Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Today on the Almanac, Dan tells the story of the assassination of Henry III, the King of France, during the French Wars of Religion.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 2nd of August 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Today I get to tell a story that includes someone best described as a Dominican Friar and Assassin. And while here at the Almanac, we frown on assassinations, they are pretty interesting stories. Today we have regicide during the French Wars of religion. Things get complicated and bloody. Let’s go.

The French Wars of Religion took place in the second half of the 16th century. After the formation of the Lutheran Church and England’s break from the Pope, France's powerhouse had to decide what to do with the Reformation. France had been historically Catholic- but you might remember that they were an independent lot. Happy to be Catholic but not so excited to be “Roman” Catholic- ruled by a man over the mountains in the chair of St. Peter.

To the East, the Swiss had also been reforming- first Zwingli and then the Frenchman John Calvin, who set up base in Geneva, and his movement bled into France. Furthermore, there was the issue of the Spanish. They were one of the mightiest powers in Europe, and to upset that Catholic power would put France in danger.

Henry III, our leading man for today, was only one of three crucial Henry/i’s. First, you had Henry the Duke of Guise. He was as Catholic as it gets with an alliance with the Catholic League and Phillip, the king of Spain.

The following Henry is Henry of Navarre. He is a Huguenot/Protestant and is supported by the Protestant Queen Elizabeth.

And then there is Henry III. He was the king, even though he was never supposed to be. He was down on the list of heirs to the throne, so his mother, the crafty Catherine DeMedici, arranged for him to be the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (it’s tricky, it was an elected monarchy….).

But when Henry III’s brother died, he came back from Poland. Now, it was tricky because he was very Catholic but more political than the other Catholic, Henry the Duke of Guise.

Let’s jump to 1588. Phillip of Spain decided to invade England when the prospect of an alliance broke down. He tried to do this with the famed Spanish Armada, which famously was destroyed in bad weather. Phillip and the Spanish were in a position of weakness. So King Henry III had Henry, the Duke of Guise and supporter of Phillip and his Catholic league, assassinated.

This outraged the Catholics, understandably, who saw King Henry III as a traitor. Furthermore, Henry III didn’t have any heirs- it was rumored that he had affinities for men. And according to French law, the next king would be the OTHER Henry- the Protestant Henry of Navarre.

Henry III had no choice, politically at least, but to ally with the Protestant Henry of Navarre (remember, Henry III is as politically motivated as he is theological). During the summer of 1589, Henry III and Henry of Navarre planned their siege on Paris.

In July of 1589, a Dominican Friar, Jacques Clement, began to make his way to see Henry III. Jacques was a radical; he talked about murdering heretics and became obsessed with the Catholic League and the King's supposed betrayal. The Catholic League had been publishing anonymous tracts claiming that Henry III was so dangerous that committing regicide, in this case, was allowed by the Church. It would be a righteous kill.

Jacques met with Henry III’s camp and presented papers he had received to give to the king. When Jacques showed the documents and asked for a moment of privacy, the king summoned him close. Jacques came close enough to stab the king and pierce his spleen. Jacques was immediately captured and killed. King Henry III didn’t die right away. He called Henry of Navarre- the presumptive heir to the crown and pleaded that he leave the Huguenots and become Catholic- but an anti-Catholic League Catholic. That’s what happened, and that’s a story for another time, but today we remember the death of Henry III- on this, the 2nd of August in 1589, a day after being stabbed by the Dominican Assassin Jacques Clement.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Colossians 4:

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of August 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man who wonders why Nissan calls one of its vehicles the Armada… Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man fascinated by car names- like the Ford Probe… what? Why? I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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