1418: The hostages of the Armagnac siege of Senlis

Add comment April 19th, 2020 Headsman

The Boulevard des Otages in Senlis, France is so named for the hostages executed under the city walls on this date in 1418.

This incident during the France’s running cvil war between Armagnacs and Burgundians saw Armagnacs for the past several years — “striking simultaneously north and south at the Burgundian garrisons,” per this public domain history. Of several targets, Senlis “was the most ambitious undertaking since the siege of Harfleur, and its object was, as then, to regain a position of prime importance, and to revive Armagnac prestige which, for more than two years, had been on a continuous decline. Senlis was selected for attack because it obstructed the main road from Paris to the royal garrison at Compiegne, and because it was in an exposed position, being a Burgundian outpost in advance of the actual ‘frontier’ which followed the Oise.”

The English-allied Burgundians in Senlis were in a tight spot. Although the garrison held out fiercely against a siege personally led by the very chief and namesake of the Armagnacs, Bernard, comte d’Armagnac, on April 15 the city came to terms with the Armagnacs by agreeing to surrender four days hence if no relief had arrived — terms that included the guarantee of several hostages surrendered into Armagnac hands.

But relief was coming. Somehow the Burgundian heir the comte de Charolais — the future Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy — had dispatched a large reinforcement which arrived on the night of April 18. The next morning, when Armagnac demanded the city’s surrender, Senlis demurred. The aggravated Armagnacs executed their hostages as promised, but between the timely arrivals and Burgundian pressure further south, the siege was dispelled.

Armagnac authority soon followed suit: an unpaid army, cheated of its sack, began to melt away. The comte d’Armagnac took refuge in Paris but within two months he had been murdered there and his faction rousted — which in turn left the Armagnac-affiliated Valois daupin Charles in the very desperate condition from which Joan of Arc would rescue him a decade subsequently.

Regular readers might recall that this city has also featured in these grim annals for the World War I execution of its mayor, by German troops.


Tour du jeu d’arc, the last tower remaining on the rempart des Otages (the boulevard of the same name runs on the rampart). (cc) image from P.poschadel.

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Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Borderline "Executions",Burgundy,Execution,France,History,Hostages,Known But To God,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Power,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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1418: Beatrice di Tenda

Add comment September 13th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1418, the Duke of Milan annulled his marriage at the headsman’s block.

Beatrice (English Wikipedia entry | Italian) was initially the wife of the condottiero Facino Cane, a brutal but successful warrior who gained de facto control of the Duchy of Milan when it was inherited by a teenage Duke.

That teen’s younger brother, Filippo Visconti, spent the early 1400s packed away in Pavia, sickly and marginal, wondering which of the deadly machinations of state playing out above him might unexpectedly come crashing down on his own head. It seems doubtful that Beatrice ever had reason to give the little twerp a thought.

Delivery for Filippo came in May 1412. Big brother was assassinated while Facino Cane lay dying and suddenly the 19-year-old called the shots in Milan. In his day, he would become known as a cunning and cruel tyrant, and would make Milan the dominant power in northern Italy.

And it all was possible because of May 1412, which not only elevated Filippo but widowed our principal Beatrice. From her puissant late husband she inherited 400,000 ducats and huge … tracts of land. Her virtues could hardly fail to appeal to the whelp of a Duke, even at twenty years his senior; indeed, it was Cane himself who sketched out this succession plan from his deathbed.

It seems, however, that having taking possession of the wealth and legitimacy that came with Beatrice’s hand, Filippo soon grew irritated with the rest of her — enough so that he at last determined to put her aside. His paranoid Excellency wasn’t the quietly-retire-you-to-a-monastery type; instead, he went for the full Anne Boleyn.

Accusing his consort of consorting with a young troubadour in her court, Michele Orombelli, Filippo had the accused cuckolder and two of Beatrice’s handmaidens tortured until they produced the requisite confession/accusation of faithlnessness. Upon that basis he had Orombelli and Beatrice di Tenda both beheaded at the castle of Binasco. A plaque placed there to commemorate the spurned wife is still to be seen today.


(cc) image from Jk4u59.

Bellini’s second-last opera was based on this tragic story. Beatrice di Tenda premiered in 1833; it’s noteworthy in Bellini’s biography because deadline disputes in its composition ruined the composer’s longstanding collaboration with librettist Felice Romani.

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Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Italy,Milan,Nobility,Sex,Torture,Women,Wrongful Executions

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