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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

Propaganda

Henri IV had what today might be termed a keen sense of communication. We can see this in his desire to control how information he deemed to be important was disseminated. After the Battle of Ivry, for example, he drew up a veritable military communiqué describing his victory. A very modern communication sensibility can also be seen in his distribution of tracts – to reassure Parisians after his entry into the capital in 1594, for example, or to inform his subjects about the state of his health after Jean Châtel's failed assassination attempt in the same year.

Henri IV was preoccupied with what people thought of him, and with the image he wanted to convey to his contemporaries and leave to future generations. Thus, he sought to control how his deeds and gestures were described. All available means were used to "illustrate" important events: proclamations, chronicles, histories, prints, engravings, paintings (particularly works by François Bunel and François Pourbus), sculptures and medallions. Henri also had need to be recognised. Very early on, the royal propaganda machine spread the image of the king, with his large nose, white feather, white sash across his breastplate, moustache and goatee.

Thus, over time, this illustrated history of Henri IV's life and actions provided a basis for the creation of the legend.

Related multimedia

Title: Edict of Senlis

Edict of Senlis, tract dated 20 March 1594 distributed to the Parisians
Musée Condé de Chantilly
Caption:
Edict of Senlis, tract dated 20 March 1594 distributed to the Parisians.

Title: Henri IV astide a rearing horse

Henri IV astide a rearing horse
© Musée national du château de Pau / Jean-Yves Chermeux
Caption:
Henri IV astide a rearing horse, engraving by Antonio Tempesta, 1593. Musée national du château de Pau, P. 1336

Title: Silver medallion of Henri IV

Silver medallion of Henri IV in commemoration of his victory
© BnF
Caption:
Silver medallion of Henri IV in commemoration of his victory over the duc de Savoie. The king is depicted as Mars defeating a centaur, symbolising the duc Charles-Emmanuel I, by Nicolas Guimier. Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

Title: Henri IV, king of France and Navarre

Full-length portrait of Henri IV
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
Henri IV, king of France and Navarre, oil on canvas attributed to Frans II Pourbus, late 16th c. Musée national du château de Pau, Inv. P. 543

Title: Pourtraict du Très-chrestien et très victorieux Henri IIII

Frontispiece with portrait of Henri IV
© Musée national du château de Pau / Jean-Yves Chermeux
Caption:
Pourtraict du Très-chrestien et très victorieux Henri IIII, roy de France et de Navarre, engraving by Georges Blaignan (Paris, Abel Langelier, 1604). Musée national du château de Pau, Inv. BP.4237.

Title: Portrait of Henri IV on horseback

Portrait of Henri IV on horseback
© Musée national du château de Pau / Jean-Yves Chermeux
Caption:
Portrait of Henri IV on horseback, anonymous drawing, circa 1609-1610. Musée national du château de Pau, P.62-23-1
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