On This Day
1407 – A truce between John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy and Louis of Valois, Duke of Orléans is agreed upon under the auspices of John, Duke of Berry. Orléans would be assassinated three days later by Burgundy.
Hundred Years’ War
Louis had an important political role during the Hundred Years’ War. With the increasing insanity of his elder brother Charles the Mad (who suffered from either schizophrenia, porphyria or bipolar disorder), Louis disputed the regency and guardianship of the royal children with John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. The enmity between the two was public and a source of political unrest in the already troubled France. Louis had the initial advantage, being the brother rather than the first cousin of the king, but his reputation as a womaniser and the rumour of an affair with the queen consort Isabeau of Bavaria made him extremely unpopular. For the following years, the children of Charles VI were successively kidnapped and recovered by both parties, until the Duke of Burgundy managed to be appointed by royal decree to be the guardian of Louis, the Dauphin and regent of France.
Louis did not give up and took every effort to sabotage John’s rule, including squandering the money raised for the relief of Calais, then occupied by the English. After this episode, John and Louis broke into open threats and only the intervention of John of Valois, Duke of Berry and uncle of both men, avoided a civil war.
Main article: Assassination of Louis I, Duke of Orléans
On Sunday 20 November 1407, the contending Dukes exchanged solemn vows of reconciliation before the court of France. But only three days later, Louis was brutally assassinated in the streets of Paris, by the orders of the Duke of Burgundy John the Fearless. Louis was stabbed while mounting his horse by fifteen masked criminals led by Raoulet d’Anquetonville, a servant of the Duke of Burgundy. An attendant was severely wounded.
Funeral of Louis. Miniature from Vigiles du roi Charles VII.
John was supported by the population of Paris and the University. He could even publicly admit the killing. Rather than deny it, John had the scholar Jean Petit of the Sorbonne deliver a peroration justifying the killing of tyrants.
Louis’ murder sparked a bloody feud and civil war between Burgundy and the French royal family which divided France for the next seventy years, and only ended with the death of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1477.
Born On This Day
939 – Emperor Taizong of Song (d. 997)
Zhao Jiong (20 November 939 – 8 May 997), known as Zhao Guangyi from 960 to 977 and Zhao Kuangyi before 960, also known by his temple name Taizong after his death, was the second emperor of the Song dynasty in China. He reigned from 976 to his death in 997. He was a younger brother of his predecessor Emperor Taizu, and the father of his successor Emperor Zhenzong.
Why Emperor Taizong succeeded his brother rather than Emperor Taizu’s grown sons (Zhao Dezhao and Zhao Defang, who both died in their twenties during his reign) is not entirely understood by later historians. According to official history, his succession was confirmed by Emperor Taizu on their mother Empress Dowager Du’s deathbed as a result of her instruction. A popular story dating back from at least the 11th century suggests that Emperor Taizong murdered his brother in the dim candlelight when the sound of an axe was allegedly heard. Whatever the truth, Zhao Guangyi had been prefect of the Song capital Kaifeng since 961 where he gradually consolidated power. He was the only living prince during Emperor Taizu’s reign (as Prince of Jin) and placed above all grand councilors in regular audiences.
In the first three years of his reign, he intimidated the Qingyuan warlord Chen Hongjin and Wuyue king Qian Chu into submission and easily conquered Northern Han, thus reunifying China Proper for the first time in 72 years. However, subsequent irredentist wars to conquer former Tang dynasty territories from the Liao dynasty in the north and the Early Lê dynasty in the southwest proved disastrous: after the failures in the Battle of Gaoliang River and the Battle of Bạch Đằng, the Sixteen Prefectures and Northern Vietnam (at least in their entirety) would remain beyond Chinese control until the Ming dynasty in the 14th century.
Emperor Taizong is remembered as a hardworking and diligent emperor. He paid great attention to the welfare of his people and made the Song Empire more prosperous. He adopted the centralization policies of the Later Zhou, which include increasing agricultural production, broadening the imperial examination system, compiling encyclopaedias, expanding the civil service and further limiting the power of jiedushis.
All subsequent emperors of the Northern Song were his descendants, as well as the first emperor of the Southern Song. However, from Emperor Xiaozong onwards, subsequent emperors were descendants of his brother, Emperor Taizu. This largely stemmed from the Jingkang Incident, whereby most of Emperor Taizong’s descendants were abducted by the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty, forcing Emperor Gaozong to seek a successor among Taizu’s descendants, as Gaozong’s only son had died young.
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