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Henri IV - An unfinished reign


Maximilien de Béthune


Maximilien de Béthune, baron and then marquis de Rosny (1575), duc de Sully and pair de France (1606) was a friend of Henri IV and minister.

Having narrowly escaped the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, the future duke joined Henri, who at the time was only king of Navarre. Their unshakeable friendship and collaboration was born on the battlefields (of Coutras, Arques and Ivry, among others) where Henri proved his mettle, and it deepened after the king appointed his friend to the position of superintendent of finances, and made Sully his principal advisor. After showing a real talent for organization and management, Sully offered Henri IV his political skills. His spectacular improvement of France's financial situation allowed him not only to pay off outstanding debts and to wage war against Spain, Savoy and the remnants of the Holy League, but to also beautify the capital. His actions as a reformer, reflected in the multiple mandates bestowed on him (superintendent of finances, grand master of artillery, grand voyer de France, superintendent of fortifications, etc.) reached also into the areas of agriculture and city and regional planning. The assassination of Henri IV on 14 May 1610 put an end to his good fortune. Progressively sidelined, Sully resigned from his position as Superintendent of Finances in 1611. He retired to his estates and began writing his memoirs, the first volume of which appeared in 1638. He died in Villebon, on 22 December 1641 at the age of 82, 31 years after the death of his friend.

Portrait of Sully
© RMN / René-Gabriel Odéja
Portrait of the duc de Sully from the painting gallery of the Chateau de Saint-Germain-Beaupré. Painting, French School, 16th c. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Blois

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