Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Henry IV's Plans

Just as the reign of Louis XI. had been a period of rest and recovery from the English wars, so that of Henry IV. was one of restoration from the ravages of thirty years of intermittent civil war. The king himself not only had bright and engaging manners, but was a man of large heart and mind; and Sully did much for the welfare of the country. Roads, canals, bridges, postal communications, manufactures, extended commerce, all owed their promotion to him, and brought prosperity to the burgher class; and the king was especially endeared to the peasantry by his saying that he hoped for the time when no cottage would be without a good fowl in its pot.

The great silk manufactories of southern France chiefly arose under his encouragement, and there was prosperity of every kind. The Church itself was in a far better state than before. Some of the best men of any time were then living—in especial Vincent de Paul, who did much to improve the training of the parochial clergy, and who founded the order of Sisters of Charity, who prevented the misery of the streets of Paris from ever being so frightful as in those days when deserted children became the prey of wolves, dogs, and pigs.

The nobles, who had grown into insolence during the wars, either as favourites of Henry III. or as zealous supporters of the Huguenot cause, were subdued and tamed. The most noted of these were the Duke of Bouillon, the owner of the small principality of Sedan, who was reduced to obedience by the sight of Sully's formidable train of artillery; and the Marshal Duke of Biron, who, thinking that Henry had not sufficiently rewarded his services, intrigued with Spain and Savoy, and was beheaded for his treason. Hatred to the house of Austria in Spain and Germany was as keen as ever in France; and in 1610 Henry IV. was prepared for another war on the plea of a disputed succession to the duchy of Cleves.

The old fanaticism still lingered in Paris, and Henry had been advised to beware of pageants there; but it was necessary that his second wife, Mary de' Medici, should be crowned before he went to the war, as she was to be left regent. Two days after the coronation, as Henry was going to the arsenal to visit his old friend Sully, he was stabbed to the heart in his coach, in the streets of Paris, by a fanatic named Ravaillac. The French call him Le Grand Monarque; and he was one of the most attractive and benevolent of men, winning the hearts of all who approached him, but the immorality of his life did much to confirm the already low standard that prevailed among princes and nobles in France.

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