Monday, April 29, 2019

Paris Through the Eyes of Henri IV

From The History Reader:
Henri IV made sure not to burden the workers with the costs of his extensive building and reconstruction projects. To pay for the Pont Neuf, for instance, he taxed every cask of wine that came into the city. Enthroned in the Louvre Palace, issuing pardons to all combatants, making his visionary plans for the restoration of the broken city, he won the people’s allegiance. “We must be brought to agreement by reason and kindness,” he wrote, “and not by strictness and cruelty which serve only to arouse men.” In this magnanimous spirit, he drafted and signed the Edict of Nantes, granting tolerance and freedom of worship to the reformist religion in 1598 (the same year he undertook the Pont Neuf, originally planned by the Valois king Henri III). Such was his popularity that even the most rigid Catholics chose not to make war against Henri’s mandated tolerance. 
Born into the House of Bourbon and raised in the southwest, in the kingdom of Navarre, at the time a small independent realm in the Basque country between France and Spain, he had the Gascon temperament described by Balzac as “bold, brave, adventurous, prone to exaggerate the good and belittle the bad,… laughing at vice when it serves as a stepping stone.” At every stage, Henri IV was a charmer, “his eyes full of sweetness,… his whole mien animated with an uncommon vivacity,” to quote one magistrate. The northern, more cerebral French regarded the men of the South, who spoke Provençal, as foreigners. 
Henri IV was baptized in the Catholic Church but was given a Protestant tutor after his parents converted to Protestantism. When his father—but not his mother—returned to the Church, he gave his son a Catholic tutor. The boy, however, kept his mother’s reformed faith, even while studying in Catholic Paris at the College of Navarre on the hill of Sainte Geneviève. (Read more.)

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