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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

First rebellion and trial by fire

Henri and his mother did not linger in Béarn, as the war had already recommenced, and in 1568 they arrived in La Rochelle, the capital of Protestantism at the time. Henri, in a speech that is perhaps apocryphal, put himself forward to his co-religionists as a leader who preferred action to words: "I have not learned as much to speak as well as you, but I can promise you this: although I cannot speak well, I can do better, because I am much better at doing than saying." It was here, alongside his uncle Louis de Condé and Gaspard de Coligny, that the young Henri de Navarre fought in the third War of Religion and learned the art of soldiering. The situation turned disastrously against the Huguenots – they were defeated at Jarnac and Moncontour, and Louis de Condé was assassinated. At the age of fifteen, Henri de Navarre was named leader of the army by his mother and was acclaimed. To escape royalist forces, he led his troops in a wild evasive manoeuvre between October 1569 and June 1570 through the "Protestant crescent". During this period, Henri shared the hardships and the fear of his men, an experience that would later serve him well. By the spring of 1570, when his troops set up camp a f ew leagues from Paris and peace talks began, Henri was no longer a boy, but an experienced young man of seventeen, well-versed in military affairs.

Related multimedia

Title: Rochella (La Rochelle),

La Rochelle
© BnF
Caption:
Rochella (La Rochelle), by Georg Braun, 16th c.

Title: The organisation of the Battle of Jarnac

Battle of Jarnac, 13 March 1569
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
The organisation of the Battle of Jarnac, 13 March 1569, engraving by Frans Hogenberg after Tortorel and Perrissin, 16th c. Musée national du château de Pau

Title: Speech by Henri IV to Protestants

Speech by Henri IV to Protestants after the Battle of Jarnac
© Musée national du château de Pau / Jean-Yves Chermeux
Caption:
Speech by Henri IV to Protestants after the Battle of Jarnac, 13 March 1569, drawing by Antoine Borel, 1786. Musée national du château de Pau P.2004.2.1.1

Title: The defeat of the Battle of Moncontour

The defeat of Protestants, Battle of Moncontour
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
The defeat of the Battle of Moncontour (3 October 1569), engraving by Frans Hogenberg after Tortorel and Perrissin, 16th c. Musée national du château de Pau

Title: Map of Protestant churches in 1562

Map of Protestant churches in 1562
Comment:
By 1562, France had roughly 1,400 churches modelled on Calvin's concept of church organisation (i.e. with a pastor and a body of elders)
Caption:
Map of Protestant churches in 1562. Based on D. Boisson and H. Daussy, Les protestants dans la France moderne, Belin, 2006. (map: S. Angonnet) The map presents : Protestant Church and the "Protestant crescent"

Title: "L'lsle de France et lieux circonvoysins"

Map of The Ile-de-France
© Archives nationales
Caption:
"L'lsle de France et lieux circonvoysins" (The Ile-de-France and its surroundings
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