1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charles IV. (King of France)
CHARLES IV. (1294–1328), king of France, called The Fair, was the third and youngest son of Philip IV. and Jeanne of Navarre. In 1316 he was created count of La Marche, and succeeded his brother Philip V. as king of France and Navarre early in 1322. He followed the policy of his predecessors in enforcing the royal authority over the nobles, but the machinery of a centralized government strong enough to hold nobility in check increased the royal expenditure, to meet which Charles had recourse to doubtful financial expedients. At the beginning of his reign he ordered a recast of the coinage, with serious results to commerce; civil officials were deprived of offices, which had been conferred free, but were now put up to auction; duties were imposed on exported merchandise and on goods brought into Paris; the practice of exacting heavy fines was encouraged by making the salaries of the magistrates dependent on them; and on the pretext of a crusade to free Armenia from the Turks, Charles obtained from the pope a tithe levied on the clergy, the proceeds of which he kept for his own use; he also confiscated the property of the Lombard bankers who had been invited to France by his father at a time of financial crisis. The history of the assemblies summoned by Charles IV. is obscure, but in 1326, on the outbreak of war with England, an assembly of prelates and barons met at Meaux. Commissioners were afterwards despatched to the provinces to state the position of affairs and to receive complaints. The king justified his failure to summon the estates on the ground of the expense incurred by provincial deputies. The external politics of his reign were not marked by any striking events. He maintained excellent relations with Pope John XXII., who made overtures to him, indirectly, offering his support in case of his candidature for the imperial crown. Charles tried to form a party in Italy in support of the pope against the emperor Louis IV. of Bavaria, but failed. A treaty with the English which secured the district of Agenais for France was followed by a feudal war in Guienne. Isabella, Charles’s sister and the wife of Edward II., was sent to France to negotiate, and with her brother’s help arranged the final conspiracy against her husband. Charles’s first wife was Blanche, daughter of Otto IV., count of Burgundy, and of Matilda (Mahaut), countess of Artois, to whom he was married in 1307. In May 1314, by order of King Philip IV., she was arrested and imprisoned in the Château-Gaillard with her sister-in-law Marguerite, daughter of Robert II., duke of Burgundy, and wife of Louis Hutin, on the charge of adultery with two gentlemen of the royal household, Philippe and Gautier d’Aunai. Jeanne, sister of Marguerite and wife of Philip the Tall, was also arrested for not having denounced the culprits, and imprisoned at Dourdan. The two knights were put to the torture and executed, and their goods confiscated. It is impossible to say how far the charges were true. Tradition has involved and obscured the story, which is the origin of the legend of the tour de Nesle made famous by the drama of A. Dumas the elder. Marguerite died shortly in prison; Jeanne was declared innocent by the parlement and returned to her husband. Blanche was still in prison when Charles became king. He induced Pope John XXII. to declare the marriage null, on the ground that Blanche’s mother had been his godmother. Blanche died in 1326, still in confinement, though at the last in the abbey of Maubuisson.
In 1322, freed from his first marriage, Charles married his cousin Mary of Luxemburg, daughter of the emperor Henry VII., and upon her death, two years later, Jeanne, daughter of Louis, count of Evreux. Charles IV. died at Vincennes on the 1st of February 1328. He left no issue by his first two wives to succeed him, and daughters only by Jeanne of Evreux. He was the last of the direct line of Capetians.
See A. d’Herbomey, “Notes et documents pour servir à l’histoire des rois fils de Philippe le Bel,” in Bibl. de l’École des Chartes (lix. pp. 479 seq. and 689 seq.); de Bréquigny, “Mémoire sur les différends entre la France et l’Angleterre sous le règne de Charles le Bel,” in Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscriptions (xli. pp. 641-692); H. Lot, “Projets de crusade sous Charles le Bel et sous Philippe de Valois” (Bibl. de l’École des Chartes, xx. pp. 503-509); “Chronique parisienne anonyme de 1316 à 1339 ...” ed. Hellot in Mém. de la soc. de l’hist. de Paris (xi., 1884, pp. 1-207).