Charles VI of France

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Charles VI the Beloved
Charles VI de France - Dialogues de Pierre Salmon - Bib de Geneve MsFr165f4.jpg
Charles VI by the painter
known as the Master of Boucicaut (1412)
King of France
Reign16 September 1380 – 21 October 1422
Coronation 4 November 1380
Predecessor Charles V
Successor Charles VII or Henry VI of England (disputed)
Regents
Born3 December 1368
Paris, Île-de-France, France
Died21 October 1422 (aged 53)
Paris, France
Burial
Spouse
Isabeau of Bavaria (m. 1385)
Issue
among others...
House Valois
Father Charles V of France
Mother Joan of Bourbon
Religion Roman Catholicism

Charles VI (3 December 1368 – 21 October 1422), called the Beloved (French : le Bien-Aimé) and the Mad (French : le Fol or le Fou), was King of France for 42 years from 1380, until his death.

Contents

Early life

Charles was born in Paris, in the royal residence of the Hôtel Saint-Pol , on 3 December 1368, the son of the king of France Charles V, of the House of Valois, and of Joan of Bourbon. As heir to the French throne, his older brothers having died before he was born, Charles had the title Dauphin of France.

King of France

Regency

At his father's death on 16 September 1380, he inherited the throne of France. His coronation took place on 4 November 1380, at Reims Cathedral. [1] Charles VI was only 11 years old when he was crowned King of France. During his minority, France was ruled by Charles' uncles, as regents. Although the royal age of majority was 14 (the "age of accountability" under Roman Catholic canon law), Charles terminated the regency only at the age of 21.

The regents were Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Louis I, Duke of Anjou, and John, Duke of Berry all brothers of Charles V along with Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, Charles VI's maternal uncle. Philip took the dominant role during the regency. Louis of Anjou was fighting for his claim to the Kingdom of Naples after 1382, dying in 1384; John of Berry was interested mainly in the Languedoc, [2] and not particularly interested in politics; and Louis of Bourbon was a largely unimportant figure, owing to his personality (showing signs of mental instability) and status (since he was not the son of a king).

During the rule of his uncles, the financial resources of the kingdom, painstakingly built up by his father, were squandered for the personal profit of the dukes, whose interests were frequently divergent or even opposing. During that time, the power of the royal administration was strengthened and taxes re-established. The latter policy represented a reversal of the deathbed decision of the king's father Charles V to repeal taxes, and led to tax revolts, known as the Harelle. Increased tax revenues were needed to support the self-serving policies of the king's uncles, whose interests were frequently in conflict with those of the crown and with each other. The Battle of Roosebeke (1382), for example, brilliantly won by the royal troops, was prosecuted solely for the benefit of Philip of Burgundy. The treasury surplus carefully accumulated by Charles V was quickly squandered.

Charles VI brought the regency to an end in 1388, taking up personal rule. He restored to power the highly competent advisors of Charles V, known as the Marmousets, [3] who ushered in a new period of high esteem for the crown. Charles VI was widely referred to as Charles the Beloved by his subjects.

Wife and children

He married Isabeau of Bavaria on 17 July 1385, [4] when he was 17 and she, 14 (and considered an adult at the time). Isabeau had 12 children, most of whom died young. Isabeau's first child, named Charles, was born in 1386, and was Dauphin of Viennois (heir apparent), but survived only 3 months. Her second child, Joan, was born on 14 June 1388, but died in 1390. Her third child, Isabella, was born in 1389. She was married to Richard II, King of England in 1396, at the age of 6, and became Queen of England. Richard died in 1400 and they had no children. Richard's successor, Henry IV, wanted Isabella then to marry his son, 14-year-old future king Henry V, but she refused. She was married again in 1406, this time to her cousin, Charles, Duke of Orléans, at the age of 17. She died in childbirth at the age of 19.

Isabeau's fourth child, Joan, was born in 1391, and was married to John VI, Duke of Brittany in 1396, at an age of 5; they had children. Isabeau's fifth child born in 1392 was also named Charles, and was Dauphin. The young Charles was betrothed to Margaret of Burgundy in 1396, but died at the age of 9. Isabeau's sixth child, Mary, was born in 1393. She was never married, and had no children. Isabeau's seventh child, Michelle, was born in 1395. She was engaged to Philip, son of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, in 1404 (both were then aged 8) and they were married in 1409, aged 14. She had one child who died in infancy, before she died in 1422, aged 27.

Isabeau's eighth child, Louis, was born in 1397, and was also Dauphin. He married Margaret of Burgundy, who had previously been betrothed to his brother Charles. The marriage produced no children by the time of Louis's death in 1415, aged 18.

Isabeau's ninth child, John, was born in 1398, and was also Dauphin from 1415, after the death of his brother Louis. He was married to Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut in 1415, then aged 17, but they did not have any children before he died in 1417, aged 19. Isabeau's tenth child, Catherine, was born in 1401. She was married firstly to Henry V, King of England in 1420, and they had one child, who became Henry VI of England. Henry V died suddenly in 1422. Catherine may then have secretly married Owen Tudor in 1429 and had additional children, including Edmund Tudor, the father of Henry VII. She died in 1437, aged 36.

Couronnement de Charles VI le Bien-Aime.jpg
The coronation of Charles VI
Madness of Charles VI.jpg
Charles seized by madness in the forest near Le Mans

Isabeau's eleventh child, also named Charles, was born in 1403. In 1413, Queen Isabeau and Yolande of Aragon finalized a marriage contract between Charles and Yolande's daughter Marie of Anjou, Charles' second cousin. Since both Dauphin Louis and then Dauphin John died while in the care of John the Fearless, the Duke of Burgundy and regent for Charles, Yolande became Charles' guardian. Charles became the new Dauphin in 1417 upon the death of his brother John. Now with the heir to the throne of France under her protection, Yolande refused Queen Isabeau's orders to return Charles to the French Court, reportedly replying, "We have not nurtured and cherished this one for you to make him die like his brothers or to go mad like his father, or to become English like you. I keep him for my own. Come and take him away, if you dare." After the death of Charles VI in 1422, the English regents claimed the crown of France for Henry VI, then aged 1, according to the terms of the Treaty of Troyes. However, Charles, aged 19, repudiated the treaty and claimed the throne for himself as King Charles VII, sparking fresh fighting with the English. His marriage to Marie of Anjou in 1422 produced many children, most of whom died at a very early age. Charles VII died in 1461 at age 58, the most long-lived of Isabeau's children.

Isabeau's twelfth and the last child, Philip, was born in 1407, but died shortly after.

Reign

Mental illness

A coin of Charles VI, a "double d'or", minted in La Rochelle in 1420 Charles VI double d'or La Rochelle 1420.jpg
A coin of Charles VI, a "double d'or", minted in La Rochelle in 1420

Charles VI's early successes with the Marmousets as his counselors quickly dissipated as a result of the bouts of psychosis he experienced from his mid-twenties. Mental illness may have been passed on for several generations through his mother, Joanna of Bourbon. [5] Although still called by his subjects Charles the Beloved, he became known also as Charles the Mad.

Charles's first known episode occurred in 1392 when his friend and advisor, Olivier de Clisson, was the victim of an attempted murder. Although Clisson survived, Charles was determined to punish the would-be assassin, Pierre de Craon, who had taken refuge in Brittany. John V, Duke of Brittany was unwilling to hand him over, so Charles prepared a military expedition.

Contemporaries said Charles appeared to be in a "fever" to begin the campaign and disconnected in his speech. Charles set off with an army on 1 July 1392. The progress of the army was slow, driving Charles into a frenzy of impatience. As the king and his escort were traveling through the forest near Le Mans on a hot August morning, a barefoot leper dressed in rags rushed up to the King's horse and grabbed his bridle. "Ride no further, noble King!" he yelled: "Turn back! You are betrayed!" The king's escorts beat the man back, but did not arrest him, and he followed the procession for half an hour, repeating his cries. [6] The company emerged from the forest at noon. A page who was drowsy from the sun dropped the king's lance, which clanged loudly against a steel helmet carried by another page. Charles shuddered, drew his sword and yelled "Forward against the traitors! They wish to deliver me to the enemy!" The king spurred his horse and began swinging his sword at his companions, fighting until one of his chamberlains and a group of soldiers were able to grab him from his mount and lay him on the ground. He lay still and did not react, but then fell into a coma. The king had killed a knight known as "The Bastard of Polignac" and several other men. [7]

Periods of mental illness continued throughout the king's life. During one in 1393, he could not remember his name and did not know he was king. When his wife came to visit, he asked his servants who she was and ordered them to take care of what she required so that she would leave him alone. [8] During an episode in 1395–96 he claimed he was Saint George and that his coat of arms was a lion with a sword thrust through it. [9] At this time, he recognized all the officers of his household, but did not know his wife nor his children. Sometimes he ran wildly through the corridors of his Parisian residence, the Hôtel Saint-Pol, and to keep him inside, the entrances were walled up. In 1405, he refused to bathe or change his clothes for five months. [10] His later psychotic episodes were not described in detail, perhaps because of the similarity of his behavior and delusions. Pope Pius II, who was born during the reign of Charles VI, wrote in his Commentaries that there were times when Charles thought that he was made of glass, and thus tried to protect himself in various ways so that he would not break. He reportedly had iron rods sewn into his clothes so that he would not shatter if he came into contact with another person. [11] This condition has come to be known as glass delusion.

Charles VI's secretary, Pierre Salmon, spent much time in discussions with the king while he was intermittently psychotic. In an effort to find a cure for the king's illness, stabilize the turbulent political situation, and secure his own future, Salmon supervised the production of two distinct versions of the beautifully illuminated guidebooks to good kingship known as Pierre Salmon's Dialogues. [12]

Bal des Ardents

The Bal des Ardents, miniature of 1450-80 showing the dancers' costumes on fire. Le Bal des Ardents.jpg
The Bal des Ardents, miniature of 1450-80 showing the dancers' costumes on fire.

On 29 January 1393, a masked ball, which later became known as the Bal des Ardents ("Ball of the Burning Men"), had been organized by Isabeau of Bavaria to celebrate the wedding of one of her ladies-in-waiting at the Hôtel Saint-Pol. At the suggestion of Huguet de Guisay, the king and four other lords [13] dressed up as wild men and they were dancing around. They were dressed "in costumes of linen cloth sewn onto their bodies and soaked in resinous wax or pitch to hold a covering of frazzled hemp, so that they appeared shaggy & hairy from head to foot". [14] At the suggestion of one Yvain de Foix, the king commanded that the torch-bearers were to stand at the side of the room. Nonetheless, the king's brother Louis I, Duke of Orléans, who had arrived late, approached with a lighted torch in order to discover the identity of the masqueraders, and accidentally set one of them on fire. There was panic as the flames spread. The Duchess of Berry threw the train of her gown over the king in order to protect him. [15] Several knights who tried to put out the flames were severely burned. Four of the wild men perished: Charles de Poitiers, son of the Count of Valentinois; Huguet de Guisay; Yvain de Foix; and the Count of Joigny. Another – Jean, son of the Lord of Nantouillet – saved himself by jumping into a dishwater tub. [16]

Expulsion of the Jews, 1394

On 17 September 1394, Charles suddenly published an ordinance in which he declared, in substance, that for a long time he had been taking note of the many complaints provoked by the excesses and misdemeanors of the Jews against Christians, and that the prosecutors had made several investigations and discovered that the Jews broke the agreement with the king on many occasions. Therefore, he decreed, as an irrevocable law and statute, that no Jew should dwell in his domains ("Ordonnances", vii. 675). According to the Religieux de St. Denis, the king signed this decree at the insistence of the queen ("Chron. de Charles VI." ii. 119). [17] The decree was not immediately enforced, a respite being granted to the Jews in order that they have enough time to sell their property and pay their debts. Those indebted to them were enjoined to redeem their obligations within a set time, otherwise their pledges held in pawn were to be sold by the Jews. The provost was to escort the Jews to the frontier of the kingdom. Subsequently, the king released the Christians from their debts.

Struggles for power

French Monarchy
Capetian Dynasty
(House of Valois)
Arms of the Kingdom of France (Ancien).svg
Philip VI
Children
John II
Philip, Duke of Orléans
John II
Children
Charles V
Louis I of Anjou
John, Duke of Berry
Philip the Bold
Charles V
Children
Charles VI
Louis, Duke of Orléans
Charles VI
Children
Isabella of Valois
Michelle of Valois
Catherine of Valois
Charles VII
Charles VII
Children
Louis XI
Charles, Duke of Berry
Louis XI
Children
Charles VIII
Charles VIII

With Charles VI mentally ill, from 1393 his wife Isabeau presided over a regency counsel, on which sat the grandees of the kingdom. Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who acted as regent during the king's minority (from 1380 to 1388), was a great influence on the queen (he had organized the royal marriage during his regency). Influence progressively shifted to Louis I, Duke of Orléans, the king's brother, another contender for power, and it was suspected, the queen's lover. [18] Charles VI's other uncles were less influential during the regency: Louis II of Naples was still engaged managing the Kingdom of Naples, and John, Duke of Berry, served as a mediator between the Orléans party (what would become the Armagnacs) and the Burgundy party (Bourguignons). The rivalry would increase bit by bit and in the end result in outright civil war.

The new regents dismissed the various advisers and officials Charles had appointed. On the death of Philip the Bold in April 1404, his son John the Fearless took over the political aims of his father, and the feud with Louis escalated. John, who was less linked to Isabeau, again lost influence at court.

Wars with Burgundy and England

In 1407, Louis of Orléans was murdered in the rue Vieille du Temple in Paris. John did not deny responsibility, claiming that Louis was a tyrant who squandered money. Louis' son Charles, the new Duke of Orléans, turned to his father-in-law, Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac, for support against John the Fearless. This resulted in the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War, which lasted from 1407 until 1435, beyond Charles' reign, though the war with the English was still in progress.

With the English taking over much of the country, John the Fearless sought to end the feud with the royal family by negotiating with the Dauphin Charles, the king's heir. They met at the bridge at Montereau on 10 September 1419, but during the meeting, John was killed by Tanneguy du Chastel, a follower of the Dauphin. John's successor, Philip the Good, the new Duke of Burgundy, threw in his lot with the English.

English invasion and death

Charles VI's reign was marked by the continuing conflict with the English, known as the Hundred Years' War. An early attempt at peace occurred in 1396 when Charles' daughter, the almost seven-year-old Isabella of Valois, married the 29-year-old Richard II of England. By 1415, however, the feud between the French royal family and the House of Burgundy led to chaos and anarchy throughout France that Henry V of England was eager to take advantage of. Henry led an invasion that culminated in the defeat of the French army at the Battle of Agincourt in October.

In May 1420, Henry V and Charles VI signed the Treaty of Troyes, which named Henry as Charles' successor, and stipulated that Henry's heirs would succeed him on the throne of France. It disinherited the Dauphin Charles, then only 17 years old. (In 1421, it was further claimed that the young Charles was illegitimate.) The treaty also betrothed Charles VI's daughter, Catherine of Valois, to Henry (see English Kings of France). Disinheriting the Dauphin in favor of Henry was a blatant act against the interests of the French aristocracy.

The Dauphin responded by declaring himself regent for his father. He seized royal authority, and defied his father's order to return to Paris. He established a court at Bourges. [19]

Charles VI died on 21 October 1422 in Paris, at the Hôtel Saint-Pol. He was interred in Saint Denis Basilica, where his wife Isabeau of Bavaria would join him after her death in September 1435.

Henry V had died in August 1422, leaving an infant son, who was King Henry VI of England. Therefore, according to the Treaty of Troyes, with the death of Charles VI, little Henry became King of France. His coronation as such was in Paris (held by the English since 1418) at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris on 26 December 1431.

The disinherited Dauphin Charles remained at Bourges until 1429, when Joan of Arc arrived. After she led his forces to victory, he was crowned in Reims Cathedral as KIng Charles VII of France on 17 July 1429. He became known as "Charles the Victorious". [20]

Personal life

Ancestors

Marriage and issue

Charles VI married Isabeau of Bavaria (ca. 1371 – 24 September 1435) on 17 July 1385. She gave birth to 12 children:

NameBirthDeathNotes
Charles, Dauphin of Viennois 25 September 138628 December 1386Died young. First Dauphin.
Jeanne14 June 13881390Died young.
Isabella 9 November 138913 September 1409Married (1) Richard II, King of England, in 1396. No issue. [25]
Married (2) Charles, Duke of Orléans, in 1406. Had issue.
Jeanne 24 January 139127 September 1433Married John V, Duke of Brittany, in 1396. Had issue.
Charles, Dauphin of Viennois6 February 139213 January 1401Died young. Second Dauphin. Engaged to Margaret of Burgundy after his birth.
Marie 22 August 139319 August 1438Never married – became an abbess. No issue. Died of the Plague
Michelle 11 January 13958 July 1422Married Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in 1409. [26] Had no surviving issue.
Louis, Dauphin 22 January 139718 December 1415Married Margaret of Burgundy. No issue. Third Dauphin.
John, Dauphin 31 August 13985 April 1417Married Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, in 1415. No issue. Fourth Dauphin.
Catherine 27 October 14013 January 1437Married (1) Henry V, King of England, in 1420. Had issue.
Married (?) (2) Owen Tudor. Had issue.
Charles, Dauphin of Viennois 22 February 140321 July 1461The fifth Dauphin became Charles VII, King of France, after his father's death.
Married Marie of Anjou in 1422. Had issue.
Philip10 November 1407November 1407Died young.

He also had one illegitimate child by Odette de Champdivers: Marguerite, bâtarde de France (d. ca.1458).

Charles VI Family Charles VI of France Family.jpg
Charles VI Family

Cultural references

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

Citations

  1. Jonathan Sumption, The Hundred Years War: Divided Houses, Vol. III, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 397.
  2. Vaughan, 40–41
  3. Vaughn, 42.
  4. Tracy Adams, The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 5.
  5. Alger, Sarah (2001). The Politics of Madness: Government in the Reigns of Charles VI and Henry V (PDF). p. 24.
  6. W.H. Jervis, A History of France: from the Earliest Times to the Fall of the Second Empire in 1870, (London: John Murray, 1884), 228, §5; Jean Juvenal des Ursins, Histoire de Charles VI, Roy de France, (Paris: A. Desrez, 1841), 377; Michaud, J.F and L.G., Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne, 85 vols., (Paris: L.G. Michaud, 1813), 8:114 sub Charles VI.
  7. M. Guizot, The History of France from the Earliest Times to the Year 1789, Vol. 2, transl. Robert Black, (P.F. Collier & son, 1902), 189.
  8. R.C. Famiglietti, Royal Intrigue: Crisis at the Court of Charles VI, 1392–1420, New York, 1986, p. 4, citing the chronicle of the Religieux de Saint-Denis, ed. Bellaguet, II, pp. 86–88.
  9. R.C. Famiglietti, Royal Intrigue: Crisis at the Court of Charles VI, 1392–1420, New York, 1986, p. 5, citing the chronicle of the Religieux de Saint-Denis, ed. Bellaguet, II, pp. 404–05.
  10. R.C. Famiglietti, Royal Intrigue: Crisis at the Court of Charles VI, 1392–1420, New York, 1986, p. 6, citing the chronicle of the Religieux de Saint-Denis, ed. Bellaguet, III, p. 348
  11. Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Papa Pio II), I Commentarii, ed. L. Totaro, Milano, 1984, I, p. 1056.
  12. "Pierre Salmon's Dialogues – Wikicommons".
  13. Froissart's Chronicles, ed. T. Johnes, II (1855), p.550
  14. Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, 1978, Alfred A Knopf Ltd. See the chronicle of the Religieux de Saint-Denis, ed. Bellaguet, II, pp. 64–71, where the squire's name is given correctly as de Guisay.
  15. Froissart's Chronicles, ed. T. Johnes, II (1855), pp.550–2
  16. Froissart's Chronicles, ed. T. Johnes, II (1855), p.550. Note that Froissart and the Religieux de Saint-Denis differ as to when the four men died. Huguet de Guisay had held the office of cupbearer of the king.
  17. History of the reign of Charles VI, titled Chronique de Religieux de Saint-Denys, contenant le regne de Charles VI de 1380 a 1422, encompasses the king's full reign in six volumes. Originally written in Latin, the work was translated to French in six volumes by L. Bellaguet between 1839 and 1852.
  18. Alban Dignat, 23 novembre 1407: Assassinat dans la rue Vieille du Temple, herodote.net Archived 11 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  19. R.C. Famiglietti, Royal Intrigue: Crisis at the Court of Charles VI, 1392–1420, New York, 1986, Chapter X.
  20. Chartier, Jean, Chronique de Charles VII, Roi de France, publié avec notes par Vallet de Viriville, Paris 1858
  21. 1 2 Anselm, Histoire généalogique, pp. 102–104
  22. 1 2 3 4 Anselm de Gibours (1726). Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France [Genealogical and chronological history of the royal house of France] (in French). 1 (3rd ed.). Paris: La compagnie des libraires. pp. 105–106.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Anselm, Histoire généalogique, pp. 297–299
  24. 1 2 Anselm, Histoire généalogique, pp. 109–110
  25. Jeffrey Hamilton, The Plantagenets: History of a Dynasty, (Continuum, 2010), 205.
  26. Jonathan Sumption, Cursed Kings: The Hundred Years War IV, (Faber and Faber Ltd., 2015), 103.
  27. (in French) Gérard de Nerval. Rêverie de Charles VI

Sources

Charles VI of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 3 December 1368 Died: 21 October 1422
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles V
King of France
16 September 1380 – 21 October 1422
Succeeded by
Charles VII
contested by Henry II
Dauphin of Viennois
3 December 1368 – 26 September 1386
Succeeded by
Charles III
Preceded by
Charles III
Dauphin of Viennois
28 December 1386 – 6 February 1392
Succeeded by
Charles IV