he English, prodded by
their ally Philip of Burgundy, finally agreed to accept the sum of 200,000 ecus
for Charles[i], who was released on 5th
November 1440 having spent over half his life in exile from home. A number of
his estates were sold to pay the monies owing, but even so it was not until
1514 that Louis XII[ii]
paid the outstanding amount. Charles’ brother Jean was not released until 1445.
Jean d’Angoulême stayed as hostage until the majority of the ransom was paid.
|Charles d'Orleans in the Tower of London|
Charles’ third marriage was to Marie of Cleves, the 14 year old daughter of the Duke of Cleves. The couple were married on 27th November 1440 at St Omer; three weeks after Charles return from England. The marriage was arranged by Philip of Burgundy, Marie’s uncle. Marie’s dowry was swallowed up as part of the ransom payment. The newly wedded couple moved to live at the chateau of Blois, which Charles rarely left and spent much of his time beautifying the chateau and adding to his library. Like her husband Marie was a poet, who also enjoyed hunting and dancing.
|Charles and Marie|
In the spring of 1442 a conference at Nevers, Charles, in accordance with his promise to the English, tried to create an accord between the two nations. The capture of Pointoise the previous autumn had boosted the French king’s confidence.
In 1450 the French recovered Normandy, with towns surrendering as soon as the army hove into sight. The English stronghold of Aquitaine was now little more than a pale around Bordeaux. In 1453 the last of the English strongholds outside the Bordeaux area, Castillon, fell and with it the last of the great English leaders Lord John Talbot. And in that year his Valois inheritance struck Henry VI; his first bout of madness ensued.
Francesco Sforza, married to Bianca the illegitimate daughter of the last Visconti Duke of Milan, marched on the city and entered it in 1450, following a series of political and military victories. He proclaimed himself duke. Through his mother Valentina, daughter of the first Duke of Milan, Charles laid claim to the Duchy of Milan, but he could not afford the troops to press for his rights[iii]; nor to the title of Count of Asti that he had inherited from her.Any lingering hopes that Charles may have had, of taking the duchy from Sforza, were dashed by a treaty made by the Dauphin, Louis[iv], with the Duke of Milan. Charles’ claim was to be reinstituted by his son, when he was king of France.
In 1454 Charles and Marie travelled to Nevers to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy, the Duchess of Bourbon[v] and the representative of the Duke to discuss the marriage of the Duke of Burgundy’s heir to the daughter of the Duke of Bourbon. The marriage took place at the end of October.
On 22nd July 1461 King Charles VII died and was succeeded by his son, Louis XI. A difficult man, Louis was at outs with not only the Pope but also the Duke of Orléans, the Duke of Burgundy, the Duke of Brittany, the Count of Charolais[vi] and the Duke of Bourbon.In addition the Lorraine faction were incensed that the king had not done more to help restore the Duke of Lorraine’s daughter Margaret of Anjou and her husband Henry VI to the throne of England[vii]. Instead Louis was hoping through his connections to the Earl of Warwick, known as the kingmaker, to wed his daughter to the new English king Edward IV.
Warwick had been an avid supporter of the new king and instrumental in raising this second son of the Duke of York to the throne, following the decisive battle of Towton on 29th March 1461. But instead of following Warwick’s preferred policy Edward became infatuated with an older woman and married Elizabeth Woodville on 1st May 1464. Thereafter the English became too embroiled in their own civil war; the War of the Roses, to worry about the problems involved in reclaiming France.
The French king was able to consolidate his power, partly based on an innovation of Charles VII; in 1444-5 he established a standing army, while eliminating the lawless companies that were the scourge of Europe. The risk of a repeat of an English resurgence became remote and then non-existent.
A Son and HeirCharles finally became the father of a son on 27th June 1462 at the age of 68; the boy was named after Charles’ father Louis. Louis was the second child of the marriage, his sister Marie was born on 19th December 1457. King Louis grudgingly attended the christening as the child’s godfather, but was infuriated by the infant’s wetting him. He left the chateau before the ceremonial dinner was served.
Jeanne as Queen of FranceOn 10th May 1464 an envoy arrived from the king, proposing a betrothal to the newly born Princess Jeanne[viii], who was endowed with a dowry of 100,000 livres. At the age of two, Louis was betrothed to his cousin; his relatively impoverished father signed the contract on the 19th. Some years after Charles’ death the king confided to an adviser
‘I have resolved to make the marriage of my little daughter Jeanne and the little Duke of Orléans because it seems to me that the children they will have together will cost nothing to feed.’[ix]The couple’s youngest child Anne was born two years after Louis in 1464. By this time Charles was crippled with gout and rheumatism. There were rumours about the paternity of Charles’ children. The immediate family accepted the children and the issue was not raised when Louis became king in 1498; although Louis XI insinuated that he had doubts about Charles’ ability to father children;
Commenting to the Milanese ambassador that Charles was aged and without much sense; it is noticeable that the madness prevalent in the Valois family was apparently not passed on to Louis.
Death of a DukeBy the end of August 1464 Louis XI was in a difficult position vis-à-vis his nobles. His policy of alliance with England through a marriage with Edward having been dealt a death blow; he was now struck by rumours that he had attempted to assassinate the Count of Charolais. The Duke of Burgundy was unsure whether the king would come after him next. In October Louis attempted a reconciliation with his uncle, who failed to respond positively. By now the king had the Duke of Brittany in open rebellion[xii] and a potential conflict with the Duke of Burgundy in the offing.
In December 1464 Charles was summonsed to a meeting at Tours by the king, two months after Anne’s birth. He arrived by water on the 20th December. The meeting of French nobles was to discuss the Duke of Brittany’s revolt. Louis claimed that he had no desire to ruin the Duke of Brittany;
‘I tell you that if I had conquered his province and got into my hands everything but one castle……….and he wished to come to grace and mercy, I would accord it to him in such a manner that everyone would know I had no desire for his destruction.’[xiii]Charles spoke favourably of the rebels and the king chastised his uncle before his fellow magnates. A humiliated and exhausted Charles started on his journey home. He reached Amboise, where he died on 5th January 1465, nearly fifty years after his capture at Agincourt.
The children were left to the guardianship of their mother. Charles’ son Louis became king of France on 7th April 1498 following the death of the childless Charles VIII, son of Louis XI. And in 1515, after Louis’ death, Charles great-nephew François 1 became king of France.Throughout his adult life Charles appeared a gentle man whose ambition, if it ever existed, was excised from his character during his years of imprisonment. It is possible that Charles’ vainglorious actions in 1415 could be attributed to pressure from the Count of Armagnac; forcing Charles to act the role of inspiring figurehead of the Orléans-Armagnac faction.
BibliographyLouis XII – Frederic J Baumgartner – MacMillan Press Ltd 1996
The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005The Reign of Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1998
The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997Louis XI – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books 1974
A History of France 1460-1560 – David Potter, MacMillan Press 1995Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001
A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Pan MacMillan Publishers Ltd 1979www.wikipedia.en
[i] 80,000 on release and the remainder payable within six months.
[ii] Charles’ son
[iii] Even if successful Charles would have been totally out of his depth in the Byzantine world of Italian politics
[iv] Louis was also in contact with the Earl of Warwick
[v] The Duke of Burgundy’s sister
[vi] The Duke of Burgundy’s son and heir
[vii] The Duke of York installed himself as Edward IV on 4th March 1461, following a series of battles with the Lancastrian forces of King Henry VI
[viii] Jeanne was crippled and sterile, lame and very thin. The marriage was annulled in 1498 so that Louis could produce an heir to the throne.
[ix] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[x] Charles claimed that Francesca Sforza was having him poisoned over the dispute as to who should be Duke of Milan
[xi] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[xii] Having been accused of treasonous correspondence with England, following a dispute over feudal authority in Brittany
[xiii] Louis XI - Kendall