Swiss-Burgundian War 1474-1477

A.) Prehistory of the War

In 1469, Archduke Sigmund of Habsburg pawned the Upper Alsace, the Breisgau and the Fricktal to Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy, for a sum of 50,000 Guilders. The Duke appointed Peter von Hagenbach governor of the pawned territories. While Peter von Hagenbach ruled in a style causing in numerous complaints, Burgundy claimed territories belonging to the Swiss Federation.
In the Upper Alsace and the Breisgau, a rebellion broke out; von Hagenbach was arrested and executed (May 9th 1474). On September 17th the Swiss Federation entered into an alliance with King Louis XI. of France, directed against Burgundy. The Swiss Federation also allied with the Emperor (the Habsburg Dynasty being Switzerland's traditional enemy); Burgundy at that time was engaged in a war against the Princebishopric of Cologne (Siege of Neuss).

B.) The War

On October 21st 1474, the Swiss Federation declared war on Burgundy, and on Burgundy's ally, Savoy. In October/November 1475, Bernese troops conquered territory in Vaud from Savoy. In February 1476 Charles the Bold lead an army of 30,000 into the Vaud - Savoyard territory, partially occupied by the Swiss since 1475. The castle at Grandson was taken, her garrison, 412 men, drowned. On March 2nd, the Burgundian force suffered defeat at the hands of the Swiss (actually less a Swiss victory than the result of panic among the Burgundian troops); the Burgundians left behind a lot of military equipment. In June 1476 the Burgundians failed to take Murten by siege; a Swiss relief force decisively defeated the Burgundian army (10,000 fatalities); Charles the Bold fled to Geneva.
While the war in Switzerland ended, Lorraine revolted against Burgundian rule. Charles the Bold laid siege to the Burgundian capital of Nancy in October 1476; he fell in the Battle of Nancy, January 5th 1477, killed by a Swiss soldier who did not recognize him.

C.) The Legacy

Duke Charles the Bold (or Charles the Rash) ruled over the richest complex of territories in Europe and commanded over the most modern army; his foe, King Louis XI. of France tried to stir up resistance against Charles, but did not dare to engage him. What the Burgundians had in resources and equipment, the Swiss matched in spirit, thus gaining the reputation of being the most reliable soldiers in Europe, which quickly developed into the mercenary trade.
Switzerland was to hold on to the territories within Vaud it had occupied (Murten, Grandson, Orbe, Echallens); the Bernese in 1536 would conquer and annex the remainder of the Vaud from Savoy.
Duke Charles the Bold died without a son; his sole daughter Margaret married Maximilian of Habsburg, thus bringing the Burgundian lands into the Habsburg Empire, although this happened only after her death. Emperor Charles V. was raised in the Low Countries, in Burgundian tradition.

Burgunder Kriege, from Mediatime, in German
Grandson 1476, from Historiske Slag, in Danish
Chateau Grandson, from, in German
Murten, from, in German
Die Burgunderkriege 1476, from, in German
Die Schlacht bei Murten, Die Schlacht bei Grandson, from Companie Sankt Ulrich, in German
Geschichte des Waadt (History of the Vaud), from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 1888 ed., in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 1st 2004, last revised on November 16th 2004

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