Henry IV

(Henry IV of France)


Henry IV, king of both France and the small country of Navarre, is most significant for his measures of religious toleration in France, the first in that country. A Protestant who converted to Catholicism to gain the French throne, Henry retained peace and greatly improved the lives of his subjects through adopted policies, making him one of France’s most popular leaders.

Henry was born a Catholic in the French court but converted to Protestantism alongside his mother. As a young man, he fought in the French Wars of Religion on the side of the Huguenots, but after his mother’s death he left for Navarre to take up his role as king. He was at this time already arranged to be married to the French princess Margaret of Valois, and they were wed outside Notre Dame to allow for their separate faith traditions. The marriage made him successor to the French crown, but because of his religion, the War of the Three Henries was fought between the current king, Henry of Navarre, and the staunchly Catholic Duke of Guise.

Eventually Henry won the throne but was forced out of Paris by the Catholic League. After a failed attempt to retake the city, he instead converted to Catholicism before taking the French crown so as not to further arouse the Roman Catholic population, a decision that angered the French Huguenots. Despite some initial turmoil, however, he quickly gained popularity, lowering taxes on citizens and genuinely caring about their needs. He made peace with the Ottoman Emperor and funded exploits to East Asia, hoping to establish a trade route. He appeased the Huguenots by allowing them religious freedom through the Edict of Nantes, which provided several “safe” cities free of harassment and prejudice. Despite the great affection shown him by his people, however, he was ultimately assassinated by a Catholic fanatic, who stabbed him to death while he sat in his coach.

Key events during the life of Henry IV:

Born in France
Married Margaret of Valois
Became king to all but Catholic League, who elected their own king
Converted to Catholicism
Marriage to Margaret was annuled
Signed a peace treaty with the ottoman Empire
Assassinated by Catholic radical
Satue was built in his honor at Pont Neuf

Book Links
Henry IV  by  John S. C. Abbott

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Retribution Following the Crime  in  The Story of Liberty  by  Charles C. Coffin
House of Valois (cont 4)  in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Forced Wedding  in  The Story of Old France  by  H. A. Guerber
Winning a Crown  in  The Story of Old France  by  H. A. Guerber
Henry of Navarre  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Prince of Conde Killed  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Henry of Navarre Escapes from Paris  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
King Henry of Navarre  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Murder of a King  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry
 in The Story of Old France

Entry of Henry IV into Paris
 in The Story of Old France

Henry IV and his children
 in The Story of Old France

Statue of Henry IV in Paris
 in The Story of Old France

Henry VI at Ivry
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Murder of Henry IV
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
Henry IV. Of France
Henry IV. Of France
 in Back Matter
Henry IV of France at Home
Henry IV of France at Home
 in Back Matter

Equestrian Status of Henry IV
 in Historical Tales: French

Short Biography
Elizabeth I Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Henry of Guise Leader of the Catholic cause in France during the Wars of Religion. Opposed Henry of Navarre for the throne until he became Catholic.
Catherine de Medici Queen of France who is generally held responsible for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.