Charles IX., the twelfth king of the family of Valois, born at St. Germain-en-Laye, June 27, 1550, died May 30, 1574. The second son of Henry II. and Catharine de' Medici, he succeeded his brother, Francis II., Dec. 5, 1560, when only 10 years old, under the regency of his mother. The hatred between the Catholics and the Protestants had been growing for years past; an attempt at conciliation through the conference of Poissy having proved a failure, hostilities soon broke out. The Protestants resorted to arms, headed by the prince of Conde. After being successful in the first encounters, they were defeated at Dreux in 1562 by the duke of Guise, who was assassinated a few months later while besieging Orleans. A treaty of peace, known as the edict of Amboise, was concluded March 19, 15(33, between the regent and the leaders of the insurgents. The war was renewed in 1567, when the Protestants were again defeated at St. Denis by Montmorency. A new peace intervened, which was of very short duration, the enemies being again in the field toward the middle of 15G8. This third war was signalized by the battles of Jarnac (March 13, 1569) and Moncontour (Oct. 3), won by Henry, duke of Anjou, the younger brother of the king; then peace, now believed to be final, returned again.
The king himself, Queen Catharine de' Medici, and the whole court, seemed to be reconciled to the Protestant party; Coligni was received with great honor by his young sovereign, who fondly called him "'father," and required his advice in the administration of the government; the king of Navarre, afterward Henry IV., married the king's sister, Margaret; the other Protestant chiefs were welcomed at the court. Charles IX., above all, tried to foster concord and friendship between the recent enemies, so that those uninitiated in the secret councils of the court were assured that all were safe, when suddenly it was reported that Admiral Coligni had been shot by a man commonly known as the king's assassin. This was an awful warning, but it was too late for the Protestants to take measures for their security; they were unarmed and defenceless. About daybreak on Aug. 24, St. Bartholomew's dav, 1572, at a signal given from the Louvre, the Catholics of Paris rose in arms and mercilessly slaughtered their opponents, who had confided in the word of the king. It is difficult to determine what was the part of Charles IX. in the fatal deed.
He seems to have acted under the pernicious influence of Catharine de' Medici. This terrible woman drew from him the frantic exclamation, which was construed as an ordar: " Well, then, kill them all, that not a single Huguenot may live to reproach me with their death! " He frequently afterward manifested signs of deep remorse, and breathed his last when only 24 years of age, amid dreadful corporal and spiritual sufferings.