Saturday, May 15, 2010

Death of a National Peacemaker

Today is the 400th anniversary of the political assassination of King Henri IV, who ruled France from 1589-1610. Henri brought the Wars of Religion to an end by converting to Catholicism to assume the throne and then granted the Huguenots freedom of worship. The Telegraph gives a brief cameo of this charismatic--and aromatic--leader. Henri's recent biographer, Gonzague Saint-Bris, suggests that were he alive today, Henri would have his work cut out as a religious peacemaker in a France debating its national identity. Saint-Bris calls Henri the "roi copain," the "buddy-king" who worked tirelessly to reunite the country and restore the economy, dressed unpretentiously, slept in barns as he traveled the kingdom, liked to eat well and dallied extensively with the ladies. According to Saint-Bris, Henri was the only king who would have made a good president of the Republic: he was popular, democratic, tolerant, and close to the people.


Andrea Kirkby said...

Many families in Bearn still claim descent from Henri IV - adducing their striking looks as evidence - and I was told regarding the kingly nose that 'a good village always has a big belfry'. He seems to be the one French king to be universally loved.

Julianne Douglas said...

As with any assassination, one wonders how history might have been different if Henri had not been assassinated. Would the Revolution have happened when it did or even at all if Henri had had a long and prosperous reign?