Henry III of France

Infobox French Royalty|monarch
name=Henry III
title=King of France and Poland
Grand Duke of Lithuania; Count of Provence

caption=Henry III Image in the Louvre.
reign=30 May 15742 August 1589
coronation=13 February 1575
titles="HM" The King of France
The Dauphin of Viennois
"HM" The King of Poland
The Duke of Orléans
The Duke of Angoulême
full name=Alexandre-Édouard de Valois-Angoulême
predecessor=Charles IX
successor=Henry IV
spouse=Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont
royal house=Valois Dynasty
royal anthem =
father=Henry II
mother=Catherine de' Medici
date of birth=birth date|1551|9|19|df=y
place of birth=Château de Fontainebleau, France
date of death=death date and age|1589|8|2|1551|9|19|df=y
place of death=Saint-Cloud, France
place of burial=Saint Denis Basilica, France|

Henry III of France ( _fr. Henri III, _pl. Henryk) (September 19 1551August 2, 1589), born "Alexandre-Édouard de Valois-Angoulême", was King of France from 1574 to 1589, and as Henry of Valois, first elected King of Poland from 1573 to 1574.


Early years

Henri was born at the Royal Château de Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, third son of King Henri II and Catherine de' Medici, grandson of François I and Claude de France, and brother of François II and Charles IX of France. He was made duc d'Angoulême and duc d'Orléans in 1560, and duc d'Anjou in 1566.

In 1564 his name became "Henri". He was his mother's favorite; she called him "chers yeux" ("Precious Eyes") and lavished her fondness and affection upon him for most of his life. His elder brother Charles grew to detest him, resenting Henry's greater health and activity.


* Francis II, King of France (January 19 1544December 5 1560).
**Married Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1558.
*Élisabeth, Queen consort of Spain (April 2 1545October 3 1568).
**Married Philip II, King of Spain, in 1559.
*Claude, Duchess consort of Lorraine (November 12 1547February 21 1575).
**Married Charles III, Duke of Lorraine.
*Louis, Duke of Orleans (3 February 1549 – 24 October 1549).
**Died in infancy.
*Charles IX, King of France (June 27 1550May 30 1574).
**Married Elizabeth of Austria in 1570.
* Marguerite, Queen consort of France and Navarre (May 14 1553March 27 1615).
**Married Henry, King of Navarre, the future Henry IV of France, in 1572.
*François, Duke of Anjou (March 18 1555June 19 1584).
*Victoria (June 24 1556June 24 1556).
**Twin of Joan. Died in womb
*Joan (June 24 1556 – August 1556).
**Twin of Victoria. Died shortly after birth


In his youth, he was considered the best of the sons of Catherine de' Medici and Henry II. Unlike his father and elder brothers, he had little interest in the traditional Valois pastimes of hunting and physical exercise. Although he was both fond of fencing and skilled in it, he preferred to indulge his tastes for the arts and reading. These predilections were attributed to his Italian mother.

At one point in his youth he showed a tendency towards Protestantism as a means of rebelling. At the age of nine, calling himself "un petit Huguenot", he refused to attend Mass, sang Protestant psalms to his sister Margot (exhorting her all the while to change her religion and cast her Book of Hours into the fire), and even bit the nose off a statue of Saint Paul. His mother firmly cautioned her children against such behaviour, and he would never again show any Protestant tendencies - instead becoming nominally Catholic.Frieda, Leonie, "Catherine de Medici", pp.179-180]

Prior to ascending the throne, he was a leader of the royal army in the French Wars of Religion against the Huguenots, and took part in the victories over them at Battle of Jarnac and Battle of Moncontour. While still Duke, he was involved in the plot for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (but did not participate), in which thousands of Huguenots were killed ; his reign as King, like the ones of his elder brothers Francis II and Charles IX, would see France in constant turmoil over religion.


For a long time after his death, Henry was assumed to have been homosexual or at least bisexual [ [http://www.ac-strasbourg.fr/pedago/lettres/Victor%20Hugo/Notes/Henri_III.htm Henri III ] ] . Although there are many credible references which document Henri's homosexuality, it is still disputed [ [http://www.tatoufaux.com/spip.php?article375 Henri III était homosexuel - Tatoufaux.com ] ] . For example, some modern historians, such as P. Erlanger, J.F. Solnon, and J. Boucher, found evidence to support the idea that, not only was Henry not homosexual (though still perhaps bisexual), but he had many famous mistresses. They found that there were no men named with which he could have had sex, and that he was well-known at the time for his taste in beautiful women. They concluded that the idea of his supposed homosexuality was based on his dislike of war and hunting being interpreted as effeminate; it was created by political opponents (both Protestants and ultra-Catholics) to turn the opinion of the French people against him. Other modern historians [citation needed] criticize Erlanger, Solnon, and Bouchet's theory, saying that they selectively chose only sources which demonstrated their ultra-conservative, anti-homosexual ideology: if Henry was a good king, in their minds, he could not have been homosexual, therefore, they assumed that sources to the contrary must be unreliable and can be ignored as if they do not exist.


In 1570, discussions commenced to arrange for Henri to court Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth, almost 37, was in need of a husband in order to produce an heir. However, nothing came of these discussions. Elizabeth is viewed by historians as having intended only to arouse the concern of Spain, rather than to have seriously contemplated marriage. The chance of marriage was further blighted by their differing religious views - Henri was at least formally a Catholic while Elizabeth was a firm Protestant - and his opinion of Elizabeth. Henri tactlessly referred to Elizabeth as a "putain publique" (a "public whore") and made stinging remarks about their difference in age. Upon hearing she limped because of a varicose vein, he called her an "old creature with a sore leg."


In 1573, Henri was elected King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As conditions for his free election, he was compelled to sign "pacta conventa" and the Henrician Articles, pledging religious tolerance in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Henri chafed at the restrictions on monarchic power under the Polish-Lithuanian political system of "Golden Liberty".

Three months after his coronation as King of Poland, upon the death of his brother Charles IX, Henri secretly left Poland and returned to France, where he was crowned King on February 13, 1575, at Rheims Cathedral.

Infobox French Monarchical Styles
royal name=King Henry III
Par la grâce de Dieu, Roi de France
dipstyle=His Most Christian Majesty
offstyle=Your Most Christian Majesty
altstyle=Monsieur Le Roi|


Although when he married Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont (February 14, 1575) he was expected to produce an heir, they were unable to conceive a child.

In 1576, Henri signed the Edict of Beaulieu, granting many concessions to the Huguenots. His action resulted in the Catholic activist, Henry I, Duke of Guise, forming the Catholic League. After much posturing and negotiations, Henri was forced to rescind most of the concessions that had been made to the Protestants in the Edict of Beaulieu.

In 1584, the King's youngest brother and heir presumptive, François, duc d'Anjou, died. Under Salic Law, the next heir to the throne was Protestant Henri III of Navarre, a descendant of St. Louis IX. Under pressure from the Duke of Guise, Henri III issued an edict suppressing Protestantism and annulling Henri III of Navarre's right to the throne.Henri began a great friendship with the Feuillant reformer Jean de la Barrière and built a monastery for him and his followers to commemorate their friendship in 1587.

On May 12, 1588, when the duc de Guise entered Paris, Henri III fled the city.

On December 23, 1588, at the Château de Blois, the duc de Guise arrived in the council chamber where his brother Louis II, Cardinal of Guise, waited. The Duke was told that the King wished to see him in the private room adjoining the royal bedroom. There guardsmen murdered the Duke, then the Cardinal. To make sure that no contender for the French throne was free to act against him, the King had the Duke's son imprisoned.

The Duke of Guise had been highly popular in France, and the citizenry turned against King Henri for the murders. The "Parlement" instituted criminal charges against the King, and he fled Paris to join forces with Henri III of Navarre.


On August 1, 1589, Henry III lodged with his army at Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, prepared to attack Paris, when a young fanatical Dominican friar, Jacques Clément, carrying false papers, was granted access to deliver important documents to the King. The monk gave the King a bundle of papers and stated that he had a secret message to deliver. The King signaled for his attendants to step back for privacy, and Clément whispered in his ear while plunging a knife into his abdomen. Clément was killed on the spot by the guards.

At first the King's wound did not appear fatal, but he enjoined all the officers around him, in the event that he did not survive, to be loyal to Henry of Navarre as their new king. The following morning — the day that he was to have launched his assault to retake Paris — Henry III died.

Chaos swept the attacking army, most of it quickly melting away; the proposed attack on Paris was postponed. Inside the city, joy at the news of Henry III's death was near delirium; some hailed the assassination as an act of God. [Will Durant, "The Story of Civilization", vol. VII, chap. XII, p. 361.]


Henry III was interred at the Saint Denis Basilica. Childless, he was the last of the Valois kings. Henri III of Navarre succeeded him as Henry IV, the first of the Bourbon kings.

Additional viewing

* The French movies, "La Reine Margot" (1954) and "La Reine Margot" (1994), both based on Alexandre Dumas, père's novel of the same title, are fictional depictions of the lives of Henri III's family, his sister Margot, and her Protestant husband Henri around the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. In the 1994 film Henri is played by the actor Pascal Greggory.
*In Dumas' novel, Henri was not portrayed as homosexual, whereas, in the 1954 film, he was shown as an effeminate, comical queen.
*In the 1994 film, he was portrayed as a more sinister character, bisexual and showing sexual interest for his sister. His brother dies by being accidentally poisoned by his mother, who had intended to kill Henri of Navarre instead.
*The film "Elizabeth", released in 1998, depicts a fictional courtship between Elizabeth I of England and Henry III whilst still Duke of Anjou. In reality, the two never met and the Queen of England was actually courted by his younger brother François, Duke of Anjou. The film borrows some of the aspects of Henry III's life and features Anjou as a comical foolish transvestite. The role is portrayed by French actor Vincent Cassel.
*In the film "Dangerous Beauty" he has a short affair with the main character, venetian courtesan Veronica Franco. He appears masculine, although he declared to Veronica that the "rumors" about him were true. He is played by British actor Jake Weber.
*In an episode of "Animaniacs", entitled "The Three Muska-Warners", an Elmer Fudd-like Henri III is protected by Yakko, Wakko and Dot. In this version, Henri is portrayed by Jeff Bennett as nervous and jumpy, and for no apparent reason speaks with an English accent.
*Chabrier's opéra-comique "Le roi malgré lui" (1887) deals with the unhappy Polish episode, with Henri as the reluctant King of Poland. In Cracow he conspires with Polish nobles to depose himself. His friend Nangis changes places with him but in the end the plot fails and the curtain falls on Henri being crowned.

Polish influence

The short reign of Henry Valois at Wawel Castle in Poland was marked by a clash of civilizations between the Polish and the French. The young king and his followers were astonished by several Polish practices and disappointed by the rural poverty & harsh climate of the country. The Polish, on the other hand, wondered if all Frenchmen were as concerned with their appearance as their new King appeared to be.

In many aspects, Polish culture had a positive influence on France. At Wawel, the French were introduced to new methods of septic facilities, in which litter (excrement) was taken outside the castle walls. On returning to France, Henry ordered the construction of such facilities at the Louvre and other palaces. Other inventions introduced to the French by the Polish included a bath with regulated hot & cold water and the fork.


See also

*History of Poland (1569-1795)
*St. Bartholomew's Day massacre
*Les Mignons


External links

* [http://derniersvalois.canalblog.com/archives/henri_iii/p0-0.html Portraits of Henri III] (in French).



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