Antoine de Bourbon, Catherine de Médici, French Wars of Religion, Jeanne d'Albret, jure uxoris, King Charles IX of France, KIng François II of France, King Henri II of France, King of Navarre, Kingdom of Navarre, Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, Regent of France, Siege of Rouen
Antoine de Bourbon, (jure uxoris) King of Navarre (April 22, 1518 – November 17, 1562)
Antoine was born at La Fère, Picardy, France, the second son of Charles de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme (1489–1537), and his wife, Françoise d’Alençon (died 1550). He was the older brother of Louis, Prince of Condé (1530–1569), who would lead the Huguenots during the French Wars of Religion.
Antoine found himself in a disadvantageous position in the court of King Henri II of France due to the disgrace that had befallen his house after the defection of Charles III, Duke of Bourbon to Emperor Charles V in 1523.
On October 20, 1548, at Moulins, Antoine married Jeanne d’Albret, the daughter of King Henri II of Navarre and his wife Marguerite de Navarre. After his father-in-law’s death in May 1555, Antoine was able to secure the kingship of Navarre through jure uxoris (by right of his wife) and he became King of Navarre, Count of Foix, of Bigorre, of Armagnac, of Périgord, and Viscount of Béarn. It was reported that Jeanne was much in love with him. His reconversion to Catholicism separated him from his wife and he threatened to repudiate her.
In the same year, 1555, the critical border governorship of Picardy was removed from him and given to Admiral Coligny arousing significant protest. However, he was bought off with the rich southern governorship of Guyenne. In 1556, upon hearing that Jacques, Duke of Nemours had made his cousin-by-marriage pregnant, he threatened bloody consequences for Savoie and his family, causing the man to take the excuse of a campaign into Italy to leave France.
In February 1557, Antoine, Jeanne and their son Henri travelled to the French court in Paris; while there Henri suggested a betrothal between his daughter Margaret and Henri. Desiring to reverse the Spanish occupation of much of his kingdom, he entered into negotiations with Emperor Charles V; however these went nowhere and compromised his position at court still further. Navarre demonstrated early sympathy towards the reformation.
In 1558 he attended the psalm singing at the Pré-aux-Clercs to the considerable fury of Henri. He fought for the crown in the last stage of the Italian wars in 1558. The Huguenot leadership were animated by the prospect of bringing Navarre into their camp causing Calvin and Beza to devote considerable efforts to the project.
When in 1559 King Henri II of France died, and was succeeded by his eldest son as King François II of France. Opponents of the Guise Family, including Anne de Montmorency flocked to meet Navarre in Vendôme hoping he would establish himself in the government. The Guise were however able to neutralise him by buying him off with the governorship of Poitou and sent him off to escort Elisabeth of Valois to the Spanish border.
To further isolate Antoine of Navarre, Louis, Prince de Condé and the house of Bourbon-Vendôme, the Guise created two super governorships, giving them to their cousins Charles, Prince of La Roche-sur-Yon and Louis, Duke of Montpensier, separating the princes of blood from each other. On August 31, the Guise wrote Navarre they had 40,000 troops ready to move into the south, and to present themselves at court. Navarre and Condé, possessing only around 6000 foot, were unable to resist, and came north without a fight. Upon their arrival Condė was detained and sentenced.
In December 1560 the young King François II died and was succeeded by his brother as King Charles IX of France. Charles, being too young to rule, required a regent, a position Antoine was entitled to as first prince of the blood. His mother, Catherine de Medici, however possessed considerable leverage over him due to the imprisonment of his brother Louis for treason. The two agreed that in exchange for Catherine being regent while Navarre would become Lieutenant General of the kingdom and Condé would be brought back into favour.
Collapse of the regency
Antoine found himself increasingly in opposition to the religious policy of Catherine’s administration, finally breaking with her concerning the Edict of Saint-Germain, writing urgently to Guise to return to court so they could present a united front against the edict. On his way to Paris, Guise’s men committed the Massacre of Vassy, plunging France into civil war. Navarre in his role as Lieutenant General would be the supreme commander of the crown’s forces in the coming conflict.
First French War of Religion
In May he issued a decree expelling all Protestants from Paris, much to the delight of radicals in the capital. His army and that of Condé faced off against each other in June near Orléans. The sides only came to light skirmishing however, as negotiations between the sides to avoid bloodshed continued.
With Louis, Prince de Condé now retreating, Antoine of Navarre and the other leaders began retaking rebel towns, capturing Blois, Tours and Amboise. In August the main royal force under Navarre besieged and overcame the rebel garrison in the key town of Bourges. When his wife, Jeanne d’Albret, allowed the Huguenots to sack the chapel and the churches of Vendôme, he threatened to send her to a convent.
Having reduced Bourges the royal army was faced with a choice, to march on the Huguenot capital of Orléans immediately, or first strike at the northern town of Rouen, which Aumale was currently unsuccessfully trying to besiege with his small force. Navarre counselled immediately pushing on Orlėans, but the plague in the town, the threat of the English and the hopes of Catherine that he might yet prevail on his brother to abandon rebellion persuaded the court against this policy.
Navarre’s army invested the city of Rouen on September 28, and began trying to reduce the town. On October 13 while inspecting the trenches of the Siege of Rouen, Antoine de Bourbon, King of Navarre was mortally wounded by a musket shot to the shoulder. Despite the efforts of the famed surgeon Ambroise Paré he could not be saved, and died of his wounds on November 17, 1562.
It was rumoured that his last rites were taken in the Lutheran custom, compounding long-held suspicions of his religious unorthodoxy.
Antoine de Bourbon, King of Navarre was the father of King Henri IV of France and Navarre.