Charles VI of France Biography

King (1368–1422)
Charles VI, nicknamed "Charles the Mad," was king of France from 1380 to 1422—a period marked by political chaos and France's defeat by England at Agincourt.


Born on December 3, 1368, in Paris, France, Charles VI inherited the crown in 1380, at age 11, and took full control of the throne in 1388. Throughout his reign, Charles suffered from madness, leaving France in a state of political chaos—culminating in its defeat by England at Agincourt in 1415. When he died in Paris on October 21, 1422, Charles VI was succeeded by his son, Charles VII.


Early Years

Charles VI was born on December 3, 1368, in Paris, France, and on October 25, 1380, at the age of 11, he was crowned king of France. As a youth, Charles was seen as a promising future king: He was handsome and chivalrous, and he found success in various tournaments and military expeditions. His early reign was aided by his uncles and an administrative body they created called the Council of 12, which was led by Philip the Bold of Burgundy.

In 1385, through an arrangement made by Philip, Charles wed Isabeau of Bavaria. Three years later, Charles made the decision to rule France on his own. His uncles withdrew their influence, and the governmental members of Charles's father's reign, known as the Marmousets ("little old men"), were called back in and regained control on Charles's behalf.

The French government became busy under Charles's sole leadership; its structure was reorganized and reforms were soon under way. On the international front, in the winter of 1389, Charles went to Avignon and visited the antipope, Clement VII, and put forth the idea of Clement becoming pope and moving to Rome—a strategic step toward bolstering French power in Italy. King Richard II of England favored Boniface IX as the next pope, however, and this difference in opinion brought France and England together to negotiate both this papal issue and the ongoing 100 Years' War.

'Charles the Mad' emerges

In 1392, amidst peace negotiations with England, Charles VI was hunting when he developed a fever and began having convulsions—the first of what would be a string of 44 attacks, which would become exceedingly violent, often leading to the murder of those in Charles's proximity. These attacks would occur for the rest of Charles's life, each lasting for months at a time, with months-long periods of sanity interspersed.

With Charles's ongoing madness, his authority was greatly weakened, and the dukes of Burgundy and Orléans began jockeying for power. The peace negotiations begun years before between Charles and England's Richard II, however, finally resulted in a pact (1396) declaring what would be a 28-year truce between England and France, and securing Charles's reign for the next 26 years. The pact also arranged for the marriage of Richard to Charles's young daughter, Isabelle, who was only 6 years old at the time.


Charles VI died in Paris on October 21, 1422, less than two months after the death of England's Henry V. The infant son of Henry and Catherine was proclaimed king of France and England, but a son of Charles VI took the title of king of France as Charles VII.

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