Fact of the day: 27th October

On this day in 1401 Catherine of Valois (d. 1437) was born.

Catherine of Valois was the youngest daughter of King Charles VI of France and his wife Isabeau of Bavaria. She was born at the Hôtel Saint-Pol (a royal palace in Paris) on 27 October 1401.

Early on, there had been a discussion of marrying her to the Prince of Wales, son of Henry IV of England, but the king died before negotiations could begin.

In 1414, his successor, Henry V, re-opened discussion of the match, along with a large dowry and acknowledgement of his right to the throne of France.

Henry V went to war with France, and even after the great English victory at Agincourt, plans for the marriage continued. Catherine was said to be very attractive and when Henry finally met her at Meulan, he became enamoured. In May 1420, a peace treaty was made between England and France, and Charles acknowledged Henry of England as his heir.

Catherine and Henry were married at the Parish Church of St John or at Troyes Cathedral on 2 June 1420. Catherine went to England with her new husband and was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey on 23 February 1421. In June 1421, Henry returned to France to continue his military campaigns.

By this time, Catherine was several months pregnant and gave birth to a son named Henry on 6 December 1421 at Windsor. Her husband never saw their child. During the siege of Meaux, he became sick with dysentery and died on 31 August 1422, just before his 36th birthday.

Catherine was not quite 21 and was left a queen dowager. Charles VI died a couple of months after Henry V, making the young Henry VI king of England and English-occupied northern France. Catherine doted on her son during his early childhood.

Catherine lived in the king’s household, presumably so she could care for her young son, but the arrangement also enabled the councillors to watch over the queen dowager herself. Nevertheless, Catherine entered into a sexual relationship with Welshman Owen Tudor, who, in 1421, in France, had been in the service of Henry V’s steward Sir Walter Hungerford.

Tudor was most likely appointed keeper of Catherine’s household or wardrobe. The relationship began when Catherine lived at Windsor Castle, and she became pregnant with their first child there.

From the relationship of Owen Tudor and Queen Catherine descended Henry VII of England and the Tudor Dynasty. Tudor historians asserted that Owen and Catherine had been married, for their lawful marriage was a vital link in the argument for the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty.

Fact of the day: 25th October

On this day in 1154 Henry II became King of England.

Henry II ruled as Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Nantes, King of England (1154–89) and Lord of Ireland; at various times, he also controlled Wales, Scotland and Brittany.

Henry was the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England. He became actively involved by the age of 14 in his mother’s efforts to claim the throne of England, then occupied by Stephen of Blois, and was made Duke of Normandy at 17.

He inherited Anjou in 1151 and shortly afterwards married Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to Louis VII of France had recently been annulled. Stephen agreed to a peace treaty after Henry’s military expedition to England in 1153: Henry inherited the kingdom on Stephen’s death a year later.

Henry was an energetic and sometimes ruthless ruler, driven by a desire to restore the lands and privileges of his royal grandfather, Henry I. During the early years of the younger Henry’s reign he restored the royal administration in England, re-established hegemony over Wales and gained full control over his lands in Anjou, Maine and Touraine.

Henry’s desire to reform the relationship with the Church led to conflict with his former friend Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This controversy lasted for much of the 1160s and resulted in Becket’s death in 1170. Henry soon came into conflict with Louis VII and the two rulers fought what has been termed a “cold war” over several decades.

Henry expanded his empire, often at Louis’ expense, taking Brittany and pushing east into central France and south into Toulouse; despite numerous peace conferences and treaties no lasting agreement was reached. By 1172, he controlled England, large parts of Wales, the eastern half of Ireland and the western half of France, an area that would later come to be called the Angevin Empire.

Fact of the day: 24th October

On this day in 1648 The Peace of Westphalia was signed, marking the end of the Thirty Years’ War.

The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.

The Peace of Westphalia treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg; the Kingdom of Spain; the Kingdom of France; the Swedish Empire; the Dutch Republic; the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire; and sovereigns of the free imperial cities. It can be denoted by two major events.

The signing of the Peace of Münster between the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of Spain on 30 January 1648, officially ratified in Münster on 15 May 1648.

The signing of two complementary treaties on 24 October 1648, namely:

The Treaty of Münster (Instrumentum Pacis Monasteriensis, IPM), concerning the Holy Roman Emperor and France and their respective allies.

The Treaty of Osnabrück (Instrumentum Pacis Osnabrugensis, IPO), concerning the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of France, Sweden and their respective allies.

The treaties did not restore peace throughout Europe, but they did create a basis for national self-determination.

The treaties resulted from the big diplomatic congress, thereby initiating a new system of political order in central Europe, later called Westphalian sovereignty, based upon the concept of co-existing sovereign states. Inter-state aggression was to be held in check by a balance of power.

A prejudice was established against interference in another nation’s domestic affairs. As European influence spread across the globe, these Westaphalian principles, especially the concept of sovereign states, became central to international law and to the prevailing world order.

Fact of the day: 23rd October

On this day in 1715 Peter II of Russia (d. 1730) was born.

Peter was born in Saint Petersburg on 23 October [O.S. 12 October] 1715. His mother died when he was only ten days old. His father, Prince Alexis, was accused of treason by Peter the Great, and in 1718 Alexis died in prison.

Peter the Great gave the child over to his sister, Grand Duchess Natalia – he did not care about the upbringing and education of young Peter II, because he reminded him of Alexis. From his childhood the orphan grand duke was kept in the strictest seclusion.

His earliest governesses were the wives of a tailor and a vintner from the Dutch settlement; a sailor called Norman taught him the rudiments of navigation; and, when he grew older, he was placed under the care of a Hungarian refugee, Janos Zeikin, who seems to have been a conscientious teacher.

Fact of the day: 22nd October

On this day in 1071 William IX, Duke of Aquitaine (d. 1126) was born.

William’s greatest legacy to history was not as a warrior but as a troubadour — a lyric poet employing the Romance vernacular language called Provençal or Occitan.

He was the earliest troubadour whose work survives. Eleven of his songs survive. The song traditionally numbered as the eighth (Farai chansoneta nueva) is of dubious attribution, since its style and language are significantly different. download (2)

Song 5 (Farai un vers, pos mi sonelh) has two significantly different versions in different manuscripts. The songs are attributed to him under his title as Count of Poitou (lo coms de Peitieus). The topics vary, treating sex, love, women, his own sexual and literary prowess, and feudal politics.

An anonymous 13th-century vida of William remembers him thus:

The Count of Poitiers was one of the most courtly men in the world and one of the greatest deceivers of women. He was a fine knight at arms, liberal in his womanizing, and a fine composer and singer of songs. He traveled much through the world, seducing women.

It is possible, however, that at least in part it is not based on facts, but on literal interpretation of his songs, written in first person; in Song 5, for example, he describes how he deceived two women.

Fact of the day: 21st October

On this day in 1422 Charles VI of France (b. 1368) died.

Charles VI called the Beloved and the Mad was King of France from 1380 to his death. He was a member of the House of Valois.

Charles VI was only 11 when he inherited the throne in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War. The government was entrusted to his four uncles: Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; John, Duke of Berry; Louis I, Duke of Anjou; and Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. Although the royal age of majority was fixed at 14 (the “age of accountability” under Roman Catholic canon law), the dukes maintained their grip on Charles until he took power at the age of 21.

During the rule of his uncles, the financial resources of the kingdom, painstakingly built up by his father Charles V, were squandered for the personal profit of the dukes, whose interests were frequently divergent or even opposing. As royal funds drained, new taxes had to be raised, which caused several revolts.

Charles’ bouts of insanity became more frequent and of longer duration. During these attacks, he had delusions, believing he was made of glass or denying he had a wife and children. download (1)

He could also attack servants or run until exhaustion, wailing that he was threatened by his enemies. Between crises, there were intervals of months during which Charles was relatively sane.

However, unable to concentrate or make decisions, political power was taken away from him by the princes of the blood, which would cause much chaos and conflict in France.

When Charles VI died, he was succeeded by his son Charles VII, who found the Valois cause in a desperate situation.

Fact of the day: 20th October

On this day in 1740 Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, died.

Charles VI (1 October 1685 – 20 October 1740) succeeded his elder brother, Joseph I, as Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia (as Charles II), King of Hungary and Croatia (as Charles III), and King of Serbia (as Charles I), Archduke of Austria, etc., in 1711.

He unsuccessfully claimed the throne of Spain as Charles III following the death of its ruler, and Charles’s relative, Charles II of Spain, in 1700. He married Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, by whom he had his two children: Maria Theresa, born 1717, the last Habsburg sovereign, and Maria Anna, born 1718, Governess of the Austrian Netherlands.

Four years before the birth of Maria Theresa, faced with his lack of male heirs, Charles provided for a male-line succession failure with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. The Emperor favoured his own daughters over those of his elder brother and predecessor, Joseph I, in the succession, ignoring the decree he had signed during the reign of his father, Leopold I.

Charles sought the other European powers’ approval. They exacted harsh terms: Britain demanded that Austria abolish its overseas trading company. In total, Great Britain, France, Saxony-Poland, the Dutch Republic, Spain, Venice, States of the Church, Prussia, Russia, Denmark, Savoy-Sardinia, Bavaria, and the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire recognised the sanction.

France, Spain, Saxony-Poland, Bavaria and Prussia later reneged. Charles died in 1740, sparking the War of the Austrian Succession, which plagued his successor, Maria Theresa, for eight years.