HENRY III. (1551-1589), king of France, third son of Henry IL and Catherine de' Medici, succeeded to the throne of France in 1574. In his youth, as duke of Anjou, he was warmly attached to the Huguenot opinions, as we learn from his sister Margaret of Navarre ; but his i unstable character soon gave way before his mother's will, I and both Henry and Margaret remained as choice orna-j ments of the Catholic Church. Henry won two brilliant I victories at Jarnac and Moncontour (1569), and thereby attracted the eyes of the Polish nobles, who elected him their king in 1573. He went to Warsaw, but, on the death of his brother Charles IX. in 1574, came back to France and assumed the crown. He returned to a wretched kingdom, torn with civil war. Now began that " reign of favourites " which has made his career a byword. His mother, ever balancing between parties, first favoured the favourites, then went with the Huguenot chiefs. In these days the famous League was organized (see FRANCE, vol. ix. p. 562), and Henry declared himself its head in 1576. He took but a feeble part in the sixth and seventh civil wars, and was little in earnest till, in 1584, the death of his younger brother, Francis, duke of Anjou, made Henry of Navarre next heir to the throne, and excited to the utmost the fierce passions of the Guises and the League. The Parisian development of the League under the " sixteen " (1585), with its devotion to Henry, duke of Guise, and its determination to exclude the heretic of Navarre, to depose the wavering Henry III., and to make Cardinal Bourbon king,this, as well as the menacing attitude of Philip II. of Spain, forced Henry III. to draw towards his distant cousin Henry of Navarre. And so he was driven to desperation by the commanding position assumed by the house of Guise; and in 1588 Henry of Guise and his brother the cardinal were assassinated by his orders. Henry III. now found himself powerless ; early in 1589 he again joined Henry of Navarre, and with him laid siege to Paris. There he was murdered by one. Jacques Clement, a priest. With Henry III. ended the direct line of the house of Valois. In his young days he had been enthusiastic for learning and the new religious opinions ; as he grew older he grew worse ; and the last of the sons of Catherine de' Medici was perhaps the most debauched of the kings who hitherto had sat on the throne of France.
See Mémoires cle Tavannes ; Mémoires de Vieilleville ; Mémoires de Castelnau ; Brantôme, Dames illustres Françoises ; Mémoires du Due de la Force ; Thuanus (De Thou), Hist, sui temp. Libri CXXV.; Journal de l'Estoile; Mémoires de la Ligue; Art de vérifier les dates, sér. ii. tom. vi.