Kings made of glass….?

An ailing Charles VI of France. Bibliothèque Nationale de France

What does one call a gathering of glass men? Splinters? Shards? It seems that in the medieval period there was a sudden upsurge of people who believed they—or part of their bodies—were made of glass. Heads, buttocks, entire bodies, whatever, and the belief was so strong and irresistible that some of them resorted to shocking lengths to deal with their own personal affliction.

One of the most famous people to be so affected was King Charles VI of France (pictured above) who became so convinced he was fashioned of glass that he wore protective clothes and wouldn’t allow any of his courtiers near him. As revealed here, Charles was already known to be far from sane, in a fit of unreasoning fear and ferocity he turned upon his knights while out hunting and slew four of them on the spot, before he was restrained.

Quite why the mind should chose glass as something to dread I don’t know, but it was clearly something that was known to happen. It’s been pointed out to me that Charles VI was the father of Katherine of Valois (1), who because the queen of Henry V of England. Katherine and Henry were in turn the parents of Henry VI, whose mental health seems to have been very fragile indeed from early in his life. Certainly he was often incapable of ruling, and his long tenure of the crown was a disaster for England. As far as I know he didn’t think he was partly (or wholly!) made of glass, but the blood of Charles VI of France was strong in his veins.


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