Today on January 5, 1477, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, was killed by an army of Swiss mercenaries at the Battle of Nancy.
Charles Martin, commonly known as Charles the Bold or Reckless, was the last Duke of Burgundy from the House of Valois. The French nobleman served as Duke of Burgundy for almost ten years before his premature death on the battlefield. Burgundy was an independent state of eastern Germanic descent located within the territorial boundaries of present-day France. Throughout the fifteenth century, Burgundy became increasingly wedged between the growing powers of France and the Habsburg Empire. Likewise, Burgundy was always subject to various land disputes and claims by foreign states. During his rule, Burgundy reached the height of its power and influence before being dismantled within a generation after his death.
In 1474, Charles initiated a costly war with the Swiss Confederacy and its allies. The subsequent series of battles is now known as the Burgundian Wars. He suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Grandson in March 1476. He shamefully fled the field with a handful of troops and was forced to abandon his artillery and recently acquired booty. Shortly after, Charles managed to raise yet another army and hastily prepared to recapture the city of Nancy from his rival, the Duke of Lorraine. He eventually reached the city but lost many men while marching due to the harsh winter conditions. A battle quickly ensued outside the city walls, and most of his Burgundian forces were killed, including Charles himself.
Soldiers discovered the duke's mutilated body a few days after the Battle of Nancy. His head had been split open, his clothes removed, and several lances lodged into his abdomen. Doctors were only able to confirm his identity after finding old battle scars on his body. Charles had named Mary, his nineteen-year-old daughter, as his heir and successor. However, after the loss at Nancy, much of her territory became part of France. Mary did manage to inherit and hold some lands in Burgundian Netherlands. But these too became part of the Holy Roman Empire with her marriage to Emperor Maximilian I.