Charles IV of France: The Last Capetian King

Charles IV of France
June 18, 1294 – February 1, 1328

Charles IV was never expected to be king. When his father, King Philip IV, died at the age of 46 on November 29, 1314, the Capetian line of succession was very secure. Philip IV had left behind three sons: Louis, Philip, and Charles. As the eldest brother, Louis succeeded his father as Louis X. No one suspected the misfortune that would soon befall the family.

Louis X of France

Louis X of France
Louis X of France

Unfortunately for Louis, his reign would only last for two years. He would  succumb to illness on June 5, 1316. Louis’s posthumous son, John I, would reign for five days before following his father into the afterlife. With only a daughter remaining, Louis’s brother Philip successfully argued that a male should succeed to the throne over a female. After gaining the necessary support, Joan’s claim was ignored, and Philip was crowned King Philip V.

Philip V of France

Philip V of France
Philip V of France

Like Louis X, Philip V would not reign long. On January 3, 1322, Philip passed away from dysentery. He had been king for five years. Unlike his brother, Philip didn’t have a living son to succeed him. Once more, the daughters of a French king were swept aside in favor of a male. After the deaths of his elder brothers and their respective sons, it was now time for Charles, Count of La Marche, to become Charles IV, King of France.

Conflict With England

Edward II of England
Edward II of England

When Charles IV became king, France was at odds with England and its ruler, King Edward II. Despite being married to Charles’s sister, Isabelle, the two men had a tense relationship. As the Duke of Aquitaine, Edward was obligated to pay annual homage to Charles for his overseas territory. Instead of simply paying, Edward decided to stall as he did with Louis X and Philip V. Due to Edward’s inaction, an angry Charles declared war on England and invaded Aquitaine.

As French forces swept across the duchy, it appeared that France would snatch Aquitaine away from England. The French captured Agen and Marmande, but the English managed to hold onto Bordeaux and Bayonne. In England, Edward II’s unpopularity and financial issues prevented him from raising a fleet, which delayed crucial assistance. Realizing that he was beaten, Edward agreed to pay homage to Charles, but only if his son, Prince Edward, did so in his place. Charles accepted.

Isabelle’s Wrath

On September 24, 1325, Prince Edward and his mother, Queen Isabelle, paid homage to Charles. While in France, a vengeful Isabelle sought to enlist her brother’s help in overthrowing Edward II due to his terrible treatment of her. With Charles’s approval, Isabelle gathered her forces and invaded England with her lover, the exiled noble Roger Mortimer. Edward II’s deep unpopularity caused many to side with Isabelle and resulted in Edward being dethroned in favor of his son. After Prince Edward’s accession as Edward III, peace was established between the new king of England and Charles in 1327. The peace settlement strongly favored France, and the country would gain many new territories at England’s expense.

Last of the Line

By early 1328, Charles IV was suffering from illness. On February 1, 1328, Charles breathed his last breath, and with him, the senior line of the Capetian dynasty ended. Since Charles’s sons had all died before him, the question of succession arose again. Once more, the surviving daughters of a French king were ignored in favor of a male successor. It was decided that Charles’s cousin, Philip of Valois, would succeed him as Philip VI of France.

Conclusion

Although his reign was brief, Charles IV still made an impact. Unlike his elder brothers, Charles was able to humble England and have it submit to French authority. The peace between the two nations provided France with a generous increase in territory, further cementing the power of France’s monarchy over England’s. Upon Philip VI’s ascension, the Valois dynasty was established. His reign would oversee the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War.

Sources

Bradbury, J. (2010). The Capetians: Kings of France, 987-1328. London: Hambledon Continuum.

Charles IV. (2019, January 28). Retrieved May 22, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-IV-king-of-France.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Andy Tree

I'm a European history enthusiast who seeks to share his passion with others. I hope to inform and inspire readers with my posts!

1 Comments

  1. 1314 was a big year. Edward III was born, Bannockburn gave the Scots something to sing about, and The She Devil of France lost her father. The retreating English noted the unusual poor weather that was early for June, as the Little Ice Age was first showing signs. Bruce got his family members back held hostage. Marjorie would make Robert II. Oh, as you said Isabella of France was born in 1295 and Wallace was executed in 1305. So much for the Braveheart movie suggesting he impregnated her. Edward II was also a strapping strong man. There are passionate love notes between Isabella and Edward. They made four children. No claim to good leadership or his extracurricular activities.

Leave a Comment