JOHN II OF FRANCE was born on this date (d: 1364); Lots of Gay kings these days. Yesterday we noted Edward II of England. Today we have John II of France. Called John the Good (Jean le Bon), he was a monarch of the House of Valois who ruled as king of France from 1350 until his death.
When John II came to power, France was facing several disasters: the Black Death, which caused the death of nearly half of its population; popular revolts known as Jacqueries; free companies (Grandes Compagnies) of routiers who plundered the country; and English aggression that resulted in disastrous military losses, including the Battle of Poiteirs of 1356, in which John was captured.
While John was a prisoner in London, his son Charles became regent and faced several rebellions, which he overcame. To liberate his father, he concluded the Treaty of Bretigney (1360), by which France lost many territories and paid an enormous ransom.
In an exchange of hostages, which included his second son Louis, Duke of Anjou, John was released from captivity to raise funds for his ransom. Upon his return in France, he created the franc to stabilize the currency and tried to get rid of the free companies by sending them to a crusade, but Pope Innocent VI died shortly before their meeting in Avignon. When John was informed that Louis had escaped from captivity, he voluntarily returned to England, where he died in 1364. He was succeeded by his son Charles V.
Jean le Bon took as his wife Bonne of Bohemia and fathered 11 children in eleven years. Due to his close relationship with Charles de la Cerda, rumors were spread by Charles II of Navarre of a romantic attachment between the two. La Cerda was given various honors and appointed to the high position of constable when John became king; he accompanied the king on all his official journeys to the provinces. La Cerda’s rise at court excited the jealousy of the French barons, several of whom stabbed him to death in 1354. La Cerda’s fate paralleled that of Edward II of England’s Piers Gaveston and John II of Castile’s Alvaro de Luna; the position of a royal favorite was a dangerous one. John’s grief on La Cerda’s death was overt and public.