Christian Europe—Renaissance France

1380 to 1560
Charles the Mad to Italian Wars

Era Summary       Characters       Timeline       Reading Assignments      

Characters—Renaissance France

Character/Date Short Biography

Kings of France: Hundred Years War

Charles VI
(the Mad) King who was controlled by his uncles and queen after he went insane. Reigned for forty years during the Armagnac-Burgundy Civil War.
Philip the Bold
Duke of Burgundy who founded the Burgundian-Valois dynasty. Served as primary Regent for Charles VI until his death in 1404. Feuded with the Duke of Orleans.
Charles VII
(the Victorious) Disinherited as Dauphin until Joan of Arc escorted him to Rheims to be crowned. As king, ruled wisely and brought the 100 Years' War to a close.
Henry V
(of England) Led a victorious army of longbowmen against France at Agincourt. Made regent of France by Treaty of Troyes, but died shortly afterward.

Armagnac-Burgundian War

Isabella of Bavaria
Wicked queen of the Mad king Charles VI. Betrayed former allies and even her son Charles VII to make alliance with the English.
Count of Armagnac
Constable of France and leader of the Armagnac pro-Charles VII faction during the later years of the Hundred Years War.
Yolande of Aragon
Mother in law of Charles VII who supported Joan of Arc and protected the king in his wars against the English.
John the Fearless
Duke of Burgundy and leader of the Burgundian faction until he was assassinated by the Armagnac faction..
Joan of Arc
Led the French Army to Victory at the Siege of New Orleans. Burned at the stake by English.

Kings of France: Renaissance Period

Louis XI
(the Spider King) Wily and treacherous King who increased the power of the throne and took vengeance on his enemies.
Charles the Bold
Duke of Burgundy who fought France in the Burgundian Wars. At his death his domains passed to the Hapsburgs.
Louis XII
Only king from Valois-Orleans line. Married Anne of Brittany and became involved in the Italian Wars.
Francis I of France
King of France who was a patron of the arts, and was involved in the Italian Wars.
Henry II
Brought Italian Wars to a close. Influenced by mistress Diane Poitiers and queen Catherine de Medici.

Queens and Mistresses

Catherine de Medici
Queen of France who is generally held responsible for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
Maria de Medici
Queen of Henry IV, and regent following his assassination.
Anne of Brittany
Heiress to Duchy of Brittany. Compelled to marry two kings of France: Charles VIII, Louis XII.
Diane de Poitiers
Influential courtier during the reign of Francis I, and chief mistress of Henry II.
Mary of Burgundy
Daughter of Charles the Bold, and heiress to Duchy of Brittany. Married Maximillian, Holy Roman Emperor.
Anne of France
Shrewd and powerful daughter of the 'Spider King' Louis XI who served as regent for her brother. Won Brittany for France, supported Henry Tudor in England.

Ministers and Regents

Jacques Coeur
Exceedingly wealthy merchant of Bourges who became a chief advisor, diplomat, and master of the mint during the reign of Charles VII. Eventually disgraced, accused of various crimes, and exiled.
George Amboise
Cardinal from a powerful family .
Duke of Guise
Cousin, supporter, and Chamberlain of Henry II, prominent during the Italian Wars. Recaptured Calais for France. Ardent Catholic and enemy of the Huguenots.
Henry of Guise
Assassinated Coligny in retribution for the murder of his father. Later founded the Catholic League.


Gaspard de Coligny
French protestant military hero who was assassinated at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
William the Silent
Hero of the Dutch Revolt. Led resistance to the Inquisition and Spanish tyranny.
Jeanne de Albret
Queen of Navarre, mother of Henry IV, Huguenot leader. Possibly poisoned by Catherine de Medici.

Martial Heroes and Explorers

Chevalier Bayard
Renowned French knight who was thought to embody the ideals of chivalry.
Charles II
Invalid King of Spain. Last of the Spanish Hapsburgs. His death precipitated the War of the Spanish Succession.
Jacques Cartier
Discovered the St. Lawrence Seaway and great lakes, while searching for Northwest Passage.

Saints and Popes

Colette of Corbie
French Abbess and founder of the Poor Clares.
Pope Julius II
Renaissance character known as "Warrior Pope" for his defense of the Papal states. Commissioned Michelangelo and Raphael.
Alexander VI
Disgraced the office of Pope by appalling behavior, and worldly politicking.

Timeline—Renaissance France

AD YearEvent

Reign of the Mad King: Armagnac-Burgundian War

1380-1422 Reign of Charles VI. Regents were Uncles, called 'Princes of the Lilies'.
1382 French victory at Roosebeke ends rebellion of Ghent. (Death of van Artevele)
1385 Charles VI marries Isabella of Bavaria.
1392 First bout of insanity inflicts king soon after releasing regents, forming new privy council.
1394 Expulsion of Jews from France (second time, first time under Philip IV).
1407 Duke of Orleans (brother of King) murdered by John the Fearless Duke of Burgundy.
1415 Count of Armagnac as Constable of France leads opposition to Burgundy faction.
1415 Battle of Agincourt, victory for Henry V of England over Armagnacs.
1415-17 Death of two eldest sons of king, probably by poisoning.
1417 Count of Armagnac regent for Dauphin Charles. Queen mother Isabella imprisoned.
1418 By treachery, Paris is handed over to Burgundians. Isabella makes alliance with English.
1419 Duke of Burgundy slain by Armagnacs. Armagnacs retreat south, make Capital at Bourges.
1420 Treaty of Toyes, Henry V marries Catherine of Valois, made regent of France.
1422 Death of Henry V of England, Charles VI of France. Birth of Henry VI of England.

Reign of the Charles VII (the Victorious): End of Hundred Year's War

1422 Marriage of Charles VII to Marie of Anjou (daughter of Yolande of Aragon).
1429 Joan of Arc leads French to victory at Orleans, Charles VII crowned at Reims.
1431 John of Arc burned at the stake.
1435 Burgundians desert the English, sign the Treaty of Arras, Isabella of Bavaria dies.
1436 Jacques Coeur of Bourges, made Master of the Mint, advisor to Charles VII.
1438 Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges: Charles VII granted privilege to nominate bishops in France.
1440 Dauphin Louis takes part in "Praguerie" rebellion against his father Charles VII.
1449 Reconquest of Normandy with new 'professional' army. Roeun recaptured.
1451 Downfall of Jacques Coeur, wealthiest man in France. Property seized.
1453 English driven out of all French cities but Calais. End of Hundred Years' war.
1461 Death of Charles VII by starvation. Refused food for fear of poisoning.

Reign Louis XI-Spider King: Burgundian Wars

1461-83 Reign of Louis XI, "Spider-king". Cunning, treacherous, and vengeful king.
1465 "League of the Public Good" formed by enemies of Louis IX. They besiege him in Paris; he pretends to submit.
1468 Charles the Bold and Louis XI meet at Peronne, and together crush the rebellion at Liege.
1469 Louis XI founds chivalric "Order of St. Michael".
1477 Establishes Postal service controlled by the crown (used for spying on enemies).
1477 Louis XI adversary, the Duke of Burgundy, killed at the Battle of Nancy. Louis confiscates Duchy of Burgundy.
1483 Death of Louis XI

Charles VIII and Louis XII: Italian Wars: 1495 to 1515

1483-98 Reign of Charles VIII, Regent was older sister, Anne of France.
1488 Dukes of Orleans and Brittany conspire against Charles VIII, declared traitors.
1491 After war between France and Brittany, Anne of Brittany marries Charles VIIII.
1494 Charles VIII invades Italy to claim Naples, but is repulsed by the League of Venice.
1498 Charles VIII dies of head injury. No issue, so crown passes to cousin.
1498-1515 Reign of Louis XII. Marries Anne of Britany, widow of Charles VIII.
1499 Louis XII renews Italian Wars. Sends army to press claims in Milan and Naples.
1508 Papacy, France, Spain, Germany, establish League of Cambrai to defeat Venice.
1510 War in Italy takes a turn for the worse. Pope Julius II deserts alliance.
1515 Louis XII dies without and heir. Crown passes to second cousin from Valois-Ange

Francis I and Henry II: Italian Wars: 1515 to 1560

1515-47 Reign of Francis I of France; married to Claude, daughter of Louis XII.
1515 With help of Venetians, Francis wins Milan at at Marignano, 1515. Knighted by Bayard.
1516 Leonardo da Vinci enters the service of Francis I after Milan is captured.
1520 Field of the Cloth of Gold, tournament between Francis I of France and Henry VIII.
1524 Death of Chevalier de Bayard, great French general of the Italian Wars.
1525 Francis defeated by Imperial forces at the Battle of Padua in Italy and captured.
1529 "The Ladies Peace" of Cambrai negotiated between Valois and Hapsburgs.
1536 Eldest son of Francis dies "suddenly" soon after Catherine de Medici arrives at court.
1545 Francis's captain Montmorency slays Waldensians, sells children as slaves.
1520-47 Construction of Paris landmarks: Louvre, Fontainebleau, Hotel de Ville, etc. Royal Library established.
1547 Reign of Henry II of France, married to .
1541 John Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" published.
1559 Henry II renounces claims in Italy, ends Italian Wars.
1559-89 Henry II dies at tournament celebrating end of Italian Wars
1562-98 French Wars of Religion fought mainly over political control rather than religion.

Recommended Reading—Renaissance France

Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Guerber - The Story of Old France   Charles VI to Reign of Henry II (18)
Marshall - A History of France   The Madness of Charles VI to Calais Returns to France (13)

Supplemental Recommendations

Macgregor - The Story of France   The Battle of Roosebek to Prince of Conde Prisoner (22)
Morris - Historical Tales: French   Joan of Arc to The Life of a Traitor (6)

Easy Reading Selections

Finnemore - France: Peeps at History   House of Valois (cont.) to House of Valois (cont.) (2)
Evans - Old Time Tales   The Story of Joan of Arc to Field of the Cloth of Gold (3)
Stein - Gabriel and the Hour Book    entire book