Skip to main content
Select Source:

Henry II (France) (1519–1559; Ruled 1547–1559)

HENRY II (FRANCE) (15191559; ruled 15471559)

HENRY II (FRANCE) (15191559; ruled 15471559), king of France. The second son of Francis I (ruled 15151547) and Claude of France, Henry was born on 31 March 1519. He was seven years old when he and his older brother Francis were sent to Spain as hostages for their father, who had been captured at Pavia in February 1525. Henry felt that the Spanish mistreated him during the four years he was a prisoner and bore a lifelong grudge against both his father and Emperor Charles V (ruled 15191556). In October 1533 he wedded Catherine de Médicis (15191589) as part of an alliance with the Medici pope, Clement VII (reigned 15231534). The pope soon died, ending the political value of the marriage, which also came under strain because of the lack of children for the first ten years. Henry and Catherine eventually had seven children who survived childhood. Henry's love for Diane de Poitiers further strained the marriage. Henry first met Diane when he returned from Spain in 1530, and he loved her until his death, although she was twenty years his senior.

When his older brother died in 1536, Henry became dauphin, and he ascended the throne on 31 March 1547 at the death of his father. He already had a cadre of close advisersthe constable Anne, duke of Montmorency (14931567); François de Lorraine, duke of Guise (15191563), and his brother, Charles de Lorraine, cardinal of Lorraine (15241574); and Marshal Jacques D'Albion de Saint-Andréwho now dominated the royal council. Diane also wielded broad influence over her royal lover. In government Henry largely carried on trends begun under his father; his major innovation was creating the offices of the four secretaries of state, each having responsibility for a different area of administration. The selling of royal offices was already an important source of royal revenue, but Henry greatly increased the number of venal offices.

The war against the Habsburgs continued during Henry's reign, and he allied with the German Lutherans and the Ottoman Turks against them. With the approval of the Lutheran princes, he occupied the three bishoprics of Lorraine, and in cooperation with the Ottoman fleet, he seized Corsica from Charles V's ally Genoa in 1553. Henry's alliance with the Lutherans prevented him from being as severe on the French Protestants as he wished, but he took seriously his oath to protect the Catholic Church. Shortly after becoming king, he created a new chamber in the Parlement of Paris to deal with heresy. Called the chambre ardente ("zealous chamber") for its zealous pursuit of Protestants, it condemned thirty-seven persons to death in three years. The Catholic hierarchy's objections to its loss of jurisdiction over heresy persuaded him to close it down in 1550. The rivalry between the parlement and the episcopate over heresy prosecution rendered ineffective such harsh edicts against heresy as the Edict of Châteaubriand in 1551. This problem and Henry's perception that heresy was lower-class sedition led him to overlook Protestantism in the French elite, and it flourished despite his resolve to rid his realm of religious dissent.

Like his father, Henry was a patron of Renaissance culture, although he preferred to patronize French talent. He completed several projects begun by Francis, including the château of Fontainebleau and the reconstruction of the Louvre, while putting his own stamp on them. The major building project under Henry was the château of Anet, done for Diane de Poitiers by Philibert Delorme (de L'Orme; 1515?1570). In literature, Henry's reign saw a reaction against the emphasis on using Latin and a greater effort to use French, as Joachim Du Bellay (c. 15221560) argued in his Defense and Illustration of the French Language (1549). Du Bellay was a member of the Pléiade, a group of poets who wrote in French. The most famous among them was Pierre de Ronsard (15241585).

The end of Henry's reign was shadowed by economic problems, a huge royal debt amounting to 2.5 times the annual royal revenues, an upsurge in religious dissent, and continued war with the Habsburgs. When he sent an army under the duke of Guise to Italy to reclaim Naples and Milan at the urging of Pope Paul IV, Philip II (ruled 15561598) invaded northern France and defeated Montmorency at Saint-Quentin in August 1557. When Philip failed to push his forces on to attack Paris, Henry sent the army assembled for defending the city to take Calais in January 1558. With the fortunes of war balanced, both rulers agreed to the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559. Henry, jousting in a tournament celebrating the peace and the marriage by proxy of his daughter Elisabeth to Philip, was fatally wounded when his opponent's shattered lance struck him in the face. He died on 10 July 1559, leaving his fifteen-year-old son Francis II (ruled 15591560) a realm beset with problems, the most serious of which was the religious division.

See also Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) ; Renaissance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Source

Baudouin-Matusek, M. N., and Anne Merlin-Chazelas, eds. Catalogue des actes de Henri II. 6 vols. Paris, 19792002.

Secondary Sources

Baumgartner, Frederic J. Henry II, King of France, 15471559. Durham, N.C., 1988. Scholarly biography, only recent one in English.

Cloulas, Ivan. Henri II. Paris, 1985. Especially strong on Henry's patronage of art and culture.

Frederic J. Baumgartner

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Henry II (France) (1519–1559; Ruled 1547–1559)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Henry II (France) (1519–1559; Ruled 1547–1559)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-ii-france-1519-1559-ruled-1547-1559

"Henry II (France) (1519–1559; Ruled 1547–1559)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-ii-france-1519-1559-ruled-1547-1559

Henry II (king of France)

Henry II, 1519–59, king of France (1547–59), son of King Francis I. His robust physique contrasted with his weak and pliant disposition. Throughout his reign he was governed by Anne de Montmorency, by his mistress Diane de Poitiers, and by François and Charles de Guise. He renewed the struggle against Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Charles I of Spain), allying himself with the German Protestants despite his own strong Catholicism. War continued under Charles's son King Philip II of Spain, who was allied with Mary Tudor of England, until the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) ended French pretensions in Italy. In 1558, Calais was conquered from the English. Henry issued a series of increasingly severe edicts against the Protestants and established more firmly the absolute royal power. His queen, Catherine de' Medici, played a minor role during her husband's reign. Henry, accidentally killed by Gabriel de Montgomery in a tournament, was succeeded by Francis II.

See H. N. Williams, Henry II: His Court and Times (1910).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Henry II (king of France)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Henry II (king of France)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-ii-king-france

"Henry II (king of France)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-ii-king-france

Henry II

Henry II (1519–59) King of France (1547–59). Son and successor of Francis I, he married Catherine de' Medici but was dominated by his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and the rival families of Guise and Montmorency. After bankrupting the royal government, the war with Spain ended with the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Henry II." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Henry II." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-ii-0

"Henry II." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-ii-0