PHILIP VI (1293-1350), king of France, was the son of Charles of Valois, third son of Philip III., the Bold, and of Margaret of Sicily, and was thus the nephew of Philip IV., the Fair, whose sons, Louis X., Philip V. and Charles IV., died successively without leaving male heirs. He succeeded to the throne on the death of his cousin, Charles IV., in 1328. Before his accession Philip had enjoyed considerable influence, for he was count of Valois, Anjou, Maine, Chartres and Alenfon. He had married in 1313 Jeanne (d. 1348), daughter of Robert II. of Burgundy, a determined woman who was long known as the real ruler of France. An expedition to Italy in 1319-20 against Galeas Visconti brought him little glory; he was more successful in a small expedition to Guienne, undertaken against a revolted vassal who was supported by the English.
When Charles IV. died, in February 1328, his wife was enceinte, and it became necessary to appoint a regency until the birth of the child, who would, if a son, succeed to the throne. At the assembly of barons called to choose a regent, Edward III. of England, the nephew and nearest male relation of Charles IV., put in a claim. Edward III., however, descended from the royal house of France by his mother Isabel, and the barons, probably actuated by an objection to the regency of an English king, decided that neither a woman, " nor by consequence her son, could succeed to the kingdom of France," and Philip of Valois, in spite of his belonging to a junior branch of the family, was elected regent. On the birth of a girl to the queen widow the regency naturally led to the throne of France, and Philip was crowned at Reims on the 29th of May 1328. Navarre had not accepted the regency, that kingdom being claimed by her husband for Jeanne, countess of Evreux, the eldest daughter of Louis X., the count of Evreux himself being, like Philip of Valois, a grandson of Philip the Bold. The new king secured the friendship of the count by allowing Jeanne's claim to Navarre, in return for a renunciation of any right to Champagne. Edward III. of England, after more than one citation, tendered verbal homage for part of Guienne at Amiens in 1329, but he declined to place his hands between those of Philip VI., and thus formally to acknowledge him as his liege lord. Two years later, however, he forwarded the acknowledgment by letters patent. Meanwhile Philip VI. had won a victory, which he turned into a massacre, at Cassel (August 23, 1328) over Bruges and the other towns of West Flanders, which under the leadership of Jakob van Artevelde had thrown off the authority of their count, Louis of Nevers. The count of Flanders was reinstated, and maintained his authority by a reign of terror.
Much harm was done to Philip VI. 's authority by the scandal arising out of the prosecution of Robert of Artois, count of Beaumont, who was the king's brother-in-law. The count had presented to the parlement of Paris forged deeds in support of his claim to the county of Artois, held by his aunt, Mahaut, countess of Burgundy. The sudden death of Mahaut, and of her daughter and heiress, Jeanne, widow of Philip V., lent colour to other suspicions, and Robert was driven from France and his goods confiscated. He found refuge, first in Brabant and then at the English court, where he was received as a relative and a victim of false accusations.
Philip VI. enjoyed powerful alliances. In Italy he was allied with his uncle, Robert of Anjou, king of Sicily, and with his former enemy, Galeas Visconti; in the north with the duke of Brabant and the princes of the Netherlands; on the cast with the reigning princes of Lorraine and Savoy; with the king of Bohemia and with Pope John XXII. at Avignon, and his successor, Benedict XII. In 1336 it seemed that the Crusade, for which Philip VI. had long been preparing, would at last start; but the relations with Edward III. of England, which had always "been strained, became worse, and within a year France was embarked on the struggle of the Hundred Years' War. The causes which led to war, the conflict for commercial supremacy in Flanders, disputed rights in Guienne, the help given by France to the Scots, and the unnatural situation of an English king who was also a vassal of the French Crown are dealt with elsewhere (see FRANCE: History). The immediate rupture in Flanders was due chiefly to the tyranny of the count of Flanders, Louis of Nevers, whom Philip VI. had reinstated. Edward III. had won over most of Philip's German and Flemish allies, and the English naval victory at Sluys (June 24, 1340), in which the 'French fleet was annihilated, effectually restored English preponderance in Flanders. A truce followed, but this was disturbed after a short duration by the disputed succession to the duchy of Brittany. Edward III. supported John of Montfort; Philip IV. his own nephew, Charles of Blois. A truce made at Malestroit in 1343 at the invitation of the pope, was rudely broken by Philip's violence. Olivier de Clisson, who with fourteen other Breton gentlemen, was suspected of intrigue with Edward III., was invited to a great tournament in Paris. On their arrival they were seized by Philip's orders, and without form of trial beheaded. Then followed Edward III.'s invasion of Normandy and the campaign of Crecy (<?..). Philip's army was destroyed ; he himself was wounded and fled from the field. He sought in vain to divert Edward from the siege of Calais by supporting the Scots in their invasion of England; but eventually a truce was arranged, which lasted until 1351. Philip VI. died at Nogent-le-roi on the 12th of August 1350.
Philip VI. met his necessities by the imposition of the hated gabelle or salt tax, which was invented by his legal advisers. The value of the coinage fluctuated continuously, to the great hindrance of trade; and although at a meeting of the StatesGeneral it was asserted that the king could levy no extraordinary taxes without the consent of the estates, he obtained heavy subsidies from the various provinces. Towards the close of his reign he acquired from Humbert II., comte de Vienne, the province of Dauphine, and Montpellier from the king of Majorca. These acquisitions made the ultimate annexation of Provence a certainty. Philip married a second wife, Blanche of Navarre. By his first wife he left two sons his successor, John II., and Philip of Orleans, count of Valois.
See Continuations de la chronique de Guillaume de Nangis edited in 1843 by Gdraud for the Soc. del' hist, de France; Grandes chroniques de Saint Denis, vol. v. (1837), edition by Paulin Paris; E. De'prez, Les Preliminaires de la guerre de cent ans, 1328-1343 (Paris, 1902), based on texts from the English Record Office and the Vatican; Paul Viollet, Histoire des institutions politiques de la France vol. ii. (Paris, 1898); and E. Lavisse, Hist. de. France, vol. iv. pt. i. (1902), by A. Colville. Further references will be found in Nos. 3095-3112 and 3165-3240 of A. Molinier's Sources de I'histoire de France, vol. iv. (Paris, 1904).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)