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King Henri III of France
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Monarch
    (September 19, 1551-August 2, 1589)
    Born in Fontainebleau, France
    Son of King Henri II and Catherine de' Medici
    Younger brother of Kings Francis II and Charles IX of France
    King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (1573-75)
    King of France (1574-89)
    Fought the War of the Three Henrys against Henri I, Duke of Guise, and Henri of Navarre (1587-89)
    Assassinated by Jacques Clement
    Last ruler of the House of Valois
    He was described in one account as 'a youthful degenerate who wore earrings and a pearl necklace and consorted with a group of wastrels who could give even the king lessons in degeneracy.'
    He was so scared of cats, he would faint in their presence.
    During negotiations over a possible marriage with Queen Elizabeth I of England, he called her 'a public whore.'
    Since he was the fourth son of Henri and Catherine, he was not expected to assume the French throne and thus was considered a good candidate for the vacant Polish throne.
    After having been in Poland less than six months, he abandoned the throne after learning of the death of his brother King Charles IX (June, 1574).
    He kept switching back and forth between allying with the Catholic League and the Protestant Huguenots.
    He became so unpopular that when his rival Henri of Guise arrived in Paris, the city revolted in Guise's favor and forced the King to flee (May 12, 1588).
    He later invited Guise to a private conference, where his bodyguards murdered both Guise and Guise's brother, a Catholic cardinal (December 23, 1588).
    This act so thoroughly alienated him from France's Catholic population that after he was killed, several churches placed his assassin's picture on their altars.
    During the French Revolution, a mob broke into his tomb and threw his remains into a common grave.
    He was his mother's favorite.
    He was a fastidious dresser.
    He had been a successful military leader in France's religious wars before becoming King of Poland.
    His brief reign in Poland had at least one long-term result: he brought the fork from Poland to France.
    He encouraged French exploration and settlement in the New World.
    After being stabbed by Clement, he managed to remove the dagger from his wound and strike his assassin (who was then finished off by his bodyguards).

Credit: C. Fishel


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