Charles VII (France)

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Charles VII (portrait by Jean Fouquet , between 1445 and 1450)
Signature Charles VII (France) .PNG

Charles VII the Victorious ( French Charles VII, le Victorieux 'the victorious', le Bien Servi 'the well-served'; * February 22, 1403 in Paris ; † July 22, 1461 in Mehun-sur-Yèvre ) was from 1422 to 1461 King of France . He was the fifth king of the Valois line of the Capetian dynasty and the first of the so-called Loire kings . With the help of Joan of Arc, he first succeeded in turning the Hundred Years War , before he achieved final victory in 1453 with the expulsion of the English from France . Under his rule, France increasingly changed from a large fiefdom to a nation state .

Youth; Power struggle for the succession to the throne

Charles VII was the eleventh child and fifth son of the French king Charles VI. and his wife Isabeau de Bavière . He grew up at a time when there were internal conflicts in France over influence at the court of Charles VI, who at times suffered from a mental illness and was then unable to rule. not lacking. Initially, the king's younger brother, Ludwig von Orléans , as well as the Burgundian Duke Philip the Bold and, after his death (1404) his son and successor Johann Ohnefurcht , faced each other, until the latter had Ludwig von Orléans murdered in 1407. As a result, there was an open confrontation between the Bourguignons (the party of the Dukes of Burgundy ) on the one hand and the supporters of the House of Orléans and Armagnac on the other. King Henry V of England used the internal French tensions to resume attempts to conquer France and in 1415 won a major victory at Azincourt .

Little is known about Karl's upbringing during this tense period. On December 18, 1413, he was betrothed to Marie d'Anjou , who was a daughter of the Duke of Anjou and Titular King of Sicily, Louis II , and Jolanthe of Aragón . His mother-in-law, Jolanthe, had a great influence on him for a long time. Charles's two eldest brothers had died in childhood and his two older brothers, Louis and Jean , also died early, so that in 1417 he advanced to Dauphin . At that time he was already Count of Ponthieu and Duke of Touraine and was raised by his father to Duke of Berry and Count of Poitou and Lieutenant General in the kingdom. He was estranged from his mother and allied himself with the Armagnacs ruling Paris at the time, but was barely able to escape the Bourguignons invading the capital on the night of May 28th to 29th, 1418. He took up his residence in Bourges and claimed the title of regent of France for himself (→ Civil War of the Armagnacs and Bourguignons ).

On September 10, 1419, Johann Feart was murdered on the Yonne Bridge at Montereau while trying to resolve the conflict between the Burgundians and Armagnaks . Karl was present at this murder, which, according to his account, represented self-defense in a spontaneously flared up argument, while, according to the probably more credible claim of the Burgundians, it was a well-prepared attack. Later, according to a contract signed with Johann's son, Philip the Good , Karl was supposed to serve a sentence, but he never did. Philip, whose party was the royal couple Charles VI. and Isabeau, entered into an alliance with Henry V of England through the Treaty of Troyes (May 21, 1420). Accordingly, the Dauphin Karl, whom his parents had cast out, was excluded from the line of succession; instead Henry V should after the death of Charles VI. his successor and thus king of England and France in personal union. Henry V had Charles declared forfeited the throne by the Paris Parliament in 1421 . From 1420 onwards, rumors of the undermining of Charles' position began to circulate, which were supposed to arouse doubts about his legitimacy; Isabeau once had extramarital affairs, for example with Ludwig von Orléans. While the allied English and Burgundians ruled all of northern France, the disinherited Dauphin had parts of central and southern France under his control.

Marriage to Marie d'Anjou and descendants

In April 1422, Charles VII at Bourges married his previous fiancée Marie d'Anjou . They had the following children:

Court at Bourges; Turn of the war by Joan of Arc

After the deaths of Henry V and Charles VI. (1422) was the only one year old son of the English king, Henry VI. , recognized in Paris as French and English kings. The brother of Henry V, Duke Johann von Bedford , now as regent of northern France actively protected the interests of his underage nephew on the continent and kept Philip the Good and Duke John VI. of Brittany firmly on his side. But even Charles VII, despite his initially bleak prospects, had himself proclaimed king in Mehun-sur-Yèvre after his father's death on October 30, 1422 . His court in Bourges became the center of all those influential parties in France that opposed the Anglo-Burgundian allies. Probably due to traumatic experiences such as his escape from the Bourguignons from Paris and concern for his personal safety after the murders of the party leaders Louis von Orléans and Johann Ohnefurcht, Charles VII was cautious and suspicious, especially when dealing with strangers. Furthermore, he was very pious and superstitious, but staying within the framework of the time, and interested in music and literature, without later emerging as a great patron. Personal war effort and hunting were not his thing.

For political and economic reasons it seemed advisable to Bedford to conquer all of France as quickly as possible by means of a targeted attack on the territories held by his adversary. On July 31, 1423 near Cravant ( Yonne ) and on August 17, 1424 in the battle of Verneuil ( Eure ), the army of Charles VII was driven behind the Loire by the allied English and Burgundians , so that the enemies Charles mockingly called the "King of Bourges", where he usually stayed. The province of Maine fell into the hands of Bedford, but the English had not yet reached a decision. Charles VII, who succeeded in establishing a functioning administration in exile, was helped by internal tensions between his opponents, such as the dispute between the English regent Humphrey of Gloucester and the Duke of Burgundy over the possession of Hainaut , Holland , Zeeland and Friesland. Even if the English took Le Mans around August 1425 , they did not make any spectacular progress in the next few years.

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., French Charles VII
  • Important places of armed conflict
  • dashed red : raids by the English troops 1415
    dashed blue : paths from Joan of Arc to Reims 1429

    At the beginning of 1425 Charles VII gave a brother to Duke John VI. of Brittany and brother-in-law of Philip the Good, Arthur von Richemont , who had converted to him, the dignity of a connétable. After Charles VII. 1426 also involved in the assassination attempt on Johann Ohnefurcht such as Jean Louvet and Tanneguy III. you removed Chastel from his surroundings, the Duke of Brittany paid homage to him. Furthermore, efforts to reconcile with the Duke of Burgundy took place. Johann, Bastard of Orléans , later Count of Dunois, defeated the Count of Warwick near Montargis in 1427 and forced the English to withdraw. But when John VI. rejoined the English firmly in September 1427, the Connétable von Richemont fell out of favor with Charles VII and was overthrown by Georges de La Trémoille . Such political battles often took place at the court of Charles VII during his early reign. According to the historian Georges Chastellain , the king served and got rid of his advisors without hesitation.

    In the summer of 1428 Bedford decided to lead a decisive military attack, for this purpose to capture Orléans , the most important city on the Loire, and then gradually to conquer the southern French provinces advancing over this river. Thomas Montagu, 4th Earl of Salisbury seized the smaller towns near Orléans and began the siege of the city . The place, defended by military commanders such as Johann, Bastard von Orléans and La Hire , was well fortified and its inhabitants were ready for extreme resistance, but in October 1428 the English stormed the fortifications south of the Loire. Despite Salisbury's death, they succeeded in enclosing the city with a siege ring under the command of the Earl of Suffolk , against which the incursions of the trapped were unsuccessful. In the spring of 1429 the defenders were ready to hand over Orléans, not to the English, but to Philip the Good, which Bedford refused.

    Meanwhile, Charles VII apparently resided completely inactive in Chinon and allegedly spent his time with lavish parties and numerous mistresses . His court seemed ready to want to send him into exile. In this dreary situation, Joan of Arc called in Chinon , who believed herself entrusted by heavenly voices to anger Orléans and to lead what she believed to be the right-wing King of France, Charles VII, to the coronation in Reims . At the end of February 1429 her meeting with Charles VII. Took place in Chinon Castle, about which both did not say anything. Apparently, the charismatic young woman impressed her royal interlocutor with her confidence in victory and her prophecies. After passing several exams, she was allowed to lead the fighting in Orléans, and according to the opinion of many participants, it was largely thanks to the enthusiasm and patriotic zeal for fighting among the soldiers that the English were able to advance their positions on May 8, 1429 Had to evacuate Orléans and withdraw. This was accompanied by a turnaround in the war that had a psychological impact. After further military successes such as the expulsion of Suffolk from Jargeau (June 12th) and the capture of John Talbot following an English defeat at Patay (June 18th) , the Maid of Orléans was able to achieve the coronation and anointing of Charles VII against various opposition on July 17, 1429 in Reims Cathedral.

    The war continued until the Treaty of Arras

    As a result, the influence of Joan of Arc on Charles VII weakened; at his court she met the opposition of a peace party, which u. a La Trémoille and the Chancellor and Archbishop of Reims, Regnault de Chartres . At first the newly crowned king moved on with her and occupied u. a. Compiègne , Soissons and Beauvais , but at the end of August 1429 concluded an armistice with the Duke of Burgundy, who was no longer so closely allied with Bedford. The belligerent maiden was able to persuade Charles VII to make an advance against Paris, which was held by Anglo-Burgundian units and not included in the armistice, but failed in September and lost much of the reputation. Charles VII withdrew to Chinon again. In May 1430, the troops of Philip the Good, who was trying to maintain his powerful position between the warring kings, succeeded in capturing Joan of Arc, who had rushed to the threatened city of Compiègne without consulting Charles VII. Extradited to the English, she was brought to Rouen , where a political and inquisition trial took place against her. With this procedure Charles VII was to be proven as a heretic and supporter of a witch. However, the king did not take any steps to save Jeanne, who would later be revered as a French national heroine, who suffered her death by fire on May 30, 1431.

    Despite the execution of Joan of Arc, the English continued to lose ground. A prenational sense of togetherness, apparently already present among the people in France, contributed to this, so that the English were increasingly perceived as foreign occupiers, while the former murder of Johann Ohnefurcht decreased in importance. In addition, the decades-long surge of power in the island kingdom made itself felt. In December 1431, Charles VII's envoy also succeeded in negotiating a six-year armistice with Philip the Good, who thus failed as an active ally of Bedford. When in the same month the only ten-year-old King Henry VI. was also crowned in Paris for the purpose of legitimation, only a few prominent French nobles and prelates were present. Richemont, who had reconciled himself with Charles VII and had been a comrade in arms of Joan of Arc, was now waging a guerrilla war against Bedford, especially in Maine, together with Johann, Bastard of Orléans.

    For Charles VII, disputes at his court, especially between Richemont and La Trémoille, initially prevented him from further strengthening his position. The fall of La Trémoille in June 1433 brought about a steadier policy of the king, in whose advisory staff Jolanthe of Aragón, Richemont and Charles of Anjou were now dominant. On the other hand, the fact that Bedford had to suppress a peasant revolt in Normandy , which had previously been regarded as safe English territory, in the summer of 1434 was another sign of weakness in English rule in France. Because in the name of Henry VI. New institutes for higher education were founded, the University of Paris saw its scientific importance diminished and reconsidered its previous support for the English king. Finally moved the Burgundy Duke u. a. the formation of a pro-French party at his court and the desire of Flanders for peace in order to support its economy led to it becoming more inclined towards a permanent settlement with Charles VII.

    From January 1435, high-level negotiations took place between supporters of Charles VII and those of Philip the Good. On August 5, 1435, a great peace conference began in Arras , at which a comprehensive peace settlement was to be achieved between France, Burgundy and England. Charles VII had sent the Archbishop of Reims, Regnault de Chartres, Duke Charles I of Bourbon and Arthur von Richemont to the negotiation round as his representatives . He let Henry VI. offer Normandy and Guyenne as a French fief. But since Bedford did not want to renounce the English claim to the crown of France, the efforts to find a compromise between Charles VII and the English, whose delegation withdrew from the negotiations on September 6th, failed. On September 14th, the Duke of Bedford, who was Henry VI's leading politician, died. had been and meant an irreplaceable loss for the latter. On September 21, 1435, however, Philip the Good agreed with Charles VII in the Treaty of Arras on the permanent settlement of their disputes. The old lawyer Jean Tudert apologized on behalf of Karl for the murder of Johanns Feart, whereupon Philip the Good expressed his pardon for this act. The Duke of Burgundy, who recognized Charles VII as the French king and entered into a defensive alliance with him against the English, received the counties of Auxerre and Mâcon as well as other territories, as well as relatively extensive independence from France, but in reality he had long since achieved all these concessions .

    Capture of Paris; Administrative reform; Church politics

    Charles VII coin (1436)

    Now the English were isolated. The Parisians kept their distance from these and supported Richemont's attempts to conquer the capital with an uprising in the spring of 1436. On April 13, the citizens opened the city gates to the French army, which was able to penetrate Paris without a fight. Four days later, the English garrison of only 1,500 men also surrendered the Bastille . The capital was conquered and Richemont announced an amnesty for all political offenses. However, the acts of war against the British were by no means close to an early victorious conclusion. So Humphrey of Gloucester fought in 1436 in the Burgundian Netherlands; John Talbot conquered in 1437 a. a. Pontoise and became a danger even for Paris. In addition, since 1437, strong, militarily organized, no longer under control, hordes of mercenaries, the so-called Écorcheurs ("Schinder"), wreaked havoc through central and southern France. One of the most powerful of their leaders was Rodrigue de Villandrando , who came from an aristocratic Castilian family and had been a mercenary captain for Charles VII for a long time. There was also a tendency to dissolve in the coalition of princes that supported the king. The Connétable von Richemont arranged several advisors to Charles VII who became too influential at court over the next few years, such as Pierre d'Amboise , Prégent VII. De Coëtivy , Jean V. de Bueil and Pierre de Brézé . The king generally followed the recommendations of his confidants, but did not allow himself to be controlled by them.

    In the summer of 1437 Charles VII marched with an army from the Languedoc to the Île-de-France , distinguished himself personally in the capture of Montereau-Fault-Yonne in October and made a solemn entry into Paris on November 12, 1437, where he symbolically received the city key and announced a general amnesty. He made the first orders to re-establish a functioning administration. So he merged the Supreme Court, which had been established in Poitiers during his time in exile, with the Parliament of the now regained Paris, which was still in power, to form a new institution. He also united other large authorities in the capital with those of his earlier high-quality exile administration. During the upcoming appointment of new posts, the ruler, who was very keen on the establishment of a lasting peace, not only appointed his own shop stewards, but also took on many important state officials from Anglo-Burgundian services. His striving for internal balance, forbearance with opponents and an efficient administration, which used war taxes in a more purposeful way than before, were more than improved military techniques an important cause of Charles VII's ultimate success in the Hundred Years War and the associated resurgence of the French kingship .

    In church politics, Charles VII had to deal with the disputes between Pope Eugene IV , who demanded the right of traditional full papal authority for the successors of Peter, and the Council of Basel , which advocated the precedence of the council over the pope ( conciliarism ) occurred. Both parties to the dispute called for the support of the French king. On June 1, 1436, his emissaries expressed their devotion to Charles VII to the already French-dominated Basel Synod, but also demanded that the Pope be treated with respect. When Eugene IV rejected the proposal of the majority of the Basel Council Fathers to hold a union council with the Greek Orthodox Church in Avignon , Charles VII accepted in principle the request of the Basel Council to recognize the decisions sent to him. Since June 1, 1438, a French clergy meeting has been meeting in Bourges, and on the basis of the report of a commission set up to implement the Council's resolutions, Charles VII proclaimed the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges on July 7, 1438 . In it, the resolutions were in some cases significantly modified in line with the wishes of the French monarch and clergy, for example the Pope's influence was restricted. This created a Catholic national church enjoying a certain prerogative (so-called Gallican freedoms ), which was relatively independent of the Holy See . The Gallican Church thus constituted was to be largely under the control of the French king, especially in terms of personnel. After Charles VII had achieved his ecclesiastical goals by instrumentalizing the Basel Synod, he distanced himself from it and did not recognize the antipope Felix V , appointed by it in November 1439 . He skillfully avoided a break with the Roman pontiff.

    Aristocratic conspiracy; Armistice with England

    Charles VII's understanding of the state was similar in many respects to the position later attributed to Machiavelli on the use of power politics by the ruler. He strove for a greater centralization of the imperial administration while at the same time reducing the rights of the aristocracy and thereby came into conflict with several princes who had previously supported him in the struggle to enforce his kingship and who had expected to be duly rewarded for their help if he was successful . Due to far-reaching amnesties, however, there was no more spoils of war to be fetched, Duke John II of Alençon had not been compensated for possessions lost in the war, Duke Charles I of Bourbon believed that he had too little influence on the royal council and other high-ranking men had different ones Reasons for dissatisfaction with their monarch.

    Charles VII developed the plan for the formation of a standing, regularly paid army, which the Estates General convened in Orléans agreed to. On November 2, 1439, an orderly was decided that only allowed the king to set up such a standing army , which was to be remunerated once and for all by means of a direct tax levied annually by royal officials. Furthermore, no vassal was allowed to employ his own mercenaries on what was actually royal territory. This greatly increased the power of the king at the expense of the aristocracy. In addition, Charles VII also curtailed the privileges of the nobility over the lower classes. After 1439, the king no longer convened the États généraux because he no longer needed them.

    In 1440, a noble revolt led by Charles I of Bourbon, John II of Alençon and the Bastard of Orléans, who was elevated to Count of Dunois, followed, the so-called Praguerie , which was also joined by the Dauphin Ludwig . This rebellion failed primarily because no further civil war was desired and Charles VII won the bourgeoisie for himself. Richemont and Karl von Anjou fought on the side of the king as generals. By July 1440, all opposition high nobility surrendered, who received forgiveness from the monarch, who in turn tried to satisfy the young Dauphin Ludwig by transferring the independent government of the Dauphiné .

    At the same time, the king continued to fight the English. On August 12, 1439, Richemont succeeded in taking Meaux and the next year the French were able to conquer the entire Île-de-France. There was new resentment between Charles VII and Philip the Good. The latter led the decisive negotiations through which he got Karl von Orléans free from 25 years of English captivity in 1440 and thus committed himself. He led the freed duke to a coalition of the houses of Bourbon, Alençon and Bretagne that was being formed again, so that at the beginning of 1442 a new civil war appeared to be looming. Then the king was able to announce a planned - then admittedly not materialized - marriage of Charles of Anjou with Maria von Geldern , a great niece of Philip the Good, which meant an improvement in relations between the Duke of Burgundy and the French monarch and thus the king's opponents took the wind out of the sails. Finally, Charles VII managed to avert further domestic political unrest through personal discussions with the opposing princes, to whom he made financial concessions.

    The king made progress in conquering his southern parts of the empire in the summer of 1442. So he was able to move into Toulouse . In 1442/43 there were also French forays into Normandy and in early 1444 the Dauphin succeeded in capturing Count John IV of Armagnac, who was allied with the English . After further setbacks by the generals Talbot and Somerset, the English agreed to a 22-month armistice in May 1444. To confirm the agreement, the engagement of King Henry VI. with Margaret of Anjou , a niece of Charles VII. For the English side, Earl William of Suffolk, who had traveled to France as a negotiator, not only waived a dowry, but also promised to return the properties in Maine. The armistice was extended several times until 1449.

    As early as 1420, as a result of the war, there was a famine. After the country was largely liberated from the English, the country and the royal court were completely impoverished. At times, Charles VII only had four thalers in his cash register. Many provinces, especially Picardy, were depopulated. The nobility plundered the country at will and levied tariffs wherever possible; the marauding French and English mercenary gangs could no longer be controlled. Paris and the provincial cities had to accept large numbers of refugee farmers; great packs of wolves chased people into the cities.

    Army reform

    In 1444 Charles VII was finally able to get rid of the mercenary associations of the Écorcheurs (stranglers, flayers), which had come into disrepute due to robbery and looting , when he responded to a request by the Roman-German King Friedrich III. followed to send auxiliary troops against the Swiss. Two large armies were to be formed from the mercenaries, with one of which the French king intended to intervene in the dispute between Duke René I of Anjou and the city of Metz , while the Dauphin was given the task of crossing Alsace to Switzerland with the other army to march. The Dauphin and his approximately 25,000 Écorcheurs or Armagnacs carried out this march with great devastation and on August 26, 1444, with great losses, defeated a brave troop of only 1,500 confederates at Sankt Jakob an der Birs near Basel . But soon he made peace with the Swiss and used their help to subjugate Alsace. The cities there fended off the many atrocities committed by Écorcheurs and forced the Dauphin to withdraw in 1445. Charles VII's campaign against Metz was not particularly successful either; he was finally satisfied in March 1445 with the occupation of Épinal . After all, the king's military ventures had killed many of the undesirable mercenaries.

    On the basis of the regulation of 1439, Charles VII completed the organizational structure of the regularly paid orderly companies , forerunners of standing armies, in 1445 . Thus the king had several thousand men constantly ready to fight, all over France. An army reform also took place in England, creating an organization similar to that in France. With his advisers, Charles VII carefully selected the commanders of his companies and only employed the most capable war captains. Not only the tried and tested people of the king, but also well-known foreigners and local nobles such as the formerly oppositional Duke Charles I of Bourbon came to the train. Many aristocrats found the assumption of command posts in the royal army very attractive, but they were hierarchically strictly under the monarch. The selection of the teams of the orderly companies was also subjected to a strict selection. The number of companies was soon increased and reinforced with additional garrison troops. Because of his monopoly on military sovereignty, the king was now in a strengthened position and had laid the foundation for the future absolute monarchy.

    By an orderly on April 28, 1448, the companies were supplemented on a large scale by a standing infantry made up of francs-archers (free riflemen). A rifleman was selected for every 45 households and provided with full armor. He had to be ready for military service at all times and enjoyed tax exemption for this. However, this force did not have great military power. On the other hand, the artillery found increased and very successful use through the development of high-quality stone rifles and improved powder mixtures. Jean Bureau became Grand Master of Artillery and provided France with the best gun material.

    Agnes Sorel

    From 1444 to 1450, Agnès Sorel († February 9 or 11, 1450) , who came from the lower nobility, was Charles VII's official lover; she was the first official mistress of a French king. The monarch was very generous towards the young lady, described as beautiful and intelligent, who had a positive influence on him for years. He gave her country estates and castles and appointed her maid of honor to his wife Marie d'Anjou, who came to terms with her rival. With his mistress, dubbed Dame de Beauté , the king had four daughters, the last of whom did not survive infancy; the other daughters were all recognized, legitimized and advantageously married:

    Victorious end to the Hundred Years War

    Disputes between King Henry VI. and English aristocrats, as well as the fact that Normandy was hardly put in increased defense readiness during the period of the armistice, came to terms with Charles VII when he conquered the last territories held by the English. Since 1448 there was new fighting as the English commanders delayed the evacuation of Maine. In March 1448, the Count of Dunois conquered Le Mans in this context. In the spring of 1449 he moved into Normandy, where there had been fierce resistance, even partisan warfare, against English rule in recent years. Dunois and other commanders succeeded in conquering Normandy quickly, largely thanks to the support of the inhabitants. The amnesty policy of Charles VII and the disciplined behavior of his orderly companies against the frequent looting of the low-paid soldiers of Henry VI. contributed to the French success. At the end of October 1449, Rouen fell, into which city Charles VII made his solemn entry on November 10th and attended a service organized by the Archbishop of Rouen and other prelates in the local cathedral. While the king was partially in Jumièges in the winter of 1449/50 , the war continued. An English army transferred to Normandy and commanded by Sir Thomas Kyriell , which landed in Cherbourg on March 15, 1450 , was completely wiped out on April 15 after an initially victorious counterattack by the Connétable of Richemont and Pierre de Brézé near Formigny . Finally, with the capture of Caen on July 1, 1450, Normandy was completely under French control.

    At the beginning of 1451, the French began attacking the 300-year-old English possessions in Guyenne and Gascony . The English were not considered foreign masters there, so that the subjugation of this area was more difficult for the troops of Charles VII. After taking several smaller fortresses, Bordeaux also had to capitulate on June 23, 1451. With the conquest of Bayonne by the Count of Dunois on August 20, 1451, the last English-owned city in southern France fell. However, the tough fiscal system of government of the Valois resulted in resistance against French rule in the areas recently conquered around Bordeaux. Help was soon sought in London . The court of Henry VI. but equipped the old general John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, who was entrusted with the intervention, with an expeditionary army of only 9,000 men. Talbot landed with this army in Guyenne and entered Bordeaux without a fight. During his spring campaign in 1453, he met with a lot of approval from the Gascogners, but was confronted with a superior force of the French. Their devastating artillery bombardment ensured Charles VII complete victory in the Battle of Castillon (July 17, 1453); Thousands of Englishmen, Talbot himself and his son fell. Charles VII was able to complete the renewed submission of south-west France in a few months. He had Bordeaux bombarded as a disloyal city, which had to surrender on October 19, 1453 against the payment of 100,000 écus, losing all liberties. The Hundred Years War was finally decided and all of France in the hands of the Valois ruler. A peace treaty did not materialize because Heinrich VI. began to get insane and in 1455 the Wars of the Roses broke out, which hampered the progress of peace talks. The English could only keep Calais because it was in a territory ceded to the Duke of Burgundy; the city was to belong to England until 1558.

    Last years of reign and death

    Charles VII, who had a very efficient fiscal system, sought to intensify the presence of his influence on all levels. a. Parliaments in Toulouse, Bordeaux and Grenoble and in the last two decades of government passed many laws that reformed not only the army, but also the judiciary and the financial system. Skilled advisers such as Chancellor Guillaume Juvénal des Ursins contributed to the monarch's successful decisions (nickname le bien servi , the “well-served” in the sense of “well advised”).

    In 1451 a man who was very influential at court, Jacques Cœur, was overthrown . He came from the merchant milieu of Bourges and had built up a financial empire in the Orient and Levant trade before he rose as an important wholesaler in France to the king's sack master (argentier) in 1438 and a member of the royal council in 1442. He took care of the ongoing upkeep of the court, was indispensable to the monarch for a long time due to his commercial skills and made a huge fortune. Many nobles were deeply in debt to him. Since this also applied to the king himself, it was in Charles VII's interest to get rid of Jacques Cœurs, who had also made many envious people. Probably as a result of an intrigue accused of poisoning the royal mistress Agnès Sorel, he was arrested on July 31, 1451 and charged with other offenses such as counterfeiting, forging seals and tax fraud. Charles VII had his entire fortune in France confiscated and thus had sufficient funds to carry out his campaign in Guyenne . In 1455 Cœur was able to flee to Italy, but died in November 1456 on Chios .

    Side lines of the royal family and influential noble families owned considerable parts of France and, despite the army reform, continued to hold a powerful position. The houses of Orléans , Anjou and Bourbon were important aristocratic families with large territories, but the king's most powerful competitor was the Duke of Burgundy. Together with the dukes of Alençon , Brittany and others, these families represented a considerable counterweight to the crown.

    Nevertheless, the era of aristocratic rule in France was gradually coming to an end and royal power became increasingly prevalent. When Count John V of Armagnac laid claim to the county of Comminges in 1454 , he had to flee to Catalonia after a military intervention by the king ; his property fell to the Crown in 1460. The same thing happened to the property of Duke John II of Alençon , who was accused of conspiratorial contacts with the English, arrested in May 1456 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1458.

    While Philip the Good followed Pope Nicholas V's call to crusade after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks (May 29, 1453), Charles VII settled because of the still existing state of war with England and his tense relations with the high aristocracy of France refrain from participating in a distant war. In the end Philip the Good could not keep his oath to take the croisade , not least because of the work of Charles VII, who was working towards the failure of the Burgundian crusade project.

    With regard to the attempts that had arisen to have Joan of Arc rehabilitated by the Holy See, Charles VII behaved hesitantly because he had to pursue a constant pacification policy and maintain his influence over the Gallican Church in order to maintain his royal authority over his noble rivals . A rehabilitation process would have allowed the Pope, who had expressed concerns about the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, the opportunity to intervene in ecclesiastical affairs in France. Finally, on July 7, 1456, the judgment of 1431 was overturned, but the relatives of Joan of Arc received no compensation.

    In the last years of his life, Charles VII was burdened by the very clouded relationship with his own son, the ambitious Dauphin Ludwig, who in March 1451 had taken Charlotte of Savoy as his second wife against the will of his father and had not complied with the request to appear at court , probably also out of fear of royal advisers averse to him. Ludwig also disapproved of the apparently very dissolute sex life of his father, who had acquired a new mistress, Antoinette de Maignelais , after Agnès Sorel's death . After the flight of the heir to the throne to become Duke of Burgundy (August 1456), Charles VII moved in the Dauphiné for the crown domain. Philip the Good paid Ludwig all the honors due to a Dauphin, granted him ample maintenance and allowed him to reside at Genappe Castle. Despite extensive correspondence, father and son could not communicate.

    From around 1455 Charles VII felt increasingly sicker and from 1458 had a mouth infection that made it difficult for him to take meals. He also feared alleged poison attacks by the Dauphin and became very suspicious of those around him. He died at the age of 58 on July 22, 1461 at Mehun-sur-Yèvre in Berry ; the cause of death was his oral abscess.

    Charles VII was buried in the tomb of the French kings, the cathedral of Saint-Denis . When the royal tombs of Saint-Denis were sacked during the French Revolution , his grave was opened and looted on October 17, 1793, and his remains were buried in a mass grave outside the church.



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    1. ^ Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 306-312; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , pp. 321–324.
    2. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , p. 313f .; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 323f.
    3. Joachim Ehlers, Geschichte Frankreichs im Mittelalter , p. 314f .; 317f .; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 325.
    4. ^ Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 318–325; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 324ff.
    5. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 325–330; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 328.
    6. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 330–334; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 328f.
    7. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 334–336; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 329f.
    8. Joachim Ehlers, Geschichte Frankreichs im Mittelalter , pp. 337–339; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , pp. 330f.
    9. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 340–342; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 333f.
    10. Jacob Burckhardt: About the situation in France at the time of the Armagnakenzuges 1444. In: ders .: Cultural history lectures. Edited by Rudolf Marx. Stuttgart 1959, p. 5 ff.
    11. Burckhardt 1959, p. 10 ff.
    12. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 343–345; 352; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 332f.
    13. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 345–349.
    14. Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , pp. 350–353; 358f .; Heribert Müller, The French Kings of the Middle Ages , pp. 332–335.
    predecessor Office successor
    John of Touraine Dauphin von Viennois
    Duke of Berry
    Duke of Touraine
    Count of Poitou
    Crown domain
    Charles VI King of France 1422–1461
    Blason France modern.svg
    Louis XI.