Charles Vll

Charles VII


After Jean Fouquet – German Wikipedia, uploaded there by user Xarax, who has copied it from, uploaded there by user Kelson, Public Domain,


Early Life

He is something of a contrary figure in French history. (2) He was born (1,3) at the Hôtel Saint-Pol, the royal residence (12) in Paris on February 22nd, 1403, (1,3) the fifth and (8,12) eldest surviving son of (4) the eleven children of (10,11) Charles VI of France and Isabelle of Bavaria. (4,10) OR he had two remaining brothers. (11) Though he is looked at as one of the most successful kings of France, due to his ultimate defeat of the English in the Hundred Years War, there were several significant factors at the beginning of Charles’s life that made it unlikely he would ever become king. (11) For this reason, Charles was given little training in leadership. (11) His father, who suffered from recurrent madness, (7,8) implied that Charles was illegitimate (7,8) since his mother was known to be a woman of loose morals. (7,11) It was widely rumoured that Charles, and possibly a number of his siblings, was the result of one of the illicit affairs Queen Isabella engaged in while the king was suffering from one of his many bouts of insanity. (11) Crises caused by his father’s insanity were frequent. (10) Indulged by his mother, he was permanently marked by his childhood at the French court, where intrigue, luxury, a taste for the arts, extravagance, and profligacy all prevailed at the same time. (10) Even outside the royal household, times were highly turbulent within France. (11) With Charles VI only sometimes in control of his mind, two political factions were vying for control of the government: the Burgundians (followers of the Dukes of Burgundy, successively uncle and cousin of the king) and the Armagnacs (followers of the Count of Armagnac, father-in-law to the Duke of Orleans, the king’s nephew). (11) Charles would ultimately ally himself with the latter. (11) During his boyhood (9,12) he held the title of Count of Ponthieu, (6,9) given at his birth. (12) In May 1413 rioting Parisians invaded the Hôtel Saint-Paul, where he lived. (10) Toward the end of that year, (10) he was betrothed to Mary of Anjou, the nine-year-old daughter of Louis II of Anjou, king of Naples, OR Sicily (9) and his wife, Yolande of Aragon. (10) He spent the years 1414 and 1415 at the Angevin court (9) and became increasingly close with his new in-laws, who provided relief from the troubled situation he faced at home with a mad father and an ambitious, flirtatious mother. (11) In addition to the civil disputes, France was forced to deal with an English invasion led by King Henry V. (11) By 1415, King Henry had already besieged (and conquered) the town of Harfleur and defeated a much larger French army at Agincourt. (11) He received the duchy of Touraine (6,9) in 1416. (9) In 1416, he became captain general of Paris and began to participate in the royal council, where Louis of Anjou played a prominent role. (10) Over the next five years, the English dominated the French and conquered large portions of the country. (11)


His four elder brothers, Charles (1386), Charles (1392–1401), Louis (1397–1415) and John (1398–1417) had each held the title of Dauphin of France (heir to the French throne) in turn. (12) All four of his (8,12) OR three (6) elder brothers died young (1,2) and childless, leaving Charles with a rich inheritance of titles. (12) When his brother John died (9) in April (10) 1417, (6,8) Charles was named Dauphin (1,2) at the age of 14 (8,10) OR He was regarded as heir to the throne until 1415. (7)He faced threats to his life from the time he was named the Dauphin. (8,12) In 1417, too (9) he was also made lieutenant general of the kingdom, (8,9) but his mother left Paris and allied herself with John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy. (10) The soldiers of Duke John the Fearless of Burgundy (8,10) attempted to capture OR did capture (10,12) Paris (8,10) on May 29th (10,12) 1418, forcing Charles to flee to Bourges. (8,10) There he put himself at the head of the Armagnac party (rivals of the Burgundians) (10) Eventually, (6) before ascending the throne (1,2) while still a teenager, (2) he assumed the title of (10) regent for his (1,2) mentally unbalanced (2) father, Charles VI, from (1,2) December (9) 1418. (1,2)

Montereau and the Anglo Burgundian alliance

Faced with the threat of the English, who had invaded France, and the demands of the English king, Henry V, who claimed the French crown, (10) Charles attempted to reconcile his differences with (10) John the Fearless (10,12) the Duke of Burgundy. (9,10) They concluded a pact of friendship at Pouilly (10,12) not far from Melun where Charles was staying (12) on July (10,12) 2nd, (10) OR 11th (12) 1419. (10,12) It was called the Treaty of Pouilly-le-Fort known also under name of Paix du Ponceau (ponceau from French pont, “bridge”, is a small one-span bridge thrown over a stream). (12) They planned another meeting (11,12) for the following 10 September’ (12) in an attempt to cool tensions between their factions so they may concentrate more fully on the English. (11) The Duke assumed that the meeting would be entirely peaceful and diplomatic, thus he brought only a small escort with him, (12) but in the course of that meeting (10) on the bridge (12) at Montereau (9,10) on September 10th, (10) 1419, the Duke was killed (9,10) by the Armagnacs (10,11) in brutal fashion (11) in Charles’s presence. (10) The deed was not apparently premeditated, (9,10) but Charles’ level of involvement has remained uncertain to this day. (12) Although he claimed to have been unaware of his men’s intentions, this was considered unlikely by those who heard of the murder. (12) The English and Burgundians assumed his guilt, and it ruined Charles’s cause for the time. (9) The assassination marked the end of any attempt of a reconciliation between the Armagnacs and Burgundians, (12) and caused Burgundy’s son and heir to ally himself with the English. (10,11) On December 24th, the Duke’s successor, Philip the Good, utilizing powers conferred on him by Charles VI, concluded a general truce with the English, excluding the Armagnacs and sealing the Anglo–Burgundian alliance. (10) The Crime of Montereau thus played into the hands of Henry V of England. (12) This paralyzed Charles’ authority in northern France. (9)


Without Burgundy’s support, (11) on 21st May (12) 1420 (3,4) Charles VI (2,3) was forced to sign (7) OR signed a treaty (2,3) at Troyes (4,8) with Henry V of England that disinherited his own son (2,3) on the grounds that he was illegitimate, (8) and named Henry V of England and his heirs: (2,3) the first heir was Henry’s brother, Thomas of Clarence, but he was killed in battle against the dauphin’s army in 1421, and the king himself succumbed to dysentery the following year, so the next heir was (11) the infant King Henry VI of England, the son of the recently deceased Henry V (8,12) and Catherine of Valois, daughter of Charles VI. (12) Under the Treaty Henry VI was the legitimate successor to the French crown. (2,3) The Treaty was an effort to put an end to the war that had been raging for decades. (4)

Character and Personal life of Charles VII

He was not warlike, (5) he certainly had no taste for dangerous adventures, prestigious operations, or sumptuous exhibitions. (10) OR was known for his bravery and fearlessness, (8,12) and showed signs of developing into a capable military leader when (8) he led an army against the English as a young man. (8,12) dressed in the red, white, and blue that represented his family; his heraldic device was a mailed fist clutching a naked sword. (12) He was sickly, (5) physically weak, (5,9) personally unattractive, (5) inherently lazy, shy (2) and even somewhat apathetic. (2,10) He made active efforts to combat his mother’s willingness to please others by being polite and fitting in with their plans. (9) OR he was weak in mind (9) and at Bourges he was ruled by powerful and ruthless favourites, particularly Georges de la Trémoïlle, (5,7) Jean Louvet and Tanguy du Chastel, the instigators of the murder of John the Fearless. (9) He felt humiliated by his father’s insinuation that he was illegitimate. (8) Charles was betrothed to Marie of Anjou (5,8) (1404-1463) (4) in 1413 (8) and married her (5,8) in 1422. (8) Marie was the daughter of Louis II of Anjou and Yolande of Aragon, titular Queen of Aragon. (8) The marriage produced 14 children. (8) As time went on, though, his councillors and even his mistresses encouraged and inspired him to deeds that would ultimately unify France. (2,9) Support from his wife’s powerful and wealthy family was an important factor in the king’s success (4,8) during the Hundred Years’ War. (8) Like his cousin of Burgundy, he was pleasure loving, especially toward the end of his life, and had influential mistresses. (10) Whatever affection he had for his wife, (4) the great love of Charles VII’s life was Agnès Sorel, (4,8) who became his mistress in 1444 and died in 1450. (9) She bore him three daughters (8) and exercised considerable influence over him. (8,9) She was the first officially recognized royal mistress, (8,9) playing a public and political role, and may be said to have established a tradition. (9) Antoinette de Maignelay succeeded her after 1450. (10) His innate indolence and his shyness—as well as his good sense and wisdom—induced him to prudence, notably in his foreign policies (as when he refused to participate in a crusade urged on him by the Pope). (10) He was adept at minimizing papal influence over the internal affairs of his kingdom. (10) He had no fixed residence, travelling from one castle to another. (10)

Situation on Accession

King Charles VI died in 1422 (1,2) in Paris and the succession was cast into doubt: (8) the kingdoms of both England and France were under the nominal control of the infant King Henry VI. (4,6) The new king’s uncle John (11,12) of Lancaster, 1st (12) Duke of Bedford, (11,12) based in Normandy, (4,12) was awarded the position of regent in France. (11,12) By that time Charles had retired to Mehun-sur-Yevre, near Bourges, which had been the nominal seat of government since 1418. (9) Upon the death of his father (2,4) Charles announced himself king. (2,8) Frenchmen loyal to Charles VI rejected the treaty of Troyes as invalid on grounds of coercion and Charles VI’s diminished mental capacity. (8,12) They supported one of two claimants: (8) if they believed the Dauphin Charles to be legitimate, he was considered the rightful heir. (12) This applied to the Armagnac faction (6) and the “party of the King.” (10) For those who did not recognize the Dauphin’s legitimacy, the rightful heir was recognized as Charles, Duke of Orléans, cousin of the Dauphin, who was in English captivity. (12) Only the supporters of Henry VI and the Dauphin Charles were able to enlist sufficient military force to press effectively for their candidates. (12) The English, already in control of northern France, were able to enforce the claim of their king in the regions of France that they occupied. (12) Charles was still known as ‘the Dauphin’ (2,4) (the French title for the heir to the throne) or ‘the King of Bourges’ until he was properly crowned in Reims in 1429. (2) He was the fifth (3) king of the House of Valois. (3,4) He inherited the throne of France under desperate circumstances, in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War. (3) His worst difficulties were of a financial nature: (10) He was impoverished, (5,6) but the taxes voted by the States General (representative assembly) were insufficient for his needs; he mortgaged his lands and lived by borrowing from financiers and nobles, such as Georges de La Trémoille. (10) He lacked a loyal nobility; (5) he had no regular army (4,6) no serious alliances, (6) and was opposed by the powerful nobleman Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. (5,7) Northern France, including Paris, was thus ruled by an English regent, Henry V’s brother,

Established at Bourges

The Armagnac administrators who had been driven out of Paris by the Duke of Bedford gathered round the young king, (9,10) Charles was under the domination of Jean Louvet and Tanguy du Chastel, the instigators of the murder of John the Fearless, and other discredited partisans. (9) He was recognized as king in Touraine, Berry and Poitou, in Languedoc and other provinces of southern France, (9) in fact all of France south of the Loire River, except for the English part of Guyenne. (10) He remained in southern France (4,8) and his people (10) OR he (6,8) established a parliament in Poitiers (6,8) in 1419. (8) He maintained a court in the Loire Valley (8) ruling from his fortified castle at Chinon (4) with an embryonic government (6) and his court (3) in Bourges (3,6) south of the Loire River. (3) Charles was disparagingly called the “King of Bourges”, because the area around this city was one of the few remaining regions left to him. (3,7) OR He held the lands south of the Loire, (6,9) and rallied the rich Languedoc to his cause on his Progress of 1420. (6) He relied on popular sentiment to regain his kingdom, (6)

Regime at Bourges

The initial years of his reign were marked by indecisiveness and inaction, and several years passed without him being officially proclaimed the King. (8) OR He claimed the title King of France for himself, but he failed to make any attempts to expel the English from northern France out of indecision and a sense of hopelessness Instead, he remained south of the Loire River, where he was still able to exert power, and maintained an itinerant court in the Loire Valley at castles such as Chinon. (12) Under the Treaty of Troyes, (4,6) forces of the Kingdom of England and the Duchy of Burgundy (3,5) occupied (3,4) the western part of (6) Guyenne and northern France, (3,4) except for a few towns and isolated fortresses, (6) which it ruled through a regent, (4,6) the Duke of Bedford, (6) in Normandy. (4) This included Paris, the most populous city, and Reims, the city in which the French kings were traditionally crowned. (3) The Dauphin still held the vast majority of southern France, as well as many territories within the north, King Henry V had much work to do in bringing his soon-to-be kingdom under his control. (11) With the assistance of the Duke of Burgundy, (5,11) he was able to conquer the vast majority of Normandy, Champagne, the Ile-de-France and other territories. (11) Even after the death of the powerful Henry V, under Bedford’s leadership (11) they strengthened their grip over France. (4,5) From 1422 to 1428 English armies moved toward Bourges through Maine and Anjou. (5) In July 1421, upon learning that Henry V was preparing from Mantes to attack with a much larger army, the Dauphin withdrew from the siege of Chartres in order to avoid defeat. (12) He then went south of the Loire River under the protection of Yolande of Aragon, known as “Queen of the Four Kingdoms” and, on 22 April 1422, married her daughter, Marie of Anjou, to whom he had been engaged since December 1413 in a ceremony at the Louvre Palace. (12) They gained the provinces of Champagne and Maine (9) when Charles’ troops were defeated at Cravant (1423) and Verneuil (6,9) in August (10) 1424. (6,9) 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 allied to the English). (3) In April, 1422 (10) Charles celebrated his marriage (10,11) to Mary of Anjou (11) at Bourges. (10) On the death of his father on October 21st 1422, Charles assumed the title of king of France. (10) They produced a son (the future Louis XI) in 1423. (11) He then resumed warfare, occupied La Charité, and threatened Burgundian territory, though still avoiding any major confrontation with the Anglo–Burgundian armies. (10) Meanwhile, Charles was recognized as King Charles VII in southern France, was officially married to Mary of Anjou and produced a son (the future Louis XI) in 1423. (11) He tried once again to effect a reconciliation with the Duke of Burgundy; but his efforts were frustrated by the memory of John the Fearless’ murder. (10)


The power of the original favourites was shaken by the influence of the queen’s mother, Yolande of Aragon, Duchess of Anjou. (9) She sought the alliance of John V, Duke of Brittany, who, however, vacillated throughout his life between the English and French alliance, concerned chiefly to maintain the independence of his duchy. (9) In 1425, influenced by his mother-in-law, Charles dissociated himself from the Armagnacs. (10) Arthur of Brittany, Count of Richemont, (9,10) brother of John V, duke of Brittany and brother-in-law of the Duke of Burgundy, (10) was reconciled with the king, (9) and became constable in 1425, (9,10) with the avowed intention of making peace between Charles VII and the Duke of Burgundy. (9) He endeavoured to bring about peace, but the negotiators were still unable to come to an agreement in 1427. (10) Richemont caused the assassination of Charles’s favourites Pierre de Giac and Le Camus de Beaulieu, and imposed one of his own choosing, (9) Georges de la Trémoille, an adventurer who rapidly became a preferred favourite. (7,9) Richemont was disgraced and replaced by La Trémoille, (9,10) who sought only his own fortune. (10) For five years (1427-1432) a private war between these two exhausted the Armagnac forces, and central France returned to anarchy. (9)

English advance

Meanwhile Bedford had established settled government throughout the north of France. (9) The English took advantage of Charles’ weakness: (6) with the Burgundians they revived the war and gained ground. (10) They decided to put an end to his resistance by occupying Orleans. (6) In 1428 Bedford advanced to the siege of Orleans, (9) which he began to besiege on October (6,10) 12th (10) 1428. (6,10) Charles’ forces suffered another embarrassing defeat on the ‘Day of Herrings’ on February 12th, 1429. (6) Charles was 25 years old. (10) For 12 years he had known only war and the worst of intrigues. (10) The English regent, the Duke of Bedford (the uncle of Henry VI), was advancing into the Duchy of Bar, ruled by Charles’s brother-in-law, René. (12) The English seemed to be on the verge of total victory. (6) He could neither reconquer his kingdom nor conclude peace with the Burgundians. (10) The French lords and soldiers loyal to Charles were becoming increasingly desperate. (12)Discouraged, he thought of retiring to Spain or of ceding to English pressure. (10,12) Then he received the help of Joan of Arc. (6) She arrived on 23 February 1429. (12)

Joan of Arc

But more important was the appearance of (5) a young (8,12) teenage (12) visionary (10) peasant girl (8,10) from the little village of Domrémy, on the border of Champagne and (12) Lorraine. (10,12) She demanded that the garrison commander at Vaucouleurs, Robert de Baudricourt, collect the soldiers and resources necessary to bring her to the Dauphin at Chinon, stating that visions of angels and saints had given her a divine mission. (12) Granted an escort of five veteran soldiers and a letter of referral to Charles by Lord Baudricourt, (12) Joan travelled across the country (10,12) on horseback to see Charles at Chinon, (12) hoping to fortify the King’s intentions to fight for France. (10) This was Joan of Arc, (5,8)Joan la Pucelle’ (11) who was thought by many to personify French resistance (5) and was supposedly being guided by God himself. (11) Charles received her at Chinon (10,12) in February 1429, (8,10) OR on March 8th, 1429. (4) Skeptical of the girl’s claims at first, (8) Charles wanted to test her claim to be able to recognise him despite never having seen him, and so he disguised himself as one of his courtiers. (12) He stood in their midst when Joan entered the chamber in which the court was assembled. (12) Joan identified Charles immediately. (12) She bowed low to him and embraced his knees, declaring “God give you a happy life, sweet King!” (12) Despite attempts to claim that another man was in fact the king, Charles was eventually forced to admit that he was indeed such. (12) Joan, claimed that she had divine inspiration, (4,8) through visions of angels and saints who gave her the mission of driving out the English forces and helping the Dauphin get crowned. (8) After a private conversation between the two (Charles later stated that Joan knew secrets about him that he had voiced only in silent prayer to God), (8,12) She urged Charles to declare himself king and raise an army to liberate France from the English. (4) Charles became inspired (12) and filled with confidence. (8,12) He provided Joan with the resources (8) and entrusted the direction of his last army to her. (6,8) Thereafter Joan referred to him as “Dauphin” or “Noble Dauphin” until he was crowned in Reims four months later. (12) She restored the French army’s confidence, and they liberated Orléans. (10)

Orleans and Patay

Joan of Arc, (3,5) aided by several prominent military commanders, (8,12) such as Étienne de Vignolles, known as La Hire, and Jean Poton de Xaintrailles (12) led French troops to lift the siege of Orléans, (3,5) on May 8th (6,9) 1429 (3,5) and crush an English army (3,4) of relief (6) at Patay (3,4) on June 18th, (6,12) in which the English field army lost about half its troops. (8,12) The heroic defence of Orléans against the English siege of 1428-1429 provided the focus for popular resentment of English rule, (5,10) which Charles had up to that point been unable to offer. (5) He owed Joan of Arc (2,3) and other charismatic figures (3) a great debt for (2) her aid in breaking the siege of Orleans. (2,3)


Rheims was the ancestral city where French kings were crowned. (11) With the local English troops dispersed, the people of Reims switched allegiance and opened their gates. (3) On July 17th, (3,6) 1429 (3,4) two months after the relief of Orleans (9) Charles was crowned (2,3), at Reims Cathedral. (3,4) in spite of his counsellors’ misgivings. (10) The King’s position was thus legitimized. (6) Charles’ political and military position improved dramatically, as this long-awaited event boosted French morale. (3)

Capture and execution

Hostilities with England resumed. (3) Joan’s momentum, unfortunately, would not last for long, and the French were forced to abandon their siege of Paris in 1430. (11) She was captured by the English (5,6) OR the Burgundians at the siege of (12) Compiègne (6,12) on 24th May (12) 1430. (5,6) The Burgundians handed her over to their English allies. (12) Although Joan had achieved for him a significantly symbolic coronation, (2) Charles was unable and unwilling to mount a counteroffensive. (2,5) Charles’s intimate counsellors, La Tremoille and Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims, saw their profits menaced by the triumphs of Joan of Arc, and accordingly the court put every difficulty in the way of her military career, and received the news of her capture with indifference. (9) No measures were taken for her deliverance or her ransom, and Normandy and the Isle of France remained in English hands. (9) In 1431 Joan was tried (5,12) for heresy by a court composed of pro-English clergy such as Pierre Cauchon, who had long served the English occupation government, (12) tortured (6) and executed as a heretic (5) OR burnt at the stake as a witch (11,12) on 30th May 1431 (12) in the Norman city of Rouen. (5) Later on, in 1450, Charles VII resolved on her rehabilitation. (9) With the return of Normandy, he was able to survey the records of her trial, (5) and in 1456 (5,10) he had her officially rehabilitated through the annulment of her sentence by the Church, (2,5) thus rendering a tardy recognition of her services, (9) though he may only have done so to justify the circumstances surrounding his achievement of the crown. (2,10)

The war after Joan

By 1449 Charles had created a standing army, and in 1449-1450 (5) OR 1450 (6) this force won back Normandy for the Crown. (5,6) By the end of 1453 (5) following the battle of Castillon, (3,6) Charles had also recovered Gascony, (5) OR Bordeaux and Guyenne, (6) the strongest English possession in France. (6) For all practical purposes the Hundred Years War had ended. (5) Charles had in the end (4) succeeded, (1) in driving the English from French soil. (1,3) The English only held the northern port of Calais. (4,6)

Internal Rule after Joan 1431-35

1432 would show significant (and permanent) improvements for the French in the Hundred Years War. (11) Fifteen years of anarchy and civil war intervened before peace was restored. (9) Bands of armed men fighting for their own hand traversed the country, and in the ten years between 1434 and 1444 the provinces were terrorized by these ecorcheurs, who, with the decline of discipline in the English army, were also recruited from the ranks of the invaders. (9) His conciliatory policy toward towns that collaborated with the English helped restore peace and unity to France. (2) He was also a patron of the arts. (2) He established the University of Poitiers in 1432 and his policies brought some economic prosperity to the citizens. (4) He solidified the administration (1) by introducing important military and financial reforms that strengthened the power of the French monarchy. (2) In 1433, he ended his relationship with Georges de La Trémoille, a controlling influence on during his youth, (6) because La Tremoille had been assassinated in 1433 (!) by the constable’s orders, with the connivance of Yolande of Aragon. (9) In 1434 the Church recognized his legitimacy, and (5) the Duke of Bedford died in 1435. (9)

First Treaty of Arras, 1435

Even though he could not achieve much in his initial years as the King, (8) Charles actively assumed personal control of the war in 1433. (5,8) In 1435 (5,9) he was officially reconciled with Philip the Good. (5,11) Charles VII and the Duke of Burgundy signed the 1435 (12) Treaty of Arras, (19,2) by which the Burgundian faction (9,12) after fruitless negotiations for an English treaty, (9,10) rejected their English alliance and became reconciled with Charles VII, just as things were going badly for their English allies. (12) The King condemned the murder of Philip’s father, (10,12) and was required to pay penance for the murder (which he never did). (12) The Duke recognized Charles as his sovereign. (10) With this accomplishment, Charles attained the important goal of ensuring that no Prince of the Blood recognised Henry VI as King of France. (12)

Internal Rule after 1435

Improved advisers

During the 1430s and 1440s, (8) the period of his reign characterized by indifference, ingratitude, poverty, and fear came to an end. (5) OR in the ten years between 1434 and 1444 the provinces were terrorized by the écorcheurs. (9) A new phase then opened up in Charles’s life. (10) At the age of 32 he seemed to have achieved maturity. (10) By that date he had freed himself from the control of favourites, (5,9) for whom were substituted energetic advisers. (9) He worked regularly with these men. (10) They included his brother-in-law Charles of Anjou, Dunois (the famous bastard of Orleans), Richemont and Jacques Coeur, the most famous of all. (9) It was by the zeal of these councillors that Charles obtained the surname of “The Well-Served”. (9). Pierre de Breze, obtained through Agnes Sorel a dominating influence over the king, and he inspired the monarch himself and the whole administration with new vigour. (9) Charles’s policy was strengthened, (9) and there began a period of vigorous personal rule characterized by intense legislative activity. (5) He was especially concerned with sweeping governmental reforms. (5) The administration of the realm was reorganized. (10)

Paris retaken

Through the efforts of Yolande, La Trémoille was forced out of the council, and (10) Constable Arthur de (6) Richemont (6,10) who had already advised him from 1425 to 1427, (6) was restored to favour. (6,10) Richemont resumed the fight against the English. (6) Bedford had died in 1435, which made it easier for the French (11) to recapture Paris from them in 1436. (4,11) Richemont entered Paris on the 13th of April 1436. (9) With Paris back in French hands, Charles VII set up the city as his capital and began to enact economic and military reforms that would limit the powers of the clergy, the nobility and even the Pope himself. (11)

Economic and Financial Reform

He paid close attention to the economy, (5) and in the next five years the finance of the country was re-established on a settled basis. (9) Finance received a sustainable organization. (6) The resources of the monarchy become fixed and regular. (6,10) Between 1425 and 1439, he gradually acquired the permanent right to levy taxes that previously had to be approved by the States General, thus (10) gaining financial independence (5,8) Economic life picked up again, (6,8) thanks in particular to (5,6) the merchant Jacques Cœur’s activity. (5,6) Coeur was the court banker, master of the mint, and adviser to the king, and he did much to expand French commerce in the Mediterranean before he fell from favour in 1451. (10)

Control of the Church

Charles VII continued his father’s general policy in church matters. (9) He desired to lessen the power of the Holy See in France and to preserve as far as possible the liberties of the Gallican church. (9) With the council of Constance (1414-1418) the great schism was practically healed. (9) Charles, while careful to protest against its renewal, supported the anti-papal contentions of the French members of the council of Basel (1431-1449). (9) Encouraged by the higher French clergy, who had become increasingly independent of the papacy, (5) he promulgated the (5,9) Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges in 1438 (5,6) by which the patronage of ecclesiastical benefices was removed from the Holy See (9) sharply limiting papal control of the French Church. (5,9) Bishops and abbots were to be elected, in accordance with ancient custom, by their clergy (9) giving the Church in France greater freedom than any other national body of clergy. (5) OR subjecting the clergy to the king. (6) Certain interventions of the royal power were admitted, (9) and the Sanction also increased the King’s control over the granting of ecclesiastical revenues. (10)

Treaty of Tours and army reform

He created a strong army and united most of the country under one king. (4) In 1437 the King took command of his armies again for the first time since his coronation and returned to Paris, which had been liberated from the English the previous year. (10) To counter noble intrigues, to end the destruction caused by the Écorcheurs (bands of mercenary soldiers then ravaging the country), and also because of a stalemate in diplomatic negotiations with England, Charles renewed the war in 1441 both north of Paris and in Guyenne, in the southwest. (10) He commanded the troops who captured Pontoise in 1441, and in 1442 he made a successful expedition in the south. (9) In 1444 (5,9) a 5-year (5) general (10) truce was concluded with England at Tours, (5,9) and Charles proceeded to organize a regular army. (9) The central authority was gradually made effective, and a definite system of payment, by removing the original cause of brigandage, and the establishment of a strict discipline learnt perhaps from the English troops, gradually stamped out the most serious of the many evils under which the country had suffered. (9) The discipline of the army was improved and methods of recruitment made more efficient by the ordinances of 1439, 1445, and 1448. (10) He got rid of the routiers by sending them to fight in Switzerland in 1444. (6)) He turned even greater attention to the rebuilding of France. (5) Charles’s political skill was reflected in his policies. (5) The organization of the Ordnance Companies (1445) and the free archers (1448) marks the beginning of a regular army, (6) endowed by the Bureau brothers (6,9) and Pierre Bessonneau, (9) with a powerful artillery; (6,9) it was the first standing army in France since Roman times. (8) Charles and Rene of Anjou retired from court, and the greater part of the members of the king’s council were drawn from the bourgeois classes. (9) His advisors finished the work started in 1436 and restored the royal power. (6) He also patronized the arts, surrounding himself with men of letters and intellectuals. (10) He always preferred peace to war, and his conciliatory policy—he repeatedly pardoned towns that collaborated with the English—contributed much toward restoring unity to his country. (10)

Opposition to his rule

Charles’s reign was not free of internal troubles (5) OR the aristocratic opposition was powerless. (6) In the ten years between 1434 and 1444 the provinces were terrorized by the écorcheurs. (9) In 1437 he suppressed an internal revolt. (5)

The Praguerie and other noble revolts

In 1440 took place the revolt (6,9) of the Praguerie, (6,9) a formidable league against the crown. (9) The power of the nobility had been lessened by his reforms; encouraged by the Duke of Burgundy—and especially by Charles’s son, the dauphin Louis (later King Louis XI) OR under the leadership of the Duke of Bourbon (9,11) they formed a coalition against the King. (10) It broke out in Poitou, and involved princes of the blood and great nobles who resented the ascendancy of councillors and soldiers drawn from the smaller nobility and the bourgeoisie. (9) They included Charles, Duke of Bourbon, John II, Duke of Alençon, John IV of Armagnac, (9) and were led by (6) the dauphin, afterwards Louis XI. (5,6) Louis quarrelled with his father’s mistress, Agnès Sorel, and on one occasion drove her with a bared sword into Charles’ bed, according to one source. (12) Charles VII repressed the rising, and showed great skill with the rebel nobles, (9,10) finally buying them over individually by considerable concessions. (9) OR Pierre de Breze, had a large share in the repression of the Praguerie. (9) There was a further revolt in 1442 (5) and another one in 1446. (9) Eventually, in 1446, after Charles’ last son, also named Charles, was born, and the king banished the Dauphin to the Dauphiny. (12) OR Dauphiné, and for the next ten years the Dauphin ruled like an independent sovereign there. (9) He was forced to take refuge with Charles’s most formidable enemy, Philip the Good of Burgundy, from (5,9) 1456 (5) OR 1457 (9) until Charles’s death. (5) Charles VII found means to prevent Philip from attaining his ambitions in Lorraine and in Germany, but the dauphin succeeded in embarrassing his father’s policy at home and abroad, and had his own party in the court itself. (9)

End of the Hundred Years’ War

Second Treaty of Arras, 1444

In its earlier stages the deliverance of France from the English had been the work of the people themselves, while domestic troubles in their own country weakened the English in France. (9) After seeing little or no gain on either side, the Treaty of Arras was agreed to in 1444, between the French and English. (11) The agreement was sealed by the marriage of the English king Henry VI and Margaret, the daughter of the impoverished Duke of Anjou, who came with no dowry. (11) The biggest consolation prize for the French within the treaty was the ceding of the county of Maine, which the English relinquished all claims to. (11)

Resumption of War

Although peace was kept for the next five years, the treaty seems to have been a ploy by the French king to bide his time and build up his army. (11) Hostilities were resumed in 1449. (10) The King’s cousin, Jean d’Orléans, comte de Dunois, was placed in charge of operations. (10)


In 1449, Charles set out to rid the duchy of Normandy of English control for good. (11) The strategy proved to be a highly successful one, as town after town went back under French control. (11) The conquest of Normandy was completed by the battle of Formigny (9,11) 15th of April (9) 1450). (9,11) OR Charles campaigned successfully in Normandy and took possession of its capital, Rouen, on November 20th 1450. (10)


Guienne was conquered in 1451 by Duncis1, but not subdued, (9) and another expedition was necessary in 1453. (9,11) In 1453, the English made one last ditch effort to defend an area of Gascony still under their command (the city of Bordeaux had been captured by the French in 1451 but recaptured by the English the following year) under the leadership of one John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, an experienced veteran who had been fighting in wars since Owen Glendower’s Welsh rebellion of the early 1400s. (11) Talbot’s forces met the French at Castillon and were decisively beaten, with Talbot himself being killed in the action. (9,11) In 1453, after the victory of Castillon (10,11) and the surrender of Bordeaux, Guyenne returned to France after having been associated with England for three centuries. (10) The only foothold retained by the English on French ground was Calais. (9,11)

Last Years

With war at end, Charles was free to concentrate on governing his kingdom and did so by continuing his policies of weakening the powers of the clergy, papacy and nobility, strengthening his own power in the process. (11) He consolidated and strengthened royal authority. (5,11) OR the years were marked by conflicts with his turbulent son, the future Louis XI of France. (3,4) Unfortunately, Charles had led a long, stressful life of war and political dissent, and his health was rapidly deteriorating. (11) The King’s last years were troubled. (10) All the noble revolts were vigorously repressed, and the Duke of The reconquered areas were restive under the yoke of royal administration, and the princes still posed a dangerous threat to the royal power: (10) the revolt of Jean V, comte d’Armagnac, and the treason of Jean II, duc d’Alençon, were severely repressed. (6,10) Alençon was arrested for communicating with the English, and condemned by the Court of Peers in 1458. (6) Philip of Burgundy dreamed of dominating France, and the Dauphin, who was approaching 40, had difficulty in concealing his impatience to reign. (10) His health deteriorated considerably over the next two and a half years. (8) He attempted to reconcile himself with his son and heir, (11) who was hostile to the party of Angevins, who were in power, and their protégé, Agnes Sorel, mistress of Charles VII2. (6) Charles summoned Louis several times to come and meet him. (8) He became ill in 1458 when a sore on his leg (8,12) (an early symptom, perhaps, of diabetes or another condition) (12) became infected and caused a serious fever. (8,12) The king summoned Louis to him from his exile in Burgundy, but the Dauphin refused to come. (12) He employed astrologers to foretell the exact hour of his father’s death. (12) The king lingered on for the next two and a half years, increasingly ill, but unwilling to die. (12) During this time he also had to deal with the case of his (12) rebellious vassal John V of Armagnac. (6,12) Finally, his scandalous private life allowed Charles to ban him in perpetuity in 1460. (6) Finally, however, there came a point in July 1461 when the king’s physicians concluded that Charles would not live past August. (12) Under the pressure of sickness and fever, he went mad, (12) fearing that he was being poisoned by his son Dauphin Louis: (6,9) he was convinced that he was surrounded by traitors loyal only to his son. (12) The Dauphin cannot, however, be accused of anything more than an eager expectation of his death. (9) Although he asked the Dauphin to come to his deathbed, Louis refused, instead waiting at Avesnes, in Burgundy, for his father to die. (12) The king suffered greatly in the last week of his life. (8) Another infection in his jaw had caused an abscess in his mouth, and the swelling caused by this became so large that, for the last week of his life, he was unable to swallow food or water. (12) Even when Charles was on his deathbed and not even able to eat or drink, Louis refused his father’s request to meet him. (11) Ill and weary, the king became delirious; (12) He never came to meet his dying father and Charles VII (8,12) starved to death (12) on July 22nd, 1461, (1,3) at Mehun-sur-Yèvre, France, (1,4) He was 58; he had reigned for 38 years and eight months. (10) He was buried, at his request, beside his parents in Saint-Denis. (12)


While Charles VII’s legacy is far overshadowed by the deeds and eventual martyrdom of Joan of Arc, (4) his reign was significant in the history of France. (2,10) France had lost the economic prosperity and commercial importance it had enjoyed in the preceding centuries and the great nobles had become independent during the long partisan struggles of the Hundred Years’ War period. (10) It was fractured and in the midst of an extended war with England when he was born. (2) Charles was able to begin the work of reunifying the kingdom by rallying the peoples’ loyalty to himself as the legitimate king. (10) When the national feeling, revived by foreign occupation, had crystallized around him, he introduced financial and military reforms that strengthened the revived power of the monarchy. (10) Although his leadership was sometimes marked by indecisiveness, hardly any other leader left a nation so much better improved than when he came on the scene. (4) At the end of his reign, France was more stable than it had been in more than a century, (5) and by the time of his death the country was well on its way toward the geographical unity that defines its modern boundaries. (2) He was nicknamed ‘The Well-served’, or ‘The Victorious’. (1,3)


1 Misprint for Dunois?

2 She died c 1451, long before the king.


[bibliography of sources available upon request]

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