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Henri was born at the Chateau of Pau, in the Kingdom of Navarre on the 14th of December 1553. His father was Antony of Bourbon who was directly descended from Louis IX. His mother was the protestant Jeanne d'Albert, who was Queen of Navarre.

When his mother died on the 9th of June 1572, Henri became King Henri III of Navarre.

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, three of whom also became Kings of France.

Many prominent protestants visited Paris for the wedding celebrations. A large number of them were murdered a few days later on 24th August 1572, which has become infamous in history as the St. Bartholomew's day massacre, in which Marguerite's mother was strongly implicated.

Henri himself only avoided being murdered by agreeing to become a Catholic. Once having escaped the clutches of his wife's family and their cohorts he quickly returned to Navarre and to Protestantism.

A late 19th century print of the Chateau of Pau

Chateau Pau

There then followed the war of the three Henri's. This war involved Henri Duke of Guise leading the Catholic league, Henri III of Navarre leading the Protestants, and Henri III King of France, who although Catholic, did not wish to see the Guises become powerful enough to successfully challenge his authority.

On 23rd December 1588 Henri Duke of Guise was murdered on orders of Henri III of France. However that did not eliminate the strength of the Catholic league and Guise's brother, the Duke of Mayenne assumed his leadership. The league held many towns, including the greatest prize, Paris.

Eventually Henri III of France and Henri III of Navarre formed an alliance to jointly fight the Guise led forces.

On the 1st of August 1589, the last of Marguerite's surviving brothers and last in the Valois line of Kings, Henri III of France was attacked by the fanatical monk Jacques Clement. Shortly before his death on August the 2nd, Henri III of France, named Henri III of Navarre as his successor.

Despite the endorsement of Henri III of France, many people would not accept a Protestant as their King, and Henri of Navarre had to continue to do battle with the Catholic league, who received strong support from Spain.

On the 25th of July 1593, Henri III of Navarre converted back to the Catholic faith, which led to him being officially crowned as Henri IV of France at Chartres, on the 27th of February 1594.

Obviously many Protestants were very disappointed, that the man they had supported, had renounced their faith for a second time. However, he used his new influence to draft the Edict of Nantes, which was signed in 1598, and which gave Protestants freedom to practice their faith.

Henri's marriage to Marguerite of Valois had not been a successful one, and had not produced an heir. Henri had mistresses and Marguerite herself was reputed to have had many lovers. In 1599, the marriage between Henri and the daughter of the scheming Catherine de Medici was annulled.

No doubt, many people were surprised, including at least one of Henri's mistresses, when in the autumn of 1600, Henri then married Marie de Medici from Florence. This marriage was more fruitful and produced several children, the first being born on the 27th of September 1601, the future Louis XIII of France.

A picture of Henri IV - frontispiece in the book 'The Amours of Henri de Navarre' by Leiut. Colonel Andrew C. P. Haggard

Henri now set about rebuilding the finances and infrastructure of the united Kingdoms of France and Navarre, which had been devastated by the lengthy wars of religion.

Because Henri planned to be absent for long periods on state business, Marie of Medici was crowned as Queen on the 13th of May 1610, so that she could act in his place while he was away.

On the 14th of May 1610 in Paris, Francois Ravaillac stepped out the shadows and stabbed Henri IV of France to death. Henri's son Louis XIII was still only eight years old, so Marie was appointed as Regent.

Much like Catherine de Medici had before her, Marie de Medici now became the power behind the throne 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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