Henry IV Facts
Henry IV (1367-1413), the king of England from 1399 to 1413, was the first monarch of the Lancastrian dynasty. His reign was marked by the development of parliamentary government in England.
Henry IV was the only son of John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III, and Blanche, the daughter of Henry Grismond, Duke of Lancaster. Known as Henry Bolingbroke after his birthplace in Lincolnshire, he was made a knight of the Garter in 1377. In 1380, at the age of 13, he married Mary de Bohun, the youngest daughter and coheiress of Humphrey, the last Earl of Hereford. They had four sons and two daughters before her death at the age of 24, in 1394. As the Earl of Darby, Henry entered the House of Lords in 1385. In 1387 he supported his uncle Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, in his opposition to Richard II. (Gloucester was also Richard's uncle, and Henry was the King's first cousin.)
While taking part in the "Merciless" Parliament of 1388, Henry regained the favor of the King and in 1390 departed on the Crusade to Lithuania and then to Jerusalem. Visiting the kings of Bohemia and Hungary and the Archduke of Austria and then Venice in 1392-1393, he went only as far as Rhodes and then returned to England as a popular hero. He soon entered the government; he served on the Council while Richard was absent in Ireland in 1395 and for his efforts was made Duke of Hereford in 1397.
Henry soon quarreled with the Duke of Norfolk, each accusing the other of arranging the murder of the Duke of Gloucester and calling for a trial by battle. Both men were banished from the realm, Norfolk for life and Henry for 10 years with a proviso that he would be allowed to inherit from his father. But on the death of John of Gaunt in 1399, the Lancastrian estates were confiscated by the King, and Henry decided to return, ostensibly to claim his promised inheritance.
Taking advantage of the King's absence in Ireland, Henry landed on July 4, 1399, at Ravenspur, near Bridlington, where he was soon joined by the northern nobles who were unhappy with the policies of the monarchy. By the end of the month Henry and his followers had raised an army and marched to Bristol. When Richard returned in August, the royal army started to desert; Henry claimed the throne for himself, and on August 19 he captured Richard near Conway. He then went with his prisoner to London and there, on September 29, Richard abdicated. On October 13 Parliament formally deposed Richard and transferred the crown to Henry. This parliamentary action had constitutional importance, since it revived the claim that Parliament had the power to create monarchs. Prior to his coronation, Henry condemned Richard to imprisonment, where the deposed monarch soon died, possibly due to starvation.
Once on the throne, Henry spent his reign solidifying his position and removing the threat posed by the nobles who supported Richard. Starting in 1400, Henry made expeditions in Scotland against the Duke of Albany and the 4th Earl of Douglas and in Wales against Owen Glendower. He was an active supporter of the Orthodox Church against the Lollards, and in 1401 De heretico comburendo, one of the most important medieval statutes, was passed. In 1402 he married Joan of Navarre, the widow of John V, Duke of Brittany, who survived him without issue. In the north the Percy family rose against the King, but Henry checked them in July 1403 at Shrewsbury and the following year at Dartmouth. A revolt by the 1st Earl of Northumberland, Archbishop Scrope, and the Earl Marshal was checked in 1405, and 2 years later the Beauforts' claims to the throne were ended.
By the Battle of Brabham Moor in 1408, the domestic threats to the throne were ended, and Henry could turn his attention to the civil wars in France as well as reforming his household administration. He was able to check an attempt to force him to resign in favor of his more popular son (later Henry V), but his health declined, perhaps because of epilepsy. On March 20, 1413, he was seized with a fatal attack while praying at Westminster Abbey and died in the Jerusalem Chamber. He was buried at Canterbury.
Further Reading on Henry IV
An excellent modern biography of Henry IV is J. L. Kirby, Henry IV of England (1971). The standard biography remains James Hamilton Wylie, History of England under Henry the Fourth (4 vols., 1884-1898). For the background of the period see May McKisack, The Fourteenth Century, 1307-1399 (1959), and Ernest Fraser Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485 (1961). See also V. H. H. Green, The Later Plantagenets: A Survey of English History between 1307 and 1485 (1955; rev. ed. 1966).
Henry IV (1050-1106) was Holy Roman emperor and king of Germany from 1056 to 1106. An able, ruthless, and secretive monarch, he led the empire into a disastrous confrontation with Pope Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy.
Born in Goslar, Saxony, Henry IV was the only son of Emperor Henry III and Agnes of Poitou. His father died when he was only 6, and he had a long and difficult minority as king, since early in 1062 he was taken from his mother and raised by a bevy of quarreling, scheming bishops. In 1066 he came of age and began governing on his own. He was married twice, first to Bertha of Savoy and late in his reign, after her death, to Praxedis of Russia.
Henry attempted, initially, to reassert his father's old imperial rights throughout the empire and also to build up a new, strong imperial domain in Saxony. This led to serious uprisings in 1073 in which Saxons and southern German nobles combined against him. By 1075 he had suppressed these revolts, only to begin a quarrel with Pope Gregory VII over the imperial right to appoint or invest churchmen with their offices. Gregory and Church reformers claimed that neither rulers nor any other laymen could exercise this right—despite long precedent. Angry at Gregory's opposition to his appointing an archbishop of Milan, in 1076 Henry hastily summoned a council of German bishops who declared Pope Gregory deposed. Gregory answered by declaring Emperor Henry excommunicated and suspended from office.
This encouraged German nobles again to rebel and to summon the Pope to come to Augsburg and sit in judgment on their ruler. Fearing the results of such collaboration between the Pope and German magnates, Henry slipped through the Alpine passes and met Pope Gregory at Canossa in northern Italy in 1077, where, as a penitent, he prevailed upon the Pope to forgive him. This prevented Gregory, much against his will, from continuing to work with the German nobles against Henry, which, of course, was Henry's objective.
Despite lack of papal support, Henry's German opponents chose an antiking, Rudolf of Swabia. But Henry returned across the Alps and defeated him. Rudolf died soon thereafter, in 1080, and Henry reopened hostilities with Pope Gregory. Despite a renewal of his excommunication, he led another army into Italy and by 1084 had marched on Rome and set up an antipope there who crowned him emperor. Gregory was saved from capture only by a large Norman force, which rescued him at the cost of a severe plundering of the city of Rome itself. The Pope had to retire with the Normans south toward Naples and died in exile the following year.
After Gregory's death, Henry IV continued to resist the popes who were chosen as his successors and to set up antipopes of his own against them. In this he was relatively unsuccessful, since his papal opponents were men like Urban II, capable of rallying all Europe behind them in the First Crusade and similar enterprises. Henry also had much trouble due to opposition to his rule in both Germany and Italy, especially from his eldest son, Conrad, and from Duke Welf of Bavaria and Countess Matilda of Tuscany. Not until 1098 did the revolts they encouraged collapse, and soon afterward Conrad died. But Emperor Henry had to pay a heavy price to Saxon rebels and others to secure peace. Finally, in 1105, his second son and heir, later Henry V, joined his father's enemies, imprisoned him, and forced him to abdicate. Escaping in 1106, he had just defeated this ungrateful son when he died, leaving a weakened imperial power in Germany and the struggle with the papacy over investitures still unresolved.
Further Reading on Henry IV
There is an immense literature dealing with Henry IV. Among the more important accounts are those found in Gerd Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Contest (trans. 1940); Geoffrey Barraclough, Origins of Modern Germany (1946; 2d rev. ed. 1966); and Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (1955; 2d ed. 1962). See also shorter accounts in Ralph H. C. Davis, A History of Medieval Europe (1957), and Christopher Brooke, Europe in the Central Middle Ages, 962-1154 (1964).
Henry IV (1553-1610) was king of France from 1589 to 1610. The first Bourbon monarch, he faced internal discord caused by the Wars of Religion and the economic disasters of the late 16th century and external danger posed by the powerful Hapsburg monarchy of Spain.
Born at Pau in Béarn on Dec. 14, 1553, Henry IV was the son of Antoine, Duc de Bourbon, and Jeanne d'Albret, daughter of the king of Navarre. Henry's parents were sympathetic to the Huguenot (Calvinist) faith, and Henry was raised a Huguenot. Through his father, Henry was a descendant of King Louis IX of France and hence a prince of the blood royal, next in succession to the French throne should the children of Henry II and Catherine de Médicis have no issue.
Henry's early childhood was supervised by his grandfather, Henri d'Albret, the king of Navarre, and, after his grandfather's death in 1555, by his mother, now queen of Navarre. He was trained in physical as well as intellectual disciplines, and his later career showed the results of both aspects of his early life. His physical endurance and vigor were matched by a quick and tolerant mind, his skill as a soldier matched by his diplomatic and political astuteness in the course of his reign.
From 1559 to 1590 France was the scene of internal political and religious conflicts exacerbated by the constant threat of military intervention by Spain, the greatest military power in Europe. During this period France was ruled by the three children of Henry II and Catherine de Médicis in succession: Francis II (1559-1560), Charles IX (1560-1574), and Henry III (1574-1589). All three were weak-willed, and the first two had political minorities, thus making political power a prize to be controlled either by the queen mother, Catherine, or by one of the rival aristocratic factions, whose dynastic rivalry was further embittered by their religious differences.
The greatest of these rival clans were the ducal house of Lorraine, the family of Guise, and the house of Bourbon, led by Antoine of Navarre, Henry's father, and Antoine's brother, Louis, Prince of Condé. The Guise faction was the champion of orthodox Roman Catholicism, while the Bourbon faction spoke for French Protestantism. During the reign of Francis II the Guise faction acquired greater influence. Catherine's regency during the minority of Charles IX, however, favored playing off one faction against the other, and the French Wars of Religion began in 1562 and continued until 1598. The rival aristocratic houses used warfare or the threat of warfare to increase their own political power, calling for aid from their coreligionists outside France— Spain, the papacy, England, or the Protestant princes of Germany. Warfare, religious hatred, economic disorder, and the continual threat of outside intervention dominated the late 16th century in France.
The Reformation and its ensuing political complications thus struck France in a different way from that in which it had affected Germany and England. Exacerbating political rivalries, playing upon the instability and minority of French kings, and affording all dissident social elements the opportunity of evening old scores, the Reformation in France was not so much the arguing of theological points (as in Germany) or the vehicle of increasing royal authority (as in England), but the unleashing of political forces which the French monarchy was unable to contain. It was to be the task of Henry IV to create a monarchical state out of political and religious anarchy.
King of Navarre
Henry was brought into the center of political infighting before he was 20. Catherine de Médicis arranged for a marriage between Henry and her daughter, Margaret of France. Henry's mother, Jeanne, was in Paris to be persuaded that her son should marry the Catholic princess but died in 1572. Henry then became King Henry III of Navarre. He and Margaret were married in August 1572, a week before Catherine, fearful of Huguenot influence over Charles IX, ordered the execution of Huguenots in Paris and other French cities. Henry himself was spared, but he was kept a prisoner in various degrees of security from 1572 to 1576, when he escaped to his own kingdom.
Henry's appearance and personality in these years made him a favorite not only of his own subjects but even of many people at court who had every reason to wish him dead. A description of him in 1567 reads: "He demeans himself towards all the world with so easy a carriage that people crowd around wherever he is. He enters into conversation as a highly polished man. He is well informed and never says anything which ought not to be said. … He loves play and good living." Henry's physical skill and military prowess brought him the friendship of many men, and his passionate nature brought him the love of many women (too many, his wife and subjects often thought).
Between his amorous adventures (which continued all his life) and his new role as king of Navarre and leader of French Huguenots, Henry's life moved out of Navarre exclusively and out of the choking world of the court into France itself. From 1576 to his conversion to Catholicism in 1594, Henry was the center of opposition both to Catholic persecution of Huguenots and to the powerful political League, which the Duke of Guise had created to control the crown of France under the semblance of defending it from Protestants.
King of France
In 1584 the Duke of Anjou, the youngest son of Catherine de Médicis, died, thus making Henry of Navarre the heir apparent to the reigning king, Henry III. The League immediately became more powerful, fearing a Protestant king. The League, allied with Philip II of Spain, exceeded in power even Henry III, who in despair arranged the assassination of the Duke of Guise and allied himself with Henry of Navarre.
When Henry III was assassinated in 1589, France faced the prospect of a Protestant king, kept from most of his kingdoms by a League of Catholics backed by the power of Spain. Henry had to fight his way to his own throne. But Henry IV refused to fight in the way his predecessors had done. Although he agreed to be instructed in the Catholic faith, he promised his coreligionists that he would end persecution on both sides, and from the death of Henry III to his own death, Henry IV had to create a political state over the skepticism of both Catholics and Protestants and in the presence of bitter memories of a kind that few states have been able to survive.
Between 1589 and 1594 Henry fought his way to the throne. He slowly wore down the Catholic front, declared war on Philip II of Spain in 1595, and guaranteed his earlier promises of religious toleration with the Edict of Nantes in 1598, the first successful attempt in modern European history to reconcile the presence of two religions within a single kingdom. Henry's actions were dictated by political necessity as well as personal conviction. France was in dire economic straits and in the midst of a social crisis. He was aided by a strong civil service and by a minister of exceptional talents, Maximilien de Bethune, Duc de Sully, his director of finance. In 1599 Henry IV divorced his wife and in 1600 married Marie de Médicis, who in 1601 bore him a son, his successor Louis XIII.
In the course of his reign Henry turned his attention vigorously to those aspects of the kingdom which had virtually been ignored during the period of the civil wars: justice, finance, agriculture, the exploitation of foreign acquisitions in Canada, the calming of old religious and social hatreds, and the perennial task of the 16th-century French monarchy, the control of Spain and Hapsburg Austria through alliances with England and the United Provinces. In the case of Hapsburg power, Henry devised a general program for checking the ambitions of this great imperial house. Whether or not Henry was responsible for the famous "Grand Design" which Sully later attributed to him is doubtful, but his last act in the area of foreign affairs was to launch an invasion of the Spanish Netherlands.
As he left Paris for the new war, Henry IV was stabbed by the assassin Ravaillac on May 14, 1610. He died before he could be brought back to the Louvre. Henry's reign had witnessed the worst of the civil wars which had been fought in many parts of Europe in the name of religion. It had witnessed the immense threat of Spanish power as well as the fire of internal rebellion. It had begun the slow political, social, and economic reconstruction of France. Much of the success of the reign was directly the result of Henry's personality and political and military ability. In an age when monarchy is no longer considered a viable form of government, it is well to be aware of a point in European history when a victory for absolute monarchy meant social and political reform on a scale that no other form of government could provide—and meant, too, a victory for a monarch who was as personally appealing as any other figure in those 2 centuries his life touched.
Further Reading on Henry IV
The most recent, and the best, biography in English of Henry IV is Desmond Seward, The First Bourbon (1971). A well-balanced study is Henry D. Sedgwick, Henry of Navarre (1930). Other biographies are Paul F. Willert, Henry of Navarre and the Huguenots in France (1893), and Quentin Hurst, Henry of Navarre (1938). The best account of the period in recent literature is The New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 4: R.B. Wernham, ed., The Counter-Reformation and Price Revolution, 1559-1610 (1968). The complex political and diplomatic affairs of the period are brilliantly described in Garrett Mattingly, The Armada (1959).
Additional Biography Sources
Provinces et pays du Midi au temps d'Henri de Navarre, 1555-1589: colloque de Bayonne, Pau: Henri IV 1989, 1989.