Head of the House of Burgundy: 1106-1127
Duke of Burgundy: 1106-1127
Duke of Champagne: 1114-1127
Renaud does not fit the traditional mould of the the early leads of the House of Burgundy. Rather than ambitious, reckless and obsessed with some inherent right to be King, Renaud was a staunch realist and loyalist to his liege Leonard the Gentle throughout his reign. Passed over in the succession following his father's death, Eudes' politics of war against the capital had failed, now Renaud's politics of allegiance were granted their opportunity to prosper.
After ascending to the Ducal throne Renaud instantly embarked on a flurry of diplomatic activity. Just weeks into his reign his barren and politically irrelevant wife (she was the daughter of very minor nobility) died in very suspicious circumstances and Renaud swiftly moved to take the hand of King Leonard's third sister – the buxom Princess Mascarose Capet. This marriage brought Renaud much prestige and political influence as well as a close alliance with the throne – shortly later he was appointed the Chancellor of France. In 1107 the English, sensing weakness in war weary France, launched a huge invasion of the French Kingdom. After just a year of military defeats Renaud successfully negotiated a very light surrender that merely saw the County of Anjou pass into English hands – a small price to pay. Leonard and Renaud had agreed that the only way to restore France's position was to give her time to recover from the endless warfare she had been afflicted by – the last great vacuum of men an resources to be obliterated was therefore clearly the war in the Spanish Marches. Travelling as far as Cordoba to meet with the Taifa Princes Renaud eventually secured a peace treaty in Spain in 1111. The Taifa agreed to respect the territorial integrity of the remaining Christian Lords in Spain (the Kingdom of Navarre, a tiny and truncated Kingdom of Aragon and a Duchy of Barcelona consisting of just a few impoverished Counties around the French border) in exchange was recognition of their conquests over the past decades. France was finally at peace and Renaud's stock at court had never been higher.
Burgundy – Duchy of Burgundy
Red – Annexed 1114
Orange – Annexed 1117
With a watertight relationship with the royal family and an absense of immediate threats to from the kingdom abroad, Renaud decided to take the opportunity of the decade of peace he had won for France by expanding his own holdings. In 1114 his forces fought a brief war with the sad remains of the Duchy of Champagne – capturing its last holdings. Within a month of the annexation of Troyes Leonard agreed to anoint Renaud Duke of Champagne – thus legitimising his grip on the entire Duchy. Two years later Burgundy was at war again – this time with the Dukes of Berry and Orleans over the County of Bourges that stretched Westward from Burgundy's border. This war lasted a little over a year but ended with predictable results as the County was annexed.
This proved to be the high watermark for Renaud as his past sins began to catch up with him. The closeness of Renaud to the King made him an extremely difficult opponent for his enemies to oppose through traditional means. Yet the Duke of Orleans, desperate to halt Burgundian expansion, discovered a truly potent weapon – the family of Renaud's deceased first wife. Granting funds and influence to their cause this minor family was able to petition the Pope for justice in what they deemed was the murder of one of their own. With a strong body of evidence and an even stronger degree of political pressure coming from Orleans and a coalition of other French nobles the Pope agreed to excommunicate Renaud. The results of the Papacy's judgement were disastrous for the Burgundian Duke. Not wanting to be associated with the now muddied name of Renaud of Burgundy, King Leonard exiled the Duke from Paris and removed him from the Chancellorship – sending him back to Dijon in shame. Once back in Burgundy Renaud again found himself in a weak position – having spent virtually no time in Dijon during his reign (either being at court in Paris or abroad) Renaud's connections in the Duchy were few and his allies few on the ground. He was barely able to maintain his own rule and found it impossible to influence the electors into supporting one of his two sons as the chosen successor – instead Sybille, the only child his brother Eudes, remained the primary candidate.
In 1122 war broke out again in the Spanish March as the Taifa lords renegaded on the treaty of 1111 by invading the surviving Christian Principalities, bringing the swift response of war from the King of France and even the Holy Roman Emperor. Renaud saw this as a golden chance to restore his position in the Church and in the Kingdom – enthusiastically leading the armies of Burgundy South towards Spain. For the five years that followed Renaud fought the endless hordes of Andalusia, winning battles, suffering defeats and rapidly ageing under the stress of it all.
Following a crushing defeat by a Moorish army just North of Zaragoza in the high Summer of 1227 Renaud was separated from his routing men and found himself alone in the foothills of Aragon. Here a band of Muslim raiders discovered him and swiftly slew the old man for his jewels and fine armour – thus bringing to an end reign of the fourth Head of the House of Burgundy. After news reached Dijon of the Duke's death Sybille moved swiftly to secure her election – becoming the first woman to rule in her own right as Duchess in Burgundy. Amongst the greatest female icons of the the Middle Ages Sybille left an indelible imprint on the House of Burgundy, by the end of her life being known as Sybille, the Great.