Charles VII of France, Henry VI of England, Jean II of France, Joan of Arc, Louis II of Anjou, Marie of Anjou, The Dauphin, Treaty of Troyes, Yolande of Aragon
Charles VII (February 22, 1403 – July 22, 1461), called the Victorious or the Well-Served, was King of France from 1422 to his death in 1461.
Born at the Hôtel Saint-Pol, the royal residence in Paris, Charles was given the title of Count of Ponthieu six months after his birth in 1403. He was the eleventh child and fifth son of Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria.
His four elder brothers, Charles (1386), Charles (1392–1401), Louis (1397–1415) and Jean (1398–1417) had each held the title of Dauphin of France as heirs apparent to the French throne in turn. All died childless, leaving Charles with a rich inheritance of titles.
At the death of his father, Charles VI, the succession was cast into doubt. In the midst of the Hundred Years’ War, Charles VII inherited the throne of France under desperate circumstances.
The Treaty of Troyes, signed by Charles VI on May 21, 1420, mandated that the throne pass to the infant King Henry VI of England, the son of the recently deceased Henry V and Catherine of Valois, daughter of Charles VI; however, Frenchmen loyal to the king of France regarded the treaty as invalid on grounds of coercion and Charles VI’s diminished mental capacity.
For those who did not recognize the treaty and believed the Dauphin Charles to be of legitimate birth, he was considered to be the rightful heir to the throne. For those who did not recognize his legitimacy, the rightful heir was recognized as Charles, Duke of Orléans, cousin of the Dauphin, who was in English captivity.
In addition, his father, Charles VI, had disinherited him in 1420 and recognized Henry V of England and his heirs as the legitimate successors to the French crown. At the same time, a civil war raged in France between the Armagnacs (supporters of the House of Valois) and the Burgundian party (supporters of the House of Valois-Burgundy, which was allied to the English).
Forces of the Kingdom of England and the duke of Burgundy occupied Guyenne and northern France, including Paris, the most populous city, and Reims, the city in which French kings were traditionally crowned.
With his court removed to Bourges, south of the Loire River, Charles was disparagingly called the “King of Bourges”, because the area around this city was one of the few remaining regions left to him.
However, his political and military position improved dramatically with the emergence of Joan of Arc as a spiritual leader in France. Joan and other charismatic figures led French troops to lift the sieges of Orléans and other strategic cities on the Loire river, and to crush the English at the battle of Patay. With the local English troops dispersed, the people of Reims switched allegiance and opened their gates, which enabled the coronation of Charles VII at Reims Cathedral in 1429.
Six years later, he ended the English-Burgundian alliance by signing the Treaty of Arras with Burgundy, followed by the recovery of Paris in 1436 and the steady reconquest of Normandy in the 1440s using a newly organized professional army and advanced siege cannons. Following the battle of Castillon in 1453, the French expelled the English from all their continental possessions except the Pale of Calais.
The last years of Charles VII were marked by conflicts with his turbulent son, the future Louis XI of France.
Marriage and Family
Charles married his second cousin Marie of Anjou They were both great-grandchildren of King Jean II of France and his first wife Bonne of Bohemia through the male line. They had fourteen children.
Marie was the eldest daughter of Louis II of Anjou, claimant to the throne of Naples, and Yolande of Aragon, claimant to the throne of Aragon.
Marie was betrothed to her second cousin Charles, son and heir apparent of Charles VI of France, in 1413. When a Burgundian force took Paris in 1418, Charles left her stranded, but she was taken by Jean the Fearless to Saumur to be reunited with him. However, Charles failed to arrive for the agreed rendezvous.
The wedding took place on December 18, 1422 at Bourges. The marriage made Marie Queen of France, but as far as it is known, she was never crowned. Her spouse’s victory in the Hundred Years War owed a great deal to the support he received from Marie’s family, notably from her mother Yolande of Aragon.