Henry III of France

Henry III
Anjou 1570louvre.jpg
Portrait by François Clouet
King of Poland
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Reign16 May 1573 – 12 May 1575
Coronation22 February 1574, Wawel
PredecessorSigismund II Augustus
SuccessorAnna and Stephen
InterrexJakub Uchański
King of France
Reign30 May 1574 – 2 August 1589
Coronation13 February 1575, Reims
PredecessorCharles IX
SuccessorHenry IV
Born19 September 1551
Château de Fontainebleau
Died2 August 1589(1589-08-02) (aged 37)
Château de Saint-Cloud
BurialBasilica of St Denis
SpouseLouise of Lorraine
HouseValois-Angoulême
FatherHenry II of France
MotherCatherine de' Medici
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureHenry III's signature

Henry III (19 September 1551 – 2 August 1589; born Alexandre Édouard de France, Polish: Henryk Walezy, Lithuanian: Henrikas Valua) was King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1573 to 1575 and King of France from 1574 until his death. Henry was the thirteenth king from the House of Valois, the sixth from the Valois-Orléans branch, the fifth from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch, and the last male of his dynasty.

As the fourth son of King Henry II of France, he was not expected to inherit the French throne and thus was a good candidate for the vacant throne of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, where he was elected King/Grand Duke in 1573. During his brief rule, he signed the Henrician Articles into law, recognizing the Polish nobility's right to freely elect their monarch. Aged 22, Henry abandoned Poland-Lithuania upon inheriting the French throne when his brother, Charles IX, died without issue.

France was at the time plagued by the Wars of Religion, and Henry's authority was undermined by violent political parties funded by foreign powers: the Catholic League (supported by Spain and the Pope), the Protestant Huguenots (supported by England and the Dutch) and the Malcontents, led by Henry's own brother, the Duke of Alençon, which was a party of Catholic and Protestant aristocrats who jointly opposed the absolutist ambitions of the king. Henry III was himself a politique, arguing that a strong and religiously tolerant monarchy would save France from collapse.

After the death of Henry's younger brother Francis, Duke of Anjou, and when it became apparent that Henry would not produce an heir, the Wars of Religion developed into a succession crisis, the War of the Three Henrys. Henry III's legitimate heir was his distant cousin Henry, King of Navarre, a Protestant. The Catholic League, led by Henry I, Duke of Guise, sought to exclude Protestants from the succession and championed the Catholic Charles, Cardinal of Bourbon, as Henry III's heir.

In 1589, Jacques Clément, a Catholic fanatic, murdered Henry III. He was succeeded by the King of Navarre who, as Henry IV, assumed the throne of France after converting to Catholicism, as the first French king of the House of Bourbon.

Early life

Childhood

Henry was born at the royal Château de Fontainebleau, the fourth son of King Henry II and Catherine de' Medici and grandson of Francis I of France and Claude of France. His older brothers were Francis II of France, Charles IX of France, and Louis of Valois. He was made Duke of Angoulême and Duke of Orléans in 1560, then Duke of Anjou in 1566.

He was his mother's favourite; she called him chers yeux ("precious eyes") and lavished fondness and affection upon him for most of his life. His elder brother, Charles, grew to detest him, partially because he resented his better health.[citation needed]

The royal children were raised under the supervision of the governor and governess of the royal children, Claude d'Urfé and Françoise d'Humières, under the orders of Diane de Poitiers.[1]

Youth

In his youth, Henry was considered the best of the sons of Catherine de' Medici and Henry II.[2] 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 "a little Huguenot", he refused to attend Mass, sang Protestant psalms to his sister Margaret (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, he became nominally Roman Catholic.[3]

Sexuality

Henry III by Étienne Dumonstier, c.1578

Reports that Henry engaged in same-sex relations with his court favourites, known as the mignons,[4][5] date back to his own time. Certainly he enjoyed intense relationships with them.[6] The scholar Louis Crompton maintains that all of the contemporary rumors were true.[7] Some modern historians dispute this. Jean-Francois Solnon,[8] Nicolas Le Roux,[9] and Jacqueline Boucher[10] have noted that Henry had many famous mistresses, that he was well known for his taste in beautiful women, and that no male sex partners have been identified. They have concluded that the idea he was homosexual was promoted by his political opponents (both Protestant and Catholic) who used his dislike of war and hunting to depict him as effeminate and undermine his reputation with the French people.[11] Certainly his religious enemies plumbed the depths of personal abuse in attributing vices to him, topping the mixture with accusations of what they regarded as the ultimate devilish vice, homosexuality. And the portrait of a self-indulgent sodomite, incapable of fathering an heir to the throne, proved useful in efforts by the Catholic League to secure the succession for Cardinal Charles de Bourbon after 1585.[6]

Gary Ferguson found their interpretations unconvincing: "It is difficult to reconcile the king whose use of favourites is so logically strategic with the man who goes to pieces when one of them dies."[12] Katherine Crawford, by contrast, emphasizes the problems Henry's reputation encountered because of his failure to produce an heir and the presence of his powerful mother at court, combined with his enemies' insistence on conflating patronage with favouritism and luxury with decadence.[13]

Elizabeth

In 1570, discussions commenced arranging for Henry to court Queen Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth, almost 37, was expected by many parties in her country to marry and produce an heir. However, nothing came of these discussions. In initiating them, Elizabeth is viewed by historians as having intended only to arouse the concern of Spain, rather than contemplate marriage seriously. The chance of marriage was further blighted by differing religious views (Henry was Catholic, Elizabeth Protestant) and his opinion of Elizabeth. Henry tactlessly referred to Elizabeth as a putain publique (public whore) and made stinging remarks about their difference in age. Upon hearing (inaccurately) that she limped because of a varicose vein, he called her an "old creature with a sore leg".[3]

Wars of Religion

The Siege of La Rochelle by the Duke of Anjou in 1573 ("History of Henry III" tapestry, completed in 1623)

Prior to ascending the French throne in 1574, Henry served as a leader of the royal army in the French Wars of Religion, taking part in the victories over Huguenots at the Battle of Jarnac (March 1569) and at the Battle of Moncontour (October 1569). While still Duke of Anjou, he helped plot the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572. Though Henry did not participate directly, historian Thierry Wanegffelen sees him as the royal most responsible for the massacre, which involved the targeted killing of many key Huguenot leaders. Henry III's reign as King of France, like those of his elder brothers Francis and Charles, would see France in constant turmoil over religion.

Henry continued to take an active role in the Wars of Religion, and in 1572/1573 led the siege of La Rochelle, a massive military assault on the Huguenot-held city. At the end of May 1573, Henry learned that the Polish szlachta had elected him King of Poland (a country with a large Protestant minority at the time) and political considerations forced him to negotiate an end to the assault. Negotiators reached an agreement on 24 June 1573, and Catholic troops ended the siege on 6 July 1573.

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: III Henri
Bân-lâm-gú: Henri 3-sè
беларуская: Генрых III Валуа
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Генрык Валезы
български: Анри III
eesti: Henri III
فارسی: هانری سوم
한국어: 앙리 3세
Bahasa Indonesia: Henri III dari Perancis
ქართული: ანრი III ვალუა
latviešu: Anrī III Valuā
Lëtzebuergesch: Henri III. vu Frankräich
lietuvių: Henrikas Valua
македонски: Анри III
Simple English: Henry III of France
српски / srpski: Анри III Валоа
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Henri III od Francuske
Tiếng Việt: Henri III của Pháp