Charles I, Duke of Brittany
Died At Age: 45
Famous as: Medieval Breton Leaders
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
Spouse/Ex-: Duchess of Brittany, Joan
father: Guy I, Count of Blois
mother: Margaret of Valois, Countess of Blois
children: Duchess of Anjou, John I of Blois-Châtillon, Marie of Blois, Marquerite of Blois-Chatillon
Died on: September 29, 1364
place of death: Auray
Charles I, also known as Charles of Blois Chatillon, was a Breton leader who claimed the title of the Duke of Brittany in 1341. He is till date best remembered for his involvement in the Breton War of Succession that lasted for more than twenty years. Born to Guy de Chatillon and Margaret of Valois, Charles was a religious and spiritually inclined child. His religious fervour was such that he underwent extreme pain and discomfort to the point of crushing his own self. It was his devotion that made him renowned as a pious and devout soul. Married to Joanna of Penthievre, heiress and niece of John III the Duke of Brittany, Charles claimed the dukedom after the death of John III. However, his claims were not recognized by John of Montfort which led to conflict and subsequently the commencement of the Bretton War of Succession. Lasting for twenty long years, the Bretton War of Succession led to the death of Charles during the Battle of Auray in 1364 and the victory of the Montforts. Posthumously, Charles was canonized as a Saint but due to objection from his successor Duke of Brittany, John V, this canonization was annulled. However, in 1904, he was beautified with the title of ‘Blessed’.
Childhood & Early Life
Charles of Blois Chatillon was born around 1319 to Guy I of Blois-Chatillon, the Count of Blois and Margaret of Valois. His mother was the sister of King Philip VI.
Since an early age, Charles was extremely religious and pious. His commitment in God was so strong that in later years it proved beneficial in infusing loyalty and devotion among his soldiers.
Charles used extreme measures to express his devout state of devotion. He would keep himself constantly discomforted by putting pebbles in his shoes and tying ropes underneath his clothes so as to remain close to God. What’s more, he confessed his sins every night so as to sleep peacefully.
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In 1337, Charles married Joanna of Penthievre. She was the heiress and niece of Duke of Brittany,John III. The marriage was basically an agreement to form a political and military partnership.
After the death of John III in 1341, Charles claimed the title of Duke of Brittany from the House of Penthievre. However, John de Montfort, his uncle refused to recognize his claim to the dukedom.
Rejection from John de Montfort led Charles to resolve the issue amicably between the two by making peaceful negotiations with the former. However, John’s rigidity and lack of flexibility led to the commencement of the Breton War of Succession.
During the Breton War of Succession that lasted for twenty long years, Charles sought the support of the peerage of France to be recognized as the sole heir to the duchy, while John took the aid of Edward III.
In 1341, Charles seized the city of Nantes and imprisoned John for four years. In 1343, Pope Clement VI intervened, thus preventing Edward III from attacking Nantes by negotiating a truce.
Unaffected by the truce, Charles and John resumed the Breton war of succession. Despite Charles being a devotedly religious man, he ordered the massacre of 2000 civilians after the siege of Quimper.
In 1347, Charles was captured at La Roche-Derrien and was imprisoned at the Tower of London. After nine years of incarceration, he agreed to hold Brittany, under vassalage to Edward and paid a large ransom to free himself.
After being set free from the captivity, Charles resumed the war against the Montforts. Though he agreed on a partition of Brittany with Duke John IV of Brittany on July 12, 1363, his wife, Joanne persuaded him to break the treaty. The move turned out to be detrimental as at the Battle of Auray, in 1364, Charles was killed by the Montforts while his army stood defeated.
Following his death and defeat at the Battle of Auray, the Breton War of Succession was won by the Montforts who formally gained the title of the Duke of Brittany.
Personal Life & Legacy
Charles I tied the nuptial knot with Joanna of Penthievre, heiress and niece of Duke John III. The couple was blessed with five children, John (Jean) I of Châtillon, Guy, Henri, Marie and Marguerite.
Charles breathed his last on September 29, 1364 in the Battle of Auray. The battle also marked the end of the Breton War of Succession with the victory of the Montforts.
Posthumously, Charles was canonized as a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. However, his canonization was nullified by Pope Gregory XI upon request from his successor, Duke John V of Brittany, one of Charles enemies.
In 1904, Charles I was beatified and given the title of Blessed Charles of Blois. The church established his Roman Catholic Feast Day on September 30. Every year, on this day his feast day is celebrated.
The religious fervour of this Duke of Brittany was such that he ordered his soldiers to attend Holy Mass regularly. He is quoted telling his soldiers, ‘We can afford to lose castles, but we cannot let a day go by without attending Holy Mass.’