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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

Surrounded by Habsburgs

Henri's primary worry was his country's diplomatic situation at the end of the 16th century – how could he free himself from the pincer movement of the House of Habsburg, which had France encircled? Early in 1610, Henri had made his decision – to wage war. A pretext presented itself in the form of a problem of succession. In March 1609, John William, duke of Cleves, died without leaving a direct heir. The duke had ruled over a vast set of lands on the border of the German Empire, the Spanish Netherlands and the United Provinces – a strategic location. This affair was the backdrop to the end of Henri IV's reign: in the foreground, a battle for succession between Protestant and Catholic pretenders, including the emperor Rudolf II ; in the background, the possibility of a Europe-wide conflagration that would redefine the balance of power in favour of the King of France and at the expense of the House of Habsburg.

After much hesitation, Henri went ahead with his plan after Rudolf II seized the duchy with the help of the Spanish. Henri rattled his swords, sent an army and threatened the frontier. In the background, his warmongering advisers, including Sully, pushed for war and began preparing for it, because they saw it as an occasion to thoroughly redraw the geopolitical map of Europe.

Related multimedia

Title: Map of Europe in the late 16th century

Map of Europe in the late 16th century
Comment:
The possessions of the Duke of Cleves included the duchies of Cleves, Berg and Jülich, the earldoms of Mark and Ravensberg and the seigniory of Ravenstein. The pretenders consisted of two princes supported by the Protestant Union – a military alliance among the Protestant states of Germany that was supported by the United Provinces. Emperor Rudolf II had also decided to stake his claim, and to administer these territories until the succession could be settled.
Caption:
The Catholic/Protestant split in Europe in the late 16th century. Based on Alain Houot The map presents : Protestants ; Lutherians ; Calvinists ; Catholics ;Reformation centre ; Orthodox

Title: Map of Europe

Map of Europe, 1598
Caption:
Map of Europe. In: Épitome du théâtre du monde (Antwerp, Imprimerie Plantienne, 1598. printed book, 118 pages of commentaries and maps). Musée national du château de Pau, Inv. P. BP. 1469.

Title: Coat of arms

Mniature of the registers of the German Nation
© Archives départementales du Loiret
Comment:
At the Université d'Orléans, the "German Nation", made up of students from the Holy Roman Empire, was responsible for spreading humanist ideals and the religious principles of the Protestant Reform movement.
Caption:
Université d'Orléans. Registers of the German Nation. Libei procuratum III, 1587-1602: coat of arms of "Tobias Coene", procurateur en 1596, originally from Belgium. 1596. Cote: F°70 verso

Title: Registers of the German Nation

Registers of the German Nation
© Archives départementales du Loiret / Luc Voland
Comment:
At the Université d'Orléans, the "German Nation", made up of students from the Holy Roman Empire, was responsible for spreading humanist ideals and the religious principles of the Protestant Reform movement.
Caption:
Université d'Orléans. Registers of the German Nation. Liber procuratum III, 1587–1602: memberships of "Philippus" et "Fridericus", comtes de Dietz (Belgium) for the year 1600 in the German Nation. Cote: F°216 verso
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