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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

To gain possession of Lorraine and Alsatia


[Sidenote:

1467. THE GROWTH OF BURGUNDY.]

Germany was also seriously threatened on the west, not by France, but by the sudden growth of a new power which was equally dangerous to France. This was the Duchy of Burgundy, which in the course of a hundred years had grown to the dimensions of a kingdom, and was now strong enough to throw off the dependency of the territories it embraced, to France on the one side, and to the German Empire on the other. The foundation of its growth was laid in 1363, when king John of France made his fourth son, called Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and the latter, by marrying the Countess Margaret of Flanders, extended his territory to the mouth of the Rhine. He died in 1404, and was succeeded by his grandson, Philip the Good, who extended the sway of Burgundy, by purchase, inheritance, or force of arms, over all Belgium and Holland, so that it then reached from the Rhine to the North Sea. His court was one of the most splendid in Europe, and during his reign of sixty-three years Flanders became the rival of Italy in wealth, architecture and the fine arts.

Philip the Good died in 1467, and was succeeded by his son, Charles the Bold, a man whose boldness was his only virtue. He was rash, vindictive, and almost insanely ambitious; and the only purpose of his life seems to have been to extend his territory to the Alps and the Mediterranean, to gain possession of Lorraine and Alsatia, and thus

to found a kingdom of Burgundy, almost corresponding to that given to Lothar by the Treaty of Verdun, in 843. (See Chapter XII.) He first acquired additional territory in Belgium, then took a mortgage on all the possessions of the Hapsburgs in Alsatia and Baden by making a loan to Sigismund of Tyrol. Frederick III. not only permitted these transactions, but met Charles at Treves in 1473 to arrange a marriage between the latter's only daughter, Mary of Burgundy, and his own son, Maximilian. During the visit, which lasted two months, Charles the Bold displayed so much pomp and splendor that the Emperor, unable to make an equal show, finally left without saying good-bye. The interests of Germany did not move him, but when his personal vanity was touched, he was capable of action.

[Sidenote: 1473.]

For a short time, Frederick exhibited a little energy and intelligence. In order to secure the alliance of the Swiss, who were equally threatened by the designs of Charles the Bold, he concluded a Perpetual Peace with them, relinquishing forever the claims of the house of Hapsburg to authority over any part of their territory. The cities of Alsatia and Baden advanced money to Sigismund of Tyrol to pay his debt, and when Charles the Bold nevertheless refused to give up Alsatia and part of Lorraine, which he had seized in the meantime, war was declared against him. Louis XI. of France, equally jealous of Burgundy, favored the movement, but took no active part in it. Although Charles was driven out of Alsatia, and failed to take the city of Neuss after a siege of ten months, he succeeded in negotiating a peace, by offering a truce of nine years to Louis XI. and promising his daughter's hand to Frederick's son, Maximilian. In this treaty the Emperor, who had persuaded Switzerland and Lorraine to become his allies, infamously gave them up to Charles the Bold's revenge.

The latter instantly seized the whole of Lorraine, transferred his capital from Brussels to Nancy, and, considering his future kingdom secured, prepared first to punish the Swiss. He collected a magnificent army of 50,000 men, crossed the Jura, and appeared before the town of Grandson, on the Lake of Neufchatel. The place surrendered, on condition that the citizens should be allowed to leave unharmed; but Charles seized them, hanged a number and threw the rest into the lake. By this time the Swiss army, numbering 18,000, appeared before Grandson. Before beginning the battle, they fell upon their knees and prayed fervently; whereupon Charles cried out: "See, they are begging for mercy, but not one of them shall escape!" For several hours the fight raged fiercely; then the horns of the mountaineers--the "bulls of Uri and the cows of Unterwalden," as the Swiss called them--were heard in the distance, as they hastened to join their brethren. A panic seized the Burgundians, and after a short and desperate struggle they fled, leaving all their camp equipage, 420 cannon, and such enormous treasures in the hands of the Swiss that the soldiers divided the money by hatfuls.


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