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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

The assassination

In the Rue de la Ferronnerie, the carriage stopped suddenly before the "Crowned Heart Pierced by an Arrow" tavern. Two carts, one of them loaded with hay, and the other with barrels, were blocking the narrow street. The valets bustled about, trying to get the carts to move along. Meanwhile, the rest of the escort decided to cut through the Cemetery of the Innocents, as it was impossible to stay near the carriage, which was caught between the stalls and the boundary-markers of the road. It was just at that moment that a "malicious and desperate wretch named François Ravaillac" (Pierre de L’Estoile) made his move. It was the perfect occasion: the coach had stopped and the guards were occupied elsewhere. Ravaillac, a tall, red-headed man, leaped forward. In his left hand, he held a long, sharp knife with a handle made of antler. Bracing himself on the carriage's axle and a boundary-marker, Ravaillac stabbed the king for the first time. The knife entered between the second and third rib, near the king's armpit, but the blow was not fatal, as the blade had to pierce the sleeve of Henri's doublet, the doublet itself and the shirt. Before anyone knew what was happening, the assassin struck again, this time more deeply. The second blow was lower, and entered the king's body between the fifth and sixth rib. This time, the knife pierced the left lung, cut through the vena cava and burst the heart. A third blow, which immediately followed, pierced only Montbazon's sleeve.

Everything happened so fast that the onlookers had no time to react. Montbazon's remark to the king, "What is it, Sire?", speaks to the general level of astonishment. "It's nothing," Henri replied once distinctly, and then again more weakly. The blood that flowed from his lips made further speech impossible. La Force , the only Hugenot present, cried out, "Think of God!" By then, it was no doubt too late. The assassin's blade had done its work, and its victim would have survived only a few minutes at most.

Related multimedia

Title: Assassination of Henri IV, Rue de la Ferronnerie

Assassination of Henri IV, Rue de la Ferronnerie
Assassination of Henri IV, Rue de la Ferronnerie (14 May 1610), H. Castelli and Polliet, source: V. Duruy, Histoire populaire de la France, Paris, 1866, cat. n° 379f. Département des estampes et de la photographie

Title: Henri IV assassinated by Ravaillac

Henri IV assassinated by  Ravaillac
© Archives départementales des Vosges
Vignette "14 May 1610, Henri IV dies, assassinated by the despicable Ravaillac, who struck him with a knife in the Rue de la Ferronnerie". Histoire de France, pl. 9, detail, imagerie d’Épinal

Title: Commemorative plaque

Commemorative plaque
© Ministère de la Culture / Charles-Louis Foulon
Commemorative plaque, Rue de la Ferronnerie
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