Charles VI
Lilies & Lions, An Alternative History

Charles VI (3 December 1368 – 28 September 1421), called the Beloved (French: le Bien-Aimé) and the Mad (French: le Fol or le Fou), was King of France from 1380 to his death. He was a member of the House of Valois.

Charles VI was only 11 when he inherited the throne in the midst of the Hundred Years' War. The government was entrusted to his four uncles: Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; John, Duke of Berry; Louis I, Duke of Anjou; and Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. Although the royal age of majority was fixed at 14, the dukes maintained their grip on Charles until he took power at the age of 21.

During the rule of his uncles, the financial resources of the kingdom, painstakingly built up by his father Charles V, were squandered for the personal profit of the dukes, whose interests were frequently divergent or even opposing. As royal funds drained, new taxes had to be raised, which caused several revolts.

In 1388 Charles VI dismissed his uncles and brought back to power his father's former advisers, known as the Marmousets. Political and economic conditions in the kingdom improved significantly, and Charles earned the epithet "the Beloved". But in August 1392 en route to Brittany with his army in the forest of Le Mans, Charles suddenly went mad and slew four knights and almost killed his brother, Louis of Orléans.

From then on, Charles' bouts of insanity became more frequent and of longer duration. During these attacks, he had delusions, believing he was made of glass or denying he had a wife and children. He could also attack servants or run until exhaustion, wailing that he was threatened by his enemies. Between crises, there were intervals of months during which Charles was relatively sane. However, unable to concentrate or make decisions, political power was taken away from him by the princes of the blood, which would cause much chaos and conflict in France.

A fierce struggle for power developed between Louis of Orléans, the king's brother, and John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, the son of Philip the Bold. When John instigated the murder of Louis in November 1407, the conflict degenerated into a civil war between the Armagnacs (supporters of the House of Valois) and the Burgundians. John offered large parts of France to King Henry V of England, who was still at war with the Valois monarchy, in exchange for his support. After the assassination of John the Fearless, his son Philip the Good led Charles the Mad to sign the infamous Treaty of Troyes (1420), which disinherited his own offspring and recognized Henry V as his legitimate successor on the throne of France.

Upon Charles' death in 1421, the treaty activated and Henry V was proclaimed king by most of the north of France, including Philip III of Burgundy and John V of Brittany. Henry would succeed Charles as King of France in 1429 after the death of Charles' son, the proclaimed Charles VII.

Early life

Charles was born in Paris on 3 December 1368, the son of King of France, King Charles V, of the House of Valois, and 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. In 1380, he was crowned King of France at Reims Cathedral. Although the royal age of majority was 14 (the "age of accountability" under Roman Catholic canon law), Charles did not terminate the regency and take personal rule until 1388.

He married Isabeau of Bavaria on 17 July 1385, when he was 17 and she was 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 to then marry his son, 14-year-old future king Henry V, but she refused. She married again in 1406, this time to her cousin, Charles, Duke of Orléans, at the age of 17. She died at childbirth at the age of 19.

Regency

Charles VI was only 11 years old when he was crowned King of France. Although Charles was entitled to rule personally from the age of 14, the dukes maintained their grip on power until Charles terminated the regency at the age of 21.

During his minority, France was ruled by Charles' uncles, as regents. The regents were Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Louis I, Duke of Anjou, John, Duke of Berry, and 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; whilst Louis of Bourbon was a largely unimportant figure, due to his personality (he showed signs of mental instability) and his status (since he was not the son of a king).

Also during his uncles' regency, the financial resources of the kingdom, painstakingly built up by his father Charles V, 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 of France
Cadet branch of the House of Capet
Born: 3 December 1368 Died: 28 September 1421
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles V
King of France
16 September 1380 – 28 September 1421
Succeeded by
Henry II and V
Contested by Charles VII of France
Dauphin of Viennois
3 December 1368 – 26 September 1386
Preceded by
Charles III
Dauphin of Viennois
28 December 1386 – 6 February 1392
Succeeded by
Charles IV