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HENRI IV FRANCE - KING OF NAVARRE

 

Attending the wedding of Henri III of Navarre and Marguerite Valois on the 18th of August 1572 at Notre Dame were many prominent protestants, who remained in Paris for several days to take part in the celebrations. 

After an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the leading protestant Admiral Coligny, on the 22nd, a large number of protestants including Coligny, were murdered just two days later on the 24th of August 1572, which has become infamous in history as the St. Bartholomew's day massacre. Marguerite's brother, King Charles IX gave the order for the massacre to take place and similar events occurred in numerous other French cities. Charles' mother Catherine de Medici has been heavily implicated in persuading her son to order the murders.

A picture of King Charles IX of France - from the book 'The Amours of Henri de  Navarre by Lieut. Colonel Andrew C. P. Haggard

Charles IX

Henri and his cousin the Prince of Conde (Son of Louis (1530-1561), who was the brother of Antony of Bourbon, Henri's father) only avoided being murdered by agreeing to become catholic. Despite their conversion they remained imprisoned within the court.

Charles IX died on 30th May 1574 and his brother, Duke of Anjou was crowned Henri III of France. At this time there was another brother, Francois the Duke of Alencon who would have inherited the crown for the Valois, if anything happened to Henri III of France. These two brothers hated each other and Henri III was paranoid that his brother would have him murdered.

King Henri of Navarre did not escape from the court of King Henri of France until 1576. Once having escaped the clutches of his wife's family and their cohorts he quickly returned to Navarre and to Protestantism. In 1578, Catherine de Medici brought his wife, Marguerite to his court at Nerac, hoping to persuade him to return. After a stay of more than two years, Marguerite left Nerac, without Henri.

King Henri III of France was catholic, but Henri of Guise was regarded as head of the catholic league, probably because of the very hard line he took against the protestants. King Henri of Navarre was regarded as leader of the protestants, which left Henri III of France somewhere in the middle. Initially aligned more with the Guise, Henri III found himself fighting the combined forces of Henri of Navarre and those of his own younger brother Francois.

This was the period, which is referred to as the "War of the three Henri's".

The French catholics received support from Philip II of Spain, while the protestants received it from Elizabeth I of England and from the Netherlands.

Francois, Duke of Alencon died of illness in 1584, leaving Henri of Navarre as heir to the throne of France should anything happen to Henri III of France. Fearing that the throne of France might in future pass to the protestants, Pope Sixtus V excommunicated Henri of Navarre in 1585. Henri for his part refused to acknowledge the excommunication by the 'heretic' pope.

On the 20th of October 1587, Henri of Navarre found himself outnumbered, facing a catholic army commanded by the Duke of Joyeuse, a favourite of King Henry of France at Coutras. By the end of the day the Duke of Joyeuse was dead and Henri of Navarre had won a victory, which gave his military reputation a huge boost.

A picture of King Henri III of France  - from the book 'The Amours of Henri de  Navarre by Lieut. Colonel Andrew C. P. Haggard

Henri III - France

Shortly after this Henri III of France found that Henri of Guise was becoming a major threat to his authority. This culminated in Paris on the 12th of May 1588, where citizens of the city erected barricades to prevent troops, under orders of the King, from surrounding those of the Guise, whom the King had ordered, not to enter Paris. On the 23rd of December the same year, Henri, Duke of Guise, was murdered on orders of King Henri III of France at Blois. Coincidentally Catherine de Medici died a few days later on the 5th of January 1589.

The death of Guise did not solve the problem for Henri of France, because apart from making him even more unpopular with hard line Catholics, Henri of Guise's place was quickly taken by his brother the Duke of Mayenne. Further more Henri III of France now found himself also excommunicated by the Pope.

Now the two excommunicated Kings, King Henri III of France and King Henri III of Navarre joined forces against the Catholic league and marched on Paris, which the league occupied.

Before any conclusive result was achieved, on the 1st of August 1589, a monk named Jacques Clement, stuck a knife into Henri III of France. On his death bed, he named Henri of Navarre as his successor, before expiring in the early hours of the 2nd of August.

Henri III of Navarre was now also Henri IV of France, though it would take several more years for him to convince everyone of that.

 

A picture of a red shield with a linked chain motif, representing the kingdom of Navarre

A picture of a red shield with a linked chain motif, representing the kingdom of Navarre

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A picture of a blue shield with 3 yellow Fluer de lis, representing the Kingdom of France