Charles de Valois, duc d'Orléans

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Charles de Orléans in the register of arms and statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece (The Hague, KB, 76 E 10, fol. 57r)

Charles, Duke of Orléans (born November 24, 1394 in Paris , † January 5, 1465 in Amboise ) was Duke of Orléans , Count of Valois , Blois , Dunois and father of the future King Louis XII. Today he is best known in France as the most important poet of the period around 1430.


Karl was the grandson of King Charles V and the eldest of the three legitimate sons of Duke Ludwig von Orléans , the ambitious younger brother of King Charles VI. His mother was Valentina Visconti , daughter of Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti of Milan.

His father Ludwig enjoyed the role of the patron and so Karl came into contact with art and literature at an early age. Just as early, however, his life was determined by politics, mostly painfully.

On June 4, 1404, at the age of less than ten, he was betrothed to his cousin Isabella , five years older than him , who was already the widow of King Richard II of England , who had been deposed and murdered in 1400 . She brought the substantial dowry of 500,000 francs into the marriage on June 29, 1406, but died on September 13, 1409, three years after the wedding, giving birth to a daughter.

In 1407 Karl lost his father, who was stabbed to death in the street by the murderers of Duke Johann Ohnefurcht von Burgundy , who with him sought the reign for the deranged Karl VI. quarreled. In 1408 he also lost his mother to illness, who had unsuccessfully demanded the punishment of the murderers and their instigators. Thus, by the age of 15, he was already an orphan, father of a daughter, widower and, moreover, head of the family for his younger brothers and a half-brother fathered out of wedlock by his father (who later became General Dunois ).

Although he first demonstrated his literary talent when he demanded atonement in a circular to the cities of France, he was too young and unsuitable by nature to take on the role of avenger. This was done by the energetic Count Bernard von Armagnac , who organized a party for him, and at the same time married him to his eleven-year-old daughter Bonne (1410). Negotiations and civil war-like battles dragged on for several years until the " Armagnacs " were provisionally victorious in 1413 and moved into Paris (see also: Civil War of the Armagnacs and Bourguignons ).

After Charles had taken the high place he deserved at the Paris court and brought his young wife Bonne there, he began to write poetry around 1414, namely ballads with which he had obviously fallen in love (after the marriage?). These are poems that artfully follow the conventions of courtly poetry and yet have a very personal effect. The rhyming dream tale La Retenue d'Amours (= The admission [into the fiefdom of Cupid]) also reflects his infatuation .

The territorial situation under Charles VII in 1429
  • Territories controlled by the duc de Bourgogne , Philip III. ( Burgundy )
  • Territories controlled by Henry VI. ( England )
  • Territories controlled by Charles VII.
  • Important places of armed conflict
  • Red dashed : raids by the English troops in 1415 blue dashed : routes from Joan of Arc to Reims in 1429

    Captivity in England

    Charles trapped in the Tower of London . A late 15th century illumination , depicted in the manuscript Royal 16 F. ii .

    In 1415 an English army landed in France on one of the forays that largely made up the Hundred Years War . On the autumn retreat towards Boulogne and England, it was conquered at Azincourt by a superior French army of knights, but defeated them thanks to its archers. Charles, who was one of the French leaders, was captured and taken to England, where he was hostage to the English kings Henry V and Henry VI for 25 years . was held. An important role was played by the fact that he was at the top of the list of French aspirants to the throne and was intended to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with his cousin, the Dauphin and then (from 1422) King Charles VII. However , he showed no interest in anything To do for Karl, and certainly not after the fortunes of war had turned in his favor thanks to Joan of Arc .

    During this time, which Karl spent in various castles with frequently changing host-guards in only casual correspondence with his homeland, he initially continued to write ballads, which in a very authentic way mainly revolve around the topics of love, separation, longing and homesickness. Later, after his hopes of a possible visit to his wife Bonne in England were dashed and he had again become a widower (1432?), He also wrote chansons (partly in English) to an English lady with whom he had fallen in love .

    After this had been removed from his surroundings and a marriage project with the widowed Margaret of Savoy had failed in 1437 , Karl wrote the dream story Songe en complainte (= dream story in the form of a complainte), which represents a kind of counterpart to the retenue of yore, in frustration he, asking Cupid to be released, vows to renounce “everything that has to do with love”.

    Return to France

    Finally in 1440 Karl, who had proven his uselessness as a bargaining chip, was released for an enormous ransom. He got it from his second cousin and son of the 1419 murderer of his father, Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. He married him at the same time, in order to bind him even more closely, to a niece, 14-year-old Maria von Kleve , and accepted him into the Order of the Golden Fleece .

    On his return home, Charles had hoped that he could work as a peacemaker between the crowns of England and France, and that he would bring the duchy of Burgundy, which had become practically sovereign, back to France and, overall, a position commensurate with his high status alongside his cousin Charles VII. take in. But he failed because of the mistrust that the latter showed him as a supposed sympathizer of Burgundy. The attempts that Charles undertook in 1447/48 to enforce the claims he had inherited from his mother to the Duchy of Milan were unsuccessful due to a lack of military and diplomatic support from Charles VII. As a result, he withdrew almost completely to his castle in Blois , disappointed .

    Here he processed his changing, often depressive moods and thoughts in numerous ballads and, more and more, in rondeaus that look like the leaves of a poetic diary, but virtuously exploiting all the possibilities of the genre. At the same time, he tried, not without success, to turn his court into a literary center by encouraging courtiers and friends, as well as his wife, to make verse, and by hosting poets from all over France on shorter and longer visits, including Olivier de la Marche , George Chastelain, Jean Meschinot and, at the end of 1457, also François Villon , from whom, however, he seems to have parted quickly in disagreement.

    In 1457, 1459 and 1462 Karl became the father of two daughters and a son after he had finally broken his vow of renunciation, which he had apparently kept for 16 years, and had married his wife Maria.

    He fell ill and died in Amboise in early 1465 on the winter journey home from a meeting of princes in Tours , where he was welcomed by the new King Louis XI. had been publicly humiliated. A few years earlier (apparently soon after the falling out with Villon) he had said goodbye to poetry.

    His son took over in 1498 as Ludwig XII. the royal crown of his second nephew Charles VIII, who died without a male heir .

    Literary work

    Around 1445, d. H. A few years after his return home, Charles had a calligrapher copy the poems and poems he had written from 1414 onwards in various life situations in Paris, England and Blois into a collective manuscript. He then had his secretaries enter his new ballads and rondeaus as well as the poems of courtiers and guests into this, which he occasionally did himself or had the authors concerned do. Many of these more recent texts are replicas of the previous one (s), so they stand in twos or more in a thematic and often also concrete situational context. The block of eleven ballads on the subject of “thirst at the source”, which evidently emerged from court competing at the end of 1457, is best known. The manuscript has survived (and in all probability comes down to the only autographs that can be attributed to Villon ).

    Although his current image as the first French poet of natural poetry is only partially true, Charles d'Orléans (as he is called in literary history) is one of the most authentic and perfectly formed, as well as most productive French poets of the late Middle Ages. He can be regarded as the perfecter of the medieval art form of courtly poetry in France. It is practically unknown in German-speaking countries. A few poems were translated from French by Georg Holzer (Three Ballads) and Ralph Dutli , who appeared in the “Frankfurter Anthologie” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Charles d'Orléans' Rondeau 225 (“Im Wald des Langen Waiting” / “En la forest de Longue Actente ”) presented and commented.

    The document from Charles's father, Duke Ludwig von Orléans, dated June 5, 1404, regarding the terms of Charles's marriage to Isabella von Valois. Paris, Archives nationales, J 359, no.26

    Marriages and offspring

    On June 29, 1406, Charles was married to his cousin Isabella von Valois (1389-1409), daughter of King Charles VI. and widow of King Richard II of England . Their daughter Johanna (1409–1432), whom Karl did not see again after 1415, was married to Duke Johann II von Alençon by King Charles VII without his consent .

    In 1410 Karl married Bona (Bonne) von Armagnac (1395-1430 / 35), daughter of Count Bernhard VII. The marriage remained childless.

    1440 he married his third wife Maria of Cleves (1426-1486), daughter of the Duke Adolf I . After 16 years of childlessness, Maria finally became the mother of:

    See also


    • Hella S. Hasse: Forest of Expectation. The life of Charles of Orléans. 1st edition. Wunderlich publishing house, March 1993.
    • Raphael de Smedt (ed.): Les chevaliers de l'ordre de la Toison d'or au XVe siècle. Notices bio-bibliographiques. 2nd, improved edition. Peter Lang, Frankfurt 2000, ISBN 3-631-36017-7 , p. 86 f. ( Kiel work pieces. D 3).
    • Gert Pinkernell : François Villon et Charles d'Orléans (1457 à 1461). D'après les "Poésies diverses" de Villon (= Studia Romanica. Volume 79). Winter, Heidelberg 1992, ISBN 3-533-04526-9 .

    Web links

    Commons : Charles, Duke of Orléans  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. Sense and form . Contributions to the literature. Edited by the Academy of Arts . Berlin 2015, 3rd issue, May / June, pp. 364–366.
    2. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Literarisches Leben, June 1, 2019, No. 126, p. 18 (on Ralph Dutli's website ).
    predecessor Office successor
    Louis Duke of Orléans,
    Duke of Valois,
    Count of Blois 1407–1465
    Blason duche for Orleans (modern) .svg
    (later as Louis XII, King of France)
    Louis Count of Dunois
    Jean de Dunois
    Louis Count of Soissons
    Robert de Marle