Henry III of France

Dafato Team | Apr 12, 2023

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Henry the Valois (French: Henri de Valois), actually Edward Alexander (born September 19, 1551 in Fontainebleau, died August 2, 1589 in Saint-Cloud) - the first elected king of Poland from 1573 to 1574, the last king of France of the Valois dynasty as Henry III from 1574; previously, until 1574, as a member of the French house: duke of Angoulême (from 1551), duke of Orléans (from 1573) and duke of Andegavia (from 1566).

As the fourth son of Henry II Valois and Catherine de Medici, he had little chance of succeeding to the French throne, so he was considered a good candidate for the throne of the Republic after the heirless death of Sigismund II Augustus, the last king of the Jagiellonian dynasty. Despite the entanglement of the House of Valois in the Night of St. Bartholomew and fears of transferring religious feuds to the Republic, during the election of the new monarch the nobility supported his candidacy. Among the losing candidates were the son of Holy Roman Emperor Ernest Habsburg, Moscow Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible and Swedish King John III Vasa.

Henry III's reign in Poland and Lithuania was brief, but had a major impact on the future political shape of the Republic. The Henrician Articles, drafted by the Sejm during the interregnum, formally changed the state into an electoral monarchy with a king elected after the death of his predecessor by the method of free election. Meanwhile, in France, the dynastic situation became drastically complicated: Louis de Valais died while still a child, Henry's eldest brother, Francis II, in 1560, Charles IX de Valais died third in line to the throne at the age of just 23 in May 1574, leaving no legitimate heir to the throne. Thus, Henry, who was a little more than a year younger than Charles, became, according to the law of the Kingdom, which requires no further confirmation of this fact, King of France. A few days after receiving news of his brother's death, Henry secretly fled Cracow and traveled to France, where he was crowned king of France in February 1575. Eventually, the nobility of the Republic recognized the king's flight as an abdication and chose Anna Jagiellonka as his successor.

In France, Henry's reign came at the height of the religious wars that had been going on since the 1660s. He saw France's salvation in religious tolerance and the strengthening of the central government, a faction of the so-called Politiques became his base. However, his intentions and plans were severely limited by the constant feuds between political movements supported by neighboring powers: the Spanish-backed Catholic League, the Huguenots supported by England and the Netherlands, and the party of the Malcontents, a movement uniting Catholic and Protestant aristocrats opposed to the king's absolutist inclinations. The latter party was led by the monarch's youngest brother, the Duc d'Anjou. This one died in 1584, as the penultimate of Henry II's male descendants. As Henry III had not lived to see any offspring by then, his cousin, King Henry III of Navarre, a Protestant, stood a good chance of inheriting the throne. His candidacy rekindled the religious wars, which developed into a dynastic dispute known as the War of the Three Henrys (French: Guerre des trois Henri). At its apogee, Henry was assassinated by Jacques Clément, a Dominican and Catholic fanatic. Contrary to the intentions of his Catholic League principals, Henry III was succeeded by the King of Navarre, who converted to Catholicism, took the name Henry IV and became the first French ruler of the Bourbon dynasty.

Early years

Henry was born on September 19, 1551 as the sixth child and fourth son of Henry II and Catherine de Medici. Older than him were the headache-suffering Francis (1543), the frail and nervous Elizabeth (1545), Claudia (1547), Louis (who died after a year and a half) and the fury-reacting Charles Maximilian (1550). Only Henry and those younger than him, Margaret (1553) and Hercules, later called Francis (1555), were healthy, normal children. At his baptism, the future Henry was given the names Alexander Edward. The name Alexander, which he was to use for confirmation, was popular in his mother's family. He received the name Edward after his godfather King Edward VI of England.

Alexander's childhood passed between the castles of Fontainebleau, Blois and Amboise, away from his father, who traveled extensively in the company of his favorite, Diana of Poitiers. The children were cared for by their mother, deprived of her husband's love and importance, and in them she saw an opportunity to satisfy her wounded ambitions. Catherine's court consisted of the most beautiful women of France, Italy, Scotland and Flanders. It was known as a squadron of underlings, and Catherine taught her charges how to rule men. The young Valois grew up among them, pampered, watching from an early age the romances unfolding before their eyes. Departure from their father and the rule of a strict mother only exacerbated the effeminacy that characterized the last generation of the Valesians.

Due to his poor health as a child, Alexander went for a very long time in light dresses. He was a favorite of his mother, who called him my eyes and little eagle. She delighted in his health and beauty. She always found time for him to be tender and caressed. Alexander, like his mother, manifested a love of learning. He studied well. His preceptor was the illustrious French humanist Jacques Amyot. Little Alexander dabbled in Plutarch and the romance of Perceforest.

External and civil wars

The young prince's dreams of great martial deeds collided with harsh realities. The French army in the next round of the war with Spain suffered defeats at Saint-Quentin (1557) and Gravelines (1558) and France was forced in the peace treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) to give up its ambitions to rule Italy. In 1558, Alexander's eldest brother Francis was married to Mary Stuart. A year later, Claudia was married to the Duke of Lorraine and Elizabeth to Philip II, King of Spain. The young Alexander became Duke of Angoulême and was to be given his own court. However, on June 30, 1559, the king held a grand tournament to celebrate his daughter's wedding. Hit in the duel with a kick through the eye to the brain by fellow competitor Gabriel Montgomery, he died after ten days. Alexander's 16-year-old brother Francis II became king of France.

The king's guardianship was taken over by François Guisius and his brother Charles Cardinal of Lorraine, his wife's uncles. Opposition against the Whigs was formed by Louis Condeus and Anthony Bourbon, who rallied around them, demobilized after the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, multitudes of nobles and soldiers, who, disgruntled, joined the ranks of French Protestants, since then more or less known as Huguenots. Oppositionists tried to kidnap the king, but were broken up and hanged on the balconies of Amboise Castle. Alexander, along with his brothers, witnessed the execution. On December 6, 1560, Francis II died.

The beginning of the queen-mother's reign

The 10-year-old Charles was proclaimed king. Alexander hugged his brother during the coronation ceremony, and the king exclaimed that he wanted to share everything with him. The queen-mother proclaimed herself regent, although Antony de Bourbon was entitled to this right. In view of the weakness of the Protestant forces, he readily recognized such a solution, to which the Whigs, who did not have sufficient rights to the throne, also acceded. The latter prepared an attempt to kidnap Alexander in the following weeks. In October 1561, Jacques de Savoie, Duke of Nemours, tried to persuade the 10-year-old to flee to the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, to the Lorraine court of his sister Claudia. However, the conversation was overheard by Catherine's courtiers. The queen-mother thwarted these efforts. Alexander was questioned before the Royal Council. The humiliated boy exerted all his anger against Catholicism. Aided by his royal brother, he ran around the castle disguised as a cardinal, mocked the rituals, laughed at the statues of saints, and burned his sister's devotional books.

In January 1562, St. Catherine issued an edict of toleration that allowed Protestant rites to be held privately. Francis the Whistleblower responded by executing Protestants in Wassy who were holding a public service in defiance of the law. Condeus spoke out against the Whigs. The Queen of Fontainebleau called on him in vain to lend her support. The first to appear were the Whistleblowers, who forced her to capitulate. On October 19, at Dreux, the Protestant forces, led by Duke Condeus, suffered defeat, and he was taken prisoner. Anthony Bourbon died during the siege of Le Havre, and François Guise was killed at the hands of a stealthy assassin. Freed from the influence of the great lords, Catherine issued an edict ending the First War of Religion in March 1563. The queen became estranged from her Protestant friends, who abandoned her at a critical moment. The Catholics proved stronger and it was impossible to rule without them. Charles and Alexander had to abandon playing cardinals, glowing piety and listening to numerous masses.

After Charles' coronation, Amyot became Grand Almsman, and the further education of Catherine's sons was taken care of by François Carnavelet, head of the royal riding school. Alexander made rapid progress in fencing and in the game of ball, the prototype of tennis. He read chivalric romances by Amadis and Perceforest, stories by Aretin, and poetry by Ronsard. He learned Villon's Testament by heart, dabbled in Machiavelli, a chapter of which was later to be read to him every day before bed. Always inclined to disguise himself, Alexander excelled during these years as an actor in the court theater and a dancer in ballets.

The search for the throne for Alexander

Looking for a good parantel for her son, Catherine entered into discussions regarding Alexander's marriage to Doña Juana - sister of Philip II - known as the Queen of Portugal, hoping for the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples for her son. To discuss the project in person, the queen set off for the Spanish border in early 1564. At the Lorraine court, where they stopped, Alexander became godfather to his sister Claudia's son. In Marseilles, Catherine's sons dressed as Turks and watched the galleys. In Montpellier, where they spent Christmas, they saw snow for the first time and beat each other with snowballs. In January, the court reached Toulouse, where they would spend several months. On March 18, 1565, the confirmation of the royal brothers took place. Alexander took the name Henry after his father, and Hercules took the name Francis after his grandfather and brother.

Catherine negotiated with the Spanish court while corresponding on the marriage of Charles to Queen Elizabeth and Henry to Scotland's Mary Stuart. In May, the royal court descended on Bayonne. Henry, at the head of thirty horsemen, rode out to meet his sister, the Spanish queen, but etiquette did not allow the siblings to greet each other. The talks ultimately failed. On the way back in Tours, the court met Ronsard. After the failure of the Spanish plans, Catherine began looking for another country for her favorite son. John Baptista Puccini, secretary, Sigismund Augustus, suggested the possibility of claiming the Polish throne after the death of the childless Polish king. At the same time, there was a proposal of marriage to the daughter of the wealthy Saxon Elector Augustus.

Governor of the kingdom

In early 1567, the States General convened at Moulins. There Charles granted Henry the title of Duke of Andegavia, along with extensive domains (the duchies of Bourbonnais and Auvergne, the counties of Beaufort, Forez, Montferrand and minor baronies) and emoluments, and Francis the title of Duke d'Alençon. Henry and Francis heartily hated each other, Henry's relations with his royal brother also deteriorated more and more over the years. This led to numerous conflicts. Henry henceforth had his own court. It was managed by René Villequier, who, knowing his master's ambitions, surrounded him with a retinue of athletic peers, with Louis Beranger's assassin Mr. Du Gast, a few years older, at the head. From this group a formation of mignons was to be formed in the future.

In 1566, a confederation formed in the Netherlands against Spanish rule. To pacify the sentiment, a powerful Spanish army headed north along the French borders. Concerned by these developments, the Huguenot leader, Duke Condeus, made a statement at the Royal Council that he would raise a 4,000-strong army in a few days, which was a blatant encroachment on the powers of the king or his governor. Henry stepped forward to defend the king as his governor, although formally he was not yet one. Condeus left Paris, and in late September attempted to attack the castle of Montceaux and take captive the queen and her sons who were staying there. Forewarned of the attack, Catherine, escorted by Swiss mercenaries, retreated to Paris. The second religious war began. On November 10, 1567, at Saint-Denis, the royal army commanded by Marshal Anne de Montmorency won a victory over the Huguenots. The commander of the royal army was killed on the battlefield. However, the royalists were divided: the Montmorency-supporting Chancellor and the pro-Huguenot Whigs aspired to the supreme command. Charles appointed his brother, Henry, as the new commander and governor of the kingdom in this situation. For the next few months, the young commander led an uphill battle against the forces of Condeus and Coligny. In the spring, Condeus ran out of money and the Peace of Longjumeau was signed on March 23, 1568.

The king was not particularly interested in the kingdom. He hunted all day long. Henry, meanwhile, sat in the Royal Council from early in the morning, doing administrative work, of which he was very fond. He tried to safely demobilize the enlisted troops, deploy the royal army. He learned to manage the affairs of the kingdom, which was ruled by his mother.

Jarnac and Moncontour

Catherine, who feared Condeus, ordered Marshal Tavannes to capture the prince. The venture failed and the Protestant leaders launched another, the third, civil war. Henry took care of concentrating troops, preparing war plans, and supplying the army. In October, he set off with his army to the Loire River. However, the beginning of the war descended into unsuccessful negotiations. At the beginning of March 1569, Henry's army was between Angoulême and La Rochelle, advancing towards Bordeaux, threatened by the Huguenots, and separated from the enemy by the Charente River. On the night of 12-13, Tavannes confused Coligny's vigilance and drove the army across a hastily built wooden bridge. The battle occurred near the village of Jarnac. At the decisive moment of the battle, when Condeus's cavalry struck the Catholic raiders, Henry made a wide arc with his cavalry and struck Condeus's troops from the flank, smashing them to the ground. The battle turned into a slaughter. Condeus was killed in the battle. Coligny managed to retreat with the rest of his army.

Immediately after the battle, Henry initiated peace negotiations. However, peace was hindered by the king, jealous of his brother's fame, and the Whigs. On October 3, another battle took place at Moncontour north of Poitiers. The Huguenot cavalry, shattered by Italian cavalry, began to retreat as Coligny pushed Prince Louis of Nassau's troops into battle. Henry personally led a charge that broke through the enemy's resistance and shattered the main force's defensive line under heavy fire. The underdogs of the victors fled the battlefield, carrying off their wounded commander. A quick action could have led to the crushing of the survivors. However, the king ordered the pursuit to be abandoned and focused on besieging the fortresses. The royal army did not have the resources to do so. The siege operations, which lasted for months, failed to produce a resolution. During this time Coligny rebuilt his army. Peace negotiations began, which led to the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye on August 8, 1570. Three days later, parliament issued an edict that granted the Huguenots a very significant range of freedoms, sealing their de facto victory in the war.

Romance and politics

Upon Henry's return to Paris, his mother slipped him a mistress, Mme Louis de la Béreaudière du Rouet. However, Henry quickly realized her role as an informer and dismissed her. His next mistress became Renata de Rieux, a lady of Châteauneuf, of extraordinary beauty. Soon the amorous Henry met Marie de Clèves, a Huguenot, for whom he developed a special affection. For both of them he had his court poet compose fiery poems, but this did not prevent him from hunting ladies, mainly prostitutes, at night. During these escapades there were brawls between the prince and his men and the king's men.

In 1571, the queen, wanting to have all her main opponents under control, managed to draw Coligny and Joanna Navarre, the widow of Anthony de Bourbon and Henry's mother, to Paris. Coligny succeeded in imposing his authority on the king, jealous of Henri and anxious to free himself from his mother's domination. Surrounded by young Huguenots, he held street brawls. He also began to lean toward Coligny's plans to attack Spain in order to channel internal unrest into external conflict. Coligny's plans were supported by English diplomacy and the Medici.

In May 1572, Protestant troops captured Mons and Vincennes, which belonged to Spain, in the Netherlands. Henry, after the victory of the Spaniards at Lepanto, was against war with Spain and urged rather to join the anti-Turkish League. He even presented a memorandum to the Royal Council on France's chances in a war with Spain. In June, the Spaniards recaptured captured cities, and in July, at Quiévrain, they defeated Jean de Hangest, Count of Genlis, with whom they found letters compromising the French king in support of the Protestants' offensive actions in the Netherlands. The king, pressured on the one hand by the Spanish ambassador on the other by Coligny, could not make a decision. In this situation, the queen-mother regained influence over the rule of the state. She appeased the Spanish ambassador and Coligny, and used the rest of the money in the treasury to marry Henri de Bourbon to her daughter Margaret.

St. Bartholomew's Day

News of the death of Sigismund Augustus reached France. However, Henry, who was in love with the Duchess de Clèves, did not want to seek the Polish throne. He yielded only under pressure from his brother, and from France went to Poland to seek the Polish crown for the Duke of Andegavia, Bishop John de Monluc. In early August, the young Duke Condeus married, to Henry's despair, his beloved Duchess de Clèves. Meanwhile, Henry de Bourbon arrived in Paris at the head of eight hundred Huguenot nobles. On August 18, the ceremonial wedding of Henry and Margaret de Valais took place. The next day Coligny, threatening civil war, was shot by an assassin, Charles de Maurevert. The investigation undertaken at the king's behest discredited his mother. The city was in an uproar. Protestants gathered at the wounded admiral's bedside threatened Catholics. Rumors cooed that François de Montmorency, at the head of a Protestant army of thirty thousand, was marching on Paris; Protestants demanded the death of Catherine de Medici.

In this situation, a proposal was made at court to stamp out Protestant leaders. In view of the number of Protestant forces in the capital, the queen called on the help of the bourgeoisie and the Whigs. The leader of the bourgeoisie, Claudius Marcel, and Henry the Whistleblower made preparations, regardless of the agreement with the queen, to murder not only the Protestant leaders, but all Protestants in the capital. The shaky king put up unexpected resistance to his mother and opposed the plan, but eventually relented and locked himself in his chamber. In the morning, Henry, hitherto supportive of his mother, convinced her to call off the whole action and pushed a courier with the order to the Whigs. It was too late, however.

On August 24, at three o'clock in the morning, the bells of Paris gave the signal to strike at the Protestants. The attackers first attacked the house of Admiral Coligny and the Huguenot nobility clustered around him after the ouster, then they set about looting the houses of the bourgeoisie. This allowed a sizable portion of the nobility to flee Paris. Crowds of armed Parisians also surrounded the Louvre. The queen was forced to surrender the Protestants sheltering within the castle walls, saving only her son-in-law and the Duke of Condeus, at the price of their conversion to Catholicism. Henry tried at the head of eight hundred cavalrymen and a thousand infantrymen to guard order. The soldiers, however, joined in the plunder. He managed to save only Marshal de Cossé. In the morning he returned to the palace and sat down to write letters to the governors and general governors of the provinces, ordering them not to change anything in the existing edict of toleration. Four days later, the king changed his orders, ordering the slaughter of the provinces. The slaughter resulted in the deaths of at least three thousand Huguenots in Paris and more than a dozen in the provinces.

Siege of La Rochelle

After St. Bartholomew's Night, the queen regained full power. Charles IX ceased to rebel, the Whigs became her supporters. With the help of her Italian associates, the queen prepared a new religious edict abolishing the freedom of public worship and limiting it to the homes of the nobility, imposing fines and confiscations on Protestants, and ordering the submission of Huguenot towns to royal governors. La Rochelle closed its gates. Its example was followed by the Languedoc cities. The king's hatred of Henry reached its peak. To separate the feuding brothers, the queen sent Henry against La Rochelle. In November 1572, the ring around the Huguenot capital closed. Henry organized supplies and new enlistments along the Loire. In February, he arrived at the Roszel fortress and the siege began.

The siege work slowly progressed, although the besiegers inflicted heavy losses on the royal army. The royal fleet succeeded in blockading the fortress from the sea and dispersed the English aid going to its relief. As the siege progressed, Henry began to push harder for peace. At the walls of La Rochelle, news reached him that he had been elected king of Poland, which the royal artillery celebrated with a salute. On June 12 there was a final assault, calculated to tire out the besiegers. On June 18, peace was signed. The king renounced the introduction of garrisons into Protestant cities, but ordered that Catholic worship be allowed in them; Protestant worship could be practiced privately. La Rochelle agreed to accept the royal garrison. The fourth religious war ended.

The road to the Polish throne

France became interested in the Polish crown for the younger brother of the reigning king as early as 1572. Jean de Balagny set out with a message to the dying Sigismund Augustus, asking for permission to marry Henry to Sigismund's sister, Anne. Balagny, however, was not allowed to enter the king's deathbed and returned to France with nothing. Shortly after Sigismund's death, another French emissary appeared in the Republic, Jean de Monluc, bishop of Valence, de Balagny's father and a partisan of the Huguenots. He immediately had to face the reaction of the Poles to the news of St. Bartholomew's Night, which arrived at the Vistula more or less together with Monluc. The massacre of the Huguenots so affected Polish public opinion that the bishop's secretary, Jean Choisnin, reported to Paris: it was almost undignified to mention the names of the king, queen and Duke of Andegavia.

Monluc and his supporters therefore launched a propaganda campaign to whitewash Henry's character. Thus, it was written that the Andegavian prince wanted to prevent the massacre at all costs, and when it happened he defied the fury and cruelty of the mobs and even hid the Huguenots. The Poles, however, were not convinced, and already after the election was made, the Crown Treasurer Hieronim Bużeński told the bishop not to try to convince him anymore that Henry had not participated in the massacre and was not at all a cruel tyrant, for - ruling in Poland - he would have to fear the subjects rather than the subjects him.

The election of a new Polish ruler after a period of interregnum took place in April and May 1573 on the right bank of the Vistula, opposite Warsaw, near the village of Kamień (now Kamionek, part of the Praga-Południe district). The most serious candidates for the crown besides the French king's brother were Emperor Maximilian II's son Archduke Ernest Habsburg, Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible and John III Vasa, King of Sweden, husband of Catherine Jagiellon, sister of Sigismund Augustus. About 50,000 people turned out near Warsaw to participate in the vote. First there was a presentation of the candidates, which was made by foreign deputies. Then the "articles for the king" began to be written down, but already in a narrower group of those elected to the committee. These were to be the powers and obligations of the ruler. After their approval, on April 5, 1573, a vote was held on the contenders for the throne. The winner was the French candidate. A few days after the election, the deputies of the future monarch swore in his name the general provisions passed before the election - these were the so-called Articles of Henry. The elect's personal obligations were also adopted, bearing the name Pacta conventa. An envoy was also elected to go to Paris to officially notify the French prince of his election as king of Poland and to take an oath from him confirming his acceptance of the election resolutions (articles and pacts) and bring him to the Republic as soon as possible.

The envoy was sent stately and dignified. The pertratifications with Henry and King Charles IX of France, lasted quite a long time. There was resistance, especially to the articles on religious freedom and the possibility of terminating obedience to the king. Eventually, both rulers recognized and swore in the old and new laws on August 22, 1573. After this, a deputation delivered the electoral document to Henry. Henry Valezy was proclaimed king of Poland.

He reached Poland's borders after a two-month journey in late January 1574. The royal retinue, consisting of 1,200 horses, carts with luggage and carriages with ladies of the court and women of light habits, pulled through Heidelberg, Fulda, Torgau, Frankfurt (on the Oder). In Lusatia he was expected by the Piast prince Jerzy II Brzeski, who accompanied the king all the way to the Polish border, and the border was crossed at Miedzyrzecz, where the monarch was solemnly greeted by a delegation of the senate with the bishop of Kujawy (Wloclawek), voivodes and castellans. Later, via Poznań and Częstochowa, the monarch headed toward Cracow, where the official welcome took place.

All the senators assembled from Poland, Lithuania, and all the lands of the Republic brought out of the city their huge flags, which, wide and far advanced, presented the sight of a great and lovely army. These flags were expensively clothed, distinguished by their choice of beauty in armaments and horses The posts of the senators consisted not only of their flags, for they were joined still by an infinite force of nobles and officials of the kingdom.

Henry was welcomed by senators, bishops, ministers, courtiers, and toffs. On February 21, 1574, in Wawel Cathedral, the then Archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of Poland, Jakub Uchański, crowned Henry the Valois as King of Poland. The ceremony was disrupted by a speech by the Grand Marshal of the Crown, Jan Firlej, who demanded that the king swear in acts guaranteeing the rights of Protestants.

Additional conditions

Agreeing on the election of Valois, his marriage to Anna Jagiellonka, sister of Sigismund II Augustus, was planned. However, she was almost 30 years older than Henry, so the young king took his time with the marriage and arrived in the new kingdom in January 1574. This was because he was romancing Marie de Clèves at the time and the bed of the aged Jagiellonian woman did not smile on him. He traveled slowly, stopping many times. In Lorraine he struck up an affair with Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, who was later to become his wife.

The first meeting with Anna did not turn out overly encouraging. Henry uttered a few perfunctory words and left her chambers as quickly as possible. After three days he was crowned, although he was not without various quibbles related to the oath's rotas. Balls and tournaments began, but the king was increasingly reluctant to marry his Jagiellonian bride. He simulated illness or simply locked himself in his own chambers and did not allow anyone to see him. Admittedly, the story was told that he entertained his favorites at the time, and that he had light-hearted ladies brought to the castle. He also wrote letters to France incessantly - those sent to Marie de Cond he even chalked up with his own blood. Rumors grew more and more. Not only did he bring French debaucheries to the garden near Zwierzyniec, but he also did not let Italian abominations pass by, the chronicler wrote.

Anna kept waiting, and Henry continued to delay. A grand ball was finally held in June, which was treated as an official betrothal. The following day, however, the king learned of his brother's death, which caused him to claim the French crown, neglecting his duties as monarch unusually.

Not easy beginnings of governance

From the very beginning, Henry's rule was accompanied by disputes over the scope of his authority. Henry did not swear in the cathedral to the articles that obligated him (except for the peace of religion). In view of this, the coronation Diet dispersed in protest without passing resolutions, warning the monarch that he might be removed from the throne. Henry did not believe these threats and began courts. However, his judgments were considered biased and too lenient. He distributed vacant offices and transferred royal property to many dignitaries, but those reluctant to do so claimed that he had missed opportunities to inject money into the crown treasury on this occasion.

Reign characteristics

Henry Valezy taking power in Poland was 23 years old and had little political experience. His rule in Poland was characterized by ignorance of relations, unfavorable choice of advisors (the Zborowskis) and little interest in Polish affairs. He was comprehensively educated, courageous and ambitious. He was fond of splendid clothes decorated with expensive stones, wore jewelry and used perfume. He had his ears pierced and wore double, pearl-embellished earrings with pendants. In Poland, these tastes were widely regarded as a sign of effeminacy. There were many men at Henry's court who painted their faces, attired themselves in jewels and perfumes. It is said that some of them served as royal lovers. Henry did not know Polish, so participation in public life bored him immensely. He spent his evenings and nights entertaining himself, while during the day he was most likely to sleep. He played cards and lost huge sums, taken from the state treasury. Naked girls performed at feasts given by the king. He also did not take royal duties seriously - for example, to avoid receiving business, he could spend two weeks in bed, feigning illness.

Escape to France

Soon after, in June 1574, Henry received the news of the death of his brother (on May 30), King Charles IX. A few days later, on the night of June 18-19, 1574, he secretly, without seeking the advice of the Senate, left Wawel in disguise and headed hastily toward the border. The king was accompanied by his butler Jan du Halde, courtier Gilles de Souvré, physician Mark Miron and guard captain Nicolas de Larchant. The king's departure was noticed, however, and a chase led by Wojnicki castellan Jan Tęczynski immediately set out after him.

As Henry's retinue approached the border, an Oświęcim starosta spotted him. He threw off his clothes, jumped into the river and, swimming towards the king, shouted: Most Illustrious Lord, why are you running away? Just over the border (according to tradition: on the horns of Pszczyna) Henry was caught by a pursuit sent from Cracow. Henry rejected requests to return to the country and establish a replacement government before officially leaving. He promised to return in a few months. He didn't. Bishop Karnkowski sent a delegation headed by Jan Dmitri Solikowski to France, which unsuccessfully in Chambery urged Henry to return.

Consequences of the king's escape

Ministers and senators from Lesser Poland, who were in Cracow, notified Greater Poland and Lithuania of the king's departure. The Primate convened a Sejm for the end of August. Nearly all senators were initially opposed to declaring an interregnum and a new election, while most deputies believed that Henry's clandestine departure freed his subjects from their obligations to the monarch and allowed for the election of a new one. As a result of lengthy discussions, an envoy (Tomasz Drohojewski) was sent on September 15 with a letter to the king, setting May 12, 1575 as the deadline for his return to the country. At the same time, it was announced that Henry would lose his throne if he failed to meet this deadline. Henry promised the parliamentary deputies a speedy return.

The country was to have noble and hood confederations in place by then, just as during the previous interregnum. Henry Valois did not fulfill his promise to return, so the throne was considered empty and a new election was announced.

Henry never relinquished power in the Republic and, after his dethronement, considered himself its rightful monarch until the end of his life. Among other things, he used coats of arms with the Polish Eagle and the Lithuanian Pogo.

Culture clash

The short reign of Henry of Valois at Wawel was a real clash of civilizations between Polish and French realities. The young king and his French entourage were surprised by the drunken parties held by Polish subjects, disappointed by the poverty of the Polish countryside and the country's harsh climate. The Poles, on the other hand, regarded the French as effeminate, and resented the rulers' foreign dress and penchant for jewelry.

On the other hand, however, Walezy was enchanted by Wawel Castle, a comfortable and spacious castle, three times the size of the Louvre at the time. It was here that Valois first encountered the amenities of outhouses and sewers. France at the time was not familiar with such solutions - the aristocracy living in French palaces and castles took care of their physiological needs wherever they could (often fireplaces and corridors). According to legend or anecdote, Henry Valois, escaping from Cracow to Paris, also took with him a set of forks, which he supposedly saw for the first time in Poland, and which were supposed to be unknown in France. Consequently, some sources attribute the spread of the custom of eating with cutlery in France to Valois, although others indicate that the custom had already been popularized at the French court by Henry's mother, Catherine de Medici.

Henry returned to France during the course of another religious war (1574-1576). On February 13, 1575, Henry was crowned King of France at Reims. Two days later, he married Louise Lorraine, daughter of Nicolas Lorraine, Duke de Mercœur, and Margaret, daughter of John III, Count d'Egmont. With no money to continue the war, he had to make extensive concessions to the Huguenots. He condemned the events that took place during St. Bartholomew's Night two years earlier, and concluded a peace treaty in 1576 in which the Huguenots were allowed freedom of faith and to participate in provincial parliaments. In fact, many Huguenot towns were then granted independence from royal authority. Outraged by these concessions, Catholics formed the armed Catholic League, with the intention of overthrowing Henry III and continuing the fight against the Huguenots.

The aforementioned Catholic League was headed by the two Guise brothers, Duke Henry I de Guise and Cardinal Louis de Guise. In 1576, the sixth religious civil war broke out, which ended with the 1577 Bergerac negotiations, in which the King of Navarre - Henry of Bourbon, a survivor of the slaughter during St. Bartholomew's Night and little involved in the war - participated.

The Seventh War of Religion began in 1579 under the influence of Duke Henri de Condé, who, wanting to control his governorate, Picardy, seized the fortress at La Fere. It prompted a response from Henry III. Henry Navarre also became involved in the War, wanting to bring order to his governorate: Guyenne. He moved against the vice-governor Armand de Gontaut, Baron de Biron, and captured the fortress of Cahors. The war ended with the Treaty of Fleix in 1580, with the Protestants losing their gains, but Baron de Biron was recalled from Guyenne.

In 1584, Henry's younger brother, François Hercules d'Anjou, died childless. Henry III himself was also childless; moreover, he exhibited feminine qualities and liked to dress up as women occasionally during balls.

His behavior, but also his clothes, hairstyles and jewelry (Valois believed that a ruler should emphasize his place in the hierarchy) shocked his contemporaries, and the view of his homosexuality, then called sodomy, has survived to this day. However, this view is confirmed only in publications paid for during Valois' time by the reluctant Whigs or messages, hostile to France, from diplomats. The view of his homosexuality is difficult to defend in view of the known facts of his love affairs (love for Marie de Clèves). Researchers do not rule out Henry's inclination to both sexes (in other words, bisexuality) and, mentioning his mother (Catherine de Medici), speak of a Freudian castrating mother.

After the death of the Duke of Andegavia, the throne of France - according to Salic law - should go to Henry III's closest relative in the male line. He was, although very distant (21st degree of consanguinity), Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot leader.

The prospect of a Protestant taking the French throne activated the Catholic League, which was supported financially and militarily by King Philip II of Spain and morally by Pope Sixtus V. Thus, in 1585, another religious war began, popularly known as the "War of the Three Henrys" (Henry III, Henry of Navarre and Henry de Guise). Henry of Navarre enjoyed numerous military successes, and was supported by Queen Elizabeth of England and the Protestant German princes. King Henry III sought to bring about peace.

On May 12, 1588, the always ultra-Catholic Paris revolted against its king. Henry III fled the city, which was entered by the enthusiastically welcomed Duc de Guise. Henry III moved to Blois, where he convened the States General. The Duc de Guise also came to them. On December 23, the duke was assassinated as he was going to a meeting of the royal council. On December 24, his brother, Cardinal Louis, was beheaded. This step caused the Catholic part of France to turn away from Henry, who in this situation made a great political volte-face and made an alliance with Henry of Navarre (April 1589). Upon hearing of this, Pope Sixtus V placed a curse on Henry.

Aided by King Henry III of Navarre, the king began a siege of unruly Paris. On Wednesday, August 1, 1589, the Dominican Jacques Clément asked for an audience with the king. The king was staying in Saint-Cloud at the time, from where he was directing the siege. The monk claimed to have important information, so he was led to Henri, who just happened to be on the toilet. The monk knelt in front of the king and handed him a letter, and when Henry began to read, he stabbed him in the lower abdomen. The king managed to cut the assassin in the forehead, who was stabbed with swords, and his body was thrown out the window.

The medics called in put the entrails back into the body and gave Henry an enema. It was soon expelled through the wound, which was considered a good sign. Henry's mood improved, but a few hours later he developed a severe fever and realized that death was imminent. In the presence of witnesses, he appointed Henry of Navarre as his successor. During the night, he asked for the last sacraments. His confessor asked him if he forgave his enemies, including those who had sent a murderer against him. I forgive them, too, and ask God to forgive their trespasses, as I would like him to forgive mine, the king replied. He crossed himself twice and died at three o'clock in the morning.

Henry's embalmed body was temporarily buried in Compiègne at the Abbey of Saint-Cornille, while the urn containing Henry's heart was walled up in front of the main altar of the Saint-Cloud church. When peace came, Henry was still buried in Compiègne - the new King Henry IV Bourbon did not move him to the Basilica of Saint Denis, as it was predicted that he would be laid to rest in the same basilica a week after Henry III. The transfer of the body of the last Valois on the French throne did not take place until 1610. A few weeks later, Henry IV died at the hands of an assassin, who was a religious fanatic.

As King of France, he had been Grand Master of the Order of Saint Michael since the day of his coronation on February 20, 1575, but due to the decline in its importance, on December 31, 1578, he established the Order of the Holy Spirit, the highest decoration of the kingdom of France, named to commemorate his election as King of Poland and assumption of the French throne, both of which took place on the days when Pentecost was celebrated.

He was also awarded the English Order of the Garter on February 28, 1585.

Henry is one of the protagonists of Alexandre Dumas' (his father's) novel Queen Margot. In the 1994 film adaptation of the book, directed by Patrice Chéreau, the character of Henry was played by Pascal Greggory.

The year 2019 saw the premiere of Jedrzej Napieck's fiction novel The King Who Fled. The book depicts in humorous form the backstage of the election of Henry of Valois as king of the Republic. It was published by the Krytyka Polityczna publishing house.

Henry's road to France, after fleeing Poland, led through Italy, as evidenced by a plaque discovered by Henryk Lubomirski in 1832-1833 on the wall of a Venetian patrician's house, located on the Brenta River, between Padua and Mestre with the following content (in Latin):


  1. Henry III of France
  2. Henryk III Walezy
  3. fr. Henry, par la grace de Dieu roy de France et de Pologne[1];
  4. fr. Henry, par la grace de Dieu roy de France et de Pologne, grand duc de Lithuanie[2]
  5. Po ucieczce króla nie zostało ogłoszone bezkrólewie, formalnie Henryk Walezy tron polski utracił 12 maja 1575 z upływem ultimatum dotyczącym powrotu do Polski.
  6. En polonais, Henryk Walezy (Écouter).
  7. Toquet à aigrette, tour de bonnet richement orné, boutons en orfèvrerie du pourpoint brodé.
  8. L'italien Fhilippo Cavriana est le seul contemporain à signaler la présence du duc d'Anjou dans les rues (à la tête de troupes et de pièces d'artillerie).
  9. ^ Ebbe padrini Edoardo VI d'Inghilterra e Antonio di Borbone, duca di Vendome, futuro re di Navarra, e come madrina, la moglie di quest'ultimo come madrina, Jeanne d'Albret, principessa Viane, futuro Giovanna III di Navarra.
  10. ^ Viennot, 1994, p. 25.
  11. Кастело А. Королева Марго. — (ЖЗЛ). — М.: Молодая гвардия, 2009. — С. 99—100. — ISBN 978-5-235-03178-4.
  12. Генрих III, французский король // Энциклопедический словарь Брокгауза и Ефрона : в 86 т. (82 т. и 4 доп.). — СПб., 1890—1907.
  13. Solnon, Jean-Francois. La Cour de France (неопр.). — P.: Fayard, 1987.

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