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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

The rites

Since the end of the afternoon, the body of Henri IV had lain on a bed in the small cabinet of the queen. Around midnight, his blood-stained garments were removed. The body was washed and dressed in a white satin doublet, and then was taken to his chamber and placed on the bed. The following day, the king's 18 doctors and 13 surgeons carried out the autopsy. All noted the good general condition of the corpse, and agreed that the second wound "was the sole and necessary cause of death."

Embalming of the body began immediately afterwards. The king's entrails were placed in a vessel and transported to Saint-Denis on 18 May. His heart was placed in a lead urn set in a heart-shaped silver reliquary and, in accordance with his wishes, was transported by Montbazon and some 400 knights to the Jesuit college of La Flèche. Once it was embalmed, the king's body was placed in a coffin and laid out on a bed covered with gold drapery in the Grande Chambre de Parade in the Tuileries. The king lay in state for eighteen days, during which one hundred low masses and six high masses were said daily. On 10 June, the casket was moved to the Salle des Caryatides and laid out on a bed of state on which was placed an effigy of the deceased sovereign.

The rites ended with the actual funeral. On 25 June, Louis XIII sprinkled holy water on his father's body. On 29 June, a procession of all of the State's constitutional bodies accompanied the body of Henri IV to Notre Dame, where an initial ceremony was held. The next day, Henri was taken to saint-Denis, the royal necropolis, and on 1 July 1610, the king was interred there. Meanwhile, the body of Henri III had been hastily brought from Compiègne and placed in the vault in order to symbolise the royal succession.

Related multimedia

Title: Bust of Henri IV

Bust of Henri IV, polychrome wax
A wickerwork effigy of Henri IV – meant to symbolically represent him – had been made and adorned with all of the customary royal insignia. The crowned head and hands were fashioned from wax using moulds, to make the effigy even more realistic. This was meant to show, in spectacular and symbolic fashion, that the royal dignity did not perish. In addition, as if to provide even more proof of this immortality, the effigy was served two meals a day, as if the king were still alive!
Bust of Henri IV, by Guillaume Dupré (Sissonne, circa 1574- ?, 1647), 1610. Polychrome wax; H. 62; L. 37 cm. Musée Condé de Chantilly, OA 1277

Title: Cenotaph of Henri IV

Cenotaph of Henri IV attributed to Noël Mérillon
© Prytanée national militaire
Cenotaph of Henri IV attributed to Noël Mérillon, circa 1650. The king's ashes are preserved at the Eglise Saint-Louis of the Prytanée National Militaire

Title: L’argenterie du roy pour l’année 1610

Document listing the crown's expenditures for 1610
© Archives nationales
This document lists the crown's expenditures for 1610: coronation of the queen, Henri IV's funeral ceremony and the coronation of Louis XIII. We thus know all the details concerning the effigy because the suppliers are mentioned: the "royal outfit for the effigy" was supplied by the clothiers Pierre Robin and Jehan Royer. It consisted of a doublet in silver cloth lined with white taffeta, hose in white Florentine silk, silk stockings, a crimson satin camisole, a dalmatic (a wide-sleeved liturgical garment), a tunic and ankle boots in crimson satin and a taffeta-lined cloak in Tours velvet. Four embroiderers were charged with creating fleurs-de-lys: 1,450 for the king's shroud, 1,866 on the dais and 3,420 on the royal cloak.
L’argenterie du roy pour l’année 1610
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