Louis X was born on October 4, 1289, to King Philip IV and Queen Joan of Navarre. Philip idolized his grandfather, Louis IX, and named his eldest son in his honor. During his reign, the king became known for his iron will. Philip brought about the downfall of the Templar Order, won a power struggle against Pope Boniface VIII, and saw the beginning of the Avignon papacy. However, towards the end of his reign, the Capetian dynasty experienced a scandal.
Tour de Nesle Scandal
In 1314, Louis and his brothers Philip and Charles each had a wife. Louis himself had been married to Margaret of Burgundy since 1305. Despite this, the prince’s younger sister, Isabella, accused her brother’s wives of adultery with French knights. Instead of discreetly handling the matter, Philip IV publicly arrested his three daughter-in-laws and their alleged lovers. In turn, Margaret remained in prison until her death on August 14, 1315. As a result of the scandal, only Prince Philip’s marriage stayed intact.
The alleged lovers of the wives, the D’Aulnay brothers, Philip and Walter, suffered brutal fates. The brothers were tortured until they confessed to the affair. In turn, they were quickly declared guilty and experienced horrific ends. After their deaths, the monarchy seized the D’Aulnay’s possessions.
Philip IV’s Death
In 1314, Philip IV was a healthy 46-year-old when he fell from his horse and broke his leg. Although it seemed likely that he would recover, the wound became infected. When the injury worsen, Philip began suffering from a fever and stomach pains. As the king lay dying, he called Louis to his bedside. Philip told his son to rule moderately and to listen to his uncle’s advice. On November 26, the king finally succumbed to his injury.
King of France
On August 24, 1315, Louis X became the 12th Capetian king of France. Louis had previously been the King of Navarre after his mother’s death in April 1305. After his coronation, the king passed Navarre’s throne to his younger brother, Philip. Less than a week after Margaret’s death, the king remarried King Charles I of Hungary’s daughter, Clementia.
At court, Louis X’s uncle, Charles of Valois, emerged as a powerful political figure. Charles played a key role in his nephew’s government and largely influenced his decisions. However, the two men didn’t always agree on matters. Charles wanted Philip IV’s unpopular advisor, Enguerrand de Marigny, removed from the government. Although Louis disagreed, his uncle ultimately got his way. In turn, de Marigny was tried for treason and executed.
As Charles purged the government of officials he didn’t like, Louis X dealt with the nobility. After Philip IV’s passing, the nobility began attempting to gain more power and independence. Over time, various regions formed alliances before pressing the king to grant them charters of liberty. In response, Louis agreed to negotiate with their representatives in return for taxation. The king needed the nobility’s support in an upcoming military campaign against Flanders.
Flanders was a wealthy, independent state that had a history of resisting royal authority. Count Robert of Bethune refused to pay homage to Louis X and removed a French garrison from Courtrai. Angered at the count’s defiance, the king ordered a ban on exports to Flanders. Louis pressured the local church and England to suppress Spanish merchants. When this produced mixed results, the king allied himself with Count William of Hainault and prepared an army. Due to heavy rain and flooding, Louis and the army failed to make any progress, forcing the king to make peace with Robert in 1316.
Unlike his father and great-grandfather, Louis X showed a more tolerant attitude towards Jews in France. Whereas Philip IV attempted to expel all French Jews in 1306, the king allowed them to stay. However, his conditions were strict. In order to remain, Jews couldn’t engage in money lending, had to wear an identifying band, and lived in specific areas. Although the Jewish community somewhat recovered, it now heavily relied on the monarchy for protection.
Louis X felt even stronger about serfs and slaves in France. The king believed that any slave in France should automatically be freed. Despite this sentiment, Louis maintained that serfs needed to buy their freedom first. The king sent commissioners throughout the kingdom to evaluate each serf’s value. If the serfs refused to pay for their freedom, then their property would be taken and sold.
Louis X’s Death
Louis X enjoyed tennis and is one of history’s first recorded players. Following a game, the king drank some cold wine and collapsed. It’s unknown whether Louis had been suffering from an illness, had an infection, or was poisoned. Regardless, the 26-year-old king died on June 5, 1316. Louis had ruled France for less than two years. He left behind a pregnant wife who eventually gave birth to a son, John I, on November 19.
Louis X’s brief reign began the end of the Capetian dynasty. After his death, John I only ruled for five days before dying. Philip V would succeed his nephew before passing away in 1322. Like his brothers, Charles IV also failed to produce any living sons. Upon his death in January 1328, the senior Capetian line became extinct, ending the 341-year-old dynasty.
Bradbury, J. (2010). The Capetians: Kings of France, 987-1328. London: Hambledon Continuum.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (2021, June 1). Louis X. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Louis-X.