| King of France |
|Reign||16 September 1380 – 21 October 1422|
|Coronation||4 November 1380|
|Born||3 December 1368|
Paris, Kingdom of France
|Died||21 October 1422 (aged 53)|
Paris, Kingdom of France
|Burial||11 November 1422|
|Father||Charles V of France|
|Mother||Joanna of Bourbon|
Charles VI (3 December 1368 –21 October 1422), called the Beloved (French : le Bien-Aimé) and later the Mad (French : le Fol or le Fou), was King of France from 1380 until his death in 1422. He is known for his mental illness and psychotic episodes which plagued him throughout his life. Charles's reign would see his army crushed at the Battle of Agincourt, leading to the signing of the Treaty of Troyes, which made his future son-in-law Henry V of England his regent and heir to the throne of France. However, Henry would die shortly before Charles, which gave the House of Valois the chance to continue the fight against the English, leading to their eventual victory and the end of the Hundred Years' War in 1453.
Charles was born in Paris, in the royal residence of the Hôtel Saint-Pol, on 3 December 1368, the son of King Charles V of the House of Valois and of Joanna of Bourbon.His elder brothers having died before he was born, Charles was heir to the French throne and held the title Dauphin of France.
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.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 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,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,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.
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.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.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; as a temporary measure, the king was taken to the castle of Creil, where good air and pleasant surroundings might bring him to his senses. He had killed a knight known as "The Bastard of Polignac" and several other men.
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.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. 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. 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. 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.
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 lordsdressed 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". 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. 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.
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).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 Christians from their debts.
| Capetian Dynasty |
(House of Valois)
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, who was not only another contender for power, but, it was suspected, the queen's lover as well.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.
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.
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, a situation 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 implied in Burgundian propaganda 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, supported by the Duke of Burgundy.
The Dauphin who had declared himself regent for his father when the Duke of Burgundy invaded Paris and captured the king, had established a court at Bourges.
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 died just a few weeks before him, in August 1422, leaving an infant son, who became 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 son disinherited by Charles VI, the Dauphin Charles, continued to fight to regain his kingdom. In 1429, Joan of Arc arrived on the scene. She led his forces to victory against the English, and took him to be crowned in Reims Cathedral as King Charles VII of France on 17 July 1429. He became known as "Charles the Victorious" and was able to restore the French line to the throne of France by defeating the English in 1450.
Charles VI married Isabeau of Bavaria (ca. 1371 – 24 September 1435) on 17 July 1385. They had:
|Charles, Dauphin of France||25 September 1386||28 December 1386||Died young. First Dauphin.|
|Jeanne||14 June 1388||1390||Died young.|
|Isabella||9 November 1389||13 September 1409||Married (1) Richard II, King of England, in 1396. No issue. |
Married (2) Charles, Duke of Orléans, in 1406. Had issue.
|Jeanne||24 January 1391||27 September 1433||Married John V, Duke of Brittany, in 1396. Had issue.|
|Charles, Dauphin of France||6 February 1392||13 January 1401||Died young. Second Dauphin. Engaged to Margaret of Burgundy after his birth.|
|Marie||22 August 1393||19 August 1438||Never married – became an abbess. No issue. Died of the Plague|
|Michelle||11 January 1395||8 July 1422||Married Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in 1409. Had no surviving issue.|
|Louis, Dauphin||22 January 1397||18 December 1415||Married Margaret of Burgundy. No issue. Third Dauphin.|
|John, Dauphin||31 August 1398||5 April 1417||Married Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, in 1415. No issue. Fourth Dauphin.|
|Catherine||27 October 1401||3 January 1437||Married (1) Henry V, King of England, in 1420. Had issue. |
Married (?) (2) Owen Tudor. Had issue.
|Charles VII of France||22 February 1403||21 July 1461||The fifth Dauphin became Charles VII, King of France, after his father's death. |
Married Marie of Anjou in 1422. Had issue.
|Philip||10 November 1407||November 1407||Died young.|
Charles had a mistress, Odette de Champdivers.They had:
The House of Valois was a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. They succeeded the House of Capet to the French throne, and were the royal house of France from 1328 to 1589. Junior members of the family founded cadet branches in Orléans, Anjou, Burgundy, and Alençon.
Philip II the Bold was Duke of Burgundy and jure uxoris Count of Flanders, Artois and Burgundy. He was the fourth and youngest son of King John II of France and Bonne of Luxembourg.
Charles VII, called the Victorious or the Well-Served, was King of France from 1422 to his death in 1461.
The Treaty of Troyes was an agreement that King Henry V of England and his heirs would inherit the French throne upon the death of King Charles VI of France. It was formally signed in the French city of Troyes on 21 May 1420 in the aftermath of Henry's successful military campaign in France. It forms a part of the backdrop of the latter phase of the Hundred Years' War finally won by the French at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, and in which various English kings tried to establish their claims to the French throne.
John the Fearless was a scion of the French royal family who ruled the Burgundian State from 1404 until his death in 1419. He played a key role in French national affairs during the early 15th century, particularly in the struggles to rule the country for the mentally ill King Charles VI, his cousin, and the Hundred Years' War with England. A rash, ruthless and unscrupulous politician, John murdered the King's brother, the Duke of Orléans, in an attempt to gain control of the government, which led to the eruption of the Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War in France and in turn culminated in his own assassination in 1419.
Louis I of Orléans was Duke of Orléans from 1392 to his death. He was also Duke of Touraine (1386–1392), Count of Valois (1386?–1406) Blois (1397–1407), Angoulême (1404–1407), Périgord (1400–1407) and Soissons (1404–07).
Isabeau of Bavaria was queen of France between 1385 and 1422. She was born into the House of Wittelsbach as the only daughter of Duke Stephen III of Bavaria-Ingolstadt and Taddea Visconti of Milan. At age 15 or 16, Isabeau was sent to the young King Charles VI of France; the couple wed three days after their first meeting.
Yolande of Aragon was Duchess of Anjou and Countess of Provence by marriage, who acted as regent of Provence during the minority of her son. She was a daughter of John I of Aragon and his wife Yolande of Bar. Yolande played a crucial role in the struggles between France and England, influencing events such as the financing of Joan of Arc's army in 1429 that helped tip the balance in favour of the French. She was also known as Yolanda de Aragón and Violant d'Aragó. Tradition holds that she commissioned the famous Rohan Hours.
Valentina Visconti was a countess of Vertus, and duchess consort of Orléans as the wife of Louis de Valois, Duke of Orléans, the younger brother of King Charles VI of France.
The Burgundian party was a political allegiance against France that formed during the latter half of the Hundred Years' War. The term "Burgundians" refers to the supporters of the Duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless, that formed after the assassination of Louis I, Duke of Orléans. Their opposition to the Armagnac party, the supporters of Charles, Duke of Orléans, led to a civil war in the early 15th Century, itself part of the larger Hundred Years' War.
Odette de Champdivers was the chief mistress of Charles VI of France. She was called la petite reine by Charles and contemporaries.
Louis was the eighth of twelve children of King Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria. He was their third son and the second to hold the titles Dauphin of Viennois and Duke of Guyenne, inheriting them in 1401, at the death of his older brother, Charles (1392–1401).
The House of Valois-Burgundy, or the Younger House of Burgundy, was a noble French family deriving from the royal House of Valois. It is distinct from the Capetian House of Burgundy, descendants of King Robert II of France, though both houses stem from the Capetian dynasty. They ruled the Duchy of Burgundy from 1363 to 1482 and later came to rule vast lands including Artois, Flanders, Luxembourg, Hainault, the county palatine of Burgundy (Franche-Comté), and other lands through marriage, forming what is now known as the Burgundian State.
The Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War was a conflict between two cadet branches of the French royal family — the House of Orléans and the House of Burgundy from 1407 to 1435. It began during a lull in the Hundred Years' War against the English and overlapped with the Western Schism of the papacy.
The Bal des Ardents or Bal des Sauvages was a masquerade ball held on 28 January 1393 in Paris at which Charles VI of France performed in a dance with five members of the French nobility. Four of the dancers were killed in a fire caused by a torch brought in by a spectator, Charles's brother Louis I, Duke of Orléans. Charles and another of the dancers survived. The ball was one of a number of events intended to entertain the young king, who the previous summer had suffered an attack of insanity. The event undermined confidence in Charles's capacity to rule; Parisians considered it proof of courtly decadence and threatened to rebel against the more powerful members of the nobility. The public's outrage forced the king and his brother Orléans, whom a contemporary chronicler accused of attempted regicide and sorcery, to offer penance for the event.
The dual monarchy of England and France existed during the latter phase of the Hundred Years' War when Charles VII of France and Henry VI of England disputed the succession to the throne of France. It commenced on 21 October 1422 upon the death of King Charles VI of France, who had signed the Treaty of Troyes which gave the French crown to his son-in-law Henry V of England and Henry's heirs. It excluded King Charles's son, the Dauphin Charles, who by right of primogeniture was the heir to the Kingdom of France. Although the Treaty was ratified by the Estates-General of France, the act was a contravention of the French law of succession which decreed that the French crown could not be alienated. Henry VI, son of Henry V, became king of both England and France and was recognized only by the English and Burgundians until 1435 as King Henry II of France. He was crowned King of France on 16 December 1431.
Michel Pintoin, commonly known as the Monk of Saint-Denis or Religieux de Saint-Denis was a French monk, cantor, and chronicle writer best known for his history of the reign of Charles VI of France. Anonymous for many centuries, in 1976 the Monk was tentatively identified as Michel Pintoin, although scholars continue to refer to him as the Monk or the Religieux.
After the lifting of the Siege of Orléans and the decisive French victory at the Battle of Patay, the Anglo-Burgundian threat was ended. Joan of Arc convinced the Dauphin Charles to go to be crowned at Reims. The march though the heart of territory controlled by the hostile Burgundians was successful and would give the throne of the French monarchy to Charles VII, who had been ousted therefrom by the Treaty of Troyes.
Pierre de Thury was a French bishop and cardinal of the Avignon Obedience, who served as a royal secretary and Master of Requests, and then as papal Nuncio and Apostolic Legate on several occasions. He participated in two papal elections, those of 1394 and 1409, and was a prominent member of the Council of Pisa in 1409.
The Burgundian State is a concept coined by historians to describe the vast complex of territories that is also referred to as Valois Burgundy.