Johann without fear

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Johann without fear. Posthumous portrait by an anonymous artist, mid-15th century
Signature Johann Ohnefurcht.PNG
Map of the dominion of the House of Burgundy under John I and his brothers, Anton von Brabant and Philipp von Nevers
The murder of Johann without fear
The coat of arms of Johann Ohnefurcht as Duke of Burgundy, Count of Flanders, Artois etc. after 1404

Johann Ohnefurcht or the Intrepid ( French Jean sans Peur , Dutch Jan zonder Vrees ; * May 28, 1371 in Dijon , † September 10, 1419 in Montereau-Fault-Yonne ) was the successor of his father Philip the Bold Duke of Burgundy, who died in 1404 .

He came from the House of Valois-Burgundy , a branch of the French royal family of the Valois . He united the extensive inheritance of his mother, Margaret III. from Flanders , with Burgundy. On April 12, 1385, at the double wedding of Cambrai, he married Margaret of Bavaria (1363-1423), eight years his senior, from the Straubing branch of the Wittelsbach family.

While his father, Philip the Bold, saw himself primarily as a member of the French royal family and only secondarily as a territorial prince, Johann began the rocking policy between England and France that allowed him to grow increasingly into the role of a de facto independent prince his son Philip the Good successfully expanded into a swing policy between France, England and the Holy Roman Empire from 1419 .


Johann grew up in Flanders and spoke Flemish as well as French . He is described as small and clumsy, surly, but also as brave and brave as well as serious, deliberate and cautious. During his father's lifetime he held the title of Count of Nevers . After he had become Duke of Burgundy, he gave the county of Nevers as an apanage to his youngest brother Philip , who founded the sideline of the Burgundian Counts of Nevers. Anton , the second brother, received the County of Rethel as apanage and later, with the support of Johann, founded the sidelines of the Burgundian dukes of Brabant-Limburg.

In 1396 Johann led a French army that came to the aid of King Sigismund of Hungary in a crusade against the Turks . In the lost battle of Nicopolis on September 25, 1396, he was captured by the Turkish Lamorabahy and was ransomed by paying a ransom of 200,000 ducats.

After the death of Philip the Bold in 1404 he was his successor as Duke of Burgundy. Like his father, he participated in the exercise of the reign for the deranged French King Charles VI. Here he came into conflict with his cousin Duke Ludwig von Orléans , the king's younger brother, and his partisans. He therefore had him murdered in Paris in 1407 and thus took over the management of French state affairs and the education of the Dauphin . Around 1406 he founded the Hop Brotherhood . In 1408 he defeated the Liege insurgents at Othée . In the Treaty of Chartres in 1409, he temporarily reconciled himself with the supporters of the Duke of Orléans. However, the power struggle between the two houses flared up again as early as 1410.

John of Burgundy was a ruler who, despite his intensive preoccupation with politics, economics (see Braspenning ) and intrigue, found the time and desire to promote music, the arts and books.

The interests of the Orléans were meanwhile represented by the Armagnak party under the leadership of Count Bernhard von Armagnac . After they had put down the dissatisfaction revolt of the Cabochiens in Paris in 1413, which had been supported by Johann, they managed to take power in the capital. Johann therefore entered into contact with Henry V of England in 1415 and in 1418 again seized the capital through a military coup. Here Bernard von Armagnac was killed, the new Dauphin, later Charles VII , was able to flee.

On September 10, 1419, Johann von Dauphin was lured to an interview on the Yonne Bridge near Montereau, where his companions Tanneguy du Chastel and Jean Louvet stabbed to death from behind. His successor as Duke of Burgundy was his eldest son Philip .

Henry V by William Shakespeare

John appears in a more attractive, if largely imaginary , peacemaker role in William Shakespeare's Henry V , where the Duke of Burgundy brings the kings of France and England together after the Battle of Azincourt . In a splendid speech demonstrating the unfortunate state of France, where “all its agriculture lies in a heap , corrupting in its own fertility ”, the Duke asks the conflicting kings why they are

the naked, poor and fragmented peace,
the caretaker of all art and abundance
and joyful births are not allowed,
in this most beautiful garden in the world
hold up your forehead to fertile France.

For the best possible effect, Shakespeare condenses historical events and wisely avoids the real situation : the deceitful and simultaneous intrigues of the Duke of Burgundy with Henry V of England, Charles VI. of France and the young Dauphin, all of whom he wanted to manipulate according to his own interests.

coat of arms

The coat of arms of Johann after the assumption of the inheritance of his father combined the coat of arms of Philip the Bold (coat of arms of the House of Valois as Count of Tours and coat of arms of the Duchy of Burgundy) with that of Flanders, since he acquired the counties of Flanders, Artois as well as from his mother Margaret of Flanders inherited the Palatine County of Burgundy.


Johann Ohnefurcht married on April 12, 1385 in the double wedding of Cambrai Margarete (1363-1423), a daughter of the Wittelsbacher Albrecht I , Duke of Straubing-Holland . Seven of the eight children from this marriage reached marriageable age.



  • Harm von Seggern: History of the Burgundian Netherlands. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2018.
  • Simona Slanička : War of Signs. The visual politics of Johann without fear and the Armagnakisch-Burgundian civil war . Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Verlag, Göttingen 2002, ISBN 3-525-35178-X ( review by Perlentaucher ).
  • Richard Vaughan: John the Fearless. Longman, London 1966 (several NDs); The Boydell Press, Woodbridge 2002 (with updated introduction and bibliography; standard work).

Web links

Commons : Johann Ohnefurcht  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Philip II Duke of Burgundy
Philip III
Philip II Count of Charolais
Philip III
Margaret III. Count of Flanders,
Count of Artois,
Count Palatine of Burgundy
Philip III
Margaret III. Count of Nevers
Philip II of Nevers