Henry IV, King of France
HENRY IV, KING OF FRANCE
The French king who ended the religious wars and began the Bourbon dynasty; b. Pau (Basses Pyrénées), Dec. 14, 1553; d. Paris, May 14, 1610. Henry, a direct descendant of St. Louis IX, was born to Antoine de Bourbon, the duke of Vendôme, and Jeanne d'Albret, the queen of Navarre. Although baptized a Roman Catholic, Henry was instructed as a Protestant upon his mother's wishes, and in 1568 he joined the Huguenot forces of Gaspard Coligny at La Rochelle. Upon the death of his mother (1572), he became king of Navarre and married Margaret de Valois, the sister of Charles IX. The marriage celebrations were marred by the st. bartholomew's day massacre (Aug. 24, 1572). Henry abjured Protestantism at this time, but in 1576 he rejoined the Huguenot forces, and by the treaty of Beaulieu he was given the government of Guienne. Although he became heir presumptive to the throne in 1584 following the death of the duke d'Anjou, brother of Henry III, he was declared ineligible by the Treaty of Nemours (1585). His exclusion from the succession was also declared by a bull of Sixtus V on Sept. 9, 1585, but parlement, reacting against papal interference, refused its publication. The assassination of Henry III on Aug. 1, 1589, brought the succession issue to a climax.
Struggle for the Crown. The Holy League, composed of Catholic nobles, lawyers, bourgeois, and townspeople, and supported by the Guise family and encouraged by Spain, made the reluctant Cardinal Charles de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, King Charles X. Meanwhile, Henry tried to take Paris by force of arms, winning victories at Arques (1589) and at Ivry (1590), but failing before reaching Paris. The cardinal's death on May 9, 1590, undermined opposition to Henry's claims. Actually, few bishops had supported the Holy League, and with growing suspicion of Spanish aims, moderate members of the league hoped that the religious obstacle to Henry's recognition could be removed. On Sept. 21, 1591, an assembly of prelates at Chartres rejected the bull of excommunication sent the preceding March by Sixtus V. Since Henry's conversion to Catholicism was indispensable to his acceptance as sovereign, Jacques Davy duperron, soon to be consecrated bishop of Evreux (1595), instructed him for several months. Renaud de Beaune, Archbishop of Bourges, convened a number of prelates in July of 1593 to give the final instructions and to question Henry on the Catholic religion.
Abjuration of Protestantism. On July 25 at Saint-Denis, amidst great pomp, the king abjured the Protestant religion. Negotiations to remove the last obstacle to Henry's reception into the Church were conducted with the papacy by Duperron, Arnaud d' ossat, Cardinal Jean de Gondi, and Alexandre Georges, SJ. On Sept. 17, 1595, Clement VIII gave Henry papal absolution upon the promise that the king's heir would be reared a Catholic, monasteries would be established throughout France in reparation for those destroyed, the Council of Trent would be proclaimed, and Catholic worship would be introduced into Huguenot towns. On April 13, 1598, at Nantes, Henry issued an edict of tolerance designed to resolve the Huguenot question. While not establishing complete equality, the edict granted freedom of conscience, civil liberty, freedom of worship in many areas, and a measure of personal security to Protestants (see nantes, edict of). On Dec. 17, 1599, Henry's marriage to Margaret of Valois was dissolved by papal decree, and on Oct. 5, 1600, he married Marie de Médicis. She gave birth to the future Louis XIII on September 27, 1601. The other royal children were Gaston, the duke of Orléans; Elizabeth, who married Philip IV of Spain; Christine, the duchess of Savoy, and Henrietta, who married Charles I of England.
Policies of State. Henry's greatness rests on his success in restoring order and tranquility to France after years of religious and political strife complicated by foreign interference. Henry's victory over the Spaniards at Fontaine-Française (1595) and his capture of Amiens brought Philip II to sign the peace of Vervins on May 2,1598. This enabled Henry to devote his full energies to domestic affairs. Maximilien de Béthune, the duke of
Sully (1560–1641), a staunch Huguenot and devoted servant of Henry, collaborated on the plan of rebuilding France. Finances were brought into order, taxes collected, a system of careful accounting instituted, and care taken in approving expenditures. Important advances were made in agriculture and industry. Canals and highways were constructed and the overseas explorations into Canada by Samuel de Champlain encouraged.
Henry strengthened royal power through a program that was continued by Cardinal richelieu under Louis XIII and brought to eminence by louis xiv. Determined to concentrate authority in his hands, he cajoled parlement into obedience, strictly supervised local administrations, and brought recalcitrant nobles into line. His son inherited a country ready to follow enlightened leadership. In foreign affairs, Henry aimed to make France a power by counterbalancing the Hapsburgs. To this end, alliances were undertaken with Sweden, many Swiss cantons, the duke of Lorraine, and leaders of Protestant states in Germany. To prevent Emperor Rudolf II from occupying the duchies of Cleves and Juliers, he assembled an army of 35,000 men for the campaign that he intended to start on May 19, 1610. On May 14 the king was assassinated by François Ravaillac.
Bibliography: henry iv, king of france, Receuil des lettres missives de Henry IV, ed. j. berger de xivrey and j. guadet, 9 v. (Paris 1843–76); Oeuvres … lettres et harangues (Paris 1941). leo xi, Lettres du Cardinal de Florence sur Henri IV et sur la France, ed. r. ritter (Paris 1955). p. de l'estoile, Journal pour le règne de Henri IV, ed. l. lefÈvre and a. martin, 2 v. (Paris 1948–58). p. feret, Les Grandes figures de l'histoire: Henri IV et l'Église (Paris 1875). r. ritter, Henri IV lui-même: L'Homme (Paris 1944). c. m. de lacombe, Henri IV et sa politique (Paris 1860). f. t. perrens, L'Église et l'État en France sous le règne de Henri IV …, 2 v. (Paris 1872). a. poirson, Histoire du règne de Henri IV, 4 v. (2d ed. Paris 1862–67). p. de vaissiÈre, Henri IV (Paris 1928). p. f. willert, Henry of Navarre and the Huguenots in France (New York 1893). m. reinhard, Henri IV, ou la France sauvée (Paris 1958). p. erlanger, St. Bartholomew's Night …, tr. p. o'brian (New York 1962). h. pearson, Henry of Navarre… (New York 1963).
[d. r. penn]