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Plucky Henri IV

photo: henri's bridge, park and place

Henri's park, Henri's bridge, and behind, Henri's place.

France's First Bourbon

Paris:- Sunday, 31. August:- The weather has not been brilliant so I have been patiently waiting for today, the day with the best forecast of the week. I don't have a very good idea for what to do with the day, but I'm sure something will come because no photographs have been taken for the issue.

I am hoping for clear skies and sunshine for terrassians who are out and basking on August's last day. I spent yesterday combing books, looking for some subject to tie to this. I have a piece by Herbert Gold, writing about the good life in the Quartier Latin. It sounds like it used to be great.

Since I need more than just photos of café terraces, I have been thinking about Henri IV. To do this right, I started reading about Louis XII and his 'Italian' adventures. In April 1512 the French lost the caboodle and ended up getting invaded. Louis XII had to pay Henry VIII, Maximilien and the Swiss to go home.

Then François I had his 'Italian' adventures. He did okay, and one of the results was a 'perpetual peace' with the Swiss, which obliged them - for a fee - to supply soldiers to France, which they did until 1792. In another deal, Charles I of Spain allowed the French to keep Milan, in exchange for the Spanish keeping Naples.

Ninety pages later is the closest I got to Henri IV - this is Henri of Bourbon, 'King of Navarre' - and relapsed heretic. He comes to stage front because the Valois line of French kings ended with Henri III in 1589.

This was in the time of eight wars, an equal number truces and 'even more' massacres - sometimes collectively called the 'wars of religion,' but were mainly feuds over who was in power or out of it. Martin Luther was excommunicated in 1520, but there was a certain tolerance in France for a time. By 1540 intolerance ruled the day, with public barbecues of heretics.

Henri III was the last Valois. His mother, Catherine de Médicis - who ruled from behind a cloak of perpetual mourning - cleverly married off her daughter Marguerite de Valois to Henri of Navarre, the first Bourbon.

At this point I decided to suspend the book on page 101 - four pages short of the appearance of Henri IV - and go to the library. I couldn't find Henri IV in the history section and came home with 'Fleeting Queens, Perpetual Mothers,' about Catherine and Marie de Médicis, and Anne d'Autriche.

On the 21st page of this I started to nod off, so I switched to 'Traveller's Tales Guides, Paris' where I found Herbert Gold, to keep my eyes open. But this didn't advance me to any particular historical connection to photos I might take on Sunday, except to a disappeared post-war Saint-Germain- des-Prés.

This morning the sun is shining as predicted. However, in the short time it takes to have a café, the skyphoto: henri's statue clouds over. There will be no 'last brilliant day' of August photos. No visits to Henri IV's monuments - the Pont Neuf, the Place Dauphine or the Place des Vosges.

So, back to Henri IV's history - beginning with the arranged marriage, between the Catholic Marguerite de Valois and the Protestant Henri of Navarre. It took place during a very hot August, on Friday, the 18th, in 1572. Many promenient Protestants were in Paris for the ceremony, and to raise funds for a war with the Spanish in Flanders.

Catherine was upset because Admiral Coligny had nearly convinced young Charles IX to take the Protestant side in Flanders. Therefore, she did not seem surprised when news was brought to her in the morning on Tuesday, 22. August that Coligny had been shot. But he was only wounded.

Charles IX, furious, demanded an investigation as did the Protestant nobles still in town celebrating the wedding. Fingers began to point at the Catholic Guises and the king's brother, Henri d'Anjou.

The record says Catherine became afraid and felt menaced. The day after the shooting there was an afternoon meeting in the Château des Tuileries, mainly involving Catherine and her son, Henri d'Anjou. Late that evening she convinced King Charles IX of the - fictional or imaginary - danger from the Protestants, and got his agreement to massacre their leaders.

Convinced of his personal danger, Charles IX in a rage, gave the order to 'kill them all.' Catherine had already prepared a list, with only Henri de Navarre and Henri de Condé to be spared - on condition of converting to Catholism. To those engaged to carry out the murders, did 'all' mean 'all' was the question. Catherine's list only had a couple of dozen names.

The Saint-Barthélemy Day's Massacre began on Thursday, 24. August 1572, very early in the morning. The Duc de Guise's men grabbed Coligny on his sick-bed, killed him and tossed him out the window, where his body was torn to pieces in front of his house - which is now 144. Rue de Rivoli.

Next to go were Henri de Navarre's companions in the Louvre, where he was staying. He and Condé were given the choice - "Death or Mass." Then it was the turn of the minority Protestants in the area, then called the parish of Saint-Germain. But because the signal bell had been sounded too early some Protestants managed to escape.

Meanwhile, Parisians who were mostly Catholic, and somewhat confused by the recent marriage, decided there was an open-season on Protestants and killed all they could find and looted everything they owned.

King Charles IX called for calm, but stayed in the safety of the Louvre until Saturday, 26. August, when he left to go the parliament to explain the necessity of giving the command to bump off the Protestants, in order to prevent a conspiracy.

But events were out of control and the bloodbaths went on, throughout France, well into the autumn. The toll amounted to tens of thousands of victims, and more thousands of exiles.

Oddly, the whole thing started out as a gesture of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants, organized by Catherine de Médicis.

Henri de Navarre was kept as an involuntary guest at the Louvre, but as he had a socialable character, he was allowed to join the activities of the court. He even made friends with the Guises. He tolerated the 'désordres' of his wife, by publicly carrying on with his own.

Two years after the death of Charles IX, in 1576, Henri slipped out of the Louvre, renounced Catholism, and rejoined his forces to continue the religious wars. Depending on the money available to both sides, these continued until 1589.

Beginning in 1584 with the death of the Duc d'Anjou, the 'War of the Three Henries' began its complicated course. This was between Henri de Guise, King Henri III and Henri de Navarre. The Catholic League of the Guises - this family claimed descendance from Charlemagne - got the upper hand and Henri III left Paris to seek aid from Henri de Navarre.

Henri III arranged the assassination of Henri de Guise, and was in turn killed by Jacques Clément, of the Holy League. The time was May of 1589 - a year after the Catholic Spanish Armada's defeat by Britain - and while Henri III was on his way to recapturing Paris.

Designated his successor by Henri III, at first Henri de Navarre was king only in theory. He was excommunicated by the Pope, he had no support from the Holy League and none from the royal army. Upon taking instruction for a new conversion, he alienated his Huguenot allies. He was also harassed by Mayenne, the brother of Henri de Guise.

In 1590 at Ivry, just outside Paris, he defeated Mayenne and his Spanish allies, but did not enter Paris, which he blockaded instead. Again he was attacked by Mayenne, allied this time with the Duc de Parma. The Holy League started to fall apart. Henri made up with Mayenne, and to drive the point home, converted to Catholism at Saint-Denis.

Henri and his army discretely occupied Paris during the night of 22. March 1593. Reinstalled in the Louvre, he faced Mayenne, again allied with the Spanish - who captured parts of Picardy.

Then the Pope stepped in and de-excommunicated Henri, to counter-balance Spanish power. Henri took thephoto: henri's pont neuf opportunity of Spain's problems at sea with the English and problems on land in Flanders, to have the Edict of Nantes proclaimed in 1598 - which finished the wars of religion in France - until the Edict was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685.

With the help of his longtime comrade-in-arms and councilor, Maximilien de Béthune - Sully - as supervisor of the royal finances, prosperity returned to France and it was even producing a surplus by 1605. France's star was rising in Europe.

Henri had his marriage to Marguerite de Valois annulled after a separation of 15 years, and he remarried, to Marie de Médicis in 1600. They had four children, and one of them became Louis XIII.

While religious wars were over, hate was not. On leaving the Louvre on Friday, 14. May 1610, Henri's carriage was temporarily blocked in the Rue de la Ferronerie, and he was attacked and stabbed to death at 57 by a fanatic, François Ravaillac, who had been rejected as a candidate by both the Feuillants and the Jesuits.

Henri's death was a big shock in France and in Europe. Marie de Médicis assumed the regency for nine year-old Louis XIII, and governed France for nine years, dissipating the positive financial situation that had been engineered by Sully.

As Sully said, "The kingdom fell into strange hands."

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