Charles III, Duke of Lorraine

Charles III (18 February 1543 – 14 May 1608), known as the Great, was Duke of Lorraine from 1545 until his death.

Charles III
Duke of Lorraine
Charles III, Duke of Lorraine, studio of François Clouet, oil on panel
Born18 February 1543
Ducal Palace of Nancy
Died14 May 1608(1608-05-14) (aged 65)
SpouseClaude of France
IssueHenry II, Duke of Lorraine
Christina, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine
Antoinette, Duchess of Jülich-Cleves-Berg
Francis II, Duke of Lorraine
Catherine, Abbess of Remiremont
Elisabeth, Electress of Bavaria
FatherFrancis I, Duke of Lorraine
MotherChristina of Denmark
ReligionRoman Catholicism

He is the direct male ancestor of all rulers of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, including all Emperors of Austria.


He was the eldest surviving son of Francis I, Duke of Lorraine and Christina of Denmark.[1]

In 1545, his father died, and his mother served as the regent during his minority. During his childhood, his aged great-grandmother, Philippa of Gelderland, died in 1547, leaving also her inheritance to the young Charles. His dynasty claimed the Kingdom of Jerusalem and used also the title of Duke of Calabria as symbol of their claims to the Kingdom of Naples. Additionally, they had a claim to the Duchy of Gelderland, inherited from Charles of Egmont, Duke of Gelderland.

In 1552, Lorraine was invaded by France, his mother's regency was terminated and Charles was removed from Lorraine to France, to be raised at the French royal court in accordance to the needs of French interests.[2] In 1559, he was married to Claude of France, and allowed to depart to Lorraine and take control of his domain.

The reign of Charles III is regarded as a great age of peace and prosperity for Lorraine. He pursued a policy of strict neutrality between France and The Holy Roman Empire, as well as during the French Wars of Religion. He founded the University of Pount-a-Mousson. He also expanded his realm by the incorporation of Pfalzburg from George John I, Count Palatine of Veldenz in 1590, and tried to conquer also Lützelstein, though George John I's widow, Anna of Sweden, managed to negotiate a truce.

In 1589, he broke his policy of neutrality and allied himself with the French Catholic League because he, as a Catholic, could not accept Henry of Navarre as king of France. In his peace with Henry in 1594, he married his son to Henry's sister Catherine de Bourbon.


He married Claude of Valois, princess of France, daughter of king Henry II and Catherine de' Medici.[3] They had the following children:


Charles III's ancestors in three generations
Charles III, Duke of Lorraine Father:
Francis I, Duke of Lorraine
Paternal Grandfather:
Antoine, Duke of Lorraine
Paternal Great-grandfather:
René II, Duke of Lorraine
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Philippa of Guelders
Paternal Grandmother:
Renée of Bourbon-Montpensier
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Gilbert, Count of Montpensier
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Clara Gonzaga
Christina of Denmark
Maternal Grandfather:
Christian II of Denmark
Maternal Great-grandfather:
John of Denmark
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Christina of Saxony
Maternal Grandmother:
Isabella of Austria
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Philip I of Castile
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Joanna of Castile

See also


  1. Bogdan 2005, p. 119-120.
  2. Bogdan 2005, p. 123-124.
  3. von Friedeburg & Morrill 2017, p. 121.
  4. Bogdan 2005, p. 286.


  • von Friedeburg, Robert; Morrill, John, eds. (2017). Monarchy Transformed: Princes and their Elites in Early Modern Western Europe. Cambridge University Press.
  • Bogdan, Henry (2005). La Lorraine des ducs (in French). Perrin.
Preceded by
Francis I
Duke of Lorraine and Bar
Marquis of Pont-à-Mousson

Succeeded by
Henry II
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