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Henry III
Henry III, 1570 by François Clouet,
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania
Reign 16 May 1573 – 12 May 1575
Coronation 21 February 1574
Predecessor Sigismund II Augustus
Successor Anna the Jagiellonian and
Stephen Bathory
Regent Jakub Uchański, Interrex
King of France
Reign 30 May 1574 – 2 August 1589
Coronation 13 February 1575
Predecessor Charles IX
Successor Henry IV
Spouse Louise of Lorraine
House House of Valois
Father Henry II of France
Mother Catherine de' Medici
Born 19 September 1551(1551-09-19)
Château de Fontainebleau, France
Died 2 August 1589 (aged 37)
Saint-Cloud, France
Burial Saint Denis Basilica, France
Coat of Arms of Henri de Valois as lifelong King of Poland

Henry III (19 September 1551 – 2 August 1589, born Alexandre-Édouard de Valois-Angoulême, Polish: Henryk Walezy, Lithuanian: Henrikas Valua) was King of France from 1574 to 1589. As Henry of Valois, he was the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the dual titles of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1573 to 1575.



Early years

Henry was born at the Royal Château de Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, fourth son of King Henry II and Catherine de' Medici, grandson of Francis I of France and Claude of France, and brother of Francis II of France and Charles IX of France. He was made Duke of Angoulême and Duke of Orléans in 1560, and Duke of Anjou in 1566.

In 1564, his name became Henri. He was his mother's favourite; she called him chers yeux ("Precious Eyes") and lavished fondness and affection upon him for most of his life. His elder brother, Charles, grew to detest him, resenting Henry's greater health and activity.[citation needed]


In his youth, he was considered the best of the sons of Catherine de' Medici and Henry II. Unlike his father and elder brothers, he had little interest in the traditional Valois pastimes of hunting and physical exercise. Although he was both fond of fencing and skilled in it, he preferred to indulge his tastes for the arts and reading. These predilections were attributed to his Italian mother.

At one point in his youth he showed a tendency towards Protestantism as a means of rebelling. At the age of nine, calling himself un petit Huguenot, he refused to attend Mass, sang Protestant psalms to his sister Margaret (exhorting her all the while to change her religion and cast her Book of Hours into the fire), and even bit the nose off a statue of Saint Paul. His mother firmly cautioned her children against such behaviour, and he would never again show any Protestant tendencies—instead becoming nominally Roman Catholic.[1]

Prior to ascending the throne, he was a leader of the royal army in the French Wars of Religion against the Huguenots, and took part in the victories over them at Battle of Jarnac and Battle of Moncontour. While still Duke, he was involved in the plot for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (but did not participate), in which thousands of Huguenots were killed; his reign as King, like the ones of his elder brothers Francis II and Charles IX, would see France in constant turmoil over religion.


For a long time after his death, Henry was assumed to have been homosexual or at least bisexual[2]. Although there are many credible references which document Henry's homosexuality, it is still disputed[3]. For example, some modern historians, such as P. Erlanger[citation needed][4], J.F. Solnon, Nicolas Le Roux [5] and J. Boucher [6], found evidence to support the idea that, not only was Henry not homosexual (though still perhaps bisexual), but he had many famous mistresses. They found that there were no men named with whom he could have had sex, and that he was well-known at the time for his taste in beautiful women. They concluded that the idea of his supposed homosexuality was based on his dislike of war and hunting being interpreted as effeminate, an image cultivated by political opponents (both Protestants and ultra-Catholics) to turn the opinion of the French people against him. The scholar Louis Crompton provides substantial contemporary evidence of Henry III's homosexuality, and the associated problems at court and politics.[7]


In 1570, discussions commenced to arrange for Henry to court Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth, almost 37, was in need of a husband in order to produce an heir. However, nothing came of these discussions. Elizabeth is viewed by historians as having intended only to arouse the concern of Spain, rather than to have seriously contemplated marriage. The chance of marriage was further blighted by their differing religious views—Henry was at least formally a Catholic while Elizabeth was a Protestant—and his opinion of Elizabeth. Henry tactlessly referred to Elizabeth as a putain publique (a "public whore") and made stinging remarks about their difference in age. Upon hearing (inaccurately) that she limped because of a varicose vein, he called her an "old creature with a sore leg".[1]

French Monarchy-
Capetian Dynasty, House of Valois
(Valois-Angoulême branch)
Blason France moderne.svg

Francis I
   Francis, Dauphin of Viennois
   Henry II
   Magdalene, Queen of Scots
   Charles of Valois
   Margaret, Duchess of Savoy
Henry II
   Francis II
   Elizabeth, Queen of Spain
   Claude, Duchess of Lorraine
   Charles IX
   Henry III
   Margaret, Queen of Navarre
   François, Duke of Anjou
   Joan of Valois
   Victoria of Valois
Francis II
Charles IX
Henry III


Anna Jagiellon in 1576. She was elected Queen of Poland after Henry's escape.[8].

In 1573, Henry was elected King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As conditions for his free election, he was compelled to sign the pacta conventa and the Henrician Articles, pledging religious tolerance in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.[8] Henry chafed at the restrictions on monarchic power under the Polish-Lithuanian political system of "Golden Liberty".[8] The Polish-Lithuanian parliament had been urged by Anna Jagiellon, the sister of the recently deceased king Sigismund II Augustus, to elect him based on the understanding that Henry would wed Anna afterward.[9]

His brother, Charles IX of France, died three months after Henry's coronation as king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Henry secretly departed and returned to France.[8] He was crowned king of France on 13 February 1575, at Reims Cathedral.


Although he was expected to produce an heir after he married Louise of Lorraine (14 February 1575), they were unable to conceive a child.

Coin of Henry III, 1577

In 1576, Henry signed the Edict of Beaulieu, granting many concessions to the Huguenots. His action resulted in the Catholic activist, Henry I, Duke of Guise, forming the Catholic League. After much posturing and negotiations, Henry was forced to rescind most of the concessions that had been made to the Protestants in the Edict of Beaulieu.

In 1584, the King's youngest brother and heir presumptive, Francis, Duke of Anjou, died. Under Salic Law, the next heir to the throne was Protestant Henry III of Navarre, a descendant of St. Louis IX. Under pressure from the Duke of Guise, Henry III issued an edict suppressing Protestantism and annulling Henry III of Navarre's right to the throne.

Henry began a great friendship with the Feuillant reformer Jean de la Barrière and built a monastery for him and his followers to commemorate their friendship in 1587.

On 12 May 1588, when Henry I, Duke of Guise, entered Paris, Henry III fled the city.

On 23 December 1588, at the Château de Blois, the Duke of Guise arrived in the council chamber where his brother Louis II, Cardinal of Guise, waited. The Duke was told that the King wished to see him in the private room adjoining the royal bedroom. There guardsmen murdered the Duke, then the Cardinal. To make sure that no contender for the French throne was free to act against him, the King had the Duke's son imprisoned.

Henry I, Duke of Guise, had been highly popular in France, and the citizenry turned against King Henry for the murders. The Parlement instituted criminal charges against the King, and he joined forces with his heir, the Protestant Henry of Navarre, setting up the Parliament of Tours.


Jacques Clément assassinating Henry III

On 1 August 1589, Henry III lodged with his army at Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, prepared to attack Paris, when a young fanatical Dominican friar, Jacques Clément, carrying false papers, was granted access to deliver important documents to the King. The monk gave the King a bundle of papers and stated that he had a secret message to deliver. The King signaled for his attendants to step back for privacy, and Clément whispered in his ear while plunging a knife into his abdomen. Clément was killed on the spot by the guards.

At first the King's wound did not appear fatal, but he enjoined all the officers around him, in the event that he did not survive, to be loyal to Henry of Navarre as their new king. The following morning—the day that he was to have launched his assault to retake Paris—Henry III died.

Chaos swept the attacking army, most of it quickly melting away; the proposed attack on Paris was postponed. Inside the city, joy at the news of Henry III's death was near delirium; some hailed the assassination as an act of God.[10]


Henry III was interred at the Saint Denis Basilica. Childless, he was the last of the Valois kings. Henry III of Navarre succeeded him as Henry IV, the first of the Bourbon kings.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Henry III in Polish hat, portrait 1580s[11]

On 16 May 1573 Polish nobles elected Henry, as the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, the Lithuanian nobles boycotted this election, and it was the Lithuanian ducal council who confirmed his election.[12] Poland elected Henry, rather than Habsburg candidates, partly in order to be more agreeable to the Ottoman Empire, with which a Polish-Ottoman alliance was in effect.[13]

In Paris, on 10 September, a Polish delegation met with Henry and he took an oath, at Notre Dame Cathedral, to "respect traditional Polish liberties and the law on religious freedom that had been passed during the interregnum".[14] It was at a ceremony before the Paris parlement on 13 September that the Polish delegation handed over the "certificate of election to the throne of Poland-Lithuania".[14] Henry also gave up any claims to succession and he "recognized the principle of free election" under the Henrician Articles and the pacta conventa.[14]

It was not until January 1574 that Henry was to reach the borders of Poland. On 21 February, Henry's coronation was held.[15] It was in mid June 1574 that Henry would take leave of Poland and head back to France, upon hearing of his brother, Charles IX's death.[15] Henry's absence 'provoked a constitutional crisis' which Parliament attempted to resolve by notifiying Henry that his throne would be lost if he did not return from France by 12 May 1575.[15] His failure to return caused Parliament to declare his throne vacant.[15]

The short reign of Henry at Wawel Castle in Poland was marked by a clash of cultures between the Polish and the French. The young king and his followers were astonished by several Polish practices and disappointed by the rural poverty and harsh climate of the country.[8] The Polish, on the other hand, wondered if all Frenchmen were as concerned with their appearance as their new King appeared to be.[8]

In many aspects, Polish culture had a positive influence on France. At Wawel, the French were introduced to new methods of septic facilities, in which litter (excrement) was taken outside the castle walls.[16] On returning to France, Henry ordered the construction of such facilities at the Louvre and other palaces.[16] Other inventions introduced to the French by the Polish included a bath with regulated hot and cold water and the fork.[17]

Royal styles of
King Henry III
Par la grâce de Dieu, Roi de France

Blason France moderne.svg

Reference style His Most Christian Majesty
Spoken style Your Most Christian Majesty
Alternative style Monsieur Le Roi


  1. ^ a b Frieda, Leonie, Catherine de Medici, pp.179-180
  2. ^ Henri III-->
  3. ^ Henri III était homosexuel -
  4. ^ Philippe Erlanger, ||Henri III||, Gallimard, 1935
  5. ^ Nicolas Le Roux, ||Un régicide au nom de Dieu, l'assassinat d'Henri III||, Gallimard, 2006 Template:ISBN 2-07-073529
  6. ^ Jacqueline Boucher, ||La cour de Henri III||, Ouest-France, 1986 Template:ISBN 2-7373-0019-3
  7. ^ Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization (Harvard University Press, 2003) section entitled, "Henry III and the Mignons", pages 328-330
  8. ^ a b c d e f (Polish) Paweł Jasienica (1982). Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów (The Commonwealth of the Both Nations). Warsaw. ISBN 83-06007-88-3. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  9. ^ (Polish) Zbigniew Satała (1990). Poczet polskich królowych, księżnych i metres. Warsaw. ISBN 83-70072-57-7. 
  10. ^ Durant, Will, The Age of Reason Begins, vol. VII, (Simon and Schuster, 1961), p. 361.
  11. ^ (Polish) Stanisław Grzybowski (1985 publisher=). Henryk Walezy. Warsaw. ISBN 83-04001-18-7. 
  12. ^ Stone, Daniel (2001). The Polish-Lithuanian state, 1386–1795 [A History of East Central Europe, Volume IV.]. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 118. ISBN 0295980931. 
  13. ^ Warfare, state and society on the Black Sea steppe, 1500-1700 by Brian L. Davies p.25-26 [1]
  14. ^ a b c Stone, Daniel (2001). The Polish-Lithuanian state, 1386-1795 [A History of East Central Europe, Volume IV.]. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 119. ISBN 0295980931. 
  15. ^ a b c d Stone, Daniel (2001). The Polish-Lithuanian state, 1386–1795 [A History of East Central Europe, Volume IV.]. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0295980931. 
  16. ^ a b (Polish) Krzysztof Prendecki (2006-10-30). "Kuracja wiedzą". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  17. ^ (Polish) Matylda Selwa (2002-12-01). "Łyżka łyżce nierówna". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 

See also



  • Durant, Will, The Age of Reason Begins, vol. VII, Simon and Schuster, 1961.
  • Freer, Martha Walker, Henry III, King of France and Poland: his court and times, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1888.*[2]
  • Frieda, Leonie, Catherine de Medici, HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.
  • L'Estoile, Pierre De, Régistre-Journal du règne de Henri III, éd. M. Lazard et G. Schrenck, Genève, Droz, 1992.
  • Paweł, Jasienica Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów (The Commonwealth of the Both Nations), Warsaw, 1982.
  • Stanisław, Grzybowski, Henryk Walezy, Warsaw, 1985.
  • Stone, Daniel, The Polish-Lithuanian state, 1386-1795; A History of East Central Europe, Volume IV., Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.
  • Zbigniew, Satała, Poczet polskich królowych, księżnych i metres, Warsaw, 1990.

External links


References in popular culture

  • The Alexandre Dumas, père's novels: La Reine Margot(1845), La Dame de Monsoreau (1846) and Les quarante-cinq (1847).
  • The Alexandre Dumas, père's play, Henry III and His Court (1829)
  • Last Days of Henry III, King of France at the Internet Movie Database
  • The French movies La Reine Margot (1954) and La Reine Margot (1994), both based on Alexandre Dumas, père's novel of the same title, are fictional depictions of the lives of Henry III's family, his sister Margot, and her Protestant husband Henry around the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. In the 1994 film Henry is played by the actor Pascal Greggory. In Dumas' novel, Henri was not portrayed as homosexual, whereas, in the 1954 film, he was shown as an effeminate, comical queen. In the 1994 film, he was portrayed as a more sinister character, bisexual and showing sexual interest for his sister. His brother dies by being accidentally poisoned by his mother, who had intended to kill Henry of Navarre instead.
  • The film Elizabeth, released in 1998, depicts a fictional courtship between Elizabeth I of England and Henry III whilst still Duke of Anjou. In reality, the two never met and the Queen of England was actually courted by his younger brother François, Duke of Anjou. The film borrows some of the aspects of Henry III's life and features Anjou as a comical foolish transvestite. The role is portrayed by French actor Vincent Cassel.
  • In the film Dangerous Beauty he has a short affair with the main character, venetian courtesan Veronica Franco. He appears masculine, although he declared to Veronica that the "rumors" about him were true. He is played by British actor Jake Weber.
  • In an episode of Animaniacs, entitled "The Three Muska-Warners", an Elmer Fudd-like Henri III is protected by Yakko, Wakko and Dot. In this version, Henri is portrayed by Jeff Bennett as nervous and jumpy, and for no apparent reason speaks with an English accent.
  • Chabrier's opéra-comique Le roi malgré lui (1887) deals with the unhappy Polish episode, with Henri as the reluctant King of Poland. In Kraków he conspires with Polish nobles to depose himself. His friend Nangis changes places with him but in the end the plot fails and the curtain falls on Henri being crowned.
  • One episode of the science fiction novel "Vive le Roi!" by Vivian Davis takes place in a forest clearing near St. Cloud at an early morning hour of 1 August 1589, with a group of time travelers preparing to prevent the King's assassination as part of a complicated series of interventions in French history aimed at preventing the French Revolution and keeping France a monarchy into the 21st Century. The appearance of Time Police agents foils the plot, and Henry III's assassination goes ahead - a protagonist remarking "A pity, but history should not be tampered with".
Henry III of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 19 September 1551 Died: 2 August 1589
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sigismund II
King of Poland
16 May 1573–12 May 1575
Succeeded by
Anna and Stefan Batory
Grand Duke of Lithuania
16 May 1573–12 May 1575
Preceded by
Charles IX of France
King of France
30 May 1574–2 August 1589
Succeeded by
Henry IV of France
French royalty
Preceded by
Charles, Duke of Orléans
Heir to the Throne
as Heir presumptive
5 December 1560 — 30 May 1574
Succeeded by
François, Duke of Anjou
French nobility
Preceded by
Charles IX of France
Count of Provence and Forcalquier
as 'Henry II'

30 May 1574–2 August 1589
Succeeded by
Henry IV of France
Dauphin of Viennois, Count of Valentinois and of Diois
as 'Henry II of Viennois'

30 May 1574–2 August 1589
Preceded by
Duke of Angoulême
1551 – 30 May 1574
Succeeded by
Diane de France
Preceded by
Charles III, Duc d'Orléans
(Charles IX of France)
Duke of Orléans
1560 – 30 May 1574
Succeeded by
to royal domain
Preceded by
Duke of Anjou
1566 – 30 May 1574
Succeeded by

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|Henry III of France]] Henry III of France (September 19, 1551August 2, 1589) was a King of France and a member of the House of Valois. He was also a King of Poland.


Henry was born in Fontainbleau, France, on September 19, 1494. His parents were Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici. He was Catherine de Medici's favourite son.


Henry was married to Louise of Lorraine on February 13, 1575. They had no children.


Henry died in Saint-Cloud, France, on August 2, 1589, after being stabbed by a knife. He is buried in the Saint Denis Basilica. Henry was the last King of the Valois Dynasty. The next King was Henry IV of France, who was a member of the Bourbon Dynasty.

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