Henry IV of France

King of France and Navarre; first French monarch of the House of Bourbon (1553-1610)

Henry IV (13 December 1553 – 14 May 1610), Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was part of the Capetian dynasty and the first king of the Bourbon family in France.

Henry IV of France
A picture of Henry IV of France made by Frans Pourbus the younger.
King of France
Reign2 August 1589 to 14 May 1610 (20 years, 285 days)
Coronation27 February 1594(1594-02-27) (aged 40)
PredecessorHenry III
SuccessorLouis XIII
King of Navarre
Reign9 June 1572 – 14 May 1610
PredecessorJeanne III
SuccessorLouis II
Born(1553-12-13)13 December 1553
Pau, Kingdom of Navarre (Lower Navarre)
Died14 May 1610(1610-05-14) (aged 56)
Paris, France
SpouseMargaret of France
Marie de' Medici
IssueLouis XIII of France
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain
Christine, Duchess of Savoy
Nicholas Henri, Duke of Orléans
Gaston, Duke of Orléans
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England and Scotland
HouseHouse of Bourbon
FatherAntoine of Navarre
MotherJeanne of Navarre

Life change

Henry IV was born in Pau. He was the son of Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne of Navarre. He was baptised in a Catholic ceremony, but as he grew up, his mother led him to become a Protestant. On 18 August 1572, Henry married Margaret of Valois. She was the sister of Charles IX. He became the King of Navarre in the same year.

Since 1562, there had been a a series of wars in France which were mostly fought between Catholics and Protestants, and sometimes with more than one groups of Catholics fighting each other. In 1584, Henry became the heir to the throne of France. Most people in France were Catholics, and many of them did not want a Protestant king. This led to the War of the Three Henrys between Henry of Navarre, the existing Catholic king Henry III and Catholic League leader Henry, Duke of Guise. Although both Henry III and Guise were Catholics, they did not get on with each other. Guise was murdered in 1588 and Henry III was murdered the following year.

Henry of Navarre could now be crowned King of France, but he still faced opposition from the Catholic League. After four years of fighting, he decided to convert to being Catholic. He supposedly said "Paris is well worth a Mass." After this, the opposition to Henry died down. In 1598, Henry made the Edict of Nantes. This law allowed people in France to be Protestant, even though most people were Catholic. In Europe at the time, a policy like this was unusual. Most countries forced people to be either Catholic or Protestant. However, the Edict did not make the Protestants fully equal.

Henry's children were Louis XIII and Henrietta Maria of France, who married Charles I and became the Queen of England. He was a friend of Michel of Montaigne.

During his reign, he built the Grande Galerie onto the Louvre. Two landmarks in Paris were started during his reign: the Pont Neuf and the Place des Vosges.

Henry was murdered by a Catholic fanatic on a street in Paris on 14 May 1610.

Reputation change

At first, many people in France did not want Henry to be king, because he was a Protestant. Although this mostly ended once he joined the Catholic Church, some Catholics called him a liar, while some Protestants called him a traitor. It was only after his death that he became known as Good King Henry (in French, le bon roi Henri) and one of France's most popular kings. During the early years of the French Revolution, Henry IV was celebrated as an example of what a king should be. He was also celebrated during the Bourbon Restoration.

Henry IV is remembered for being the king who ended the French Wars of Religion, and for his policy of allowing more than one church in his country, which was unusual in those days. He was also known for trying to make sure that poor people had enough to eat. He once said he wished that there could be "a chicken in every pot on a Sunday."

In 2010 scientists found part of his embalmed head and used forensic tests to prove that it was his. It had been stolen from the tombs of the French kings and queens in Saint Denis in 1793 at the time of the French Revolution.[1]

Children change

Name Birth Death Notes
Louis XIII, King of France 27 September 1601 14 May 1643 Married Anne of Austria in 1615.
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain 22 November 1602 6 October 1644 Married Philip IV, King of Spain in 1615.
Christine Marie, Duchess of Savoy 12 February 1606 27 December 1663 Married Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy in 1619.
Nicolas Henri, Duke of Orléans 16 April 1607 17 November 1611 .
Gaston, Duke of Orléans 25 April 1608 2 February 1660 Married (1) Marie de Bourbon in 1626.
Married (2) Marguerite of Lorraine in 1632.
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England, Queen of Scots, and Queen of Ireland 25 November 1609 10 September 1669 Married Charles I, King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland in 1625.

References change

  1. "Found at last: 400-year-old head of Henri IV; The Independent 16 December 2010 p.21