John the Fearless

John the Fearless (French: Jean sans Peur; Dutch: Jan zonder Vrees; 28 May 1371 – 10 September 1419) was Duke of Burgundy (the second of the Valois dynasty) as John I from 1404 until his death. A scion of the royal house of France, he played an important role in French affairs during the early 15th century,[1] in particular the struggles to rule the country for the mentally ill King Charles VI (his first cousin) and the Hundred Years' War with England. His rash, unscrupulous, and violent political dealings[1] contributed to the eruption of the Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War in France, and culminated in his assassination in 1419.

The involvement of Charles, the heir to the French throne, in his assassination, prompted John's son and successor Philip to seek an alliance with the English, thereby bringing the Hundred Years' War to its final phase.

John the Fearless
John duke of burgundy
Duke of Burgundy
Reign27 April 1404 – 10 September 1419
PredecessorPhilip II
SuccessorPhilip III
Born28 May 1371
Ducal palace, Dijon, Burgundy
Died10 September 1419 (aged 48)
Montereau, France
Champmol, Dijon
FatherPhilip the Bold
MotherMargaret III of Flanders
ReligionRoman Catholicism


Early life

Arms of Jean Sans Peur
Coat of arms of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy etc.
Jan zonder Vrees dubbele groot of braspenning
Double groat or 'Braspenning', struck under John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy
Assassinat louis orleans
Louis's assassination on the rue Vieille du Temple.

John was born in Dijon on 28 May 1371 to Philip II "the Bold," Duke of Burgundy, and Margaret III, Countess of Flanders. On the death of his maternal grandfather Louis II, Count of Flanders, in 1384, he received the title Count of Nevers, which he bore until his father’s death in 1404,[2] when he ceded it to his brother Philip.

In 1385,[2] a double wedding for the Burgundian family took place in Cambrai. John married Margaret of Bavaria, daughter of Albrecht of Bavaria, Count of Holland and Hainaut,[2] while at the same time his sister Margaret of Burgundy married Albrecht's son William in order to consolidate John's position in the Low Countries. The marriage took place after John cancelled his engagement to his first cousin, Catherine of France, a daughter of King Charles V of France, who was only a child at the time.

Before his accession to the Duchy of Burgundy, John was one of the principal leaders of the French forces sent to aid King Sigismund of Hungary in his war against Sultan Bayezid I. John fought in the Battle of Nicopolis of 25 September 1396 with such enthusiasm and bravery that he was given the cognomen Fearless (Sans-Peur). Despite his personal bravery, his impetuous leadership ended in disaster for the European expedition.[3] He was captured and did not recover his liberty until the next year after an enormous ransom was paid.[2]

Conflict with Louis of Orléans

Assassinat du duc de Bourgogne
Assassination of the Duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless, on the Bridge of Montereau, in 1419. — facsimile of a miniature in the "Chronicles" of Monstrelet, manuscript of the fifteenth century, in the Library of the Arsenal of Paris.
John the Fearless assassination
Miniature showing John the Fearless' assassination painted by Master of the Prayer Books
Tombeau de Jean sans Peur, duc de Bourgogne, Dijon
John's tomb, photo by Eugene Trutat

John was invested as Duke of Burgundy in 1404 upon the death of his father Philip the Bold and almost immediately entered into open conflict with Louis, Duke of Orléans, the younger brother of the increasingly disturbed King Charles VI of France. Both men attempted to fill the power vacuum left by the demented king.[2]

John played a game of marriages by exchanging his daughter Margaret of Burgundy for Michelle of Valois, who would marry his heir, Philip the Good. For her part, Margaret was married to Louis, Duke of Guyenne, the heir to the French throne from 1401 until his death in 1415. For all his concentration on aristocratic politics, John nonetheless did not overlook the importance of the middle class of merchants and tradesmen or the University of Paris.[2]

Louis tried to gain the favour of the wife of Charles VI, Queen Isabeau of France, and may have become her lover. After his son-in-law, the Dauphin Louis, was successively kidnapped and recovered by both parties, the Duke of Burgundy managed to gain appointment by royal decree — during one of the King's "absent" periods when mental illness manifested itself — as guardian of the Dauphin and the King's children. This did not improve relations between John and the Duke of Orléans. Soon the two rivals descended into making open threats. Their uncle, John, Duke of Berry, secured a vow of solemn reconciliation on 20 November 1407, but only three days later, on 23 November 1407, Louis was brutally assassinated in the streets of Paris.[2] The order, no one doubted, had come from the Duke of Burgundy, who shortly admitted to the deed and declared it to be a justifiable act of "tyrannicide". According to Thomas Walsingham, Orléans had simply received his just deserts as he had been "taking his pleasure with whores, harlots, incest" and had committed adultery with the wife of an unnamed knight who had taken his revenge by killing him under the protection of the Duke of Burgundy. After an escape from Paris and a few skirmishes against the Orléans party, John managed to recover the King's favour. In the treaty of Chartres, signed on 9 March 1409, the King absolved the Duke of Burgundy of the crime, and he and Louis' son Charles pledged a reconciliation. A later edict renewed John's guardianship of the Dauphin.[2]

Even with the Orléans dispute resolved in his favour, John did not lead a tranquil life. Charles, the son and heir of the murdered Duke of Orleans, was only 14 at the time of his father's death and was forced to depend heavily on allies to support his claims for the property that had been confiscated from him by the Duke of Burgundy. Chief among these allies was his father-in-law Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac. Because of this alliance, their faction became known as the Armagnacs in opposition to the Burgundians. With peace between the factions solemnly sworn in 1410, John returned to Burgundy and Bernard remained in Paris, where he reportedly shared the Queen's bed. The Armagnac party was not content with its level of political power, and after a series of riots and attacks against the citizens, John was recalled to the capital, then sent back to Burgundy in 1413. At this time, King Henry V of England invaded French territory and threatened to attack Paris. During the peace negotiations with the Armagnacs, Henry was also in contact with John, who was keen to wrest control of France away from King Charles VI. Despite this, he continued to be wary of forming an alliance with the English for fear of destroying his immense popularity with the common people of France. When Henry demanded Burgundy's support for his claim to be the rightful King of France, John backed away and decided to ally himself with the Armagnacs. Although he talked of helping his sovereign, his troops took no part in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, although two of his brothers, Antoine, Duke of Brabant, and Philip II, Count of Nevers, died fighting for France during the battle.[2]

Conflict with the Dauphin

Emanuel van Meteren Historie ppn 051504510 Johannes d'Onvertsaechde MG 8642
Portrait from Emanuel van Meteren: Historie

Two years later, with the rivalry between Burgundians and Armagnacs at an all-time high because of the shattering defeat at Agincourt, John's troops set about the task of capturing Paris. On 30 May 1418, he did capture the city, but not before the new Dauphin, the future Charles VII of France, had escaped. John then installed himself in Paris and made himself protector of the King. Although not an open ally of the English, John did nothing to prevent the surrender of Rouen in 1419. With the whole of northern France in English hands and Paris occupied by Burgundy, the Dauphin tried to bring about a reconciliation with John. They met in July and swore peace on the bridge of Pouilly, near Melun. On the grounds that peace was not sufficiently assured by the meeting at Pouilly, a fresh interview was proposed by the Dauphin to take place on 10 September 1419 on the bridge at Montereau. John of Burgundy was present with his escort for what he considered a diplomatic meeting. He was, however, assassinated by the Dauphin's companions. He was later buried in Dijon. His successor Philip the Good formed an alliance with the English.[2]


John and his wife Margaret, who married in 1385, had one son, who succeeded him, and seven daughters:[2]

John and his mistress Agnes de Croy, daughter of Jean I de Croÿ, had the following child:[7]

John and his mistress Marguerite de Borsele had the following children:[8][9]


See also


  1. ^ a b Vaughan 1998.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Poupardin 1911, p. 445.
  3. ^ Smith & DeVries 2005, pp. 71–73.
  4. ^ de Sousa, Antonio Caetano (1735). Historia genealogica da casa real portugueza (in Portuguese). Lisbon: Lisboa Occidental. p. 147.
  5. ^ Suckale, Robert; Crossley, Paul (2005). Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347-1437. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 16. ISBN 9781588391612. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  6. ^ Library of Congress staff 2014.
  7. ^ Vaughan 2005, p. 236.
  8. ^ a b Sommé 1998, p. 69.
  9. ^ a b Kasten 2008, p. 478.
  10. ^ a b Vaughan 2005, p. 134.
  11. ^ Kerrebrouck 1990, p. 157.



External links

John the Fearless
Cadet branch of the House of Valois
Born: 28 May 1371 Died: 10 September 1419
Preceded by
Philip the Bold
Duke of Burgundy
Succeeded by
Philip the Good
Count of Charolais
Preceded by
Margaret III & II
Count of Artois and Flanders
Count Palatine of Burgundy

Count of Nevers
Succeeded by
Philip II
1407 in France

Events from the year 1407 in France

1413 in France

Events from the year 1413 in France.

1418 in France

Events from the year 1418 in France.

1419 in France

Events from the year 1419 in France.

Agnes of Burgundy, Duchess of Bourbon

Agnes of Burgundy (1407 – 1 December 1476), duchess of Bourbon (Bourbonnais) and Auvergne, countess of Clermont, was the daughter of John the Fearless (1371–1419) and Margaret of Bavaria. Her maternal grandparents were Albert I, Duke of Bavaria and Margaret of Brieg. Her paternal grandparents were Philip the Bold and Margaret III, Countess of Flanders.

Armagnac (party)

The Armagnac Faction was prominent in French politics and warfare during the Hundred Years' War. It was allied with the supporters of Charles, Duke of Orléans against John the Fearless after Charles' father Louis of Orléans was killed on a Paris street on the orders of the Duke of Burgundy on 23 November 1407.

Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War

The Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War was a conflict between two cadet branches of the French royal family — the House of Orléans (Armagnac faction) and the House of Burgundy (Burgundian faction) from 1407 to 1435. It began during a lull in the Hundred Years' War against the English and overlapped with the Western Schism of the papacy.

Assassination of John the Fearless

John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, was assassinated on the bridge at Montereau on 10 September 1419 during a parley with the French dauphin (the future Charles VII of France), by Tanneguy du Chastel and Jean Louvet, the dauphin's close counsellors.

Battle of Othée

The Battle of Othée was fought between the citizens of the Liège and a professional army under command of John the Fearless on 23 September 1408. The militia of Liège suffered a heavy defeat.

Burgundian (party)

The Burgundian party was a political allegiance against France that formed during the latter half of the Hundred Years' War. The term "Burgundians" refers to the supporters of the Duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless, that formed after the assassination of Louis I, Duke of Orléans. Their opposition to the Armagnac party, the supporters of Charles, Duke of Orléans, led to a civil war.

Cabochien revolt

The Cabochien revolt was an episode in the civil war between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians which was in turn a part of the Hundred Years' War.

In the spring of 1413, John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, managed to raise the people of Paris and impose a reform called the Cabochien ordinance. However, after several months, Parisians desiring a return to order supported return of the Armagnacs.

On 23 November 1407, Louis, Duke of Orléans, brother of king Charles VI (known as "Charles the Beloved" and "Charles the Mad"), was murdered by masked assassins in the service of John the Fearless. Afterwards, John acquired considerable popularity among the population of Paris.

He aligned himself with a popular faction of butchers, the écorcheurs (flayers), named “Cabochiens”, after their commander, a butcher named Simon Lecoustellier, known as Simon Caboche. This group had its origins among butchers of the Grande Boucherie de Paris, a relatively wealthy class of tradespeople not integrated within Parisian high & aristocratic class. In April 1413, in a bid to gain power, John the Fearless encouraged the Cabochiens to revolt. Riotous mobs, sporting distinctive white caps, assaulted Armagnac noblemen and followers, and their properties throughout the city. On April 27, they seized the Bastille Saint-Antoine and took prisoner its defender, Pierre des Essarts, Provost of Paris. (Pierre des Essarts was beheaded the following 13 July.) They also forced their way into the Hôtel Saint-Pol, the royal residence, arrested several of the king's men, and incarcerated them in the various prisons of Paris. They controlled Paris for four months, until the last days of July and beginning of August, when the revolt was put down.

Academics took this opportunity to propose administrative reforms known as the “Ordonnance cabochienne", which limited the power of the monarch, giving, for example, greater fiscal control to the Estates General. Although the ordinance carried the name of Caboche, because it was published on 26–27 May 1413 during the Cabochian revolt, it had been prepared in January–February 1413 by the États généraux de Langue d'Oïl. It was actually the work of advisors of John of Burgundy who imposed the ordinance on Charles VI, who signed it on 22 May 1413.

However, the exactions of the Cabochiens and of the Burgundians were causing increasing dissatisfaction among the population who began to rise against the Cabochiens. On 2–3 August, the Cabochiens revolt was over. The Cabochiens who were unable to flee were executed and the ordinance was overturned on 5 September 1413. Simon Caboche was able to escape with the Duke of Burgundy.

Charles d’Orléans, son of the murdered duke of Orléans, had married Bonne d’Armagnac, daughter of the count Bernard VII of Armagnac. The count was a brutal and powerful lord who commanded a number of troops from the Adour and Garonne. Putting himself at the disposal of his son-in-law, he took control of Paris. In recognition of his help, Bernard VII d'Armagnac was made Constable of France on 30 December 1415 in a letter signed by Charles VI.

Charles II, Duke of Lorraine

Charles II (11 September 1365 – 25 January 1431), called the Bold (French: le Hardi) was the Duke of Lorraine from 1390 to his death and Constable of France from 1418 to 1425. Charles was the elder son of John I, Duke of Lorraine, and Sophie, daughter of Eberhard II, Count of Württemberg.He is called Charles II because of a previous Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine, despite the fact that his own duchy was that of Upper Lorraine; Lower Lorraine being subsumed in Brabant by his time.

During his youth, he had been close to Philip II, Duke of Burgundy, and they were comrades in arms on several occasions. This proximity to Burgundy was largely a result of his father's moving away from the French court, the court to which the Lorrainer dukes had neared in the past century and a half as they withdrew from the Holy Roman Empire, within which their duchy was still technically a vassal state. Charles was defiant of Louis I, Duke of Orléans, who had supported the citizens of Neufchâteau against his father and the Emperor Wenceslaus when the latter was accused by his subjects of weakness. Wenceslaus was deposed in 1400 and replaced by Rupert III, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Charles' father-in-law.

Charles was also a major participant in some late Crusading movements. He was at Tunis in 1391. He took part in the so-called Last Crusade which culminated in the disastrous Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. There he accompanied John the Fearless, the count of Nevers and son of his friend Philip. In 1399, he assisted the Teutonic Knights in Livonia.Multiple times between 1405 and 1406, the sergeants of the duke and the officers of the kings of France in certain enclaves (French fiefs) in Lorraine were at loggerheads and Louis of Orléans, who had received the pledges of the duke of Luxembourg, was trying to create a principality in the region. Then, in 1407, at the head of a coalition of the dukes of Bar, Luxembourg, and the margraves of Namur he attacked the duchy. Louis was defeated at Corny-sur-Moselle and then, in July, at Champigneulles. His assassination in Paris on 23 November put an end to his plans.

With the assassination of Louis, France broke down into two parties: the Armagnacs of Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac, the tutor of the young Charles of Orléans, and the Burgundians of John the Fearless, Philip's successor, who supported Charles of Lorraine. Charles did not, however, enter the Anglo-French conflict then raging—the Hundred Years' War—but his brother, Frederick I, Count of Vaudémont, got involved and died in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Nevertheless, the queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, appointed Charles constable in 1418. In 1424, he asserted that the load was too large for him and renounced it.

Charles adopted a new stance vis-à-vis France after the assassination of John the Fearless in 1419. John's successor, Philip III, had much territory in the Low Countries and only Lorraine and Champagne separated his Burgundian from his Belgian possessions. Fearing any warlike ambitions, Charles thought it prudent to reorient his fidelities and friendships away from such a possible adversary. Through his French connections, he obtained the assistance of Charles VII against Burgundy and married his daughter to the Angevin René, later king of Naples.

Charles's final years were rife with conflict and unhappiness. His nephew, Anthony of Vaudémont demanded a part of the inheritance and Charles had to war against him in 1425, without much success. Early in 1429, Joan of Arc came on a pilgrimage to Saint-Nicolas-de-Port. She counselled the duke to abandon his mistress, Alison du May. Ignoring this advice, he gave her an escort and sent her on to Chinon. He died two years later at his capital of Nancy on 21 or 25 January.


Gambrinus ( gam-BRY-nəs) is a legendary European culture hero celebrated as an icon of beer, brewing, joviality, and joie de vivre. Traditional songs, poems, and stories describe him as a king, duke, or count of Flanders and Brabant. Typical representations in the visual arts depict him as a rotund, bearded duke or king, holding a tankard or mug, and sometimes with a keg nearby.

Gambrinus is sometimes erroneously called a patron saint, but he is neither a saint nor a tutelary deity. It is possible his persona was conflated with traditional medieval saints associated with beermaking, like Arnold of Soissons. In one legendary tradition, he is beer's inventor or envoy. Although legend attributes to him no special powers to bless brews or to make crops grow, tellers of old tall tales are happy to adapt them to fit Gambrinus. Gambrinus stories use folklore motifs common to European folktales, such as the trial by ordeal. Some imagine Gambrinus as a man who has an enormous capacity for drinking beer.Among the personages theorised to be the basis for the Gambrinus character are the ancient king Gampar (aka Gambrivius), John the Fearless (1371–1419) and John I, Duke of Brabant (c. 1252–1294).

Isabeau of Bavaria

Isabeau of Bavaria (or Isabelle; also Elisabeth of Bavaria-Ingolstadt; c. 1370 – 24 September 1435) was born into the House of Wittelsbach as the eldest daughter of Duke Stephen III of Bavaria-Ingolstadt and Taddea Visconti of Milan. She became Queen of France when she married King Charles VI in 1385. At age 15 or 16, Isabeau was sent to France on approval to the young French king; the couple wed three days after their first meeting.

Isabeau was honored in 1389 with a lavish coronation ceremony and entry into Paris. In 1392 Charles suffered the first attack of what was to become a lifelong and progressive mental illness, resulting in periodic withdrawal from government. The episodes occurred with increasing frequency, leaving a court both divided by political factions and steeped in social extravagances. A 1393 masque for one of Isabeau's ladies-in-waiting—an event later known as Bal des Ardents—ended in disaster with the King almost burning to death. Although the King demanded Isabeau's removal from his presence during his illness, he consistently allowed her to act on his behalf. In this way she became regent to the Dauphin of France (heir apparent), and sat on the regency council, allowing far more power than was usual for a medieval queen.

Charles' illness created a power vacuum that eventually led to the Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War between supporters of his brother, Louis of Orléans and the royal dukes of Burgundy. Isabeau shifted allegiances as she chose the most favorable paths for the heir to the throne. When she followed the Armagnacs, the Burgundians accused her of adultery with Louis of Orléans; when she sided with the Burgundians the Armagnacs removed her from Paris and she was imprisoned. In 1407 John the Fearless assassinated Orléans, sparking hostilities between the factions. The war ended soon after Isabeau's eldest son, Charles, had John the Fearless assassinated in 1419—an act that saw him disinherited. Isabeau attended the 1420 signing of the Treaty of Troyes, which decided that the English king should inherit the French crown after the death of her husband, Charles VI. She lived in English-occupied Paris until her death in 1435.

Isabeau was popularly seen as a spendthrift and irresponsible philanderess. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries historians re-examined the extensive chronicles of her lifetime, concluding that many elements of her reputation were unearned and stemmed from factionalism and propaganda.

John the Fearless (film)

John the Fearless (Dutch: Jan zonder vrees) is a 1984 Belgian animated film. It is notable for being the first feature-length animated film produced in Flanders in its entirety. It is based on a novel by Constant de Kinder and features voice work by Belgian character actor Jan Decleir. An English dubbed version of the film was produced by Canadian animation studio Cinar Films and was released on video in 1989 by Just For Kids Video.

Margaret of Bavaria

Margaret of Bavaria, (1363 – January 1424, Dijon), was Duchess of Burgundy by marriage to John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. She was the regent of the Burgundian Low countries during the absence of her spouse in 1404–1419 and the regent in French Burgundy during the absence of her son in 1419–1423. She became most known for her successful defense of French Burgundy against John IV, Count of Armagnac in 1419.

Mary of Burgundy, Duchess of Cleves

Mary of Burgundy, Duchess of Cleves (1393 – 30 October 1466) was the second child of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria, and an elder sister of Philip the Good. Born in Dijon, she became the second wife of Adolph, Count of Mark in May 1406. He was made the 1st Duke of Cleves in 1417. They were the grandparents of King Louis XII of France and the great-grandparents of John III, Duke of Cleves, father of Anne of Cleves, who was fourth Queen consort of Henry VIII of England. By their daughter, Catherine, they were ancestors of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Duke and Duchess of Cleves lived at Wijnendale Castle in West Flanders. She died in Cleves in present-day Monterberg, Kalkar.

Philip the Bold

Philip the Bold (French: Philippe le Hardi, Dutch: Filips de Stoute; 17 January 1342 – 27 April 1404, Halle) was Duke of Burgundy (as Philip II) and jure uxoris Count of Flanders (as Philip II), Artois and Burgundy (as Philip IV). The fourth and youngest son of King John II of France and his wife, Bonne of Luxembourg, Philip was the founder of the Burgundian branch of the House of Valois. His vast collection of territories made him the undisputed premier peer of the kingdom of France and made his successors formidable subjects, and sometimes rivals, of the kings of France.

Philip the Good

Philip the Good (French: Philippe le Bon; Dutch: Filips de Goede; 31 July 1396 – 15 June 1467) was Duke of Burgundy as Philip III from 1419 until his death. He was a member of a cadet line of the Valois dynasty, to which all the 15th-century kings of France belonged. During his reign, Burgundy reached the apex of its prosperity and prestige and became a leading center of the arts. Philip is known in history for his administrative reforms, his patronage of Flemish artists such as Jan van Eyck and Franco-Flemish composers such as Gilles Binchois, and the capture of Joan of Arc. In political affairs, he alternated between alliances with the English and the French in an attempt to improve his dynasty's position. As ruler of Flanders, Brabant, Limburg, Artois, Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland, Friesland and Namur, he played an important role in the history of the Low Countries.

Ancestors of John the Fearless[4]
16. Charles, Count of Valois
8. Philip VI of France
17. Margaret, Countess of Anjou
4. John II of France
18. Robert II, Duke of Burgundy
9. Joan the Lame
19. Agnes of France
2. Philip the Bold
20. Henry VII, Holy Roman Emperor
10. John of Bohemia
21. Margaret of Brabant (≠ 7)
5. Bonne of Bohemia
22. Wenceslaus II of Bohemia
11. Elizabeth of Bohemia
23. Judith of Habsburg[5]
1. John the Fearless
24. Louis I, Count of Nevers
12. Louis I, Count of Flanders
25. Joan, Countess of Rethel
6. Louis II, Count of Flanders
26. Philip V of France
13. Margaret I, Countess of Burgundy
27. Joan II, Countess of Burgundy
3. Margaret III, Countess of Flanders
28. John II, Duke of Brabant
14. John III, Duke of Brabant
29. Margaret of England
7. Margaret of Brabant (≠ 21)
30. Louis, Count of Évreux
15. Marie of Évreux
31. Margaret of Artois

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