Charles V the Wise of FranceCharles V the Wise of France

Life: 1338-1380
Birth Place: Vincennes, France
Historical Role: King
Titles: King of France
Primary countries affected: France
Secondary countries affected: Spain, United Kingdom
Events: Hundred Years War (1337-1453), Battle of Poitiers (1356)


Charles V the Wise was King of France during an important period of the Hundred Years War. Charles V was the son of John II King of France and Bonne of Luxembourg. In 1356 King John II lead his army in the Battle of Poitiers but was captured and Charles managed to escape. Charles V assumed regency while his father was an English prisoner. Charles V summoned Estates-General in order to gain money for the defense of the country. However, the bourgeois led by Etienne Marcel, demanded the king sack his counsellors and create a council of 28, taken from the nobility, the clergy and the bourgeois, and asked for the release of Charles II of Navarre, who had been imprisoned by John II. Charles V refused these terms and ended the Estates-General. Charles V was forced to recall the Estates-General the next year in 1357, this time agreeing to the terms presented by Etienne Marcel. However the advisers who were sacked, brought news of this agreement to John II in captivity, and he refuted the agreement. A feud ensued between Charles V and Etienne Marcel after this, Charles was trying to gain support in the provinces, while Etienne Marcel was mobilising the bourgeois' in Paris. Etienne Marcel at the head of 3,000 bourgeois' stormed the royal palace and executed 2 of the king's marshals in front of Charles V. But the extreme nature of this event destroyed the support the nobles had for Marcel and his Bourgeois'.

Because King Edward III of England, held the King John II of France captive he was able to make John sign a devastating treaty of peace, which ceded all of Western France and France had to pay 4 million ecus. But Charles V rejected this treaty and the English used this as an excuse to resume hostilities, but Charles V refused to engage the English in a decisive battle, and opted for a defensive war, relying on improved defenses throughout the kingdom. After this Edward agreed to reduce his terms, this time through the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360, France ceded a third of Western France and had to pay 3 million ecus. John II was thus released so he could return to France and raise the money to pay, however he was unable to collect the funds and he returned himself to the English and died in 1364. Charles V was crowned as King of France the same year. Charles V had two tasks ahead of him, recovering the territory ceded to the English at the Treaty of Bretigny, and dealing with the mercenary companies roaming around France. He settled the mercenary question by sending them to fight in Castile. Charles was named the Wise, because of his cultural programs, notably his library, where he had important works commissioned and translated.

In 1369 the nobles of Gascony petitioned Charles V to come to their aid in order to rid their territory of the English, so Charles V declared war that year. Charles V used the same tactic as before, that is to avoid large confrontations, he would use a strategy of guerilla warfare and small skirmishes. By 1374 Charles V had recovered most of France, except Calais and Aquitaine. However Charles V was unable to obtain a treaty from the English because, he demanded that they forfeit all their lands in France.

In 1376, the Pope Gregory XI who was based in Avignon, decided it was best to move his Papal seat back to Rome, Charles V however was opposed to this, because by having the Pope in Avignon he could control him. Gregory XI died in 1378 and before the Cardinals could elect a new successor a Roman mob surrounded the Vatican and ordered that the predominantly French College of Cardinals elect a Roman Pope. They succeeded in their demands and the new Pope Urban VI who was formerly Archbishop of Bari, was elected. However, Urban VI alienated the French members of the College of Cardinals, and they left for France, where they announced the election as null and elected a new pope Clement VII. Clement VII was based in Avignon, when he obtained Charles V's support his position was confirmed and these events lead to the Papal Schism, that lasted for 40 years.

In 1380, the abscess on the King's left arm dried up and he died soon after.

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