Henry IV of France

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Henry IV
Frans Pourbus the Younger (Antwerp 1569 - Paris 1622) - Henri IV, King of France (1553-1610) - RCIN 402972 - Royal Collection.jpg
Portrait by Frans Pourbus, 1610
King of France
Reign2 August 1589 – 14 May 1610
Coronation 27 February 1594
Chartres Cathedral
Predecessor Henry III
Successor Louis XIII
King of Navarre
Reign9 June 1572 – 14 May 1610
Predecessor Jeanne III
Successor Louis II
Born13 December 1553
Château de Pau, Béarn
Died14 May 1610(1610-05-14) (aged 56)
Palais du Louvre, Paris, France
Cause of death Assassination
Burial1 July 1610
Basilica of St Denis, Paris, France
(m. 1572;ann. 1599)
(m. 1600)
House Bourbon
Father Antoine of Navarre
Mother Jeanne III of Navarre
Religion Calvinism (1553–1593)
Catholicism (1593–1610)
Signature Signature of Henry IV of France.svg

Henry IV (French : Henri IV; 13 December 1553 – 14 May 1610), also known by the epithets Good King Henry or Henry the Great, was King of Navarre (as Henry III) 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 pragmatically balanced the interests of the Catholic and Protestant parties in France as well as among the European states. He was assassinated in 1610 by a Catholic zealot, and was succeeded by his son Louis XIII.


Henry was baptised a Catholic but raised in the Protestant faith by his mother. He inherited the throne of Navarre in 1572 on his mother's death. As a Huguenot (Protestant), Henry was involved in the French Wars of Religion, barely escaping assassination in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. He later led Protestant forces against the French royal army. Henry inherited the throne of France in 1589 upon the death of Henry III. Henry IV initially kept the Protestant faith (the only French king to do so) and had to fight against the Catholic League, which refused to accept a Protestant monarch. After four years of military stalemate, Henry converted to Catholicism, reportedly saying, "Paris is well worth a mass." As a pragmatic politician he promulgated the Edict of Nantes (1598), which guaranteed religious liberties to Protestants, thereby effectively ending the French Wars of Religion.

An active ruler, Henry worked to regularise state finance, promote agriculture, eliminate corruption and encourage education. He began the first successful French colonization of the Americas. He promoted trade and industry, and prioritized the construction of roads, bridges, and canals to facilitate communication within France and strengthen the country's cohesion. These efforts stimulated economic growth and improved living standards.

While the Edict of Nantes brought religious peace to France, some hardline Catholics and Huguenots remained dissatisfied, leading to occasional outbreaks of violence and conspiracies. Henry IV also faced resistance from certain noble factions who opposed his centralization policies, leading to political instability.

His main foreign policy success was the Peace of Vervins in 1598, which made peace in the long-running conflict with Spain. He formed a strategic alliance with England through his marriage to the cousin of Queen Elizabeth I. He also forged alliances with Protestant states, such as the Dutch Republic and several German states, to counter the Catholic powers. His policies contributed to the stability and prominence of France in European affairs.

Early life and King of Navarre

Childhood and adolescence

Henry III of France on his deathbed designating Henry IV of Navarre as his successor (1589) Henry III on his deathbed designating Henri de Navarre as his successor.jpg
Henry III of France on his deathbed designating Henry IV of Navarre as his successor (1589)

Henry de Bourbon was born in Pau, the capital of the joint Kingdom of Navarre with the sovereign principality of Béarn. [1] His parents were Jeanne III of Navarre (Jeanne d'Albret) and her husband, Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme, King of Navarre. [2] Although baptised as a Catholic, Henry was raised in the Calvinist faith by his mother, [3] 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, the 19-year-old became King of Navarre. [4]

First marriage and Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre

Portrait of Henry III of Navarre (future Henry IV of France), c. 1575 Musee national du Chateau de Pau - Portait d'Henri IV vers 1575 - P 82 1 1.jpg
Portrait of Henry III of Navarre (future Henry IV of France), c.1575

At the death of his mother Queen Jeanne, it was arranged for Henry to marry Margaret of Valois, daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici. The wedding took place in Paris on 18 August 1572 on the parvis of Notre Dame Cathedral. [5]

On 24 August, the St. 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 forced 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. [4] He named his 16-year-old sister, Catherine de Bourbon, regent of Béarn. Catherine held the regency for nearly thirty years.

Wars of Religion

King Henry IV in his coronation robes, by Frans Pourbus the Younger King Henry IV in his coronation robes, by Frans Pourbus the Younger.jpg
King Henry IV in his coronation robes, by Frans Pourbus the Younger

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. Given that 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. [6]

War of the Three Henrys (1587–1589)

A conflict for the throne of France then ensued, contested by these three men and their respective supporters:

Salic law barred inheritance by the king's sisters and all others who could claim descent through only the female line. However, since Henry of Navarre was a Huguenot, many Catholics refused to acknowledge the succession, and France was plunged into a phase of the Wars of Religion known as the War of the Three Henrys (1587–1589).

The Duke of Guise 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. [7]

In December 1588, King Henry III had the Duke of Guise murdered, [8] along with his brother Louis, Cardinal of Guise, [9] thinking the removal of the brothers would restore his authority. However, the populace was horrified and rose against him. The King was no longer recognized in several cities; his effective power was limited to Blois, Tours, and the surrounding districts.

In the general chaos, Henry III relied on Henry of Navarre and his Huguenots. The two kings were united by a common interest—to win France from the Catholic League. Henry III recognized the King of Navarre as a true subject and Frenchman, not a fanatic Huguenot aiming to subjugate Catholics, and Catholic royalist nobles also rallied to them. With this combined force, the two kings marched to Paris. The morale of the city was low, and even the Spanish ambassador believed the city could not hold out longer than a fortnight. However, on 2 August 1589, a monk infiltrated Henry III's camp and assassinated him. [10]

King of France: Early reign

Succession (1589–1594)

Henry IV at the Battle of Arques Henri IV a la bataille d'Arques 21 septembre 1589.jpeg
Henry IV at the Battle of Arques
Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry, by Peter Paul Rubens Ivryrubens.jpg
Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry , by Peter Paul Rubens

When Henry III died, his ninth cousin once removed, Henry of Navarre, nominally became king of France. The Catholic League, however, strengthened by foreign support—especially from Spain—was strong enough to prevent a universal recognition of his new title. Pope Sixtus V excommunicated Henry and declared him ineligible to inherit the crown. [11] Most of the Catholic nobles who had joined Henry III for the siege of Paris also refused to recognize Henry of Navarre, and abandoned him. He set about winning his kingdom by force of arms, aided by English money and German troops. Henry's Catholic uncle Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon was proclaimed king by the League, but the Cardinal was Henry's prisoner at the time. [12] Henry was victorious at the Battle of Arques and the Battle of Ivry, but failed to take Paris after besieging it in 1590. [13]

Henry IV, as Hercules, vanquishing the Lernaean Hydra (i.e. the Catholic League), by Toussaint Dubreuil, c. 1600 Henry IV en Herculeus terrassant l Hydre de Lerne cad La ligue Catholique Atelier Toussaint Dubreuil circa 1600.jpg
Henry IV, as Hercules, vanquishing the Lernaean Hydra (i.e. the Catholic League), by Toussaint Dubreuil, c.1600

When Cardinal de Bourbon died in 1590, the League could not agree on a new candidate at the Estates General called to settle the question, also attended by the envoys of Spain. While some supported various Guise candidates, the strongest candidate was probably the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, daughter of Philip II of Spain, whose mother Elisabeth had been the eldest daughter of Henry II of France. [14] In the religious fervor of the time, the Infanta was considered a suitable queen, provided she married a suitable husband. The French overwhelmingly rejected Philip's first choice, Archduke Ernest of Austria, the Emperor's brother, also a member of the House of Habsburg. In case of such opposition, Philip indicated that princes of the House of Lorraine would be acceptable to him: the Duke of Guise; a son of the Duke of Lorraine; and the son of the Duke of Mayenne. The Spanish ambassadors selected the Duke of Guise, to the joy of the League. However, at that moment of seeming victory, the envy of the Duke of Mayenne was aroused, and he blocked the proposed election of a king.

Jeton with portrait of King Henry IV, made in Nuremberg (Germany) by Hans Laufer France Nuremberg King Henri IV jeton Hans Laufer.jpg
Jeton with portrait of King Henry IV, made in Nuremberg (Germany) by Hans Laufer

The Parlement of Paris also upheld the Salic law. They argued that if the French accepted natural hereditary succession, as proposed by the Spaniards, and accepted a woman as their queen, then the ancient claims of the English kings would be confirmed, and the monarchy of centuries past would be rendered illegal. [15] The Parlement admonished Mayenne, as lieutenant-general, that the kings of France had resisted the interference of the pope in political matters, and that he should not raise a foreign prince or princess to the throne of France under the pretext of religion. Mayenne was angered that he had not been consulted prior to this admonishment, but yielded, since their aim was not contrary to his present views.

Despite these setbacks for the League, Henry remained unable to take control of Paris.

Conversion to Catholicism: "Paris is well worth a Mass" (1593)

Entrance of Henry IV in Paris, 22 March 1594, with 1,500 cuirassiers Entrance of Henry IV in Paris 22 March 1594.jpg
Entrance of Henry IV in Paris, 22 March 1594, with 1,500 cuirassiers

On 25 July 1593, with the encouragement of his mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées , Henry permanently renounced Protestantism and converted to Catholicism to secure his hold on the French crown, [16] thereby earning the resentment of the Huguenots and his ally Elizabeth I of England. He was said to have declared that Paris vaut bien une messe ("Paris is well worth a Mass"), [17] [18] [19] although the attribution is doubtful. [20] [21] His acceptance of Catholicism secured the allegiance of the vast majority of his subjects.

Coronation and recognition (1594–1595)

Since Reims, traditional coronation place of French kings, was still occupied by the Catholic League, Henry was crowned King of France at the Cathedral of Chartres on 27 February 1594. [22] Pope Clement VIII lifted excommunication from Henry on 17 September 1595. [23] He did not forget his former Calvinist coreligionists, however, and was known for his religious tolerance. In 1598 he issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted circumscribed liberties to the Huguenots. [24]

Civil war and the Edict of Nantes

Henry IV successfully ended the civil wars. He and his ministers appeased Catholic leaders using bribes of about 7 million écus, a sum greater than France's annual revenue. Huguenot leaders were placated by the Edict of Nantes, which had four separate sections. The articles laid down the tolerance which would be accorded to the Huguenots including the exact places where worship may or may not take place, the recognition of three Protestant universities, and the allowance of Protestant synods. The king also issued two personal documents (called brevets) which recognized the Protestant establishment. The Edict of Nantes signed religious tolerance into law, and the brevets were an act of benevolence that created a Protestant state within France. [25]

Despite this, it would take years to restore law and order to France. The Edict was met by opposition from the parlements, which objected to the guarantees offered to Protestants. The Parlement de Rouen did not formally register the edict until 1609, although it begrudgingly observed its terms. [26]

Later reign

Domestic policies

Henri IV on Horseback Trampling his Enemy. Bronze, c. 1615-1620. From France, probably Paris. Victoria and Albert Museum, London Henri IV on Horseback Trampling his Enemy. Bronze, circa 1615-1620 CE. From France, probably Paris. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.jpg
Henri IV on Horseback Trampling his Enemy. Bronze, c. 1615–1620. From France, probably Paris. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

During his reign, Henry IV worked through the minister Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully, to regularize state finance, promote agriculture, drain swamps, undertake public works, and encourage education. He established 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 system of tree-lined highways, and constructed 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.

Itinerary of Francois Pyrard de Laval, (1601-1611) Itineraire de Pyrard de Laval.JPG
Itinerary of François Pyrard de Laval, (1601–1611)

The King restored Paris as a great city, with the Pont Neuf, which still stands today, constructed over the river Seine to connect the Right and Left Banks of the city. Henry IV also built the Place Royale (known since 1800 as Place des Vosges), and added the Grande Galerie to the Louvre Palace. Stretching more than 400 metres along the Seine river bank, at the time it was the longest edifice of its kind in the world. He promoted the arts among all classes of people, and 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 ended by Napoleon I. The art and architecture of his reign have become known as the Henry IV style.

Economically, Henry IV sought to reduce imports of foreign goods to support domestic manufacturing. To this end, new sumptuary laws limited the use of imported gold and silver cloth. He also built royal factories to produce luxuries such as crystal glass, silk, satin, and tapestries (at Gobelins Manufactory and Savonnerie de Chaillot workshops). The king re-established silk weaving in Tours and Lyon, and increased linen production in Picardy and Brittany. He had distributed 16,000 free copies of the practical manual The Theatre of Agriculture by Olivier de Serres. [27]

King Henry's vision extended beyond France, and he financed several expeditions of Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain to North America. [28] France laid claim to New France (now Canada). [29]

International relations

Engraving of Henry IV Emanuel van Meteren Historie ppn 051504510 MG 8766 Hendrik III van Frankrijk.tif
Engraving of Henry IV
Demi-ecu coin of Henry IV, Saint Lo (1589) Henri IV demi ecu Saint Lo 1589.jpg
Demi-écu coin of Henry IV, Saint Lô (1589)

During the reign of Henry IV, rivalry continued among France, Habsburg Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire for the mastery of Western Europe. The conflict was not resolved until after 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 the 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 Catholic League nobles opposing Henry to win the Battle of Craon in 1592.

The Spanish war was not ended with Henry's coronation, but after his victory at the Siege of Amiens in September 1597, the Peace of Vervins was signed in 1598. This freed his armies to settle the dispute with the Duchy of Savoy, ending with the Treaty of Lyon of 1601, which arranged territorial exchanges.

One of Henry's major problems was the Spanish Road which traversed Spanish territory through Savoy to the Low Countries. His first opportunity to cut the Spanish Road was a dispute over the ownership of the Marquisate of Saluzzo. The last marquis left Saluzzo to the French crown in 1548 (when Savoy was occupied by France), but the territory became disputed during the chaos of the Wars of Religion. The pope was asked to arbitrate between the claims of France and the Duke of Savoy. The Duke offered to cede Bresse to France if he could retain Saluzzo. Henri IV accepted this, but Spain objected that Bresse was a vital part of the Spanish Road, and persuaded the Duke to reject the decision. Henry IV was already at Lyon and had soldiers ready, and four days later he marched fifty thousand men against the duchy, occupying almost all of its area west of the Alps. In January 1601, Henry accepted another offer of papal arbitration and gained not only Bresse, but Bugey and Gex. Savoy retained a narrow corridor through the Val de Chézery. This still allowed Spanish troops to cross from Lombardy to Franche Comté without going through France, but it created a choke point where the Spanish Road was a single bridge across the Rhône River. [30]

The Saluzzo conflict was Henry IV's last major military operation, but he continued to finance Spain's enemies. He generously assisted the Dutch Republic with over 12 million livres between 1598 and 1610. In some years, the payment was 10% of France's total annual budget. France also sent subsidies to Geneva after the Duke of Savoy attempted to capture the city in 1602. [30]


In 1609 Henry helped negotiate an end to the War of the Jülich Succession.

It was widely believed that in 1610 Henry was preparing for war against the Holy Roman Empire, which was prevented by his assassination and the subsequent rapprochement with Spain under the regency of Marie de' Medici.

Ottoman Empire

Bilingual Franco-Turkish translation of the 1604 Franco-Ottoman Capitulations between Sultan Ahmed I and Henry IV of France, published by Francois Savary de Breves (1615) Savary Franco Ottoman Capitulations 1615.jpg
Bilingual Franco-Turkish translation of the 1604 Franco-Ottoman Capitulations between Sultan Ahmed I and Henry IV of France, published by François Savary de Brèves (1615)

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. [32] 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 Dey of Algiers and the Ottoman Empire, but this project floundered with the arrival of John of Austria in Aragon and the disarmament of the Moriscos. [33] [34] In 1576, a three-pronged Ottoman 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 fleet failed to arrive. [33]

After his crowning, Henry continued the policy of a Franco-Ottoman alliance and received an embassy from Sultan Mehmed III in 1601. [35] [36] In 1604, a "Peace Treaty and Capitulation" was signed between Henry IV and the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I, granting France numerous advantages in the Ottoman Empire. [36]

In 1606–07, Henry IV sent Arnoult de Lisle as Ambassador to Morocco to request the observance of past friendship treaties. An embassy was sent to Ottoman Tunisia in 1608 led by François Savary de Brèves. [37]

East Asia

Under Henry IV, various enterprises were set up to develop long-distance trade. In December 1600, a company was formed through the association of Saint-Malo, Laval, and Vitré to trade with the Moluccas and Japan. [38] Two ships, the Croissant and the Corbin, were sent around the Cape of Good Hope in May 1601. The Corbin was wrecked in the Maldives, leading to the adventure of François Pyrard de Laval, who managed to return to France in 1611. [38] [39] The Croissant, carrying 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. [38] [39] 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. [40]

From 1604 to 1609, following the return of François Martin de Vitré, Henry attempted to set up a French East India Company on the model of England and the Netherlands. [39] [40] [41] 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, but no ships were sent until 1616. [38] In 1609, another adventurer, Pierre-Olivier Malherbe, returned from a circumnavigation of the globe and informed Henry of his adventures. [40] He had visited China and India, and met with Emperor Akbar. [40]


Historians have assessed that Henry IV was a convinced Calvinist, and only changed his formal religious confession to achieve his political goals.

Henry IV was baptized as a Catholic on 5 January 1554. He was raised in the Reformed Tradition by his mother Jeanne III of Navarre. In 1572, after the massacre of French Calvinists, he was forced by Catherine de' Medici and the royal court to convert. In 1576, after escaping from Paris, he abjured Catholicism and returned to Calvinism. In 1593, to gain recognition as King of France, he converted again to Catholicism. Although a formal Catholic, he valued his Calvinist upbringing and was tolerant toward the Huguenots until his death in 1610, and issued the Edict of Nantes which granted them many concessions.


Henry IV, Musee des Augustins Augustins - Henri IV, roi de France et de Navarre - Jacques Boulbene.jpg
Henry IV, Musée des Augustins

Henry was nicknamed Henrile Grand (the Great), and in France is also called le bon roi Henri (good king Henry) and le vert galant (The Green Gallant) for his numerous mistresses. [28] [42] In English he is most often referred to as Henry of Navarre.


Though generally well-liked, Henry was considered a heretical usurper by some Catholics and a traitor to their faith by some Protestants. [43] Henry was the target of at least 12 assassination attempts, including by Pierre Barrière in August 1593 [44] and by Jean Châtel in December 1594. [45]

Henry was killed in Paris on 14 May 1610 by François Ravaillac, a Catholic zealot who stabbed him while his coach was stopped on Rue de la Ferronnerie. The carriage was stopped by traffic congestion associated with the Queen's coronation ceremony, as depicted in the engraving by Gaspar Bouttats. [46] [47] Hercule de Rohan, riding in the coach with the king, was wounded in the attack but survived. Ravaillac was immediately seized, and executed days later. Henry was buried at the Saint Denis Basilica.

His widow, Marie de' Medici, served as regent for their nine-year-old son, Louis XIII, until 1617. [48]


Henri IV, Marie de' Medici and family Fouquet et henri IV.jpg
Henri IV, Marie de' Medici and family
Relief of Henry IV on the facade of the Hotel de Ville, Lyon Lyon 1er - Place des Terreaux - Facade de l'Hotel de ville, sculptures devant le beffroi, statue d'Henry IV.jpeg
Relief of Henry IV on the facade of the Hôtel de Ville, Lyon

In 1614, four years after Henry IV's death, his statue was erected on the Pont Neuf. During the early phase of the French Revolution, when it aimed to create a constitutional monarchy rather than a republic, Henry IV was held up as a model for King Louis XVI. When the Revolution radicalized and came to reject monarchy altogether, Henry IV's statue was torn down along with other royal monuments. It was nevertheless the first to be rebuilt, in 1818, and it still stands on the Pont Neuf today. [49]

Henry IV was much lauded during the Bourbon Restoration, as the restored dynasty was keen to play down the controversial reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI in favor of Good King Henry. [50] The song Marche Henri IV (Long Live Henry IV) was popular. [51] After the assassination of the dauphin Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry by a Republican fanatic, seven months later his widow Princess Caroline gave birth to their son, heir to the throne of France, and conspicuously named him Henri after his royal forefather. The boy was baptised with Jurançon wine and garlic in the tradition of Béarn and Navarre, as Henry IV had been baptised in Pau.[ citation needed ]

Henry serves as a loose inspiration for the character Ferdinand, King of Navarre, in William Shakespeare's 1590s play Love's Labour's Lost . [52]

Equestrian portrait of Henry IV of France with a view of Paris to the north of the River Seine. To his left, the Bullant Pavilion of the Tuileries Palace, and In the background, Montmartre Abbey. To his right, the Tour du Bois behind the wall of Charles V, and further right, the Louvre Palace, c. 1595 Henri IV, roi de France, a cheval devant Paris - Musee Carnavalet CARP1671 - Collections Paris(dot)fr (adjusted).jpg
Equestrian portrait of Henry IV of France with a view of Paris to the north of the River Seine. To his left, the Bullant Pavilion of the Tuileries Palace, and In the background, Montmartre Abbey. To his right, the Tour du Bois behind the wall of Charles V, and further right, the Louvre Palace, c.1595

A 1661 biography, Histoire du Roy Henry le Grand, [53] was written by Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont for the edification of Henry's grandson Louis XIV.[ citation needed ] [54] A 1663 English translation was published for another grandson, King Charles II of England. [55]

On 14 September 1788, when anti-tax riots broke out during the incipient French Revolution, rioters stopped travellers and demanded they dismount to salute Henry IV's statue. [56]

Henry's minister Sully published his Royal Economies in 1611 after de Sully's fall from power, but subsequent research has shown that it exaggerates the economic accomplishments of Sully's ministry. Many of the official source documents were altered, or even forged to make them more impressive. [57]



Marriages and legitimate children

On 18 August 1572, Henry married his second cousin Margaret of Valois. The marriage was not a happy one, and the couple was childless. Henry and Margaret separated even before Henry acceded to the throne in August 1589; Margaret retired to the Château d'Usson in the Auvergne and lived there for many years. 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 marrying his mistress Gabrielle d'Estrées, who 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 stillborn son. His marriage to Margaret was annulled in 1599. On 17 December 1600, Henry married Marie de' Medici, daughter of Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Archduchess Joanna of Austria. [59]

For the royal entry of Marie into Avignon on 19 November 1600, the citizens bestowed on Henry the title of the Hercule Gaulois ("Gallic Hercules"), concocting a genealogy that traced the House of Navarre back to a nephew of Hercules' son Hispalus. [60]

His marriage to Marie de' Medici produced six children:

Louis XIII, King of France [61] 27 September 160114 May 1643Married Anne of Austria in 1615
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain 22 November 16026 October 1644Married Philip IV, King of Spain, in 1615
Christine Marie, Duchess of Savoy 10 February 160627 December 1663Married Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy, in 1619
Monsieur d'Orléans 16 April 160717 November 1611Never baptised or named; sometimes erroneously called "Nicolas."
Gaston, Duke of Orléans 25 April 16082 February 1660Married (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 160910 September 1669Married Charles I, King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland, in 1625
Henry IV and Marie de' Medici Medaille en argent d'Henri IV et Marie de Medicis.jpg
Henry IV and Marie de' Medici


The arms of Henry IV changed throughout his lifetime:

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The Catholic League of France, sometimes referred to by contemporary Catholics as the Holy League, was a major participant in the French Wars of Religion. The League, founded and led by Henry I, Duke of Guise, intended the eradication of Protestantism from Catholic France, as well as the replacement of the French King Henry III, who had acquiesced to Protestant worship in the Edict of Beaulieu (1576). The League also fought against Henry of Navarre, the Protestant prince who became presumptive heir to the French throne in 1584.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antoine of Navarre</span> King of Navarre from 1555 to 1562

Antoine de Bourbon, roi de Navarre was the King of Navarre through his marriage to Queen Jeanne III, from 1555 until his death. He was the first monarch of the House of Bourbon, of which he was head from 1537. Despite being first prince of the blood, Antoine lacked political influence and was dominated by king Henry II's favourites, the Montmorency and Guise families. When Henri died in 1559, Antoine found himself sidelined in the Guise-dominated government, and then compromised by his brother's treason. When Francis in turn died he returned to the centre of politics, becoming Lieutenant-General of France and leading the army of the crown in the first of the French Wars of Religion. He died of wounds sustained during the Siege of Rouen. He was the father of Henry IV of France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louis I, Prince of Condé</span> 1st Prince of Condé

Louis de Bourbon, 1st Prince of Condé was a prominent Huguenot leader and general, the founder of the Condé branch of the House of Bourbon. Coming from a position of relative political unimportance during the reign of Henri II, Condé's support for the Huguenots, along with his leading role in the conspiracy of Amboise and its aftermath, pushed him to the centre of French politics. Arrested during the reign of Francis II then released upon the latter's premature death, he would lead the Huguenot forces in the first three civil wars of the French Wars of Religion before being executed after his defeat at the Battle of Jarnac in 1569.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henri II, Prince of Condé</span> Prince of Condé

Henri II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé was the head of the senior-most cadet branch of the House of Bourbon for nearly all his life and heir presumptive to the King of France for the first few years of his life. Henri was the father of Louis, le Grand Condé, the celebrated French general.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jacques de Savoie, Duke of Nemours</span> French military commander, governor and Prince Étranger

Jacques de Savoie, duc de Nemours was a French military commander, governor and Prince Étranger. Having inherited his titles at a young age, Nemours fought for king Henri II during the latter Italian Wars, seeing action at the siege of Metz and the stunning victories of Renty and Calais in 1554 and 1558. Already a commander of French infantry, he received promotion to commander of the light cavalry after the capture of Calais in 1558. A year prior he had accompanied François, Duke of Guise on his entry into Italy, as much for the purpose of campaigning as to escape the king's cousin Antoine of Navarre who was threatening to kill him for his extra-marital pursuit of Navarre's cousin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louis I de Lorraine, Cardinal de Guise</span> French cardinal

Louis de Lorraine, cardinal de Guise et prince-évêque de Metz was a French Roman Catholic cardinal and Bishop during the Italian Wars and French Wars of Religion. The third son of Claude, Duke of Guise and Antoinette de Bourbon he was destined from a young age for a church career. At the age of 18 he was appointed Bishop of Troyes, a position he could only serve in an administrative capacity as he would not reach the Canonical Age for another 9 years. Having served in this position for 5 years, he transferred to become Bishop of Albi, staying in this role until 1561, when he was replaced due to his lethargic suppression of 'heresy'. From here he moved to become Archbishop of Sens, a see he would hold from 1561 to 1562, during which time a massacre of Protestants would occur in the city. By 1562 he decided to retire from active episcopal involvement. Nevertheless, he would become Prince-Bishop of Metz in 1568, an office he would hold until his death a decade later. While he lacked much interest in spiritual matters and was renowned for his drinking, he built up a considerable empire of abbeys during his life, which he passed on to his nephew Claude, chevalier d'Aumale.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaret of Valois</span> Queen of France from 1589 to 1599

Margaret of Valois, popularly known as La Reine Margot, was a French princess of the Valois dynasty who became Queen of Navarre by marriage to Henry III of Navarre and then also Queen of France at her husband's 1589 accession to the latter throne as Henry IV.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles I, Cardinal de Bourbon</span> French cardinal

Charles de Bourbon, Cardinal de Bourbon, Archbishop of Rouen was a French noble, prelate and disputed King of France as the Catholic Ligue candidate from 2 August 1589 – 9 May 1590. Born the third son of Charles of Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme and Françoise d'Alençon he was destined for a career in the church. As a member of the House of Bourbon-Vendôme he was one of the premier Prince du sang. Already having secured several sees, he was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III in January 1548. In 1550 he received the office of Archbishop of Rouen making him the Primate of Normandy. The following year the promotion of Bourbon to Patriarch of the French church was threatened by King Henry II to secure concessions from the Pope. During the Italian Wars which resumed that year, Bourbon played a role by supporting Catherine de Medici's regency governments in France and briefly holding a lieutenant-generalship in Picardy. In 1557 the Pope appointed the Cardinals Bourbon, Lorraine and Châtillon as the leaders of an inquisition in France to root out heresy. The effectiveness of their inquisition would be obstructed by both the king and the Parlements and by July 1558 their appointments were voided by the Parlement of Paris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of La Rochelle (1572–1573)</span> 1572-73 military offensive during the French wars of religion

The siege of La Rochelle of 1572–1573 was a massive military assault on the Huguenot city of La Rochelle by Catholic troops during the fourth phase of the French Wars of Religion, following the August 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. The conflict began in November 1572 when inhabitants of the city refused to receive Armand de Gontaut, baron de Biron, as royal governor. Beginning on 11 February 1573, the siege was led by the Duke of Anjou. Political considerations following the duke's election to the throne of Poland in May 1573 resulted in negotiations, culminating on 24 June 1573, that lifted the siege on 6 July 1573. The Edict of Boulogne signed shortly thereafter brought an end to this phase of the civil war.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catherine of Bourbon</span> Regent of Béarn

Catherine of Bourbon was a Navarrese regent princess. She was the daughter of Queen Jeanne d'Albret and King Antoine of Navarre. She ruled the principality of Béarn in the name of her brother, King Henry III of Navarre, from 1576 until 1596.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Montpensier</span> Duke of Montpensier

Louis de Bourbon, Duc de Montpensier was the second Duke of Montpensier, a French Prince of the Blood, military commander and governor. He began his military career during the Italian Wars, and in 1557 was captured after the disastrous battle of Saint-Quentin. His liberty restored he found himself courted by the new regime as it sought to steady itself and isolate its opponents in the wake of the Conspiracy of Amboise. At this time Montpensier supported liberalising religious reform, as typified by the Edict of Amboise he was present for the creation of.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Succession of Henry IV of France</span> Henry III of Navarres accession as King of France

Henry III of Navarre's succession to the throne in 1589 was followed by a war of succession to establish his legitimacy, which was part of the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598). Henry IV inherited the throne after the assassination of Henry III, the last Valois king, who died without children. Henry was already King of Navarre, as the successor of his mother, Jeanne d'Albret, but he owed his succession to the throne of France to the line of his father, Antoine of Bourbon, an agnatic descendant of Louis IX. He was the first French king from the House of Bourbon.

René II, Viscount of Rohan (1550–1586), was Prince of Leon, Count of Porhoët, seigneur of Pontivy and Frontenay, and a Huguenot nobleman. He was head of one of the oldest and most distinguished families in France, which was connected with many of the reigning houses of Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Descendants of Henry IV of France</span>

Henry IV of France was the first Bourbon king of France. Formerly known as Henri of Navarre, he succeeded to the French throne with the extinction of House of Valois, at the death of Henry III of France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jeanne d'Albret</span> Queen of Navarre from 1555 to 1572

Jeanne d'Albret, also known as Jeanne III, was Queen of Navarre from 1555 to 1572.


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Works cited

Further reading


Henry III of Navarre & IV of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 13 December 1553 Died: 14 May 1610
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Navarre
9 June 1572 – 14 May 1610
Succeeded by
Preceded by King of France
2 August 1589 – 14 May 1610
French nobility
Preceded by Duke of Vendôme and Beaumont
Count of Marle, La Fère, and Soissons

17 November 1562 – 2 August 1589
Merged into the crown
Preceded by Duke of Albret
Count of Foix, Armagnac,
Comminges, Bigorre,
Limoges, and Périgord
Viscount of Béarn
Lord of Donezan

9 June 1572 – 2 August 1589