Henry III, king of France

Henry III, 1551–89, king of France (1574–89); son of King Henry II and Catherine de' Medici. He succeeded his brother, Charles IX. As a leader of the royal army in the Wars of Religion (see Religion, Wars of) against the French Protestants, or Huguenots, Henry, then duke of Anjou, defeated (1569) the Huguenots at Jarnac and Moncontour. He refused (1571), on religious grounds, to proceed with negotiations for his marriage to the Protestant queen of England, Elizabeth I. With his mother, the duke helped instigate the massacre of the Huguenots (see Saint Bartholomew's Day, massacre of). Elected king of Poland (1573), he returned to France at his brother's death to assume the French crown. By the Edict of Beaulieu (1576) at the end of the fifth war of religion, he made concessions to the moderates and the Protestants, which led to the formation of the Catholic League (see League) at the behest of Henri, 3d duc de Guise. The king, fearing the League's power, proclaimed himself its head. It was dissolved after he revoked some of his earlier concessions to the Protestants. The League was revived by Henri de Guise, however, when the death (1584) of the king's brother, Francis, duke of Alençon, made the Protestant Henry of Navarre the legal heir to the French throne. De Guise forced Henry III to issue an edict suppressing Protestantism and excluding Henry of Navarre from the throne. In the war that ensued, known as the War of the Three Henrys, Navarre defeated the king's troops at Coutras (1587). Although de Guise helped raise a Parisian revolt against Henry, he did permit his escape to Chartres. However, Henry III procured the assassination of de Guise and his brother Louis in the hope of quelling the rebellion, but his action only further provoked the Catholics. Joining forces with Henry of Navarre, the king attempted to regain Paris. In the siege he was stabbed by Jacques Clément. The last male member of the house of Valois, Henry III left France torn by civil war. Henry of Navarre succeeded him as Henry IV.

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