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French Renaissance Paleography

 

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Ordinance by which King Charles VI of France prohibits assistance to his disinherited son Charles in the aftermath of the assassination of John the Fearless

Description: 

Paris, 17 January 1419 [1420] [copy, ca. 1450]
Ordinance by which King Charles VI of France prohibits assistance to his disinherited son Charles in the aftermath of the assassination of John the Fearless
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Case MS 54.5

 

Background: 

Montereau Bridge, 10 September 1419: John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, is assassinated by men-at-arms of Charles, Dauphin of France.

Following the assassination, King Charles VI of France issues a royal ordinance to withdraw the Dauphin's rights to the crown of France, and prohibits the people of Paris from offering any assistance to his son. The document charges the Dauphin with crimes of treason, portraying him as a warmonger and deceitful villain who premeditated the murder of his own cousin and proclaimed himself regent of the Kingdom of France. John the Fearless, in contrast, features as the innocent victim of an assassination plot. The ordinance lauds him as a hero for his peacemaking negotiations with England, which would soon lead to a marriage between King Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine of Valois, and King Henry V of England in June 1420.

The events of Montereau-Fault-Yonne took place in a time of high trouble for France. Henry V of England had recently crushed the French royal army at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). The Kingdom was also shaken by power struggles during Charles VI’s bouts of insanity, frequent from the 1390s onwards. With the crown virtually hollow, the Armagnacs, supporters of the house of Orléans, and the Burgundians of John the Fearless ravaged the countryside. In 1407, Louis d’Orléans was killed at John's order. The assassination of John himself in 1419 came as payback, and an attempt to prevent an alliance between Charles and John that would have disadvantaged the Armagnacs. John the Fearless apparently had his own agenda, and had agreed to a meeting at Montereau with the intent to control the Dauphin more closely. Throughout the inquest following the assassination, the future Charles VII denied any involvement.

The Dauphin went on to claim the title of King of France at his father’s death (1422), but Henry VI actually reigned as King of France and England per the Treaty of Troyes (1420). Charles was  finally crowned King Charles VII at Reims Cathedral in 1429, after the intervention of Joan of Arc and successful campaigns to regain control of his kingdom from the English. Another document related to King Charles VII is the treasury account for Languedoc.

There is a copying error in the document presented here. The royal ordinance was dated 17 January 1419 [1420], rather than 27 January. This copy is found in a collection of documents chiefly pertaining to relations between France and Burgundy ca. 1450.

- Caroline Prud’Homme

 

Bibliography: 

- Guenée, Bernard. Un meurtre, une société. L’assassinat du duc d’Orléans, 23 novembre 1407. Paris: Gallimard, 1992.
- Schnerb, Bertrand. Les Armagnacs et les Bourguignons: la maudite guerre. Paris: Perrin, 1988.
- Vaughan, Richard. John the Fearless: The Growth of Burgundian Power. Woodbridge, UK, and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2002 [1979].

For the printed text of the ordinance, see:
- Vilevault, Louis Guillaume de, and Louis-George Oudard Feudrix de Bréquigny. Ordonnances des rois de France de la troisième race.  Vol. 12, Supplément depuis l’an 1187 jusqu’à la fin du règne de Charles VI. Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1777, 272-77.
- Félibien, Michel, and Guy-Alexis Lobineau. Histoire de la ville de Paris. Vol. 5. Paris: Guillaume Desprez et Jean Des Essarts, 1725, 264-67.