Charles de Valois, Duke of Angoulême
- For the third son of King Francis I of France, see Charles II de Valois, Duke of Orléans
Charles de Valois was the illegitimate son of Charles IX and Marie Touchet. He was born at the Château de Fayet in Dauphiné in 1573. His father, dying in the following year, commended him to the care and favour of his younger brother and successor, Henry III, who faithfully fulfilled the charge. His mother then married François de Balzac, marquis d'Entragues. One of their daughters (Charles's half-sister) named Catherine Henriette afterwards became the mistress of Henry IV.
Charles de Valois was carefully educated and was destined for the Knights of Malta. At the early age of sixteen he attained one of the highest dignities of the order, being made Grand Prior of France. Shortly after he came into possession of large estates left by his paternal grandmother Catherine de' Medici, from one of which he took his title of count of Auvergne.
In 1589 Henry III was assassinated, but on his deathbed he commended Charles to the good-will of his successor Henry IV. By that monarch he was made colonel of horse, and in that capacity served in the campaigns during the early part of the reign. But the connection between the king and Madame de Verneuil appears to have been very displeasing to Charles, and in 1601 he engaged in the conspiracy formed by the Dukes of Savoy, Biron and Monsieur de Turenne, one of the objects of which was to force Henry to repudiate his wife and marry the marchioness. The conspiracy was discovered; Biron and Bouillon were arrested and Biron was executed. Charles was released after a few months' imprisonment, chiefly through the influence of his half-sister, his aunt, the duchess of Angoulême and his father-in-law.
He then entered into fresh intrigues with the court of Philip III of Spain, acting in concert with Madame de Verneuil and her father d'Entragues. In 1604 d'Entragues and he were arrested and condemned to death; at the same time the marchioness was condemned to perpetual imprisonment in a convent. She easily obtained pardon, and the sentence of death against the other two was commuted into perpetual imprisonment. Charles remained in the Bastille for eleven years, from 1605 to 1616. A decree of the parlement (1606), obtained by Marguerite de Valois, deprived him of nearly all his possessions, including Auvergne, though he still retained the title. In 1616 he was released, was restored to his rank of colonel-general of horse, and despatched against one of the disaffected nobles, the duke of Longueville, who had taken Péronne. Next year he commanded the forces collected in the Île-de-France, and obtained some successes.
In 1619 he received by bequest, ratified in 1620 by royal grant, the duchy of Angoulême. Soon after he was engaged on an important embassy to the Holy Roman Empire, the result of which was the treaty of Ulm, signed July 1620. In 1627 he commanded the large forces assembled at the siege of La Rochelle; and some years after in 1635, during the Thirty Years' War, he was general of the French army in Lorraine. In 1636 he was made lieutenant-general of the army. He appears to have retired from public life shortly after the death of Richelieu in 1643.
The duke was the author of the following works:
- Mémoires, from the assassination of Henri III. to the battle of Arques (1589–1593) published at Paris by Boneau, and reprinted by Buchon in his Choix de chroniques (1836) and by Petitot in his Mémoires (1st series, vol. xliv.)
- Les Harangues, prononcés en assemblée de MM. les princes protestants d'Allemagne, par Monseigneur le duc d' Angoulême (1620)
- a translation of a Spanish work by Diego de Torres.
To him has also been ascribed the work, La générale et fidèle Relation de tout ce qui s'est passé en l'Isle de Ré, envoyée par le Roy à la Royne sa mère (Paris, 1627).
Angoulême died on 24 September 1650.
In 1591 he obtained a dispensation from the vows of the Order of Malta, and married Charlotte, daughter of Henry, maréchal d'Amville, afterwards Duke of Montmorency and his first wife. They had had three children:
- Louis-Emmanuel de Valois, Count d'Alais, who succeeded his father as duke of Angoulême and was colonel-general of light cavalry and governor of Provence; his daughter Marie Françoise de Valois married Louis, Duke of Joyeuse;
- François, who died in 1622.
His first wife died in 1636, and in 1644 he married Françoise de Narbonne, daughter of Charles, baron of Mareuil. She had no children and survived her husband until 1713.
- Baynes, T.S., ed. (1878), "Charles de Valois, Duke of Angouleme", Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 (9th ed.), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 46
- Bergin, Joseph (1996), The Making of the French Episcopate, 1589–1661, Yale University Press
- Davenport, Richard Alfred, The History of the Bastile and of its Principal Captives, Kessinger Publishing
- Taylor, William Cooke (1842), Romantic Biography of the Age of Elizabeth: Calvin and the Church of Geneva, London: Richard Bentley