1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charles IX. (King of France)

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CHARLES IX. (1550–1574), king of France, was the third son of Henry II. and Catherine de’ Medici. At first he bore the title of duke of Orleans. He became king in 1560 by the death of his brother Francis II., but as he was only ten years old the power was in the hands of the queen-mother, Catherine. Charles seems to have been a youth of good parts, lively and agreeable, but he had a weak, passionate and fantastic nature. His education had spoiled him. He was left to his whims—even the strangest—and to his taste for violent exercises; and the excesses to which he gave himself up ruined his health. Proclaimed of age on the 17th of August 1563, he continued to be absorbed in his fantasies and his hunting, and submitted docilely to the authority of his mother. In 1570 he was married to Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of Maximilian II. It was about this time that he dreamed of making a figure in the world. The successes of his brother, the duke of Anjou, at Jarnac and Moncontour had already caused him some jealousy. When Coligny came to court, he received him very warmly, and seemed at first to accept the idea of an intervention in the Netherlands against the Spaniards. For the upshot of this adventure see the article St Bartholomew, Massacre of. Charles was in these circumstances no hypocrite, but weak, hesitating and ill-balanced. Moreover, the terrible events in which he had played a part transformed his character. He became melancholy, severe and taciturn. “It is feared,” said the Venetian ambassador, “that he may become cruel.” Undermined by fever, at the age of twenty he had the appearance of an old man, and night and day he was haunted with nightmares. He died on the 30th of May 1574. By his mistress, Marie Touchet, he had one son, Charles, duke of Angoulême. Charles IX. had a sincere love of letters, himself practised poetry, was the patron of Ronsard and the poets of the Pleiad, and granted privileges to the first academy founded by Antoine de Baïf (afterwards the Académie du Palais). He left a work on hunting, Traité de la chasse royale, which was published in 1625, and reprinted in 1859.

Authorities.—The principal sources are the contemporary memoirs and chronicles of T. A. d’Aubigné, Brantôme, Castelnau, Haton, la Place, Montluc, la Noue, l’Estoile, Ste Foy, de Thou, Tavannes, &c.; the published correspondence of Catherine de’ Medici, Marguerite de Valois, and the Venetian ambassadors; and Calendars of State Papers, &c. See also Abel Desjardins, Charles IX, deux années de règne (Paris, 1873); de la Ferrière, Le XVIe siècle et les Valois (Paris, 1879); H. Mariéjol, La Réforme et la Ligue (Paris, 1904), in vol. v. of the Histoire de France, by E. Lavisse, which contains a bibliography for the reign.