Family Trees
Francis, King of France (1494-1547) m. Claude, Duchess of Brittany (1499-1519) m. Beatriz, Infanta of Portugal (1504-1523) m. Eleanor, Archduchess of Austria (1498-1558) -annulled- m. Renee, Princess of France (1510-1532) m. Diane de Poitiers (1500-1540) m. Anne d’Pisseleu d’Heilly (1508-1580)
1a. Louise, Princess of France (1515-1518)
2a. Charlotte, Princess of France (1516-)
3a. Francis, Dauphin of France (1518-1524)
4a. Henri II, King of France (1519-)
5b. Charles, Duke of Angouleme (1521-1539)
6b. Margaret, Princess of France (1522-)
7b. Beatrice, Princess of France (1523-)
8d. Claude, Princess of France (1527-)
9d. Anne, Princess of France (1529-)
10d. Louise, Princess of France (1531-)
11d. Louis, Duke of Berry (1532-)
12e. Francois, Duke of Orleans (1535-)

What about Eleanor, Isabella, Catherine or Beatrice?

Charlotte is a little French, but given his Flemish heritage, I could see it. Maybe Philippa too, or Anne?

Isabella, Eleanor, or Catherine seem likely.

Agnes? Mariana, maybe (I know he had a Maria OTL).

Eleanor, Isabella, Margaret, Catherine… possibly also Anna, Agnes, Beatrice, Magdalena and Helena
Thank you all for your suggestions. @FalconHonour You have no idea how close you are.

Francis and Claude's next child was another daughter. Charlotte was a pretty girl with auburn hair and a happy temperament. Even after Queen Claude bore her husband his namesake son the King admitted that little Charlotte had a special place in his heart. As the oldest surviving child she was the only one to retain even vague memories of Queen Claude. Her one memory of her mother was being held tight one night and sung to.

She was close to both her grandmother, Louise of Savoy, her Aunt Marguerite, and her first stepmother, Beatriz of Portugal. She would always fondly remember her stepmother handing her sweets after dinner. The years following Beatriz’s death would be some of the worst of her life. She would lose her stepmother, and her brother Francis, her father was captured, and finally, to gain his freedom, he took away her only remaining full sibling, Henri.

Her aunt Renee proved to be far more than just another stepmother to young Charlotte. She proved to be a mentor and a friend, helping the young girl navigate this tremulous time in her life.

As her aunt, Renee provided a link to her mother Claude, something Charlotte would always be grateful for. Charlotte learned that her mother was a kind woman. A good woman who loved her husband and children with all her heart. Charlotte must always love and honor her mother. But she must never become weak like her. Renee censored the worse of it but it was obvious to Charlotte that her mother had been taken advantage of. She vowed to never allow herself to fall into that role.
Though Francis made sure all of his daughters were educated in the high culture of the Renaissance, Charlotte proved to be an especially adept polymath. She frequented the literary circles of her Aunt Marguerite and the reformist circles of her stepmother Renee.

When her brother Henri returned from captivity Charlotte took it upon herself to be his guide and support in the family. Like her stepmother, she defended the prince when he faced criticism from his father. Francis, who loved and respected Charlotte, would listen to her advice.

As she grew older Charlotte, always a pretty child, grew into a beauty, desired by many men of the court. Alas, all knew she was destined for a foreign match.

In a twist of fate, her father had allied with the Duke of Milan, so long the subject of his ambitions for conquest. Duke Francesco suggested the matter of the Visconti claim to Milan be settled by his marriage to one of Francis’s daughters. Even after the end of the war, Francis still expressed interest in the match.

Queen Renee was against the marriage on account of the age difference between the bride and the groom and because she felt the Sforza’s were usurpers. Charlotte kept herself remote from the quarrel between her stepmother and father over her marriage, declaring only that she wished to do her duty. A letter does however survive, written to her aunt Marguerite, lamenting that she would be a mere duchess instead of a Queen like her younger sisters. Little did young Charlotte know what fate would have in store for her.

Upon her arrival young Charlotte rapidly became beloved by the people of Milan and the court, earning praise for her beauty, wisdom, and commitment to charity. Her husband too was well pleased with her, writing that she was “a delight to possess.” Charlotte too found herself growing fond of her husband. In some ways, he reminded her of her brother Henri, for both men were prone to melancholy. She became his light and he in turn lavished her with attention and affection.

The loss of her stepmother hurt Charlotte deeply. Shortly thereafter she became pregnant for the first time. She disappointed her husband by bearing only a daughter, named Beatrice, after the Duke’s mother. The Duke’s ill health, and his aloofness towards her greatly distressed young Charlotte, who began to grow depressed. “Our French flower has wilted”, one of her ladies would write.

Charlotte regained hope when in 1535 she became pregnant once again. However, the Duke’s health entered its final collapse. He would pass in October, leaving a grieving and extremely pregnant Charlotte as regent of Milan. In his last words to her he begged her to keep Milan independent and their children safe. Europe held it’s breath waiting to see if the Duchess would produce an heir. In November, following a difficult birth that nearly took the young Duchess’s life, Francesco’s posthumous son was born. The boy was named Francesco after his father and immediately proclaimed Duke of Milan. His birth almost certainly prevented a war between France and the Empire over the Milanese succession.

Though she wore black for the requisite time, and indeed in some ways did genuinely mourn her husband, Charllote was far freer and happier as a widow than she had been in married life. Moving quickly she was able to establish herself as regent for her son. Francis would not attack a Duchy ruled by his grandson, but Emperor Charles V was suspicious of Charllote, viewing her as a French proxy. An independent Milan, under Imperial influence, was vital to connecting his far flung empire. The Duchy could not be allowed to fall into enemy hands.

Though Charlotte wrote to the Emperor, proclaiming her desire for an independent foreign policy, and indeed did grant him many concessions, the only thing that would convince Charles that the daughter of his greatest enemy governing one of his most important vassals was not a threat was a personal meeting.

This meeting would take place in 1536. The Emperor was charmed by the young Duchess. Not only was she a great beauty, indeed age and motherhood had seemed to enhance rather than diminish her appeal, but she was also wise, educated, and persuasive. True to her word Milan would remain friendly with both France and the Empire, striving to keep the peace in Italy.

The Emperor and the Princess would grow close on a more personal level. For years afterwords both would deny that anything more than politics had been discussed in 1536. Charlotte would write to her father urging him not to believe “those vile accusations and slanders hurled against me by your enemies.” Charles would write to his wife Isabella, assuring her that she was his “true and only Empress and love.”

However, centuries later the diary of Charlotte’s confessor would be unearthed. The Duchess revealed that she had indeed felt something for the Emperor, love, with far greater passion than she had ever had for her husband. They had kissed and caressed and done anything a man and wife would do except consummate their relationship. The Emperor had remembered his honor, and his love for Isabella of Portugal and pulled back from the brink. Charlotte had been grateful for that.

Charlotte continued to govern Milan in the name of her son, becoming a key fixture of Italian politics and patron of the arts. Under her rule, Milan recovered from the war and regained it’s status as a great hub of Renaissance culture and learning.

In 1541 the Emperor once again made a progress through Italy. The three black clouds of the death of his wife, the disastrous Algiers expedition, and the breaking apart of the Church hung over Charles V’s head. Once again it fell to Charlotte to be the light in a brooding man’s world. Charles would describe his time in Milan as a respite from his troubles.

The Emperor lingered in Milan far longer than expected. When it seemed like he was about to leave he and the Duchess together made a shocking announcement. They were to wed. Charles had been asking for her hand for just about the entire time he had been in Milan. Though she loved him, Charlotte was reluctant to marry again and loose her independence and custody over her children. Despite these hesitations, they gave in to their passions. Charlotte would, decades later, confide to her second daughter Margaret that she only married the Emperor because she suspected she was already pregnant.

The match shocked Europe. Francis was happy to have a tie to bind the Emperor to him, but furious at his daughter’s lack of caution. True to her suspicions Charlotte gave birth to a daughter, Margaret, exactly nine months after her marriage to Charles.

Her relationship with Beatrice and Francesco was forever altered.

Though he would always honor her, and consult with her in matters of state, Francesco would never trust his mother, nor forgive her for abandoning him. He would live the rest of his life as a suspicious and paranoid man, loyal only to a select few friends and lovers.

Beatrice by contrast would be more forgiving. A gentle and mild girl, so unlike her mother and namesake, she had a temperament more resembling Queen Claude. In time she and her mother would grow close again, bonding over their shared fondness for Beatrice’s vast brood of children. Her marriage to John Stephan Zapolya would prove to be a happy one both for the couple and for the future of Hungary.

Like with her first husband Charlotte served as an advisor and a shoulder to lean on for the beleaguered Emperor. Though her love, and a lack of conflict with France, did improve his health somewhat, Charles was still not the fit youth he had once been. Though he often apologized for this fact, Charlotte would claim it did not matter. He was the man she chose. The man she loved, and that was enough for her.

In 1544 she would bear Charles another child, a daughter named Charlotte after her mother. Charlotte would treasure both of her girls and do her best to stay in touch with her two children in Milan. Though she had reformist sympathies, thanks to her education from Renee and Margaret, she would keep them hidden from her husbands and children. She would however advocate for tolerance and reconciliation to her husband. It was wise advise, advice that the Emperor would later admit that he wished he had followed Charlotte’s council.

An account of their relationship was recorded by a young singer named Barbra Blomberg, who attended the couple during their stay in Regensburg for the Imperial Diet in 1546. The couple warmly interacted with their children as they listened to her performance. The young Empress noticed her husband eying the young singer. Thereafter she made every effort to kiss and touch him in public, glaring formidably at Barbara like a lioness securing her territory.

Barbra subsequently noted that the couple proceeded to make love in a “most indiscreet manor” with the Empress in particular being described as “boisterously enthusiastic.” Thereafter Barbra noted the Emperor no longer seemed to notice her.

In February of 1547 Charlotte gave birth to a son, named John. The baby immediately became the subject of furious intrigues. Charles wanted to give him Burgundy and the right to succeed his brother Ferdinand as Holy Roman Emperor. This enraged Ferdinand’s son, Maximilian, along with his wife the Emperor’s daughter Maria of Austria, who had never liked her stepmother.

The issue also raised tensions between Charles and Ferdinand, at a time when the dynasty could ill afford it. Even Charlotte, who fiercely adored her son, recommended her husband not try to make him Holy Roman Emperor, for fear of upsetting the delicate balance within Casa de Austria. But once again Charles refused to heed his wife’s council.

In 1551 Maria’s brother Henri declared war on the Emperor, with the aid of the Protestant German Princes. The betrayal was a heavy blow, one Charlotte would never forgive. The war ended thousands of lives, along with the close bond shared between the last of Queen Claude’s children.

An even deeper wound was created in Italy. Charlotte’s son Francesco renewed his father’s alliance with France, breaking his betrothal with Ferdinand’s daughter, Archduchess Maria, and rebelled against the Emperor. His biographers have long been divided over if this was done for reasons of state or as a way to get back at his mother for abandoning him. Whatever the reasons Henri and Francesco partitioned the Savoyard state between themselves before moving on to strike Naples.

In Germany, the Imperial family was nearly captured and had to fleet Innsbrook. Chroniclers noted the Empress’s bravery and how she strove to comfort her small children, fretful servants, and ailing husband. “You truly have the heart of a sovereign, whereas I have grown old and weary”, Charles told her. Charlotte’s response was that her heart was his and only his and she would serve as his source of strength as long as he lived.

The Emperor was forced to conclude a truce with the Protestant princes, agreeing to amongst other things, keep the line of Ferdinand as Emperors in perpetuity. Privately Charlotte was happy at the religious tolerance her husband had granted.

With peace concluded in Germany, the Emperor was able to reinforce his armies along the line and in Italy. In Italy further good fortune would be achieved by the defection of Milan back to the Imperial cause. Duke Francesco, apparently satisfied that he had driven Imperial troops and influence out of his duchy, and weary of having the French to his East and South, agreed to change sides and take Maria back. She would bear him a brood of children, though the Duke’s heart would be with a series of mistresses he maintained over the course of his life.

The war and the divisions within Casa de Austria strained the Emperor to the breaking point. It was said that only Charlotte’s love and support kept him from losing his mind and abdicating.

In 1559 peace was made at Cateau-Cambrésis. Territorial changes were small, with the French annexing most of Savoy beyond the Alps, the three bishoprics, and several positions in Italy. Both of Charles’s sons were to wed French Princesses, with Charlotte's daughter Margaret to be wed to the Dauphin Francis. Charles would also abdicate in the Spanish Kingdoms, handing them over to his son Philip.

Henri believed that with the Empire fragmenting, the threat of encirclement was dissipating. It was at a celebration that brother and sister saw each other for the last time. Henri was apparently taken aback by how much of a grudge his sister held, for the King viewed the whole issue as merely an affair of state.

Charles would not live to long enjoy this peace. In 1560, while traveling around the Empire, he caught a chill. Despite the doctor’s treatments he died, holding the cross of his first wife the Empress Isabella in one hand, and the hand of his second love, Charlotte, in the other. The devastated Empress would wear black for the rest of her life and never remarry. For unlike Francesco, Charles had been her true love.

Charlotte was no left as regent of Burgundy, in the name of her young son John. Her grief was only added to when a scant few months following her father’s passing, Charlotte’s daughter Margaret would die giving birth to the Dauphin’s son. Though Margaret had been a staunch Catholic in the Habsburg mold, disapproving of her mother’s reformist tendencies, and harboring a certain guilt for her own conception out of wedlock, Charlotte loved her fiercely and was left wailing in grief at the news. This final straw would forever poison the heart of Francis’s favorite daughter against her homeland.

In the Duchy of Burgundy Charlotte, and later her son John, would promote a policy of religious tolerance similar to the stance of Emperor Maximilian II, ironic given the mutual loathing between Charlotte and the Emperor.

To sure up her son’s position in Burgundy Charllote would wed her younger daughter and namesake to Duke William “the Rich” of Cleves. A happy and fun-loving girl, Charlotte the Younger would enjoy a happy marriage with the Duke despite their age gap. Together they would have ten children and enjoy a colorful and cultured court.

John by contrast was not so keen on marriage. After breaking his betrothal with Henri’s daughter he would hold out his hand to multiple powers so as to gain their allegiance, all the while enjoying himself with his many mistresses.

Wanting revenge, and recognizing that a strong France would pose a threat to her son’s duchy, Margaret promoted the French protestant rebellions against her brother. Her intimate knowledge of French politics, culture, and the heart of its King, served only to further her effectiveness. The broken bond of love between Charlotte and Henri was replaced by one of mutual loathing. Their correspondence was filled with bitterness and accusation. In their final exchange, Henri called Charllote a heretic, a traitor, and a whore, while Charllote called her brother “the murderer of our mother.”

Shortly thereafter Henri was assassinated by a Protestant sympathizer. Despite her hatred, Charlotte wept for him. “I cry for the little boy I once knew, not the man he became”, she would explain to Charlotte the younger. The death of her brother seemed to take something out of Charlotte. She would pass away a scant year later. “I have lost my best minister”, Duke John would say.
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