The War of the Three Henries, 1585-1589

The death of the Duke of Anjou in 1584 - King HENRI III. had no children - elevated Huguenot King HENRI OF NAVARRA into the position of heir apparent. Until then it had been assumed that the French throne would be held by Catholics; the prospect of a protestant king of France caused Pope SIXTUS V. to excommunicate Henri of Navarra and HENRI DE CONDE, another Huguenot leader.
Duke HENRI DE GUISE reestablished the CATHOLIC LEAGUE, firmly opposed to the prospect of a Huguenot succession. King Henri III suggested to his brother-in-law, King Henri of Navarra, to convert to Catholicism, but the latter was reluctant to desert his faith and his fellows.
In December 1584 Duke Henri de Guise and the Catholic League signed the TREATY OF JOINVILLE with Philip II. of Spain. In return for a Spanish subsidy took on the task to fight the Huguenot party, and, if necessary, also the royalist side, as long as the latter was unwilling to commit herself to the cause of the Counterreformation. The Catholic League had a significant power base, in Burgundy, Picardie, Normandy, Brittany, Lorraine (part of the Empire) and most of all in Paris. King Henri III. attempted to disempower Duke Henri de Guise by signing the TREATY OF NEMOURS 1585 (which revoked all concessions previously made to the Huguenots) and placing himself at the helm of the League. War ensued.
The League dominated northern and eastern France; Henri of Navarra and the Huguenots controlled the south. An invasion by a Calvinist army headed by the Count-Elector of Palatinate, JOHANN CASIMIR, in 1587 drew of Duke Henri de Guise. While King Henri of Navarra defeated an army sent against him under the Duke of Joyeuse in the BATTLE OF COUTRAS (Oct. 20th 1587), Duke Henri de Guise defeated the invading Palatine army at VIMORY (Oct. 26th) and AUNEAU (Nov. 24th).
Public opinion in Paris turned against King Henri III, who following the rection of barricades in the city streets fled the city (May 13th 1588). The COMMITTEE OF THE SIXTEEN was in control of Paris; Duke Henri de Guise rode into the city triumphantly. While the Estates General met at Blois (1588), King Henri III. lured Duke Henri de Guise into his quarters; when the latter arrived, he was assassinated (Dec. 23rd 1588).
The League had lost several of her preeminent leaders through what in their eyes was an act of treachery; she now openly turned against King Henri III. In League-held Paris, the Sorbonne declared it to be necessary and justified to depose King Henri III. The latter now allied with King Henri of Navarre. In July 1589, it was King Henri III.'s turn to be assassinated, by Jacques Clement, a Dominican monk (Aug. 1st 1589). On his deathbed, Henri III. named King Henri of Navarra his heir and successor.

Technically, the War of the Three Henries and the Wars of the League are one and the same event; while the former saw three parties involved, the death of Henri III. resulted in the merger of the Huguenot and the royalist parties. The war thus underwent a significant shift in character, a shift which lead historians to treat both events separately.

France under Henri III., from Renaissance Amboise, in French
The Wars of Religion, from Le Poulet Gauche (dates given notoriously unreliable)
Protestantism in France from the Death of Francis I. (1547) to the Edict of Nantes (1598), from History of Protestantism by J.A. Wylie, 1878; online book
Huitieme Guerre 1579-1580, from Protestants de Monflanquin sous l"ancien Regime, 1518-1789, in French
Guerres de Religion, from Yahoo Encyclopedie, in French
Article The League, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
REFERENCE David Potter (ed., trsl.) : The French Wars of Religion, Selected Documents, New York : St. Martin's 1997

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 3rd 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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