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Henri IV - An unfinished reign


Although Henri's abjuration weakened the League and caused individuals as well as entire cities to rally to his side, the hard-line Catholic party continued to exist. The king knew that he would never be fully accepted by those who hated him until the day he was absolved by the pope. To do this, and to be truly the ruler of France, he had to be anointed and crowned king.

Reims, where French kings were traditionally crowned, refused. Henri then decided that the coronation would be held in the magnificent cathedral in the recently re-conquered city of Chartres. The Holy Ampoule, which held the oil that had been used to anoint kings since the time of Clovis, was in the hands of the League. This was not a problem – historians found another, older ampoule in the abbey of Marmoutier.

The ceremony took place on 27 February 1594. Crowds packed the cathedral to hear the king swear to "eliminate from [his] jurisdiction and lands under [his] dominion all heretics denounced by the Church", and to see him receive all of the symbols of the anointed king: spurs, sword, gloves, ring, sceptre, the hand of justice and the crown. As he left the nave, the king had gold and silver medallions distributed, bearing the inscription "Invia virtuti nulla est via" ("For virtue there is everywhere a way"). The path had been long, tortuous and sometimes painful, but Henri was now fully king, imbued with the thaumaturgical powers ascribed to the Capetians to cure scrofula through his touch.

Related multimedia

Title: Account of the transfer of the Holy Ampoule of Marmoutier

Transfer of the Holy Ampoule
Archives départementales d’Eure-et-Loir
Account of the transfer of the Holy Ampoule of Marmoutier (register of Noël de Bunes and Gabriel Sortés, notaires in Chartres). 2 E 8-36.

Title: Anointing and coronation of Henri IV

Anointing and coronation of Henri IV, ink and wash on paper
© BnF
Anointing and coronation of Henri IV, ink and wash on paper, by Desmaretz, late 16th c. BNF, Qb1 1594 BNF, Inv. Mss. Fr.

Title: Henri IV touching scrofula

Henri IV touching scrofula
© Musée national du château de Pau / Jean-Yves Chermeux
Henri IV touching scrofula, engraving by Pierre Firens, late 16th c. Musée national du château de Pau, Inv. P. 907.
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