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Expulsion of the Jews, 1394

On September 17, 1394, Charles suddenly published an ordinance in which he declared, in substance, that for a long time he had been taking note of the many complaints provoked by the excesses and misdemeanors of the Jews against Christians, and that the prosecutors had made several investigations and discovered that the Jews broke the agreement with the king on many occasions.


Therefore, he decreed, as an irrevocable law and statute, that no Jew should dwell in his domains (Ordonnances, vii. 675). According to the Religieux de St. Denis, the king signed this decree at the insistence of the queen (“Chron. de Charles VI.” ii. 119). The decree was not immediately enforced, a respite being granted to the Jews in order that they have enough time to sell their property and pay their debts.

Those indebted to them were enjoined to redeem their obligations within a set time; otherwise their pledges held in pawn were to be sold by the Jews. The provost was to escort the Jews to the frontier of the kingdom. Subsequently, the king released Christians from their debts.

Struggles for power

With Charles VI mentally ill, from 1393 his wife Isabeau presided over a regency counsel, on which sat the grandees of the kingdom. Philippe II the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who acted as regent during the king’s minority (from 1380 to 1388), was a great influence on the queen (he had organized the royal marriage during his regency). Influence progressively shifted to Louis I, Duke of Orléans, the king’s brother, another contender for power, and it was suspected, the queen’s lover.

Charles VI’s other uncles were less influential during the regency: Louis II of Naples was still engaged managing the Kingdom of Naples, and John, Duke of Berry, served as a mediator between the Orléans party (what would become the Armagnacs) and the Burgundy party (Bourguignons). The rivalry would increase bit by bit and in the end result in outright civil war.

The new regents dismissed the various advisers and officials Charles had appointed. On the death of Philip the Bold in April 1404, his son John the Fearless took over the political aims of his father, and the feud with Louis escalated. John, who was less linked to Isabeau, again lost influence at court.

Wars with Burgundy and England

In 1407, Louis of Orléans was murdered in the rue Vieille du Temple in Paris. John did not deny responsibility, claiming that Louis was a tyrant who squandered money. Louis’ son Charles, the new Duke of Orléans, turned to his father-in-law, Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac, for support against Jean the Fearless. This resulted in the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War, which lasted from 1407 until 1435, beyond Charles’ reign, though the war with the English was still in progress.

With the English taking over much of the country, Jean the Fearless sought to end the feud with the royal family by negotiating with the Dauphin Charles, the king’s heir. They met at the bridge at Montereau on September 10, 1419, but during the meeting, Jean the Fearless killed by Tanneguy du Chastel, a follower of the Dauphin. Jean’s successor, Philippe II the Good, the new Duke of Burgundy, threw in his lot with the English.

English invasion and death

Charles VI’s reign was marked by the continuing conflict with the English, known as the Hundred Years’ War. An early attempt at peace occurred in 1396 when Charles’ daughter, the almost seven-year-old Isabella of Valois, married the 29-year-old Richard II of England. By 1415, however, the feud between the French royal family and the House of Burgundy led to chaos and anarchy throughout France, a situation that Henry V of England was eager to take advantage of. Henry led an invasion that culminated in the defeat of the French army at the Battle of Agincourt in October.

In May 1420, Henry V and Charles VI signed the Treaty of Troyes, which named Henry as Charles’ successor, and stipulated that Henry’s heirs would succeed him on the throne of France. It disinherited the Dauphin Charles, then only 17 years old. (In 1421, it was implied in Burgundian propaganda that the young Charles was illegitimate.) The treaty also betrothed Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine of Valois, to Henry. Disinheriting the Dauphin in favor of Henry was a blatant act against the interests of the French aristocracy, supported by the Duke of Burgundy.

The Dauphin who had declared himself regent for his father when the Duke of Burgundy invaded Paris and captured the king, had established a court at Bourges.

Charles VI died on October 21, 1422 in Paris, at the Hôtel Saint-Pol. He was interred in Saint Denis Basilica, where his wife Isabeau of Bavaria would join him after her death in September 1435.

Henry V of England died just a few weeks before him, in August 1422, leaving an infant son, who became King Henry VI of England. Therefore, according to the Treaty of Troyes, with the death of Charles VI, little Henry became King of France. His coronation as such was in Paris (held by the English since 1418) at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris on December 26, 1431.

The son disinherited by Charles VI, the Dauphin Charles, continued to fight to regain his kingdom. In 1429 Joan of Arc arrived on the scene. She led his forces to victory against the English, and took him to be crowned in Reims Cathedral as King Charles VII of France on July 17, 1429. He became known as “Charles the Victorious” and was able to restore the French line to the throne of France by defeating the English in 1450.