History 351: Seventeenth Century Europe 2011


Henry III invited Henry of Guise and his brother the Cardinal of Lorraine to a conference; when they arrived his servants murdered them



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Henry III invited Henry of Guise and his brother the Cardinal of Lorraine to a conference; when they arrived his servants murdered them.

  • In 1589 a Dominican friar, Jacques Clément, murdered Henry III; Henry of Navarre claimed to be Henry IV.

  • Philip II of Spain aided the League, and tried to put his daughter Isabella on the French throne; her mother had been Elisabeth Valois, Henry III’s sister.

    Henry IV and the End of the Wars of Religion

    • Many French people strongly opposed having a female monarch, believing that ancient Salic Law prohibited this.

    • Many opposed Spanish intervention in their affairs.

    • Henry IV gained support from the politiques, a group which put political stability and temporal welfare ahead of religious considerations.

    • In 1593, Henry IV converted to Catholicism.

    Henry IV and the End of the Wars of Religion

    • “Paris is well worth a mass” (“Paris vaut bien une messe”): Paris surrenders to Henry IV.

    • Aristocratic members of the League grew worried about the social radicalism of some of its members.

    • By force and bribery, Henry IV got the leaders of the League to surrender.

    • The wars ended in 1598 when Spain and France made the Peace of Vervins.

    Henry IV: the Edict of Nantes 1598

    • At the end of the religious wars, Henry IV granted the Huguenots (limited) religious toleration in the Edict of Nantes (1598)

    • Huguenot nobles could hold Protestant services in their own households.

    • Huguenots could have public services in a limited number of towns, but not in Paris.

    • Huguenot ministers were to be paid by the state.

    Manuscript of the Edict of Nantes, April 13, 1598

    Henry IV: the Edict of Nantes 1598

    • Huguenots were to have full civil rights and to be eligible for all jobs in state service.

    • Huguenots were granted control of some fortified, garrisoned towns, such as La Rochelle.

    • To enforce the Edict, provincial courts were set up with equal numbers of Protestant and Catholic members.

    • But In the highest court – the Parlement of Paris – Catholics had a majority (of 10-6, and later 10-1).

    Henry IV: religious tensions after the Edict.

    • Though the Edict theoretically gave Huguenots full rights, in practice governments favored Catholics, and Huguenot rights were eroded.

    • Some Catholics thought the Edict was wrong, since it was sinful to tolerate heresy; some believed it was foolish to have an armed religious minority in the country.

    • Assassination attempts by Catholic fanatics against Henry continued after he converted to Catholicism.

    • After one of these, in 1595, the Jesuits (many of whom had sided with the League) were exiled from Paris.

    Henry IV: religious tensions after the Edict.

    • In 1604 the Jesuits were readmitted to Paris; one of them – Pierre Coton – became the King’s confessor.

    • Many Jesuits were ultramontanes.

    • Many members of the Parlement of Paris were Gallicans.

    • In 1610 Henry IV was assassinated by a Catholic fanatic, François Ravaillac.

    • There were suspicions that Ravaillac was influenced by Jesuits; the Parlement burned Juan de Mariana’s De Rege et regis institutione (1599), and took further action against ultramontane ideas in the following years.

    Sully and domestic policy

    • One of Henry’s leading ministers was the Huguenot Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully (1560-1641).

    • Henry and Sully re-established order and economic prosperity; central to this was the simple fact that peace had been restored.

    • Sully became superintendent of finances, grand commissioner of highways and public works, and grand master of the artillery.

    A statue of Sully by Gabriel-Vital Dubray, c.1853; in the Louvre

    Sully and domestic policy

    • Sully rooted out financial corruption by administrators (apart from himself).

    • The taille (tax on land or personal property) fell slightly but the gabelle (tax on salt) rose.

    • Sully built up a large surplus of revenue, enabling Henry to pay of debts to foreign powers.

    • In the case of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Henry got out of paying his debts by marrying the Grand Duke’s daughter, Marie de’ Medici.



    Marie de’ Medici (1575-1642) married Henri IV in 1600; here she is c.1606

    In 1601, Marie gave birth to a son, who became Louis XIII in 1610; here they are in 1603

    Marie acted as Regent while Louis was a boy; this dates from 1614.

    In 1608 she gave birth to another son, Gaston, Duke of Orléans (1608-60)

    Henrietta Maria (1609-69), the daughter of Henry IV and Marie, married Charles I of England in 1625

    Sully and domestic policy

    • Sully improved internal communications, and planned a network of canals, and improving roads.

    • Sully encouraged agricultural improvement and the draining of marshes.

    • Henry supposedly said that he wanted every French family to have a “chicken in the pot” (poule au pot).

    • Henry encouraged Sully to set up silk factories and plant mulberry trees.

    Henry IV: rebellions and foreign affairs

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