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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

One education, two faiths

In 1557, little Henri de Navarre was presented by his parents to Henri II and Catherine de Médicis. The king asked Henri de Navarre if he would like to become his son. Pointing to Antoine de Bourbon, the boy answered in Béarnese dialect, "My father is that seigneur king over there." Henri III then asked the boy if he would like to become his son-in-law. "Obé" (Yes, of course) answered the quick-witted three-year-old.

In 1561, he returned to the court, unaware that he would spend nearly a decade there. Between Henri's two visits, things had changed. In 1557, the fires of Henri II's repression of the Protestants were still burning bright. But three years later, the mood had shifted to one of conciliation, led by Catherine de Médicis and chancelier Michel de l'Hôpital Hospital (Colloquy of Poissy ).

Although Antoine de Bourbon had toyed with Protestantism for a time – it was he, for example, who led the large Protestant processions at Pré-aux-Clercs in Paris in May of 1558. By 1562, however, he was back in the Catholic camp, convinced by the promise that the lost part of the kingdom of Navarre would be retaken. It was then Jeanne d’Albret's turn to take up the dissident cause. The daughter of Marguerite de Navarre had converted to Protestantism on Christmas Day 1560, and she never looked back. For several months now, she had allowed Protestants to preach in her lands, and she looked kindly on the progress made by the Protestant Reform movement. In signing the Order of 19 July 1561, she made Béarn into Protestant territory, according to the principle of Cujus regio, ejus religio. Henri was torn between the opposing religious views of his two parents.

His education reflects this split. Baptised as a Catholic in 1554, he naturally followed the religious inclination of his parents who, sometime in the late 1550s or early 1560s, assigned him a Protestant tutor, La Gaucherie. In 1562, Jeanne left and Henri stayed at court with his father, who intended to "root out the heresy in [Henri's] heart." After some hesitations on the boy's part, his father made him swear a loyalty oath to Catholicism on 1 June 1562, and gave him a very Catholic tutor, Jean de Losses.

It was at this time that Henri spent some time at the collège de Navarre in Paris. The spirit of Humanism was very much in the air, and Henri was given a classical education that would later form the basis for his writing style. Concurrent with his intellectual education, Henri perfected his training as a gentleman by means of physical exercises, in which he excelled. Trained at the royal equestrian academy at the Tuileries Palace under the orders of Carnavalet, he became the most talented horseman of his generation. This training would later prove invaluable when, as king, he rode throughout the country in the effort to recapture his kingdom.

Related multimedia

Title: Letter from the prince of Navarre to his father

Letter from the prince of Navarre to his father Antoine de Bourbon
© BnF
Caption:
Letter from the prince of Navarre to his father Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre (Paris ou Saint-Germain-en-Laye, entre août 1561 et mars 1562)

Title: Jeanne d'Albret

Jeanne d'Albret
© Musée national du château de Pau / Jean-Yves Chermeux
Caption:
Jeanne d'Albret, painting, French School, 16th c. Musée national du château de Pau, DP. 53-4-1

Title: Jeanne d'Albret

Jeanne d'Albret
© BnF
Caption:
Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre. Département des estampes et de la photographie de la BnF, QB-1 (1585)-FOL

Title: Henri d'Albret

Henri d'Albret
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
Henri d'Albret, king of Navarre (1503–1555), miniature on enamel, by Léonard Limosin, 16th c. Musée Condé de Chantilly, OA1585 1

Title: Marguerite d'Orléans

Marguerite d'Orléans
© RMN / Harry Bréjat
Caption:
Portrait of Marguerite d'Orléans, queen of Navarre, drawing by François Clouet, 1526. Musée Condé de Chantilly, MN43;B323

Title: Château de Pau

View of the Château de Pau from the park
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
View of the Château de Pau from the park, drawing by Louis François Lejeune, 1834. Musée national du château de Pau, P98-1-1
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