Catherine of Courtney, Charles of Valois, Empress of Constantinople, House of Capet, House of Valois, Infanta Isabella of Aragon, King Frederick III of Sicily, King Louis X of France, King Philippe III of France, King Philippe IV of France, Pope Boniface VIII, Pope Martin IV
Charles, Count of Valois (March 12, 1270 – December 16, 1325), the fourth son of King Philippe III of France and Infanta Isabella of Aragon, was a member of the House of Capét and founder of the House of Valois, whose rule over France would start in 1328.
Charles ruled several principalities. He held in appanage the counties of Valois, Alençon (1285), and Perche. Through his marriage to his first wife, Margaret, Countess of Anjou and Maine, he became Count of Anjou and Maine. Through his marriage to his second wife, Catherine I of Courtenay, Empress of Constantinople, he was titular Latin Emperor of Constantinople from 1301 to 1307, although he ruled from exile and only had authority over the Crusader States in Greece.
As the grandson of King Louis IX of France, Charles of Valois was a son, brother, brother-in-law and son-in-law of kings or queens (of France, Navarre, England and Naples). His descendants, the House of Valois, would become the royal house of France three years after his death, beginning with his eldest son King Philippe VI of France.
Besides holding in appanage the counties of Valois, Alençon and Perche, Charles became in 1290 the Count of Anjou and of Maine by his first marriage with Margaret of Anjou, the eldest daughter of King Charles II of Naples, titular King of Sicily; by a second marriage that he contracted with the heiress of Emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople, last Latin emperor of Constantinople, he also had pretensions to the throne of Constantinople.
From his early years, Charles of Valois dreamed of more and sought all his life for a crown he never obtained. Starting in 1284, Pope Martin IV recognized him as King of Aragon (under the vassalage of the Holy See), as the son of his mother, Infanta Isabella of Aragon, in opposition to King Pedro III of Aragon, who after the conquest of the island of Sicily was an enemy of the Papacy.
Charles hence married Margaret, the daughter of the Neapolitan king, in order to re-enforce his position in Sicily which was supported by the Pope. Thanks to this Aragonese Crusade undertaken by his father King Philippe III against the advice of his elder brother Philippe the Fair, he believed he would win a kingdom and however won nothing but the ridicule of having been crowned with a cardinal’s hat in 1285, which gave him the alias of the “King of the Cap.” He would never dare to use the royal seal which was made on this occasion and had to renounce the title.
His principal quality was to be a good military leader. Charles commanded effectively in Flanders in 1297. Thus his elder brother, King Philippe IV of France, quickly deduced that Charles could conduct an expedition in Italy against King Frederick III of Sicily. The affair was ended by the Treaty of Caltabellotta.
Dreaming at the same time for an imperial crown, Charles married secondly to Catherine I of Courtenay in 1301, who was the titular Empress of Constantinople. But it needed the connivance of Pope Boniface VIII, which he obtained by his expedition to Italy, where the Pope supported Charles’s father-in-law King Charles II against King Frederick III, his cousin.
Named papal vicar, Charles of Valois lost himself in the complexity of Italian politics, was compromised in a massacre at Florence, and in sordid financial extremities, reached Sicily where he consolidated his reputation as a looter and finally returned to France discredited in 1301–1302.
Charles was back in shape to seek a new crown when the German King, Albrecht I, King of the Romans, was murdered in 1308. Charles’s brother King Philippe IV, who did not wish to take the risk himself of a check and probably thought that a French puppet on the imperial throne would be a good thing for France, encouraged him.
The candidacy was defeated with the election of Heinrich VII of Luxembourg as German king, for the electors did not want France to become even more powerful. Charles thus continued to dream of the eastern crown of the Courtenays.
He did benefit from the affection which his brother King Philippe, who had suffered from the remarriage of their father, brought to his only full brother, and Charles thus found himself given responsibilities which largely exceeded his talent. Thus it was he who directed, in 1311, the royal embassy to the conferences of Tournai with the Flemish; he quarreled there with his brother’s chamberlain Enguerrand de Marigny, who openly defied him. Charles did not pardon the affront and would continue the vendetta against Marigny after his brother King Philippe’s death.
In 1314, Charles was doggedly opposed to the torture of Jacques de Molay, grand master of the Templars.
The premature death of Charles’s nephew, King Louis X of France, in 1316, gave Charles hopes for a political role. However, he could not prevent his nephew Philippe the Tall from taking the regency while awaiting the birth of his brother King Louis X’s posthumous son. When that son (Jean I of France) died after a few days, Philippe took the throne as King Philippe V of France. Charles was initially opposed to his nephew Philippe’s succession, for Philippe’s elder brother King Louis X had left behind a daughter, Joan of France, his only surviving child. However, Charles later switched sides and eventually backed his nephew Philippe, probably realizing that Philippe’s precedent would bring him and his line closer to the throne.
In 1324, Charles commanded with success the army of his nephew, King Charles IV of France (who succeeded his elder brother King Philippe V in 1322), to take Guyenne and Flanders from King Edward II of England. He contributed, by the capture of several cities, to accelerate the peace, which was concluded between the King of France and his sister Isabella, the queen-consort of England as the wife of King Edward II.
The Count of Valois died on December 16, 1325 at Nogent-le-Roi, leaving a son who would take the throne of France under the name of Philippe VI and commence the branch of the Valois. Had he survived for three more years and outlived his nephew King Charles IV, Charles might have become king of France. Charles was buried in the now-demolished church of the Couvent des Jacobins in Paris – his effigy is now in the Basilica of St Denis.