Birthday: December 3, 1368
Died At Age: 53
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Charles the Beloved, Charles the Mad
Born Country: France
Born in: Paris, Île-de-France, France
Famous as: King of France
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Isabeau of Bavaria (m. 1385)
father: Charles V of France
mother: Joanna of Bourbon
children: Catherine of Valois, Charles - Dauphin of France, Charles de France, Charles VII, Isabella of Valois, Joan of France - Duchess of Brittany, John - Duke of Touraine, Louis - Duke of Guyenne, Marguerite - bâtarde de France, Marie of Valois - Prioress of Poissy, Michelle of Valois
Died on: October 21, 1422
place of death: Paris, France
Cause of Death: Malaria
Who was Charles VI of France?
Charles VI, also known as Charles the Beloved or Charles the Mad, was a French king who ruled for 42 years between 1380 and until his death in 1422. The son of Charles V, of the House of Valois, and Joan of Bourbon, Charles received the title Dauphin of France when he was born, as all his older brothers had died before that. He lost his father when he was 11 years old and subsequently ascended the French throne with his paternal uncles Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; Louis I, Duke of Anjou; and John, Duke of Berry; and maternal uncle Louis II, Duke of Bourbon; serving as his regents. It was Philip who orchestrated the marriage between Charles and Isabeau of Bavaria. In 1388, he assumed full control of his kingdom and reinstated his father’s advisors, the Marmousets. He was an extremely competent and popular ruler in the early years of his reign. However, in 1392, he experienced the first of his 44 bouts of madness. These attacks persisted for three to nine months and in between them, he would have three-to-five-month periods of sanity for the rest of his life.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on December 3, 1368, in Paris, Île-de-France, France, Charles was the eldest surviving son of Charles V and Joan of Bourbon. He was his father’s heir and was named the Dauphin of France after his birth.
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Charles’ father died on September 16, 1380, when he was 11 years old. He became the king on 4 November. While he was a minor, his uncles ruled France in his name as regents. Despite the fact that 14 was considered the age of maturity for royals at the time, Charles did not end the regency until he was 21.
Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; Louis I, Duke of Anjou; and John, Duke of Berry; all of whom were Charles V’s brothers, served as Charles’ regents, along with Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, his mother’s brother.
Philip played the leading role during the regency, owing to his brothers being preoccupied with their own affairs and Louis’ social status (not being a prince) and mental instability.
Charles VI’s father had been an exceptional ruler who had built up considerable financial resources for the kingdom. However, during the regency, most of these resources were misused by Charles’ uncles for personal gain.
During this period, the royal administration became more empowered and taxes were restructured, which was required to fund the self-serving policies implemented by the king’s uncles. Many considered the latter to be a blatant violation of Charles V’s deathbed wish to repeal taxes. This resulted in tax rebellions.
In 1388, Charles abolished the regency and took charge of his kingdom. He brought back his father’s highly proficient advisors, who were collectively known as the Marmousets. They helped him in bringing about a period when the crown became extremely popular. The King was hailed as Charles the Beloved by his subjects.
Marriage & Issue
After his uncle, Philip, made the arrangements, Charles exchanged wedding vows with Isabeau of Bavaria on July 17, 1385. At the time, his age was 17, and hers was 14. Isabeau went on to give birth to 12 children, among whom eight made it to adulthood.
The children were Charles, Dauphin of Viennois (1386); Jeanne (1388-1390); Isabella (1389-1409); Jeanne (1391-1433); Charles, Dauphin of Viennois (1392-1401); Marie (1393-1438), Michelle (1395-1422); Louis, Dauphin (1397-1415); John, Dauphin (1398-1417); Catherine (1401-1437); Charles, Dauphin of Viennois; and Philip (1407).
Charles also fathered an illegitimate daughter, named Marguerite, bâtarde de France (1407-1458), with his favourite mistress, Odette de Champdivers.
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Descend into Madness
When Charles was in his mid-20s, in 1392, he had his first psychotic episode. He had likely inherited mental illness from his mother, whose family had a long history of it. While the French people still referred to him as Charles the Beloved, he garnered a second byname, Charles the Mad.
Such bouts of mental illness kept on occurring for the remainder of his life. The one that happened in 1393 made him forget his name and the fact that he was the king. He also could not recognize his wife.
During another episode in 1395-96, he thought himself to be Saint George. For five months in 1405, he did not bathe or change clothes. The later episodes were not recorded with as much detail, perhaps due to their similarities with the earlier ones.
Pierre Salmon, who served as Charles’ secretary, devoted much of his time in conversations with the king about his psychosis during the episodes. He oversaw the creation of two separate versions of the outstandingly illuminated guidebooks to good kingship, which became popularized as Pierre Salmon’s ‘Dialogues’.
On January 29, 1393, the queen arranged what has come to be known as the Bal des Ardents ("Ball of the Burning Men") to commemorate the wedding of one of her ladies-in-waiting at the Hôtel Saint-Pol.
After Huguet de Guisay suggested it, the king and four of his lords put on attires that made them look like wild men. These dresses were made of linen soaked in resinous wax or pitch to keep a covering of frazzled hemp in place and were sewn onto the five men.
Charles and the four lords were dancing when his brother Louis I, Duke of Orléans, approached them with a torch and one of the dancers was accidentally set on fire. Soon, the fire spread. The Duchess of Berry saved the king by putting her gown over him. All four other wild men died and several knights of the court suffered severe burns.
In September 1394, Charles put out an ordinance in which he ordered the expulsion of the Jews from all his domains. The Religieux de St. Denis, who was Charles’ contemporary, writes that the decree was issued on the suggestion of the queen.
Due to the king’s mental illness, a regency counsel was set up with the queen at its head. Charles’ uncle, Philip, returned to prominence once more as one of the queen’s most trusted advisors. However, things began to change with the involvement of Charles’ brother Louis, who was allegedly the queen’s lover.
Following Philip’s death, his son John the Fearless unsuccessfully attempted to replace his father as one of the most influential figures in the court.
After Louis was murdered by John the Fearless in 1407, a conflict known as the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War began between the royal house and one of its branches that lasted until 1435.
In the history of the English-French conflict, Charles’ tenure was one of the periods when the fighting got worse. It was at the height of the Hundred Years’ War, and while several attempts were made for peace during this period, none of them lasted long. The Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War gave King Henry V of England a perfect window to invade France and conquer many of its territories.
Following Henry’s victory at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415, the Treaty of Troyes was signed between the two monarchs. Henry married Charles’ daughter Catherine of Valois and became his successor to the French throne. This effectively disinherited all of Charles’ sons.
Death & Legacy
On October 21, 1422, Charles VI passed away at the Hôtel Saint-Pol. He was buried in Saint Denis Basilica, where his wife was also laid to rest after her death.
Henry V had passed away in August 1422. According to The Treaty of Troyes, after Charles’ death, King Henry VI of England became the King of France. However, Charles VII of France, with the help of Joan of Arc, reclaimed the French throne for his house, earning the byname Charles the Victorious.