Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Vive Henri IV"

It was the entr'acte and a ballet was performed to the strains of Vive Henri IV. The audience sang with the chorus.

"How often must they play Vive Henri IV!" lamented Dorothée. "I am glad we shall soon be departing from Paris." She waved her fan as she spoke, in an effort to draw Talleyrand's attention back to herself.

"Oh, you young people," mused Talleyrand. "You do not know how sweet life was before the Revolution."

~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter Eleven, "The Opera"

The royalist anthem Vive Henri IV was from Collé's 1770 opera La partie de chasse d'Henri IV. In 1774 it was often sung to honor Louis XVI, became popular again during the Restoration in 1814, as is told in the novel Madame Royale. Here are the lyrics which celebrate the monarch who was seen by the French people as the epitome of justice, kindness, and virility. (Sorry, I am still working on a decent English translation!)

Vive Henri IV
Vive ce roi vaillant !
Vive Henri IV
Vive ce roi vaillant !
Ce diable à quatre
A le triple talent
De boire de battre
Et d'être un vers galant.

It was an attempt to identify the Bourbon dynasty with the popular first Bourbon monarch, Henri IV. Louis XVI had also been seen as sharing with the King from Navarre an easy manner with the common folk, as well as a strong sense of justice and love of the hunt. Early in their reign, the King and Queen held a costume ball where everyone came in dress from the era of le bon roi Henri, with Marie-Antoinette herself garbed as Henri's beloved mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées. It was part of the Queen's attempt to show that she was loved by her husband, and that she was his mistress as well as his wife. During the Restoration, members of the Bourbon family, especially the daughter of Louis XVI, the Duchess of Angoulême, were frequently welcomed with the anthem. After the fall of the Bourbons in 1830, the anthem was no longer played, and soon became a relic of the past. Share


Wendy Haught said...

Thanks for the tidbit from Madame Royale. I am dying to read it. I bought an autographed copy as a Christmas gift for my daughter and haven't even opened the package it shipped in. I knew that the temptation to read it now would be too great!

elena maria vidal said...

So glad the book arrived safely, Wendy, and I hope you both enjoy it!

El Jefe Maximo said...

I seem to recall that the melody for "Vive Henri IV" was also used in another popular piece, something about "being happy in the bosom of the family?"

An aside: the revolution of 1830 is both an interesting and tragic subject. . .with a little more luck, and had Charles X been a wiser king, it need not have happened.

Catherine Delors said...

Certainly, El Jefe, Charles X was not a wise King.
As for Henri IV, he remained popular centuries after his assassination. When his body was exhumed from the crypt of Saint-Denis in 1793, it was found in a perfect state of conservation and was displayed in state in the midst of the Basilica. And people filed respectfully to see it, in the midst of the Revolution! Someone noted that "he was the only King whose memory the people had kept."