Born in France to an aristocratic family, Charles was orphaned at 6 years old. He rejected the Catholic faith of his grandfather and joined the army as a teen. While in the army, he desired to travel to Morocco for scientific research but was denied his petition. He subsequently resigned his position from the army and traveled to Morocco. But, his entry into the country was a difficult one. To facilitate his work, he had to disguise himself as a Jew, and for a year beginning in 1883, he traveled the country and wrote a book that covered his discoveries.
Throughout his travels and study, he found significant religious influence from devout Jews and Muslims, and chose to return to his Catholic heritage. His renewed faith led him to join a Trappist monastery for many years. He later returned to Morocco and continued to foster community and intentional relationships among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Despite his work amongst these communities, he lived alone and without significant companions.
He lived the majority of the rest of his life amongst the Tuareg people of Algeria. He wrote a Tuareg-French/French-Tuareg dictionary and a significant volume of Tuareg poetry published after his death.
When World War I breached the borders of French Algeria, Charles and two other soldiers were caught in the crossfire between warring tribes. Charles was shot to death on December 1, 1916. His work throughout his life with various religious orders including the Poor Clares, Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, and others brought attention to the peaceful and humble work of his life. He was beatified on November 13, 2005.