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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

A royal hostage (Act I)

In 1562, it was clear that conciliation policies had failed, since the first War of Religion had been raging since the spring. During this conflict, Henri's father was hit by a bullet from an arquebus at Rouen on 16 October 1562. He died of his wounds on 18 November of that year.

Deprived of his father, whose death had made him first prince of the blood, and with a mother who had left for home to encourage the Reform movement, Henri found himself alone and isolated at the French court. Catherine de Médicis understood the boy's strategic importance, and was only too happy to keep him near at hand. Not wishing to further alienate Jeanne d’Albret, Catherine appointed Henri lieutenant du roi and admiral of Guyenne in his father's stead. She also authorised Jeanne to look after her son's education from a distance. Henri thus changed both tutor and faith, and resumed his studies with the Huguenot La Gaucherie. He was only nine years old, but had already changed his religion four times. It would not be the last.

In the five years that followed, Henri de Navarre shared the life of his Valois cousins. He completed his education in brilliant fashion by taking part in the royal Tour de France between 1564 and 1566. In January 1566, Jeanne d’Albret returned to Moulins, near the court. She intended to take her son's education in hand, and in the months that followed she took him with her to visit her lands in Picardy and Vendôme. In the fall of that same year, without the authorisation of either the king or the queen mother, who was furious, Jeanne and Henri gradually withdrew from court by expanding the circle of their visits. In February 1567, they finally reached Pau. They were back to their native soil; it was the beginning of Henri's first dissent.

Related multimedia

Title: etter of appointment given by Charles IX to Henri de Navarre

Letter of appointment given by Charles IX to Henri de Navarre
© Archives nationales
Letter of appointment as lieutenant general, governor and admiral of the land and duchy of Guyenne, given by Charles IX to Henri de Navarre (Paris, 26/12/1562). AN J.867 n°1

Title: Charles IX, king of France

Charles IX, king of France
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Charles IX, king of France, painting after François Clouet, 16th c. Musée Condé de Chantilly, PE569

Title: Jeanne d'Albret

Jeanne d'Albret
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre (1528–1572), painting by François Clouet, 1570. Musée Condé de Chantilly, PE254

Title: Catherine de Médicis

Catherine de Médicis
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Portrait of Catherine de Médicis, painting after François Clouet, French School, 16th c. Musée Condé de Chantilly, PE276
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