Paris is worth a mass

July 25, 1593: Henry IV abjures Protestantism in Saint-Denis with the desire to put an end to the wars of religion and to reconcile the French, Henri IV abjured the Protestant faith and asked to become Catholic. This sixth and last change of religion of the king of France is the result of negotiations. “Paris is worth a mass”

As the legitimate heir to the crown following the death of his cousin Henry III of Valois without an heir, the new king had to fight the numerically superior Catholic leaguers, who could not bear the idea of having a Protestant on the throne.

A long siege in front of Paris and a stunning victory at Ivry-sur-l’Eure over the Catholic army of the Duke of Mayenne did not help his affairs. His friend Maximilien de Béthune, the future Duke of Sully, who was also a staunch Protestant, made him understand that the time had come for him to return to the Catholic faith, in the name of the reason of State.

History summarizes the calculation by the formula, a little cynical: “Paris is worth a mass”. It is sometimes attributed to Henri IV, sometimes to Sully, but it is more likely apocryphal…

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According to an agreed ceremonial, Henry IV appears before the portal of the abbey church of Saint-Denis, north of Paris. “Who are you?” asks him Monsignor de Beaune, archbishop of Bourges, in great pomp.
– I am the king,” answers Henri.
– What do you ask?
– To be received into the fold of the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.

The king then knelt down and swore to die in the Catholic religion. The archbishop gave him absolution and the king kissed his ring.

After his conversion of reason, which mitigates the resentments of the Catholics towards him, the king can be crowned in Chartres on February 27, 1594 (and not in Reims, the usual city of the coronation, still in the hands of the leaguers). He entered Paris the following month.

But the peace remained precarious. It is still necessary to reassure the Protestants and to obtain the pardon of the pope…

– Henri IV and the Protestants:
By the edict of Saint-Germain of November 15, 1594, the king renews the guarantees of the previous edicts of pacification. But the Huguenots were not satisfied. Their representatives, meeting in Saumur, informed the king’s representative, the Protestant Duplessis-Mornay, of their desire for a new edict. Negotiations began…

– Henri IV and the pope :
At the same time, Henri IV delegates to Rome, near Clément VII, two prestigious representatives of the catholic France: Jacques du Perron and the abbot of Ossat. They committed themselves in the name of the king to the application in France of the decisions of the Council of Trent and to the re-establishment of the Catholic religion in the kingdom of Navarre, in other words Béarn, the land of Jeanne d’Albret, mother of the king.

Finally, on September 17, 1595, the pope granted his absolution to the king of France. This solemn ceremony took place in the Vatican. The two representatives of the king, kneeling before the pontiff, asked for forgiveness in the name of their sovereign.

The things are arranged on the Catholic side, with the submission of the duke of Mayenne after his defeat in Fontaine-Française, on June 5, 1595, and the absolution of the pope.

But the Protestants, more worried than ever, dragged out the negotiations. Then, on March 11, 1597, the Spaniards, former allies of the Catholic League, took the city of Amiens, which had refused the protection of the royal troops, by surprise.

The king laid siege to Amiens and asked the Protestants to help him. The Protestants thought it was a good idea to take advantage of the situation to make their demands. The king did not give in. Having retaken Amiens on September 25, 1597, he threatened to resume the war against his former co-religionists. The latter bowed to him…

The Edict of Nantes of April 30, 1598 consecrated religious peace by making room for Protestants. With the peace of Vervins, on May 2 of the same year, the Spaniards left the country. France could finally get back on its feet and repair its wounds.

Henri IV Of France – The First Bourbon King – YouTube

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