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Alternate History

Charles IV of France (The Kalmar Union)

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Charles IV
King of France
Reign 7th February, 1181 - 5th September, 1201
Predecessor Louis VII
Successor John I
Spouse Constance of Mirebeau
Issue Charles

Louis
Margaret
John I

House Capet
Father Robert IV
Mother Alys of Bar
Born 1152
Paris, France
Died 5th September, 1201
Paris, France

Charles IV ruled over an ambitious yet ultimately thwarted and outmanoeuvred France in the late 12th century.

Inheriting a relatively wealthy kingdom from his elder brother Louis VII in 1181 Charles immediately looked make his mark. Louis had been cautious in expanding France's soft power, successfully restoring some semblance of authority over Northern Francia and even strong-arming Edmund III of Wessex into paying him homage. Charles looked to turn that advantage into real tangible gains and began his reign with a invasion of Flanders.

The campaign started badly with the Flemish providing more resistance than he expected and soon the French army found itself bogged down around Ghent. The County's lord, Cnut IV, would arrive in 1182 with an Anglian army to relieve the distinguished Flemish forces and lifted the siege. Meanwhile to the West other French states had taken the opportunity provided by Louis' death and Charles' absence to settle old scores. Sancerre's forces ravaged Orleans, and Maine, so recently put under Normandy's jurisdiction, revolted. The authority that Louis had cultivated had disappeared overnight. With Brabantian allies Cnut IV pushed Charles all the way to the gates of Paris but would abandoned plans for a siege of the city as funds for the campaign dried up.

Cnut IV would soon be bound up in a war with Wessex but on the continent Charles was given no quarter. Upon the retreat of the Anglians he lent his forces for the pacification of Maine, however this lasted only until the death of Duke William IV of Normandy. His heir, Robert III, had long been intolerant of French interference on his own lands and, arguing that 'the illegitimate Charles IV had no God-given authority', he came to an agreement with Anglia over the disputed Artesië and then promptly switched sides, turning his armies against Paris. Paris itself would fall to the new alliance in August 1184. Bankrupt and humiliated Charles sued for peace.

By the Treaty of Compiegne the portion of Francia directly under the French crown was reduced once more to the Ile de Paris and Orleanais. Many Counties and Duchies would continue to pay fealty to the French king, but most of the North was lost for the time being.

The remainder of Charles' rule was spent dealing with the fallout from the ill-judged war. Almost counter-intuitively while France's power had reached a new low point the power of the king was reaching new heights. Several noble families had been ruined by the war or obliterated entirely and by seizing their assets Charles rebuilt the fortunes of himself and his entourage considerably. Less attention had to be spent on soothing the interests of the depleted or subdued noble council and any church criticism was deflected by Charles' taking of the cross (though he never made any serious attempt to prepare for a crusade).

Charles would die in 1201 leaving the throne to his only surviving son John.

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