Monday, 19 June 2017

The Spare Prince IX

Henri II
The Dauphin’s Marriage

By this time Henri’s sexual passions were beyond being slaked by Diane, who remained his closest advisor. Instead Henri met with courtesans in a bedroom guarded by his valet Griffon. Diane turned a blind eye to these sorties while the queen minded more Diane’s continued hold over Henri.

On 24th April 1558 the marriage between the Dauphin François and Mary, Queen of Scotland was celebrated at Notre-Dame with the bride’s uncle François in charge of the celebrations instead of the absent Constable, still a prisoner of the Spanish.

The married couple were a great contrast with the sickly stuttering bridegroom now allied with a beautiful young lady taller than he was. The bride was clad in;

‘A robe white as a lily, fashioned so sumptuously and richly that it would be impossible to describe it. The train, which was of marvellous length, was borne by two young demoiselles….on her head she wore a golden crown studded with pearls, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and other gems of priceless value.’[i]

Mary Queen of Scots
The wedding feast featured twelve man-made horses covered in gold and silver cloth[ii] pulling coaches full of singers who entertained the bridal party. These were accompanied by six silver-sailed ships that appeared to float over the floor. These and other amusements would have even further exhausted the already depleted treasury.

At court, Mary was a favourite with everyone bar the queen. She learned to play lute and virginals, she was competent in prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry and needlework, and was taught French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Greek. Twenty days before the wedding, Mary signed a secret agreement bequeathing Scotland and her claim to England to the French crown if she died without issue. This success further bolstered the standing of the Guise family at court.

On 17th November the ailing queen in England, Mary Tudor, died. That same month the Scottish Parliament granted the crown matrimonial to François[iii], a reminder to the English that Scotland, allied with France, was still a danger on her northern borders.

Henri was concerned about Montmorency’s continued imprisonment, he wrote the old man regularly, assuring Montmorency of his love and friendship. Diane too was becoming concerned about the preponderance of the Guise family in state affairs. The Guise family were busy promoting their own interests The Venetian ambassador wrote of Diane’s change of stance;

‘At present there is open rupture and enmity between her and the Cardinal of Lorraine, she is being so united with the Constable that they are one and the same thing.’[iv]

Montmorency was able to use his enforced stay in Ghent to hold informal peace talks. Henri was not the only one who was short of money; Philip was too. He knew Henri needed peace as badly as he did. Henri too was irritated with François de Guise who he believed had talked him into the last war in Italy.

In October 1558 Henri’s old mentor was finally released on a short parole and he met with an emotional Henri. Montmorency shared the king’s bedchamber that night and the two men spent their time denigrating the Guise tendency for ambition, greed and general hawkishness. Henri was inconsolable when Montmorency had to return to his imprisonment two days later.

It was not until 3rd April 1559 that the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis was signed; there were two treaties, one between France and England

·         France was to retain Calais for eight years and then pay an indemnity or return the town to the English and sixteen cannon captured were to be returned to the English

·         French fortresses on the Scottish border were to be dismantled.

Cateau-Cambrésis Part Two

The other treaty between France and Spain was more complex. Although the terms were not seen by the French as advantageous for France, Henri did strengthen France strategically, giving up possessions in northern Italy that would have been expensive and difficult to defend in order to strengthen France’s borders.

·         All Tuscan possessions were handed to the Duke of Mantua or the Duke of Florence.

·         Spanish rights to Milan and Naples were recognised

·         Bresse, Savoy and Piedmont were handed back to the Duke of Savoy

·         France kept the bishoprics of Toul, Metz and Verdun

·         France kept the Marquisate of Saluzzo and five strongholds in Piedmont including Turin.

·         Corsica was given back to the Genoese

Elisabeth de Valois
Queen Catherine was horrified by the terms of the treaty and, on her knees, begged Henri to refuse to ratify it; advice he wisely took no notice of. Catherine blamed the treaty on Diane. Henri’s bosom friend François de Guise was also horrified by the agreements made and left court at Christmas while the negotiations were still ongoing. He told Henri;

‘I swear to you, Sire, that there is evil in taking this road. For if you do nothing but lose for the next thirty years you would not give up as much as now at a single stroke.’[v]

The treaty also called for two marriages; one was of the Princess Elisabeth to Philip, now a widower for the second time. Elisabeth was married by proxy on 22nd June; the Duke of Alva standing in for his master. Elisabeth’s dowry was 400,000 livres[vi], money her father could ill afford. The other marriage was between the Duke of Savoy and Henri’s sister Marguerite. The Princess Claude married Duke Charles of Lorraine on 22nd January 1559.

Montmorency married his son Henri[vii] to Diane’s granddaughter Antoinette de la Marck a few days after the wedding of Princess Claude. The wedding was celebrated at the Constable’s chateau at Écouen. The previous year Henri had married his illegitimate daughter Diane to Montmorency’s eldest son François.

The Tournament of Death

Hotel des Tournelles
Marguerite’s marriage was scheduled for 4th July and her dowry fixed at 300,000 livres[viii]. To honour his sister and daughter’s marriages Henri ordered a magnificent five day tournament to take place in the Rue Saint-Antoine in front of the Hôtel des Tournelles.

On the third day of the tournament Henri appeared in the lists riding a Turkish stallion given to him by Emanuel-Philibert. He wore, as usual, an outfit in black and white to honour Diane. Having vanquished his first two opponents Henri rode against Gabriel de Montgomery, Seigneur de Lorges and captain of the Garde Écossaise.

Losing against de Lorges resulted in Henri demanding another bout against the advice of his wife and courtiers. The two men broke their lances and, under tournament rules, should have immediately dropped them. Instead de Lorges held onto his and the lance glanced upwards and slipped under the king’s visor. Several splinters of needle sharp wood pierced Henri’s head just over his right eye.

The tournament
Henri was taken off his horse and carried into the Hôtel des Tournelles where Queen Catherine held vigil by his bed. There he was attended by the famous physician Vesalius who had hurried from Brussels. Vesalius, after experimenting on the head of a murder victim proclaimed that Henri’s brain was undamaged.

For three days Henri was able to talk and even attended to some state business but on 4th July he developed a fever. The next day, as her brother lay dying, Marguerite was married elsewhere in the palace. At 1 pm on 10th July Henri died; the post-mortem found that a splinter of bone had pierced the brain.

The Protestants believed that his death was divine punishments for Henri’s attacks on their religion. Nicholas Throckmorton, the English ambassador, wrote;

‘The noblemen, gentlemen and ladies did lament the misfortune, the townsmen and people did rejoice, and let not openly to say that the king’s dissolute life and his tyranny to the professors of the Gospel had procured God’s vengeance.’[ix]

France was left with a callow youth as king, and the country ruled by a woman who detested heresy and was determined to do all she could to stamp it out.


Martyrs and Murderers – Stuart Carroll, Oxford University Press 2009

Catherine de Medici – Leonie Frieda, a Phoenix Paperback 2003

Philip of Spain – Henry Kamen, Yale University Press 1997

French Renaissance Monarchy – RJ Knecht, Longman Group 1996

The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France – RJ Knecht, Fontana Press 1996

Catherine de’ Medici – RJ Knecht, Pearson Education Ltd 1998

A History of France – David Potter, The MacMillan Press 1995

Henri II – H Noel Williams, Methuen and Co 1910 (reprint 2016)


[i] Henri II - Williams
[ii] The royal children had similarly caparisoned hobby-horses
[iii] After his marriage to Mary François was known as the Roi-Dauphin and Mary as the Reine-Dauphine
[iv] Catherine de Medici - Frieda
[v] Ibid
[vi] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is 136,800,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £2,012,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £4,934,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £58,270,000,000.00
[vii] He later inherited his father’s dukedom after the death of his brother François. The couple had two children
[viii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £102,600,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £1,509,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £3,701,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £43,700,000,000.00
[ix] Henri II - Williams