THE PRINCE OF BÉARN
 IN Paris there was great joy when it was known that the
king was dead. Bells rang,
bonfires blazed. Madame de Montpensier, sister of the
murdered Duke of Guise, drove
through the streets of the city telling the good news.
"The tyrant is dead, dead!" she cried exultantly, for she had hated the murderer of
At St. Cloud the great army was full of excitement. The
Huguenots to a man greeted
Henry of Navarre as King of France. But by far the
larger number of the soldiers
were Catholics, and while one Catholic noble said to
the Huguenot chief, "You are
the king of the brave; you will be deserted by none but
dastards," others were not
so open-minded, and murmured, "Better die than endure a
Henry of Navarre, who on the death of Henry III. was
the true heir to the throne of
France, was born in a camp, amid the thunder of cannon,
the beating of drums, and
the noise of trumpets.
His grandfather. Henry d'Albret, after whom he was
named, was a tall strong prince,
greedy of power and of lands.
Around his neck Henry d'Albret always wore a little
gold box or casket. In this box
he had locked his will. His daughter Jeanne, who became
the mother of the Prince of
Béarn, used to tease her father to tell her what was in
the gold box.
The old man promised to give her the casket if, at the
time her child was born, she
sang a song of Béarn.
 And Jeanne, who was strong and brave, did not
forget to sing while her little
son was laid in her arms.
Henry d'Albret at once took the gold box from off his
own neck and hung it around
Jeanne's, but as he carried off the key, his daughter
was still left to wonder over
For a cradle the babe was rocked in a large
turtle-shell, for which he quickly grew
too big and strong.
The little Prince of Béarn was not brought up in a
palace, nor fad on dainty fare.
He ran wild with the peasant children of the village,
bareheaded, barefooted too as
they. His food also was the same as theirs—black
bread, beef and garlic—and on
these he throve apace.
You have already read how, when he was fifteen years
old, Jeanne d'Albret took her
son to the Huguenot camp, where the lad boldly claimed
the soldiers' cause as his
own. This was the prince who in 1589 became
Henry IV., first of the Bourbon line of kings in France.
There was, however, much to be done before Henry IV., could enter into his
inheritance, for the League was stronger than ever,
being helped by many of the
French provinces as well as by Philip II. of Spain.
Philip, who was a Catholic,
refused to acknowledge a Huguenot prince as King of
Henry IV. and his army did not stay long at St. Cloud
after the death of Henry III. Breaking up their camp they marched into Normandy,
where many towns received Henry
At Arques he met and defeated the troops of the League,
under the Duke of Mayenne.
Yet the duke had been heard to boast that he "would
either drive the man of Béarn
into the sea or bring him back in chains."
Before the battle one of the Leaguers had been taken
prisoner. Looking at Henry's
army he was surprised, it seemed so much smaller than
the one led by the Duke of
 "Ah," said the king, when he heard what his
prisoner thought, "you do not see
all our forces. You don't reckon the good God and the
good right, but they are ever
with me." This happy trust often stood Henry IV. in
In October 1589 Henry again marched on Paris, but the
Duke of Mayenne had already
entered the city and, joining the Leaguers, forced the
king to withdraw.
Henry IV. was not discouraged. Many provinces, both in
the east and south of France,
had now taken an oath of allegiance to him. Moreover
Queen Elizabeth of England, as
well as the Netherlands, had sent him money to pay his
soldiers, more money than he
had ever had before, Henry frankly confessed.
The following year, 1590, another great battle was
fought at Ivry, a plain near the
town of Nantes.
As the king rode along the ranks, he halted and said to
the men, "Comrades, if you
run my risks, I also run yours. I will conquer or die
with you. If you lose your
standards, do not lose sight of my white plume; you
will always find it in the path
of honour, and I hope of victory too."
Then, having galloped along the whole line of his army,
he halted once more, threw
his reins over his arm, clasped his hands and prayed
aloud; "O God, Thou knowest my
thoughts and Thou dost see to the very bottom of my
heart. If it be fore my people's
good that I keep the crown, favour Thou my cause and
uphold my arms. But it Thy holy
Will have otherwise ordained, at least let me die, O
God, in the midst of these
brave soldiers, who give their lives for me."
With such a leader as this the soldiers were ready to
fight to the death, and
although the army of the League was, as usual, far
larger than the king's, numbers
did not seem to be of much account, so bravely fought
the royal army.
Once, it is true, the king was nearly overwhelmed, and
 his troops actually
began to waver. But calling to his men to follow, Henry
dashed recklessly at the
very centre of the enemy's position.
Seeing the white plume of their king before them, the
soldiers followed fast, and
the attack of the Leaguers was checked. Nay, more than
checked, for presently the
troops were seen to stumble, to hesitate, and then to
turn and flee. The victory of
Ivry was won by Henry IV. and his gallant troops.
No quarter was given to either Spanish or German
soldiers, but the French prisoners
were spared by order of the king. The Swiss also were
set free, for Henry IV. remembered that they had often in the past been
friendly to the crown of France.
Henry now marched again on Paris, taking St. Denis in
July 1590. He would fain have
won the goodwill of the people of Paris without a
siege, but they determined to
resist the "heretic" king to the very end.
So Paris was besieged, and before long the citizens
were suffering terribly from
want of food. Not even dog-flesh or horse-flesh could
be had, and the people in
desperation did as Madame Montpensier advised, ground
any bones they could find into
powder and made bread with it as though it had been
Great as the misery was, it would have been greater had
not the king taken pity on
the poor starving folk, and more than once allowed
provisions to be sent to them. He
also let six thousand old men, women and children leave
the city to find food and
"Paris must not become a cemetery," said the
kindhearted king. "I do not wish to
reign over the dead."
The suburbs were soon in Henry's hands, and Paris
itself was on the brink of being
seized, when the King of Spain thought it was time to
interfere, lest a Protestant
became in reality King of France.
One of Philip's greatest captains, the Duke of Parma,
 was therefore sent to
relieve Paris, and take provisions to the starving
inhabitants. This the duke did,
and Henry IV. was forced to raise the siege. Then he
marched to Rouen and began
another siege beneath its walls. Again the Duke of
Parma defeated his plans.
The war dragged on until the following year, when the
States-General met, determined
that it should end.
Philip II., although he knew the Salic law, urged that
his daughter, the Infanta
Elizabeth, should be made Queen of France.
While the States-General hesitated to place a woman on
the throne. Henry IV. determined to take a step from which he had often ere
now shrunk. He felt that it
was the only way to save his country from the evils of
For her sake the king determined to give up the new
religion in which his brave
mother, Jeanne d'Albret, had reared him, and to become
a Roman Catholic.
Often during these weeks he talked to his chief
counsellor, the Duke of Sully, and
ever he was anxious not to offend or grieve the
Huguenots who had fought by his side
so long and so faithfully. And when the Huguenot
ministers came to beg him not to
forsake them, he received them as friends.
"Kindly pray to God for me," he said to the ministers,
"and love me always. As for
me I shall always love you, and I will never suffer
wrong to be done to you or any
violence to your religion."
And so at length it came to pass, one summer day in
July 1593, that Henry IV. went
in state to hear Mass in the cathedral of St. Denis.
At the door of the cathedral he was met by the
"Who are you?" the archbishop demanded.
"I am the king," answered Henry.
"What want you?"
 "To be received into the bosom of the Catholic
Apostolic and Roman Church."
"Do you desire it?"
"Yes, I will and desire it."
Then, kneeling down, the king was absolved by the
archbishop, who said the
benediction over the bowed head of the penitent.
Afterwards the king arose, no longer a heretic, and was
led by the clergy to the
altar. Here he confessed, heard Mass, and was
reconciled to the Church.
When the service was over, the cathedral rang with the
shout of loyal citizens, "Hurrah for the king! hurrah!"