Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Death of Henry IV.

The policies followed by Henry IV were not approved by some of his subjects, especially the friends who had fought by his side throughout the religious wars, and who felt angry because he did not show them greater favor, or bestow upon them all the advantages they thought they deserved. Their jealousy and greed gave rise to several conspiracies, among others, one in which the king's friend Biron was implicated.

When this plot was discovered, Biron was given every chance to confess and be forgiven, but seeing he was obdurate, the king finally had him arrested. Thinking it impossible that Henry—who had saved his life in battle at the risk of his own—should ever proceed seriously against him, this nobleman showed no anxiety throughout his trial; but the king had determined that impartial justice should be meted out on this occasion, and when Biron was found guilty and sentenced to death, made no attempt whatever to save him from the scaffold.

Henry IV had no children from his first marriage, but he had six from his second, and three of these children lived to wear crowns, although one daughter—the unfortunate wife of Charles I of England—lost hers in time.

Henry IV and his children


Henry was a most indulgent father. We are told that when the Spanish ambassador presented himself at the Louvre one day, he found the king on all fours, serving as steed for his young children. Glancing up at his stately visitor, Henry smilingly inquired: "Mr. Ambassador, are you a father?" Upon receiving an affirmative reply, he genially continued, "Very well, then I will just finish this game!" So Henry IV went on entertaining the little ones for a while longer, before rising to give a formal audience to an august ambassador.

One day, when a historian submitted a work which he was writing, Henry ruefully inquired, "But why do you reveal my weaknesses." The author replied, "Because they will offer as good lessons to the Dauphin as the account of your many noble deeds!" This answer so appealed to Henry's common sense that he promptly said: "Yes, the whole truth must be told, for were my defects to be ignored, other things would not be believed. Well, write them all down, so that I may avoid such mistakes in future."

Henry had many friends of great ability, and used to consort as much as possible with the intellectual people of his time. One of the great saints of that epoch, Francis of Sales, spoke of him as "That prince, so great in every respect, from whose life greatness seems, as it were, inseparable;" and Henry fully recognized the saint's good qualities, for he once said: "He unites all virtues without one fault. He is the man the most fitted to root out heresy, and to establish the Catholic religion solidly."

When Henry was about to leave the country to carry out his ambitious plans against Austria, he appointed his wife regent, and had her solemnly crowned, knowing that otherwise her authority might not be respected. He must, besides, have felt some premonition that he was not to live much longer, for he remarked to his courtiers, who criticized something he had done: "I shall die one of these days, and when you have lost me, you will know what I was worth, and the difference there is between me and other men!"

Seeing how depressed he was one day, his physician advised him to go out and take the air, so Henry suddenly decided to drive out and visit his prime minister, Sully, then detained at home by illness. While passing through a narrow street, the king's carriage was stopped by a block ahead, and during the brief pause a half-crazed man (Ravaillac) deftly sprang up on the carriage wheel, leaned over, and stabbed the poor king again and again. Henry sank back unconscious and died shortly after (1610).

Statue of Henry IV


Henry IV was buried in the Abbey of St. Denis, where, even during the Revolution, his tomb was respected by an enraged people, although all the others were desecrated. An equestrian statue of the king was erected on one of the bridges in Paris, a bronze horse being brought from Italy for that purpose; it met shipwreck on the way, but was later fished up out of the sea. This statue, which was very famous indeed, remained only until the Revolution, when it was torn down and melted, to supply cannon for the new republic; but a copy of it now stands at the same spot.

The reign of Henry IV marks the end of all feudal pastimes, for after his accession no more tournaments were held in France. It also marks the time when the French language assumed the form it bears at present, given to it by the great writers of this epoch (Malherbe and Regnier), whose style is still considered classic in France.

Henry IV was not only a great monarch but a most popular one. His untimely death was sorely mourned by his people, fathers exclaiming to their children: "What will become of you? You have lost your father!"