The coronation of Charles VI
Charles seized by madness in the forest near Le Mans
Charles was born in Paris, in the royal residence of the Hôtel Saint-Pol, on 3 December 1368, the son of the king of France Charles V, of the House of Valois, and of Joan of Bourbon. As heir to the French throne, his older brothers having died before he was born, Charles had the title Dauphin of France. At his father's death on 16 September 1380, he inherited the throne of France. His coronation took place on 4 November 1380, at Reims Cathedral. Although the royal age of majority was 14 (the "age of accountability" under Roman Catholic canon law), Charles did not terminate the regency and take personal rule until 1388.
Charles VI was only 11 years old when he was crowned King of France. Although Charles was entitled to rule personally from the age of 14, the dukes maintained their grip on power until Charles terminated the regency at the age of 21.
During his minority, France was ruled by Charles' uncles, as regents. The regents were Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Louis I, Duke of Anjou, and John, Duke of Berry - all brothers of Charles V - along with Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, Charles VI's maternal uncle. Philip took the dominant role during the regency. Louis of Anjou was fighting for his claim to the Kingdom of Naples after 1382, dying in 1384; John of Berry was interested mainly in the Languedoc, and not particularly interested in politics; and Louis of Bourbon was a largely unimportant figure, due to his personality (showing signs of mental instability) and status (since he was not the son of a king).
During the rule of his uncles, the financial resources of the kingdom, painstakingly built up by his father Charles V the Wise, were squandered for the personal profit of the dukes, whose interests were frequently divergent or even opposing. During that time, the power of the royal administration was strengthened and taxes re-established. The latter policy represented a reversal of the deathbed decision of the king's father Charles V to repeal taxes, and led to tax revolts, known as the Harelle. Increased tax revenues were needed to support the self-serving policies of the king's uncles, whose interests were frequently in conflict with those of the crown and with each other. The Battle of Roosebeke (1382), for example, brilliantly won by the royal troops, was prosecuted solely for the benefit of Philip of Burgundy. The treasury surplus carefully accumulated by Charles V was quickly squandered.
Charles VI brought the regency to an end in 1388, taking up personal rule. He restored to power the highly-competent advisors of Charles V, known as the Marmousets, who ushered in a new period of high esteem for the crown. Charles VI was widely referred to as Charles the Beloved by his subjects.
Wife and children
He married Isabeau of Bavaria on 17 July 1385, when he was 17 and she was 14 (and considered an adult at the time). Isabeau had 12 children, most of whom died young. Isabeau's first child, named Charles, was born in 1386, and was Dauphin of Viennois (heir apparent), but survived only 3 months. Her second child, Joan, was born on 14 June 1388, but died in 1390. Her third child, Isabella, was born in 1389. She was married to Richard II, King of England in 1396, at the age of 6, and became Queen of England. Richard died in 1400 and they had no children. Richard's successor, Henry IV, wanted Isabella to then marry his son, 14-year-old future king Henry V, but she refused. She married again in 1406, this time to her cousin, Charles, Duke of Orléans, at the age of 17. She died in childbirth at the age of 19.
Isabeau's fourth child, Joan, was born in 1391, and was married to John VI, Duke of Brittany in 1396, at an age of 5; they had children. Isabeau's fifth child born in 1392 was also named Charles, and was Dauphin. Charles VI then became insane. The young Charles was betrothed to Margaret of Burgundy in 1396, but died at the age of 9. Isabeau's sixth child, Mary, was born in 1393. She was never married, and had no children. Isabeau's seventh child, Michelle, was born in 1395. She was engaged to Philip, son of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, in 1404 (both were then aged 8) and they were married in 1409, aged 14. She had one child who died in infancy, before she died in 1422, aged 27.
Isabeau's eighth child, Louis, was born in 1397, and was also Dauphin. He married Margaret of Burgundy, who had previously been betrothed to his brother Charles. The marriage produced no children by the time of Louis's death in 1415, aged 18.
Isabeau's ninth child, John, was born in 1398, and was also Dauphin from 1415, after the death of his brother Louis. He was married to Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut in 1415, then aged 17, but they did not have any children before he died in 1417, aged 19. Isabeau's tenth child, Catherine, was born in 1401. She was married firstly to Henry V, King of England in 1420, and they had one child, who became Henry VI of England. Henry V died suddenly in 1422. Catherine may then have secretly married Owen Tudor in 1429 and had additional children, including Edmund Tudor, the father of Henry VII. She died in 1437, aged 36.
Isabeau's eleventh child, also named Charles, was born in 1403. In 1413, Queen Isabeau and Yolande of Aragon finalized a marriage contract between Charles and Yolande's daughter Marie of Anjou, Charles' second cousin. Since both Dauphin Louis and then Dauphin John died while in the care of John the Fearless, the Duke of Burgundy and regent for the insane King Charles, Yolande became Charles' protectress. Charles became the new Dauphin in 1417 upon the death of his brother John. Now with the heir to the throne of France under her protection, Yolande refused Queen Isabeau's orders to return Charles to the French Court, reportedly replying, "We have not nurtured and cherished this one for you to make him die like his brothers or to go mad like his father, or to become English like you. I keep him for my own. Come and take him away, if you dare." After the death of Charles VI in 1422, the English regents claimed the crown of France for Henry VI, then aged 1, according to the terms of the Treaty of Troyes. However, Charles, aged 19, repudiated the treaty and claimed the throne for himself as King Charles VII, sparking fresh fighting with the English. His marriage to Marie of Anjou in 1422 produced many children, most of whom died at a very early age. Charles VII died in 1461 at age 58, the most long-lived of Isabeau's children.
Isabeau's twelfth and the last child, Philip, was born in 1407, but died shortly after.