The Tudor Society

August 18 – A marriage for peace is followed by a massacre

An illumination of the marriage of Henry of Navarre and Margaret of ValoisOn this day in Tudor history, 18th August 1572, the marriage of Henry III, King of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France), the leading Huguenot, and the Catholic Margaret of Valois took place at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Henry was born Henri de Bourbon on 13th December 1553 and was the son of Jeanne III of Navarre and her husband, Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme and King of Navarre. When he was born, Henry was baptised in the Catholic faith, but his mother brought him up as a Protestant. His mother died on 9th June 1572 and Henry became King of Navarre.

Margaret, or Marguerite, of Valois was born on 14th May 1553. She was the daughter of King Henry II of France and his wife, Catherine de' Medici, and the sister of Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III, all Kings of France. She was brought up in the Catholic faith.

The aim of this marriage was to unite the Bourbon and Valois families, and also to bring peace between the Catholics and Huguenots in France. However, the awful St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots took place just six days after the wedding.

An estimated 3,000 French Protestants (Huguenots) were massacred in Paris, and a further estimated 7,000 in the provinces. According to tradition, Catherine de' Medici persuaded her son, King Charles IX of France, to order the assassination of key Huguenot leaders who had gathered in Paris for the wedding Henry and Margaret.

Read more about the massacre here.

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August 18 – A marriage for peace is followed by a massacre