The Battle of Murten: The Invasion of Charles the Bold and the Survival of the Swiss States
By Albert Winkler
Swiss American Historical Society Review, Vol. 46:1 (2010)
Abstract: When Charles the Bold of Burgundy tried to create a new kingdom between France and the German Empire, he decided to conquer the Swiss states. His aggression started the Burgundian Wars from 1474 to 1477. Charles besieged the fortress of Grandson early in 1476. When the Swiss garrison surrendered, Charles had all four hundred of the defenders hanged. In the Battle of Grandson, the Swiss drove the Burgundian Army away, but Charles soon invaded again. This time he besieged the fortress of Murten, and the Swiss rallied all their forces to attack him. In the subsequent battle, the Swiss infantry destroyed Charles’ army in one of the most significant victories in history because it saved Switzerland and changed military tactics in Europe.
Introduction: Frequent warfare was a harsh political reality in central Europe in the late Middle Ages as ambitious states tried to extend their power and influence by attacking and subjugating other territories. As a result of this frequent aggression, success on the battlefield was necessary for the survival and independence of many nations and peoples, including the Swiss Confederation. The most critical threat to the existence of the Swiss alliance in the fifteenth century was the invasion in 1476 by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, one of the most powerful rulers in Europe. In two stunning victories, Granson (Grandson in German), and, most importantly, Murten (Morat in French), the Swiss assured the survival of the Confederation, and these impressive feats of arms also propelled the Swiss states to the status of major players in international affairs for a short time.
Top Image: The Battle of Murten (Morat) from from the Zürcher Schilling (1480/1484)