- Valois Dynasty
- French royal dynasty between 1328 and 1589. The last strong king of the medieval Capetian dynasty, Philip IV (1285-1314), left three sons (Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV) who ruled in succession between 1314 and 1328. At the death of Louis X in 1316, leaving daughters but no son, the French aristocracy ac-cepted his younger brother rather than one of his daughters in order to avoid having a female ruler. Their legal experts justified this deci-sion by citing an old feudal law, the "Salic Law," that forbade female succession among the Salian Franks. When Charles IV also died without a male heir in 1328, the French nobles acknowledged his cousin, Count Philip of Valois, insisting that the "Salic Law" ex-cluded not only a female heir but also any male heir descended from the female line and hence that King Edward III of England, whose mother was a daughter of Philip IV, was not entitled to the throne. Edward III lodged a legal protest but later acknowledged the Valois claimant, Philip VI, as king of France. Yet Edward never fully ac-cepted his own exclusion, and when he declared war on France in 1337 (mainly over quite different issues), he also reasserted his claim to the French crown. The war that opened in 1337 was the beginning of the Hundred Years' War.After the expulsion of the English armies from France in 1453, the Valois kings consolidated their power and rebuilt the authority of the monarchy, which now had effective control over most of the territo-ries that were legally part of France. When the duke of Burgundy, Charles the Rash, was killed in battle by the Swiss in 1477, leaving only a daughter as his heir, the Valois king, Louis XI, immediately occupied the duchy of Burgundy and thus effectively completed the territorial unification of France in the form it had throughout the rest of the Renaissance period. The Valois dynasty survived two further breaks in direct father-to-son succession in 1498 and again in 1515 when rulers died without leaving a son. In each case, a male cousin of the deceased king came to the throne. The second of these, Fran-cis I (1515-1547), is the ruler most clearly identified with the emer-gence of Renaissance culture in France. His son Henry II left four sons, three of whom succeeded to the throne in turn, Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III, and none of whom produced a male heir. These last three Valois kings ruled during the chaotic civil wars known as the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598). After the assassination of Henry III in 1589 by a Dominican friar, his Protestant cousin Henry of Navarre successfully asserted his claim to the throne, ruling as King Henry IV (1589-1610), the first king of the Bourbon dynasty.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.