ABSTRACT

The year 1477 had just opened and the king of England was taking his ease at Westminster Palace or Greenwich when he received the shocking news that, on 5th January, the Duke of Burgundy had been killed in the midst of his troops besieging Nancy. That Edward shed no tears over the death of his sister’s husband may be taken for granted, as no love had ever been lost between him and Charles. If he had feared that Charles was casting covetous eyes on his throne, his first feeling may even have been one of relief that the duke had been removed to another world. But with the news of Charles’s death came also the word that the king of France was helping himself to as much of Mary of Burgundy’s heritage as he could lay his hands on, and if the conquest of Burgundy by France was going to be the result of Charles’s death, scarcely anyone would have more reason to weep over his bier than the king of England. For aside from the fact that England and Burgundy were bound together by commercial ties so dose that disaster to either of them must inevitably cause a very serious loss to the other, Artois, one of the regions in which Louis’ armies were reported to be most active, adjoined Calais, and if the king of France should succeed in conquering Artois, nothing was more likely than that Calais would be the next object of his attention. To be sure, Louis’ attitude towards England had been, to outward appearances, friendliness itself since the signing of the treaty of Amiens, and directly after Charles’s death he seems to have dispatched some ambassadors to London to announce that he was planning to send very soon another embassy of more imposing size and dignity “for the appeasing of such debates” as still existed between Edward and himself, “for the entertaining of their amities and benevolences, and for a mutual dealing” regarding commercial intercourse between their subjects. 1 He made no attempt, however, to explain or xSee the instructions to Morton and Donne to be cited presently. 176defend his conduct towards Mary of Burgundy, and in alarm Edward again called the lords of his kingdom to come and give him their advice. Eighty-five letters of privy seal were sent out summoning divers lords to a council meeting at Westminster, 1 and on 14th February Paston wrote: “Yesterday began the great council, to which all the estates of the land shall come to, but if it be for great and reasonable excuses; and I suppose the chief cause of this assembly is to commune what is best to do now upon the great change by the death of the Duke of Bourgogne, and for the keeping of Calais and the marches, and for the preservation of the amities taken late, as well with France as now with the members of Flanders; whereto I doubt not there shall be in all haste both the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester.” 2