Interview with Bonne of Berry

The princess we are chatting to today is a woman on a mission. She has crossed the oceans of time to be with us at Chillon today and give her side of the story. For her, this interview is a chance to shout loud and proud about her disdain for the system.


Written by Samuel Metzener / Translation by Amy Reid



1365/67 Birth

1377 Marriage by proxy to Amadeus VII of Savoy

1381 Bonne arrives in Savoy

1383 Start of Amadeus VII’s reign

1383-1392 Birth of three children including the future Amadeus VIII

1391 Death of Amadeus VII

1391-1393 : Fight for the regency with Bonne of Bourbon

8 mai 1393 Renunciation of any rights to the Savoy regency

30 octobre 1393 Count Amadeus VIII’s marriage to Mary of Burgundy

2 décembre 1393 Marriage to Bernard VII of Armagnac

1396-1406 Birth of at least seven children

1418 Assassination of Bernard VII

1435 Death

Bonne of Berry, could you please tell us why you are so upset?

Bonne de Berry : It’s quite simple really, the Savoy dynasty was stolen from me. My mother-in-law – or should I say monster-in-law – Bonne of Bourbon, backed by those dishonest chroniclers, decided that I had my eyes on the countship regency. Excuse me for thinking that we were in the 14th century, an open-minded era, where witch hunts were a thing of the past. Pathetic.


I think it’s safe to say that you and your mother-in-law were at loggerheads… Where did this disagreement stem from?

It all started when my husband, Amadeus VII of Savoy, passed away in 1391 under very suspicious circumstances. Brought about by a ‘boar hunting injury’, would you believe? As if by chance, just before he kicked the bucket, he apparently nominated his mother as regent until our eldest son came of age. What a lark! Obviously those truth-twisting chroniclers forgot to mention the accusations Amadeus made on his deathbed. He accused his doctor, Jean de Granville, of having poisoned him. That useless surgeon was put in shackles, but nothing more… He wasn’t even tortured, seeing as he confessed to his crimes. It’s a total sham!


I imagine that wasn’t the end of it?

Of course not! My father and my uncle came to the rescue. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. They were very famous back in their day. My father’s name was John of Berry. He was the younger brother of Charles V, the King of France. The second was Philip the Bold, who was his youngest brother… so, also younger brother to the King of France. He was also the Duke of Burgundy! He’s the one who intervened and came to my defence. He had good reason to want to keep a close eye on the Savoys. Firstly, their borders were creeping outwards, and secondly John’s daughter, Mary – my cousin – had been engaged to be married to my son since 1385. With them by my side, I could FINALLY put up a good fight.

Stained glass window with the arms of the Duchy of Berry and the County of SavoyStained glass window with the arms of the Duchy of Berry and the County of Savoy Blazon adorned with Bonne de Berry

Stained glass window with the arms of the Duchy of Berry and the County of Savoy

In the Camera Domini, copy of a stained glass window from the late 15th century, 1951.

How did they help you?

That rogue Granville had managed to flee Savoy (another coincidence that was sure to please my corrupt mother-in-law). My father made no bones about it. He tracked him down and captured him. Under duress, AKA torture, Grandville admitted that Bonne of Bourbon had ordered for my husband to be poisoned. We finally had her cornered, the old bag! There’d be no more of her ‘fake news’ after that!


So, you defeated her and regained all your power?

Well, not quite. Talk about injustice! At the request of my twisted mother-in-law, the French Royal Council was brought in to sort the matter. That old bat sure did have friends in high places. She was descended from the royal family like me, after all. You can almost picture the family therapy session. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

The engagement of Bonne d’Armagnac (daughter of Bonne de Berry) in the presence of Duke Jean de Berry, Limbourg Brothers/Anonymous/Jean Colombe, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1411-1486 © Château de Chantilly, Musée Condé, Ms 65, fol. 004v.

What did the Council decide? Did they recognise your rights?

On 8 May 1393, Bonne the Bandit and I were forced to sign a peace treaty. The accusations were dropped. The old lady could remain as regent of Savoy, but she had to concede to having the close advisors of my father and my uncle present for decision-making. Those shamefaced chroniclers painted it as some great reconciliation! Outrageous! I got ABSOLUTELY NOTHING out of that deal! What’s worse, the very same year, my father had me remarried to the Count of Armagnac, a nobleman with considerable influence in the Kingdom of France. I was still a catch, he said. I had to pack my bags and leave immediately for Gascony, or Occitania as you call it these days. The weather and the food were certainly better there, but I wasted my days away until I died, aged almost 70. My own father had hung me out to dry!


The death of your husband, followed by the regency crisis… I imagine it must have been all the more painful considering the love you harboured for Amadeus?

Well, not so much. We were married by proxy. The day of the wedding, I said ‘I do’ to some random old guy, whose name was Guillaume de la Baume. He was Amadeus’s symbolic representative in Paris, where our wedding took place. He was a high-ranking nobleman and friends with my betrothed’s father. I remember finding it all a bit odd. It was like any typical wedding: we said our vows, there was a religious blessing, we exchanged the rings… except there was no groom! My father said that was customary when fiancés lived so far apart. Afterwards I waited four more years before even setting foot in Savoy. You know the story from there. I spawned a few kids for the dynasty. Three, including an heir. I did my job. And what did the Savoys give me in return? I had all the makings of a ruler, but no actual power. Fear, contempt, jealousy? It’s hard to escape the system.

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