Louis I, Duke of Orléans

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Louis I of Orléans
Detail portrait from the Couvent des Célestins (Paris, 16th century)
Tenure 4 June 1392 – 23 November 1407
Successor Charles
Born (1372-03-13)13 March 1372
Hôtel Saint-Pol, Paris, France
Died 23 November 1407(1407-11-23) (aged 35)
Le Marais, Paris, France
Burial Couvent des Célestins, Paris
Spouse Valentina Visconti (m. 1389–1407)
House Valois-Orléans
Father Charles V of France
Mother Joanna of Bourbon
Religion Roman Catholicism

Louis I of Orléans (13 March 1372 – 23 November 1407) was Duke of Orléans from 1392 to his death. He was also, Duke of Touraine (1386–1392), Count of Valois (1386?–1406) Blois (1397–1407), Angoulême (1404–1407), Périgord (1400–1407) and Soissons (1404–07).

Louis was the second son of King Charles V of France and Joanna of Bourbon and was the younger brother of Charles VI.[1] In 1498, his heirs male inherited the French throne after the extinction of the Valois main line.

Succession in Hungary, Poland and Naples

In 1374, Louis was betrothed to Catherine, heir presumptive to the throne of Hungary.

Louis in the camp in front; in the background, Sigismund marries Mary

Louis and Catherine were expected to reign either over Hungary or over Poland, as Catherine's father, Louis I of Hungary, had no sons. Catherine's father also planned to leave them his claim to the Crown of Naples and the County of Provence, which were then held by his ailing and childless cousin Joanna I.[2] However, Catherine's death in 1378 ended the marriage negotiations. In 1384, Elizabeth of Bosnia started negotiating with Louis' father about the possibility of Louis marrying her daughter Mary, notwithstanding Mary's engagement to Sigismund of Luxembourg. If Elizabeth had made this proposal in 1378, after Catherine's death, the fact that the French king and the Hungarian king did not recognise the same pope would have presented a problem. However, Elizabeth was desperate in 1384 and was not willing to let the schism stand in the way of the negotiations. Antipope Clement VII issued a dispensation which annulled Mary's betrothal to Sigismund[citation needed] and a proxy marriage between Louis and Mary was celebrated in April 1385.[3] Nonetheless, the marriage was not recognised by the Hungarian noblemen who adhered to Pope Urban VI. Four months after the proxy marriage, Sigismund invaded Hungary and married Mary, which ultimately destroyed Louis' chances to reign as King of Hungary.[4]

Role in court and the Hundred Years' War

Louis d'Orléans unveils a mistress c1825–26 (Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid) by Eugène Delacroix, illustrating Louis' reputation as a debauchee.

Louis played an important political role during the Hundred Years' War. In 1392, his elder brother Charles the Mad (who may have suffered from either schizophrenia, porphyria, paranoid schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) experienced the first in a lifelong series of attacks of 'insanity'. It soon became clear that Charles was unable to rule independently. In 1393 a regency council presided over by Queen Isabeau was formed, and Louis gained powerful influence.

Louis disputed the regency and guardianship of the royal children with John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. The enmity between the two was public and a source of political unrest in the already troubled France. Louis had the initial advantage, being the brother rather than the first cousin of the king, but his reputation as a womanizer and the rumour of an affair with the queen consort Isabeau of Bavaria made him extremely unpopular. For the following years, the children of Charles VI were successively kidnapped and recovered by both parties, until the Duke of Burgundy managed to be appointed by royal decree to be the guardian of Louis, the Dauphin and regent of France.

Louis did not give up and took every effort to sabotage John's rule, including squandering the money raised for the relief of Calais, then occupied by the English. After this episode, John and Louis broke into open threats and only the intervention of John of Valois, Duke of Berry and uncle of both men, avoided a civil war.

Louis was reportedly responsible for the deaths of four dancers at a disastrous 1393 masquerade ball that became known as the Bal des Ardents (Ball of the Burning Men). The four victims were burnt alive when a torch held by Louis came too close to their highly flammable costumes. Two other dancers wearing the same costumes (one of whom was Charles VI himself) narrowly escaped a similar fate.


Louis's assassination on the rue Vieille du Temple.

On Sunday, 20 November, 1407, the contending Dukes exchanged solemn vows of reconciliation before the court of France. But only three days later, Louis was brutally assassinated in the streets of Paris, by the orders of the Duke of Burgundy John the Fearless. Louis was stabbed while mounting his horse by fifteen masked criminals led by Raoulet d'Anquetonville, a servant of the Duke of Burgundy.[5] An attendant was severely wounded.

Funeral of Louis. Miniature from Vigiles du roi Charles VII, circa 1484.

John was supported by the population of Paris and the University. He could even publicly admit the killing. Rather than deny it, John had the scholar Jean Petit of the Sorbonne deliver a peroration justifying the killing of tyrants.

Louis' murder sparked a bloody feud and civil war between Burgundy and the French royal family which divided France for the next twenty-eight years, ending with the Treaty of Arras in 1435.

Marriage and issue

In 1389, Louis married Valentina Visconti,[6] daughter of Gian Galeazzo, Duke of Milan. The union produced eight children:

  • A son (born and died Paris, 25 March 1390), buried in Paris église Saint-Paul.
  • Louis (Paris, Hôtel de Saint-Pol, 26 May 1391 - September 1395), buried Paris église des Célestins.
  • John (September 1393 - Château de Vincennes, bef. 31 October 1393), buried Paris église des Célestins.
  • Charles, Duke of Orléans (Hôtel royal de Saint-Pol, Paris, 24 November 1394 - Château d'Amboise, Indre-et-Loire, 4 January 1465),[6] father of Louis XII, King of France.
  • Philip, Count of Vertus (Asnières-sur-Oise, Val d'Oise, 21/24 July 1396 - Beaugency, Loiret, 1 September 1420).[6] Left a natural son Philip Anthony, called the Bastard of Vertus who died about 1445; no issue.
  • John, Count of Angoulême (24 June 1399 – Château de Cognac, Charente, 30 April 1467),[6] grandfather of Francis I of France
  • Marie (Château de Coucy, Aisne, April 1401 - died shortly after birth).
  • Margaret (4 December 1406 - Abbaye de Laguiche, near Blois, 24 April 1466), married Richard of Brittany, Count of Étampes.[7] She received the County of Vertus as a dowry. Ancestors of the Dukes of Brittany and Lords of Chalon-Arlay and Prince of Orange.

By Mariette d'Enghien,[8] his mistress, Louis had an illegitimate son:



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Statue of Louis d'Orléans in the courtyard of Château de Pierrefonds, by Frémiet.
  1. Keane 2016, p. 17.
  2. Engel, Ayton & Pálosfalvi 1999, p. 169.
  3. Warnicke 2000, p. 106.
  4. Parsons 1997, p. ?.
  5. Theis 1992, p. 326-327.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Adams 2010, p. 255.
  7. George 1875, p. table XXVI.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Potter 1995, p. 373.


  • Adams, Tracy (2010). The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria. Johns Hopkins University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Engel, Pal; Ayton, Andrew; Pálosfalvi, Tamás (1999). The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895-1526. Vol. 19. Penn State Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • George, Hereford Brooke (1875). Genealogical Tables Illustrative of Modern History. Oxford Clarendon Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Guenée, Bernard (1992). Un Meurtre, Une Société: l'Assassinat du Duc d'Orléans, 23 Novembre 1407. Paris: Gallimard.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Keane, Marguerite (2016). Material Culture and Queenship in 14th-century France: The Testament of Blanche of Navarre (1331–1398). Brill.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Parsons, John Carmi (1997). Medieval Queenship. Palgrave Macmillan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Potter, David (1995). A History of France, 1460-1560: The Emergence of a Nation State. St. Martin's Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Theis, Laurent (1992). Histoire du Moyen Âge Français. Perrin.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Warnicke, Retha M. (2000). The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Early Modern England. Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Darwin, F. D. S. (1936) Louis d'Orléans (1372–1407): a necessary prologue to the tragedy of La Pucelle d'Orleans. London: John Murray
  • Jager, Eric. (2014). Blood Royal: a true tale of crime and detection in Medieval Paris. Little, Brown, and Co.

External links

French nobility
Title last held by
Duke of Orléans
Count of Valois

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Guy II
Count of Blois
Preceded by
John I
Count of Angoulême
Succeeded by
John II