François Ravaillac

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François Ravaillac
Francois Ravaillac.jpg
François Ravaillac brandishing his dagger, in a 17th-century engraving
Angoulême, France
Died27 May 1610(1610-05-27) (aged 31–32)
Paris, France
Criminal charge Regicide
PenaltyTortured and dismembered

François Ravaillac (French pronunciation:  [fʁɑ̃swa ʁavajak] ; 1578 [1] 27 May 1610) was a French Catholic zealot who assassinated King Henry IV of France in 1610.

Henry IV of France first French monarch of the House of Bourbon

Henry IV, also known by the epithet Good King Henry or Henry the Great, was King of Navarre from 1572 and King of France from 1589 to 1610. He was the first monarch of France from the House of Bourbon, a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. He was assassinated in 1610 by François Ravaillac, a fanatical Catholic, and was succeeded by his son Louis XIII.



Early life and education

Ravaillac was born at Angoulême of an educated family: his grandfather François Ravaillac, was prosecutor of Angoulême, and two of his uncles were canons of the Cathedral of Angoulême. [2] His father Jean Ravaillac was a violent man whose many misdeeds were a public scandal and caused legal difficulties; his mother Françoise Dubreuil (sister of the canons) was known for her Catholic piety. The son Ravaillac began work as a servant, later becoming a school teacher. Obsessed by religion, he sought admission to the ascetic Feuillants order, but after a short probation, he was dismissed as being "prey to visions." An application in 1606 for admission to the Society of Jesus was also unsuccessful.

Canon (priest) Ecclesiastical position

A canon is a member of certain bodies subject to an ecclesiastical rule.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church for men which originated in sixteenth-century Spain. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.


Assassination of Henry IV,
engraving by Gaspar Bouttats. Assassination of Henry IV by Gaspar Bouttats.jpg
Assassination of Henry IV,
engraving by Gaspar Bouttats.
Ravaillac murdering Henry IV, rue de la Ferronnerie in Paris Death-of-Henry4.jpg
Ravaillac murdering Henry IV, rue de la Ferronnerie in Paris

In 1609, Ravaillac claimed to have experienced a vision instructing him to convince King Henry IV to convert the Huguenots to Catholicism. Between Pentecost 1609 and May 1610, Ravaillac made three separate trips to Paris to tell his vision to the king, and lodged with Charlotte du Tillet, mistress of Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, duc d'Épernon. Unable to meet the king, Ravaillac interpreted Henry's decision to invade the Spanish Netherlands as the start of a war against the Pope. Determined to stop him, he decided to kill the king.

Pentecost Christian holy day commemorating the New Testament account of the Holy Spirits descent upon the Apostles

The Christian holy day of Pentecost, which is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. In Christian tradition, this event represents the birth of the early Church.

Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette French noble

Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette (1554–1642), created Duke of Épernon, was a powerful member of the French nobility at the turn of the 16th century. He was deeply involved in plots and politics throughout his life.

Spanish Netherlands Historical region of the Low Countries (1581–1714)

Spanish Netherlands was the collective name of States of the Holy Roman Empire in the Low Countries, held in personal union by the Spanish Crown from 1556 to 1714. This region comprised most of the modern states of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France, southern Netherlands, and western Germany with the capital being Brussels.

On 14 May 1610, Ravaillac lay in wait in the Rue de la Ferronnerie in Paris (now south of the Forum des Halles); when the king passed, his carriage was halted by a blockage in the street, and Ravaillac stabbed Henry to death. Pierre de l'Estoile, the chronicler, stated of the king:

Rue de la Ferronnerie street in Paris, France

The Rue de la Ferronnerie is a street in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, in the Les Halles area.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris is one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

His coach, entering from St Honoré to Ferronnerie Street, was blocked on one side by a cart filled with wine and on the other by a cart filled with hay... Ravaillac climbed on the wheel of the above-named coach and with a knife trenchant on both sides stabbed him between the second and third ribs. [3]

Hercule, Duke of Montbazon riding with Henry was wounded in the attack. [4] Ravaillac was immediately seized by police and taken to the Hôtel de Retz to avoid a mob lynching. He was transferred to the Conciergerie .

Hercule, Duke of Montbazon Duke of Montbazon

Hercule de Rohan was a member of the princely House of Rohan. The second Duke of Montbazon, he is an ancestor of the present Princes of Guéméné. His daughter was the famous Frondeur the duchesse de Chevreuse. He was a Peer of France.

Lynching is a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group. It is an extreme form of informal group social control such as charivari, riding the rail, and tarring and feathering, and often conducted with the display of a public spectacle for maximum intimidation. It is to be considered an act of terrorism and punishable by law. Instances of lynchings and similar mob violence can be found in every society.

Conciergerie Medieval building in Paris, France

The Conciergerie is a building in Paris, France, located on the west of the Île de la Cité, formerly a prison but presently used mostly for law courts. It was part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed by guillotine at a number of locations around Paris.

Trial and execution

During interrogation, Ravaillac was frequently tortured to make him identify accomplices, but he denied that he had any and insisted that he acted alone. His knowing the king's route and the blockage of traffic that put the king within reach excited speculation. The king was on his way to visit Sully, who lay ill in the Arsenal; his purpose was to make final preparations for imminent military intervention in the disputed succession to Jülich-Cleves-Berg after the death of Duke John William. The intervention on behalf of a Calvinist candidate would have brought him in conflict with the Catholic Habsburg dynasty. [5] Ravaillac seems to have learned of the plans; in his tortured mind, "he had seen that the king wanted to make war on the pope, in order to transfer the Holy See to Paris." [6]

At the start of the interrogation, Ravaillac said, "I know very well he is dead; I saw the blood on my knife and the place where I hit him. But I have no regrets at all about dying, because I've done what I came to do." [7]

On May 27, he was taken to the Place de Grève in Paris and was tortured one last time before being pulled apart by four horses, a method of execution reserved for regicides. Alistair Horne describes the torture Ravaillac suffered: "Before being drawn and quartered... he was scalded with burning sulphur, molten lead and boiling oil and resin, his flesh then being torn by pincers." Following his execution, Ravaillac's parents were forced into exile, and the rest of his family was ordered never to use the name "Ravaillac" again.

In January 1611, Mme Jacqueline d'Escoman, who had known Ravaillac, denounced the Duc d'Épernon as the one responsible for the death of Henry IV; she was jailed for the rest of her life. Philippe Erlanger, in his book L'Étrange Mort de Henri IV (1957, rev. 1999), reveals Épernon's association with Ravaillac through his mistress. He concludes that he, the King's mistress Henriette d'Entragues and Charlotte du Tillet planned the assassination. The contrary view, that Ravaillac had no accomplices but his confessors, [8] is expressed by Roland Mousnier in L'Assassinat d'Henri IV: 14 mai 1610 (Paris, 1964).

See also


  1. There has been a persistent error that he was born at Touvre, in the suburbs of Angoulême, but this opinion has been abandoned by the best French historians of the period. He declared himself thirty-one and thirty-two during his arraignment in 1610.
  2. Anita M. Walker and Edmund H. Dickerman, "Mind of an assassin: Ravaillac and the murder of Henry IV of France", Canadian Journal of History, August 1995, p. 2; Genealogy of François Ravaillac
  3. Pierre de l'Estoile, Journal pour le règne de Henri IV, Paris: Gallimard, p 84, 1960.
  4. van de Pas, Leo. "Hercule de Rohan". Genealogics .org. Archived from the original on 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2010-04-07.
  5. Walker and Dickerman 1995, on-line text page 1.
  6. Ravaillac, quoted in Anita W. Walker and Edmund H. Dickerman, "Mind of an assassin: Ravaillac and the murder of Henry IV of France", Canadian Journal of History (August 1995); [ on-line text]
  7. Procès, examen de Ravaillac, Mémoires de Condé, 6 vols. (Amsterdam, 1743), 6:217, quoted in Walker and Dickerman 1995 (on-line text, page 1).
  8. "Almost up to the time of the assassination he continued to consult with clerics, a risky and highly ambivalent behaviour which invited discovery or prevention, and at the same time precluded both." (Walker and Dickerman 1995 (on-line text p.17)

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