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Charles the Bold

Charles the Bold, 1433–77, last reigning duke of Burgundy (1467–77), son and successor of Philip the Good. As the count of Charolais before his accession, he opposed the growing power of King Louis XI of France by joining (1465) the League of Public Weal. In 1468 he had Louis arrested during their interview at Péronne and compelled him to help in subduing Liège, where Louis had incited a revolt. Charles allied himself with England by his marriage (1468) to Margaret, the sister of King Edward IV. Master of the Low Countries, Charles ruled Burgundy, Flanders, Artois, Brabant, Luxembourg, Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, and Hainaut; he dreamed of reestablishing the kingdom of Lotharingia. He needed Alsace, Lorraine, and a royal title to achieve his goal. In 1473 he met Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III at Trier to arrange a marriage between his daughter Mary and Frederick's son, the future Maximilian I; Charles was to have been crowned king of Lotharingia. However, the emperor broke off negotiations; the marriage took place (1477) only after Charles's death. Meanwhile, Charles continued to conquer the lands that separated his possessions. His struggles with the Alsatian towns and his occupation (1473) of Lorraine alienated the Swiss cantons, which were allied with France. In 1474 war broke out between Charles and the Swiss. Charles's English ally, Edward IV, invaded France (1475), but accepted a bribe from Louis XI and ceased hostilities. Charles was routed (1476) by the Swiss at Grandson and Morat. Early in 1477, at Nancy, Charles was defeated utterly and killed by the Swiss and the Lorrainers. His heiress, Mary of Burgundy, lost part of her possessions to France, the rest passing to the Hapsburgs through her marriage with Maximilian. Once powerful Burgundy ceased to exist as a state. Charles, who earned his surname by his impetuous gallantry, was a capable, though harsh, ruler; however, his achievements were short-lived.

See the chronicles of Philippe de Comines; biography by R. Vaughan (1974); J. L. A. Calmette, The Golden Age of Burgundy (tr. 1962); S. Marti et al., ed, Splendour of the Burgundian Court: Charles the Bold (1433–1477) (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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