Charles VI: Mo’ Land, Mo’ Problems

The Players

Mo’ Land, Mo’ Problems

Now that we have Riley’s armchair diagnosis that King Charles VI suffered from schizophrenia, it is time to turn our attention to the repercussions inside France and beyond. In a time when everything from a country’s economy to its religion revolved around the royal family, stability depended on the monarch’s ability to maintain peace and rule with a steady hand. As we saw, King Charles VI began his reign with the best of intentions, but biology had other plans.

If today’s motto is time = money, then history’s motto is land = power. World history is composed of endless wars aiming to claim, maintain, or regain land. England and France were two of the great medieval powers and they were no exception to this narrative. Their longest stretch of fighting lasted 116 years, and centered on territory that both kingdoms claimed as their own (see map below), as well as who had the rightful claim to the French throne. Let me assure you that if women were running the world at this time, they would not have let this go on for a century. 

Got Enemies, Got a Lotta Enemies

In one corner, weighing in at 441 years old (at the time of Charles VI’s birth) it’s the Kingdom of England!
In the opposite corner, weighing in at 525 years old (give or take some years depending on when you start the clock), it’s the Kingdom of France!

Let’s get ready to rumbleeeeeee

The so-called Hundred Years War began a good 30 years before King Charles VI was born. This war with England was one his father Charles V had spent his reign fighting, and when Charles VI came of age he and the Marmousets set out in the hopes of brokering some kind of peace with England’s current ruler, King Richard II. Although things were never perfect between France and England during those years, it was as close to peace as the two countries had been in quite some time.

Unfortunately for those who were fans of peace, King Richard II was kicked off the throne of England and died in prison in 1400, and the new King of England was Henry IV (that succession issue is a whole other story. Look it up sometime, it’s called the War of the Roses. Not to be confused with the latest “The Bachelor” finale featuring Barb vs. Madison). Henry IV wasn’t a big fan of his predecessor Richard II’s attempts to broker peace with the French. Meanwhile, Charles VI’s episodes of psychosis were becoming more frequent, and his brother, Brother Louis, was doing a lot of bossing around at this time as a result. Brother Louis also wasn’t keen on a truce with England. He threw his support (essentially France’s support) behind Scotland and Wales, who at this time were not yet united with England as the Kingdom of Great Britain and so shared France’s hatred for their powerful neighbor. Needless to say, this did nothing to thaw England and France’s icy relationship. 

A timeline of which party was in control of the government, and in effect, of Charles VI.

France was also focused on rising tensions among its own nobles. Remember that in 1407, Brother Louis was assassinated and two sides coalesced- the Burgundians and the Armagnacs. Civil war exploded and now France had two enemies to worry about – itself and England. 

This map shows how land constantly changed hands throughout the Hundred Years War. The Map Archive.

An important note – there are centuries of history behind the conflicts between France and England, and there would be centuries more. But I am just going to give you the bare bones of the situation so that we can see how Charles VI’s weaknesses jeopardized stability at home, and as a result, France’s position when it came to defeating England on the battleground. One of the most famous historical examples of this is the Battle of Agincourt. In 1413, Henry IV died and his son, Henry V, succeeded to the throne. What Henry V found was a France “torn apart by civil strife, headed by a mad king…[and] his for the taking (Norwich).” And so he set out with an aggressive agenda, and France and England met on the battlefield in 1415 at Agincourt. 

If you’ve ever seen “The King” on Netflix, starring one of my loves Timothee Chalamet as Henry V and Robert Pattinson as Charles VI’s son Louis for reasons I cannot understand, then you saw in some blend of truth and fiction how the Battle of Agincourt played out. Spoiler alert – England won against all odds. The English army had been depleted by disease and previous battles and were on their way back to England. When England’s army of about 6,000 men ran into 20,000 Frenchmen, it certainly was not an even fight. But what the English lacked in numbers they made up for in strategy and absolutely decimated their enemy. It was a massive defeat for the French, who lost 6,000 men that day. The English only lost 400 and they were able to return home in triumph. Seriously, it is a testament to how preoccupied France was with their own troubles at home with how badly they lost this battle. It was a devastating blow to France and they lost the upper hand in the war. Morale was shredded as France continued to fight amongst themselves. 

Timothee Chalamet as Henry V.
Robert Pattinson as Son Louis. Louis was not actually at the Battle of Agincourt.

99 Problems but a Brit Ain’t One

Five years later the French still hadn’t fully recovered, and King Charles VI was even less capable of ruling his kingdom. John the Fearless had just been assassinated and his son Philip the Good was now the new Duke of Burgundy. The Burgundians favored an alliance of sorts with England and so Philip the Good and Charles VI’s wife, Isabeau, teamed up and signed The Treaty of Troyes with England in 1420. Under the terms of the treaty, Charles VI’s daughter Catherine of Valois was married to King Henry V and Henry was named as Charles VI’s successor. Chucky was kicked to the curb after his alleged involvement in the murder of Philip the Good’s father. I want to emphasize that Charles VI was most likely not in any mental capacity to decide anything of importance at this point. Philip and Isabeau spoke for him, so whatever Charles VI may have wanted at this time didn’t really matter. He wasn’t running the show. Who knows if he really would rather have had an English king on the throne of France, as opposed to his own son, Chucky.

When Charles VI died in 1422 the legacy he left was that of a succession crisis. Obviously Chucky did not acknowledge the Treaty of Troyes and so instead he declared himself King Charles VII. But according to the treaty, the throne belonged to the new King of England, the infant Henry VI (and also Chucky’s nephew – Henry VI was the son of Chucky’s sister Catherine).

The rivalry between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs was amplified as they took sides in the debate of who should succeed Charles VI as king. The Burgundians had supported the treaty and the alliance with England, which makes sense because they were loyal to John the Fearless, who was assassinated apparently under Chucky’s orders. And so the Armagnacs naturally backed Chucky as King of France just to disagree with the rival Burgundians (not really that simple but who doesn’t love a little pettiness). This civil war that ignited as a result of Charles VI’s inability to maintain control during his periods of psychosis continued for the majority of Chucky’s reign. But Chucky was able to do what his father wasn’t. In 1435 he brought an end to the civil war and the violent legacy his father had left him with (but let’s be clear, Chucky certainly didn’t do anything to help it during his youth).

Even though things looked optimistic for King Charles VI’s rule in the early days, we unfortunately have no way of knowing what his legacy could have been had he not suffered from the debilitating effects of what was most likely schizophrenia. Would France have been spared the ravages of civil war if Charles VI had remained healthy and capable of ruling throughout his reign? Could the Hundred Years War have been more like the Sixty-Something Years War? The beginning of Charles’ reign certainly seemed promising. He appeared determined to rule with the wisdom of his father, and was open to working with England for some type of peace. 

Despite his rocky start, Chucky reigned for 40 years and earned the nicknames “The Well-Served” and “The Victorious”. He is probably best known for teaming up with resident bad-ass Saint Joan of Arc, who helped Chucky solidify his claim as the rightful king and fight against Burgundy and England (what did I tell you about women?). Despite the disaster that could have been for the French monarchy, France kept a French monarch on the throne until the dawn of the 19th century, and historians such as “Claude Gauvard suggest that it was the reign of Charles VI ‘which was the moment when the bureaucratic state was established in matters of justice and finance’, and one moreover capable of surviving long periods of royal incapacity (Potter).” 

I guess what I am saying is, it wasn’t all bad?

The following sources were referenced during the writing of this really, really complicated story:

Battle of Agincourt. (2010, July 21). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from

Duby, G. (1991). France in the middle ages 987-1460. Oxford: Blackwell.

Horne, A. (2005). La Belle France: A Short History . New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Lanhers, Y. (2020, February 18). Charles VII. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from

Man of Glass – The Strange Disorder of Charles VI of France: History Channel on Foxtel. (2018, March 2). Retrieved from

Martinez, J. (2019, October 18). Battle of Agincourt. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from

Norwich, J. J. (2019). A history of France. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Perroy, E. (1959). The Hundred Years War. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Potter, D. (2006). France in the later Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sumption, J. (2009). Divided Houses. London: Faber and Faber.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, December 2). Charles VI. Retrieved from

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020, March 5). Hundred Years’ War. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from

Wagner, J. A. (2006). Encyclopedia of the Hundred Years War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

3 thoughts on “Charles VI: Mo’ Land, Mo’ Problems

  1. And why are we not having these conversations around the Thanksgiving table? Stunning ladies – Steph you need to go get your Ph.D in History and teach!


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