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John the Fearless

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John the Fearless (French: Jean sans Peur, Dutch: Jan zonder Vrees), also John II, Duke of Burgundy, known as John of Valois and John of Burgundy (May 28, 1371 – September 10, 1419), was Duke of Burgundy from 1404 to 1419.


Early life

Born in Dijon, John was the son of Philip the Bold and Margaret III, Countess of Flanders. As heir apparent, he used the title of Count of Nevers from 1384 to 1405, when after his accession he ceded it to his brother Philip.

In 1385, John married Margaret of Bavaria, daughter of Albrecht of Bavaria, Count of Holland and Hainaut, to consolidate his position in the Low Countries, after cancelling his engagement with Catherine of France, daughter of king Charles V of France.

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 (September 25, 1396) with such enthusiasm and bravery that he was given the nickname of Fearless (Sans-Peur). Despite his personal bravery, his impetuous leadership ended in disaster for the European expedition. He was taken prisoner and released only in the next year, against an enormous ransom paid by his father.

Conflict against Louis of Orléans

John was invested as duke of Burgundy in 1404 and almost immediately entered into open conflict against Louis of Orléans, younger brother of the increasingly mad Charles VI. Both men attempted to fill the power vacuum left by the demented king.

John played a game of marriages, exchanging his daughter Marguerite for Michelle of Valois, who would marry his heir, Philip the Good. He did not overlook, however, the importance of the middle class of merchants and tradesman or the University of Paris.

Louis tried to gain the favor of Queen Isabeau, and may have become her lover. After a game of hide and seek in which his son-in-law, the Dauphin, 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 the relations between John and Louis.

Soon the two rivals descended into making open threats. Their uncle, John, Duke of Berry, secured a vow of solemn reconciliation, but three days later, on November 23, 1407 Louis was brutally assassinated in the streets of Paris. He was attacked after mounting his horse by a party of men who literally amputated his arms so that he was defenseless. 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". 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 March 9, 1409, the king absolved the Duke of Burgundy of the crime, and he and Louis's son Charles pledged a reconciliation. A later edict renewed John's guardianship of the Dauphin.

Even with the Orléans dispute resolved in his favour, John would not have an easy life. Louis' son and heir, Charles, gathered allies, among them Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac, to support his claims for the property that had been confiscated from him. Peace was solemnly sworn in 1410, and John returned to Burgundy, and Bernard remained in Paris and reportedly shared the queen's bed. Armagnac's party was not content with 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. John participated in the peace negotiations, but with dubious intent. Although he talked of helping his sovereign, his troops took no part in the Battle of Agincourt (in 1415), where two of his brothers, Antoine, Duke of Brabant, and Philip II, Count of Nevers, died fighting for France.

Conflict with the Dauphin

Two years later, John's troops set about the task of gaining Paris. On May 30, 1418, he captured the city, but not before the Dauphin (the traditional name of the heir apparent to the throne of France), the future Charles VII of France, had escaped. John then installed himself in the city 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 Pouilly meeting, a fresh interview was proposed by the Dauphin to take place on September 10, 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.


John's ancestors in three generations
John the Fearless Father:
Philip the Bold
Paternal Grandfather:
John II of France
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Philip VI of France
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Joan the Lame
Paternal Grandmother:
Bonne of Bohemia
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John I of Bohemia
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Elisabeth of Bohemia (1292–1330)
Margaret III, Countess of Flanders
Maternal Grandfather:
Louis II of Flanders
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Louis I of Flanders
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Margaret I, Countess of Burgundy
Maternal Grandmother:
Margaret of Brabant
Maternal Great-grandfather:
John I, Duke of Brabant
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Margaret of Flanders


John and Margaret of Bavaria had the following children:

  • Catherine (1391–1414, Ghent)
  • Marie (1393 – October 30, 1463, Monterberg bei Kalkar). She married Adolph I, Duke of Cleves. They were the great-grandparents of James III of Scotland and Johann III, Duke of Cleves, father of Anne of Cleves who was fourth Queen consort of Henry VIII of England.
  • Marguerite, duchess of Guyenne (1394 – February 2, 1441, Paris), married on August 30, 1404 Louis of Valois the Dauphin (heir of king Charles VI of France), then on October 10, 1422 Arthur de Richemont, the future Duke of Brittany
  • Philip the Good (1396–1467)
  • Isabelle (d. September 18, 1412, Rouvres), married at Arras on July 22, 1406 to Olivier de Châtillon-Blois, Count of Penthièvre and Périgord
  • Jeanne (b. 1399, Bouvres), d. young
  • Anne of Burgundy (1404 – November 14, 1432, Paris), married John, Duke of Bedford
  • Agnes of Burgundy (1407 – December 1, 1476, Château de Moulins), married Charles I, Duke of Bourbon

John also had several illegitimate children, including the colourful John of Burgundy, Bishop of Cambrai from 1439 to 1479, by his mistress Agnes de Croy, daughter of Jean I de Croÿ.


  • 1384–1404: Count of Nevers as John I
  • 27 April 1404–10 September 1419: Duke of Burgundy as John II
  • 21 March 1405–10 September 1419: Count Palatine of Burgundy as John I
  • 21 March 1405–10 September 1419: Count of Artois as John I
  • 21 March 1405–10 September 1419: Count of Flanders as John I
  • 27 April 1404–28 January 1405: Count of Charolais as John I

External links


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at John the Fearless. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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