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France in the Reign of Henry IV, 1589-1610

2. The Troubles of the League

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About this Lecture


In June 1584, with the death of Francis, Duke of Anjou, Henry of Navarre became the heir presumptive to the French throne. This alarmed Catholics and strengthened the resolve of the Catholic League, who were desperate to find a Catholic successor to the throne. The Protestants, by contrast, were eager to see the Protestant Henry of Navarre accede to the throne. In this module, we consider the strengths and weaknesses of both parties—the Catholics and the Protestants—in the late 1580s and early 1590s.


In this course, Dr Tom Hamilton (University of Cambridge) explores the life and reign of Henry IV of France, the king celebrated for his role in ending the Wars of Religion. The first lecture considers Henry's early life in the civil wars and especially his role in the events surrounding the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre (24 August 1572). The second lecture traces Henry's political career as he became heir presumptive in 1584 then king of France in 1589, focusing in particular on the Catholic League that opposed his succession. In the third and fourth lectures, we consider how Henry and his ministers attempted to resolve the religious conflict in France, evaluating his relations with the papacy and the Protestants – especially through the Edict of Nantes (30 April 1598) – as well as the means by which he rebuilt the French economy. In the final module, we turn to Henry's assassination by François Ravaillac before thinking about Henry's legacy in the seventeenth century and beyond.

Further Reading:

Greengrass, Mark, France in the Age of Henri IV: The Struggle for Stability (London, 1995, first edition 1984)

Holt, Mack P., The French Wars of Religion, 1562-1629 (Cambridge, 2005)

Mousnier, Roland, The Assassination of Henri IV: The Tyrannicide Problem and the Consolidation of the French Absolute Monarchy in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1973)


Tom Hamilton is Associate Professor in Early Modern European History at Durham University. He works on the social, cultural, and religious history of early modern Europe, with a particular focus on France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His first work was Pierre de L’Estoile and his World in the Wars of Religion (2017), while his next book, A Widow's Vengeance after the Wars of Religion: Gender and Justice in Renaissance France, will be published in 2024.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hamilton, T. (2018, August 15). France in the Reign of Henry IV, 1589-1610 - The Troubles of the League [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hamilton, T. "France in the Reign of Henry IV, 1589-1610 – The Troubles of the League." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,