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  • Writer's picturejoyce hampton

A special date to remember

Yesterday, was the anniversary of the birth of a man who was to become a famous King of France, he was also highly respected by the Huguenots....who was he....?

Henri, heir and eventual King of Navarre, was born on the 2nd August 1589. His mother was Jeanne a passionate believer and champion of Protestantism (Calvinism).

He had married Margaret the sister of King Henri III and then became heir presumptive of Henri III the last of the male line of Valois following the death of the Duc D'Alencon, Henri III's brother. Henri IV was descended from the next senior line of Louis IX of France.

Henri III, on his deathbed, bequeathed the throne of France to Henri of Navarre who them became Henri IV. An enactment of this can be seen in the tapestry below.

Henri had been raised in the Protestant faith but, as the country was predominantly Catholic, he was aware his right to rule would not be accepted unless he converted to Catholisicm. He was said to have declared that Paris vaut bien une messe ("Paris is well worth a mass"). Naturally many Protestants did not approve of his conversion, indeed they deeply resented his desicion which took place in July 1593.

He was, however, a great diplomat and felt that Huguenots (French Protestants) should be permitted to freely worship in their chosen faith and to grant them equal status in many other areas of life both private and public.

He wanted to bring to an end the Wars of Religion that had torn France apart and worked tirelessly towards this goal which was achieved in 1598 when his Edict of Nantes was issued and became law. The article was a triumph of diplomacy in that it gave a new way forward for French Protestants whilst encouraging Catholics to not feel they were being treated unfairly.

A day late perhaps, but I salute Henri IV of France for what he achieved .... even though his grandson revoked the Edict almost a century later.

To find out more why not buy - The Story of the Huguenots: A Unique Legacy

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