"Bi Nancy s'Bluet" - The End of Charles the Bold at the Battle of Nancy

5 January 1477, Charles the Bold, the mighty Duke of Burgundy, lost the Battle of Nancy and the Burgundian Wars as well as his life.

“Bi Grandson s'Guet, bi Murte de Muet, bi Nancy s'Bluet hät de Karl de Küeni verloore“ ("Charles the Bold lost his goods at Grandson, his boldness at Murten and his blood at Nancy", old Swiss proverb)

Eugene Delacroix’s impression of "La Bataille de Nancy“ (1831)

The war between the mighty Duke of Burgundy, who ruled not only over the eponymous territory in central France but the Picardie, Luxembourg and Flanders as well, and the Lower League of four imperial cities, the Duke of Austria and the Old Swiss Confederacy had dragged on for two years and Charles the Bold got one trashing after the other when he decided to lay siege on the city of Nancy, capital of Lorraine. Surprised by a relief force the Duke of Lorraine brought up, mainly Swiss mercenaries who unceremoniously relieved the potentate of his high command because of his lack of military experience and were now led by two confederate captains, the Burgundian army was taken in the flank during a scurry of snow and cut to pieces or driven into the river Meurthe where they drowned in their thousands. Charles tried to flee the field, was caught by the Swiss and killed with two pike stabs in his abdomen and a halberd blow that cleaved his skull and his corpse was plundered. The Burgundian Wars ended on that day and the Duchy of Burgundy that existed since the Burgundians arrived in the former Roman territory during the 5th century, was no more.

Auguste Feyen-Perrin (1826 - 1888): "Charles the Bold found after the Battle of Nancy" (1865)

Swiss pikemen in their Gewalthaufen (lit “violence bunch”, a pike square) emerged as the kings of the battlefields of Central Europe during the 16th century and the Burgundian Wars at the turn of the eras between the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age proved to be epochal for European history over the next two hundred years. Feudal lords like Charles the Bold and large multi-national feudal conglomerates like the Duchy of Burgundy trying to tip the scales between the emerging European national powers had served their time and the “Burgundian Century” was over. But the end of the House of Valois-Burgundy had further consequences beyond the core country of Burgundy becoming part of the Kingdom of France when Charles’ only daughter Mary was married to the Habsburg’s heir apparent Maximilian, bringing Flanders, Lorraine and Luxembourg along as dowry.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 - 1543): "Bad War", the moment when two pike squares got entangled in close combat and fighting came down to long swords, halberds and, finally, the "Katzbalger", lit.: cat brawler, alluding to two fighting tom cats, a vicious short sword. 

The marriage between Mary, who died already in 1482 at the age of 25, and the future Habsburg Emperor Maximilian that re-defined the borders between France and the Holy Roman Empire and Germany, centuries later, with the Burgundian dowry being the initial cause for conflicts that lasted well into the 20th century, the first one who felt the potential for conflict was Emperor Charles V, named in honour of his illustrious grandfather Charles the Bold, in whose empire the sun might never have set but who had to fight a series of wars in Europe of the so-called Burgundian circle.

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