Henry IV and the women

Do you know the mother ofHenry IV ? His sister, his wives? The number of legitimate or natural children? Her amorous conquests from the most ordinary to the most breathtaking? … The legend of Vert-Galant! We think we know everything but we know so little. The women in the life of Henri IV: their little stories told in a book by Maylene Vincent to better understand the great history of France.

The "gallant green" and his women

Finally the book that reveals everything, through eight portraits of women all more important than the others who have guided, inspired, influenced, dominated, ruled, betrayed, between love, hatred and violence: his very influential mother Jeanne and desiring for her son the highest step of power; his sister Catherine mistreated and humiliated; Margot the unfaithful wife who raises an army against her husband; Corisande, her first love transformed into a political advisor; Gabrielle and passionate love; Henriette the conspirator who plots an assassination; Marie, the quarrelsome Italian, Charlotte, the impossible passion, prisoner abroad for whom he is going to declare war; and many others ... Did any of them cock Ravaillac's arm?

All his women meet, mingle and their little stories will help to better understand the great history of France. An educational book, written in a journalistic way, to live as closely as possible to the characters and expressions of the time. This "reality book" in order to immerse oneself in the intimacy of the good, gay, bawdy king.


Born in Pau, in the city of the good King Henri, professor of history and journalist, Marylène Vincent, tireless curious, has succeeded, after two years of research in the archives of France and Navarre, to relate in a simple and no less original way the incredible and complex story of Henri IV.

Interview of the author published in the newspaper Sud-Ouest

South West. What prompted you to write a book on Henry IV and women?

Marylène Vincent. I was born in the city of the good King Henri and, like all the little Palois, I was steeped in legend. So I wanted to write something about Henri IV. A simple, accessible, fun book because I too often read boring history books, written for purists. Henri IV's wives quickly imposed themselves on me. I realized that they were poorly known, that they were confused, even though they played a major role in the life of the king. I also wished not to limit myself to wives or mistresses. This is why I mention the mother of Henri IV, Jeanne d'Albret, or even his sister.

In the end, did women really like it?

Some, yes. Diane d'Andoins for example, Henri's first great love. Called "the great Corisande" by Montaigne, she loved Henri, powerfully, sincerely, for the man he was. She will also give him part of her money, because she was very rich, her energy, and even her son to go and fight at her side. She was also a real advisor. She said to Henri: "Talk to me, you'll be doing the better." It was she who advised him, for example, to wear the white scarf, a sign of rallying, at the battle of Coutras. He will also dedicate this victory to him.

But many of his mistresses were interested and sought to get the maximum benefit from their relationships with the king ...

That's right. Take Gabrielle d'Estrées for example, the one we nicknamed "the almost queen", she will only think about one thing: her social rise and that of her children. She was terribly interested. Overall, Henry IV spent a tremendous amount of money on women. He offered them money, land, castles ...

An expensive and sometimes irrational passion that was very frowned upon at the time ...

It was very frowned upon by everyone, the people, the great of the kingdom, advisers and relatives of the king. Sully in the lead. His advisers feared above all the political consequences of his irrational loves. Henri IV was a slave to amorous passion. Love and women were his Achilles heel. He was crazy about Gabrielle d'Estrées, the great love of his life. He thus gave in to all her whims. For his last passion, the young Charlotte de Montmorency, he was ready to start a war in order to get her back in Brussels. Even if we know that there were also other reasons for this war project. He was really capable of anything, even if it meant putting himself in great danger, falling ill, endangering the kingdom. And the older he gets, the more he likes young tendrons, and the more he loses his sanity. During his lifetime, this side of debauchery and lust was criticized. It was after his death that his passion for women made him sympathetic, more human, and closer to people.

These escapades began to amuse, before being magnified. It's a bit like the romantic escapades of politicians today. They amuse more than they exasperate. In any case in France.

In love, was he a romantic, a gallant or a goujat?

All of this at the same time. Goujat, he could be. You have to see how he mistreated his sister, for example. He did not mind manipulating, even humiliating women when he no longer loved them. But he could also be very romantic. He wrote wonderful love letters, especially before the battles. Because Henri IV wrote very well.

Was he a good lover?

Henri IV, an excellent lover, that is a bit of a legend. Henriette d'Entragues, who did not love him, who was a mean, a bad tongue, said that he "stank like carrion". On his manhood, she called him "the goodwill captain". But, hey, sexual breakdowns that can happen to all men ... You should also know that several of his mistresses cheated on him, we used to say "encorner" at the time. It was a little watered sprinkler. And yet he was very jealous.

What did her mother think of this hectic love life?

Jeanne d'Albret, this austere woman, a mother both cherished and feared, warned him against this frivolity, while pretending not to see anything. Anyway, when it comes to the heart and love, Henri has always followed his instincts.

Henri IV and women, by Marylène Vincent, Editions Sud Ouest, January 2010.

Video: The Show Must Go Online: Henry IV Part II (January 2022).