Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Succession to Burgundy in 1461

The Burgundian state under
Philip the Bold, 1363 – 1404
In 1461, Philippe de Rouvres, the last duke of the senior line of the Capetian house of Burgundy, died leaving no obvious heir. He had no sisters, uncles, or aunts, although he did leave behind a wife, Marguerite III, countess of Flanders, Artois, Burgundy, Nevers, and Rethel. This came at a time of crisis in France. The Hundred Years War had only just paused the previous year and tensions were still high. Philippe, the young duke, was expected to live a long life and continue a dynasty that had existed since the eleventh century. Yet over the course of that century, almost every cadet line had ended after only a few generations, the most recent having ended in 1298.

In lieu of an obvious heir, the Burgundians had to figure out who should come next. There were two obvious candidates and an arguably more rightful, albeit overlooked option. The obvious choices were Carlos II, king of Navarre, and Jean II, king of France.

Carlos II the Bad, king of Navarre
Both Carlos and Jean were descended from sisters of Philippe's grandfather, Odo-Eudes IV. The elder sister was Marguerite, who married Louis X of France, had a daughter with him, the future Jeanne, and then promptly fell into ill-repute for sneaking off with a knight (the Tour de Nesle affair). She died under mysterious circumstances in 1315 while in a French prison, allowing her husband to remarry and promptly die shortly afterwards. That daughter, though, survived and became queen of Navarre in 1328. Carlos II, Jeanne's son and heir, bases his claim on her descent. Carlos, however, had become infamous in France as one of the most dangerous and recalcitrant vassals in French history. Due to his royal descent, he occasionally claimed the French throne, and he also stirred up all sorts of trouble in Paris between 1356 and 1360, when King Jean II was sitting comfortably in the Tower of London in England, a prisoner of Edward III. Although Carlos and Jean patched things up in 1360, they still were hardly friends. Nonetheless, Carlos could legitimately claim male-preference primogeniture as the reason for why he should become the next duke of Burgundy. The descent of his grandmother, as the eldest sister of Duke Robert II, should take precedent over a younger line.

Jean II the Good,
king of France
Jean II, however, was not about to allow the quarrelsome Navarrese king become the major power in both the south and east of France. Jean's mother was Jeanne the Lame, the younger daughter of Duke Robert II of Burgundy. This made him one degree closer to a previous duke. Jean was also the senior agnate of the entire Capetian dynasty and, as king of France, he was suzerain over Burgundy. Thus, he could use any or all of these excuses to claim Burgundian throne. Indeed, he won the debate, but he used his weakest argument to assert his claim. He argued that he was the head of the family and, as such, the title should revert to him since he was seniormost of the line. But there are two problems with this. First, Burgundy had never been a French apanage duchy. Indeed, Burgundy first joined the royal line through the merger of the former Burgundian royal line in the tenth century to a Capetian cadet branch. Therefore, women could inherit the throne and pass it on to their descendants through a process called substitution. The next agnate in line, then, was Carlos of Navarre. Following this same logic, Carlos also held the proximity of blood according to Roman and Burgundian law since he represented his deceased mother and grandmother. Jean may appear closer, but Carlos represents his grandmother, who was older than Jean's mother. Naturally, Carlos resisted Jean's encroachment on his rights, but to no effect. The recent treaties he had signed bound him to French authority and he essentially had no ability to adequately assert his case.

Pedro I the Just
king of Portugal
Second, while Jean may be the head agnate of the Capetian dynasty, there is still a single cadet branch of the Burgundian tree extant in 1361 and this line should get precedent over any of Jean's agnatic claims. Agnatic law says that when a male line goes extinct, one goes back in time along that line until another male line is found. In 1361, that line would have fallen squarely on Pedro I, king of Portugal, the agnatic heir to Philippe I of Burgundy. When Robert the Old, the first Capetian duke of Burgundy, died, his youngest grandson ventured into Castile, married a Castilian princess and was given the county of Portugal as a dowry. His son, Afonso, declared himself king of Portugal and fought a short war against León to assert his title. He and his legitimate descendants continued to rule Portugal until 1383, when Pedro's son Fernando I died leaving behind a daughter who was inconveniently married to the king of Castile. But in 1361, Pedro was still quite alive, making him the senior agnate of the Burgundian branch of the Capetian dynasty and the heir general to Philippe de Rouvres. Following Jean II's own logic, Pedro should become duke of Burgundy.

The obvious problem with this is that Pedro was in Portugal and was also, annoyingly, close allies with the English. There was no chance Pedro would be traveling to Burgundy anytime soon to claim his birthright. Instead, Jean seized the duchy and subsumed it within his royal title. When he died in 1364, his son, Charles V, granted it to his brother (following the will of his father), who became Philip the Bold, the first duke of the house of Capet-Valois-Burgundy. The duchy was now securely under dynastic control again. Philip married Marguerite III of Flanders in 1369 and received all her lands when her father died in 1384. Meanwhile, the legitimate Portuguese line went extinct in 1385, causing it to descend upon the illegitimate house of Aviz. The Iberian kings had lost their claim to Burgundy. Philippe could now rest assured that his claims were secure and his future bright. The rest is history.

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