Charles III

Charles III
1. See Charles II (def. 2).
2. ("Charles the Simple") A.D. 879-929, king of France 898-923.
3. See Charles VI (def. 2).
4. 1716-1788, king of Spain 1759-88; as Charles IV, king of Naples 1734-59.

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born Jan. 20, 1716, Madrid, Spain
died Dec. 14, 1788, Madrid

King of Spain (1759–88).

Son of Philip V and Isabella Farnese, he was duke of Parma (1732–34) and king of Naples (as Charles VII, 1734–59) before becoming king of Spain. He was convinced of his mission to reform Spain and make it once more a first-rate power, but his foreign policy was not successful; Spain's losses in the Seven Years' War revealed naval and military weakness. He was more successful in strengthening his own empire; during his reign Spain undertook commercial reforms, made territorial adjustments in the interest of defense, and introduced a modern administrative system. One of the enlightened despots of the 18th century, he helped lead Spain to a brief cultural and economic revival.
known as Charles the Fat

born 839, Bavaria? [Germany]
died Jan. 13, 888, Neidingen

Frankish king and emperor (881–87).

The great-grandson of Charlemagne, he inherited the kingdoms of Swabia (876) and Italy (879). Charles was crowned emperor by the pope in 881. He gained control of the eastern and western Frankish kingdoms on the deaths of their rulers, and by 885 he had reunited all of Charlemagne's empire except Provence. Chronically ill, he failed to attack the Saracens and used tribute to buy off Viking invaders. His nephew Arnulf led an uprising against him in 887, and his fall marked the final disintegration of the empire of Charlemagne.
known as Charles the Simple

born Sept. 17, 879
died Oct. 7, 929, Péronne, France

King of France (893–922).

In 911 he ceded territory by treaty, in the area later known as Normandy, to the Vikings, to end their raids; their descendants became the Normans. The magnates of Lorraine (Lotharingia) accepted Charles's authority on the death of their last Carolingian king. His preoccupation with Lotharingian affairs alienated the French nobles, and in 922 they elected Robert I king in his stead.

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▪ Holy Roman emperor
byname  Charles The Fat,  French  Charles Le Gros,  German  Karl Der Dicke 
born 839, Bavaria?
died Jan. 13, 888, Neidingen
 Frankish king and emperor, whose fall in 887 marked the final disintegration of the empire of Charlemagne. (Although he controlled France briefly, he is usually not reckoned among the kings of France).

      The youngest son of Louis the German and great-grandson of Charlemagne, Charles became king of Swabia on his father's death in 876; in 879, on the resignation of his sick brother Carloman (died 880), he took over the kingdom of Italy. He was crowned emperor by Pope John VIII in 881. Saxony fell to Charles on the death of his brother Louis the Younger (882), and Charles became king of all the East Franks. Then, on the deaths of the West Frankish kings Louis III (882) and Carloman (884), Charles reunited (885) under his rule the empire of Charlemagne with the exception of Provence, where the usurper Boso had set up a kingdom for himself. Charles, afflicted by illness, was listless in his duties; he failed to help the Pope against the Saracens and the expansionist dukes of Spoleto; and, although he led armies against the Vikings (Viking) in the Netherlands (881) and at Paris (886), on both occasions he bought off the invaders. His incompetence and the ambition of his nephew Arnulf finally provoked a rising in East Francia, where Arnulf took over the government (Frankfurt, November 887).

▪ count of Valois
also called  Charles Of Valois 
born March 12, 1270
died Dec. 16, 1325, Le Perray, near Rambouillet, Fr.

      count of Valois from 1285 and of Anjou and Maine from 1290. He was son of a king, brother of a king, uncle of three kings, and a father of a king. Though he himself never gained a crown, he sought at various times those of Aragon, France, Constantinople, and the Holy Roman Empire.

      In 1285 Charles received the Valois countship from his father, Philip III of France, and in 1290 the countships of Anjou and Maine by his marriage to Margaret, daughter of Charles II of Naples; to these were added in 1291 and 1293 the countships of Alençon and Chartres, granted by his brother, Philip IV, in compensation for their father's failure to win the crown of Aragon for Charles by a so-called crusade in 1285.

      In 1301 Charles, regarding Italy as a stepping-stone toward his eastern ambitions, readily accepted Pope Boniface VIII's invitation to aid the papal cause. After subduing Florence for the pope, Charles led an unsuccessful military campaign into Sicily before he was recalled by his brother, Philip IV, to France. In 1308 he vainly sought the title of Holy Roman emperor to ensure additional French control over Italy and the papal possessions.

      As chief councillor during the reign of his nephew Louis X, Charles brought about the fall of the famous financial adviser Enguerrand de Marigny (Marigny, Enguerrand de). After Louis's death in June 1316, Charles desired the throne, but he gave way to another nephew, Philip V, who died in 1322. Charles had considerable influence with his nephew Charles IV, the new king, and was sent by him on a successful campaign into Guyenne in 1324. He had previously commanded French armies in Guyenne in 1295 and led them in Flanders in 1297, 1299, 1300, 1303, and 1314. His son, Philip VI (king from 1328 to 1350), was the first of the Valois line.

▪ king of France
byname  Charles the Simple,  French  Charles Le Simple 
born Sept. 17, 879
died Oct. 7, 929, Péronne, Fr.

      king of France (893–922), whose authority came to be accepted by Lorraine and who settled the Northmen in Normandy but who became the first Carolingian ruler of the western kingdom to lose his crown.

      The posthumous son of Louis II the Stammerer (Louis II) by a marriage of contested legitimacy, Charles was passed over for the throne on the death of his half-brother, Carloman, in 884 or that of his cousin, Charles the Fat, in 888. On Jan. 28, 893, however, he was crowned king by Fulk, archbishop of Reims, as a rival to King Eudes (Odo); and, although he renounced his rights after civil war in 897, the death of King Eudes in the following year brought him general recognition as king.

      Charles was strongly under the influence of Robert (Robert I), brother of the dead Eudes. It was Robert's victory against the Northmen at Chartres in 911 which paved the way for the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte later that year, by which Charles ceded territory, in the area later known as Normandy, to the Viking leader Rollo and his men; in return, Rollo became a Christian and Charles's vassal. The Normans who had such an impact on Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries were the final product of this settlement.

      In 911 also, the magnates of Lorraine (Lotharingia) accepted the authority of Charles on the death of the last Carolingian king of the East Franks, Louis the Child. Charles's preoccupation with Lotharingian affairs and councillors alienated the nobles of Neustria, however, and in 922 they elected Robert king. Charles killed Robert in battle in 923 but was soon taken prisoner by Herbert, count of Vermandois, who used him for his own gain against Rudolf, Robert's son-in-law and the new king.

▪ king of Naples
byname  Charles Of Durazzo,  Italian  Carlo Di Durazzo,  Hungarian  Károly Durrazzói 
born 1345
died Feb. 17, 1386, Buda

      king of Naples (1381–86) and king (as Charles II) of Hungary (1385–86). A leading figure of the Hungarian branch of the Angevin dynasty, he was an astute politician who won both of his thrones by triumphing over rival claimants.

      Charles was educated at the court of Louis I of Hungary. In 1369 he married his cousin Margaret, daughter of Charles of Durazzo and Mary of Naples, thus becoming an heir to the Neapolitan throne. Margaret's aunt, the childless queen Joan I of Naples, initially recognized Charles as heir to the throne but later adopted Louis (Louis I), duc d'Anjou, as her heir. When Pope Urban VI named Charles king of Naples (1381), Charles and Margaret seized Naples and imprisoned Joan, whom Charles ordered killed a year later. Louis of Anjou then named himself king of Naples and invaded southern Italy, but his death in September 1384 left Charles master of Naples.

      With the death of Louis I of Hungary in 1382, Charles claimed the throne of Hungary over Louis's 10-year-old daughter, Maria. He was crowned king of Hungary in 1385, aided by those at the Hungarian court hostile to Maria. He was later assassinated by order of Louis's widowed queen, Elizabeth.

▪ king of Navarre
byname  Charles The Noble,  Spanish  Carlos El Noble,  French  Charles Le Noble 
born 1361
died Sept. 8, 1425, Olite, Navarre

      king of Navarre (1387–1425), eldest son of Charles II the Bad. Unlike his father, he pursued a consistent policy of peace both with Castile (which in gratitude restored certain districts to Navarre) and with France. By the treaty of Paris (1404) Charles not only renounced the Navarrese claims to Champagne but also ceded Cherbourg (which he had recovered from the English in 1393) and the countship of Évreux to Charles VI of France in exchange for Nemours, which was raised from a countship to a peerage-duchy for him.

      By his marriage (1375) with Leonor of Trastámara, Charles had nine children, all of whom died early except his daughter and successor Blanche of Navarre.

▪ king of Spain
born January 20, 1716, Madrid, Spain
died December 14, 1788, Madrid

      king of Spain (1759–88) and king of Naples (as Charles VII, 1734–59), one of the “enlightened despots” of the 18th century, who helped lead Spain to a brief cultural and economic revival.

Early years
      Charles was the first child of Philip V's marriage with Isabella of Parma. Charles ruled as duke of Parma, by right of his mother, from 1732 to 1734 and then became king of Naples. On the death of his half-brother Ferdinand VI in 1759—after a useful apprenticeship of 25 years as an absolute ruler—he became king of Spain and resigned the crown of Naples to his third son, Ferdinand I.

      Charles III was convinced of his mission to reform Spain and make it once more a first-rate power. He brought considerable qualities to the task. In spite of a fanatical addiction to hunting, his frugality and his application to the business of government impressed foreign observers as well as his own subjects. His religious devotion was accompanied by a blameless personal life and a chaste loyalty to the memory of his wife, Maria Amalia of Saxony, who died in 1760. On the other hand, he was so highly conscious of royal authority that he sometimes appeared more like a tyrant than an absolute monarch. His greatest quality, however, was his ability to select effective ministers and continually to improve his government by bringing in men of outstanding quality, notably the conde de Aranda and the conde de Floridablanca (Floridablanca, José Moñino y Redondo, conde de). While conferring with them regularly, Charles was wise enough to give them sufficient freedom of action.

      The survival of Spain as a colonial power and, therefore, as a power to be reckoned with in Europe was one of the main objects of Charles's policy. His foreign policy, however, was not successful. Fearing that a British victory over France in the Seven Years' War would upset the balance of colonial power, he signed the Family Compact with France—both countries were ruled by branches of the Bourbon family—in August 1761. This brought war with Great Britain in January 1762. Charles overrated his own strength and prospects and those of his ally. Sharing in the defeat, he lost Florida to England and revealed Spanish naval and military weakness. In the American Revolution, Charles III was caught between a desire to embarrass his colonial rival, which accounts for his undercover aid to the American revolutionaries from 1776, and fear for his own American possessions, which led him to offer his mediation in 1779. When Great Britain refused his conditions, he declared war, but, at the same time, he refused to recognize the United States's independence. Charles was more successful in strengthening his own empire. Commercial reforms, designed to open new routes and new ports for trade between Spain and the colonies, were undertaken from 1765. Territorial readjustments were carried out in the interest of defense, and a modern administrative organization—the intendant system, of French origin and already operating in Spain itself—was introduced. The intendants, who had executive, judicial, and military power, improved local administration and linked it directly with the crown rather than with the viceroy. Released from the former commercial restrictions, secured against attack, and with the prospect of better administration, the Spanish empire under Charles III assumed a new look.

Domestic reforms
      In Spain Charles was concerned to make himself more absolute and therefore better able to undertake reform. His ecclesiastical policy was conditioned by his determination to complete the subordination of the church to the crown. He allowed no papal bulls or briefs in Spain without royal permission. He particularly resented the Jesuits, whose international organization and attachment to the papacy he regarded as an affront to his absolutism. Suspecting their loyalty and obedience to the crown in the American colonies, he also chose to believe that they were the instigators of the violent riots in Madrid and elsewhere in 1766. After a commission of investigation, he ordered their expulsion from Spain and the colonies (1767). In 1773, cooperating with the court of France, Charles succeeded in procuring from the papacy the complete suppression of the society. But Charles's opposition to papal jurisdiction in Spain also led him to curb the arbitrary powers of the inquisition, while his desire for reform within the church caused him to appoint inquisitors general who preferred persuasion to force in ensuring religious conformity.

      Charles III improved the agencies of government through which the will of the crown could be imposed. He completed the process whereby individual ministers replaced the royal councils in the direction of affairs. In 1787, with the assistance of Floridablanca, he coordinated the various ministries by establishing a council of state whose regular meetings could produce a concerted policy. He tightened crown control of local government by stimulating his intendants and giving the Council of Castile supervision of municipal finances. The objective of his government was to create the conditions in which industry and trade could improve. By the end of his reign, Spain had abandoned its old commercial restrictions and, while still excluding foreigners, had opened up the entire empire to a commerce in which all its subjects and all its main ports could partake. Protected against foreign competition, the native cotton industry grew rapidly, and the state itself intervened in the production of luxury goods. Charles III's agrarian policy, however, timid in face of landed interests, failed to deal with the greatest obstacles to agricultural progress and to the welfare of the rural masses in Spain—large untilled estates and legally unalterable succession in the inheritance of landed property. In fact, strength, rather than welfare, was the aim of Charles III. Within these limits he led his country in a cultural and economic revival, and, when he died, he left Spain more prosperous than he had found it.

John Lynch

Additional Reading
Biographies of Charles III include Charles Petrie, King Charles III of Spain: An Enlightened Despot (1971); and Charles C. Noel, “Charles III of Spain,” in H.M. Scott (ed.), Enlightened Absolutism: Reform and Reformers in Later Eighteenth-Century Europe (1990), pp. 119–143. Discussion of his reign, including its political and cultural achievements and reforms, can be found in Richard Herr, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Spain (1958, reissued 1969); John Lynch, Spanish Colonial Administration, 1782–1810 (1958, reissued 1969); and V. Rodríguez Casado, La política y los políticos en el reinado de Carlos III (1962).

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Universalium. 2010.

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