|Jaime’s men ambush Ned and his party © HBO||The ambush and assassination of Louis of Orleans.|
In the Season 1 episode, “The Wolf and the Lion,” Arya chases a cat into the dungeon. Hearing voices, she hides behind a dragon skull where she overhears Varys telling his spy, “The Wolf and Lion will be at each other’s throats. We will be at war soon, my friend.”
Later in that episode, a pivotal ambush puts the Lannisters and the Starks on a course for war. Varys’ word choice is interesting given the ties in that episode with the Armagnac-Burgundian war and one of its inciting events: the ambush of Louis of Orleans. Varys’ use of the “Wolf and Lion” metaphor also alludes to the manuscript page below, in which the Burgundian lion is clawing the throat of the Armagnac wolf. A key event in the “The Wolf and the Lion” episode is Jaime Lannister’s ambush of Stark House leader Ned, which parallels the ambush and assassination of the Orleanist House leader, Louis.
The Lannister Lion Ambushes the Stark (Dire) Wolf
In the words of Game of Thrones showrunner D.B. Weiss, “When Catelyn kidnapped Tyrion, that’s like a declaration of war against the richest family in the world.” After the Starks seize the Lannister heir, Tyrion, his brother Jaime retaliates by ambushing Ned Stark outside of Little Finger’s brothel. This is the beginning of the end for Ned Stark.
Ned resigns his post of Hand and decides to leave King’s Landing after quarreling with Robert over diplomatic policy— how to handle a possible claimant across the Narrow Sea. Already sensing danger, after Robert threatens to put his head on a spike, Ned orders Jory to prepare the girls — quickly and secretly — to return to Winterfell.
While Ned is hastily packing, Petyr Baelish enters his chamber and offers a carrot: Petyr will take Ned to Jon Arryn’s last destination the day before he died. Ned can’t resist.
Petyr takes Ned to his brothel where Ned meets Robert’s youngest bastard.
As Ned leaves Petyr’s brothel, Jaime and a large group of his guards ambush Ned in the street.
Coincidence or not, Jaime actions drive home the similarities between his ambush and the ambush of Louis of Orleans. He remarks to Ned, “Such a small pack of wolves.”
Jaime is furious Ned’s family seized Tyrion. He threatens to kill Ned, but when Ned reminds him that if he dies, Tyrion dies as well.
Jaime replies, “You’re right,” and then commands his guard: “Take him alive, kill his men.”
Jaime’s men kill Ned’s guards, including Jory. Jaime and Ned start fighting with their swords in what looks like it will be a death match. One of Jaime’s followers impales Ned in the back of his leg with a spear. Jaime immediately stops fighting, punches his follower, mounts his horse, and rides off.
The Burgundian Lion Ambushes Louis of Orleans
After the 1405 kidnapping of the dauphin brought John of Burgundy and Louis of Orleans a hair’s breadth away from open war, their relationship continued to deteriorate.
By this time, the two dukes had adopted increasingly violent sigils that signaled their hatred and hostile intentions. John of Burgundy adopted the nettle sigil (or badge). In response, Louis’ supporters started to wear a knotted stick or club badge to indicate they intended to beat down the Burgundians. In response, the Burgundians began to sport a carpenter’s plane as their badge to indicate they would whittle the Louis’ club down to size. You can see the tiny golden carpenter’s plane embroidered onto John’s collar in this portrait:
The atmosphere became so tense that the French people must have released a collective sigh of relief when Louis and Philip agreed to take communion together on November 20, 1407. Perhaps, Louis let his guard down as a result.
The public show of reconciliation between the John of Burgundy and the Louis of Orleans must have been no more than street theater. Only three days later one of the dukes would be dead.
On a black and moonless Wednesday night, Louis had just finished visiting Queen Isabeau at the Hotel Saint-Paul. She had just given birth. If there was any truth to the rumors Isabeau and Louis were lovers, perhaps he was even visiting his own child.
As Louis rode down the pitch-black rue Vieille du Temple on his way home, fifteen masked thugs — the Duke of Burgundy’s men — ambushed him. One man cut off the hand Louis was using to hold his horse’s reins, and then all fifteen men mobbed Louis hacking and bludgeoning him to death with clubs, swords, axes.1 The thugs smashed in Louis’ head – scattering his brains along the road.2 The assassins left the duke’s body in the gutter.
At Louis’ funeral, John wept and proclaimed, “Never was a more treacherous murder.” Whether John shed crocodile tears or tears of remorse is hard to say. What is known is that this murdering duke, whose epithet was John the Fearless, lost his nerve and panicked.
Two days later — as authorities were about to discover Louis’ murderers — John spontaneously confessed to an uncle, “I did it; the Devil tempted me,” and then fled from Paris for Flanders. Later John would claim he killed Orleans to protect the queen’s honor.3 However, given the fact John could not preserve his Burgundian empire without the same level of crown funding as his father had, it seems more likely political desperation and exasperation would have fueled his actions.
Meanwhile, in the Paris, the battle lines were drawn – and nobles, the bourgeoisie, academics, and royal officials began to pick sides if they hadn’t already.
The following year John hired an academic at the Sorbonne, Jean Petit, to write a speech defending the duke’s assassination of Louis. Jean did so by stating Louis was a tyrant so it was justifiable homicide. Using this handy piece of rhetoric, John returned to Paris where he talked the king into granting him a pardon. And, since Paris and the universities already supported him, John seized power.
Louis’ son, Charles of Orleans, vowed to avenge his father’s death. However, he signed a peace treaty at Chartres in 1409. By 1410, he’d formed a marriage pact with the Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac – marrying his daughter Bonne – and so another pivotal wedding launched a war. With this wedding, the Orleans party transformed into the Armagnac party under the senior leadership of the Count of Armagnac. This party came to encompass some of the most powerful men in the kingdom, including the king’s uncle Jean Duke of Berry, the Duke of Brittany, and some formidable mercenaries.
After the Armagnac party forms, the country degenerates into all out civil war. In contrast with the Burgundians who often aligned with the English (because of shared business interests), the Armagnacs appeared to be the national party. However, neither group had the moral high ground and both basically just wanted power.
In 1413, the Armagnacs came into power after obtaining control of the mad king. Armagnac party leader Bernard became the constable of France as well being in charge of the army and finances. However, the Armagnacs governed harshly and in the summer of 1418, the Burgundians exploited this situation. They entered Paris and killed Bernard and many of his followers.
Mercifully, Charles VI, the mad king, died in 1422. A stronger new king, Charles VII, reduced the power vacuum, the feud dissipated.
To be continued…