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RAVAILLAC STABS THE KING
 AS soon as Henry IV. had become a Catholic, city after city gladly acknowledged him
as king. Indeed, before a year had passed, France had, for the most part, paid allegiance to him, and war had ceased.
In 1594 the king was crowned in the cathedral of
Chartres, for Rheims, where the
kings of France were usually crowned, was one of the
few cities which still refused
to acknowledge Henry IV. as king.
From Chartres Henry went to Paris, where the gates were
flung wide to welcome him.
As he walked through the streets, the people flocked
ever more closely around him.
"Let them come near," said Henry, "they hunger to see a
With true kingliness he made the day he entered his
capital a day of gladness even
to his enemies.
The Duchess of Montpensier, who had done her utmost to
injure his cause. Henry
forgave. He also allowed the Spanish troops to leave
the city unharmed. As they
passed out of one of the city gates Henry watched them
from a window.
Catching sight of the monarch, the soldiers saluted
with their swords. Henry
returned the salute, saying, "Go, gentlemen, and
commend me to your master, but
return no more."
Philip II., however, still refused to acknowledge Henry
as king, and he did all in
his power to stir up discontent in France, pretending
that the throne was still
 urging the claims of the Infanta
Elizabeth. France was too loyal to
listen to Philip II., and at length in 1595, angry with
his behaviour to their king,
the country declared war against Spain.
The King of Spain behaved rather as a spoiled child
when the declaration of war
reached him. He petulantly insisted that he was not the
enemy of France, but only of
the Prince of Beam and the Huguenots. But so childish a
protest could not save him
from war, and Philip, seeing France take up arms
against him, speedily sent Spanish
troops into France to join the army of the League,
which still existed, though its
power was much less than it used to be.
Henry, with his usual recklessness, fell upon the enemy
at Fontaine-Franyaise with
only a handful of men, and won a brilliant victory. And
this is how the victory was
Marshal Biron had been sent forward to find out the
strength of the Spanish army.
The king was only a short distance off, when the
marshal saw on a little hill about
sixty of the enemy's cavalry keeping guard. Biron
attacked and overthrew them, and
then, taking possession of the ground he had captured,
he saw to his dismay that the
whole Spanish army as well as the troops of the League
were marching towards him.
Before them they were driving a hundred or so of
The marshal awaited the enemy, but their numbers forced
him to retreat, and soon he
was within sight of the king who, seeing what had
happened, sent a few of his
already small force to support Biron.
These also were driven slowly back upon the king, who
now knew that he would be
forced to fight the main body of the Spanish army.
It would be a battle fought not for glory, but for life
With his few hundred horse Henry threw himself upon
 the enemy, his men
fighting as gallantly as did the king himself.
The Spanish soldiers, in confusion at the fierceness of
the attack, tumbled
backwards upon one another and retreated in disorder to
the Duke of Mayenne's army.
At the same moment the duke saw a body of horsemen rush
up to the king's assistance,
and thinking the whole royal army was at hand, he at
once gave the order to retreat.
Thus with a mere handful of men Henry IV. had beaten
the Spanish army, and forced
Mayenne's troops to withdraw.
But after this victory the Spanish carried everything
before them, and Henry's
fortunes were at the lowest ebb when a heavy blow fell
The Pope, who until this time had refused to give the
Prince of Beam absolution, now
sanctioned all that had been done in the cathedral of
The Catholic nobles had thus no longer any reason to
withhold their allegiance from
Henry IV. The League was dissolved, even the Duke of
Mayenne coming over to the
Henry, being sure of the nobles, now grew careless of
his country, and gave himself
up to an idle life. Banquets and fetes seemed for the
time to satisfy the soldier
king. And while the king laughed and danced the days
away, the Spanish army
still-stayed in France, besieging a town here, another
there, and sometimes taking
Then all at once, in March 1597, the king was roused
from his idleness.
Amiens, an important city close to Paris, had been
taken by the Spaniards.
The blow roused the fighting spirit of the king. With
the Duke of Sully's help he
speedily assembled an army and hastened toward Amiens.
He was determined to regain
It was March when it was taken by the Spaniards.
 In September it surrendered,
and was once again in the hands of the French.
This was the end of the struggle, and peace was made at
Vervins, Spain giving back
to France all that she had taken from her during the
war, except one town. In the
following year, 1598, Philip II. died.
Before the war ended Henry IV. found that all his money
had been needed to pay his
soldiers. You will hardly believe that a king could be
so badly off as Henry was
before peace was declared. He had actually no money, no
clothes, no food. He wrote
plainly enough to the Duke of Sully to tell him of his
distress. Here are his own
"I wish to tell you the state to which I am reduced,
which is such that I am very
near the enemy and have not, as you may say, a horse to
fight on, or a whole suit of
harness to my back.
"My shirts are all torn, my doublets out at elbows, my
cupboard is often bare, and
for the last two days I have been dining and supping
with one and another; my
purveyors say that they have no more means of supplying
my table, especially as for
more than six months they have had no money. Judge if I
deserve to be so treated and
fail not to come. Adieu, my friend, whom well I love."
Never have you read of a king in sadder plight.
War being ended in 1598, the Huguenots thought that it
was time the king should
listen to their grievances. They had been more or less
dissatisfied ever since Henry
had become a Catholic, but of late their discontent had
They wrote to Henry telling him that they often had to
suffer unjustly, and that
much evil was done to them by the Catholics: "Stem
then, sir, with your goodwill
and your authority, the tide of our troubles. Accustom
your kingdom to at least
endure us, if it will not love us."
To this appeal Henry's answer was to sign, in April
1598, the famous Edict of Nantes.
By this Edict the Huguenots were allowed to worship
 in their own way
everywhere, save in some few towns which had belonged
specially to the League. They
were permitted to hold positions of trust at court and
in the government of the
country in the same way as were Catholics. They were
also free to garrison many of
their towns, in which they had already built churches
Having satisfied the Huguenots, Henry, with Sully's
aid, next tried to reduce the
taxes, which during the wars had weighed heavily on his
subjects. He also saw that
marshes were drained and good roads and bridges made
all over the country, while in
many towns he built colleges and fortresses.
Mulberry trees too were planted, on the leaves of which
silkworms feed. In this way
the silk industry was encouraged, while factories were
built for silk-looms, as also
for linen, lace, gold cloth and the glass industries.
Thus under Henry IV. France became prosperous, her
people contented. The king had
often been used to say that he would like "every
peasant to have his fowl in the
pot on Sundays," and now his wish had come to pass. If
his subjects had not actually
each a fowl, at least they had good and wholesome food.
In 1610, for one reason and another. Henry IV. felt
that he must again go to war,
not only with Spain but with Austria. So he assembled
three great armies, appointed
his wife, Mary de Medici, whom he had lately married,
regent in his absence, and
prepared to set out. But his wife begged him to wait
for her coronation, which was
to take place at St. Denis in the month of May.
The king was strangely disturbed at being delayed in
Paris. He confided his troubles
to Sully. "My heart tells me that some misfortune will
happen to me. I shall die in
this city. Ah, wretched coronation, thou wilt be the
cause of my death." Thus he
talked to his minister, telling him too that it had
been foretold that he would be
 killed in his carriage at the first grand
ceremony at which he was present.
However, in spite of misgivings, the king stayed in
Paris and attended the
coronation at St. Denis. On the following day he went
in the royal coach to visit
the Duke of Sully, who was ill.
In one of the narrow streets the carriage had to go
slowly to allow a cart to pass.
Suddenly from one of the doorways a man named Ravaillac
darted out, threw himself
upon the king, and before any one could interfere
stabbed Henry twice.
It was as the king had feared—nevermore would he leave
Slowly the carriage turned back toward the Louvre, but
before the palace was reached
Henry IV. closed his eyes, "without opening them again
"I tell you nothing about the queen's tears; all that
must be imagined. As for the
people of Paris, I think they never wept so much as on this occasion. They ran
hither and thither along the streets, distraught with grief, crying, 'The good King
Henry is dead, the good King Henry is dead!' "