Charles IX of France

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-Laye, 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:

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, François II, in 1560, he inherited the throne and was crowned King of France in 1560 in the cathedral at Reims. 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 1562-1563 when armed Protestant troops seized many French cities following an attack on Protestant worshippers by retainers of the Duke of 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 (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.

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,

What blood shed! What murders! he cried to his nurse. ''What evil council I have followed! O my God, forgive me...I am lost! I am lost!


On his last day, 30 May 1574, at the Château de Vincennes, Val-de-Marne, Charles called for Henry III 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 of Valois.

In Fiction

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


Charles IX's ancestors in three generations
Charles IX of France Father:
Henry II of France
Paternal Grandfather:
Francis I of France
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Charles, Count of Angoulême
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Louise of Savoy
Paternal Grandmother:
Claude of France
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Louis XII of France
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Anne of Brittany
Catherine de' Medici
Maternal Grandfather:
Lorenzo II de' Medici, Duke of Urbino
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Piero di Lorenzo de' Medici
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Alfonsina Orsini
Maternal Grandmother:
Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne
Maternal Great-grandfather:
John III, Count of Auvergne
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Jeanne de Bourbon-Vendome

See also



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