The Last Duke of the West

The Last Duke of the West

Hi, I've been lurking on here for some time now, reading some favourite timelines, and I've been inspired to write something of my own. I haven't been able to find anything really similar on (although no doubt someone will immediately be able to point me to something very close, that I've missed!), so hopefully this will be a bit different for people to read.

Some things I should say before I start posting the timeline itself:
  • This timeline will not continue up to or beyond the present day; there comes a point when the foreseeable direct consequences of the POD have been reached, and the scope of the timeline has widened so far, that thereafter I would be simply writing what I wished to happen rather than what I could plausibly justify.
  • I've tried to maintain analogues and resonances to OTL, so where there are events – battles, deaths, marriages – in OTL, there will probably be similar events TTL, but possibly somewhere or someone else will be involved, and/or there'll be a different outcome
  • I also tend towards the view that almost everything will stay the same unless directly affected, so many events will happen the same, or turn out similarly
  • The start is, I feel, a bit of a slow burner, and in addition it's perhaps not so obvious as to where I'm going, so I hope you'll be intrigued enough to stick with it.
  • Although I have written much of this before I begin posting, to ensure I don't disappear with it halfwritten, I will be having a hiatus part way through because there is a point where (if there's sufficient interest) I want to ask people their views on how certain aspects of this might develop.
  • Lastly, I shall be posting twice a week or so up to the hiatus; this should take about 6 weeks or so.

I hope you enjoy it.

Book One: The Saltire Raguly

Chapter One

Paris: November 14th, 1432

'A hard day, out there,' said the newcomer as he entered the hall. He clapped his hat against his leg, shedding rainwater on the rush-strewn floor as he walked over to the fire to warm himself.
'Not an easy one here, either,' replied one of the knot of men clustered around the hearth.
'Her Grace?'
Eyes flicked upwards to the ceiling. 'Confined, since just after lauds. It goes hard with her.'
'I thought it would be close to her time. And His Grace -?'
'In the solar. Working with the clerks; when he's not fretting about her.'
The visitor touched his beard, untied his cloak. 'I'll go in to him if you think it good. I have letters from Rouen.'
'I'll bring you to him.' One of the men detached himself from the group and led the messenger away.

* * *

'Sir Aubrey, your Grace.'
'Your Grace.' The two men bowed as they entered. A servant closed the door carefully behind them. The solar was warm, the air close: heavy drapes kept out the wind and the hard weather of autumnal Paris. Two clerks scratched away at desks piled with documents. John, Duke of Bedford, brother of the Henry of England who won at Agincourt, and regent of France for Henry the son that had succeeded him, turned to face them. His smile said he was pleased to see them; his eyes spoke of distraction.
'From Rouen, Aubrey?'
'Yes, sir. Letters from the archbishop, the constable, and some from home: your brother, Humphrey, and your bailiff.'
'Thank you, Aubrey. Anything else?'
'No, sir. Although, may I say, I will pray for the Lady Anne's safe delivery.'
'Thank you.' A slight nod, but no smile.
There was a sound outside the door, before it was opened in haste. A man – a doctor by his habit, half-walked, half-fell into the chamber.
'Sir, your wife -'
'What news, man?'
'Delivered of a child. The lady lives, but the child, sir - ' The doctor's voice faltered.
'She lives, though? The Lady Anne lives?'
'Aye, sir.' He grew more confident. 'And is like to do so. It was not an easy passage for her, but by God's will, we have prevailed and she is strong yet. Sir.'
'The child, though. It... it was - ?' The Duke, Henry of of Monmouth's right hand, who had fought the French and Scots like a wolf, and governed with an iron will, could not say the words.
'A girl, your Grace. It lived a few minutes, no more. The priest was there to bless her, and pray for mother and child.'
'Good. Good.' A pause. 'You may go now. See the doctors and those attending are thanked, and paid. The priests at Notre Dame will pray for her, make sure of it.'
'And send for me as soon as I may see her.'
'Yes, sir.' The doctor withdrew, bowing.
'God be praised, she lives,' The tall, soldierly figure leant both hands on the clerks' desk, nudging papers to the floor, unnoticed. His head bowed. 'Anne lives.'


OTL, Anne died along with her child. Her husband, John Duke of Bedford, was distraught, which indicated that theirs had been a happy marriage, but he married again barely five months later, to Jacquetta of Luxembourg. The OTL consequences of this will be clarified in Chapter Two.
TTL, Anne survives, and she and her husband continue what appears to have been a close and strong relationship.
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It is an unusual location for a POD. This, this should definitely be interesting.

John of Bedford himself was most likely the last person, from the English nobility, who was able to stem the tide of France winning back all of the Plantagenet lands within norther France. The only one truly capable after him was the Richard Plantagenet,the Durk of York, who was actually knighted by Bedford, and even shard a close relationship with him when they were both in France.

I would like to see where you are going with this. Especially given the fact that he was supposed to die in 1435, three years after the present date. So if he survives after this point, and survives for another twenty or so years, there could be a whole different set-up for the wars of the Roses,

I shall be watching You...
THis timeline specifically.
Chapter Two

Arras: 6th September, 1435

In the light of a bright, cold autumnal dawn, Anne could not help but see how drawn her husband's face was. The Duke of Bedford sat up in their bed, facing the window. Once he had been a soldier and a leader, now he barely had the strength to cross from the bed to the chair. She tried to keep her feelings from her face; unnecessarily, as John's mind was focussed on other things.
'You must speak to your brother [1], my love,' he repeated. 'I hear nothing but that Philip is close closeted with the French. If he does not stand with us, then Henry has no defender for his titles in France.'
'He has you, my Lord.'
'But for how long?' John smiled tenderly as he replied. 'I am but a weak staff to my king now – no, Anne, you know it is true. Humphrey [2] has no knack for dealing with the French. No, Philip decides who rises, France or England. Ask him which is better for Burgundy, and ask him - '. He broke off coughing. Anne laid her hand on his.
'I know what to say to him, husband.'

* * *​

The two parties of riders met in the street; it appeared to be chance, although an astute observer might have noted a lack of surprise on some faces as the Duke of Burgundy came face to face with his sister. There were many observers in Arras, with the French and English vying for the support of the Burgundians. The French had been smiling for some days now, while the English scowled: a treaty was close to being signed, many thought.
'Will you ride with us, sister?' said Philippe.
'Willingly, brother.' As the Duke turned his horse, she spoke loudly, cutting through the noise of the melee, 'Our way lies this way, my lord Duke.'
Philippe looked puzzled, then laughed, and followed her.
Anne pulled her horse to a halt on the bridge over the Scarpe. Philippe stopped beside her.
'You draw closer to Charles [3], brother?'
Philippe whistled tunelessly. 'The English are divided, and weak. Charles is growing stronger, and he offers me – and Burgundy - more. What am I to do?'
'Who can offer more – he who is winning already, or he who will lose everything, without you?'
'You are clever, little sister. But England offers nothing. I have no faith in the English.'
'I am English, brother, and have been since I married John. You know he is dying? And all he can think of, all he dreams of, is your faith, unbroken. I would give him that, if I could. I have given him little else.' Philippe was silent. Anne looked over the parapet, down to to muddy waters of the Scarpe.
'Do you think it was like this at the bridge at Montereau, brother?' He looked at her puzzled. 'When the Dauphin met our father, on another September day? The Dauphin who is now King?' Now he saw her meaning, his lips thinned and his face tightened. 'Was it clear and cold like this, when Charles laughed, or misty and wet, while his companions slaughtered our good father? They used axes, so I was told. Charles gave them axes to use on him. Would you ally yourself with that man, Philippe?'
Philippe said nothing as Anne rode slowly away. His face was white. When his companions approached, he waved them away. After some minutes, looking down at the river, he turned and rode back the way he had come.

* * *​

One week later, Burgundy and England concluded the Treaty of Arras. For Burgundy, Philippe le Bon signed; for England, the Duke of Bedford, who was carried in a litter to the church. The French rode away from Arras in disgust and disappointment. The following day, the Duke of Bedford died. His wife and brother-in-law escorted the body to Dijon, to bury it with honour in the Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne [4]


OTL, the conference at Arras resulted in Burgundy formally breaking with England, and signing the Treaty of Arras with France. The Duke of Bedford's remarriage had caused a severe rift in relations between England and Burgundy; Burgundy had been a key ally of England in prosecuting war against France, and personalities played a large role in this. Although there were other reasons, the falling out over the Duke of Bedford's remarriage could certainly be seen as a major contributor to Philip's decision to break with England in 1435.
TTL, the survival of John and Anne's marriage means that Philippe has been less receptive to the overtures from the French, although they would still have seemed attractive. Anne's presence, and arguments with Philippe, swing the decision in favour of continuing alliance with England.

[1] Philippe le Bon (Philip the Good), Duke of Burgundy
[2] Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: John's brother, and Lord Protector for Henry VI in England. John and Humphrey were rivals.
[3] Charles VII of France
[4] OTL John returned from Arras to Rouen, where he died on 14th September, and was - despite being a longstanding enemy - buried with great honours from the French royalty and nobility
Chapter Three

'During the first decade following the signing of the Treaty of Arras, an examination of each of England, France and Burgundy greatly illuminates and extends our understanding of the other two realms in this trinary system:
England had stability, and indeed wealth, but dissipated its power in incompetent administration and diplomacy, to a degree that came close to fatally wounding their involvement in continental affairs; almost every decision taken by Henry VI and his magnates weakened their position;
France was without doubt the most powerful of the three, but stability was lacking both internally – with disputes between the King and the Dauphin causing constant factionalisation – and externally, as they could only look on as England and Burgundy deepened their understanding; and they could do no more than cast envious eyes on the wealth of their rivals;
Burgundy was probably in the strongest position of the three: Philippe was able to use the wealth from his ports and cities in the Low Countries to protect his stability, and indeed improve it by continuing efforts to reorganise administration of taxes, highways and the bureacuracy; this created a virtuous circle as improved administration resulted in greater revenues to the Duchy's coffers. The only thing lacking from the Burgundian perspective was power – a Duchy was nothing compared to the influence and autonomy of a Kingdom. That was something that Philippe, and Charles after him, was determined to remedy: if not now, then soon.'
Stability, Wealth and Power in Northern Europe, 1430-1580 by Jean Bulmer, PhD thesis, University of Durham, 1963


Burgundy, France and Normandy in 1450

1435-1449 [1]

Philippe le Bon concentrates on expanding his domains between Burgundy and the Low Countries, and improving internal organisation, but misses no chance to support those acting against the French king. In 1440, Philippe supports the rebellious French nobility in their revolt against Charles VII, going so far as to allow the Dauphin Louis to take shelter in the Burgundian court.
In 1443, Philippe expels Elisabeth, Duchess of Luxembourg and takes control of the Duchy.
The English hand over Maine to the French in 1448, as part of the marriage agreement between Henry VI and Margaret


The French ignore the agreements of the previous year, and attack into Normandy.


A series of French victories in Normandy follows, but the English carry on fighting, albeit with little success in the field due to a lack of support from across the Channel, particularly troops; the English governor, Sir John Talbot, appeals to Burgundy for support.
Philippe is unwilling to antagonise the French King by sending large numbers of troops, but is persuaded by his 17 year old son Charles to send him with a small force and- more importantly – a large financial contribution.
With the money made available by Philippe le Bon, Talbot concentrates his efforts on protecting the strategic towns of Rouen and Harfleur; not having sufficient funds or troops, he is powerless to prevent the French sweeping across Normandy, but by improving the town defences and hiring a small force of mercenaries, he manages to defend both Harfleur and Rouen successfully. The French besiege Rouen, but although they come perilously close to capturing Talbot during one assault, he is rescued by the Burgundian contingent. [2]

By the end of 1450, the French control virtually the whole of Normandy, although nominally the English king still holds the Duchy as a vassal of the King of France.
As the English can supply by Rouen and Harfleur by sea and thence up the Seine, they cannot be reduced by starvation, and both towns remain in English hands, undergoing and incessant program of fortification over the ensuing years. [3]

[1] All these are essentially unchanged from OTL to TTL.
[2] OTL, Talbot was captured at Rouen and the city fell to the French. With no lands to defend in Normandy, Talbot went to Gascony, where he died in 1454 – having sworn an oath never to wear armour against the French again. TTL, he remains in Normandy, and it is the southern English holdings which are allowed to wither away.
[3] OTL, the English were driven back due to weak leadership, and Rouen and Harfleur were taken in 1450, effectively ending English interest in lands in northern France.
A beautiful map, one question though, wasn't the duke of Burgundy count of Artois during this period? (On this map it is not a part of the Burgundian Domains.)
A beautiful map, one question though, wasn't the duke of Burgundy count of Artois during this period? (On this map it is not a part of the Burgundian Domains.)


Philip's titles were:

And Here's a guide to Charles's inheritances and acquisitions:

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First of all welcome to the board! I find this intriguing. I know very little of this period, but this is a breath of fresh air that really is much different then the same old boring questions and cliches:)
A beautiful map, one question though, wasn't the duke of Burgundy count of Artois during this period? (On this map it is not a part of the Burgundian Domains.)

Hmm, I'm a bit puzzled. You are right about this; I had somehow noted down that Artois was among the lands which Philip sold back to France just before this, but I now can't find any reference to support this. In fact my map (thanks for your comments!) is based on the same source map as the wikipedia one, which is at

I'm not going to edit this back to correctness, but don't worry, Artois will soon be back as part of the Burgundian domains.

Thanks for comments from you all, hope you continue to find it interesting. Responses to comments may be a bit tardy at times over the next few weeks, as election campaigning will get in the way - one reason I wrote most of the timeline in advance of starting to post!
The County of Artois did change hands in 1482 (to France) with the treaty of Arras and with the treaty of Senlis (1493) it returned to the Burgundian Netherlands. This was all part of the succession crisis after the death of Charles the Bold in 1477. Obviously from the Burgundian perspective Mary the Rich should have inherited everything (probably what Charles the Bold would have wanted), however just as obvious the king of France declared that all French fiefs were reverted to the French crown. However traditionally a lot of these duchies and counties (both in France and the Empire) had their own inheritance laws, so it can be concluded that the final outcome was political. Furthermore the decendants of Mary the Rich and Maximilian of Austria continued to use the title of Duke of Burgundy (the king of Spain still has it in his long list of titles and the last Holy Roman Emperor and first emperor of Austria, Francis, removed it from his list of official titles).
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Chapter Four​

Bruges: June 3rd, 1458

Extract from The Paston Letters: letter from John Paston the younger to his mother Margaret [1]

' Lady Elizabeth [2] was married on Sunday last past at a town that is called The Dame, iij miles out of Bruges, at v of the clock in the morning. And she was brought the same day to Bruges to her dinner, and there she was received as worshipfully as all the world could devise, as with procession with ladies and lords best beseen of any people that ever I saw or heard of, and many pageants were played in her way in Bruges to her welcoming, the best that ever I saw.

And the same Sunday my lord the Bastard [3] took upon him to answer xxiiij knights and gentlemen within viij days at jousts of pass; and when that they were answered, the next day after, the Earl of Shrewsbury [4] tourneyed with other xxv, and the Earl strake so hard that none might have power after to accomplish up their arms. By my troth, God made never more worshipful knight than this who defendeth our cities of Rouen and Harfleur so full of courage and valour. And my lord the Bastard and my lord the Earl did both vow and swear to uphold their honours jointly upon the French whensoever their lords of Burgundy and England did prefer war upon the enemy.

And as for the Duke's court, as of lords, ladies, and gentlewomen, knights, squires, and gentlemen, I heard never of none like to it save King Arthur's court. Where all have been as gentle and perfect as may be wished, and as richly beseen as cloth of gold and silk and silver and goldsmith's work might make them; for of such gear, and gold and pearl and stones, they of the Duke's court, neither gentlemen nor gentlewomen, they want none, for without that they have it by wishes, by my troth I heard never of so great plenty as here is.

By my troth, I have no wit nor remembrance to write to you half the worship that is here; but that lacketh, as it cometh to mind I shall tell you when I come home, which I trust to God shall not be long to; for we depart out of Bruges homeward on Tuesday next coming, and all folk that came with my lady of Burgundy out of England, except such as shall abide here still with her, which I wot well shall be but few.'

OTL, Charles had in 1454 sought to marry a daughter of Richard, Duke of York, but was prevented from doing so by a minor provision of the Treaty of Arras, which required the heir of the Duke of Burgundy to only marry a French princess. Baulked, he married Isabella of Bourbon in 1454, by whom he had his only child, Mary, destined to be the last ruler of an independent Burgundy. After Isabella died in 1465, Charles did in fact marry Richard of York's daughter Margaret, but no issue ensued.

TTL, Charles is able to proceed with a marriage into the House of York. A marriage is agreed between Charles and Elizabeth, the elder sister (by some two years) of Margaret, and as Elizabeth is only 10 at the time, a marriage by proxy is held in London. The actual marriage, described in the letter above, is held in Damme, near Bruges, in 1458, when Elizabeth is 14.[5][6]

[1] This is based on the OTL description by John Paston of Charles' marriage to Margaret (see above) in 1468.
[2] Elizabeth of York, second daughter of Richard Duke of York, and sister to both Edward (later Edward IV) and Richard (later Richard III).
[3] Antoine, the Grand Bastard of Burgundy, illegitimate son of Philippe le Bon and hence halfbrother to Charles. He was a loyal supporter to Charles, and was a fighter of great valour and prowess.
[4] Sir John Talbot, still Constable of France, made the journey to the wedding to represent Henry VI and consolidate relations with his allies and friends.
[5] OTL, Elizabeth was married around 1458, to John de la Pole, son of the 1st Duke of Suffolk. The duke had been executed in 1450, and hence John did not succeed to the title until Edward IV restored him to it in 1463. TTL, as John is not Edward's brother-in-law, this may well not happen.
[6] I have posited that the issue arising from this marriage will correspond to Elizabeth's OTL issue with John de la Pole. If you want to see in advance how this might play out, you may check out the relevant pages of Wikipedia; on the other hand, if you want to maintain some suspense in future episodes, try and hold off!
Well, Charles had the same claim OTL of course, just via a different wife. But he didn't live to press any sort of claim. Now, if ITL he has children... ;)
Well if Charles and Elizabeth have a son (Philip*, Charles*,(* = common names in the house of Valois-Burgundy) Edward** or Richard**(**= from the kings of the house of York)), this son (the count of Charolais, title of the Burgundian heir apparent) would have had a better claim. Charles would defend the rights of his son, he had enough resources and ambition to do this. ;)

Oh by the way in OTL Charles the Bold had a daughter Mary the Rich, do you mean that Charles ITTL has more children and possibly one son (or more)?
Well if Charles and Elizabeth have a son (Philip*, Charles*,(* = common names in the house of Valois-Burgundy) Edward** or Richard**(**= from the kings of the house of York)), this son (the count of Charolais, title of the Burgundian heir apparent) would have had a better claim. Charles would defend the rights of his son, he had enough resources and ambition to do this. ;)

Oh by the way in OTL Charles the Bold had a daughter Mary the Rich, do you mean that Charles ITTL has more children and possibly one son (or more)?

Well, that would be telling wouldn;t it? ;)

Seriously, you are right that any hypothetical son of Charles would be right up there in the succession discussion. All I can say right now is keep reading - next chapter will be up tomorrow night.
It is an interesting timeline actaeon.

It is also good to see timelines about ancient/middle age/ renaissance times, there are a lot of Timelines about XVIII and XIX centuries, in comparison periods before are not so much studied on the board.

In the text of the Paston letters what represents the j in for example iij or xxiiij? (I know these are roman numbers but I don´t get know what represents the j)

As I say a good story, go on with this Timeline:)

I don't know the full ins and outs of it, but often you see numbers with several i's, e.g. iii or viii, written with the last i as a j. So viij is actually viii; the Paston letter I 'borrowed' from used that, so I kept it over - it gives it a nice feel, I think.

Glad you're enjoying the timeline!

I don't know the full ins and outs of it, but often you see numbers with several i's, e.g. iii or viii, written with the last i as a j. So viij is actually viii; the Paston letter I 'borrowed' from used that, so I kept it over - it gives it a nice feel, I think.

Glad you're enjoying the timeline!

Remember that Latin had no 'j' at all. Note that when you write an i by hand, the i often curves to the right at the bottom. In many hands (scripts, what we'd call fonts on a computer), the i curled left at the bottom in certain positions (at the end of a word, often, or in the middle of a word). Since e.g. in words like "maior" for instance, the 'i' gained a new pronunciation, and since many of those 'j' (or 'y' depending) sounds happened between other vowels, which is where the 'curve left' letter form appeared, that letter form became associated with the new sound, and became dissimilated as a separate letter. The same process, by the way, happened with 'v' and 'u'.

As late as Descartes La Geometrie in 1633 it was possible to use the 'i' and 'j' letter forms purely positionally (so 'ie pense donc ie suis' and BOY does that make his French look weird).

In particular, the 'i's at the end of a word were often written with the 'j' shape, which is why you get 'viij'. (And, yes, it's very common in the period).