[MR] Wikipedia: Death of Phillip of Rouvres

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Wed Nov 21 02:37:17 PST 2018

Noble Friends,

On this day in 1361, 15-year-old Phillip of Rouvres died:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_I,_Duke_of_Burgundy . The
circumstances of his death are not clear; it was either from the plague or
a riding accident. The passing of a young minor noble like Phillip happened
all the time in the middle ages, but his demise had unexpected consequences
for France, and indeed for the whole history of Europe.

You see, Phillip was the Duke of Burgundy as Phillip II, at that time a
prosperous duchy within France, but just one of many. His early death, and
being last surviving male member of the House of Burgundy, meant that the
ducal throne of Burgundy was up for grabs. There was more. Phillip was also
Count of Artois, and confusingly Count of Burgundy. This Burgundy is
sometimes known to history as the Free County of Burgundy, and was within
the Holy Roman Empire, not France (it shared a border with the Duchy of
Burgundy). He also held the counties of Auvergne and Boulogne. If that
isn't an impressive portfolio, he was married (unconsumated) to Margaret,
heiress of Flanders, would have eventually held the counties of Flanders,
Nevers, Rethel, and Antwerp, plus the duchies of Brabant and Limburg. Wow!

Philip's widowed mother had married John II, King of France in the powerful
House of Valois, and was now Queen of France. This made Phillip the King's
step-son. Until just before Phillip's death, John had acted as his regent.
Young Phillip certainly had connections (everybody noble did, of course).

Now here's the problem. King John himself had a very legitimate personal
claim on the Duchy of Burgundy by descent. But so did his son-in-law King
Charles of Navarre (aka Charles "The Faithless" or Charles "The Bad").
Charles held important territories in France, and wanted more, much more.
In fact, he wanted to be King of France, and hoped the English would help
him get his butt on the throne. He was already playing footsie with them,
and would betray both England and France again and again during the Hundred
Years War to further his aims.

On his deathbed, Phillip told his courtiers to work out among themselves
who would succeed him, then croaked. So it was the lawyers who made the
decision (yes, there were lawyers around in those days). They weighed the
competing claims and lines of descent, eventually deciding in favor of King
John, but by just a hair. So King John became Duke of Burgundy, and a whole
lot more. John died in 1363, and medical historians have suggested the
symptoms of his death indicate long-term arsenic poisoning. Charles the Bad
was miffed, and may have done the deed (possibly through flunkies who
themselves were conveniently disposed of). He was a nortorious poisoner,
something he bragged about, though he never admitted to offing the King.

But the story becomes even more twisted. Before his death, King John passed
the Duchy of Burgundy to his fourth son, Phillip the Bold (so named for his
spirited defense of his father at the Battle of Poitiers when just 14).
This Phillip had just come of age, and needed something to do, so John
first made him governor of Burgundy, and then secretly passed the title to
him. The Burgundians had recently sent John's first governor packing over
his heavy-handed rule, so Phillip took a low-key approach and made friends
with the Burgundians. When John died and various titles had to be affirmed
with the next king through Letters of Patent, Phillip's title to Burgundy
became public knowledge. Most Burgundians were very happy with the second

Phillip the Bold became the second Duke of Burgundy, House of Valois. He
also married Margaret, the Countess of Flanders, and sucked up most of
Phillip of Rouvres' titles and lands, becoming one of the most powerful and
richest Royal Dukes of France. His grandson Phillip the Good added most of
the remaining Low Countries to the pile. Phillip the Good was one of the
richest men in Europe, and with his territories outside of France was
almost a king in his own right. He made himself a major independent player
in European affairs. It was his dream, nearly fulfilled by his son Charles
the Bold, to unite all the Burgundian lands as an independent kingdom. Had
Charles not gotten himself killed at the Battle of Nancy in 1477, this
might have happened.

So from a 15-year old minor noble's death, a dynasty nearly changed the map
of Europe. Isn't history grand?

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆

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