Belgium with sauce bourguignonne


Bart Van Loo's best-selling book on the History of the Burgundian State was published in Dutch in 2019. It has just been published in French under the title "Les Téméraires. Quand la Bourgogne défiait l'Europe", by Flammarion.

This relatively short period in Belgian history, covering less than a century (from 1384 to 1482), lies at the turning point between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. These were happy, relatively peaceful times for the period, which saw prodigious advances in the fields of art and economics. For us, it all began in 1369 with the marriage of Philip the Bold and Margaret III, the daughter of the Count of Flanders, and ended with Charles V.

In 1384, Philip the Bold inherited from his father-in-law the counties of Flanders, Rethel, Nevers, Burgundy (Franche-Comté) and Artois. He then became the master of a vast Burgundy cut in two by the border between the French and German domains. This was the start of the Burgundian State.

The title of the French translation is a good choice, because while "Burgundy" today refers to one of the many French regions, in the 15th century, the term designated a much larger territory that almost became a new kingdom between France and Germany. Unusually for the time, it was judicious marriages rather than wars that made the Burgundians strong; they also benefited from the exhaustion of the great powers, France and England, at the end of the Hundred Years' War.

Major Belgian artists emerged thanks to the patronage of the Dukes, particularly Philip the Good, who usually resided at the palace of the Duke of Brabant (one of his many titles) in Brussels. He also founded the University of Leuven (in 1425) and created the prestigious Order of the Golden Fleece in Bruges in 1430.