King Philip VI Valois of France
- Born: Abt 1293, France
- Marriage: Unknown
- Died: 22 Aug 1350, Nogent le Rotrou, France about age 57
- Buried: Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Philip VI of Valois (French: Philippe VI de Valois; 1293 - August 22, 1350) was the King of France from 1328 to his death, and Count of Anjou, Maine, and Valois 1325-1328. He was the son of Charles of Valois and founded the Valois Dynasty.
Ascension to the throne
In 1328, King Charles IV died without a direct male descendant, however, at the time of his death his wife was pregnant. Philip was one of the two chief claimants to the throne along with King Edward III of England whose mother, Isabella, was the late King Charles' sister. Philip ascended to the throne by applying Salic law, which forbade females and those descended in the female line from succeeding to the throne. After the Charles' queen, Jeanne d'Evreux, gave birth to a girl, Philip was crowned on May 27, 1328 at the Cathedral in Reims.
Philip VI was not an heir nor a descendant of Joan I of Navarre, whose inheritance (the kingdom of Navarre, as well as the counties of Champagne, Troyes, Meaux and Brie) had been in personal union with the crown of France almost fifty years and had long been administered by the same royal machinery (established by Philip IV, the father of French bureaucracy), which resource was inherited by Philip VI. These counties were closely entrenched in the economic and administrative entity of the Royal Domain of France, being located adjacent to Ile-de-France. Philip, however, was not entitled to that inheritance; the rightful heiress was Louis X's surviving daughter, the future Joan II of Navarre, the eldest granddaughter of Joan I of Navarre. Philip ceded Navarre to Joan II, but regarding the counties in Champagne, they struck a deal: Joan II received vast lands in Normandy (adjacent to her husbands fief in Evreux) in compensation, and Philip got to keep Champagne as part of the Royal Domain.
In July, 1313, Philippe had married Jeanne, (Joan the Lame), daughter of Robert II, Duke of Burgundy and princess Agnes of France, the youngest daughter of Louis IX. In an ironic twist to his "male" ascendancy to the throne, the intelligent, strong-willed Joan, an able regent of France during the King's long military campaigns, was said to be the brains behind the throne and the real ruler of France.
Their children were:
* John II (April 26, 1319 - April 8, 1364)
* Marie (1326-1333)
* Louis (January 17, 1328 - January 17, 1328)
* Louis (June 8, 1330 - June 23, 1330)
* Jean (1333-1333)
* Philip of Valois (1336-1375), Duke of Orleans
* Jeanne (1337-1337)
After Joan died in 1348, Philip married Blanche d'Evreux, princess of Navarre, daughter of the queen regnant Joan II of Navarre, on January 11, 1350. They had one daughter: Jeanne (1351-1371).
Philip VI died at Nogent-le-Roi, Eure-et-Loir on August 22, 1350 and is interred with his second wife, Blanche de Navarre (1330-1398) in Saint Denis Basilica. He was succeeded by his first son by Jeanne of Burgundy, who became John II.
Philip's reign was punctuated with crises. It began with military success in Flanders at the Battle of Cassel (August 1328), where Philip's forces reseated Louis I of Flanders, who had been unseated by a popular revolution. The able Jeanne gave the first of many demonstrations of her competence as regent in his absence.
Philip initially enjoyed relatively amicable relations with Edward III, and they planned a crusade together in 1332, which was never executed. However, the status of the Duchy of Aquitaine remained a sore point, and tension increased. Philip provided refuge for David II of Scotland in 1334 and declared himself champion of his interests, which enraged Edward. By 1336, they were enemies, although not yet openly at war.
Philippe successfully prevented an arrangement between the papacy in Avignon and Emperor Louis IV although, in July 1337, Louis concluded an alliance with Edward III.
The final breach with England came when Edward offered refuge to Robert III of Artois, formerly one of Philip's trusted advisers. However, after he committed forgery to try to obtain an inheritance, he barely escaped France with his life, and was hounded by Philip throughout Europe. Edward made him Earl of Richmond and honored him; in retaliation, Philip declared on May 24, 1337 that Edward had forfeited Aquitaine for rebellion and disobedience. Thus began the Hundred Years' War.
Hundred Years' War
Philip entered the Hundred Years' War in a position of comparative strength. France was richer and more populous than England, and was then in the height of her medieval glory. The opening stages of the war, accordingly, were largely successful for the French.
At sea, French privateers raided and burned towns and shipping all along the southern and southeastern coasts of England. The English made some retaliatory raids, including the burning of a fleet in the harbor of Boulogne-sur-Mer, but the French largely had the upper hand. With his sea power established, Philip gave orders in 1339 to prepare an invasion of England, and began assembling a fleet off the Zeeland coast at Sluys. However, in June 1340, in the bitterly-fought Battle of Sluys ("l'Ecluse"), the English attacked the port and captured or destroyed the ships there, ending the threat of an invasion.
On land, Edward III largely concentrated upon Flanders and the Low Countries, where he had gained allies by diplomacy and bribery. A raid in 1339 (the first chevauchee) into Picardy ended ignominiously when Philip wisely refused to give battle. Edward's slender finances would not permit him to play a waiting game, and he was forced to withdraw into Flanders and return to England to raise more money. In July 1340, Edward returned and besieged Tournai; again, Philip brought up a relieving army which harassed the besiegers but did not offer open battle, and Edward was again forced to return home, fleeing the Low Countries secretly to escape his creditors.
So far, the war had gone quite well for Philip and the French. While often stereotyped as chivalry-besotten blockheads, Philip and his men had in fact carried out a successful Fabian strategy against the debt-plagued Edward, and resisted the chivalric blandishments of single combat or a combat of two hundred knights that he offered. In 1341, the War of the Breton Succession allowed the English to place permanent garrisons in Brittany. However, Philip was still in a commanding position: during Papally-arbitrated negotiations in 1343, he refused Edward's offer to end the war in exchange for the Duchy of Aquitaine in full sovereignty.
The next attack came in 1345, when the Earl of Derby overran the Agenais (lost twenty years before in the War of Saint-Sardos) and took Angoulême, while the forces in Brittany under Sir Thomas Dagworth also made gains. The French responded in the spring of 1346 with a massive counter-attack against Aquitaine, where an army under John, Duke of Normandy besieged Derby at Aiguillon. On the advice of Godfrey Harcourt (like Robert III of Artois, a banished French nobleman), Edward sailed for Normandy instead of Aquitaine. As Harcourt predicted, the Normans were ill-prepared for war, and many of the fighting men were at Aiguillon. Edward sacked and burned the country as he went, taking Caen and advancing as far as Poissy before retreating before the army Philip hastily assembled at Paris. Slipping across the Somme, Edward drew up to give battle at Crécy.
Close behind him, Philip had planned to halt for the night and reconnoiter the English position before giving battle the next day. However, his troops were disorderly and not to be handled: the roads were jammed by the rear of the army coming up, and by the local peasantry furiously calling for vengeance on the English. Finding them hopeless to control, he ordered a general attack as evening fell. Thus began the Battle of Crécy; and when it was done, the French army had been well-nigh annihilated, and Philip barely escaped capture. Fortune had turned against the French.
The English seized and held the advantage. Normandy called off the siege of Aiguillon and retreated northward, while Sir Thomas Dagworth captured Charles of Blois in Brittany. The English army pulled back from Crécy to besiege Calais; the town held out stubbornly, but the English were determined, and easily supplied across the English Channel. Philip led out a relieving army in July 1347, but unlike the siege of Tournai, it was now Edward who had the upper hand. With the plunder of his Norman expedition and the reforms of his tax system he had executed, he could hold to his siege lines and await an attack Philip dare not deliver. It was Philip who marched away in August, and the city capitulated shortly thereafter.
After the defeat at Crécy and loss of Calais, the Estates refused to raise money for Philip, halting his plans to counter-attack by invading England. In 1348, a new woe struck France: the Black Death, which in the next few years killed one-third of the population, including Queen Joan. The resulting labor shortage caused inflation to soar, and the king attempted to fix prices, further de-stabilizing the country. His last major achievement was the purchase of the Dauphiné and the territory of Montpellier in the Languedoc, in 1349. At his death in 1350, France was still very much a divided country filled with social unrest.