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would plague him for the remainder of his life. Froissart, a historian described as the ³Herodotus of his age,´1 recounts this story in his Chronicles: how the king, after hearing of betrayal, attacked his own men and had to be confined for months while he slowly regained his sanity. The momentous events that led up to Charles¶s attack shed a light on the possible reasons for the king¶s mental state. It is this event²the day Charles went mad²that Froissart chronicles. While the royal party was travelling through the forest of Le Mans, a mysterious man stopped the king and warned him that he had been betrayed. The king¶s troops chased the man away, and he was never seen again. Later that same day, a pageboy accidentally knocked a lance against another¶s helmet. Fearing an attack, the king thought he had been betrayed and for no particular reason started to attack those in his party, including his brother, the Duke of Orleans, whom Charles attacked. The king eventually exhausted himself and was disarmed. The dukes took Charles back to Le Mans; there they sent for doctors and questioned those close to the king, looking for the cause of the strange illness. As the story spread, people assigned different causes; the two popes both proposed different reasons for the king¶s madness. People across the country prayed for Charles¶s recovery. Enguerrand de Coucy, a confidant of the king who witnessed the events at Le Mans, suggested that his doctor, Guillaume de Harsigny, examine the king. Harsigny treated Charles at Creil, and under his care, Charles returned to health. Why did the king go mad? It is helpful to explore the events of 14th-century France, as well as Charles¶s own life, to discuss the potential harm they caused on the young king¶s mental state. In doing so, we can see that the stresses of ruling a war-torn country divided both politically and religiously likely overburdened a young ruler to the point that he just snapped.
The backdrop of the 14th century was the Hundred Years¶ War between France and England. It began the way many conflicts between France and England began: The King of France, in this case Edward III, had a claim to the French throne and tried to take it.2 Edward¶s connection to the French throne was through his mother, Isabel, the daughter of Philip the Fair, whose three brothers all died without male heirs.3 Philip of Valois, the old king¶s nephew, took the throne, but, despite Edward¶s vows of loyalty for the lands he held in France,4 the English king was still after power on the Continent, where he still held Guienne (Aquitaine) against French forces.5 The territory, which had been part of English holdings since Eleanor of Aquitaine married King Henry II,6 was important to English economy: In addition to being a market for exported cloth and wool, it was the ³greatest wine-exporting region in the world.´7 Though the French kings disliked the English foothold in the region, it was an important source of wealth for England; Edward, as well as his predecessors, was loathe to lose it. He was willing to battle France in order to keep the territory in England¶s possession, and he used his claim to the throne of France as an excuse for battle. In 1338, Philip tried to retake Guienne, and thus the Hundred Years¶ War began.8 This war between Edward and the kings of France continued for decades. The war started before Charles VI was born and continued after he died, and the goals remained the same: for England, to take the throne; for France, to keep it. It is important to understand the beginning of the war to understand why it went on for so long²and to understand why Charles was willing to continue what his predecessors had begun.
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One main reason for the prolonged war was intertwined succession disputes.9 Not only was Edward fighting for Guienne²and the crown on France, though whether he would have been content to stop with shoring up his hold on certain territories on the Continent is debatable²but the English also had a stake in other areas, namely Flanders, Brittany, Castile, and the papacy.10 Each crisis drew the English further into the battles; by the time the papacy split in 1378, the war had already been going for decades. The English used the Welsh longbow, which Edward I had used to beat the Scots into submission, to bear against the French.11 The English used their superior weaponry to make up for their inferior numbers and succeeded in taking control of the Channel,12 a blow for France. More were to come as Edward gained the loyalty of some French vassals, and thus an easy foothold on the mainland. Using his claim to the throne of France, lords in Brittany and Normandy switched their allegiance.13 Civil wars in Brittany aided the chaos of the conflict, with each claimant siding with one country or the other.14 Similar conflicts in Flanders, a great importer of English wool, threatened France¶s hold on the territory.15 This was just the beginning of the conflict, which was largely fought on French soil. In 1346,16 the two armies met at Crecy in a battle that claimed the lives of 4,000 men, including Count Louis de Nevers of Flanders and King John the Blind of Bohemia.17 The English forces later took Calais. But this campaign did not end the war. Through the next three decades, the two sides continued to fight on and off, with campaigns broken by periods of truce and outside
Palmer, J. J. N. England, France and Christendom, 1377-99. London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1972. Print. Palmer 16 11 Tuchman 70 12 Tuchman 70 13 Tuchman 73 14 Tuchman 75 15 Tuchman 77 16 Tuchman 86 17 Tuchman 88
influences, such as the Black Plague. Other rulers, such as Charles of Navarre,18 were drawn into the conflict. In addition to the Black Plague, the French suffered from political strife, the disastrous King Jean II (who was eventually captured by the English at the Battle of Poitiers),19 and the revolt of Etienne Marcel and the Jacqueie. In ³one of the darkest [hours] in French history,´20 Jean signed half his kingdom over to Edward, though his heir rejected the treaty.21 Even so, Edward was not able to take the French crown. He was unable to enter the city of Reims,22 where the French kings were traditionally crowned, and was again turned away from Paris.23 During this period and following, France was practically in ruins. With an ineffective and at times captive king, not to mention that the bulk on the fighting had been on French soil, much of the countryside was uncontrolled. Some brigands, called the Free Companies, roamed the Continent, pillaging at will.24 At times, they were employed by kings; they often proved useful since, unlike knights, who wanted honor and personal glory, the brigands worked together and followed orders.25 Some of these mercenaries joined bands for profit; others joined because, in the chaos of war, they had lost their previous positions or their land had been torn apart.26 Some were even fallen members of the nobility. ³Unable to live adequately off ruined lands, they joined the mercenaries rather than follow a life without the sword.´27 Even though they were extortionists and outlaws, and were excommunicated by the pope in 1364,28 they were integrated
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into the structure of society. They dealt with lawyers, they had bankers to manage their finances, they married, and in some cases, such as that of ³Archpriest´ Arnaut de Cervole, they were advisers to high-ranking aristocrats.29 These ³sons on iniquity´ pillaged throughout northwestern Europe, held only by the necessity of absolution, which they often extorted from priests.30 Though the kings and other nobility were sometimes able to hire the mercenary groups, they did not control the brigands. Even though the French had not lost²even during Jean¶s capture in England, his family still held the throne²and they were making strides toward pushing the English off the Continent, they were not winning. Between the English and the outlaws, the French countryside was ravaged, and the king was running out of money. When Charles V died, France lost a great leader, and it, like England, was left in the hands of a boy. But the Hundred Years¶ War was not the only crisis plaguing Europe during the 14th century. The Papal Schism also divided the continent, intertwining with the war; alliances and papal allegiance were often one and the same. By the start of the war, the popes had already left Rome for Avignon in France. There they remained for decades, a period referred to as the ³Babylonian Exile.´ Though the popes resided in France, they did not necessarily side with that country. In fact, Pope Benedict XII tried to dissuade Philip VI from retaking Guienne;31 however, his efforts to stave off war were futile. Though Benedict worked for peace, he and his fellows²the seven popes who reigned at Avignon between 1305 and 1378²were seen as being under the thumb of the French, which did not please the English.32 Benedict was one of five Avignon popes during the war; though they were often condemned for their ³Francophile´ leanings and seen as French popes, Benedict
Tuchman 223 Tuchman 224 31 Gruber, John. The Peace Negotiations of the Avignon Popes. The Catholic Historical Review 19.2 (1933): 190199. JSTOR. Web. 18 Feb. 2011. <http://www.jstor.org//>. 32 O Malley, John W. A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present. Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2010. Print.
attempted to intercede for the better.33 He would have preferred to see French and English forces united in the goal of Crusade; in fact, he urged them to unite, saying, ³Who can doubt that these constant bickering and conflicts among Christian rulers enable the enemies of Christianity to possess themselves of Christian lands and even strive to wipe out the name of religion itself. Experience proves that their audacity grows even greater as they perceive discord among rulers of Christendom. Knowing this, will not the infidel be inclined to conceive even more bold and pernicious plans for the subversion of our princes and people?´34 Benedict¶s plans did not come to pass; war could not be stopped. Two of the pope¶s successors, Urban V and Gregory XI, tried to deal with the intricacies of Italian politics from Avignon, but to no avail.35 When Catherine of Siena pleaded with Gregory to return the papacy to the Italian peninsula, he was swayed by her words and did as she asked, but he died just 15 months after his return.36 This left a vacancy in the papacy, one that was filled by the election of Bartolomeo Prignano, Archbishop of Bari, as Urban VI²a Roman who would not return the papacy to Avignon.37 Above all, the Italians feared that the cardinals, many of whom were French, would elect another French pope who would return the papacy to Avignon.38 Their fears were allayed when the cardinals elected Urban; the French cardinals, who were divided between the Limousins and the northern French, did not put another Frenchman on the papal throne.39
Gruber 190 Gruber 191 35 Tuchman 328 36 Tuchman 328 37 Tuchman 329 38 O Malley 149
Rollo-Koster, Joelle. A Companion to the Great Western Schism (1378-1417). Google Books. Google, 2009. Web. 1 May 2011. <http://books.google.com/ books?id=mgnaIRVSx44C&printsec=frontcover&dq=A+Companion+to+the+Great+Western+Sch ism+(1378%E2%80%931417).&source=bl&ots=qllHRmXeLE&sig=fP241NKQT9aT9S2WPiMBKk24qJ4 &hl=en&ei=xOK9Taz2M8u4twf6hYW9BQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCEQ 6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false>.
However, the cardinals¶ plans control the new pope failed. Urban had experience at the papal court in Avignon, but he decided to do things differently than his predecessors.40 Unlike other candidates the cardinals considered, Urban had not been one of them, and while he had experience, he did not have the tact necessary to deal with the men who had chosen him.41 Urban tried to do away with simony, the selling of indulgences, and the cardinals¶ luxurious lifestyles.42 He went beyond attempts to reform the church, often flying into fits of rage, accusing the cardinals of accepting bribes, and meddling in secular affairs of state.43 The cardinals, in a unique move for their time, wanted to be rid of Urban before his death, but they were not sure how to go about this. They asked Urban to step down, calling him the ³anti-Christ, demon, apostate, tyrant.´44 Urban refused. The solution the cardinals decided on was to invalidate the election, claiming that fear of mob violence had forced them to pick Urban.45 The conclave had also been quicker than usual; expecting trouble, Gregory had written before his death that the cardinals were to dispense with many traditions, such as forming a quorum, in order to have a new pope as soon as possible.46 They chose another candidate, Robert of Geneva²known to many as the ³Butcher of Cesena´²as Clement VII,47 largely because of his relation to the French monarchy and the German royal family.48 Urban refused to bow to their whims; instead, he created 25 new cardinals, all loyal to him.49 He maintained power in Rome while Clement ruled in Avignon,50 the latter unable to force the former out of Italy.51
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It was left for the countries of Europe to choose sides. Charles V in France supported Clement, who resided in Avignon; England, in opposition to France, went to Urban, and Scotland, in opposition to England, went to Clement.52 The new Holy Roman Emperor, Wenceslas, declared for Urban, to Charles¶s consternation; he had hoped that Wenceslas would side with him.53 Flanders, allied with England, was for Rome; Hainault and Brabant, allied with France, were for Avignon.54 Juan I of Castile originally planned to remain neutral, but political pressure eventually forced the Iberian kings to choose Clement.55 Thus, the major powers of Europe were divided not only politically, but also religiously. The countryside in each territory was also divided, which the people unsure of which pope to follow. Both popes conducted excommunications, appointed bishops, blessed holy oil, and condemned the other side.56 The rift also had an economic effect: Each pope received less revenue, which, rather than restraining such practices as simony, actually redoubled it.57 Politically, the papacy no longer worked for peace; rather, each side supported its allies, further adding to the conflict.58 Charles V of France was a major contributor to this. It was his support of Clement that led others to follow in his wake; without France¶s support, Clement would have floundered and been unable to significantly oppose Urban.59 However, even though the king supported Clement, the University of Paris did not. The University originally supported Clement because of pressure from the crown, but it later tried to work for an end to the schism,
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to no avail.60 Both popes refused attempted solutions; rather, they excommunicated each other.61 Without their cooperation, a resolution could not be found. Additionally, this situation was unique; never before had the same set of cardinals elected two different popes.62 ³For every reason found favoring the validity of Urban, a reason could be found favoring the validity of Clement.´63 There was not a judicial or historical precedence that could solve the matter.64 The schism lasted 40 years.65 This was the situation in France when, in autumn 1380, Jean¶s son, Charles V, King of France, died, leaving the throne to his 12-year-old son.66 The newly crowned Charles VI was not alone in the predicament of being a minor and having to contend with regents. In England, Edward III died, leaving his throne to his young grandson, Richard II. ³Both nations under boy kings now suffered the rule of ambitious and contending uncles who, wearing now crown, exercised power without responsibility.´67 The regencies made it hard to declare war or peace; because the kings were too young to sign treaties, any created were generally worthless.68 War was no longer foremost on everyone¶s minds; the stress of internal pressures took precedence. Decades of harsh taxation soured the mood in Picardy, Compiegne, and other towns.69 With the death of the king, Charles VI¶s uncles had control of the realm, but none of them used their power for good. Anjou, the eldest, held the title of regent, but he robbed the Treasury to finance his own interests in Italy.70 Burgundy and
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Bourbon were Charles¶s guardians, but Burgundy was interested in Flanders, and Bourbon, a maternal rather than paternal uncle, was not royal and thus did not have much power.71 Berry, the third paternal uncle, spent his time with his collections and was not very interested in governing the realm.72 ³Pulled apart by their separate interests . . . the paternal uncles had no common interest in the integrity of the realm. Their only cohesion was in the desire to remove the hands of the late King¶s ministers from the controls.´73 Their brother, the late Charles V, had predicted this chaos, so he left instructions that the regency was to end when Charles turned 14; however, there were still two more years to go after Charles V died.74 Though the uncles did not work as a cohesive unit, they still had to deal with the problems of the realm until Charles came of age. Anjou, fearing a mass revolt, arranged for an abolition of taxes; in response, the lower classes attacked the Jewish quarter in Paris; the pogroms later spread to other cities, such as Chartres.75 But the government was bankrupt and in desperate need of funds, and the Third Estate was not inclined to grant any.76 Meanwhile, the uncles managed to push out of office Charles V¶s favorite ministers, including Riviere and Mercier; in fact, Riviere, whom Charles V had loved dearly, was accused of treason, and only Constable Clisson¶s challenge was able to save him.77 Even Enguerrand de Coucy, whom the uncles all trusted, was unable to stop them from running wild; in February 1382, Anjou made plans for an invasion of Italy, and France rioted.78 In Paris, a crowd broke into the Hotel de Ville and seized 3,000 police mallets, thus leading to their name ³Maillotins.´79 The bourgeois sought
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to control the rebellion, but the crown refused to give in to the masses; the dukes were able to raise taxes, and they extended royal power by cancelling town charters.80 After the dukes tried to trick the Maillotins with an insincere pardon, their credibility was almost shattered; only trust in the anointed king kept negotiations alive.81 The nobility was eventually able to put down this unrest in France. The uncles benefitted; much of the taxes went into their pockets²a considerable sum of money, considering that Paris alone delivered 400,000 francs.82 The working class gained little and lost much; the town of Amiens lost its charter, and Beauvais, Orleans, Laon and other towns were also forced to pay.83 This cessation of hostilities left Anjou free to pursue his own interests in Italy, where he died in September 1384,84 leaving Burgundy and Berry as Charles¶s only remaining paternal uncles. Meanwhile, Charles was married to Isabeau of Bavaria, a Wittlesbach and a granddaughter of the Italian Viscontis.85 Charles was a warrior-king, encouraged by his uncles because of their own interests.86 Though he seemed healthy, Charles had to deal with other factors: His mother, Queen Jeanne, had suffered from insanity; his ancestors had intermarried often; and most of his sisters had died young.87 Nonetheless, Charles was not inept; in 1388, at age 20, Charles dismissed his uncles from positions of power and took control himself.88 Charles¶s younger brother, Louis of Orleans, vied with the uncles for power in a feud that was to end his life decades later.89 Charles reinstated his father¶s ministers, such as Riviere and Mercier,
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and together the councilors tried to reform the financial system.90 Charles made plans for a peace with England and a crusade.91 However, the parlay did not go as planned. The French and English both named sums they believed were owed by the other side and dithered over the proper ownership of Calais.92 The two sides managed to extend the truce by a year but did little else.93 During the proceedings, Charles fell ill for unknown reasons, ³suffering from high fever and transports of delirium.´94 He was taken from Amiens and recovered at Beauvais, then resumed his previous activities.95 Whether this was a random event or a portent of things to come remains unknown. The king had plenty of internal issues to deal with. Olivier de Clisson, the Constable, was hated by the uncles and the Duke of Brittany.96 Clisson, a Breton, was involved in the power battles in the region and opposed Brittany and Montfort;97 he had also been a supporter of Charles V¶s ministers,98 whom the uncles chased from power. Brittany used Pierre de Craon, who also hated Clisson, as a weapon; the latter attacked Clisson, wounding but not killing him;99 he recovered a few weeks after being wounded.100 Craon fled to Brittany, who refused to turn him over to Charles.101 Though the uncles, who did not like Clisson and were possibly in league with Brittany, tried to stop the king; there is even the possibility that Berry knew of the planned
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attack on Clisson and could have prevented it.102 Charles and his brother disagreed with their uncles and pushed for war,103 and despite the uncles¶ objections to the plan, they joined the king¶s forces.104 Despite the king¶s fervor, he was still weak from his illness at Amiens; ³Charles appeared often distraught and disconnected in speech.´105 Charles was still recovering, and his ill health forced the army to stop many times along the campaign, but he refused to leave. In addition to Craon¶s treason for attacking the Constable of France,106 Charles considered the attack on the Clisson an attack on himself,107 and he wanted to make a statement by force to discourse future attacks.108 The king¶s physicians said that he was ³feverish and unfit to ride,´ but he refused to wait.109 So it was on that hot, fateful August day when Charles rode into the forest of Mans.110 So what did cause the king to go mad? The theories have been documented: a family illness passed down from his mother, too many generations of inbreeding, an earlier illness, the wrath of God for Charles¶s support for Pope Clement, stresses of rulership during the tumultuous period, or perhaps something else entirely. In fact, it is likely a combination of stress and genetics, not helped by potential overheating on that particular day as well as residue weakness from the earlier illness. However, the true reason remains unknown. Whatever the cause, Charles¶s illness had a significant effect on his country. His inability to lead his kingdom was ³disastrous´ for France.111 The uncles, particularly Burgundy, took
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control of the kingdom, further intensifying the difficulties between him and Louis of Orleans.112 The uncles arrested the advisers they had originally removed during the regency, and they stripped Clisson of his title as Constable, partially in anger over his will, in which he claimed to have amassed a fortune of more than 1.7 million francs.113 Charles did not return to the affairs of state; Harsigny recommended that he not, and the uncles supported his verdict.114 He was ill for much of the rest of his life. Thus, Charles VI became the Mad King of France.
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