The assassination of Louis of Orléans – how John the Fearless got away with murder



John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy

John II of Burgundy – John the Fearless as he is better known today — was famous in his day as a military hero.  But he was infamous for arranging the assassination of the king’s brother, Louis of Orléans — and convincing the king it was justified.

The king was Charles VI of France, who ruled from 1380 to 1422.  Charles suffered from what was most likely schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder.  During his recurrent episodes of madness, he had severe hallucinations and delusions.  At one point, he even believed he was made out of glass.  He forbade anyone to touch him, lest he break, and had his tailors sew rods into his clothing for additional protection.

A young Charles VI of France

A young Charles VI

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The Battle of the Herrings – the most awesomely named battle ever



The Battle of the Herrings was actually a minor skirmish of the Hundred Years War.  But without it we may never have heard of Joan of Arc.

In February 1429, the English had the French town of Orléans under siege.  An English convoy of 300 carts, led by Sir John Fastolf (who would inspire William Shakespeare’s Falstaff), was on its way from Paris carrying crossbow bolts and cannon balls.  The carts also held barrels of herring for the upcoming meatless days of Lent.

At the same time, 16-year old Joan of Arc was in Vaucoleurs, trying to convince its captain, Robert de Baudricort, that voices from God had commanded her to raise the siege of Orléans.   She said Baudricort was to give her an armed escort to Chinon, where she would find the court of the dauphin – the future Charles VIII of France.   Baudricort laughed at Joan and told her male cousin to take her home so her father could box her ears.

But Joan persisted and – according to legend — told Baudricort that as they were speaking, the French were suffering a terrible defeat near Orléans.  Several days later a messenger confirmed Joan’s prediction.  The French had attacked the English convoy and been routed, losing 400 men.

This allegedly inspired Baudricourt to believe in the divine nature of Joan’s mission.  He gave her the requested escort and the rest, as they say, is history.  As is the Battle of the Herrings – the most awesomely named battle ever.