Naples has too many Ferdinands, though I suppose they're not quite as bad as the Howards with their profusion of Thomases.
They did indeed have too many Ferdinands, but what can anybody do about that? And regarding the Howards, don't forget there was about seven differents non Howard-Thomases running around in the court of Henry VIII as well!
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Chapter 43 - Burgundy from 1520 to 1523
Chapter 43 – Burgundy from 1520 to 1523

The man tied to the stake only had a few moments left to live.

The morning of the 18th of January in 1520 started on a high note for the citizens of Breda in the duchy of Brabant. Large piles of wet snow had been cleared from the square outside of the town hall and the gathering crowd had trampled the rest to a greyish slush. Opportunistic vendors had set up stalls selling warm mulled cider, spiced hot wine, slices of appeltaerten and candied quinces to the women, men and children who had come to watch a man be burned on the pyre.

The landdrost Maarten van Soelen held the order to carry out the sentence in his hand. But he still waited for the Grand Duke to show up. Fortunately, the clopping of horse hooves and the retinue of armed guards told Maarten that his ever-diligent liege was precisely on time.

Three years had passed since his father’s death and Philippe had proven to be a ruler very much in the mould of the late duke and his great-grandfather, Philip the Good. The merry duke could easily charm all who meet him and enjoyed pageantry, feasts and jousting as many rulers did in this time. However, underneath the jovial façade laid a razor-sharp intellect and a ruthless and cunning ruler. That was the side the unfortunate man tied to the stake now would find out. He rode up to Maarten, who was standing on an erected platform near the pyre. After a short discussion Philippe nodded at Maarten, who stepped forth to read the verdict.

“For your crimes of murder and robbery, the estates of Brabant have rendered a sentence of death upon thee, and it shall now be carried out without mercy.”

After Maarten finished speaking, he nodded to a guard who held a burning torch to light the pyre. It took a few minutes before the damp wood caught on fire, but soon greyish smoke started to billow from the pyre and the screams of the man chained to the stake turned into agonising coughing and wretched vails. The chatter of the townsfolk increased, with parents putting their children on their shoulders or hanging out of opened windowsills from the buildings around the square.

Philippe patterned the neck of his white gelding, as the snow began to fall. He rode towards the crowd clustered around the fire, stopping close enough that he could feel the heat of the leaping flames on his face.

“Let this be a warning to the people who dares to commit the foulest of crimes, they shall suffer the harshest of punishments.” Philip boomed. “We will not tolerate murderers or bandits to rob honest christian people of their lives and safety!

The man on the pyre had gone quiet now. The fire burned high and steady, and the falling snowflakes made a hissing sound when evaporating upon contact. A little while later the crowd began to disperse. Windows closed shut, wives went about their errands around the city, the shops started making their woollen cloth. Children played safely in the streets of Brabant, and with the winter snow still there, shouts of joy soon filled the air along with snowballs flying in flurry streaks of glistening snow.

The fire on the pyre died down after a couple of hours, leaving a piled of charred bones and smouldering embers behind. The remains were gathered by a young monk who had hired a couple of labourers to assist him. A small wooden crate had been acquired and would be buried in a pauper’s field outside of the city with a wooden cross to mark it. It was an inglorious end for the infamous robber baron Hans Thomas von Absberg who for many years had terrorised and kidnapped merchants and magistrates around Germany and made the fatal mistake of straying inside the border of the Low Countries the previous autumn.

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Hans Thomas of Absberg, robber baron who won the ultimate prize of the "F**k around and find out competition of 1520

The Grand Duchy of Brabant entered the year of 1520 with peace and prosperity. There had been several years of good harvests, over three decades of internal tranquility and trade flowed smoothly in the cities. The Ducal family itself thrived, with Philippe and Beatrijs at Duke and Duchess at the helm. Marguerite and Philippa, the eldest daughters would leave for their marriages soon and the heir, Jean was now eleven years old and the two youngest, Charles and Beatrice rounded out the family.

The ducal court saw the arrival of a new ambassador in 1517. Thomas Boleyn came from England, on order of King Richard IV to maintain the rather chilly relationship with the Low Countries. His youngest daughter Anne entered the court as a lady in waiting to the Dutchess, as the Burgundian court often set the tone for the other renaissance kingdoms and it was an excellent finishing school for young ladies. Anne herself was only one year younger then Philippa, and they soon became good friends. Her eldest sister, Mary Boleyn also became part of the court life, albeit in another way. Mary, being flirtatious and beautiful soon caught the eye of Philippe, and in 1520 she had been one of his favourite mistresses for nearly two years. Beatrijs decided to turn a blind eye to her husband’s licentiousness and Philippe took care to keep his affairs on the side to not overshadow his wife. The relationship between Duke and Dutchess was perhaps not one of immense passion, but remained a loving and respectful one.
Beatrijs herself enjoyed great status as duchess of Brabant and Burgundy, keeping an independent court and was active in many patronages, such as the religious community of the Brethren of the Common Life and the funds provided by her would be used to educate, amongst others, Cornelius Jansen who would become the first bishop of Ghent in 1560. Jansen would be an important figure in the counter-reformation after attending the Council of Trent that started in 1545. Jansen came to be a councilor and envoy during the reign of her son, Jean.

The troublesome relationship between Brabant and England was a constant source of concern for her and she did mediate between her independent husband and proud brother as much as she could, even if things did not always fall her way. In 1520 she decided to make a stronger effort. The Burning of Ludlow Castle as it would be called, in spring of that year had shocked the royal family. Elizabeth of Austria, the Princess of Wales had died in the fire. Prince Richard had been away from the castle during the night, enjoying a night ride with his mistress, Bessie Blount and had raced back as the fire had been seen for miles. The charred remains of Elizabeth had been found near the stairs on the upper floors near her chambers. Two of her ladies had seemingly refused to leave their mistress and their bodies laid next to her. The princess’s corpse had been recognized by the melted gold coating her hands and neck and the shattered garnets laying around her, evidence of the princess trying to save some of her riches and jewels from Bohemia from devastation.

Prince Richard had been devastated by the fire and made immense efforts to aid in putting the fire out. He also took care that the survivors were taken care of and sent letters to families as what to happen. The first messenger left the day after to the King, to let his father know that he survived, but that Elizabeth had perished. During the weeks that followed, he resided in Stokesay Castle, the fortified manor as a honored guest of the Vernon family, landed gentry in Shropshire. In the beginning of summer, Richard left for Winchester Castle. It would be several years before he returned to Wales. The death of Elizabeth also saw the end of his relationship with Bessie, as the guilt-ridden prince blamed his absence for that fateful night. Despite her attempts to console him, Bessie was sent home with a pouch of gold coins and one of the prince’s rings on her fingers. As for their daughter, he promised her that Anne Fitzroy would be provided for as well.

Beatrijs saw the death of the Hapsburg Princess as an opportunity to renew the alliance between England and Brabant with one of her own daughters, for the now widowed prince, as he needed a new wife. It was Marguerite, now nearly sixteen years old that her mother intended to become the new Princess of Wales and she did approach the subject with her husband. Philippe was somewhat reluctant to ally again with England, as the disaster with Anne of Boulogne had left the relationship very cold. Philippe also sought to wed Jean to Jeanne of France, the daughter of Charles IX and Isabella of Portugal. The death of Isabella of Burgundy, the aunt of Philippe also slowed negotiations down. The former dowager queen of France had been brutally cast aside by her son after he had been freed from captivity by the late duke, his own uncle after the failed invasion of the Low Countries in 1506. Her death left Anne of Burgundy, the Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia as the only child of Charles the Bold and Margaret of York alive, as their brothers had died in 1507 and 1517. Scarred by the death of her brother John at the hands of her own son, the death of her beloved husband at the hands of her half-sister Mary’s son, and the ostracization following 1510, Isabella had lived in seclusion since 1515. Her brother and nephew had showed her great considerations, but few things seemed to delight her in the last years. It had been her dying wish for Burgundy and France to see peace again and she wished to see her granddaughter Jeanne as the next duchess. Beatrijs opposed this, wishing for her english nieces Beatrice or Katherine to become the wife of her son. Philippe also considered other matches for Jean, such as the Spanish infanta Ana or Ippolita Leanora, the daughter of the king of Naples.

Thomas Boleyn was put to the work of starting negotiations between Brabant and England for a potential marriage between Prince Richard and Marguerite, with Beatrijs strong support. Queen Catherine of England supported the match, especially as another contender for her son’s hand was Charlotte of France, the firstborn daughter of Charles IX and Jeanne’s eldest sister. Catherine did not want her future daughter in law to be French and strongly urged her husband to consider Marguerite instead. Marguerite herself wished to become queen of England according to the ambassadors, but some speculated that it was more her mother’s desire. Despite the passion of Beatrijs and Catherine, their husband proved to not be as moved by the match and after over a year, the negotiations would be abandoned. Richard was too proud to ally with a duchy he felt had wronged England and Philippe refused to wed his eldest to someone who he felt had insulted him. Marguerite was heartbroken by this, but she would wed the next year to the dutchy of Savoy, as the Princess of Piedmont had died.

Cecily of York had proved to be a disastrous match for Philippe Adriano. The english princess had found Savoy too foreign and rustic for her taste and had looked down on the match as she had considered it far to low for her, something that had caused the duchess Juana to sharply rebuke her words. The proud Castilian infanta had herself married Philibert, and despite several people commenting that it had not been high enough for a daughter of Ferdinand and Isabel, Juana herself had no regrets. Philibert had been a devoted husband for over twenty years, but Cecily had stepped on Juana’s nerves since her arrival. The lack of children had also caused further strife, as six stillbirths and miscarriages had been the only result of Cecily’s marriage so far. Furthermore, Cecily’s temper had grown worse after every and she had hurled abuse at her husband and attendants. Her lack of dignity and scoffing at the courtiers of Savoy had not helped matters either and the snobbishness she had shown the Savoyards made them loathe her. Juana wrote in a letter to her brother, Juan III of Castile that “if she was not been my son’s bride, I would have her locked up in her rooms for the rest of her life, so that she can rage at the walls for no one to hear. I do not know what will happen to this duchy if she lives to take my place”. In 1521, Cecily died suddenly in the castle of Chambéry, of unknown causes. Some rumors said that she had collapsed due to her constant rages, others that she had been poisoned by her attendants or slain on her husband’s order. The likelier cause of Cecily’s death was heart failure caused by her constant pregnancies since 1513 and her high blood pressure. It’s likely that Cecily suffered from depression and later pregnancy psychosis, something that was poorly understood by that time. Neither Juana or Philibert mourned her death much and Philippe Adriano seemed relived to be freed from his troublesome wife. His second marriage to Marguerite of Brabant became a very happy one, as she was the very opposite of Cecily and more culturally familiar to Savoy. Marguerite quickly became Juana’s dear daughter and soothed the Duchess's strained nerves. Philibert quickly approved of her, especially as he saw the calming effect she had on his wife and son and the court itself. Marguerite’s sorrow over being rejected by the king of England soon disappeared after her arrival in Chambéry and she cemented that good fortune by bearing a healthy and strong son before the year was out to great relief in the ducal court.

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Marguerite of Brabant, Princess of Piedmont in 1524

The relationship between the Grand Duchy of Brabant and England remained cold, not helped by Marguerite supplanting Cecily either. In 1521, Prince Richard was betrothed to Charlotte of France and she arrived in England in the winter of 1522. Queen Catherine was graciously welcoming to her, despite some misgivings about the French princess. Charlotte proved to be a charming young woman, and easily drew her husband out of his gloom from Elizabeth’s death.

Beatrijs was deeply disappointed by her daughter’s rejection and viewed it as a failure on her brother’s pride. As Marguerite’s marriage was finalized, she turned to her second daughter, Philippa of Brabant and her future. She wished for a higher match and looked towards the Iberian kingdoms, that had heirs that needed brides. Both the grandson of Juan III and the son of the Crown Prince of Portugal was near Philippa’s age and either one would be a splendid marriage for her. Beatrjis was well aware that the Infante Juan of Spain was the most eligible young prince in Christendom, and would one day inherit all the kingdoms of his grandfather. His mother was also Yolande of Lorraine, the daughter of Mary of Burgundy, so they shared an ancestor in Charles the Bold. The king of Spain was considering brides from England, the Empire or Naples, but he had also taken notice of the Burgundians. Infante Juan was three years younger than Philippa, but since he was the sole son of the Prince of Asturias, a few years of difference in age did not bother anyone. And Juan seemed determined to have his namesake grandson wedded and bedded as soon as he turned fourteen, as the Princess of Asturias seemed extremely unlikely to have more children and because his eldest granddaughter, Infanta Isabel was to wed the Dauphin of France in 1522. Should Juan die before having children, the Valois could claim the throne of Spain and that would be a nightmare for the Trastamaras. Infante Juan needed a bride from a country that would contest a french claim, and Burgundy was considered, but the Spanish were not completely sure that the Grand Duke was a alliance strong enough for that. England was at the moment the prime contender and the eldest daughter of Richard IV seemed to be the preferred bride. Elizabeth of York had turned sixteen and she had been well prepared for a Spanish marriage by her Castilian mother. Catherine of Aragon had been determined for her eldest daughter to become Queen of Spain one day and had educated her for the role for a decade. Elizabeth was a renowned beauty, with long dark hair and bright blue eyes. She spoke near flawless Castilian, Aragonese, some Catalan, latin, french and some Portuguese and had learned the history and culture of the Iberian kingdoms, the mythos and glories and the intermingled ancestries of the Trastamaras and Plantagenet's since the ancient days of Eleanor and Alfonso VIII and the more recent match of Catherine of Lancaster and Henry III. Elizabeth had continually impressed the Spanish ambassadors who had sent glowing rapports back to the king and she had sworn to her father that she would either wed Juan or enter a nunnery. No other marriage was to be for her. Richard was in agreement with his wife, as a Spanish match would be incredible prestigious for the Yorks. The death of Elizabeth of Austria had halted the negotiations and the French marriage for Prince Richard had caused some problems, but in 1522 the negotiations continued. King Juan could hardly blame England for wedding with the Valois as he did the same with his granddaughter in the same year. In 1523 two Iberian weddings would be finalized, Elizabeth of York to Infante Juan and Philippa of Brabant to Infante Alfonso of Portugal.

Both Infantes was born in 1509, and both were grandsons of King Juan. Alfonso was the only surviving son of Isabella of Granada, his eldest daughter. Despite her happy match to Crown Prince Joao since 1507, only two children of Isabella had lived past the age of three, Alfonso and a daughter, Maria, aged seven. Both children were frail and King Alfonso VI and Queen Isabella of Aragon wanted their grandson to be married as soon as possible. Portugal and Burgundy had long ties and since both kingdoms had prospered by trades, a marriage between two strong naval realms was a good one. Thus, Philippa would leave for Lisbon in 1523 to instead become the future queen of Portugal, rather than of England or Spain. And Queen of Portugal she would indeed become, even if it would be in another way then it was planned when she departed, but none knew that future at that moment.

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Philippa of Brabant, Crown Princess of Portugal in 1525

Author's Note: So here we have a new chapter! The start of this chapter with the burning was taken straight from the last chapter of my old Burgundian tl, if it sounds familiar. We have really come full circle now! Prince Richard survived the fire, but his wife did not. England, Spain and Portugal and France had new princesses. Princesses on parade! And rip Isabella and Cecily I guess. I just find it hilarious that Juana of Castile wanted to lock her unstable daughter in law up due to her being a disaster. Right now it's just a lot of marriages, but we're gonna get into more meatier stuff later, I'm just crap at writing those.
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Dang, poor Elizabeth of Austria. What a way to go out... Also the irony with Juana wanting to lock up her daughter in law is thick here hahah
Thus, Philippa would leave for Lisbon in 1523 to instead become the future queen of Portugal, rather than of England or Spain. And Queen of Portugal she would indeed become, even if it would be in another way then it was planned when she departed, but none knew that future at that moment.
I sense drama!
@BlueFlowwer ! AMAZING WORK! Love this TL!
Thank you! You are always first with the comments!
Dang, poor Elizabeth of Austria. What a way to go out... Also the irony with Juana wanting to lock up her daughter in law is thick here hahah

I sense drama!
Poor Elizabeth indeed. The charred corpse with melted gold on its limbs has some morbidness, doesn't it? And the Juana troubles was to good to pass up. I really regretted the English-Savoy marriage, because in hindsight it dosn't make sense, so this is how I went on about it. Of course you sense drama! I'm about as subtle as a train wreck on a boat at times.
Happy to see that prince richard survived, RIP elizabeth, sad to see bessie go.

And Juana has no idea of the sheer irony.
I refuse to kill Richard yet. But his married life isn't gonna go smooth. Poor both Elizabeths! And Juana had no idea what disaster she avoided!
I just caught up reading @BlueFlowwer and I’m so glad you decided to continue this timeline. Margaret of York is one of those under utilized characters with great potential. Great update and thanks for taking the time to share your story. Looking forward to next chapter!