From boyhood, Henri was destined to be leader and protector of the Huguenot movement in France. He served as chief of the Calvinist party and fought for the Huguenot forces in the bloody Wars of Religion before an extraordinary sequence of dynastic mishaps left the Protestant warlord next in line for the French crown. Henri was forced to renounce his faith in support of his claim to the Catholic throne and to unite his deeply divided country. A master of political maneuvering, Henri restored order to a country in the throes of great religious, political, and economic upheaval. He was assassinated in 1610 by a Catholic zealot.
Vincent Pitts expertly recounts this history and skillfully untangles its complex set of personalities and events. Pitts engages the vast amount of literature relating to the king himself as well as the large body of recent scholarship on France during this time. The result is a fascinating biography of a French king and a comprehensive history of sixteenth-century France.
In the course of the Hundred Years War, Henry V was the English figure most responsible for the mutual antipathy that existed between France and England. His art of attacking an opponent by making total war on civilians, as well as soldiers, created tremendous distrust and enmity between the two countries, which survives even to this day. He was a man of many contradictions, a perverse mix of rigorous orthodoxy—exemplified by his fanatical and intolerant religion—and of neurotic insecurity, stemming in part from the dubious nature of his claim to the English throne.Utilizing new discoveries from local French historical societies, Desmond Seward draws a portrait of Henry V that shows him as a brilliant military strategist, ambitious conqueror, and, at least briefly, triumphant warrior king.