Who can be more dangerous than a young monk? Apparently some officials at the court of Henry III. in the summer of 1589. Wars of religion had been torn apart France for almost three decades. Although the childless king was firmly committed to the Catholic faith, he had named Henry of Navarre, the leader of the Huguenots, as his potential successor.
In addition, Henry III had with the powerful family of the Guise, who rejected the monarch's claim to power and demanded more say. Barely a year earlier, the king had therefore murdered the two leaders of the noble opposition, the Duke of Guise and his brother, the Archbishop of Reims. Since then, the arch-Catholic "League" and a revolutionary movement called "The Paris Sixteen" have been violently agitating against Heinrich.
But their leaflets and tracts could not really pose a threat to the king - at least that was what his advisers thought. Therefore, the young monk Jacques Clément had little trouble getting to the royal court with forged and begging letters of recommendation. He claimed to be delivering some secret letters to the king and confiding a secret that he was only allowed to share in person.
The court official to whom Clément first called did not become suspicious but, on the contrary, actually accommodated the spiritual guest. And he procured an audience for him the next day, August 1, 1589. The Dominican knelt before Henry III. down and handed him the letters. But he could only share the secret privately, he said.
The king then dismissed the guards. Clément now gave him another document, and while Henry was reading this, the monk drew a knife from the wide sleeve of his robe and thrust it into his abdomen. The king called for help, his bodyguard rushed into the chamber and killed the assassin instantly. But Henry III. died the following day. This ended the Valois dynasty.
In the posthumous trial of the assassin, a lot came out about his origins and motives. After that, Clément was in his early to mid-twenties, came from the French provinces of Serbonne, a town near Sens in Burgundy, and had been living in Paris for a little over a year. He took the propaganda of the "League" seriously, which had been the case since the murder of the two Guise brothers in Henry III in 1588. saw an illegitimate despot.
Clément prayed incessantly and heard the voice of God telling him to carry out his purpose. None other than he will kill the tyrant - God put him into his hands. Nevertheless, the young monk wanted to have his decision confirmed again. He went to an older, experienced Dominican Father for advice. He had been asked by a penitent whether Henry III. allowed to kill?
The answer he received was something like this: “Calm him down on behalf of God; he need have absolutely no fear of acting against his conscience if he is not driven to do it out of private vengeance, but out of zeal for faith, for the glory of God and religion, and for the peace of the country.” The veteran monk even said about the allegedly doubting believers: "He does not burden his conscience at all, he is even very deserving, and should he perish in the process, his soul will surely be saved and God will be happy with him."
Henry III, born in 1551, was the fourth son of King Henry II and his Italian wife Catherine de Medici. His father died in a tournament accident when the boy was just under eight years old. At the time it was unlikely that Henry himself would ascend the throne, but his elder brothers Francis II and Charles IX. both died relatively young; one at just under 17, the other at just under 24, after having formally ruled for at least 14 years.
From 1560, after the death of her eldest son, Katharina served as regent. In 1572 it was probably she who started the bloodbath of Huguenots on the occasion of the marriage of Catherine's daughter Margarete to Henry of Navarre. It went down in the annals of political violence as "St. Bartholomew's Night".
Henry III followed his brother Charles IX in 1574. but couldn't (and didn't want to) free himself from his mother's influence. Catherine de Medici was the dominant force in France during his reign until 1584. Because the monarch remained childless (leading to speculation that he was homosexual despite his marriage to Louise de Lorraine) and because Henry II's fourth son, who was named Francis Hercules, died in 1584, Henry of Navarre was now the next heir to the throne.
But after Jacques Clément's assassination, this succession was by no means certain, because Henry of Navarre belonged to the Reformed denomination. In 1594 he was crowned King of France. A successful 16-year reign followed, during which religious conflicts became less important. Henry III now appeared as the last monarch of a dark time, which was sometimes described as "foreign rule by the Italians". Incidentally, Clément was sentenced posthumously, and his body was quartered and burned.
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