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Charles IX (June 27, 1550 – May 30, 1574) was a monarch of the House of Valois-Angoulême who ruled as King of France from 1560 until his death. He ascended the throne of France upon the death of his brother Francis II.
Childhood & Early Life Edit
Prince Charles Maximilian was born on June 27, 1550 at the Royal Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He was the third son & 5th child of King Henry II of France and Queen Catherine de' Medici, He was immediately created Duke of Orléans at birth, succeeding his older brother Louis, his parent's second son, who had died in infancy the year before. On May 14, 1564, Charles was presented the Order of the Garter by Henry Carey.
The Child King Edit
His father died in 1559, followed in December 1560 by his elder brother, King Francis II. The ten-year-old Charles was immediately proclaimed king and, on May 15, 1561, consecrated in the cathedral at Reims. The government was dominated by his mother, Catherine de' Medici, who at first acted as regent for her young son. Antoine of Bourbon, himself in line to the French throne and husband to Queen Joan III of Navarre, was appointed Lieutenant-General of France.
The Reign Charles IX Edit
Charles' reign was dominated by the French Wars of Religion, which pitted various factions against each other. The Huguenots, the French adherents of Calvinism, had a considerable following among the nobility, while their enemies, later organized into the Catholic League, were led by the House of Guise, a cadet branch of the House of Lorraine. Queen Catherine, though nominally a Catholic, tried to steer a middle course between the two factions, attempting to keep (or restore) the peace and augment royal power.
The factions had engaged in violence even before Charles' accession: a group of Huguenot nobles at Amboise had tried to abduct King Francis II and arrest the Catholic leaders Francis, Duke of Guise, and his brother Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, followed by cases of Protestant iconoclasm and Catholic reprisals. The regent Catherine tried to foster reconciliation at the Colloquy at Poissy and, after that failed, made several concessions to the Huguenots in the Edict of Saint-Germain in January 1562. Nonetheless, war broke out when some retainers of the House of Guise, hoping to avenge the attempt of Amboise, attacked and killed or wounded over 100 Huguenot worshipers in the Massacre of Vassy.
The Religious Wars Edit
The war was followed by four years of an uneasy "armed peace", during which Catherine tried to unite the factions in the successful effort to recapture Le Havre from the English. After this victory, Charles declared his legal majority in August 1563, formally ending the regency. However, Catherine would continue to play a principal role in politics and often dominated her son. In March 1564, the King and his mother set out from Fontainebleau on a grand tour of France. Their tour spanned two years and brought them through Bar, Lyon, Salon-de-Provence, Carcassonne, Toulouse (where the King and his younger brother Henry were confirmed), Bayonne, La Rochelle, and Moulins. During this trip, Charles IX issued the Edict of Roussillon, which standardized 1 January as the first day of the year throughout France.
War again broke out in 1567 after reports of iconoclasm in Flanders prompted Charles to support Catholics there. Huguenots, fearing a Catholic attack was imminent, tried to abduct the king at Meaux, seized various cities, and massacred Catholics at Nîmes in an action known as the Michelade. After the Battle of Saint-Denis saw both a Huguenot defeat and the death of the Anne de Montmorency, the royal commander-in-chief, the short war ended in 1568 with the Peace of Longjumeau. The privileges granted to Protestants were widely opposed, however, leading to their cancellation and the resumption of war, in which the Dutch Republic, England and Navarre intervened on the Protestant side, while Spain, Tuscany and Pope Pius V supported the Catholics. Finally, the royal debt and the King's desire to seek a peaceful solution in August 1570 led to yet another truce, the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which again granted concessions to the Huguenots.
On November 26, 1570 Charles married Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria (July 5, 1554 – January 22, 1592) a daughter of Maximilian II & Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria. They had 1 daughter:
- Princess Marie Elisabeth of Valois (October 27, 1572 – April 9, 1578)
Charles also had mistress Marie Touchet, she gave him a son:
- Charles de Valois, Duke of Angouleme (April 28, 1573 – September 24, 1650)
St. Bartholomew's Day massacre Edit
After the conclusion of the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1570, the king increasingly came under the influence of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, who had succeeded the slain Prince of Condé as leader of Huguenots after the Battle of Jarnac in 1569. Catherine, however, became increasingly fearful of Coligny's unchecked power, especially since he was pursuing an alliance with England and the Dutch. Coligny was also hated by Henry, Duke of Guise, who accused the Admiral of having ordered the assassination of his father Francis of Guise during the siege of Orléans in 1562. During the peace settlement, a marriage was arranged between Charles' sister Margaret of Valois and Henry of Navarre, the future King Henry IV, who was at that time heir to the throne of Navarre and one of the leading Huguenots. Many Huguenot nobles, including Admiral de Coligny, thronged into Paris for the wedding, which was set for August 18, 1572. On August 22, a failed attempt on Coligny's life put the city in a state of apprehension, as both visiting Huguenots and Parisian Catholics feared an attack by the other side.
In this situation, in the early morning August 24, 1572, the Duke of Guise moved to avenge his father and murdered Coligny in his lodgings. As Coligny's body was thrown into the street, Parisians mutilated the body. The mob action then erupted into the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, a systematic slaughter of Huguenots that was to last five days. Henry of Navarre managed to avoid death by pledging to convert to Catholicism. Over the next few weeks, the disorder spread to more cities across France. In all, up to 10,000 Huguenots were killed in Paris and the provinces.Though the massacres severely weakened Huguenot power, it also reignited war, which only ceased after the Edict of Boulogne in 1573 granted Huguenots amnesty and limited religious freedom. However, the year 1574 saw a failed Huguenot coup at Saint-Germain and successful Huguenot uprisings in Normandy, Poitou and the Rhône valley, setting the stage for another round of war.
Health decline & Death Edit
In the aftermath of the massacre, the king's fragile mental and physical constitution weakened drastically. His moods swung from boasting about the extremity of the massacre to exclamations that the screams of the murdered Huguenots kept ringing in his ears. Frantically, he blamed alternately himself – "What blood shed! What murders! he cried to his nurse. What evil counsel I have followed! O my God, forgive me... I am lost! I am lost!" – or his mother – "Who but you is the cause of all of this? God's blood, you are the cause of it all!" Catherine responded by declaring she had a lunatic for a son. Charles' physical condition, tending towards tuberculosis, deteriorated to the point where, by spring of 1574, his hoarse coughing turned bloody and his hemorrhages grew more violent.
On his last day, May 30, 1574, Charles called for Henry of Navarre, embraced him, and said, "Brother, you are losing a good friend. Had I believed all that I was told, you would not be alive. But I always loved you... I trust you alone to look after my wife and son. Pray God for me. Farewell." Charles IX died at the Château de Vincennes, aged 23. As his younger brother, Henry, Duke of Anjou, had recently been elected King of Poland and was away from France, their mother Catherine resumed the regency until Henry's return from Poland.
Charles is buried in the Basilica St. Denis, France with his parents & several of his siblings.