Youth weep from splinters,
Kings weep from infected lance
Wounds in royal brains.
Henri II of France was crowned 471 years ago today, after syphilis took his dear old dad.
Before he became king, young Henri had to spend four years in Spain as a Hapsburg hostage in place of pops. At the age of 14, he married the same-aged Catherine de Medici, then promptly took up with the 35 year old Diane de Poitiers. He kept his wife away from any sort of power in favor of his mistress. Oh, Catherine was pissed, but all she could do was keep the womb busy.
As king, Henri continued his father’s policy of shitting on Huguenots and starting shit with the Hapsburgs. He also got his eldest, Francis, hitched with Mary Queen of Scots, with the goal of making Scotland French. He had Mary sign on to this plan, and it all hinged on her making French babies with Francis.
In 1559, Henri signed a (probably temporary) peace agreement with the Hapsburgs and celebrated with a jousting tournament. He thought it’d be a great idea to do a match himself while wearing his mistress’ colors, and changed his mind when a lance splinter stabbed his brain via his eye. He pardoned his opponent, then croaked. (Catherine pumping her fist in the background.)
Well, he died horribly, but at least he had four living sons, so the Valois dynasty was secure, right? Haha, no. First son Francis II died young of some sort of sickness (scuttling the dream of absorbing Scotland). #2, Charles IX, died of tuberculosis. #4, Hercules, Duke of Anjou and former suitor of Elizabeth I, died of malaria. (Fucking mosquitoes.) #3, Henri III, got shanked by a friar. All without having sons themselves. That was one of your main jobs, boys.
While he did have grandsons, they were produced by his daughters and thus ineligible for the throne. (You may have recall the French changed the rules a couple centuries back so they wouldn’t wind up with the English king as their king.)
This was the problem with monarchies back then. You could try to have as many sons as possible so you have plenty of back-ups, sure. But you could still wind up with your dynasty dying out with the next generation. Or, as in the case of the Plantagenets, have too many sons who survive and spawn, leading to constant power struggles over the next century. Either way, there’s going to be blood.
So much for the Valois. Long live Henri IV! (Hurrah!)