Category: Charles the Bold

The sword in the stone: Cathlijn & Geert

The idea was, now spring and summer are approaching, to do a physical tour of the old Duchy of Burgundy, not just for the quest but as a source of inspiration for paintings. Many places are not too far away and can be reached in less than half a day. This B tour needs a lot of research though. There are plenty of history books but none of them has the complete story. So if I make mistakes, just tell me so I can correct them and don’t take everything I say for granted. Mistakes will be made.

The first thing I visited, last week was a nearby graveyard. When I was looking for the route the Burgundian troops followed on their way to Liège I came across a story on the website of the village of Oorbeek about the gravestone of Cathlyn van Oirbeeck. Cathlyn died in 1475, when Charles the Bold was still Duke of Burgundy and not rotting away in Nancy. But what’s even more interesting is that Cathlyn was the widow of Gerard de Ryckel aka Geert van Rijkel, a nobleman from the Liège area. Gerard died in the battle of Monthléry in 1465 (Ligue du Bien Public vs Louis XI). I am not going to recount the whole story of that battle, but it was an important one (imho) where the B almost got killed. The information about the circumstances of Gerard’s death is not chiseled into the stone. It is on an old engraving of a picture, commissioned by Cathlyn, which used to be in the church that was destroyed and which shows the couple kneeling down in prayer.

Here is a bigger picture of the stone:

The current St. George church is obviously not Burgundian. These regions have been ravaged and pillaged numerous times in the course of history. The original church was destroyed by soldiers in 1582 during the religious wars. A new church was built in 1778.

The gravestone is damaged. It used to be inside the church as the top part of a monument/ mausoleum for Cathlyn. The stone was later enclosed in the wall of the new church.

With the help of the info on the Oorbeek site and some digging around in my bookcase I found a catalogue that came from the family collection which shows the engraving with the source where it came from (Le Grand Theatre Sacré du Duché de Brabant) and with this info I found a scanned copy on e-rara. Just to show that often the night is dark and full of winding roads.

So – drumroll – here is what Gérard and Cathlyn looked like:

It’s always more interesting when names get a face. Note that the date of the battle is not correct in the engraving. It reads 1460 instead of 1465.

Next up will be the Bruges trip, me thinks; I am researching some anti-Burgundian dude from Limburg who is mightily interesting and and some obscure self-proclaimed knights but I need more time for that one. And I still need to make a wax doll.

The sword in the stone: Le Tour de Bourgogne

The lord of the castle is sliding down French mountains on two small planks, but I’m still home, alone with the cat. At 6 am the little bastard decided it was time to get up. Needless to say I am a little tired now.

Theoretically I have no fixed obligations next week so yesterday I prepared a short physical tour of Burgundy ad 1465-1477. A lot of key places are maximum a couple hours by car, train or bike away, except Dijon, Nancy and Monthléry. I thought I’d be bored out of my wits by the B now but I have been researching local history and came across the most colourful characters and interesting anecdotes, so the quest is still on.

I already visited one place a few days ago and posted something on IG, may do a more extended version here.

For today, I had selected the scene of a Burgundian battlefield not too far away and spent some time testing which of our bikes fit into my tiny car. The battlefield is not reachable by car and the weather is not good enough to cycle the whole distance.

The area near the battlefield is also the birthplace of Egidius and the rest of his line so it is a double whopper. I was going to leave now but the wind is howling and the rain is pouring down. That usually doesn’t stop me, but the circumstances are not good enough for taking pictures. Monday’s forecast doesn’t look good either, alas. Also I broke a piece of a tooth yesterday, the sort of thing that obviously only happens on Saturday nights. This means my other plans are now dependent on the availability of my dentist.

It looks like it will be a painting day then.

The Sword in the Stone: Under siege

The Roman graves near Montenaken. Apparently they played a role in the battle of Montenaken (Image: Wikipedia)

So this morning, after making some sketches of Lorenzo (who has a strange face nb) I did some quick research about the connection between Charles of Burgundy and the town I’m living in. I am planning some photographic sequel to a series of photographs my grandfather once did, ie taking pictures of the same places many years later to compare the changes. I thought it would be cool to include pictures of the place where Charles the Bold’s camp was – nothing to do with the old series – but I haven’t found the location so far. Jean de Haynin only mentions the town’s name and I found the route the army took from here to St. Truiden and Liège, and that there were some negotiations with Charles around here but not the actual location. Maybe the local city archives have information, but I don’t know if they’re accessible. They have a huge damp and mould problem apparently. Given the fact that the Burgundians were probably dragging cannons along, and those are slow, I’m guessing they didn’t take huge detours. So it could have been close to where we are living now, as we’re close to the old road to Liège. Or not at all. Maybe there are some letters. The Bold wrote so many letters. Nowadays he would have dictated e-mails into his smartwatch while being driven to the battlefield in his armoured limo. No, he would just stay home and send drones into the field, I guess.

Anyway, I found a lot of interesting trivia while looking up all of this.

Nothing to do with the Liègeois but one of the inhabitants of a hamlet close by fought in the battle of Monthléry.

Nothing to do with Charles the Bold, but apparently my old school was once one of the residencies of the Dukes of Brabant.

Inhabitants of our town took part in the siege of Amiens by Charles the Bold.

During the Bold’s Liège wars, there was a big battle againts Liège near Montenaken in 1465. Now the interesting part is that one branch of my ancestors are all from that area, including Egidius (but he’s from a later date so he didn’t take part obviously).

According to Jean de Haynin, Lodewijk van Gruuthuuse was stationed at our town for a while. Lodewijk is the one I already wrote about in connection with the manuscript that contains the Egidius song/poem. Must look into that. I’m at this point that I probably need to go digging into old manuscripts.

I found more interesting stuff in old documents but that’s for later. I have some time next week. I may do a short the Bold tour of Belgium depending on the weather and administrative obligations.

Isabelle de Bourbon (1436-1465)

Isabelle and her cousin and husband Charles the Bold. This is probably one of the worst paintings of them I’ve ever seen.

The sword in the stone: Venturing deeper into the labyrinth

Here I am again, wandering through the endless labyrinth. Wandering among the ghosts of the dead, inside my own head. Opening doors, closing doors. Losing my way, losing my mind.

Lost the thread, dropped my key. Forgot my name.


I have been here before, in this godforsaken place. Tamed the dragon, saved the princess. The war is over, the treasure is gone. All that lies before me is darkness.

Maybe I should look behind me. Look for lost time. Look into the black mirror. Look into the future that was once the past.

Where are you hiding? What are you hiding?

How many mirrors does a man need?

Footfalls behind me, the windswept dust blinds me.

I draw my sword…


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