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Henri was born at the Chateau of Pau, on the 14th of December 1553. His father was Antoine de Bourbon who was directly descended through male lineage from Louis IX. His mother was the protestant Jeanne d'Albret. Jeanne was the daughter of King Henri II of Navarre and Marguerite of Angouleme, Duchess of Alencon, who was the sister of King Francis I of France. The Kingdom of Navarre allowed for the daughter of a Monarch to inherit the throne, but the Kingdom of France did not.

Navarre was a small Kingdom which straddled the Pyrenees. It had become even smaller by the time of Henri's birth, the southern part having been annexed into Spain (1512). However the family also possessed other territories including Béarn, which adjoined Navarre.   When looking south from the Chateau of Pau or from nearby Coarraze, Henri would have observed the river below the Chateau, then a green landscape edged in the distance with snowcapped mountains. The Peak of Midi D'Ossau would have been one of the most prominent landmarks in the mountain range.

A picture of the Chateau of Pau looking at it from across the river 'Gave de Pau'

Chateau Pau

His grandfather Henri II of Navarre, who is reputed to have fed him wine and anointed his lips with garlic at birth, died before he was two years old, at which point his mother Jeanne became Queen of Navarre.

When young Henri was four years old he and his parent attended the wedding of Francois the eldest son of King Henri II of France, to Mary Stuart Queen of Scots, on the 24th of April, 1558. No doubt at this time he would have met the children of Henri II and Catherine de Medici, including his future wife Marguerite. Some accounts suggest that Marguerite's father Henri II of France, was so taken with young Henri of Navarre, that he informally betrothed them at this time.

A picture of Mary Stuart

Mary Stuart

A picture of King Francois II of France

King Francois II

When Henri II was killed in a jousting accident on 10 July, 1559, Francois became King Francois II of France. Francis' reign was a short one and he died on the 5th of December 1560, to be succeeded by his brother Charles IX of France.

Henri's mother Jeanne was a staunch Protestant and Henri was also brought up as one. In 1562 his father Antoine died from a wound sustained at the siege of Rouen.


A picture of Antoine de Bourbon - Copied from the book Catherine de' Medici and the French Reformation, by Edith Sichel,  published in 1905. The picture is attributed to Francois Clouet. It is mentioned as being at the Chateau de Chantilly and being photographed by A. Giraudon.

Antoine de Bourbon

A picture of Jeanne D'Albret - From an engraving in a book by Vauvilliers published in 1818

Jeanne D'Albret

A senior Protestant, Admiral Coligny won the confidence of King Charles IX, and was instrumental in persuading Jeanne, that Marguerite Valois would be a suitable wife for Henri. It is clear that Jeanne considered the French court to be an abomination and that she was concerned that Henri would be corrupted by it. She completely distrusted Catherine de Medici.

Jeanne died suddenly on the 9th of June 1572, despite suspicions she was poisoned, it was never proven. Henri became King Henri III of Navarre.

A picture of Henri III of Navarre as a young man - from the book 'The Amours of Henri de  Navarre by Lieut. Colonel Andrew C. P. Haggard

Henri of Navarre as a young man

Henri III of Navarre was married to Marguerite Valois, daughter of Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici on 18th August 1572. Marguerite was also sister to four brothers, including three Kings of France.

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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