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Charles VIII of France

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Charles VIII
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Charles VIII

Template:House of Valois

Charles VIII of France (June 30, 1470April 7, 1498; French: Charles VIII de France), nicknamed the Affable (l'Affable), was King of France from 1483 to his death. Charles was a member of the Valois Dynasty. He started the long series of Franco-Italian wars which characterized the first half of the 16th century.

Charles was born at the Chteau d'Amboise in France, the only son of King Louis XI and Charlotte of Savoy. Charles succeeded to the throne upon his father's death on August 30, 1483. In poor health and regarded by his contemporaries as of pleasant disposition but foolish and unsuited for the business of the state, the 13-year-old king reigned under a regency headed by his eldest sister, Princess Anne de Beaujeu, and her husband, Pierre de Bourbon.

On December 6, 1491, in an elaborate ceremony at the Chteau de Langeais, Charles married Anne de Bretagne, heiress to the duchy of Brittany, The 15-year-old Duchess Anne, not happy with the politically arranged marriage, arrived for her wedding with her entourage carrying two beds. However, Charles's marriage brought him independence from his relatives, and thereafter he managed affairs according to his own inclinations. Queen Anne would live at the Clos Luc in Amboise. The marriage resulted in the birth of four children:

  • Prince Charles-Orland of France, Dauphin of Viennois(1492 - 1495).
  • Prince Charles of France, Dauphin of Viennois (1496).
  • Prince Franois of France, Dauphin of Viennois (1497 - 1498).
  • Princess Anne of France (1498).

Having inherited a vague claim to the kingdom of Naples through his paternal grandmother, Marie of Anjou (1404 - 1463), and encouraged by Ludovico Sforza of Milan, he imagined himself capable of seizing that realm, and he thereupon set France's resources toward that goal, starting the Italian Wars. He contracted several unfavourable treaties with Austria, England, and Aragon, in order to free himself of distractions, and then commenced a massive buildup of forces. He entered Italy in 1494 and marched across the peninsula, reaching Naples on February 22, 1495. Crowned king of Naples, he then found himself the subject of an opposing coalition from the League of Venice, involving that republic with Austria, the Papacy, and Ludovico Sforza of Milan. Defeated at Fornovo in July 1495, he escaped to France at the cost of the loss of most of his forces. He attempted in the next few years to rebuild his army, but was hampered by the serious debts incurred by the previous one. He never succeeded in recouping anything substantive. He died two-and-a-half years after his retreat, of an accident: striking himself on the head while passing through a doorway, he succumbed to a sudden coma several hours later.

Charles bequeathed a meagre legacy: he left France in debt and in disarray as a result of an ambition most charitably characterized as unrealistic. On a more positive side, his expedition did broach contacts between French and Italian humanists, energizing French art and letters in the latter part of the Renaissance.

Since all of his children died before him, Charles was the last of the elder branch of the House of Valois, and upon his death at Amboise the throne passed to a cousin, the son of Charles, duc d'Orleans, who reigned as King Louis XII of France.


Preceded by:
Louis XI
King of France
August 30, 1483April 7, 1498
Succeeded by:
Louis XII

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