Henry IV of France
|King of France|
|Reign||2 August 1589 – 14 May 1610|
|Coronation||27 February 1594|
|King of Navarre|
|Reign||9 June 1572 – 14 May 1610|
Margaret of France
Marie de' Medici
César, Duke of Vendôme
Catherine Henriette de Bourbon
Louis XIII of France
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain
Christine, Duchess of Savoy
Nicholas Henri, Duke of Orléans
Gaston, Duke of Orléans
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England
|Father||Antoine de Bourbon|
|Mother||Jeanne III of Navarre|
13 December 1553|
Pau, Kingdom of Navarre
14 May 1610
|Burial||Saint Denis Basilica, France|
Henry IV (13 December 1553 – 14 May 1610), Henri-Quatre (French pronunciation: ), also known by the epithet "Good King Henry", was King of Navarre (as Henry III) from 1572 to 1610 and King of France from 1589 to 1610. He was the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon.
Baptised as a Catholic but raised in the Protestant faith by his mother Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, he inherited the throne of Navarre in 1572 on the death of his mother. As a Huguenot, Henry was involved in the French Wars of Religion, barely escaping assassination in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, and later led Protestant forces against the royal army.
As a French "prince of the blood" by reason of his descent from King Louis IX, he ascended the throne of France upon the death of his childless brother-in-law Henry III in 1589. In accepting the throne, he found it prudent to abjure his Calvinist faith. Regardless, his coronation was followed by a four-year war against the Catholic League to establish his legitimacy. As a pragmatic politician (in the parlance of the time, a politique), he displayed an unusual religious tolerance for the time. Notably, he promulgated the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which guaranteed religious liberties to Protestants, thereby effectively ending the Wars of Religion. He was assassinated by François Ravaillac, a fanatical Catholic, and was succeeded by his son Louis XIII.
Considered as a usurper by Catholics and as a traitor by Protestants, Henry was hardly accepted by the population and escaped at least 12 assassination attempts. An unpopular king during his reign, Henry's popularity greatly improved posthumously. The "Good King Henry" (le bon roi Henri) was remembered for his geniality and his great concern about the welfare of his subjects. He was celebrated in the popular song Vive le roi Henri and in Voltaire's Henriade.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Achievements of his reign
- 3 International relations under Henry IV
- 4 Character
- 5 Assassination
- 6 Legacy
- 7 Genealogy
- 8 Marriages and legitimate children
- 9 Armorial
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Childhood and adolescence
Henry was born in Pau, the capital of the joint Kingdom of Navarre with the sovereign principality of Béarn. His parents were Queen Joan III of Navarre (Jeanne d'Albret) and King Antoine of Navarre. Although baptised as a Roman Catholic, Henry was raised as a Protestant by his mother, who had declared Calvinism the religion of Navarre. As a teenager, Henry joined the Huguenot forces in the French Wars of Religion. On 9 June 1572, upon his mother's death, he became King of Navarre.
First marriage and Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre
At Queen Joan's death, it was arranged for Henry to marry Margaret of Valois, daughter of Henry II and Catherine de' Medici. The wedding took place in Paris on 18 August 1572 on the parvis of Notre Dame Cathedral. On 24 August, the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre began in Paris. Several thousand Protestants who had come to Paris for Henry's wedding were killed, as well as thousands more throughout the country in the days that followed. Henry narrowly escaped death thanks to the help of his wife and his promise to convert to Catholicism. He was made to live at the court of France, but he escaped in early 1576. On 5 February of that year, he formally abjured Catholicism at Tours and rejoined the Protestant forces in the military conflict.
Wars of Religion
Henry became heir presumptive to the French throne in 1584 upon the death of Francis, Duke of Anjou, brother and heir to the Catholic Henry III, who had succeeded Charles IX in 1574. Because Henry of Navarre was the next senior agnatic descendant of King Louis IX, King Henry III had no choice but to recognise him as the legitimate successor. Salic law barred the king's sisters from inheriting and all others who could claim descent through the female line. Since Henry of Navarre was a Huguenot, the issue was not considered settled in many quarters of the country and France was plunged into a phase of the Wars of Religion known as the War of the Three Henries. Henry III and Henry of Navarre were two of these Henries. The third was Henry I, Duke of Guise, who pushed for complete suppression of the Huguenots and had much support among Catholic loyalists. Political disagreements among the parties set off a series of campaigns and counter-campaigns that culminated in the Battle of Coutras. In December 1588, Henry III had Henry I of Guise murdered, along with his brother, Louis Cardinal de Guise. This increased the tension further and Henry III was assassinated shortly thereafter by a fanatic monk.
Upon the death of Henry III on 2 August 1589, Henry of Navarre nominally became king of France. The Catholic League, however, strengthened by support from outside the country—especially from Spain—was strong enough to force him to the south. He had to set about winning his kingdom by military conquest, aided by money and troops sent by Elizabeth I of England. Henry's Catholic uncle Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon, was proclaimed king by the League, but the cardinal was Henry's prisoner. Henry was victorious at the Battle of Arques and the Battle of Ivry, but failed to take Paris after besieging it in 1590.
When the Cardinal de Bourbon died in 1590, the League could not agree on a new candidate. While some supported various Guise candidates, the strongest candidate was probably the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, the daughter of Philip II of Spain, whose mother Elisabeth had been the eldest daughter of Henry II of France. The prominence of her candidacy hurt the League, which became suspect as agents of the foreign Spanish. Nevertheless, Henry remained unable to take control of Paris.
"Paris is well worth a Mass"
Royal styles of
King Henry IV
Par la grâce de Dieu, Roi de France et de Navarre
|Reference style||His Most Christian Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Most Christian Majesty|
Henry's first marriage was not a happy one, and the couple remained childless. Henry and Margaret separated even before Henry acceded to the throne in August 1589, and Margaret lived for many years in the Château d'Usson in the Auvergne. After Henry became king of France, it was of the utmost importance that he provide an heir to the crown to avoid the problem of a disputed succession. Henry favoured the idea of obtaining an annulment of his marriage to Margaret and taking Gabrielle d'Estrées as his bride; after all, she had already borne him three children. Henry's councillors strongly opposed this idea, but the matter was resolved unexpectedly by Gabrielle's sudden death in the early hours of 10 April 1599, after she had given birth to a premature and stillborn son. His marriage to Margaret was annulled in 1599, and he then married Marie de' Medici in 1600.
For the royal entry of Marie into Papal Avignon on 19 November 1600, the Jesuit scholars bestowed on Henry the title of the Hercule Gaulois ("Gallic Hercules"), justifying the extravagant flattery with a genealogy that traced the origin of the House of Navarre to a nephew of Hercules' son Hispalus.
Achievements of his reign
During his reign, Henry IV worked through his faithful right-hand man, the minister Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully, to regularise state finance, promote agriculture, drain swamps, undertake public works, and encourage education, as with the creation of the Collège Royal Henri-le-Grand in La Flèche (today the Prytanée Militaire de la Flèche). He and Sully protected forests from further devastation, built a new system of tree-lined highways, and constructed new bridges and canals. He had a 1200 metre canal built in the park at the Château Fontainebleau (which may be fished today) and ordered the planting of pines, elms, and fruit trees.
The king restored Paris as a great city, with the Pont Neuf, which still stands today, constructed over the Seine river to connect the Right and Left Banks of the city. Henry IV also had the Place Royale built (since 1800 known as Place des Vosges), and added the Grande Galerie to the Louvre Palace. More than 400 metres long and thirty-five metres wide, this huge addition was built along the bank of the Seine River, and at the time was the longest edifice of its kind in the world. King Henry IV, a promoter of the arts by all classes of people, invited hundreds of artists and craftsmen to live and work on the building's lower floors. This tradition continued for another two hundred years, until Emperor Napoleon I banned it. The art and architecture of his reign have become known as the "Henry IV style" since that time.
International relations under Henry IV
The reign of Henry IV saw the continuation of the rivalry among France, the Habsburg rulers of Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire for the mastery of Western Europe, a conflict that would only be resolved after the end of the Thirty Years' War.
Spain and Italy
During Henry's struggle for the crown, Spain had been the principal backer of the Catholic League, and it tried to thwart Henry. Under Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma an army from the Spanish Netherlands intervened in 1590 against Henry and foiled his siege of Paris. Another Spanish army helped the nobles opposing Henry to win the Battle of Craon against his troops in 1592.
After Henry's coronation, the war continued as an official tug-of-war between the French and Spanish states that was terminated by the Peace of Vervins in 1598.
This enabled Henry to turn his attention to Savoy, with which he also had been fighting. Their conflicts were settled in the Treaty of Lyon of 1601, which mandated territorial exchanges between France and the Duchy of Savoy.
In 1609 Henry's intervention helped to settle the War of the Jülich succession through diplomatic means.
It was widely believed that in 1610 Henry was preparing to go to war against the Holy Roman Empire. The preparations were terminated by his assassination, however, and the subsequent rapprochement with Spain under the regency of Marie de' Medici.
Even before Henry's accession to the French throne, the French Huguenots were in contact with Aragonese Moriscos in plans against the Habsburg government of Spain in the 1570s. Around 1575, plans were made for a combined attack of Aragonese Moriscos and Huguenots from Béarn under Henry against Spanish Aragon, in agreement with the king of Algiers and the Ottoman Empire, but these projects floundered with the arrival of John of Austria in Aragon and the disarmament of the Moriscos. In 1576, a three-pronged fleet from Constantinople was planned to disembark between Murcia and Valencia while the French Huguenots would invade from the north and the Moriscos accomplish their uprising, but the Ottoman fleet failed to arrive. After his crowning, Henry continued the policy of a Franco-Ottoman alliance and received an embassy from Sultan Mehmed III in 1601. In 1604, a "Peace Treaty and Capitulation" was signed between Henry IV and the Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I. It granted numerous advantages to France in the Ottoman Empire.
During the reign of Henry IV, various enterprises were set up to develop trade with faraway lands. In December 1600, a company was formed through the association of Saint-Malo, Laval, and Vitré to trade with the Moluccas and Japan. Two ships, the Croissant and the Corbin, were sent around the Cape of Good Hope in May 1601. One was wrecked in the Maldives, leading to the adventure of François Pyrard de Laval, who managed to return to France in 1611. The second ship, onboard which was François Martin de Vitré, reached Ceylon and traded with Aceh in Sumatra, but was captured by the Dutch on the return leg at Cape Finisterre. François Martin de Vitré was the first Frenchman to write an account of travels to the Far East in 1604, at the request of Henry IV, and from that time numerous accounts on Asia would be published.
From 1604 to 1609, following the return of François Martin de Vitré, Henry developed a strong enthusiasm for travel to Asia and attempted to set up a French East India Company on the model of England and the Netherlands. On 1 June 1604, he issued letters patent to Dieppe merchants to form the Dieppe Company, giving them exclusive rights to Asian trade for 15 years. No ships were sent, however, until 1616. In 1609, another adventurer, Pierre-Olivier Malherbe, returned from a circumnavigation of the globe and informed Henry of his adventures. He had visited China and in India, had an encounter with Akbar.
Henry IV proved to be a man of vision and courage. Instead of waging costly wars to suppress opposing nobles, Henry simply paid them off. As king, he adopted policies and undertook projects to improve the lives of all subjects, which made him one of the country's most popular rulers ever.
Henry is said to have originated the oft repeated phrase, "a chicken in every pot". The context in which he is reported to have said this is:
Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu'il n'y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n'ait les moyens d'avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot!
(If God keeps me, I will make sure that no peasant in my realm will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot on Sunday!)
This statement epitomises the peace and relative prosperity Henry brought to France after decades of religious war and demonstrates how well he understood the plight of the French worker and peasant farmer. This real concern for the living conditions of the "lowly" population – who in the final analysis provided the economic basis on which the power of the king and the great nobles rested – was perhaps without parallel among the kings of France. It also made Henry extremely popular with the population.
Henry's forthright manner, physical courage, and military successes also contrasted dramatically with the sickly, effete languor of the last Valois kings, as evinced by his blunt assertion that he ruled with "weapon in hand and arse in the saddle" (on a le bras armé et le cul sur la selle). He was also a great philanderer, fathering many children by a number of mistresses.
Henry was nicknamed Henry the Great (Henri le Grand), and in France is also called le bon roi Henri ("the good king Henry") or le vert galant ("The Green Gallant", for his numerous mistresses). In English he is most often referred to as Henry of Navarre.
Although he was a man of kindness, compassion, and good humour, and was much loved by his people, Henry was the subject of attempts on his life by Pierre Barrière in August 1593. and Jean Châtel in December 1594.
King Henry IV was assassinated in Paris on 14 May 1610 during the third attempt on his life by a Catholic fanatic, François Ravaillac, who stabbed the king to death in the Rue de la Ferronnerie. Henry IV's coach was stopped by traffic congestion related to the Queen's coronation ceremony, as depicted in the engraving by Gaspar Bouttats. Hercule de Rohan, duc de Montbazon, was with him when he was killed; Montbazon was wounded, but survived. Henry was buried at the Saint Denis Basilica.
Assassination of Henry IV,
engraving by Gaspar Bouttats
His assassin, François Ravaillac, brandishing his dagger
The reign of Henry IV had a lasting impact on the French people for generations afterward. A statue of him was built in his honour at the Pont Neuf in 1614, only four years after his death. Although this statue—as well as those of all the other French kings—was torn down during the French Revolution, it was the first to be rebuilt, in 1818, and it stands today on the Pont Neuf. A cult surrounding the personality of Henry IV emerged during the Bourbon Restoration. The restored Bourbons were keen to play down the controversial reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI and instead emphasised the reign of the benevolent Henry IV. The song "Vive Henri IV" ("Long Live Henry IV") was popular during the Restoration. In addition, when Princess Caroline of Naples and Sicily (a descendant of his) gave birth to a male heir to the throne of France seven months after the assassination of her husband Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, by a Republican fanatic, the boy was conspicuously named Henri in reference to his forefather Henry IV. The boy also was baptised in the traditional way of Béarn/Navarre, with a spoon of Jurançon wine and some garlic, imitating the manner in which Henry IV had been baptised in Pau. That custom had been abandoned by later Bourbon kings.
Henry IV's popularity continued when the first edition of his biography, Histoire du Roy Henry le Grand, was published in Amsterdam in 1661. It was written by Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont, successively bishop of Rhodez and archbishop of Paris, primarily for the edification of Louis XIV, grandson of Henry IV. A translation into English was made by James Dauncey for another grandson, King Charles II of England. An English edition was derived from this, which was published at London two years later in 1663.
The head of his embalmed body was lost after revolutionaries ransacked the Basilica of St Denis and desecrated his grave in 1793. An embalmed head, reputed to be that of Henry IV, was passed among private collectors until French journalist Stephane Gabet followed leads to track down the head in the attic of a retired tax collector, Jacques Bellanger, in January 2010. According to Gabet, a couple purchased the head at a Paris auction in the early 1900s, and Bellanger bought it from the sister in 1955. In 2010, a multidisciplinary team led by Philippe Charlier, a forensic medical examiner at Raymond Poincaré University Hospital in Garches, confirmed that it was the lost head of Henry IV, using a combination of anthropological, paleopathological, radiological, and forensic techniques. The head had a light brown colour and was well-preserved. A lesion just above the nostril, a hole in the right earlobe indicating a long-term use of an earring, and a healed facial wound, which Henry IV would have received from a previous assassination attempt by Jean Châtel in 1594, were among the identifying factors. Radiocarbon dating gave a date of between 1450 and 1650, which fits the year of Henry IV's death, 1610. The team was not able to recover uncontaminated mitochondrial DNA sequences from the head, so no comparison was possible with other remains from the king and his female-line relatives. Bellanger donated the king's head to Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou, the king's senior descendant. Anjou had decided to reinter the head in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis after a national mass and funeral in 2011. Further evidence confirming the identity of Henry IV's head was made in 2012 when DNA from tissue samples were matched with DNA from King Louis XVI. Following his beheading, Louis XVI's blood was soaked up with a handkerchief and stored in a gourd decorated to celebrate the French Revolution. The DNA analyses of the Y-chromosomes, which also confirmed truth to the legend surrounding Louis XVI's blood in the gourd, showed that the men were related—paternally. The likelihood ratio of the two samples belonging to males separated by seven generations (as opposed to unrelated males) was estimated as "246.3". Carles Lalueza-Fox, paleogenomics researcher in the study, is attempting to use the Louis XVI sample to reconstruct his entire genome.
Henry's patriline is the line from which he is descended father to son.
Patrilineal descent is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the generations – which means that if King Henry were to choose a historically accurate house name it would be Robertian, as all his male-line ancestors have been of that house.
Henry's patriline follows the Bourbon-Vendôme, the kings of France, and the counts of Paris and Worms. This line can be traced back more than 1,200 years from Robert of Hesbaye to the present day, through kings of France & Navarre, Spain, and Two-Sicilies, dukes of Parma and grand-dukes of Luxembourg, princes of Orléans, and emperors of Brazil. It is one of the oldest royal patrilines in Europe.
Marriages and legitimate children
On 18 August 1572, Henry married his second cousin Margaret of Valois; their childless marriage was annulled in 1599. His subsequent marriage to Marie de' Medici on 17 December 1600 produced six children:
|Louis XIII, King of France||27 September 1601||14 May 1643||Married Anne of Austria in 1615|
|Elisabeth, Queen of Spain||22 November 1602||6 October 1644||Married Philip IV, King of Spain, in 1615|
|Christine Marie, Duchess of Savoy||12 February 1606||27 December 1663||Married Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy, in 1619|
|Nicolas Henri, Duke of Orléans||16 April 1607||17 November 1611|
|Gaston, Duke of Orléans||25 April 1608||2 February 1660||
Married (1) Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier, in 1626
Married (2) Marguerite of Lorraine in 1632
|Henrietta Maria, Queen of England, Queen of Scots, and Queen of Ireland||25 November 1609||10 September 1669||Married Charles I, King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland, in 1625|
The arms of Henry IV changed throughout his lifetime:
Coat of Arms of Henry IV of France as King of Navarre and Duke of Vendome and Bourbon (1572-1589)
Arms of Henry III of Navarre as Duke of Bourbon and heir apparent to the French throne
Arms of Henry and the House of Bourbon as Kings of France and Navarre (1589-1789)
Grand Royal Coat of Arms of Henry and the House of Bourbon as Kings of France and Navarre (1589-1789)
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Henry III of Navarre & IV of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynastyBorn: 13 December 1553 Died: 14 May 1610
King of Navarre
9 June 1572 – 14 May 1610
Louis XIII and II
King of France
2 August 1589 – 14 May 1610
Antoine of Navarre
Duke of Vendôme and Beaumont;
Count of Marle, La Fère and Soissons
17 November 1562–1607
|Merged into the crown|
Jeanne III of Navarre
Duke of Albret
Count of Foix, Armagnac, Comminges,
Bigorre, Limoges and Périgord;
Viscount of Béarn;
Lord of Donezan
9 June 1572–1607