Go to content

Henri IV - An unfinished reign

The two Henris

After the Battle of Coutras, Henri III's position was weakened, and the League became even more radical, particularly in Paris. Taking to heart certain criticisms made by Protestants after the St Bartholomew's Day massacre, the Leaguers displayed a vicious anti-monarchism and were whipped into a hysterical frenzy by certain fanatical clerics. Attempting to reassert his authority, the king provoked a violent reaction by the Parisians. For the first time, but definitely not the last, Paris erected barricades and the king and his retinue were forced to flee.

Now isolated, Henri III attempted to restore his authority on three fronts. In order to settle questions of sovereignty, he called for a States-General to be held at Blois . Aware of the unhealthy influence of the duc de Guise and his brother the cardinal, Henri arranged to have them killed (in Blois, on 23 and 24 December 1588, respectively). Finally, he decided to get out of the stranglehold he was in by summoning Henri de Navarre, who was waiting for just such an event.

Having published a Manifesto to the Three States of the Kingdom (4 March 1589) – in which he confirmed his intention to induce the French to live united and in peace – Henri de Navarre crossed the Loire to meet Henri III at Plessis-Lès-Tours on 30 April 1589. It was a happy reunion between the two cousins who, although they had always kept in contact, had not met in person in thirteen years. Henri de Navarre, it is said, wept abundantly. Both agreed to join forces to destroy the League, whose grip on Paris, under the revolutionary government of The Sixteen, was tighter than ever since the assassination of the Guise brothers.

As the two Henris laid siege to Paris, on 1 August 1589, Henri III was fatally stabbed by a Jacobin monk, Jacques Clément . On his deathbed, he recognised Henri de Bourbon as his legitimate heir, and had the gentlemen present swear obedience to him.

Related multimedia

Title: Henri III prior to his accession

Henri III prior to his accession
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
Henri III prior to his accession, oil on wood after François Clouet, 16th c. Musée Condé de Chantilly, PE256

Title: Henri III, king of France

Portrait of Henri III, king of France
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
Henri III, king of France, painting on wood after François Clouet, circa 1581. Musée Condé de Chantilly, PE271

Title: Portraits of Henri III and Henri IV

Portraits of Henri III and Henri IV
© BnF
Caption:
Portraits of Henri III and Henri IV, 1593 (Hennin n° 912). Département des estampes et de la photographie

Title: Assassination of Henri III by Jacques Clément

Assassination of Henri III by Jacques Clément
© Musée national du château de Pau / Jean-Yves Chermeux
Caption:
Assassination of Henri III by Jacques Clément, 2 August 1589. Henri III confirms Henri de Navarre as his successor. Execution of Jacques Clément, engraving by Frans Hogenberg, late 16th c. Musée national du château de Pau, P 67.44.2
Welcome to our web site devoted to Henri IV
/1/ If you would like to see the Flash version of the site, you must download and install Adobe Flash Player and make sure that JavaScript is enable in your browser.

/2/ If you do not have Flash Player installed, you may still access the HTML version of the site..

/3/ A mobile version is available.
Version accessible