Henri was born Edouard-Alexandre at the Royal Palace of Fontainbleau, Seine-et-Marne, the son of King Henri II and Catherine de Medici. He was elected king of Poland in 1573 but shortly after, at the death of his brother Charles IX, he returned to France. He was crowned King of France in 1575 in the cathedral at Reims.
Prior to ascending to the throne, he was a leader of the royal army in the French Wars of Religion against the Protestants. While still duke, he aided his mother in the massacre of the Huguenots on Saint Bartholomew's Day and his reign as king would see France in constant turmoil over religion.
In 1576, King Henri III signed the Edict of Beaulieu granting minor concessions to the Protestants. His action resulted in the Catholic extremist Henri, Duke of Guise, forming the Catholic League. After much posturing and negotiations King Henri III was forced to rescind most of the concessions made to the Protestants in the Edict of Beaulieu.
In 1584 the king's brother and heir presumptive died. Under the Salic Law, the next heir to the throne was Protestant Henri of Navarre, a descendant of St. Louis. Under pressure from the Duke of Guise, head of the Catholic League, Henri III issued an edict suppressing Protestantism and annulling Henri of Navarre's right to the throne.
On December 23, 1588, in the Chateau Blois, the Duke of Guise arrived in the council chamber where his brother the Cardinal waited. He was told that the King wished to see him in the private room adjoining the King’s bedroom. There, guardsmen murdered him, and then the Cardinal. In order to make sure that no contender for the French throne was free to act against him, the king had the Duke’s son imprisoned. Though deceitful and cruel, the Duke of Guise was highly popular in France and the citizenry turned against the king for the murders. The French Parliament instituted criminal charges against the king, and he fled Paris to join forces with Henry of Navarre.
On August 1, 1589, Henri III, lodged with his army in Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, prepared to attack Paris when a young fanatical monk named Jacques Clément, carrying false papers, was granted access to deliver important documents to the king. The monk gave the king a bundle of papers and stated he had a secret message to deliver. The king signaled for his attendants to step back for privacy and Clément whispered in his ear while plunging a knife in his stomach. At first the wound did not appear fatal but the King commanded all his officers around him that in the event he did not survive, they were to be loyal to Henri of Navarre as their new king. The following morning, King Henri III of France died, the day he was to have launched the assault to retake Paris.
Although he had been married on February 13, 1575 to Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, and expected to produce an heir, the homosexual King Henri III was not highly respected by the citizens or the nobility as he paraded around dressed in women's clothes, accompanied by a number of youthful male attendants referred to as his mignons (darlings).
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Sigismund II of Poland
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