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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

Childhood

Henri spent his childhood in Béarn. He passed through the hands of no l ess than eight wet-nurses before being entrusted to Suzanne de Bourbon, wife of the baron de Miossens, who cared for him until the age of seven. He thus grew up in the Château de Coarraze, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and it was in this bucolic spot that he lived alongside peasants, servants and animals. He was raised "country-style", and he shared their games and spoke their dialect. Coarraze gave Henri a visceral connection to his native land, as well as a preference for simplicity and human contact that would later form one of his legendary character traits.

Around the age of five, Henri began to be groomed to be the prince of Navarre that he had become upon the death of his grandfather in May of 1555. In 1558, his parents travelled to the French court, and delegated authority to Henri by naming him "regent and lieutenant general of the king and queen of Navarre, seigneur and dame souveraine of Béarn". The first official document signed by him dates from 22 October 1558. Given his prestigious lineage, his education and military training could only be accomplished at the French court. In 1561, it was time for Henri to leave behind his native hills to travel to "France".

Related multimedia

Title: Henri IV as a child

Henri IV as a child
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
Henri IV as a child (age four) drawing after Pourbus, by Gustave Armand Houbigant, 19th c. Musée national du château de Pau, P88-2-1-38

Title: Maison Lassensaa at Billère. House where Henri IV was nursed

Maison Lassensaa at Billère. House where Henri IV was nursed
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
Maison Lassensaa at Billère. House where Henri IV was nursed. Drawing by Armand Gustave Houbigant, 1855. Musée national du château de Pau, P88-2-1-1

Title: Maison Lassensaa at Billère.

Maison Lassensaa at Billère. Henri IV's room
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Caption:
Maison Lassensaa at Billère. Henri IV's room, drawing by Gustave Armand Houbigant, 1855. Musée national du château de Pau, P88-2-1-7

Title: Boyhood of Henri IV

Boyhood of Henri IV
© BnF
Caption:
Boyhood of Henri IV (H. Castelli and A. Trichon), V. Duruy, Histoire populaire de la France. Département des estampes et de la photographie de la BnF

Title: Registre des établissements de Béarn

Registre des établissements de Béarn
Caption:
Registre des établissements de Béarn (1551–1571), Ms, 187 f, ref: C684 f° 90 v° 91. Letters patent by Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d’Albret naming Henri de Navarre lieutenant general of their States (01/08/1558)
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