Photographic book

The good king of France


Bourbon Monarchy
Bourbon Monarchy

Henry IV’s most obvious task after 1598 was to pursue the process of pacification in a still bitterly divided France. This process began at home. To ensure his succession, Henry had his childless marriage to Margaret annulled in 1599 and then married Marie de Médicis, an Italian princess. Marie, who was sympathetic to the Holy League, bore him three sons and three daughters in the next ten years.

To bring order to the state, Henry imposed his will on the parlements and other state agencies. Through the efforts of his superintendent of finance, Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully, he restored France’s fiscal health. He made tax collection more efficient, established the paulette—a tax that allowed venal (purchased) offices to be inherited—and reduced the interest rate on state loans. He also improved the state’s credit rating by resuming state payments on the debt, which had lapsed for more than a decade. By avoiding major military conflicts, Henry kept financial demands on the state at a minimum. As a result, he was able to lower general taxes.

Tax reductions and the restoration of peace helped generate a mild economic boom, which contrasted sharply with conditions in previous years, when hunger, wolves, and freebooting military bands stalked the countryside. France’s recovery and Henry’s buoyant personality made him popular with his contemporaries, and despite his many mistresses and nine bastard children, Henry was held up as a model king for centuries. The ugly aftershocks of the Wars of Religion were far from spent, however. On May 14, 1610, Henry was assassinated by François Ravaillac, a Catholic zealot who had been inspired by the Holy League. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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