Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

King Henri III of France

425 years ago today at the chateau at Saint-Cloud King Henri III of France was assassinated by Jacques Clément. The King was the last of the Valois line, and the succession passed, not without dispute in the vexed Wars of Religion, to his cousin and brother-in-law King Henri IV.

 File:Henri III 1578 by Etienne Dumonstier.jpg

King Henri III
Portrait by Etienne Dumonstier after 1578


There is a biography of King Henri III, who was born in 1551 and had been the elected King of Poland-Lithuania in 1573- 4 until he succeeded his brother King Charles IX as King of France on the latter's death in 1574, here

Having succeeded to both the Polish and French thrones on the feast of Pentecost he established in 1578 what became the premier chivalric Order of the French Crown, the Order of the Holy Ghost or Saint-Esprit. There is an illustrated account of the Order here.

Like his elder brothers and his mother Queen Catherine de' Medici, he reigned over a France bitterly divided by the Wars of Religion, and was forced to seek to negotiate with one or other, or both sides to maintain not only his own position but that of the monarchy.

Given the fraught world of the French Court in his lifetime and the political tensions that surrounded him it is perhaps not surprising that he was a complex man. The impression is of a fey young man, often assumed to be homosexual - although that interpretation has been challenged,as outline in the biographical link above - yet devoted to his wife, Louise of Lorraine. She was in turn devoted to him, and may have miscarried a child in the early years of their marriage. His behaviour does suggest the bisexual world of renaissance court culture. There is a biography of Queen Louise here. He was also notably pious in his practise of Catholicism as well as veing very much a man concerned with his appearance and fashion.

There is a galley of several portraits of the King here and discussion of his costume and appearance in an early portrait from his time as King of France here ( the English is occasionally idiosyncratic, but the content interesting).

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