Henri de Navarre, the good King
The son of Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne de Navarre, prince du sang – a natural heir to the Kings of France – he was born in 1553 in a country racked by religious wars. In 1572 he became King of Navarre at the death of his mother Jeanne d’Albret. Leader of the Huguenot party and their military commander, in 1589, at the death of the childless Henri III, he abjured his protestant faith to ascend the throne. He was crowned Henri IV in Chartres cathedral in 1594. After suppressing the ultra Catholic League, responsible for massacres of protestants and moderate catholics, in 1598, he enacted the Edict of Nantes, that guaranteed freedom of faith across the kingdom.
His reign was peaceful and France’s finances, economy, roads and well-being improved dramatically under the leadership of Henri’s minister and friend, Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully.
From the Wikipedia entry:
“Henri IV proved to be a man of vision and courage. Instead of waging costly wars to suppress opposing nobles, Henry simply paid them off. As king, he adopted policies and undertook projects to improve the lives of all subjects, which made him one of the country’s most popular rulers ever.”
A declaration often attributed to him is:
|“||Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n’ait les moyens d’avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot!(If God keeps me, I will make sure that there is no working man in my kingdom who does not have the means to have a chicken in the pot every Sunday!)||”|
The great love of his life was Gabrielle d’Estrées, duchess de Beaufort, immortalised on a famous painting by an unknown artist, now at the Louvre museum in Paris.
Henri IV was assassinated by a fanatic in Paris on 14 May 1610.