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The Death and Burials of Charles the Bold

Charles the Bold, the last of the great Dukes of Burgundy, died on 5 January 1477 at the Battle of Nancy in his failed attempt to concur the place. His forces had been hopelessly outnumbered by that of Duke Rene II of Loraine (nephew of Margaret of Anjou). Charles’s mutilated body was discovered only two days after an extensive search through the frozen bodies that were littering the battlefield. The body of the 43-year-old duke had been stripped of his clothes and jewels and his face and body were partly eaten by animals. Identification was done by his court physician who could identify the body based on Charles’s earlier scares and long fingernails. It seemed that Charles fell from his horse and received a fatal blow to the head. With him fell the Burgundian state which his great-grandfather Philip the Bold had founded nearly a century before.

Charles the Bold by Rogier van der Weyden 1460

Charles was initially buried in Saint Georges Church in Nancy but 53 years after his death, his great-grandson Emperor Charles V ordered his reburial in Bruges, Flanders. It was first sent to the Franciscan Monastery in Luxembourg where his remains found a temporary resting place until 1553 when it was brought to Bruges and interred in the now-vanished St. Donatus Cathedral early that year. Several months later Charles’s remains found their final resting place in Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Kerk in Bruges next to his daughter Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482).

Charles’s effigy was made by sculpturer Jacob Jonghelinck (1530-1606). During the French Revolution, both tombs were securely kept but the crypt was plundered. It was only during the excavations of 1979 that the tomb effigies were restored to their original state from before the French Revolution. Mary’s remains were identified but unfortunately no trace of Charles. Luckily we can still admire the splendid tombs effigies of him and Mary.


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