Early one afternoon in spring 1498, at the Royal Château of Amboise
The young King Charles VIII goes to look for Queen Anne of Brittany in her apartments. He wants his wife to join him in a real tennis game played in the château’s trench.
To get there, the two sovereigns must pass through a gallery with a very low doorway. Was it because of his haste or carelessness? We still do not know. But the young king hit his head violently on the door lintel.
At first, the shock seemed without consequence. The king joined in the game and seemed to act entirely normally. When suddenly, he collapsed and lost consciousness in front of everyone. It seems that a certain feverish unease then seized his retinue. They did not dare move the sovereign to his apartments, and only much later was a doctor called to his bedside… Charles never regained consciousness and died that very evening, after much agony, at the age of 27.
CIRCUMSTANCES STILL NOT FULLY EXPLAINED
What was the cause of his demise? Scientists still ask that question today. Did the violent blow lead to a fatal cerebral haemorrhage? Or cause a stroke? One of the hypotheses advanced is that Charles had an epileptic fit, the symptoms of which were then considered to be the work of the devil… This could maybe explain the delay by those around him in looking after their king. On the other hand, theories of possible poisoning seem unfounded.
A NOW FAMOUS DEATH
Charles’ death, in unusual circumstances, passed into posterity. Sometimes they prompt a smile about the king’s very modest stature, even though his 1m 52cm height was nothing exceptional by the standards of the time.
Charles VIII remains the only king in history to be born (30th June 1470) and die (7th April 1498) in a Loire château: Amboise. As set out in his marriage contract, his widow Anne of Brittany married his successor, King Louis XII.