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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

The marriage

Unfortunately, Jeanne d’Albret did not live to see her son married to a daughter of France. She died on 9 June 1572, shortly after she and Marguerite de Valois had agreed on the marriage. Henri was left an orphan and was deprived as well of a political mentor, since it was Jeanne who had always guided him on his path as first prince of the blood and leader of the Huguenot forces.

There was little enthusiasm for the marriage, which was planned for 18 August 1572. The Protestants were suspicious of the king and his entourage – since the early 1560s, royal policy towards them had constantly shifted. The Catholics, led by the Guise clan, thought the wedding was an intolerable and unnatural union. Finally, in that scorching month of August, the residents of Paris were outraged by the overt presence of so many Huguenots – the very group that Catholic preachers had taught them to abhor.

Still, the wedding went ahead as planned. Henri de Navarre and Marguerite exhanged vows in front of Notre Dame cathedral, taking the surging crowd as witnesses. The newlyweds then entered the church, where Henri de Navarre led his bride up to the chancel. As planned, he then withdrew to the bishop's palace to await the end of the ceremonies.

Three days of celebrations then followed, complete with gargantuan banquets, balls and entertainments. During these shows, the king and his brothers were depicted in opposition to Henri, flanked by other Huguenot leaders. The script was always the same – the Huguenots were the villains, defeated but spared through the leniency of the king. These staged humiliations stoked resentments during the festivities.

Related multimedia

Title: Marguerite de Valois

Marguerite de Valois
Musée Crozatier du Puy-en-Velay
Portrait of Marguerite de Valois. Musée Crozatier du Puy-en-Velay

Title: Marguerite de France, queen of Navarre

Marguerite de France, queen of Navarre
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Marguerite de France, queen of Navarre, daughter of Henri II, wife of Henri IV (1553–1615), drawing by François Clouet, circa 1559. Musée Condé de Chantilly, MN42;B366

Title: Marriage of Henri de Navarre and Marguerite de Valois

Marriage of Henri de Navarre and Marguerite de Valois
© Archives départementales des Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Marriage of Henri de Navarre and Marguerite de Valois (Hermann Vogel), G. Montorgueil, Henri IV, Paris, 1907, cat. no. 440g, AD des Pyrénées-Atlantiques, U.4095-R.

Title: Ball at the Valois court

Ball at the Valois court
© MBA, Rennes, Dist RMN / Adélaïde Beaudoin
Ball at the Valois court, painting, French School, circa 1580. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, INV1794-1-135
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