Henry II (March 31, 1519 – July 10, 1559) was a monarch of the House of Valois-Angoulême who ruled as King of France from March 31, 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Brittany, in 1536.
Early Life & Childhood Edit
Henry was born on March 31, 1519 in the Royal Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, the 2nd son and 4th child of King Francis I and Queen Claude, Duchess of Brittany (daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne, Duchess of Brittany).
His father was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 by the forces of his sworn enemy, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and held prisoner in Spain. To obtain his release, it was agreed that Henry and his older brother be sent to Spain in his place. They remained in captivity for three years.
A Royal Wedding & a Mistress Edit
At the Église Saint-Ferréol les Augustins in Marseille, on October 28, 1533 France celebrated the wedding of Prince Henry, Duke of Orleans to Catherine de Medici, Duchess of Urbino when they were both 14 years old.
The following year, he became romantically involved with his wife's 35 year old cousin Diane de Poitiers. They had always been very close: she had publicly embraced him on the day he set off to Spain, and during a jousting tournament, he insisted that his lance carry her ribbon instead of his wife's. Diane became Henry's most trusted confidante and, for the next twenty-five years, wielded considerable influence behind the scenes, even signing royal documents. Diane was extremely confident, mature and intelligent, and she left Catherine powerless to intervene. She did, however, insist that Henry sleep with Catherine in order to produce heirs to the throne. The couple would have 10 children of whom 7 survived infancy.
A new King & Queen Edit
When his elder brother Francis, the Dauphin and Duke of Brittany, died in 1536 after a game of tennis, Henry became heir apparent to the throne. He succeeded his father on his 28th birthday and was crowned King of France on July 25, 1547 at Reims Cathedral. His Queen was officially crowned less than 2 years later on June 10, 1549, at the Basilica of St. Denis.
The Reign of Henry II Edit
Henry's reign was marked by wars with Austria and the persecution of Protestants, mainly French Calvinists known as Huguenots. Henry II severely punished them, particularly the ministers, for example by burning at the stake or cutting off their tongues for uttering heresies. Even those only suspected of being Huguenots could be imprisoned.
The Edict of Châteaubriant (June 27, 1551) called upon the civil and ecclesiastical courts to detect and punish all heretics and placed severe restrictions on Huguenots, including the loss of one-third of their property to informers, and confiscations. It also strictly regulated publications by prohibiting the sale, importation or printing of any unapproved book. It was during the reign of Henry II that Huguenot attempts at establishing a colony in Brazil were made, with the short-lived formation of France Antarctique.
Some Important Treaties signed during Henry II's Reign Edit
- The continuation of his father's Franco-Ottoman alliance allowed Henry II to push for French conquests towards the Rhine while a Franco-Ottoman fleet defended southern France.
- The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis was signed between Henry and Elizabeth I of England on April 2 and between Henry and Philip II of Spain on April 3, 1559 at Le Cateau-Cambrésis. Under its terms, France restored Piedmont and Savoy to the Duke of Savoy, but retained Saluzzo, Calais, and the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Spain retained Franche-Comté. Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, married Margaret of France, Duchess of Berry, the sister of Henry II, and Philip II of Spain married Henry's daughter Elisabeth of Valois.
Henry II was an avid hunter and a participant in jousts and tournaments. On June 30, 1559, at the Place des Vosges at the Hôtel des Tournelles, during a match to celebrate the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis with his longtime enemies, the Habsburgs of Austria, and to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elisabeth of Valois to King Philip II of Spain, King Henry was mortally wounded by the lance of Gabriel Montgomery, captain of the King's Scottish Guard.
The King suffered a mortal head wound from a lance fragment and, despite the efforts of royal surgeon Ambroise Paré, he died from septicemia caused by his injuries on July 10, 1559. He was buried in a cadaver tomb in the Saint Denis Basilica. Henry's death was a factor in the end of jousting as a sport.
Henry & Catherine had 10 children 7 of whom survived infancy See: (Children of Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici)
Henry also had 3 illegitimate children:
- By Philippa Duci: Diane, Duchesse d'Angoulême (1538–1619). At the age of fourteen, the younger Diane married Orazio Farnese, Duke of Castro, who died young in battle. Her second marriage was to Francois, Duke of Montmorency.
- By Lady Janet Stewart (1508–1563), the illegitimate daughter of James IV of Scotland: Henri d'Angoulême (1551 – June 1586). He was legitimized and became governor of Provence.
- By Nicole de Savigny: Henri de Saint-Rémy (1557–1621). He was given the title of Count of Saint-Rémy. One of his last descendants was Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, Countess de la Motte, famous for her role in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace at the court of Louis XVI.