Charles VIII of France

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Charles VIII, called the Affable, French: l'Affable (30 June 1470 – 7 April 1498), was King of France from 1483 to his death in 1498. Charles was a member of the House of Valois. His invasion of Italy initiated the long series of Franco-Italian wars which characterized the first half of the 16th century.


Childhood and youth

Charles was born at the Château d'Amboise in France, the only surviving son of King Louis XI by his second wife Charlotte of Savoy. His godfather was Edward of Westminster the son of King Henry VI of England who had been living in France since the deposition of his father by King Edward IV. Charles succeeded to the throne on 30 August 1483, at age 13. His health was poor and he was regarded by his contemporaries as of pleasant disposition but foolish and unsuited for the business of the state. In accordance with Louis XI's wishes, the regency of the Kingdom was granted to Charles' elder sister, Anne, a formidably intelligent and shrewd woman described by her father as "the least insane woman in France." She would rule as regent, together with her husband Peter II, Duke of Bourbon, until 1491.


Charles was betrothed in 1482 to Margaret of Austria, the daughter of Emperor Maximilian I and Mary, Duchess of Burgundy; the marriage had been arranged by Louis XI, Maximilian, and the Estates of the Low Countries, as part of the Peace of Arras between France and Burgundy. Margaret brought the Counties of Artois and Burgundy to France as her dowry, and she was raised in the French court as prospective Queen consort.

In 1488, however, Francis II, Duke of Brittany died in a riding accident, leaving his 11-year old daughter Anne as his heiress. Anne, who feared for her Duchy's independence against the ambitions of France, arranged a marriage in 1490 between herself and Maximilian, who had already married Mary of Burgundy in much the same circumstances in 1477-thus making Anne a stepmother to Margaret of Austria. The Beaujeus refused to countenance such a marriage, however, since it would place Maximilian and his family, the Habsburgs, on two French borders; Brittany was invaded by the French army, Maximilian was unable to help, and Anne of Brittany was forced to renounce Maximilian (whom she had only married by proxy), and agree to be married to Charles VIII instead.

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