French Royalty: The Valois (1328-1574)


Figure 1.--Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was called la Pucelle (the Maid) and has become the very symbol of the French nation. She was a peasant girl who was born at Domremy in Champagne, about 1412. Here she is pictured in a modern depiction at the coronation of Charles VII which she in large measure made possivle.

The Capetian Dynasty was followed by the Valois dynasty. The Valois ruled France from 1328-1589. This meant that the Valois rule from the late medieval era, through the Renaissance and into the modern era. The Valois found France a land divided among important feudal barons. Some provinces of France such as Burgandy and Anjou had power which rivaled that of the monarchy. Even more dangerous, they had ties and alliances to foreign powers. The Valois played a major role in the unification of France and the centralization of power in the monarchy. After the destructive Hundred Years War, the Valois gradually increased the authority of the Crown at the expense of the feudal barons. The Valois established the Crown's exclusive right to levy taxes and to wage war. The Valois also continued the development of basic national administrative institutions that had begun to appear under the Capetians. The Parlements (courts) which first appeared under the Capetians were extended by the Valois throughout to administer royal (national rather than feudal) justice.

Family Branches

The House of Valois was actually a branch of the Capetian family. The Valois descended from Charles of Valois, son of King Philip III. Philip had awarded his son the county of Valois (1285). Charles was never king himself, but his son and successor, Philip, count of Valois, became king of France as Philip VI (1328) launching the the Valois dynasty. The Valois dynasty had three three destinct lines: (1) the direct line, beginning with Philip VI (1328-1498). (2) The Valois-Orléans branch (1498-1515) which consisted of only Louis XII. Louis was the son of Charles, duc d'Orléans, a descendant of King Charles V. When the direct Valois line expired, Louis inherited the throne. (3) The Valois-Angoulême branch (1515-74), beginning with Francis I, son of Charles, count of Angoulême, another descendant of Charles V.

Individual Monarchs

The Valois dynasty was founded by Philip VI in 1328. Louis XI (1423-1483) was the eldest son of Charles VII and Marie d'Anjou. Louis was born in Bourges on July 3, 1423. His father's political prospects were at a low point. As a boy, he was brought in the desolate Loches castle. Louis did not get on well with his father. At Louis' birth the English controlled western Frabce and the Duke of Burgandy the north. Joan of Arc's appearance and a treaty with Burgandy helped expel the English. As Dauphin he was nomally responsible for Dauphiné. He became involuntarily involved in a plot against his father an eventually had to flee France. His reign was mixed, but he undeniably strengthed what was a weak monarchy. Louis XII (1498-1515) was one of the kings who worked with Cardinal Richelieu, the villian in the The Three Muskateers. He was at the time styled "Father of His People". Modern historians have been less kind who described him as prematurely aged, sickely, and with a medicore intelligence. Louis was born at Blois on June 27, 1462. He was the son of Charles, Duke of Orleans and Charles and Mary of Cleeces. He experienced a stormy youth. He had to marry Jeanne (Joan) of France, the pious but ugly daughter of Louis XI in 1476.

Philippe VI, the Fortunate (1328-50)

The Valois dynasty were descendants of Charles of Valois who the second son of Capetian King Philip III. The dynasty was founded by Philip VI in 1328. Philip and the other early Valois kings were occupied primarily with the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) which broke out with England. The Valois found France a land divided among important Feudal barons. Some provinces of France such as Burgandy and Anjou had power which rivaled that of the monarchy. Even more dangerous, they had ties and alliances to foreign powers. The English achieved considerable battlefield victories anf at times controlled much of France. The momarchy was also challenged by the Armagnac and Burgundian factions.

Jean II, the Good (1350-64)


Charles V, the Wise (1364-80)


Charles VI, the Well-Beloved (1380-1422)

Charles VI was the son of Charles V. He ascended to the throne (1380). French King Charles VI experienced periodic episodes of insanity. France lapsed into civil war between the houses of Burgandy and Orléans over control of the regency. Louis of Orleans served as regent for Charles. Louis was murdered (1407). The Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville was put in charge of the investigation and becomes one of history's first dectatives. [Jager] English King Henry V seeing the opportunity to regain lost territory decided to use the opportunity afforded by civil war to reasserted his claim and renewed the War (1414). Henry invaded France by first capturing Harfleur. Then in one of the great battles of the age, with a numerically inferior force, Henry defeated a massive French force in the Battle of Agincourt (1415). The French assembled a seemingly unstopable force of heavy calvalry. The stunning English victory has been attributed variously to the choice of terrain, the English long bow, and the muddy ground--probably all important factors. What is not questioned is that the flower of French aristocracy died at Agincourt. The French army was not meerly defeated. It was desimated.

Charles VII, the Victorius (1422-61)

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was called la Pucelle (the Maid) and has become the very symbol of the French nation. She was a peasant girl who was born at Domremy in Champagne, about 1412. The village was loyal to the French king. Domremy was part of the territory of the Duke of Burgandy. The Burgundians were nominal subjects of the French kings, but who allied with the English, desiring to set up an independent kingdom. At age 13 in the summer of 1425, Joan became conscious of supernatural manifestations, whose she came to call her "voices" or "counsel." Joan carrying an ancient sword entered Orléans on April 30, 1429 which had been threatened by the Burgundians and English. Her presence changed the course of the fighting. Within a few days, English encircling the city were captured and the siege ended. A campaign was launched in the Loire ending on June 18 with a great victory at Patay, where English reinforcements were routed. Jean led forces which took Reims and on July 17, 1429, King Charles VII was solemnly crowned, Joan standing by with her standard. She was eventually captured and burned at the stake by the English in 1431. Charles managed to reverse the gains the English had made in the Hundred Years War and began the effort of restoring royal power.

Louis XI (1461-83)

Louis XI (1423-1483) was the eldest son of Charles VII and Marie d'Anjou. Louis was born in Bourges on July 3, 1423. His father's political prospects were at a low point. As a boy, he was brought up in the desolate Loches castle. Louis did not get on well with his father. At Louis' birth the English controlled western Frabce and the Duke of Burgandy the north. Joan of Arc's appearance and a treaty with Burgandy helped expel the English. As Dauphin he was nomally responsible for Dauphiné. He became involuntarily involved in a plot against his father an eventually had to flee France. His reign was mixed, but he undeniably strengthed what was a weak monarchy. He died in 1483 when his son Charles was still quite young.

Charles VIII, the Affable (1483-98)

Charles was born in 1470. His father died when he was only about 13 years old. For a time the regency was ocerseen by his sister, Anne de France. France had fought bitter wars with England. With the reign of Charles, France's focus turned south. Divided Italy was a magnent to the major European powers. Aragon (Spain) had seized southern Italy (Naples and Sicily). The growing power of the French monarchy enabled Charles VIII to launch the ultimately failed Italian wars of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Ludovicio il Moro, Duke of Milan, help induce Charles to claim the throne of Naples. (This effort was continued by Louis XII and Francis I.) The effort was blocked by the Holy Alliance organized by Pope Alexander and Imperial (Spanish troops). This series of wars marked the start of Valois rivalry with the Habsburgs (ruling house of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire). This rivalry persisted until the French Revolution. Notably the Italian Wars initiated by Charles occurred at a time that Spain and Portugal were beginning to create vast colonial empires. Had France focused on maritime emire rather than intractable wars in Italy, modern history might have been quite different.

Louis XII, the Father of His People (1498-1515)

The Valois-Orléans branch (1498-1515) which consisted of only Louis XII. Louis was the son of Charles, duc d'Orléans, a descendant of King Charles V. When the direct Valois line expired, Louis inherited the throne. Louis XII (1498-1515) was one of the kings who worked with Cardinal Richelieu, the villian in the The Three Muskateers. He was at the time styled "Father of His People". Modern historians have been less kind who described him as prematurely aged, sickely, and with a medicore intelligence. Louis was born at Blois on June 27, 1462. He was the son of Charles, Duke of Orleans and Charles and Mary of Cleeces. He experienced a stormy youth. He had to marry Jeanne (Joan) of France, the pious but ugly daughter of Louis XI in 1476.

François I (1515-1547)

Francis was one of the great kings of France. He reigned during the Renaissance and vied with Emperor Charles V and English King Henry VIII. With the Hapsburgs controlling both Germany and Spain, Francis was concerned about being surounded and overwealmed. This concern caused him to deal with both the Turks to the east and the Protestants in Germany. Had Francis joined in the Counter Reformation it is likely that Charles V could have crushed the Protestants and perhaps unified the Holy Roman Empire (Germay). A united Empire allied with Spain was not in France's best interst so Francis supported German Protestants.

Henri II (1547-59

Henry II arried into Italy's most famous Italian family--the Medici when he married Catherine de Medici. Catherine was the daughter of Lorenzo de Medici, duke of Urbino, and Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, a Bourbon princess related to many of the French nobility. King Henry and Queen Catherine had 10 children, only one of whom did not survive. Three of their sons became king of France (François II, Charles IX and Henri III).

François II (1559-60)

Francis II was born in Fontainbleau during 1544. He was the son of Henry II and Catherine de Medici. He was was married to Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary of course married Lord Darnley after she had returned from France to Scotland as a young widow. Their son became King James I of England. Frances was neither healthy or intelligent. He was used as an instrument of his uncles (François of Loraine, Duc de Guise, and Charles Cardinal of Loraine) in their political itrigues. He was only 14 when he married Mary and he died as a teenager. Frances became king in 1559 when his father died. He was boy king of France. He only reigned for about a year. His mother Catherine de Medici served as regent.

Catherine de Medici (Regent) (1560-63)


Charles IX (1560-74)

The Wars of Religion (1562-98) weakened the power of the last Valois kings. Militant Catholics were intent on destroying Protestantism in France and the Proestants resisted militarily. Roman Catholic and Protestant factions dominated politics during this period. Charles succeeded his sickly brother François II who reigned only a few months. He came to a throne at an even younger age than Francis. Charles was only 10 years old. His mother Catherine de Midici served as regent. Charles IX also not strong physically. He also was easily led by his mother an advisers. Ctherine decided to end The Third War of Religion and ad Charles sign the peace of Saint-Germain which granted freedom of worship to the Huguenots and allowed them several fortified towns, including La Rochelle (1570). France next fought an undeclared war with Spain in Flanders where support was given the Protestants. Catherine was, however determined to destroy the Huguenots in France. Paris had a substantial Protestant population and many more came to Paris to attend the wedding of Henry of Navarre. Catherine and Prince Henry conspired to massacre the Huguenots, especially the Huguenot leaders. The attack on the Huguenots took place on Saint-Barthélemy Day (1572). Throughout his reign, Charles endured the clear preference of Catherine for his younger brother Henry. Charles was pleased when Henry left to become king of Poland, but died soon after.

Henri III (1574-89)

Henry III was the youngest of the three brothers, sons of King Henri II and Queen Catherine de Medici. He was Catherine's favorite son. Henri was born in Fontainebleau during 1551. As a chilkd he was awarded the title Duc d'Anjou. He participated in the military campaign against the Huguenots and played a role in the victories at Jarnac and Moncontour (1569). He conspired with his mother to stage the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre (1572). He was subsequently elected King of Poland (1573), but returned to France on the death if his brother Charles to become king of France (1574). The War of Religion persisted during his reign. After the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre little compromise was possible or could credence be given to any assurances from the Crown. The kings brother the Duc d'Alençon joined the Huguenots and after much fighting, Henri was compeled to reach a peace with the Huguenots--the Peace of Beaulieu (1576). This conferred privilges to the Huguenots and was confirmed by edict of Bergerac (1577). Henri was the last of the Valois. He attempted to prevent the succession of Henry of Navarre because he was a Protestant. On his death he was succeeded by Henry and the new Bourbon dynasty-- another branch of the Capetians.

Sources

Jager, Eric. A tue Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris (2014), 336p.







HBRC








Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site royal pages:
[Return to the Main French royal pages]
[Return to the Main royal pages]
[Austria] [Belgium] [Denmark] [France] [Germany] [German states] [Italy] [Luxembourg]
[Monaco] [Netherlands] [Norway] [Romania] [Russia] [Spain] [United Kingdom]





Created: May 20, 2004
Last updated: 2:47 AM 3/3/2014