Burgundian Ambassadors Broker a Portuguese Marriage for Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy

The oldest known view of Lisbon (c. 1500-1510) from the Crónica de Dom Afonso Henriques de Duarte Galvão (1435-1517)

In the year 1428 the most noble, most high, and most powerful prince my lord Philip, duke of Burgundy, who had successfully married two most noble ladies of exalted lineage, the first Lady Michelle, daughter of the most Christian, most excellent and most powerful prince King Charles VI of France; the second, Lady Bonne of Artois, both of who had died leaving my lord the duke without issue, counselled and advised by courageous and loyal men, was moved by devout and commendable purpose to re-marry, in the hope that, with God’s grace, he might have an heir to succeed to his important and noble lordships.

 So, my said lord of Burgundy resolved to negotiate the marriage of himself and the most high and noble Lady Elizabeth [known as Isabel in Burgundy], infanta of the most excellent, powerful, and victorious prince King John of Portugal…, and, to do this, he sent his noble legation and embassy to Portugal. He placed at its head his noble knight and loyal and intimate servant, Sir Jehan, lord of Roubaix and Herzeele, councilor and first chamberlain, and, with him, his loyal servants Sir Baudouin de Lannoy, called le Beghe, knight, lord of Molenbaix and governor of Lille; Andrieu de Toulongeon, squire and lord of Mornay, also his councilors and chamberlains; and Master Gille d’Escornaix doctor of Canon Law and provost of Larelbeke, likewise his councilor…To these ambassadors he gave his relevant instruction, letter, procuration and powers and…the governor-general of his finances, Guy Guibaut, gave them sufficient finance for a large and honorable expenditure, to be under the care of a gentleman named Baudouin d’Oignies, squire, who was appointed steward of their expenses, with a clerk to make the payments.

These ambassadors and those of their company, which included numerous gentlemen and others, thus furnished and provided, after taking leave of my lord of Burgundy set out for Sluis in Flanders for the start of their journey. They embarked in two Venetian galleys then lying in the port and departed on October 19, 1428, arriving next day, 20 October, at the port of Sandwich in England. There they disembarked and remained, waiting for two other Venetian galleys then at London, until 13 November following, when they set out in these galleys. They were driven by gales into various English ports, first the port of Camber, second Plymouth, third Falmouth, where they arrived on 25 November and left on 2 December. Sailing through the Bay of Biscay so as to arrive and disembark on 11 December at Bayonne in Galicia, they left there on the fourteenth of that month and on the sixteenth reached a place called Cascais, six leagues from Lisbon in Portugal, where they arrived on 18 December.

At that time the king of Portugal was in a town of his called Estremoz, three or four days’ journey from Lisbon, with his children, including my lady the infanta above-mentioned, and a large gathering of lords, knights, squires, ladies, and people of all estates, at a celebration which was about to begin for the reception of Madam Leonor, infanta of Aragon, wife of my lord the infante Duarte, eldest son of the said king of Portugal. So, the ambassadors immediately sent Flanders King-of-Arms to the king of Portugal with letters explaining their arrival and its cause…

When the king of Portugal received the ambassadors’ letters, he wrote and invited them to come to see him and, as soon as they were able to provide themselves with horses, they set out towards him. But, when they were only three or four leagues from the place where he was, he wrote asking them to delay their arrival till further notice, since he wanted to have his children, who had recently departed, with him. So, they waited at a place called Reols until 12 January [1429], when the king sent for them. On that day, the ambassadors left Reols and arrived at a town called Aviz, where the king was, being honorably met by some princes of the royal house and other gentlemen and notables in number, who gave them a magnificent and joyous reception.

Next morning, 13 January, after mass, the king sent for the ambassadors, who presented him with letters from my lord of Burgundy and made the customary reverences and salutations. The king received them kindly and joyfully and agreed to hear their credentials after dinner that day; at which time the said ambassadors appeared before the king in his council chamber in the presence of Dom Pedro, Dom Henry and Dom Fernando, his children, the count of Barcelos and other notables. The main reason my lord [the duke] of Burgundy had sent them was then notably expounded, in Latin, by Master Gille d’Escornaix. This done, the king made known to them, in Latin, through a doctor, his councilor, that he was well pleased with their arrival and that he would take advice on what they had said and expounded on behalf of my lord of Burgundy and would then reply. At this point, the ambassadors withdrew to their lodgings.

On the same day, towards vespers, the king sent word to them that, since he was very busy and could not therefore easily attend to their business in person, he had asked my lord Duarte and his other sons to act for him in this matter. On the next day and the days following the affair was further discussed with them or some of them, and in conclusion, a document was drawn up in writing. At the same time, the ambassadors arranged for a valet de chambre of my lord of Burgundy, named Jan van Eyck, who was an exquisite master of the art of painting, to paint my lady the infanta Elizabeth from life; and they also diligently informed themselves in various places through various people of the reputation, hearing and health of that lady…This done, on about 12 February [1429], the said ambassadors sent four messengers to my lord of Burgundy, two by sea and two by land. That is to say, by sea, Pierre de Vaudrey, squire, and cup-bearer of my lord [the duke], and a pursuivant of arms called Renty and, by land, Jehan de Baissy, squire, and pursuivant of arms called Portejoie. They wrote to my lord of Burgundy by each of these messengers explaining what had happened and what had so far been done concerning the marriage. They also sent to him the portrait of the said lady, painted as mentioned above.

While they were waiting to hear from my lord [the duke] of Burgundy in reply, some of the ambassadors, that is to say the lord of Roubaix, Sir Baudouin de Lannoy and Andrieu de Toulongeon, together with the above mentioned Baudouin d’Oignies, Albert, bastard of Bavaria…. And other gentlemen and familiars, travelled to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, and thence went to see the duke of Arjona, the king of Castile, and the king of Granada and several other lords, countries, and places. At the end of May following, they returned from this tour and arrived at Lisbon just in time to see the magnificent first entry and joyous reception of my lady Leonor, wife of the infante Duarte, eldest son [of the king]. She was seated side-saddle, on a richly adorned mule covered in cloth-of-gold, led by two of the brothers of the infante on foot, one of each side….

Above her, a large piece of cloth-of-gold, supported on poles carried by princes of the blood royal and others of the most notable knights and the brothers of the said lady had been waiting some time in the fields. As soon as they saw her, they dismounted and, bowing, kissed her hand according to the custom of the country. Many well-mounted knights and squires also rode to meet her, together with the burgesses and notable merchants of Lisbon. The Jews and Saracens of the said place came separately, dressed in their own way, singing and dancing as was their custom. Thus was the lady led through the town to the infante’s palace, with great joy and solemnity. There were many trumpets, musicians, and players of organs, harps and other instruments and the town was hung and decorated in many places with tapestries and other cloths and with branches of May [whitethorn].

On 4 June following the ambassadors…went to Cintra, five leagues from Lisbon, to see the king of Portugal who had summoned them to visit him in the very pleasant palace he was staying in there. Towards vespers, while they were in their lodgings, the above-mentioned Pierre de Vaudrey, who had gone back to my lord of Burgundy by sea, arrived at Cintra with letters and news from the duke. The ambassadors went to announce this to the king and to my lady the infanta his daughter, who were very glad; and there was much rejoicing at court in the arrival of the said Pierre and the good news he brought. After this, the ambassadors, knowing the duke’s intentions, went ahead and negotiated the marriage-treaty with the king and some of his children. It was agreed to and concluded at Cintra on 11 June, and the contract was witnessed by a notary at Lisbon on 24 July 1429.

The Sunday after this, at seven in the morning of 25 July in the royal palace at Lisbon, at the request of the king and his children, the lord of Roubaix, in the name of and acting as proctor for my lord of Burgundy, and having from him sufficient power and procuration, took and received my lady the infanta Elizabeth as wife and spouse of my lord of Burgundy, present the king, my lord Duarte, his eldest son, Dom Henry, Dom João and Dom Fernando, his children…and a large number of people of all estates.

From this time on the ambassadors did their best to expedite the journey of my lady to Flanders, where the king was in honor bound, by the terms of the treaty, to transport her at his expense and deliver her to my lord of Burgundy. According to the promise of the king and my lord the infante his eldest son, my lady’s departure would take place before the end of September, except if prevented by contrary winds, or by the death or illness of herself or the king.

When the date of her departure was approaching, my lord the infante Duarte, eldest son, organized festivities and a banquet for her and the king his father. On Monday 26 September and the two following days jousts and entertainments took place and a supper was given at Lisbon in the Hall of Galleys, which was cleared for the occasion and hung with tapestries high on the walls, with variously-colored woolen cloths below them. The two rows of pillars in this hall were decorated likewise, and the floor was strewn with green rushes. Tables, magnificently adorned and covered with fine linen, were set up as follows. The king’s, at the far end of the hall and taking up most of its width, was on a wooden dais several steps high. The king’s place, in the center of the table, was six inches higher than the rest and a canopy of cloth-of-gold was stretched over it.

In front of this table, against a pillar, there was a platform for the Kings-of-Arms and heralds; at the other end, near the entrance to the hall, was another for trumpets and musicians. The other tables were arranged in three rows, down the center of the hall and along the other side. There were six sideboards richly decorated and loaded with gold and silver-gilt plate of various kinds, and the hall was so well lit with torches and candles that one could see very clearly everywhere…

When it was time for supper the king seated himself in his place as above described with my lady the infanta Elizabeth his daughter on his right and the wives of the infantes Dom Pedro and Dom João on his left. My lady the wife of the infante Duarte, eldest son, since she was well-advanced in pregnancy and near delivery, was not seated at the table, but watched the festivities from a well-decorated gallery high up on the right. The king caused the lord of Roubaix, leader of the embassy, to sit at the right-hand end of his table, and the other ambassadors were seated at a neighboring table on the right…

At this supper, which lasted a long time, certain entertainments took place which they call challenges. They happen like this. Knights and gentlemen, fully armed and equipped for jousting, enter on horseback accompanied as they please and approach the table where the lord or lady giving the feast is seated. Without dismounting, the knight bows and presents to his host a letter or piece of paper, fixed to a stick split at the end, in which it is stated that he is a knight or gentleman with such and such a name, which he had chosen, and that he comes from some strange land, such as ‘the deserts of India’, ‘terrestrial paradise’, ‘the sea’, or ‘the land’, to seek adventures.

Because he has heard about this magnificent feast, he has come to court, and he now declares that he is ready to receive anyone present who wishes to perform a deed of arms with him. When the letter has been read out and the thing discussed, the host causes a herald to say to the gentleman, who is awaiting a reply in front of the table: “Knight, or lord, you shall be delivered.’ Then, bowing again as before, he leaves, armed and mounted as before. One came all covered in spines, both he and his horse, like a porcupine. Another came accompanied by the Seven Planets, each nicely portrayed according to its special characteristics. Several others came elegantly dressed and disguised, each as he chose…

Medieval wedding banquet from Histoire d’Olivier de Castille et d’Artus d’Algarbe. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Départament des manuscrits, Français 12574 fol.181v. – gálica.bnf.fr

Next day, 27 September, after dinner, there was jousting in the Rua Nova in Lisbon, which was spread with a great deal of sand. There was a fence of stakes fixed into the ground at intervals, to joust along, which was hung with blue and vermillion woolen cloths. Some of the jousters came with their horses adorned with cloth-of-gold, embroidered with silver, or silk cloth….and they jousted magnificently in front of the king and the lords and ladies who watched them from the windows of houses along the street. On the next day, 28 September, likewise, solemn and impressive jousts were held there.

On Thursday, 29th and penultimate day of the month, which was the day planned by the king for the embarkation of my lady the infanta Elizabeth on her journey to Flanders, he led her in the morning on horseback from this palace to the cathedral church of Lisbon…with the ambassadors and many lords, knights, gentlemen and others…, where mass was sung and divine service solemnly and magnificently accomplished. After which the king brought his daughter back to his palace….

John I, King of Portugal

He planned to take her on board ship and dine there, but the weather was so bad, and the water so rough, that his could not be done. The next day, the last day of September, after dinner, when the weather was better, the king, accompanied by all his children, their wives, the ambassadors and many lords, knights, squires, ladies and others, led my lady his daughter to the ship which he had got ready for her passage in the port of Lisbon. There she stayed, waiting for the other ships, and their crews, that were going with her, to be got ready, until Saturday, 8 October following. During this time she was frequently visited by her father the king, and by my lords her brothers and others.

On the said Saturday, 8 October, my lady, with her brother the infante Dom Fernando, the count of Orin her nephew, and several knights, squires, ladies and others of her company, to the number of 2,000 persons or thereabouts, in fourteen large ships well fitted-out, armed and provisioned, left Lisbon around vespers and moved some distance from where they had been berthed.

The next day, they moved on to a place called Restel, where they remained until the Thursday following, 13 October, on which day she and her company arrived off Cascais around vespers. There they anchored and waited a little; but they weighed anchor that same day and left to continue their voyage, sailing a good way, night and day, till the Saturday 15 October, when contrary winds forced them to return, and they arrived again of Cascais, anchoring there until Monday 17 October.

They then departed and set sail, and continued their way until once more, because of adverse winds, my lady had to abandon her voyage, and she entered the port of Vivero in Galicia on Saturday 22 October with only four sail of the fourteen she had set out with. Of the others, nothing was known for a long time, except for one of them, which made the port of Vivero four or five days later. My lady left this port on Sunday 6 November, but had to put into the port of Ribadeo, also in Galicia, on 9 November.

Now it happened that the lord of Roubaix, also in Galicia, who had been ill for some days in my lady’s ship, was so enfeebled and sick that he had to disembark at Ribadeo. There, my lady had him transferred to one of the two Florentine galleys, en route for Flanders, which had arrived by chance…He boarded this galley at Ribadeo on 25 November, together with Baudouin d’Oignies and some of his people, while others of his people, with others of the ambassadors, stayed in my lady’s ship. And the five ships which they now had left Ribadeo on 25 November in company with the two galleys, sailing together through the Bay of Biscay until 28 November when, late at night, the galleys mistakenly parted company from [my lady’s] ships and hove to near Lizard Point at the extremity of England, in grave danger of shipwreck and drowning.

My lady, with her ships, went on her way and reached Plymouth in England on 29 November. The galleys left their anchorage near Lizard Point on 1 December and arrived at the port of Sluis in Flanders on 6 December. The lord of Roubaix disembarked and at once let my lord of Burgundy have the news of my lady his bride, of whom my lord of Roubaix had made enquiries en route and ascertained that she and her company arrived safely at the port of Sluis on Christmas day [1429], at about midday.

As related in “Philip the Good: The Apogee of Burgundy” by Richard Vaughan from text in Collection de documents inédits, ii. 63-91 and Weale, Hubert and John van Eyck, lv-lxxii; summarized by van Puyvelde in VVATL (1940) 20-6.

5 thoughts on “Burgundian Ambassadors Broker a Portuguese Marriage for Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy

  1. For class discussion, it would be informative to mark the time all of this took and why. One imagines that this might serve as a window into the sense of time people had during those moments in history

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Another came accompanied by the Seven Planets’ – I wonder which seven planets they meant because, in terms of nearness, they should be Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, but Uranus wasn’t discovered until 1781. Just curious… 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

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