Charles II of Navarre - Encyclopedia

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CHARLES II. (1332-1387), called THE BAD, king of Navarre and count of Evreux, was a son of Jeanne II., queen of Navarre, by her marriage with Philip, count of Evreux (d. 1343). Having become king of Navarre on Jeanne's death in 1349, he suppressed a rising at Pampeluna with much cruelty, and by this and similar actions thoroughly earned his surname of "The Bad." In 1352 he married Jeanne (d. 1393), a daughter of John II., king of France, a union which made his relationship to the French crown still more complicated. Through his mother he was a grandson of Louis X. and through his father a great-grandson of Philip III., having thus a better claim to the throne of France than Edward III. of England; and, moreover, he held lands under the suzerainty of the French king, whose son-in-law he now became. Charles was a man of great ability, possessing popular manners and considerable eloquence, but he was singularly unscrupulous, a quality which was revealed during the years in which he played an important part in the internal affairs of France. Trouble soon arose between King John and his son-in-law. The promised dowry had not been paid, and the county of Angouleme, which had formerly belonged to Jeanne of Navarre, was now in the possession of the French king's favourite, the constable Charles la Cerda. In January 13 54 the constable was assassinated by order of Charles, and preparations for war were begun. The king of Navarre, who defended this deed, had, however, many friends in France and was in communication with Edward III.; and consequently John was forced to make a treaty at Mantes and to compensate him for the loss of Angouleme by a large grant of lands, chiefly in Normandy. This peace did not last long, and in 1355 John was compelled to confirm the treaty of Mantes. Returning to Normandy, Charles was partly responsible for some unrest in the duchy, and in April 1356 he was treacherously seized by the French king at Rouen, remaining in captivity until November 1357, when John, after his defeat at Poitiers, was a prisoner in England. Charles was regarded with much favour in France, and the states-general demanded his release, which, however, was effected by a surprise. Owing to his popularity he was considered by Etienne Marcel and his party as a suitable rival to the dauphin, afterwards King Charles V., and on entering Paris he was well received and delivered an eloquent harangue to the Parisians. Subsequently peace was made with the dauphin, who promised to restore to Charles his confiscated estates. This peace was not enduring, and as his lands were not given back Charles had some ground for complaint. War again broke out, quickly followed by a new treaty, after which the king of Navarre took part in suppressing the peasant rising known as the Jacquerie. Answering the entreaties of Marcel he returned to Paris on June 1358, and became captain-general of the city, which was soon besieged by the dauphin. This position, however, did not prevent him from negotiating both with the dauphin and with the English; terms were soon arranged with the former, and Charles, having lost much of his popularity, left Paris just before the murder of Marcel in July 1358. He continued his alternate policy of war and peace, meanwhile adding if possible by his depredations to the misery of France, until the conclusion of the treaty of Bretigny in May 1360 deprived him of the alliance of the English, and compelled him to make peace with King John in the following October. A new cause of trouble arose when the duchy of Burgundy was left without a ruler in November 1361, and was claimed by Charles; but, lacking both allies and money, he was unable to prevent the French king from seizing Burgundy, while he himself returned to Navarre.

In his own kingdom Charles took some steps to reform the financial and judicial administration and so to increase his revenue; but he was soon occupied once more with foreign entanglements, and in July 1362, in alliance with Peter the Cruel, king of Castile, he invaded Aragon, deserting his new ally soon afterwards for Peter IV., king of Aragon. Meanwhile the war with the dauphin had been renewed. Still hankering after Burgundy, Charles saw his French estates again seized; but after some desultory warfare, chiefly in Normandy, peace was made in March 1365, and he returned to his work of interference in the politics of the Spanish kingdoms. In turn he made treaties with the kings of Castile and Aragon, who were at war with each other; promising to assist Peter the Cruel to regain his throne, from which he had been driven in 1366 by his half-brother Henry of Trastamara, and then assuring Henry and his ally Peter of Aragon that he would aid ,them to retain Castile. He continued this treacherous policy when Edward the Black Prince advanced to succour Peter the Cruel; then signed a treaty with Edward of England, and then in 1371 allied himself with Charles V. of France. His next important move was to offer his assistance to Richard II. of England for an attack upon France. About this time serious charges were brought against him. Accused of attempting to poison the king of France and other prominent persons, and of other crimes, his French estates were seized by order of Charles V., and soon afterwards Navarre was invaded by the Castilians. Won over by the surrender of Cherbourg in July 1378, the English under John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, came to his aid; but a heavy price had to be paid for the neutrality of the king of Castile. After the death of Charles V. in 1380, the king of Navarre did not interfere in the internal affairs of France, although he endeavoured vainly again to obtain aid from Richard II., and to regain Cherbourg. His lands in France were handed over to his eldest son Charles, who governed them with the consent of the new king Charles VI. Charles died on the 1st of January 1387, and many stories are current regarding the manner of his death. Froissart relates that he was burned to death through his bedclothes catching fire; Secousse says that he died in peace with many signs of contrition; another story says he died of leprosy; and a popular legend tells how he expired by a divine judgment through the burning of the clothes steeped in sulphur and spirits in which he had been wrapped as a cure for a loathsome disease caused by his debauchery. He had three sons and four daughters, and was succeeded by his eldest son Charles; one of his daughters, Jeanne, became the wife of Henry IV. of England.

See Jean Froissart, Chroniques, edited by S. Luce and G. Raynaud (Paris, 1869-1897); D. F. Secousse, Memoires pour servir a l'histoire de Charles roi de Navarre (Paris, 1 7551 7 68); E. Meyer, Charles II, roi de Navarre et la Normandie au XIV e stecle (Paris, 1898); F. T. Perrens, Etienne Marcel (Paris, 1874); R. Delachenal, Premieres negotiations de Charles le Mauvais avec les Anglais (Paris, 1900); and E. I,avisse, Histoire de France, tome iv. (Paris, 1902).

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