Much can be presumed about Charles II of Navarre (1332-1387) just by looking at the nickname, “The Bad One“, that they gave to him.

The definition of good or bad, especially when it comes to a man of power, is undoubtedly pretty negligible. Whoever holds many people’s lives in his own hand, is destined to get a few enemies along the way.

As for Charles the Bad though, the nickname who they assigned to him can somewhat be justified, and that is certainly for his political choices

To better understand Charles II of Navarre, we have to rewind to a few years before his birth. His mother, Joan II of Navarre, was the only child of Louis X, King of France and Navarre. Due to the “Salic Law“ as well as the aversion of the aristocracy, Joan didn’t inherit her father’s crown. It was instead given first to her paternal uncle Philip V then to his brother Charles IV, but the latter was not recognised as such by the noble class
of Navarre. When he died in 1328, Joan was sworn in as legitimate Queen of Navarre whom ruled by her husband’s side, Philip III of Navarre.

Joan II of Navarre

Charles II was about seventeen years old when his mother the Queen abdicated so he was able to succeed to the throne. The injustice experienced by his mother, who died shortly after the abdication, became for Charles something to seek revenge for. His marriage with Joan of Valois Queen of Navarre, daughter of John II of France, was arranged in order to avoid any conflict with the reign of Navarre. The son in law, on the other hand, made and unmade alliances with the Brits, then was jailed in 1356.

John II of France orders the arrest of Charles the Bad

When John II was captured by the British enemies, Charles II took advantage of his absence and improved his political position in France. In 1358 more than 20,000 people died for a peasant rebellion that the king repressed. Subsequently he took part in at least two plots against Charles V (John II’s son).

Charles participating to the execution of one of the leaders of the peasant rebellion

He never reached his goals but his wicked actions didn’t take its toll either. What happened instead, once forced to give up on all his political objectives, was to make do with coming back to his kingdom in Navarre.

For many people what eventually made him pay was Divine Retribution

Charles died on the 1st of January 1387 in Pamplona when he was fifty-four years old. What made it peculiar though was the way he died, which was for many people around Europe, a fair punishment for the questionable existence he had kept all along.


During that time, the king was not feeling very well so his doctors, trying to give some strength back to him, suggested to wrap him with alcohol soaked cloths/dressings (which supposedly was either brandy or aquavit). When his servant was almost done with the procedure though, instead of trimming off the last piece of fabric by using some scissors, decided to employ the flame of a candle.

What happened afterwards was foreseeable. The king immediately lit up like a human torch and was quickly burnt alive and died a tremendous painful death

After an allegorical miniature: the scene depicts the death of the King. At the very end of the bed there is the personification of the Fate and Divine Providence

It is quite odd to believe that what happened to Charles II of Navarre was part of an atonement for his sins. What is sure though is that he passed away by suffering beyond imaginable.

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