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Charles I of Luxembourg (The Kalmar Union)

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Charles I
Charles I Luxem (The Kalmar Union).png
Charles I
Count of Luxembourg
Reign 9th June, 1346 - 12th June, 1374
Predecessor John I
Successor Wenceslaus I
King of Bohemia
Reign 9th June, 1346 - 12th June, 1374
Predecessor John I
Successor Wenceslaus I
Spouse Eleanor of Bar

Viola of Rožmberkové

Issue Elizabeth

Wenceslaus I
Catherine
Jobst
Anna
Margaret
John

House Luxembourg-Limburg
Father John I
Mother Elizabeth of Bohemia
Born 4th May, 1316
Prague, Bohemia
Died 12th June, 1374

Charles I was the eldest son of John I and Elizabeth of Bohemia and succeeded John to the thrones of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the County of Luxembourg. Supposedly named after Charlemagne, although he tried, he would not succeed in emulating his grandfather Henry VII by securing the Imperial throne, however he did further secure the Luxembourg dynasty's continuing success.

Though Charles was not present at his father's last battle at Monthermé he was not far away (in Luxembourg City) and quickly received the remainder of the Luxembourgois army. He is reported to have grieved for a 'mere hour' on being told of his father's death then reappeared from the chapel clad in finest armour. He would go on to lead the anti-Anglian forces for the remainder of the campaign. The Anglian side lost much momentum after the death of their king Henry I and his son Henry II flush with captured fortresses and hostages sued for peace.

It seems John I intended the County of Luxembourg to have gone to his youngest son Wenceslaus. However Wenceslaus had been captured escaping from the scene of John's death and in due course would be held alongside Louis XI of France in Norwich castle. One of Charles' first tasks would be to arrange for his brother's release and gave in to the huge sum demanded (though it was nowhere near the sum demanded for Louis XI). This job done he travelled eastward to Prague where he was warmly received and without much delay elected as King of Bohemia. A more natural administrator than his father the Bohemian nobles largely liked and trusted him and he too was happy to leave Bohemia's affairs in their hands. He had plans beyond the kingdom.

The reign of Emperor Louis IV had been far from smooth with civil wars against the Hapsburgs and Wettins followed by ill-fated campaigns in Italia and a feud with the pope. And his death in 1347 was greeted with another civil war. Officially succeeded by Gunther who had received a technical majority of the electors' votes, in reality several princes and Pope Clement VI had already begun pushing Charles toward the Imperial throne. Freed from war in the west and now king in his own right, Charles now seized the opportunity and gathered a fresh army. Defeating Gunther in several set-piece battles he bought his claim off him and looked certain to now capture the crown. However there were a great many who felt Clement VI had no right to dictate Imperial affairs, especially as in 1349 he escaped an angry mob in Rome who had quickly installed a new Pope, Anastasius V, and therefore felt it in their interests to hold out. Almost all of the Imperial Cities were hostile too. The raging Black Death did no one any favours but left Bohemia relatively untouched keeping Charles well funded. However he did not reckon on the foremost military mind of the age joining the fight.

In 1352 Olaf III of Viken-Svealand waded into the fight for the Imperial crown. Using the forces of Austria, Bavaria and Anglia to keep Charles constantly on the back foot Olaf swiftly scored the victories and built the support needed to snatch the crown from Charles' grasp. By 1354 Olaf had the majority of the electorates under his thumb. Charles returned to Prague sulking in defeat. He would barely leave the kingdom for the remainder of his reign.

Prevented from putting his considerable energies into running an empire Charles was determined to make Bohemia into the finest medieval kingdom. He hoped that by altering the Bohemian laws in his favour he could garner the political capital and funds needed to challenge Olaf once more. In this his efforts were either easy successes or hard-fought defeats. Founding central Europe's first university in Prague elevated the city to one of the centres of culture in the Empire. But while the Bohemian nobles were happy to see him promote the kingdom and build glorious monuments they were less happy about his attempts to curb their powers. On several occasions he tried to slip through centralisation laws repeatedly meeting intransigence and hostility. In 1360 he would come close to being deposed and kept his throne only by agreeing to marry Viola of Rožmberkové, with the Rožmberkové family now watching and in some cases dictating his every move. Although it seems he was quite fond of Viola other noble families were unhappy about the Rožmberkové's influence and both Viola and her father Peter, along with her brothers were imprisoned in 1365.

This bought Charles a small space in which he could try and reform Bohemia's politics but he seems to have used this only to fund a cycle of castle building and secure his son(s) succession. In 1367 he met with Olaf in Olaf's favoured residence at Erfurt putting an end to a twenty-year grudge between the two men. He would subsequently campaign for Olaf in Italia returning, with much joy, to Florence where he had stayed with his father as a teen.

In 1373 Charles bought Brandenburg from Otto II of Bavaria granting it to his eldest son Wenceslaus. Wenceslaus was already married to the heiress of Hungary but Brandenburg had the potential to be a stable Luxembourg territory, not beholden to nobles with the right to elect their kings. Somewhat pettily, Olaf removed its electorate (giving it to Wurttemberg), but upheld the purchase nonetheless. The following year Charles died, with Viola being pardoned on his deathbed, and would be succeeded by Wenceslaus.

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