Karl IX

Karl IX

King of France from the Valois dynasty, lover of the Nights of Bartholomew, reigned from 1560 to 1574.
Date of Birth: 27.06.1550
Country: France

Biography of Charles IX

Charles IX was the king of France from the Valois dynasty and ruled from 1560 to 1574. Despite his interest in art and attempts at poetry, Charles was not inclined towards cruelty. However, he was prone to frequent fits of rage, during which he was capable of committing various misdeeds.

At the age of ten, Charles became king after the death of his older brother. His mother, Catherine de' Medici, an intelligent, cunning, and treacherous woman, took control of the reign for many years. The Guise brothers, who directed all the actions of Francis II, were pushed aside from power, although they retained significant influence. They were highly popular among radical Catholics (who were the majority in Paris), so the queen had to take them into account. Catherine herself was more flexible in her policies and even seemed willing to reconcile with the Huguenots. In early 1562, the Edict of Saint-Germain was issued, granting followers of the new faith the freedom to worship outside the city walls and the right to hold private gatherings. However, these concessions did not lead to an end to the conflict. In March, the Duke of Guise and his soldiers tried to disperse a gathering of Huguenots in Vassy and killed over sixty people. After this, nothing could stop the bloodshed, and the civil war in France began. In April, the Huguenots captured Orleans and other important cities in the Loire Valley. The royal forces, commanded by the converted Catholic King of Navarre, Antoine, the Duke of Guise, and the Constable of Montmorency, opposed them. The Catholics faced a small but highly capable army of Huguenots led by Prince Condé and Admiral Coligny. Both sides fought fiercely. In November, King of Navarre was killed during the siege of Rouen. The Duke of Guise took Rouen, scored a brilliant victory at Dreux, approached Orleans, but in February 1563, he was treacherously killed by a Huguenot defector sent by Admiral Coligny. Losing their best commander, the Catholics started suffering defeats. In March, the worn-out parties concluded a peace treaty in Amboise. According to its terms, the rights of the Protestants were significantly curtailed.

In July of the same year, Charles was declared of age. However, in reality, Catherine de' Medici remained the full-fledged ruler because the king was still a child in his mind and, by nature, a prematurely spoiled youth. He only cared about entertainment, riding from one hunting ground to another, hunting deer, and neglecting affairs of state, agreeing with everything his mother deemed necessary. Like his older brother Francis, Charles was weak in health. However, he showed more energy and willpower in his actions. He excelled at playing the hunting horn, horseshoeing horses, and had an exceptional aim with a gun. Later, he enjoyed working in a forge he built at the Louvre. Charles had some interest in art and tried his hand at poetry in the style of Ronsard. Although not inclined towards cruelty in general, he was prone to frequent fits of rage during which he was capable of committing various misdeeds. In 1565, Charles traveled with his mother, brothers, and Henry of Navarre (son of Antoine) to various regions of France. The Huguenots, at the suggestion of Coligny, wanted to capture the royal family. However, they safely arrived in Paris under the protection of the Swiss guards. This incident served as a pretext for the resumption of hostilities. This time, the Huguenots suffered defeat after defeat. In November 1567, Montmorency defeated them at Saint-Denis, and then, after a truce in Longjumeau, they were defeated again at Jarnac in March 1569. Prince Condé was captured in this battle and was killed by a guard of the Duke of Anjou. In October, Coligny, who had now become the leader of the Protestant party, was once again defeated at Moncontour. However, the enthusiasm of the royal army waned during the siege of fortified areas around La Rochelle. In August 1570, the third peace treaty was signed in Saint-Germain between the Huguenots and Catholics. This time, the Huguenots were granted all the rights they had demanded: freedom of conscience and worship. For the next two years, there were no military actions, but mutual distrust remained.

In early 1571, Catherine de' Medici persistently invited Admiral Coligny and Queen Jeanne of Navarre to Paris. Seeing that they were avoiding a trip to the capital, she started pushing for a marriage between the young Henry of Navarre (son of Jeanne) and her daughter Marguerite. According to Catherine, this marriage was the only means to achieve a final reconciliation between the parties. Her persistent match-making, appealing to Jeanne's vanity, eventually melted the ice of mistrust. Coligny went to Blois, where he was received with expressions of genuine friendship. Charles embraced the admiral, assuring him that it was the happiest day of his life. He introduced the elder statesman to the royal council, granted him estates and money, and from then on, called him no other than his father. The Huguenot nobles, one by one, followed the example of their leader and came to Paris, where they were invariably warmly received. Festivities followed one after another, and balls were held regularly. After one of these balls in early June 1572, Queen Jeanne fell ill with pneumonia and died five days later. It was believed that she died from a cold, but there were persistent rumors that poisoned gloves, given to her by Catherine de' Medici, were the cause of her death. On August 18, the marriage between Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois took place, and four days later, Admiral Coligny, returning from the king, was shot by a musket and miraculously survived. When Charles was informed of the assassination attempt, he seemed extremely saddened. The king ordered all the gates of Paris, except two, to be closed, and all Huguenots were instructed to move to the district where the admiral's house was located, under the heightened protection of the royal guard. He himself visited the wounded man and promised to find the assassin without fail. This assassination attempt deeply affected the Huguenots. Some of them suggested hastily leaving the capital, but Coligny, seemingly blinded, ignored their warnings. In the morning of August 23, special commissioners went door-to-door, taking a census of the Huguenots living in them, assuring them that all of this was done by the king's order for their own benefit. At eleven o'clock in the evening, the tolling of the bells in the Church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois signaled the beginning of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. This was the agreed signal for the slaughter to begin. Driven by the desire for revenge for the murder of his father, Henry of Guise rushed with an armed detachment to Admiral Coligny's house. His followers stormed inside, killed the old man, and threw his body into the street at the feet of the Duke. After that, fanatical crowds began to massacre other Huguenots. Fueled by cries that the king ordered the killing of the conspirators, they roamed throughout the city, leaving piles of bodies in houses, streets, and bridges. All the brave companions of the admiral, all the supporters of the princes of the blood, who had come to Paris for the wedding of Henry of Bourbon - La Rochefoucauld, Teligny, Brissac, La Force, as well as many other nobles and gentlemen, paid with their lives for their trust in the king. Even in the Louvre, nobles from Henry of Navarre's entourage were slain. Shameless ladies and girls from the court came to admire the beauty of the slain bodies. On the narrow streets of Paris, the sound of continuous gunshots could be heard, swords and daggers sparkled, assassins roared, and dying men gasped for breath. The mob, led by nobles, broke into houses, stabbing and slashing the unarmed, pursuing those who fled. The king himself shot at the running Huguenots from the window of the Louvre and, with encouraging shouts, incited the Catholics to kill. In total, over two thousand people were killed in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in Paris and the following three days. For several days, the bodies were hauled away by wagons to the banks of the Seine and dumped into the water. Only a few Huguenot leaders survived. After lengthy consultations with his mother and brother, the Duke of Anjou, Charles decided to spare King Henry of Navarre and Prince Condé. Manifestos sent throughout the country stated that the Huguenots had been punished with death for their treasonous conspiracy. At the same time, the government declared that the Edict of Tolerance remained in force, but public worship by Calvinists was prohibited. However, the atrocity did not achieve its goal - the Huguenots remained as strong as before the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. The war resumed but did not lead to victory for either party. In 1573, the king signed an edict granting freedom of worship in the cities of La Rochelle, Nîmes, and Montauban, as well as in the territories of nobles, to the Huguenots. All other Huguenots were granted freedom of conscience and the right to pray in their homes.

The following year, twenty-four-year-old Charles died, likely from a chest illness he had been suffering from for about a year. In his last weeks of life, he trembled constantly and could neither stand, lie down, nor sit. According to some reports, he experienced something similar to pangs of conscience before his death: he tossed and turned in bed and constantly cursed those who had incited him to commit the killings.