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  • Susan Stoderl

A Most Unusual Writer’s Life | Charles, Duke of Orléans (b. 1394–d. 1465)


First Use of the Word "Valentine"
Charles, Prisoner in the Tower of London and his Manuscript of Poetry

In 1406, Charles and his first wife and cousin were married. He was twelve, and she was seventeen and already a widow. She died of childbirth three years later. He remarried in 1410. His marriage to Bonne d'Armagnac was short-circuited by his incarceration in 1415 after the Battle of Agincourt by the British and was still in custody when she died, sometime between 1430-35.


The poem he wrote to her during his captivity of twenty-five years is one of the first known poems to use the word “Valentine” for a beloved. During this incarceration, he wrote over five hundred poems in French and English. Charles, Duke of Orléans, was not the first political prisoner to become a famous writer while imprisoned. His life as a writer was certainly not typical, but unlike some, ended happily.


Here is an English translation of the original French Poem.


A Farewell to Love I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine, Since for me you were born too late, And I for you was born too soon. God forgives him who has estranged Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine. Well might I have suspected That such a destiny, Thus would have happened this day, How much that Love would have commanded.
I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine.

On his return to France in 1440, he remarried for a third time to Marie of Cleves, 24 and he was 32 years her senior. Although there were no children for seventeen years, the couple had a good life together, as Marie was a patron of letters and a poet in her own right. They entertained many of the famous writers of that time. Three children were born: Marie of Orleans in 1457, Louis XII of France in 1462, and Anne of Orleans in 1465.


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