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Henry IV, also known by the epithet "Good King Henry", was King of Navarre (as Henry III) from 1572 to 1610 and King of France from 1589 to 1610. He was the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon.

Baptised as a Catholic but raised in the Protestant faith by his mother Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, he inherited the throne of Navarre in 1572 on the death of his mother. As a Huguenot, Henry was involved in the French Wars of Religion, he barely escaped assassination at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, and he later led Protestant forces against the royal army.

As a French "prince of the blood" by reason of his descent from King Louis IX, he ascended the throne of France upon the death of his childless brother-in--law Henry III in 1589. In accepting the throne, he found it prudent to abjure his Calvinist faith. Regardless, his coronation was followed by a four-year war against the Catholic League to establish his legitimacy. As a pragmatic politician (in the parlance of the time, a politique), he displayed an unusual religious tolerance for the time. Notably, he promulgated the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which guaranteed religious liberties to Protestants, thereby effectively ending the Wars of Religion. He was assassinated by François Ravaillac, a fanatical Catholic, and was succeeded by his son Louis XIII.[1]

Considered as an usurper by Catholics and as a traitor by Protestants, Henry was hardly accepted by the population and escaped at least 12 assassination attempts. An unpopular king during his reign, Henry's popularity greatly improved posthumously.[3] The "Good King Henry" (le bon roi Henri) was remembered for his geniality and his great concern about the welfare of his subjects. He was celebrated in the popular song Vive le roi Henri and in Voltaire's Henriade.


Panel #84
Henry IV of France (1553 – 1610)
King of France
King of Navarre

Reign 9 June 1572 – 14 May 1610

King of Kings - by Lewis Lavoie