Henry IV of France

Henry IV of France

Infobox French Royalty|monarch
name=Henry IV
title=King of France and Navarre

succession=King of France
reign=2 August 1589 – 14 May 1610
coronation=27 February 1594
predecessor=Henry III
successor=Louis XIII
succession1=King of Navarre
reign1=9 June 157214 May 1610
predecessor1=Joan III
successor1=Louis II
spouse=Margaret of France
Marie de' Medici
issue=Louis XIII
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain
Christine, Duchess of Savoy
Nicholas Henri, Duke of Orléans
Gaston, Duke of Orléans
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England and Scotland
royal house=House of Bourbon
royal anthem =
father=Antoine of Navarre
mother=Joan III of Navarre
date of birth=birth date|1553|12|13|df=y
place of birth=Pau, France
date of death=death date and age|1610|5|14|1553|12|13|df=y
place of death=Paris, France
place of burial=Saint Denis Basilica, France|

Henry IV ( _fr. Henri IV) (13 December 1553 – 14 May 1610), ruled as King of France from 1589 to 1610 and, as Henry III, King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France. His parents were Jeanne III of Navarre and her husband, Antoine de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme.

As a Huguenot, Henry was involved in the Wars of Religion before ascending the throne in 1589. Once crowned, he changed his faith from Calvinism to Catholicism to better serve the country, yet in 1598 he enacted the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed religious liberties to the Protestants and thereby effectively ended the civil war. One of the most popular French kings, both during and after his reign, Henry showed great care for the welfare of his subjects and displayed an unusual religious tolerance for the time. He was murdered by a fanatical Catholic, François Ravaillac.

Henry was nicknamed Henry the Great ("Henri le Grand"), and in France is sometimes called "le bon roi Henri" ("good king Henry") or "le Vert galant" ("the green gallant", a reference to his constant womanizing). He also gave his name to the Henry IV style of architecture, which he patronised.


Although baptized as a Roman Catholic, Henry was raised as a Protestant by his mother Jeanne d'Albret; Jeanne 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 Jeanne's death, he became King Henry III of Navarre.

On 18 August 1572, Henry married Marguerite de Valois, sister of King Charles IX. Henry's marriage was believed by most to be an effort to bring religious peace to the kingdom. However, leading Catholics (possibly including Catherine de' Medici, mother of the bride) secretly planned a massacre of Protestants gathered in Paris for the wedding, which served as the lure. In the resulting Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, on 24 August, several thousand Protestants were killed in Paris and thousands more in the countryside. Henry narrowly escaped death by pretending to convert to Roman Catholicism. He was kept in confinement, but escaped in early 1576; on 5 February of that year, he abjured Catholicism at Tours and rejoined the Protestant forces in the military conflict.

Henri of Navarre became the legal heir to the French throne upon the death in 1584 of François, Duke of Alençon, brother and heir to the Catholic King Henri III, who had succeeded Charles IX in 1574. Because Henry of Navarre was a descendant of King Louis IX, King Henry III had no choice but to recognize him as the legitimate successor. Salic law disinherited the king's sisters and all others who could claim descent by the distaff line. However, since Henry of Navarre was a Huguenot, this set off the War of the Three Henries phase of the French Wars of Religion. The third Henri, Duke Henri of Guise, pushed for complete suppression of the Huguenots, and had much support among Catholic loyalists. This set off a series of campaigns and counter-campaigns culminating in the battle of Coutras In December 1588 Henri III had Henry 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.

On the death of Henri III in 1589, Henri of Navarre nominally became the king of France. But the Catholic League, strengthened by support from outside, especially from Spain, was strong enough to force him to the south, and he had to set about winning his kingdom by military conquest, aided by money and troops bestowed by Elizabeth I of England. The League proclaimed Henry's Catholic uncle Charles, the Cardinal de Bourbon, King as Charles X, but the Cardinal himself was Henry's prisoner. Henri was victorious at Ivry and Arques, but failed to take Paris.

After the death of the old Cardinal in 1590, the League could not agree on a new candidate. While some supported various Guise candidates, the strongest candidate was probably Infanta Isabella, the daughter of Philip II of Spain, whose mother Elisabeth had been the eldest daughter of Henri II of France. The prominence of her candidacy hurt the League, which thus became suspect as agents of the foreign Spanish, but nevertheless Henry remained unable to take control of Paris.

With the encouragement of the great love of his life, Gabrielle d'Estrées, on 25 July 1593 Henri declared that "Paris vaut bien une messe" ("Paris is well worth a Mass") and permanently renounced Protestantism, thus earning the resentment of the Huguenots and his former ally, Queen Elizabeth. However, his entrance into the Roman Catholic Church secured for him the allegiance of the vast majority of his subjects, and he was crowned King of France at the Cathedral of Chartres on 27 February, 1594. In 1598, however, he declared the Edict of Nantes, which gave circumscribed toleration to the Huguenots.

Infobox French Monarchical Styles
royal name=King Henry IV
Par la grâce de Dieu, Roi de France et de Navarre
dipstyle=His Most Christian Majesty
offstyle=Your Most Christian Majesty
altstyle=Monsieur Le Roi|

Henry's first marriage was not a happy one, and the couple remained childless. The two had separated, even before Henri had succeeded to the throne, in August, 1589 and Marguerite de Valois lived for many years in the chateau of Usson in Auvergne. After Henry had become king, various advisers impressed upon him the desirability of providing an heir to the French Crown, in order to avoid the problem of a disputed succession. Henri himself favored the idea of obtaining an annulment of his first marriage, and taking Gabrielle d'Estrées as a bride, who had already borne him three children. Henry's councillors strongly opposed this idea, but the matter was resolved unexpectedly by Gabrielle d'Estrées' sudden death in April 1599, after she had given birth prematurely to a stillborn son. His marriage to Marguerite was annulled in 1599, and he then married Marie de Médicis in 1600.

Henri IV proved to be a man of vision and courage. Instead of waging costly wars to suppress opposing nobles, Henri 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.

A declaration often attributed to him 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!"
* "God willing, every working man in my kingdom will have a chicken in the pot every Sunday, at the least!"

This egalitarian statement epitomizes 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 or peasant farmer. Never before had a French ruler even considered the importance of a chicken or the burden of taxation on his subjects, nor would one again until the French Revolution. After generations of domination by the extravagant Valois dynasty, which had caused the French people to pay to the point of starvation for the royal family's luxuries and intrigue, Navarre's charisma won the day.

Henri's forthright manner, physical courage and military success also contrasted dramatically with the sickly, effete languor of the last tubercular 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)".

During his reign, Henri IV worked through his right-hand man, the faithful Maximilien de Bethune, duc de Sully (1560-1641), to regularize state finance, promote agriculture, drain swamps to create productive crop lands, undertake many public works, and encourage education, as with the creation of the College Royal Louis-Le-Grand in La Flèche (today 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 m canal built in the park at the Royal Château at Fontainebleau (which can be fished today), and ordered the planting of pines, elms and fruit trees.

The king renewed 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. Henri IV also had the Place Royale built (since 1800 known as Place des Vosges), and added the Grande Galerie to the Louvre. More than 400 meters long and thirty-five meters 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 Henri IV, a promoter of the arts by all classes of peoples, 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 has since become known as the Henri IV style.

King Henri's vision extended beyond France, and he financed several expeditions of Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain to North America that saw France lay claim to Canada.

Assassination and aftermath

Although he was a man of kindness, compassion, and good humor, and was much loved by his people, he was the subject of many murder attempts (for example by Pierre Barrière and Jean Châtel). On 14 May 1610, King Henry IV was assassinated in Paris by a fanatically passionate Catholic, François Ravaillac, who stabbed the king to death while he rode in his coach. Henry was buried at the Saint Denis Basilica. Henry's widow, Marie de Médicis, served as Regent to their 9-year-old son, Louis XIII, until 1617.

The reign of Henry IV made a lasting impact on the French people living there for generations after. A statue of him was built in his honor 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 destroyed during the French Revolution, it was the first to be rebuilt, in 1818, and it still stands today on the Pont Neuf. A cult surrounding the personality of Henri IV emerged during the Restoration. The restored Bourbons were keen to downplay the contested reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, and instead emphasized the reign of the benevolent Henry IV. The song "Vive Henri IV" ("Long Live Henry IV") was used during the Restoration, as an unofficial anthem of France, played in the absence of the king. In addition, when Princess Maria Carolina of the Two Sicilies gave birth to a male heir to the throne of France, seven months after the assassination of her husband Charles Ferdinand, duc de Berry by a Republican fanatic, the boy was conspicuously called "Henri" in reference to his forefather Henry IV (see Henri, comte de Chambord). The boy was also baptized in the traditional way of Béarn/Navarre, with a spoon of Jurançon wine and some garlic, as had been done when Henry IV had been baptized in Pau, although this custom had not been followed by any Bourbon king after Henry IV.


Henry IV was the son of Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendome and Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre. He was born in the Château de Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the southwest of France (former province of Béarn). Henry's mother Jeanne d'Albret was the daughter of Marguerite d'Angoulême, a sister of King Francis I of France, making him a second cousin of Kings Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III. However, it was to his father, a tenth-generation descendant of King Louis IX, that Henry owed his succession to the French throne: in application of the Salic Law, which disregarded all female lines, Henry was the senior descendant of the senior surviving male line of the Capetian dynasty. At the death of Henry III of France, who had no son, the crown passed to Henry IV. The new king, however, had to fight for some years to be recognized as the legitimate king of France by the Catholics, most of whom were opposed to his Protestant faith.


Marriages and legitimate children

On 18 August 1572, Henry married his second cousin Marguerite de Valois; their childless marriage was annulled in 1599. His subsequent marriage to Marie de' Medici on December 17 1600 produced six children:



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External links

* [http://www.ucm.es/info/museoafc/loscriminales/magnicidios/enrique%204.html Description of Henry IV's assassination] (in Spanish).


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