Early Modern France - History of Europe
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Early Modern France

Henry IV of France
Henry IV of France

In 1589 AD, Catherine de Medici died in France, and her last son, Henry III, was killed a few months later. Henry III had no sons, and his 36 year old cousin, Henry IV, became the next king of France. Henry was a Protestant, but he converted to being Catholic in order to get the support of Catholics in France, saying that "Paris was well worth a Mass." This helped to end the wars of religion in France. In 1598, Henry IV signed the Edict of Nantes, allowing freedom of religion to everyone in France. Henry's troops made alliances with the Algonquin people to trade with them and help them fight the Iroquois. Henry also made plans with the Ottoman ruler Sofia Baffo to attack Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.

Marie de Medici
Marie de Medici (by Rubens)

But in 1610 a Catholic man who hated freedom of religion killed Henry IV. When Henry died, he was 57 years old. After Henry died, his wife, Marie de Medici, ruled France as her cousin Catherine had before. She was regent for her 9 year old son, Louis. Marie's mother was Austrian, so Marie dropped Henry's plans for war with Austria. Marie even had her son marry an Austrian-Spanish princess, Anne of Austria, one of Philip III's children. But Marie continued Henry's policy of buying off the rich lords instead of fighting them, and she continued freedom of religion.

Cardinal Richelieu

In 1617, when Louis XIII was sixteen years old, Marie lost power to Cardinal Richelieu, a powerful Catholic cardinal at court. Louis and Richelieu exiled his mother Marie, and she lived the rest of her life in Germany.

Louis XIII
Louis XIII

(The story of the Three Musketeers is about Richelieu and Louis XIII.) Richelieu didn't mind fighting Austria as Marie de Medici had, so he led France to victory over Austria in the Thirty Years' War. Under Richelieu, Louis (or Richelieu) got more power, and the rich lords had less and less. Richelieu sent out Jesuits who encouraged his Algonquin allies in Canada to become Catholics, but he didn't give them enough guns to defend themselves against the Iroquois, and by 1632 they were very weak. Richelieu also sent out soldiers to conquer some of the Caribbean islands and enslaved Africans to grow sugar there. Richelieu died in 1642, and Louis died the next year. Louis' wife, Anne of Austria, took power.

Go on to Anne of Austria

Bibliography and further reading about early modern France:

Anne of Austria
Early Modern England
Ottoman Empire
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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