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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Charles VI of France

Charles VI of France (1368 – 1422), suffered from bouts of madness, probably schizophrenia. His doctors tried everything from exorcism to trepanning to cure him.

Charles VI of France

During one of his attacks after two days in a coma Charles became convinced that he was made of glass and he refused to travel by coach in case the vibration made him shatter into a thousand pieces. He also fitted rods into his clothes in case he ever fell over and shattered.

Often Charles was not able to rule the country because of his mental illness and his wife Queen Isabeau of Bavaria ruled with the help of his brother Louis I de Valois, Duke of Orléans. This made his cousin John the Fearless of Burgundy very angry, so John the Fearless had Louis assassinated.

Isabeau of Bavaria bathed in strawberry juice.

Charles VI of France was nearly killed when several dancers' costumes catch fire during a masquerade ball on January 28, 1393. To escape burning at the Bal des Ardents the king huddled under the gown of the Duchesse de Berry, while a lord leaped into a wine vat. Parisians considered the event proof of courtly decadence and threatened to rebel against the more powerful members of the nobility. The public's outrage forced the king into offering penance.

The Bal des Ardents, miniature of 1450–80.

Charles VI's reign was marked by the continuing conflict with the English known as the Hundred Years' War.  A temporary peace occurred in 1396 when Charles' daughter, the almost seven-year-old Isabella of Valois, married the 29-year-old Richard II of England.

By the mid 1410s, the feud between the French royal family and the house of Burgundy and Charles' madness had led to chaos and anarchy Henry V of England was eager to take advantage of the situation and led an invasion that culminated in the defeat of the French army at the Battle of Agincourt in October 1415.

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