The Valois Dynasty succeeded the Capetian Dynasty as rulers of France from 1328-1589 C.E. They were descendants of Charles of Valois, the second son of King Philip III of France.
Philippe VI, the Fortunate 1328-1350
Philippe VI, the Fortunate, (1293 - August 22, 1350) was King of France from 1328 to 1350. He was the son of Charles of Valois and would become the first king of the Valois Dynasty.
In 1328, King Charles IV of France died without a direct descendant. Philippe was one of the two chief claimants to the throne along with King Edward III of England whose mother, Isabella of France, was the late King Charles' sister. Philippe ascended to the crown based on Salic law which forbade females and those descended in the female line to succeed to the throne. He was crowned on May 27, 1328 at the Cathedral in Reims.
In July, 1313, Philippe VI married Jeanne of Burgundy. In an ironic twist to his ascendancy to the throne, the intelligent, strong-willed Jeanne was said to be the brains behind the throne and the real ruler of France.
Their children were:
Jean II (April 26, 1319 - April 8, 1364)
Marie (1326 - 1333)
Louis (January 17, 1328 - January 17, 1328)
Louis (June 8, 1330 - June 23, 1330)
Jean (1333 - 1333)
Philippe (1336 - 1375)
Jeanne (1337 - 1337)
After Jeanne died in 1348, Philippe VI married Blanche d'Evreux on January 11, 1350. They had one daughter: Jeanne (1351 - 1371).
The reign of Philippe VI was punctuated with crises, many of which were the result of defeats on the battlefield, in particular at the Battle of l'Ecluse in 1340 and again at Crécy in 1346. In 1348 the bubonic plague struck, killing one-third of the entire population. The labor shortage caused inflation to soar and the king attempted to fix prices, further de-stabilizing the country. On his death, France was still very much a divided country filled with social unrest.
King Philippe VI died at Nogent-le-roi, Eure-et-Loir on August 22, 1350 and is interred with his wife, Blanche de Navarre (1330 - 1398) in Saint Denis Basilica. He was succeeded by the son of Jeanne of Burgundy, Jean II.
Jean II the Good (Jean le Bon) (April 16, 1319 - April 8, 1364) was a King of France (1350 - 1364) and a member of the Valois Dynasty. He was the son of Philippe VI of France and Jeanne of Burgundy.
On July 28, 1332, at the age of 13, he was married to Bona (Bonne) of Luxemburg (May 20, 1315 - September 11, 1349), daughter of John the Blind of Luxemburg, king of Bohemia.
Their children were:
1) Charles V le Sage (January 21, 1338 - September 16, 1380)
2) Philippe II (January 17, 1342 - April 27, 1404)
3) Jeanne (June 24, 1343 - November 3, 1373)
4) Louis (July 23, 1339 - September 20, 1389)
5) Isabelle (October 1, 1348 - September 11, 1372)
6) Jean de Berry (November 30, 1340 - June 15, 1416)
7) Marie (September 12, 1344 - October, 1404)
8) Agnès (1345 - 1349)
9) Marguerite (1347 - 1352)
He was crowned King of France in 1350 in the cathedral at Reims. As king, Jean surrounded himself with poor administrators, preferring to enjoy the good life his wealth as king brought. The men he relied on to administer his kingdom were brutal thieves but eventually King Jean changed.
In the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 against Edward, the Black Prince (son of King Edward III of England), Jean suffered a humiliating defeat and was taken as captive back to England. While negotiating a peace accord, he was at first held in the Savoy Palace, then at Windsor, Hertford, Somerton Castle in Lincolnshire and finally in the Tower of London. As a prisoner of the English, the King of France was granted royal privileges, permitted to travel about, and to enjoy a regal lifestyle. A local tradition in St Albans is that he was also held in a house in that town, at the site of the 15th century Fleur de Lys inn, before he was taken to Hertford Castle. There is a sign on the inn to that effect, but apparently no evidence to confirm the tradition  (http://www.salbani.co.uk/Med%20Web/market_place.htm).
The treaty of Brétigny signed in 1360 set his ransom at 3,000,000 crowns. In keeping with the honor between himself and the English King Edward III, and leaving his son Louis of Anjou in English-held Calais as a replacement hostage, Jean was allowed to return to France to raise the his ransom funds.
While King Jean tried to raise the money, his son, accorded the same royal dignity, easily escaped from the English. An angry King Jean, believing his son had broken royal honor, and unable to raise his ransom, surrendered himself again to the English. He arrived in England in early 1364, looked upon by ordinary citizens and English royalty alike with great admiration. Accordingly, he was held as an honored prisoner in the Savoy Palace but died a few months later.
King Jean died in London in 1364 and his body was returned to France, where he was interred in the royal chambers at Saint Denis Basilica.
Charles V, the Wise 1364-1380
Charles V (January 31, 1338 - September 16, 1380), called the Wise, was king of France (1364 to 1380) and a member of the Valois Dynasty.
Born at Vincennes, Ile-de-France, France, son of King Jean II and Bonne of Luxembourg.
He was the first French heir to use the title dauphin after the region of Dauphine was acquired by his father. He was crowned King of France in 1364 at the cathedral at Reims, France.
His reign was marred by the Hundred Years' War, but Charles' army scored some victories and defeated the army of the King of Navarre. Despite the influence of his advisor, Philippe de Mézières, he declined to be drawn into a crusade. Nonetheless, dissatisfaction with his rule was such that at one point the Mayor of Paris, Etienne Marcel, led a revolt against Charles that forced the king to flee the city.
This matter was resolved but to protect Paris from the English, Charles V rebuilt the Left Bank wall and built a new wall on the Right Bank that extended to a new fortification called the Bastille. A strong supporter of the arts, Charles had the Louvre restored and improved and in 1367 created the first royal library in France.
Charles V died on September 16, 1380 at Beauté-sur-Marne, France and was interred with his wife, Jeanne de Bourbon in Saint Denis Basilica
Charles VI, the Well-Beloved 1380-1422
Charles VI (December 3, 1368 - October 21, 1422) was a King of France (1380 - 1422) and a member of the Valois Dynasty.
He was born in Paris, the son of King Charles V and Jeanne de Bourbon. At the age of eleven, he was crowned King of France in 1380 in the cathedral at Reims. Until he took complete charge as king in 1388, France was run by his uncle, Philip the Bold.
Charles VI was known both as Charles the Mad and as Charles the Well Beloved, since, beginning in his mid twenties, he experienced bouts of psychosis. These fits of madness would occur periodically for the rest of his life. Doctors today believe, based on his ups and downs, that he may in fact have suffered from bipolar disorder.
1) Isabeau de Bavière (1371-September 24, 1435) on July 17, 1385.
1) Charles (September 26, 1386 - December 28, 1386)
2) Jeanne (June 14, 1388 - 1390)
3) Isabella of Valois (November 09, 1389 - September 13, 1409), married Richard II of England
4) Jeanne (January 24, 1391 - September 27, 1433), married John VI, Duke of Brittany
5) Charles (February 06, 1392 - January 13, 1401)
6) Marie (August 24, 1393 - August 19, 1438), an abbess
7) Michèle (January 11, 1395 - July 08, 1422)
8) Louis, Duke of Guyenne (January 22, 1396 - December 18, 1415), married Marguerite of Burgundy
9) Jean, Duke of Touraine (August 31, 1398 - April 04, 1417), married Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut
10) Catherine (October 27, 1401 - January 03, 1437), married Henry V of England and Owen Tudor
11) king Charles VII (February 22, 1403 - July 21, 1461)
12) Philippe (November 10, 1407 - November 10, 1407)
Charles VI's reign was marked by the continuing war with the English (the Hundred Years' War), culminating in 1415 when the French army was defeated at the Battle of Agincourt. In 1420, Charles signed the Treaty of Troyes which recognized Henry V of England as his successor and meant his own son could not succeed him. Many citizens, including Joan of Arc, believed that the king only agreed to such disastrous and unprecedented terms, under the mental stress of his illness and that as a result France could not be held to them.
Charles VI died in 1422 at Paris and is interred with his wife, Isabeau de Bavière in Saint Denis Basilica.
Charles VII, the Victortius 1422-1461
Charles VII (February 22, 1403 - July 22, 1461) was king of France from 1422 to 1461, a member of the Valois Dynasty.
Born in Paris, Charles was the eldest surviving son of Charles VI of France and Isabeau de Bavière. On the death of his father in 1422, the French throne did not pass to Charles but to his infant nephew, King Henry VI of England in accordance with his father's Treaty of Troyes signed in 1420. The English right to the throne of France was part of the Treaty in an effort to put an end to the war that had been raging for decades. Under the Treaty, King Henry of England ruled Northern France through a regent in Normandy and southern France by the Dauphin Charles from his fortified castle at Chinon.
Without any organized French army, the English strengthened their grip over France until March 8, 1429 when Joan of Arc, claiming divine inspiration, urged Charles to declare himself king and raise an army to liberate France from the English.
One of the important factors that aided in the ultimate success of Charles VII wasthe support from the powerful and wealthy family of his wife Marie d'Anjou (1404-1463). Despite whatever affection he had for his wife, the great love of Charles VII's life, was his mistress, Agnès Sorel.
After the French won the Battle of Patay, Charles was crowned king Charles VII of France on July 17, 1429, in Reims Cathedral. Following this, king Charles VII recaptured Paris from the English and eventually all of France with the exception of the northern port of Calais.
While Charles VII's legacy is far overshadowed by the deeds and eventual martyrdom of Joan of Arc, he did something his predecessors had failed to do by creating a strong army and uniting most of the country under one French king. He established the University of Poitiers in 1432 and his policies brought some economic prosperity to the citizens. Although his leadership was sometimes marked by indecisiveness, hardly any other leader left a nation so much better improved than when he came on the scene.
King Charles VII died on July 22, 1461 at Mehun-sur-Yèvre, but his latter years were marked by an open revolt by his son who succeeded him as Louis XI.
Louis XI (July 3, 1423 - August 30, 1483) was a King of France (1461 - 1483). He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou. He was a member of the Valois Dynasty and was one of the most successful kings of France in terms of uniting the country. His 22-year reign was marked by political machinations, resulting in his being given the nickname of the "Spider King".
Born at Bourges, Cher, Louis despised his father and attempted to depose him on several occasions. However, it was only on his father's death in 1461 that he was able to take the throne.
His marriage on June 24, 1436 to Margaret, daughter of King James I of Scotland, gave Louis XI an interest in English affairs, and he schemed to restore King Henry VI of England and his Lancastrian heir to the throne - partly because his arch-enemy, Charles the Bold of Burgundy was allied with the Yorkists. Louis gained the upper hand in his feud with Charles, and brought about his death in 1477. A candid account of some of Louis' activities is given by the courtier, Philippe de Commines, in his Memoires of the period.
King Louis XI married strategically a second time on February 14, 1451 to eight-year-old Charlotte of Savoy (1445- December 1, 1483). Their marriage would not be consummated until she was fourteen and their children were:
Anne (April, 1461 - November 14, 1522)
Jeanne (April 23, 1464 - February 4, 1505)
Charles VIII (June 30, 1470 - April 8, 1498)
By war, by cunning and with sheer guile, Louis XI overcame France's feudal lords and at the time of his death in the chateau at Plessis-lez-Tours, he had united France and laid the foundations of a strong monarchy.
Louis XI was a superstitious man who surrounded himself with astrologers. Interested in science, he once pardoned a man sentenced to death on condition that he serve as a guinea pig in a gallstone operation.
Charles VIII , the Affable 1483-1498
On December 6, 1491 Charles married Anne de Bretagne, heiress to the duchy of Brittany, in an elaborate ceremony at Chateau Langeais. The fifteen-year-old Duchesse Anne, not happy with the politically arranged marriage, arrived for her wedding with her entourage carrying two beds. However, Charles's marriage brought him independence from his relatives, and thereafter he managed affairs according to his own inclinations. Queen Anne would live at the Clos Lucé in Amboise.
Having inherited a vague claim to the kingdom of Naples through his paternal grandmother, Marie of Anjou (1404 - 1463), and encouraged by Ludovico Sforza of Milan, he imagined himself capable of seizing that realm, and he thereupon set France's resources toward that goal - starting the Italian Wars. He contracted several unfavourable treaties with Austria, England, and Aragon, in order to free himself of distractions, and then commenced a massive buildup of forces.
He entered Italy in 1494, and marched across the peninsula, reaching Naples on February 22, 1495. Crowned king of Naples, he then found himself the subject of an opposing coalition from the League of Venice, involving that republic with Austria, the Papacy, and Ludovico Sforza of Milan. Defeated at Fornovo in July 1495, he escaped to France at the cost of the loss of most of his forces.
He attempted in the next few years to rebuild his army, but was hampered by the serious debts incurred by the previous one - he never succeeded in recouping anything substantive. He died two-and-a-half years after his retreat, of an accident - striking himself on the head while passing through a doorway, he succumbed to a sudden coma several hours later.
Charles bequeathed a meagre legacy - he left France in debt and in disarray as a result of an ambition most charitably characterized as unrealistic. On a more positive side, his expedition did broach contacts between French and Italian humanists, energizing French art and letters in the latter Renaissance.
Charles proved the last of the elder branch of the House of Valois, and upon his death at Amboise the throne passed to a cousin, the duc d'Orleans, who reigned as King Louis XII of France.
Louis XII, the Father of His People 1498-1515
Louis XII, father of the people (June 27, 1462 - January 1, 1515) was King of France from 1498-1515, the last French king from the Orleanist branch of the Valois Dynasty.
Born Louis d'Orléans in the Royal Chateau Blois on June 27, 1462, son of Charles, duc d'Orleans, Louis was required by royal command to marry Jeanne, the daughter of his second cousin King Louis XI.
Later, he was part of a rebellion against King Charles VIII of France and was imprisoned from 1487 to 1490. After regaining the King's trust, he led some troops in Charles' invasion of Italy. He ascended to the throne when Charles VIII died childless; Louis had the Pope annul the marriage to Jeanne so that he could marry Charles' widow, Queen Anne de Bretagne (1477-1514). This marriage had nothing to do with love, but was a strategy designed to securely link her region of Brittany to Louis' kingdom of France.
Louis XII proved to be a popular king, introducing reforms in the judicial system and reducing taxes. These reforms and his caring nature earned him the epithet Father of the People. However, like his predecessor, he led several invasions of Italy. He successfully secured Milan in 1500, and then partitioned the Kingdom of Naples with Ferdinand of Aragon.
Soon the two partitioning powers fell out with one another, and Spanish forces led by Hernandez Gonzalo de Cordoba drove the French from Southern Italy. The French grip on Milan remained strong, however, until 1511 when Pope Julius II formed the Holy League to oppose French ambition in Italy. The French were driven from Milan by the Swiss in 1513. In an attempt to divert English troops from the war, he encouraged the Scots to attack the English, leading the Scots to disaster at the Battle of Flodden Field.
After his wife Anne's death in 1514, a deal was struck with King Henry VIII of England, and 52-year-old King Louis married King Henry's 18-year-old sister, Mary Tudor (1496-1533), on October 9, 1514.
Less than three months later, Louis XII died on January 1, 1515 and was interred in Saint Denis Basilica.
Francis I (François I in French) (September 12, 1494 - July 31, 1547) was crowned King of France in 1515 in the cathedral at Reims and reigned until 1547.
Francis I, a member of the Valois Dynasty, was born at Cognac, Charente, the son of Charles d'Angoulême (1459 - January 1, 1496) and Louise of Savoy (September 11, 1476 - September 22, 1531).
Francis is considered to be France's first Renaissance monarch. His reign saw France make immense cultural advances. He was a contemporary of King Henry VIII of England, his great rival.
When young Francis ascended the throne in 1515 he was a king with unprecedented humanist credentials. While his two predecessors, Charles VIII and Louis XII, had spent much of their reigns concerned with Italy they did not much embrace the new intellectual movements coming out of it.
Both monarchs continued in the same patterns of behaviour that had dominated the French monarchy for centuries. They were the last of the medieval French monarchs, but they did lay the groundwork for the entry of the Renaissance into France.
Contact between the French and Italians in the long running series of wars under Charles and Louis had brought new ideas to France by the time the young Francis was receiving his education. Thus a number of his tutors, such as Desmoulins, his Latin instructor, and Christophe de Longeuil were schooled in the new ways of thinking and they attempted to imbue Francis with it.
Francis' mother also had a great interest in Renaissance art, which she passed down to her son. One certainly cannot say that Francis received a humanist education; most of his teachers had not yet been affected by the Renaissance. One can, however, state that he clearly received an education more oriented towards humanism than any previous French king.
By the time Francis ascended the throne in 1515 the Renaissance had clearly arrived in France, and Francis was an important supporter of the change. Francis became a major patron of the arts. He lent his support to many of the greatest artists of his time and encouraged them to come to France.
Some did work for him, including such greats as Andrea del Sarto, and Leonardo da Vinci, who Francis convinced to leave Italy in the last and least productive part of his life. While Leonardo did little painting in his years in France, he brought with him many of his great works, such as the Mona Lisa, and these stayed in France upon his death.
Other major artists who Francis employed include the goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, and the painters Rosso and Primaticcio, all of whom were heavily employed in decorating Francis' various palaces. Francis employed a number of agents in Italy who endeavoured to procure artworks by Italian masters such as Michelangelo, Titian, and Raphael and ship them to France.
These agents had some notable successes, even if plans to try to move Leonardo's Last Supper to France proved impractical. When Francis ascended the throne the royal palaces were decorated with only a scattering of great paintings, and not a single piece of sculpture either ancient or modern. It is during Francis' reign that the magnificent art collection of the French kings that can still be seen in the Louvre was truly begun.
Francis was also renowned as a man of letters. When Francis comes up in a conversation among characters in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, it is as the great hope to bring culture to the war-obsessed French nation. Not only did Francis support a number of major writers of the period, he was a poet himself, if not one of immense quality. Francis worked hard at improving the royal library.
He appointed the great French humanist Guillaume Budé as chief librarian, and began to expand the collection. Francis employed agents in Italy looking for rare books and manuscripts, just as he had looking for art works. During his reign the size of the library increased greatly. Not only did Francis expand the library, there is also, according to Knecht, evidence that he read the books he bought for it, a much rarer feat in the royal annals. Francis set an important precedent by opening his library to scholars from around the world in order to facilitate the diffusion of knowledge.
Francis was an impressive builder and he poured vast amounts of money into new structures. He continued the work of his predecessors on the Château d'Amboise and also started renovations on the Royal Château de Blois. Early in his reign he also began construction of the magnificent Château de Chambord, very obviously inspired by the styles of the Italian renaissance, and perhaps even designed by Leonardo.
Francis rebuilt the Louvre, turning it from a gloomy medieval fortress into a building of renaissance splendour. Francis financed the building of a new City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) for Paris in order to have control over the building's design. He constructed the Château de Madrid and rebuilt the Château de St-Germain-en-Laye. The largest of Francis' building projects was the reconstruction and expansion of Royal Château of Fontainebleau, which quickly became his favourite place of residence. Each of Francis' projects was luxuriously decorated both inside and outside. Fontainebleau, for instance, had a gushing fountain in its courtyard where quantities of wine were mixed with the water.
Militarily and politically, Francis' reign was less successful; he tried and failed to become Holy Roman Emperor, and pursued a series of wars in Italy - see Italian Wars. His most devastating defeat occurred at the Battle of Pavia where he was captured by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Francis was held captive in Madrid and forced to make major concessions to Charles before he was freed. Upon his return to France, however, Francis argued that his agreement with Charles was made under duress and he repudiated it.
As King, in 1524, he assisted the citizens of Lyon to finance the expedition of Giovanni da Verrazano to North America; on this expedition, Verrazano claimed Newfoundland for the French crown. In 1534, he sent Jacques Cartier to explore the St. Lawrence River in Quebec to find certaines îles et pays où l'on dit qu'il se doit trouver grande quantité d'or et autres riches choses ("certain islands and lands where it is said there are great quantities of gold and other riches").
In his castle in Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne, in 1539, Francis signed the edict which made French the administrative language instead of Latin. The same edict required priests to register births and establish a registry office.
An important change Francis brought to European history was that he came to an understanding with the Ottoman Turks. No formal treaties with the 'infidels' were signed, but high-level meetings between the two powers let them collude against Charles V, and in 1543 the two powers even combined for a joint naval assault on Nice.
While Francis left France strewn with magnificent palaces he caused severe harm to the nation's economic well-being in order to do so. In his old age Louis XII worried that Francis, his successor, "would spoil everything." Francis' father-in-law had left France in good shape with the monarchy ascendant over the feudal lords and the economy prospering. While Francis continued to strengthen the crown he succeeded in undermining the nation's economy. Palaces were extremely expensive, as were wars against the Hapsburgs.
To pay for these efforts Francis undermined the nation's fiscal security. Taxes went up: the taille, the tax on peasants, more than doubled, while the gabelle, the salt tax, was tripled. Francis also used new ways to raise revenues. He sold many of the crown jewels and began alienating crown lands, disposing of important liquid assets. Francis also began the process of selling offices for quick revenue. While he did not practice the selling of offices extensively he did begin the trend that would eventually undermine the entire French government.
The amorous exploits of François inspired the 1832 play by Victor Hugo (1802-1885), Le Roi s'amuse (The King Enjoys Himself), in turn inspiring the 1851 opera of Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901), Rigoletto.
François' older sister, Marguerite (1492 - 1549), Queen of Navarre, wrote the classic, Heptameron.
François' legacy is a mixed one. He achieved great cultural feats, but they came at the expense of France's economic well being.
François I died at the Chateau Rambouillet and is interred with his first wife, Claude de France, Duchess of Bretagne, in Saint Denis Basilica.
Henry II (Henri II in French) (March 31, 1519 - July 10, 1559), a member of the Valois Dynasty, was King of France from 1547 to his death.
Born in the Royal Château at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, the son of François I and Claude de France, his marriage was arranged to Catherine de Medici (April 13, 1519 - January 5, 1589) on October 28, 1533 when both were 14 years old. His long-running affair with Diane de Poitiers lasted throughout his married life.
He was crowned King on July 25, 1547 in the cathedral at Reims. His reign was marked by wars with Austria, and the persecution of the Protestant Huguenots. Henri II severely punished them, burning them alive or cutting out their tongues for speaking their Protestant beliefs. Even someone suspected of being a Huguenot was imprisoned for life.
Henry II was an avid hunter and participant in jousting tournaments. On July 1, 1559, during a match to celebrate a peace treaty with his longtime enemies, the Hapsburgs of Austria and to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to King Philip II of Spain, King Henry's eye was pierced by a sliver that penetrated the brain, from the shattered lance of Gabriel Montgomery, captain of the King's Scottish Guard. He suffered terribly, passing away on July 10, 1559 and was buried in a cadaver tomb in Saint Denis Basilica.
He was succeeded by his son, François II. Henri II's death resulted in the next forty years in France being filled with turbulence as his sons and other claimants to the French crown fought for power.
Francis II (François II in French) (January 19, 1544 - December 5, 1560) was a King of France (1559 - 1560). He was born at the Royal Chateau at Fontainbleau, Seine-et-Marne, the son of Henri II (March 31, 1519 - July 10, 1559) and Catherine de Medici (April 13, 1519 - January 5, 1589).
His marriage to Mary Stuart was arranged by his father in 1548 when François was 4 years old after Mary had been crowned Queen of Scotland in Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543, at the age of nine months old. Once the marriage agreement had been formally ratified, in 1548, Mary of Guise, Regent of Scotland, sent her six-year-old daughter, Queen Mary, to France to be raised in the Royal Court until the marriage.
On April 24, 1558, the 14-year-old Dauphin was married to Mary Stuart (later Mary, Queen of Scots) in a union that would give the future King of France the throne of Scotland and a strengthened claim to the throne of England. A year after his marriage, his father Henri II died, and François, still only 15 years old, was crowned King. His mother Catherine de Medici was appointed Regent, but it is considered that Mary's uncles François de Guise and Charles de Guise may actually have been the ones to hold the power in that period.
François II, who had always been a sickly child, died December 5, 1560 in Orléans, Loiret, at the age of 16 when an ear infection worsened and caused an abscess in his brain. King François II is buried in Saint Denis Basilica.
He was succeeded by his brother, Charles IX (June 27, 1550 - May 30, 1574).
Catherine de Medici (Regent) -- 1560-1563
Caterina di Lorenzo de' Medici (April 13, 1519 - January 5, 1589), (French: Catherine de Médicis) (English: Catherine de' Medici) was queen of France, wife of one Valois king and mother of three. Born in Florence, Italy, she was a daughter of Lorenzo II de' Medici and a French princess, Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne. Having lost both her parents at an early age, Catherine was sent to a convent to be educated; she was only fourteen when she was married (1533), at Marseilles, to the duke of Orléans, who would become King Henry II of France.
It was her uncle, Pope Clement VII, who arranged that marriage with Henry's father Francis I of France. Francis, still engaged in his lifelong struggle against Charles V, was only too glad of the opportunity to strengthen his influence in the Italian peninsula, while Clement, ever needful of help against his too powerful protector, was equally ready to hold out some bait.
During the reign of Francis, Catherine exercised little influence in France. She was young, a foreigner, in a country that had little weight in the great world of politics, of unproven ability, and over-shadowed by more important persons. For ten years after her marriage, she had no children. In consequence, whispers of a divorce began at court, and it seemed possible that Francis, alarmed at the possible extinction of his royal house, would listen to such a proposal. But Catherine did produce children, and Francis lived long enough to see his grandchildren before he died.
During the reign of her husband (1547-1559), Catherine lived a quiet and passive life but observed what was going on. Henry being completely under the influence of his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine had little authority. In 1552, when the king left the kingdom for the campaign of Metz, she was nominated regent, but with very limited powers.
This continued even after the accession of her sickly son Francis II of France at age 15. His wife, Mary, Queen of Scots, little disposed to meddle with politics on her own account, was managed by her uncles, the cardinal of Lorraine and the duke of Guise. The queen-mother, however, soon grew weary of the domination of the Guises, and entered upon a course of secret opposition. On April 1, 1560 she named as chancellor Michel de l'Hôpital, who advocated a policy of conciliation.
Catherine unwittingly had vast influence on fashions for the next 350 years when she enforced a ban on thick waists at court attendance during the 1550s. For nearly 350 years, women's primary means of support was the corset, with laces and stays made of whalebone or metal. They forcefully shrank women's waists from their natural dimensions to as little as 17, 15, or even fewer inches.
On the death of Francis (5 December 1560), Catherine became regent during the minority of her second son, Charles IX of France, and found before her a career worthy of the most soaring ambition. She was then forty-one years old, but, although she was the mother of nine children, she was still vigorous and active. She retained her influence for more than twenty years in the troubled period of the French Wars of Religion. At first she listened to the moderate counsels of l'Hôpital to avoid siding definitely with either party, but her character and the habits of policy to which she had been accustomed tended to be at odds with this stance. She was zealous in the interests of her children, especially of her favourite third son, the duke of Anjou.
Like many of that time, she looked upon statesmanship in particular as a career in which finesse, lying, and assassination were the most admirable, because the most effective, weapons. By habit a Catholic, but above all fond of power, she was determined to prevent the Protestants from getting the upper hand and almost equally resolved not to allow them to be utterly crushed, in order to use them as a counterpoise to the Guises.
This trimming policy met with little success: Rage and suspicion so possessed men's minds that she could not long control the opposing parties, and one civil war followed another toward the end of her life. In 1567, after the Enterprise of Meaux, she dismissed l'Hopital and joined the Catholic party. Having failed to crush the Protestant rebellion by arms, she resumed, in 1570, the policy of peace and negotiation. She conceived the project of marrying her favourite son, the duke of Anjou, to Queen Elizabeth I of England, but that did not come about.
She was successful in marrying her eldest daughter, Elizabeth (b. April 1545), to Philip II of Spain and then her third daughter, Marguerite, to Henry of Navarre. To this end she temporarily reconciled with the Protestants and allowed Coligny to return to court and to re-enter the council. Of this step she quickly repented: Charles IX conceived a great affection for the admiral and showed signs of taking up an independent attitude. Catherine, thinking her influence menaced, sought to regain it, first by the murder of Coligny, and, after that failed, by the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
After the death of Charles in 1574 and the succession of her son, Henri III, Catherine pursued her old policy of compromise and concessions, but as her influence was nothing compared to her son's, so it is unnecessary to dwell upon it. She died on 5 January 1589, a short time before the assassination of Henry and the end of the House of Valois.
In her taste for art and her love of magnificence and luxury, Catherine was a true Medici; her banquets at the Royal Palace of Fontainebleau in 1564 were famous for their sumptuousness. In architecture, especially, she was well versed, and Philibert de l'Orme (Philibert of the Elm) relates that she discussed with him the plan and decoration of her palace of the Tuileries. Catherine's policy provoked a crowd of pamphlets, the most celebrated being the Discours merveilleux de la vie, actions et diportemens de la reine Catherine
de Medecis, in which Henri Estienne undoubtedly collaborated.
Catherine died at the Royal Royal Chateau Blois, France, where today, visitors to the castle can see her poison cabinets. She was interred with her husband in a cadaver tomb in the Saint Denis Basilica.
Charles IX (June 27, 1550 - May 30, 1574) was born Charles-Maximilien, the son of King Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici.
Born in the royal chateau at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, he was crowned King of France in 1561 in the cathedral at Reims, but ruled under the control of his powerful and ambitious mother.
During Charles IX reign, a new product designed to cure ulcers, heal wounds and other such benefits was introduced. Tobacco soon gained wide acceptance.
On November 26, 1570 he married Elisabeth of Austria. They had one daughter, Marie-Elisabeth (October 27, 1572 - April 9, 1578).
Charles proved a weak king in the shadow of his mother and died at Vincennes, Val-de-Marne.
Henry III (Henri III in French) (September 19, 1551 - August 2, 1589) was King of France from 1574 to 1589.
Henri was born Edouard-Alexandre at the Royal Château of Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, the son of King Henri II and Catherine de Medici. He was elected king of Poland in 1573 but shortly after, at the death of his brother Charles IX, he returned to France. He was crowned King of France in 1575 in the Cathedral at Reims.
Prior to ascending to the throne, he was a leader of the royal army in the French Wars of Religion against the Protestants. While still Duke, he aided his mother in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in which thousands of Huguenots were killed; his reign as king would see France in constant turmoil over religion.
In 1576, King Henri III signed the Edict of Beaulieu granting minor concessions to the Protestants. His action resulted in the Catholic extremist Henry I, Duke of Guise, forming the Catholic League. After much posturing and negotiations King Henri III was forced to rescind most of the concessions made to the Protestants in the Edict of Beaulieu.
In 1584 the King's youngest brother and heir presumptive, François, Duke of Anjou, died. Under the Salic Law, the next heir to the throne was Protestant Henri of Navarre, a descendant of St. Louis IX. Under pressure from the Duke of Guise, head of the Catholic League, Henri III issued an edict suppressing Protestantism and annulling Henri of Navarre's right to the throne.
On May 12, 1588 Henry III fled Paris after Henry of Guise entered the city.
On December 23, 1588, in the Château de Blois, the Duke of Guise arrived in the council chamber where his brother the Cardinal waited. He was told that the King wished to see him in the private room adjoining the King's bedroom.
There, guardsmen murdered him, and then the Cardinal. In order to make sure that no contender for the French throne was free to act against him, the King had the Duke's son imprisoned. Though deceitful and cruel, the Duke of Guise was highly popular in France and the citizenry turned against the king for the murders. The French Parliament instituted criminal charges against the King, and he fled Paris to join forces with Henry of Navarre.
On August 1, 1589, Henri III, lodged with his army in Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, prepared to attack Paris when a young fanatical monk named Jacques Clément, carrying false papers, was granted access to deliver important documents to the King. The monk gave the king a bundle of papers and stated he had a secret message to deliver.
The King signaled for his attendants to step back for privacy and Clément whispered in his ear while plunging a knife in his stomach. At first the wound did not appear fatal but the King commanded all his officers around him that in the event he did not survive, they were to be loyal to Henri of Navarre as their new King. The following morning, King Henri III of France died, the day he was to have launched the assault to retake Paris.
Although he had been married on February 13, 1575 to Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, and expected to produce an heir, the transvestite King Henri III was not highly respected by the citizens or the nobility as he paraded around dressed in women's clothes, accompanied by a number of youthful male attendants referred to as his mignons (darlings).
Henri III was interred in the Saint Denis Basilica. Childless, he was the last of the Valois kings.
Henri of Navarre succeeded him as Henri IV, the first of the Bourbon kings.