Charles the Bold

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Charles the Bold

Charles the Bold, 1433–77, last reigning duke of Burgundy (1467–77), son and successor of Philip the Good. As the count of Charolais before his accession, he opposed the growing power of King Louis XI of France by joining (1465) the League of Public Weal. In 1468 he had Louis arrested during their interview at Péronne and compelled him to help in subduing Liège, where Louis had incited a revolt. Charles allied himself with England by his marriage (1468) to Margaret, the sister of King Edward IV. Master of the Low Countries, Charles ruled Burgundy, Flanders, Artois, Brabant, Luxembourg, Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, and Hainaut; he dreamed of reestablishing the kingdom of Lotharingia. He needed Alsace, Lorraine, and a royal title to achieve his goal. In 1473 he met Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III at Trier to arrange a marriage between his daughter Mary and Frederick's son, the future Maximilian I; Charles was to have been crowned king of Lotharingia. However, the emperor broke off negotiations; the marriage took place (1477) only after Charles's death. Meanwhile, Charles continued to conquer the lands that separated his possessions. His struggles with the Alsatian towns and his occupation (1473) of Lorraine alienated the Swiss cantons, which were allied with France. In 1474 war broke out between Charles and the Swiss. Charles's English ally, Edward IV, invaded France (1475), but accepted a bribe from Louis XI and ceased hostilities. Charles was routed (1476) by the Swiss at Grandson and Morat. Early in 1477, at Nancy, Charles was defeated utterly and killed by the Swiss and the Lorrainers. His heiress, Mary of Burgundy, lost part of her possessions to France, the rest passing to the Hapsburgs through her marriage with Maximilian. Once powerful Burgundy ceased to exist as a state. Charles, who earned his surname by his impetuous gallantry, was a capable, though harsh, ruler; however, his achievements were short-lived.


See the chronicles of Philippe de Comines; biography by R. Vaughan (1974); J. L. A. Calmette, The Golden Age of Burgundy (tr. 1962); S. Marti et al., ed, Splendour of the Burgundian Court: Charles the Bold (1433–1477) (2009).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Charles the Bold


(Charles Le Téméraire). Born Nov. 10, 1433, in Dijon; died Jan. 5, 1477, near Nancy. Count of Charoláis, duke of Burgundy (from 1467). Son of Philip the Good.

Charles the Bold strove to unify his fragmented holdings and turn Burgundy into a large and powerful state. On a number of occasions (1452–, 1465, 1467, 1468) he suppressed with merciless cruelty the uprisings of the Dutch cities that had become part of the Burgundian state. He was the most dangerous and powerful enemy of Louis XI, who was energetically carrying out the centralization and territorial unification of France. The struggle between the two sovereigns was almost continual. Even while Charles’ father was still alive, he was the actual leader of the coalition against Louis XI (the League of the Public Weal). He forced the French king to cede him cities on the Somme (the treaties of 1465 of Conflans and St. Maur). To secure the support of King Edward IV of England, he married Edward’s sister Margaret. He attempted to seize Alsace (part of which he had received from Sigismund of Tirol, a Hapsburg, in 1469 as a guarantee) and Lorraine (a number of fortresses were transferred to him from Duke Rene II in 1473). However, he lost his allies (including the English king) and was left isolated through the adroitness of Louis XI, who relied on diplomatic negotiations and bribes. In the Burgundian Wars of 1474–77 (waged against Charles by Switzerland and Lorraine, secretly supported and subsidized by France), Charles was betrayed by mercenaries bribed by Louis XI and died in battle at Nancy.


Néret, J. A. Le Téméraire: Charles de Bourgogne. Paris, 1952.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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