Charles d’Orléans was born in Paris on November 24, 1391; his father was Louis, Duke of Orléans, whose brother was King Charles VI. In 1406, a marriage was arranged between Charles and his cousin Isabelle of France. The following year (in November, 1407), his father was assassinated by Jean-sans-Peur, Duke of Burgundy, and Charles himself became Duke of Orléans. Isabelle died in 1409, and the next year, following an alliance with the Count of Armagnac, he married eleven-year-old Bonne d’Armagnac. He spent several years trying to avenge his father’s death, doing battle with the Burgundians, concluding more than one unsuccessful treaty, and occasionally seeking the aid of the English.
France’s troubles were not limited to the regional struggles which occupied much of Charles’s early life; he had, in fact, been born at the midpoint of the Hundred Years’ War, and before his twenty-fifth birthday he was taken prisoner by the English in the Battle of Agincourt (October 25, 1415). He spent the next twenty-five years as a prisoner in England. It was a curious kind of imprisonment; although he was frequently moved from place to place, he was never held behind bars. He was allowed to receive visitors, money, and servants from France, and he had access to various amenities and pleasures, which (according to some reports) may have included female companionship. It was hardly a difficult existence, but Charles was nevertheless separated from his homeland and family, and many of his poems from the period bitterly lament his plight.
Changes in the political and military situation (along with the payment of a substantial ransom and a promise never again to take up arms against the English) secured Charles’s release in November, 1440, and, his second wife having died five years earlier, he soon married Marie de Clèves, niece of the Duke of Burgundy. For the remainder of his life, he dabbled occasionally in military and political affairs but was largely content to devote his time to poetic pursuits, especially at his castles in Blois and Tours.
During the night of January 4, 1465, he died at Amboise, at the age of seventy-three.