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Charles IX (27 June 1550 – 30 May 1574) born Charles-Maximilien, was King of France, ruling from 1560 until his death. He is best known as king at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.


He was born in the royal chateau of Saint-Germain-en-Layemarker, third son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici, grandson of François I and Claude de France, and brother of François II and Henri III. He was one of 10 children:

  • Joan (24 June 1556 – August 1556).
    • Twin of Victoria. Died in infancy.

He was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter on Sunday 14 May 1564 at St George's, Windsor, along with Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford and Sir Henry Sidney. That year, Charles IX issued the Edict of Roussillon fixing 1 January as the first day of the year.

King of France

After the death of his elder brother, Francis II, in 1560, he inherited the throne and was crowned King of France in 1560 in the cathedral at Reimsmarker. The politics of that era were greatly influenced by his mother, Catherine de' Medici, who was regent for the ten-year-old Charles, and by the power of the opposing religious faction leaders; the Protestant-leaning House of Bourbon and the ultra-Catholic House of Guise.

The first of the French Wars of Religion broke out in 1562–63 when armed Protestant troops seized many French cities following an attack on Protestant worshippers by retainers of Francis of Guise (after Henry of Navarre's uncle Louis of Bourbon, Prince of Conde had attempted to kidnap Guise). After a four-year period of peace, an attempt by Huguenot armies at Meaux to capture and control the king led to the Second War of Religion from 1567 to 1568. A third war raged chiefly in south-western France from 1568 to 1570 with foreign intervention.


On 26 November 1570 Charles married Elisabeth of Austria. They had one daughter, Marie Elisabeth of Valois (27 October 1572 – 9 April 1578). Charles IX also had an illegitimate son, the duc d'Angoulême, with his mistress, Marie Touchet.

In 1572, Charles IX witnessed the massacre of thousands of Huguenots (Protestants) in and around Paris in what became known as the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre.

Coin of Charles IX, 1573.
Charles IX did not long survive the Massacre. He had always been fragile, both emotionally and physically: emotionally, his moods now swung from coarse boasting about the extremity of the Massacre, to claims that the screams of the murdered Huguenots kept ringing in his ears. Frantically he blamed his mother: "Who but you is the cause of all of this? God's blood, you are the cause of it all!" The Queen-mother responded by declaring she had a lunatic for a son.

Physically, Charles had never been strong, tending towards tuberculosis.

The strain following the Massacres weakened his body to the point where, by spring of 1574, the hoarse coughing turned bloody and the hemorrhages grew more violent. He became bedridden and delusional,

Book on hunting

It appears that Charles had an interest in hunting, and he wrote a book on the subject, La Chasse Royale, which was published long after his death, in 1625. It is a valuable source for those interested in the history of hounds and hunting.


On his last day, 30 May 1574, at the Château de Vincennesmarker, Val-de-Marnemarker, Charles called for Henry of Navarre, embraced him, and said, "Brother, you are losing a good friend. Had I believed all that I was told, you would not be alive. But I always loved you... I trust you alone to look after my wife and daughter. Pray God for me. Farewell."

Charles was not yet twenty-four years old. The crown of France now passed to his brother, Henry III.


See also


  • Durant, Will, The Age of Reason, Vol. VII, Simon and Schuster, 1961.
  • Frieda, Leonie, Catherine de Medici, HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.
  • Guizot, F., The History of France (London, 1887), Vol. III.
  • Heritier, Jean, Catherine de Medici, 48.
  • de Saint-Amand, Imbert, and Elizabeth Gilbert Martin, Women of the Valois court, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1893.

In fiction

  • Charles IX is a supporting character in Alexandre Dumas' historical novel Queen Margot, which focuses on the marriage between Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois. In the book, Charles' mother Catherine accidentally causes his death by arsenic poisoning. She attempts to assassinate Henry by means of a tainted book placed in his chamber but Charles finds the book instead and ingests a lethal dose of arsenic.



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