The End of the Henri II Era

June 30th 1559 marks the anniversary of the accident that ended the life and reign of France’s King Henri II. The king was jousting in tournaments celebrating peace with Hapsburgs, the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to Philip of Spain, and the betrothal of his own sister, Marguerite, to Emmanuel-Philbert, Duc of Savoy, when a lance splintered. 5 splinters—the largest of which struck his forehead above the right eyebrow and pierced his left eye–were removed from Henri’s head without anesthetic yet he cried out only once. Henri was conscious pretty quickly after his horrific injury, and by July 1 he had rallied sufficiently to sleep, eat and drink. On July 2nd and 3rd he dictated letters, orders for his sister’s wedding etc., but late on July 4th he developed a fever and rapidly lost sight and speech.
Last Rites administered on July 9th, and the King died on July 10th at the age of 40 and having reigned over France for 12 years. Henri II wounded
Queen Catherine de Médicis chose to wear black for the rest of her life (eschewing the traditional French color of morning for queens – white).
At the time of Henri II’s death and the ascension of Francis II the French crown was financially unstable and heavily in debt (one source puts that debut at approximately 40 million Livres—to put that in perspective the crown’s income was nearer to 12 million Livres per annum at this time). There were difficult times to come for the Valois . . . Times you can read more about in Médicis Daughter.


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