Henry IV (France) (1553–1610; Ruled 1589–1610)

views updated May 14 2018

HENRY IV (FRANCE) (15531610; ruled 15891610)

HENRY IV (FRANCE) (15531610; ruled 15891610), king of France and Navarre. Henry IV helped to end the Wars of Religion and established the foundation for France's emergence as a major power in early modern Europe. He was the first of the Bourbon kings, and his family ruled until the French Revolution of 1789 and again during the Restoration (18151830). Much admired by contemporaries for his bravery and his gallantry, Henry IV was known as the Gallic Hercules and endures to this day as one of France's most popular rulers.


Henry was born 14 December 1553 at thechâteau of Pau in Béarn. His father, Antoine de Bourbon, the duke of Vendôme (15181562), was a prince of the blood and headed the powerful Bourbon-Vendôme household, whose vast domains stretched from central to southwestern France. The Bourbons' lineage went back to Robert, count of Clermont (12561318), the sixth son of Louis IX (ruled 12261270). This remote royal ancestry assumed huge significance as Henry II's (ruled 15471559) sons each failed to sire an heir to continue the Valois dynasty. Henry IV's mother, Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre (ruled 15551572), ruled a tiny kingdom straddling the Pyrenees. Her public embrace of Calvinism in 1555 soon introduced her young son and her daughter, Catherine, to the faith. Members of the Condé branch of the Bourbon-Vendôme family also converted, most notably Louis, Prince of Condé, who led the Huguenot movement until his violent death in 1569. Henry received his formal education from Pierre Victor Palma-Cayet and François de La Gaucherie, whoreinforced hisCalvinistupbringing in what was otherwise a typicalRenaissance curriculum that combined book learning with training in horsemanship and the handling of arms. He also frequented the royal court, which schooled him in the ways of intrigue and gallantry. Although not intellectually inclined, Henry matured to become a keen judge of character andprone to decisive, frequently impulsive acts of will to overcome the many obstacles that he faced during his eventful life. These qualities served him well as the country slipped into the chaos of the Wars of Religion (15621598).


In a bid to end factional strife, the queen mother, Catherine de Médicis (15101589), arranged a marriage between her daughter, Marguerite of Valois (15531615), and Henry on 17 August 1572. The wedding, which was held in Paris, instead led to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, during which thousands of Huguenots died, including the movement's leader, Gaspard de Coligny (15191572), admiral of France. Henry escaped death by renouncing his Calvinist faith and becoming a prisoner at the Valois court until his escape in February 1576. After recanting his forced conversion, Henry consolidated his leadership of the Huguenots during the course of the three wars that broke out over the next eight years. Henry's status dramatically changed when, according to the Salic law of succession, he became heir presumptive to the French throne as a result of the death on 10 June 1584 of Francis, Duke of Alençon (15551584). The specter of a Huguenot succession caused a clash between the rules governing a hereditary succession and the monarchy's long and close affiliation with Catholicism. As a result, the question of Henry of Navarre's confessional allegiances became the central issue of the day. Militant Catholics rallied to the Holy League revived in 1584 by Henry of Lorraine, duke of Guise (15501589), especially after Pope Sixtus V (ruled 15851590) excommunicated Navarre the next year. The inability of Henry III (ruled 15741589) to maintain order following his humiliating expulsion from Paris on the Day of the Barricades (12 May 1588) culminated in his calamitous decision on 24 December 1588 to order the murders of Henry, duke of Guise, and his brother, Louis, the cardinal of Guise. Rather than restore royal authority, the move sparked a general insurrection across the kingdom that eventually resulted in the king's own assassination at the hands of a fanatical monk on 1 August 1589. The regicide brought Henry of Navarre to the throne as Henry IV, though it was five years before he was able to command the obedience of his rebellious Catholic subjects.


Henry IV's promise in the Declaration of St. Cloud (4 August 1589) to consider in the near future a possible Catholic conversion, coupled with decisive military victories at Arques (21 September 1589) and Ivry (14 March 1590), shored up public support for him. The grueling siege of Paris (summer 1590) demonstrated that Catholic League resistance could not be overcome by sheer force, however. Three years later, while an Estates-General met in Leaguer Paris to contemplate the election of a new French ruler, Henry IV finally decided to convert to Catholicism amidst much fanfare on 25 July 1593 at St. Denis. The advice of Maximilien de Béthune, baron of Rosny and duke of Sully (15591641), himself a Protestant, and of Henry IV's Catholic mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées (1573?1599), are thought to have heavily influenced the king's decision to make this "perilous leap." The famous phrase "Paris is worth a Mass" actually came from Catholics who wanted to impugn the sincerity of Henry IV's conversion. Crowned in accordance with Catholic ceremony on 27 February 1594 at Chartres, Henry IV triumphantly entered Paris on 24 March 1594. In 1595, Pope Clement VIII affirmed the converted king's standing as a Catholic by bestowing a papal absolution upon him. Assassination attempts came close to ending Henry IV's life on several occasions and eventually resulted in the expulsion of the Jesuits from the kingdom in 1595. Over the next three years, Henry IV gradually pacified the kingdom more by kindness than by force, winning the allegiance of former Catholic Leaguers through generous peace accords and allaying Huguenot fears in 1598 with the royal guarantees enshrined in the celebrated Edict of Nantes. The year 1598 also saw the signing of the Treaty of Vervins, which brought to a favorable conclusion France's long war with Spain.


With peace finally at hand, Henry IV initiated a program to restore the kingdom's well-being and the monarchy's authority. First he had to secure his dynasty's future. Against the better judgment of his advisors, Henry IV actively pursued the possibility of making Gabrielle his queen after the pope annulled his marriage to Marguerite of Valois in February 1599. Gabrielle had borne the king three children, all of whom he had legitimized by acts of the parliament. They were César, duke of Vendôme (15941665), Catherine-Henriette (15961663), and Alexandre, later grand prior of France (15981629). Gabrielle's death in childbirth on 10 April 1599, however, dashed Henry's hopes of marrying the woman he most adored and had come to rely upon during the early years of his reign. The king instead married Marie de Médicis (15731642), daughter of the Duke of Tuscany, in October 1600. On 27 September 1601, she bore him the future Louis XIII (d. 1643), who continued the Bourbon line.

Henry IV's military successes and dashing manner won him strong admiration from the nobility, whose support was crucial in pacifying the country. With the aid of Sully, who served as surintendant of finances, the king put the crown's fiscal house back in order through prudent expenditures, an overhaul of municipal finance, and the consolidation of the state's debt. By 1608, Sully estimated that the royal treasury had accumulated reserves totaling 32.5 million livres. Henry IV also introduced a ministerial style of government that restricted the judicial prerogatives claimed by the parlements and provincial privileges claimed by local representative assemblies. In 1604, Henry IV regularized the heritable nature of venal offices by the payment of a special fee known as the Paulette. He also cultivated close relations with the old nobility by showering them with pensions and titles; those aristocrats who conspired against him felt his full wrath, however, as demonstrated by the execution of Charles, duke of Biron (15621602). Henry IV also encouraged the beginnings of Catholic reform among both churchmen and the lay public, working hard at the same time to uphold the protections recently granted to the Huguenots. On the economic front, the king entrusted to Barthélemy de Laffemas (c. 15451611) the execution of innovative measures to restore commerce and living standardsa campaign reflected in the contemporary slogan of a "chicken in every pot" (la poule au pot).

Henry also initiated a major urban renewal project in Paris with the building of the Pont-Neuf, the Place Royale (now Place des Vosges), the Place Dauphine, a new Hôtel de Ville, the great gallery of the Louvre, and the completion of the Tuileries garden. During his reign, the eclecticism of the late French Renaissance gradually gave way to the more grandiose, royally inspired movement known as Classicism. Militarily, the king secured territorial gains for France in the southeast at the expense of the Duchy of Savoy; with Sully's help, he also substantially upgraded the country's armaments industry and invested heavily in fortification construction along the frontiers in the north and east.

As France became more unified and strengthened under his leadership, Henry thought it increasingly necessary to challenge Habsburg hegemony in Europe. An occasion to do so arose in 1609 in the lower Rhineland over the disputed succession to Jülich-Clèves. On the eve of his planned invasion, 14 May 1610, however, the king was struck down in the streets of Paris by the blade of a fanatical Roman Catholic assassin. He died a martyr in the eyes of his subjects and of later writers, such as Voltaire and Jules Michelet, who came to identify Henry IV as the very embodiment of what was best about the French. The style of rule and policy directions introduced by Henry IV led to France's rise under his successors as Europe's preeminent power during the next century.

See also Absolutism ; Bourbon Dynasty (France) ; Catherine de Médicis ; France ; Huguenots ; Marie de Médicis ; Nantes, Edict of ; St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre ; Wars of Religion (France).


Buisseret, David. Henry IV. London and Boston, 1984. An excellent biography that traces the course of Henry IV's life and contributions.

Finley-Croswhite, S. Annette. Henry IV and the Towns: The Pursuit of Legitimacy in French Urban Society, 15891610. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1999. Studies the problems and eventual solutions shaping Henry IV's relations with urban elites during times of war and peace.

Greengrass, Mark. France in the Age of Henri IV: The Struggle for Stability. 2nd ed. London and New York, 1995. A brilliant analysis of France's evolution under the first Bourbon king.

Love, Ronald. Blood and Religion: The Conscience of Henry IV, 15531593. Montreal and Ithaca, N.Y., 2001. A sensitive study that argues Henry IV remained a lifelong Calvinist even after 1593.

Wolfe, Michael. The Conversion of Henri IV: Politics, Power, and Religious Belief in Early Modern France. Cambridge, Mass., 1993. Examines the struggles sparked by the issue of Henry IV's religion during the 1580s and 1590s.

Michael Wolfe

Henry IV

views updated Jun 08 2018

Henry IV

Henry IV (1553-1610) was king of France from 1589 to 1610. The first Bourbon monarch, he faced internal discord caused by the Wars of Religion and the economic disasters of the late 16th century and external danger posed by the powerful Hapsburg monarchy of Spain.

Born at Pau in Béarn on Dec. 14, 1553, Henry IV was the son of Antoine, Duc de Bourbon, and Jeanne d'Albret, daughter of the king of Navarre. Henry's parents were sympathetic to the Huguenot (Calvinist) faith, and Henry was raised a Huguenot. Through his father, Henry was a descendant of King Louis IX of France and hence a prince of the blood royal, next in succession to the French throne should the children of Henry II and Catherine de Médicis have no issue.

Henry's early childhood was supervised by his grandfather, Henri d'Albret, the king of Navarre, and, after his grandfather's death in 1555, by his mother, now queen of Navarre. He was trained in physical as well as intellectual disciplines, and his later career showed the results of both aspects of his early life. His physical endurance and vigor were matched by a quick and tolerant mind, his skill as a soldier matched by his diplomatic and political astuteness in the course of his reign.

Historical Background

From 1559 to 1590 France was the scene of internal political and religious conflicts exacerbated by the constant threat of military intervention by Spain, the greatest military power in Europe. During this period France was ruled by the three children of Henry II and Catherine de Médicis in succession: Francis II (1559-1560), Charles IX (1560-1574), and Henry III (1574-1589). All three were weak-willed, and the first two had political minorities, thus making political power a prize to be controlled either by the queen mother, Catherine, or by one of the rival aristocratic factions, whose dynastic rivalry was further embittered by their religious differences.

The greatest of these rival clans were the ducal house of Lorraine, the family of Guise, and the house of Bourbon, led by Antoine of Navarre, Henry's father, and Antoine's brother, Louis, Prince of Condé. The Guise faction was the champion of orthodox Roman Catholicism, while the Bourbon faction spoke for French Protestantism. During the reign of Francis II the Guise faction acquired greater influence. Catherine's regency during the minority of Charles IX, however, favored playing off one faction against the other, and the French Wars of Religion began in 1562 and continued until 1598. The rival aristocratic houses used warfare or the threat of warfare to increase their own political power, calling for aid from their coreligionists outside France— Spain, the papacy, England, or the Protestant princes of Germany. Warfare, religious hatred, economic disorder, and the continual threat of outside intervention dominated the late 16th century in France.

The Reformation and its ensuing political complications thus struck France in a different way from that in which it had affected Germany and England. Exacerbating political rivalries, playing upon the instability and minority of French kings, and affording all dissident social elements the opportunity of evening old scores, the Reformation in France was not so much the arguing of theological points (as in Germany) or the vehicle of increasing royal authority (as in England), but the unleashing of political forces which the French monarchy was unable to contain. It was to be the task of Henry IV to create a monarchical state out of political and religious anarchy.

King of Navarre

Henry was brought into the center of political infighting before he was 20. Catherine de Médicis arranged for a marriage between Henry and her daughter, Margaret of France. Henry's mother, Jeanne, was in Paris to be persuaded that her son should marry the Catholic princess but died in 1572. Henry then became King Henry III of Navarre. He and Margaret were married in August 1572, a week before Catherine, fearful of Huguenot influence over Charles IX, ordered the execution of Huguenots in Paris and other French cities. Henry himself was spared, but he was kept a prisoner in various degrees of security from 1572 to 1576, when he escaped to his own kingdom.

Henry's appearance and personality in these years made him a favorite not only of his own subjects but even of many people at court who had every reason to wish him dead. A description of him in 1567 reads: "He demeans himself towards all the world with so easy a carriage that people crowd around wherever he is. He enters into conversation as a highly polished man. He is well informed and never says anything which ought not to be said. … He loves play and good living." Henry's physical skill and military prowess brought him the friendship of many men, and his passionate nature brought him the love of many women (too many, his wife and subjects often thought).

Between his amorous adventures (which continued all his life) and his new role as king of Navarre and leader of French Huguenots, Henry's life moved out of Navarre exclusively and out of the choking world of the court into France itself. From 1576 to his conversion to Catholicism in 1594, Henry was the center of opposition both to Catholic persecution of Huguenots and to the powerful political League, which the Duke of Guise had created to control the crown of France under the semblance of defending it from Protestants.

King of France

In 1584 the Duke of Anjou, the youngest son of Catherine de Médicis, died, thus making Henry of Navarre the heir apparent to the reigning king, Henry III. The League immediately became more powerful, fearing a Protestant king. The League, allied with Philip II of Spain, exceeded in power even Henry III, who in despair arranged the assassination of the Duke of Guise and allied himself with Henry of Navarre.

When Henry III was assassinated in 1589, France faced the prospect of a Protestant king, kept from most of his kingdoms by a League of Catholics backed by the power of Spain. Henry had to fight his way to his own throne. But Henry IV refused to fight in the way his predecessors had done. Although he agreed to be instructed in the Catholic faith, he promised his coreligionists that he would end persecution on both sides, and from the death of Henry III to his own death, Henry IV had to create a political state over the skepticism of both Catholics and Protestants and in the presence of bitter memories of a kind that few states have been able to survive.

Between 1589 and 1594 Henry fought his way to the throne. He slowly wore down the Catholic front, declared war on Philip II of Spain in 1595, and guaranteed his earlier promises of religious toleration with the Edict of Nantes in 1598, the first successful attempt in modern European history to reconcile the presence of two religions within a single kingdom. Henry's actions were dictated by political necessity as well as personal conviction. France was in dire economic straits and in the midst of a social crisis. He was aided by a strong civil service and by a minister of exceptional talents, Maximilien de Bethune, Duc de Sully, his director of finance. In 1599 Henry IV divorced his wife and in 1600 married Marie de Médicis, who in 1601 bore him a son, his successor Louis XIII.

In the course of his reign Henry turned his attention vigorously to those aspects of the kingdom which had virtually been ignored during the period of the civil wars: justice, finance, agriculture, the exploitation of foreign acquisitions in Canada, the calming of old religious and social hatreds, and the perennial task of the 16th-century French monarchy, the control of Spain and Hapsburg Austria through alliances with England and the United Provinces. In the case of Hapsburg power, Henry devised a general program for checking the ambitions of this great imperial house. Whether or not Henry was responsible for the famous "Grand Design" which Sully later attributed to him is doubtful, but his last act in the area of foreign affairs was to launch an invasion of the Spanish Netherlands.

As he left Paris for the new war, Henry IV was stabbed by the assassin Ravaillac on May 14, 1610. He died before he could be brought back to the Louvre. Henry's reign had witnessed the worst of the civil wars which had been fought in many parts of Europe in the name of religion. It had witnessed the immense threat of Spanish power as well as the fire of internal rebellion. It had begun the slow political, social, and economic reconstruction of France. Much of the success of the reign was directly the result of Henry's personality and political and military ability. In an age when monarchy is no longer considered a viable form of government, it is well to be aware of a point in European history when a victory for absolute monarchy meant social and political reform on a scale that no other form of government could provide—and meant, too, a victory for a monarch who was as personally appealing as any other figure in those 2 centuries his life touched.

Further Reading

The most recent, and the best, biography in English of Henry IV is Desmond Seward, The First Bourbon (1971). A well-balanced study is Henry D. Sedgwick, Henry of Navarre (1930). Other biographies are Paul F. Willert, Henry of Navarre and the Huguenots in France (1893), and Quentin Hurst, Henry of Navarre (1938). The best account of the period in recent literature is The New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 4: R.B. Wernham, ed., The Counter-Reformation and Price Revolution, 1559-1610 (1968). The complex political and diplomatic affairs of the period are brilliantly described in Garrett Mattingly, The Armada (1959).

Additional Sources

Provinces et pays du Midi au temps d'Henri de Navarre, 1555-1589: colloque de Bayonne, Pau: Henri IV 1989, 1989. □

Henry IV

views updated May 17 2018

Henry IV (1366–1413), king of England (1399–1413). The eldest son and heir of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, he was born at Bolingbroke (Lincs.) in the same year as his cousin Richard II, whom he deposed in 1399. Returning from exile with the declared intent only to recover his inheritance seized by Richard, within three months he usurped the throne. It is not certain that he intended to do so when he landed; it is likely that he made the decision only after he had secured control of the person of the king. Although descended from Edward III, his claim to the throne was weak. He might have judged that only by taking the crown did he have a chance of securing his long-term future; if so, he was successful.

The first seven years of Henry's reign were years of continuous crisis. He faced his first rebellion in January 1400 from a group of Richard II's excluded courtiers. Its principal victim was Richard himself, who died in custody at Pontefract shortly afterwards. Other baronial rebellions followed, especially those of the Percys who had been his principal supporters in 1399. In 1403 Hotspur, heir to the earl of Northumberland, was defeated and killed at Shrewsbury. In 1405 the earl himself fled to Scotland after a failed rising; he was finally killed in an abortive invasion in 1408. More serious to king and kingdom was the rebellion of the Welsh under Owain Glyndŵr in 1400, which, despite annual English campaigns, led to the complete liberation of Wales by 1405. In addition war with Scotland, a running war at sea, and constant threats to the remaining English possessions in France left Henry beleaguered. The cost of defending the throne and the realm (exacerbated by his own profligacy and indifference to financial management) led to frequent parliaments, frequent requests for taxation, and a hostile reaction from the Commons, especially in 1401, 1404, and 1406.

That Henry survived these torrid years was due to several factors; his own determination, decisiveness, and energy; the strength, commitment, and ability of his own supporters (whose loyalty he wisely sustained by lavish rewards); and his own pragmatism (he would have agreed with Harold Wilson that a week was a long time in politics). But he was also helped by the divisions in the ranks of his enemies, especially the development of civil war in France. As a result, by the end of 1406 the worst of his difficulties were over: the French were no longer a threat, the reconquest of Wales was under way (completed in 1409), and a reformed government began to bring order to royal finances.

But the strain ruined his health. In the spring of 1406 Henry had what was probably the first of a series of strokes, which by 1410 left him incapacitated and unable to play much more than a token part in public affairs. While the later years of the reign saw the return of domestic peace and greater security, they also saw the emergence of factions at court, one led by the prince of Wales, the future Henry V, the other led by the prince's younger brother (and father's favourite) Thomas of Lancaster (Clarence). Yet at no time was Henry's throne threatened, and when he died in 1413 there was no challenge to the succession of his charismatic son.

In the 19th cent. Henry was credited with an experiment in government by limited monarchy. His usurpation was justified on the grounds of Richard II's tyranny; he had been one of the appellants who had sought to impose conciliar government on Richard; and after 1399 he had himself willingly accepted rule through a council answerable to Parliament. In reality he sought to maintain the prerogatives of the crown, but was vulnerable and accepted the need to make concessions to a political nation unwilling to bear the open-ended cost of his usurpation. Moreover he was conciliatory by nature, a man who had been the head of a baronial council and knew the value of working with rather than against his leading subjects. To this extent he represented a different type of kingship from the ‘absolutism’ of Richard II, something akin to the participatory style of Edward III. It is indeed arguable that he had opposed Richard II out of principle as well as self-interest.

Henry was an able, accomplished, and much-admired man. As a youth he was renowned for his chivalry, the leading jouster of his generation, and a crusader. His piety was deep and sincere; he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1393. He was well fitted for kingship. But he was a usurper. A tradition grew up that he was later racked by guilt, for the execution of Archbishop Scrope of York in 1405 as well as his usurpation. It was early speculated that this guilt hastened the collapse of his health. Moreover, although he established his dynasty on the throne, he created a precedent which was subsequently used against his grandson Henry VI. No longer after 1399 was the crown of England sacrosanct.

Anthony James Pollard


Kirby, J. L. , Henry IV of England (1970);
McFarlane, K. B. , Lancastrian Kings and Lollard Knights (Oxford, 1972);
Wylie, J. H. , History of England under Henry the Fourth (4 vols., 1884–98).

Henry IV

views updated Jun 11 2018

Henry IV

Henry IV (1367-1413), the king of England from 1399 to 1413, was the first monarch of the Lancastrian dynasty. His reign was marked by the development of parliamentary government in England.

Henry IV was the only son of John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III, and Blanche, the daughter of Henry Grismond, Duke of Lancaster. Known as Henry Bolingbroke after his birthplace in Lincolnshire, he was made a knight of the Garter in 1377. In 1380, at the age of 13, he married Mary de Bohun, the youngest daughter and coheiress of Humphrey, the last Earl of Hereford. They had four sons and two daughters before her death at the age of 24, in 1394. As the Earl of Darby, Henry entered the House of Lords in 1385. In 1387 he supported his uncle Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, in his opposition to Richard II. (Gloucester was also Richard's uncle, and Henry was the King's first cousin.)

While taking part in the "Merciless" Parliament of 1388, Henry regained the favor of the King and in 1390 departed on the Crusade to Lithuania and then to Jerusalem. Visiting the kings of Bohemia and Hungary and the Archduke of Austria and then Venice in 1392-1393, he went only as far as Rhodes and then returned to England as a popular hero. He soon entered the government; he served on the Council while Richard was absent in Ireland in 1395 and for his efforts was made Duke of Hereford in 1397.

Henry soon quarreled with the Duke of Norfolk, each accusing the other of arranging the murder of the Duke of Gloucester and calling for a trial by battle. Both men were banished from the realm, Norfolk for life and Henry for 10 years with a proviso that he would be allowed to inherit from his father. But on the death of John of Gaunt in 1399, the Lancastrian estates were confiscated by the King, and Henry decided to return, ostensibly to claim his promised inheritance.

Taking advantage of the King's absence in Ireland, Henry landed on July 4, 1399, at Ravenspur, near Bridlington, where he was soon joined by the northern nobles who were unhappy with the policies of the monarchy. By the end of the month Henry and his followers had raised an army and marched to Bristol. When Richard returned in August, the royal army started to desert; Henry claimed the throne for himself, and on August 19 he captured Richard near Conway. He then went with his prisoner to London and there, on September 29, Richard abdicated. On October 13 Parliament formally deposed Richard and transferred the crown to Henry. This parliamentary action had constitutional importance, since it revived the claim that Parliament had the power to create monarchs. Prior to his coronation, Henry condemned Richard to imprisonment, where the deposed monarch soon died, possibly due to starvation.

Once on the throne, Henry spent his reign solidifying his position and removing the threat posed by the nobles who supported Richard. Starting in 1400, Henry made expeditions in Scotland against the Duke of Albany and the 4th Earl of Douglas and in Wales against Owen Glendower. He was an active supporter of the Orthodox Church against the Lollards, and in 1401 De heretico comburendo, one of the most important medieval statutes, was passed. In 1402 he married Joan of Navarre, the widow of John V, Duke of Brittany, who survived him without issue. In the north the Percy family rose against the King, but Henry checked them in July 1403 at Shrewsbury and the following year at Dartmouth. A revolt by the 1st Earl of Northumberland, Archbishop Scrope, and the Earl Marshal was checked in 1405, and 2 years later the Beauforts' claims to the throne were ended.

By the Battle of Brabham Moor in 1408, the domestic threats to the throne were ended, and Henry could turn his attention to the civil wars in France as well as reforming his household administration. He was able to check an attempt to force him to resign in favor of his more popular son (later Henry V), but his health declined, perhaps because of epilepsy. On March 20, 1413, he was seized with a fatal attack while praying at Westminster Abbey and died in the Jerusalem Chamber. He was buried at Canterbury.

Further Reading

An excellent modern biography of Henry IV is J. L. Kirby, Henry IV of England (1971). The standard biography remains James Hamilton Wylie, History of England under Henry the Fourth (4 vols., 1884-1898). For the background of the period see May McKisack, The Fourteenth Century, 1307-1399 (1959), and Ernest Fraser Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485 (1961). See also V. H. H. Green, The Later Plantagenets: A Survey of English History between 1307 and 1485 (1955; rev. ed. 1966). □

Henry IV

views updated May 17 2018

Henry IV

Henry IV (1050-1106) was Holy Roman emperor and king of Germany from 1056 to 1106. An able, ruthless, and secretive monarch, he led the empire into a disastrous confrontation with Pope Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy.

Born in Goslar, Saxony, Henry IV was the only son of Emperor Henry III and Agnes of Poitou. His father died when he was only 6, and he had a long and difficult minority as king, since early in 1062 he was taken from his mother and raised by a bevy of quarreling, scheming bishops. In 1066 he came of age and began governing on his own. He was married twice, first to Bertha of Savoy and late in his reign, after her death, to Praxedis of Russia.

Henry attempted, initially, to reassert his father's old imperial rights throughout the empire and also to build up a new, strong imperial domain in Saxony. This led to serious uprisings in 1073 in which Saxons and southern German nobles combined against him. By 1075 he had suppressed these revolts, only to begin a quarrel with Pope Gregory VII over the imperial right to appoint or invest churchmen with their offices. Gregory and Church reformers claimed that neither rulers nor any other laymen could exercise this right—despite long precedent. Angry at Gregory's opposition to his appointing an archbishop of Milan, in 1076 Henry hastily summoned a council of German bishops who declared Pope Gregory deposed. Gregory answered by declaring Emperor Henry excommunicated and suspended from office.

This encouraged German nobles again to rebel and to summon the Pope to come to Augsburg and sit in judgment on their ruler. Fearing the results of such collaboration between the Pope and German magnates, Henry slipped through the Alpine passes and met Pope Gregory at Canossa in northern Italy in 1077, where, as a penitent, he prevailed upon the Pope to forgive him. This prevented Gregory, much against his will, from continuing to work with the German nobles against Henry, which, of course, was Henry's objective.

Despite lack of papal support, Henry's German opponents chose an antiking, Rudolf of Swabia. But Henry returned across the Alps and defeated him. Rudolf died soon thereafter, in 1080, and Henry reopened hostilities with Pope Gregory. Despite a renewal of his excommunication, he led another army into Italy and by 1084 had marched on Rome and set up an antipope there who crowned him emperor. Gregory was saved from capture only by a large Norman force, which rescued him at the cost of a severe plundering of the city of Rome itself. The Pope had to retire with the Normans south toward Naples and died in exile the following year.

After Gregory's death, Henry IV continued to resist the popes who were chosen as his successors and to set up antipopes of his own against them. In this he was relatively unsuccessful, since his papal opponents were men like Urban II, capable of rallying all Europe behind them in the First Crusade and similar enterprises. Henry also had much trouble due to opposition to his rule in both Germany and Italy, especially from his eldest son, Conrad, and from Duke Welf of Bavaria and Countess Matilda of Tuscany. Not until 1098 did the revolts they encouraged collapse, and soon afterward Conrad died. But Emperor Henry had to pay a heavy price to Saxon rebels and others to secure peace. Finally, in 1105, his second son and heir, later Henry V, joined his father's enemies, imprisoned him, and forced him to abdicate. Escaping in 1106, he had just defeated this ungrateful son when he died, leaving a weakened imperial power in Germany and the struggle with the papacy over investitures still unresolved.

Further Reading

There is an immense literature dealing with Henry IV. Among the more important accounts are those found in Gerd Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Contest (trans. 1940); Geoffrey Barraclough, Origins of Modern Germany (1946; 2d rev. ed. 1966); and Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (1955; 2d ed. 1962). See also shorter accounts in Ralph H. C. Davis, A History of Medieval Europe (1957), and Christopher Brooke, Europe in the Central Middle Ages, 962-1154 (1964). □

Henry IV

views updated Jun 27 2018

Henry IV (1553–1610) King of France (1589–1610), first of the Bourbon dynasty. From a Protestant upbringing, Henry was recognized as leader of the Huguenots. The Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre (1572) marred Henry's marriage to Margaret of Valois. Henry survived, but was forced to convert to Catholicism. In 1584 he became legal heir to Henry III. On Henry's death, the Guise family refused to recognize his claim, but were subdued. In 1593, Henry willingly converted to Roman Catholicism – allegedly remarking that “Paris is well worth a Mass”. He ended the Wars of Religion by the Edict of Nantes (1598), but remained sympathetic to Protestantism, secretly supporting the revolt of the Protestant Netherlands against Spain. A popular king, with a keen sense of social justice, he was assassinated by François Ravaillac.

Henry IV

views updated May 17 2018

Henry IV (1367–1413) King of England (1399–1413). Son of John of Gaunt, Henry was one of the five ‘lords apellant’ who ruled England in 1388–89. He betrayed his fellow lords, but was exiled by Richard II in 1398. Henry mounted a successful invasion and usurped the throne. He faced revolts, notably by Owain Glyn Dw̧r and the Percy of Northumberland. His son succeeded him as Henry V.

Henry IV

views updated May 23 2018

Henry IV (1050–1106) German King (1056–1106) and Holy Roman Emperor (1084–1106). Embroiled in the dispute with the papacy over the lay investiture of clerics, he deposed Pope Gregory VII and was in turn excommunicated by the Pope (1076). Rebellion in Germany weakened Henry's position. In 1077, he was forced to do penance at Canossa. In 1084, Henry captured Rome, deposed Gregory and set up an antipope, Clement III. In 1105 Henry's son, Henry V, deposed him.

Henry IV

views updated Jun 11 2018

Henry IV ★★½ 1985

The adaptation of the Luigi Pirandello farce about a modern-day recluse who shields himself from the horrors of the real world by pretending to be mad and acting out the fantasy of being the medieval German emperor Henry IV. In Italian with English subtitles. 94m/C VHS, DVD . IT Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Leopoldo Trieste, Paolo Bonacelli, Luciano Bartoli, Latou Chardons; D: Marco Bellocchio; W: Marco Bellocchio, Tonino Guerra, Astor Piazzolla.

Henry IV

views updated Jun 08 2018

Henry IV


English king who, like his contemporary Charles V, outlawed the practice of alchemy in his realms. Henry, who spent much of his reign (1399-1413) in battles to consolidate his power, issued the edict in 1404. By that time several states in western Europe had prohibited alchemical practice. Rulers such as Henry and Charles apparently feared it as a challenge to their authority because, if alchemy really did work, the production of gold by a private individual would play havoc with state finances, much as counterfeiting would in a modern economy. Despite its modern status as a pseudo-science, alchemy was an important precursor of modern chemistry, perhaps to an even greater extent than astrology was to astronomy.

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Henry IV (France)

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