Henry IV of France

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If God grant me life, I will see that every laboring man in my kingdom shall have his chicken to put in the pot.

Henry IV (13 December 1553 – 14 May 1610), also known by the epithet "Good King Henry", was King of Navarre (as Henry III) from 1572 to 1610 and King of France from 1589 to 1610. He was the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon.


  • Si Dieu me donne encore de la vie je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon Royaume qui n’ait moyen d’avoir une poule dans son pot.

Posthumous attributions[edit]

Quotes about Henry IV[edit]

  • When the duke of Savoy came to France, the king invited him to play tennis at the faubourg Saint Germain (in Paris). After the game, the duke looked out of a window towards a street and, seeing a large crowd, told the king that he could never sufficiently wonder at the beauty and wealth of France and asked him what the royal revenues were worth. This generous prince, deft at handling such questions, replied, "It is worth what I want." The duke, finding this reply too vague, asked him to be more specific. The king replied, "Yes, what I want, for I have the confidence of my people and I can take what I like for, if God grant me life, I will ensure that there is not a peasant in the kingdom without a chicken in the stewpot" and added "yet I will not neglect to maintain enough soldiers to bring to reason those who challenge my authority."
    • Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont, Histoire du roi Henry le Grand (1749), pp. 558-559, quoted in Mark Greengrass, France in the Age of Henri IV: The Struggle for Stability (1984; 2nd ed. 1995), p. 239
  • Throughout the Bourbon Restoration (1814–1830), Henri IV enjoyed a unique status in contemporary popular culture. Personification of royal authority, military hero, gallant lover, friend to the common man, this historical figure charmed many factions of the Restoration public. The widespread fascination with the monarch was manifest in virtually every form of creative production during this period, including the decorative arts. Henri IV was portrayed frequently and in a variety of media, ranging from ceramics and clocks to tapestries and printed textiles. Such diversity is indicative of the popularity of the first Bourbon as well as the range of his appeal.
    • Kimberly A. Jones, 'Henri IV and the Decorative Arts of the Bourbon Restoration, 1814-1830: A Study in Politics and Popular Taste', Studies in the Decorative Arts, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Fall 1993), p. 2
  • The site where the Statue of Good Henri had been located, belongs unquestionably to this people of the French, whom he called his children, who still cherish him as their father: they wish to raise again this fine monument; I have no doubt, I am convinced that you can all be assured that such an honorable plan will receive the support of every heart, and of all the authorities, by consequence, that of the superior authority.
    • Louis XVIII, Préfet de la Seine Chabrol au Ministre de l’Intérieur (29 July 1814), quoted in Victoria E. Thompson, 'The Creation, Destruction and Recreation of Henri IV: Seeing Popular Sovereignty in the Statue of a King', History and Memory, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2012), p. 13
  • Henri IV was a gifted commander who saw more potential in mounted troops than any other captain of his day and was able to derive most advantage from them in combat, despite his limited resources. His special genius for new ways of employing his mounted troops both in armament and deployment forced even recognized military figures, such as the duke of Parma, to be respectful or even fearful of his skill. The king's contribution to the tactical development of the mounted arm was not unique, for he borrowed widely from the ideas of Gaspard de Coligny, Francois de La Noue, and other soldiers of his day; yet he was innovative in the way he modified and further developed these ideas to make his mounted troops a formidable tactical force. Indeed, he had a special talent for recognizing in the military theories and practices of other commanders what would work or not work on the battlefield, and what had promise but needed some alteration to become effective. This ability, when combined with Henri's imaginative leadership, made his cavalry the envy of late sixteenth-century Europe.
    • Ronald S. Love, '"All the King's Horsemen": The Equestrian Army of Henri IV, 1585–1598', The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Autumn 1991), pp. 532-533
  • That he finally subordinated his religious profession to his political needs is indisputable. But that he did so reluctantly and not until he had concluded in his own mind that there was no viable alternative to conversion if he were to retain his crown, is also clear. For he was a man of strong Calvinist conscience who demonstrated on more than one occasion that he was willing to defend his beliefs almost to the brink of political disaster. At the same time, however, he was a king who was as concerned with dynastic issues and affairs of state as any other ruler of his day, who felt keenly the heavy obligations of his royal role and who ultimately recognized that his personal religious beliefs must sometimes be sacrificed for the greater good of the dynasty and the realm. It is entirely possible, therefore, that the reflection of his closest counsellor, the duc de Sully, that the Huguenot monarch sacrificed an important part of his conscience to the benefit of his people is considerably less naive than historians have assumed.
    • Ronald S. Love, 'The Symbiosis of Religion and Politics: Reassessing the Final Conversion of Henri IV', Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Winter 1995), p. 55
  • Acceptance of Henri IV's sincerity demanded that the subject willingly abdicate any claim to participate in politics not framed exclusively by reference to the royal will and conscience. That act, more than anything else, crystallized the new relationship that later developed between the Bourbons and the Catholic élites in France during the seventeenth century.
    The enormous appeal of this new type of royal absolutism after the wars of religion largely rested on this call for a suspension of ethical inquiry by subjects into the king's motives and the arcana imperii of royal office. Such inquiry had come to be seen as detrimental to public order and social harmony, and therefore transgressed the bounds of legitimate public discussion. In the future, political power lay only with those who voluntarily resigned the responsible exercise of political authority to an absolute king sanctioned by a Catholic God. This simple formula and solution to the past troubles animated the Catholic élite's renewed commitment to the crown held by the converted Henri IV. In exchange for order, they embraced the new discipline that reserved the perquisites of power and status to those who participated in the cult of monarchy and the self-abnegating doctrine of service du roi. For Catholics all across France, the conversion of Henri IV at the abbey church of St-Denis on 25 July 1593 was plus que l'histoire événementielle. In it they saw at the time and for years afterwards a transcendent act of public and private redemption, an act that preserved the crown's sacred character and cleansed the king's person of the taint of heresy and moral degradation. Most importantly, the conversion of Henri IV reminded all loyal Frenchmen that they were truly among God's chosen people once they abandoned sedition and experienced a reconversion to la religion royale.
    • Michael Wolfe, 'The Conversion of Henri IV and the Origins of Bourbon Absolutism', Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer 1987), p. 309

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