calm the revolt, however: the Burgundians were overwhelmed, and some of the supporters of the reform, especially among academics, switch to Armagnacs. The Cabochian movement is a failure and its main leaders beheaded; the Burgundians have to leave Paris for a while.
This “Cabochian episode” is symptomatic of the struggles between the two parties while Jean sans Peur is still alive. Does his assassination change things?
Philippe le Bon succeeds Jean sans Peur
It was in this context that the interview with Montereau took place in 1419, during which Jean sans Peur was killed in suspicious conditions, in the presence of the dolphin. The Duke of Burgundy is assassinated just as, worrying about the English danger, he was trying to get closer to the Dauphin. This has the consequence of throwing Burgundy into the enemy camp of France.
Jean sans Peur's son Philippe succeeds him. He was born in Dijon in 1396 and is the only son of the Duke and Marguerite of Bavaria. Count of Charolais, he began his political action from 1411, then fought with his father in Flanders in 1414. Philippe was in Flanders when his father was assassinated in Montereau. He then became Duke of Burgundy and continued the policy of Jean, while allying with the English. France then sees its civil war entering a new phase, much more dangerous because of the English presence following Azincourt. Englishmen determined to play divisions to recover the crown of France.
The Treaty of Troyes (May 21, 1420)
The English influence, taking advantage of the divisions between Burgundians and Armagnacs and the madness of Charles VI, has already manifested itself since the years 1413-1415 and the advent of Henri V. The assassination of Jean sans Peur and the " rallying ”by Philippe le Bon are speeding things up. The King of England is in a position of strength, able to impose his demands, including on his new Burgundian allies. From March 1420, Philip the Good and Isabeau of Bavaria work on a treaty, and they are joined in May by Henri V, who ostensibly displays his satisfaction. On May 21, the Treaty of Troyes stipulated that Charles VI made Henri V his heir to the crown of France, by marrying him to his daughter Catherine de Valois; the Dauphin Charles is stripped of all his rights. On the death of Charles VI, it is therefore Henry V, King of England, who will be King of France ...
The resistance of the Armagnacs
Obviously, the dolphin's party does not accept this treaty. The English and their Burgundian allies tried to apply it during the years 1420-1422. The Armagnacs, with the Dauphin who took refuge in Bourges, control a good part of French territory and have significant resources; Henri V must therefore activate, even if he was recognized as legitimate as far as Paris. He takes Montereau (where Jean sans Peur was assassinated) in June 1420, then besieges Melun for several months (she capitulates in November).
His attitude began to annoy even his Burgundian allies, and it became almost impossible for him to apply the Treaty of Troyes. Moreover, even within its French lands, in Normandy for example, people criticize its way of waging war, and especially its taxes to do so. Henri V did not change his policy and method, however, and laid siege to Meaux in May 1422 ...
The death of kings, and the end of the civil war
It was during the siege of Meaux that the King of England contracted dysentery. The city capitulates, but Henri V is physically weakened. The coming summer, scorching, ended up finishing him off: he died at the Château de Vincennes on August 31. His nine-month-old son, Henry VI, is proclaimed King of England, not yet King of France. The situation was further complicated when, on October 21, 1422, King Charles VI died in his turn. Philippe le Bon then thinks, as an ally, that he can pose as regent; but in the face of English pressure, it was the Duke of Bedford who assumed this charge, while little Henry VI was proclaimed King of France. A few days later, Charles VII in his turn was proclaimed king of France: the Hundred Years War resumed again.
The following years are undecided: the English try to keep the Duke of Burgundy as an ally; for this, the Duke of Bedford married the sister of Philippe le Bon, then with him approached John V of Brittany, at the Treaty of Amiens (1423). The Duke of Burgundy actually wants to take advantage of his alliance with England to expand his possessions in the North, such as Hainaut or the county of Namur. But he clashed with his allies in these regions, and crises multiplied between the English and Burgundians until the early 1430s. The alliance fizzled out ...
In fact, at the same time, Charles VII consolidated his positions, despite uncertain and difficult first years, marked by a war of attrition. In May 1429, Joan of Arc freed Orleans from the siege that the English had subjected her to since the previous year: it was a turning point, followed by the coronation of Charles VII in Reims.
The war continued but, on the Burgundian side, a "peace party" developed around Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Philippe le Bon. The rapprochement with the party of Charles VII can then begin, the Treaty of Troyes is even considered null and void. This leads to the signing of the Treaty of Arras on September 20, 1435. The conditions of this peace are subject to debate (was Philippe le Bon duped?), But the consequences are clear: the civil war between Armagnacs and Bourguignons is over. Charles VII can continue to fight the English, while the Duke of Burgundy turns to the North. Yet the situation remained unclear for many years to come, at least until the victory over the English in 1453.
And the mistrust between the King of France and Burgundy will resume again with the fight between Louis XI and Charles the Bold, both turbulent sons of Charles VII and Philippe le Bon ...
- G. Minois, The Hundred Years' War, Tempus, 2010.
- J. Favier, The Hundred Years' War, Fayard, 2005.
- C. Gauvard, France in the Middle Ages from the 5th to the 15th century, PUF, 2005.
- B. Schnerb, Les Armagnacs and les Bourguignons. The Cursed War, Perrin, 1988.