Philippe de Commines

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Philippe de Commines (or de Commynes or "Philippe de Comines", Latin Philippus Cominaeus; 1447 – c. 1511) was a writer and diplomat in the courts of Burgundy and France. He has been called "the first truly modern writer" (Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve) and "the first critical and philosophical historian since classical times" (Oxford Companion to English Literature). Neither a chronicler nor a historian in the usual sense of the word, his analyses of the contemporary political scene are what made him virtually unique in his own time.



Early life

Commines was born at Renescure (in what was then the county of Flanders), to an outwardly wealthy family. His parents were Colard van den Clyte (or de La Clyte) and Marguerite d'Armuyden.[1] In addition to being seigneur of Renescure, Watten and Saint-Venant, Clyte became bailiff of Flanders for the Duke of Burgundy in 1436,[2] and had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Agincourt.[3] Philippe took his surname from a seigneurie on the Lys which had belonged to the family of his paternal grandmother, Jeanne de Waziers.[1][4] His paternal grandfather, also named Colard van den Clyte (d. 1404), had been governor first of Cassel and then of Lille.[5] However, the death of Commines' father, in 1453 left him the orphaned owner of an estate saddled with enormous debts. In his teens he was taken into the care of Philip the Good (1419–1467), Duke of Burgundy, who was his godfather. He fought at the Battle of Montlhery in 1465 and the Battle of Brusthem in 1467 but in general seems to have kept a low profile.


In 1468, he became a knight in the household of Charles the Bold, Philip's son who succeeded to the dukedom in 1467, and thereafter he moved in the most exalted circles, being party to many important decisions and present at history-making events. A key event in Commines's life seems to have been the meeting between Charles and Louis XI of France at Péronne in October 1468. Although Commines's own account skates over the details, it is apparent from other contemporary sources that Louis believed Commines had saved his life. This may explain Louis's later enthusiasm in wooing him away from the Burgundians.

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