Henry III of France Biography

Henry III of France, the last King of France from the House of Valois, had an unexpected rise to power. Initially chosen as the King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he ruled there for two years before ascending to the French throne. However, his reign was plagued by the violent factions of the Wars of Religion, and he struggled to maintain control over his kingdom. With the death of his only living brother and no heir, Henry III found himself in the midst of a succession conflict. Tragically, his reign was cut short when he was assassinated in 1589, marking the end of the House of Valois in France.

Quick Facts

  • French Celebrities Born In September Also Known As: Henri III, né Alexandre Édouard
  • Died At Age: 37
  • Died on: August 2, 1589
  • Place of death: Château de Saint-Cloud, France
  • Cause of Death: Assassination

Family

  • Spouse/Ex-: Louise of Lorraine (m. 1575–1589)
  • Father: Henry II of France
  • Siblings: Charles IX of France, Elisabeth of Valois, Francis II of France, Francis; Duke of Anjou, Henri de Saint-Rémy, Louis of Valois, Margaret of Valois

Occupation

  • Emperors & Kings
  • French Men

Childhood & Early Life

Henry III was born Alexandre Édouard de France on September 19, 1551, at the royal Château de Fontainebleau in Paris, France, to King Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici. He had nine legitimate siblings and three illegitimate siblings through his father. During his youth, he received his mother’s favor and was known as her “precious eyes.” He was not interested in traditional Valois pastimes and instead developed a love for reading, art, and fencing.

Inclination towards Protestantism

As a young adult, Henry III became interested in Protestantism as a way to rebel against his parents. He referred to himself as “a little Huguenot” and would often be absent from Mass. However, his mother intervened and he mellowed down, remaining a nominal Roman Catholic for the rest of his life. He actively participated in the Wars of Religion and was part of the royal army.

Reign as the King of Poland & Grand Duke of Lithuania

After the death of the Polish ruler Sigismund II Augustus, Henry III was suggested as a potential ruler to Polish nobility. He was elected as the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As the king of Poland, he had to sign documents upholding religious tolerance. He arrived in Poland in January 1574 and was crowned in Kraków. However, he faced cultural shock and poverty in Poland.

King of France

Henry III was crowned as the King of France on February 13, 1575. He signed the Edict of Beaulieu, granting the Huguenots the right of public worship, which earned him supporters among the Huguenots but also enemies among the Catholics. The Wars of Religion turned into the War of the Three Henrys, with Henry III, Henry of Navarre, and Henry I, Duke of Guise, as the main players. Henry III was forced to flee Paris after the Day of the Barricades.

Marriage & Personal Life

Henry III considered courting Queen Elizabeth I of England, but nothing came of it. He married Louise of Lorraine in 1575, and despite not having any children, they had a loving relationship. There were speculations of Henry III’s homosexuality, but many historians disagree and believe it was a result of personal attacks and political motives. Henry III died on August 2, 1589, after being stabbed by a Dominican friar. He was succeeded by Henry of Navarre.

Death & Legacy

Henry III’s death was celebrated in Paris, and he was buried at the Saint Denis Basilica. His wife, Louise, appealed to Henry IV to revoke her husband’s excommunication. She died in 1601 and was buried alongside Henry III. The character of Henry III has appeared in various forms of media, including Alexandre Dumas’ novel “La Reine Margot.”

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