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Henri IV - An unfinished reign


Philippe Duplessis-Mornay


Philippe de Mornay, seigneur du Plessis-Marly, known as Philippe Duplessis-Mornay, was a theologian, writer and Protestant polemicist.

He was a friend and adviser to Henri de Navarre and Henri IV, and one of the pre-eminent French Protestants of the 16th century. He quickly became Henri's right-hand man, having joined his circle in 1576, and was part of the "co-existence laboratory" at the court at Nérac. He was entrusted with delicate diplomatic missions, and was able to calm the king of Navarre's fiery temperament and organise his ceaseless activity. He also placed his superb writing skills at Henri' service, a valuable asset in the ideological battle that opposed partisans of the Holy League and Politiques. Appointed governor of Saumur in 1589, Duplessis wrote the famous Letter to the Three Estates of this Kingdom for Henri, in which the sovereign offered a veritable administrative programme and called on the French to end their differences. Although Duplessis was an important adviser early in Henri IV's reign – charged in particular with reconciling the king and Marguerite de Valois, and later the negotiations culminating in the signing of the Edict of Nantes – he no longer had the same influence, especially after the abjuration. In 1600, a conference at Fontainebleau between Catholic and Protestant theologians (Duplessis for the Protestants and cardinal du Perron for the Catholics) marked the estrangement between the king and his adviser, since Duplessis publicly rejoiced at the cardinal's "defeat" in the proceedings. Shortly thereafter, Henri IV removed him from the post of general superintendant of mines. Duplessis-Mornay then retired to Saumur and died in 1623. His fall from grace, tinged with ingratitude, did not lessen the importance of this important member of Henri's circle.

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