Charles V of France

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Charles V (21 January 1338 – 16 September 1380), called the Wise, was King of France from 1364 to his death in 1380 and a member of the House of Valois. His reign marked a high point for France during the Hundred Years' War, with his armies recovering much of the territory ceded to England at the Treaty of Brétigny.

Contents

Early life

Charles was born at the château de Vincennes outside of Paris, France, the son of John II of France and Bonne of Luxembourg. Upon his father's succession to the throne in 1350, Charles became Dauphin of France. He was the first French heir to use the title, which is named for the region of Dauphiné, acquired by Charles' grandfather.

The future king was highly intelligent but physically weak, with pale skin and a thin, ill-proportioned body. He made a sharp contrast to his father—who was tall, strong and sandy-haired—and gossip at the time suggested he was not John's son. Similar rumors would pursue Charles' grandson, Charles VII.

The Regency and the uprising of the Third Estate

King John was a brave warrior but a poor ruler who alienated his nobles through arbitrary justice and the elevation of associates considered unworthy. After a three-year break, the war resumed in 1355, with Edward, The Black Prince, leading an English-Gascon army in a violent raid across southwestern France. After checking an English incursion into Normandy, John led an army of about 16,000 south, crossing the Loire in September, 1356, attempting to outflank the Prince's 8,000 soldiers at Poitiers. Rejecting advice from one captain to surround and starve the Prince—a tactic Edward feared—John attacked the strong enemy position. In the subsequent Battle of Maupertuis (Poitiers), English archery all but annihilated the French cavalry, and John was captured. Charles led a battalion at Poitiers which withdrew early in the struggle; whether the order came from John (as he later claimed) or whether Charles himself ordered the withdrawal is unclear.

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