It happened on August 18 in Paris. On August 18, 1572, Henry III of Navarre – future King Henry IV of France – marries Marguerite of Vallois – Queen Margot – at the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. A spectacular wedding also cringy gathering Protestants and Catholics in Paris.
Yet, on paper, nothing seemed less obvious than this union. Amid the bloody period of the French Wars of Religion, as the last peace of religion was signed only two years before through the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Catherine de' Medici wishes to reconcile Catholics and Protestants thanks to a strong gesture.
Accompanied by the Queen of Navarre, the regent incites the alliance of her daughter Marguerite de Valois – Francis I’s grand-daughter and King Chales IX’s sister – with the charismatic leader of Protestants, Henry of Navarre – son of Jeanne d’Albret who dies on June 10, 1572 without seeing his son wed.
The wedding is scheduled on August 18, 1572 at Notre-Dame de Paris, although Marguerie of Valois – devout Catholic – has always expressed her refusal to wed a Protestant. The future Queen Margot is far from being the only one who thinks this union is problematic.
Faced with the disapproval of the members of the Catholic Church including Pope Gregory XIII who asks the groom to convert. A solution is found: the groom will not attend the nuptial mass and will stay in front of the cathedral during the ceremony and the blessing, accompanied by his fellow soldiers and believers as the entrance to this high papist place is also banned to them. Henry of Navarre’s paternal uncle, Charles I of Bourbon, agrees to wed the two spouses.
Three days of fantastic celebrations follow including feasts at the diocese and the Hôtel d’Anjou, a ball at the Louvre, shows, ballets, masquerades, concerts, to which are invited all the big names of the realm, Protestants included. But the Parisian people – sick of all this luxury spread over the banquets and especially deeply anti-Huguenot – has none of it.
Making the most of the presence of many Protestants in the city, in the following days, Catholics order the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre starting first with the assassination attempt on the Admiral of Coligny, one of the Protestant leaders, and the execution of the young groom’s fellows. Spared by the killing because of his status, a few days later, Henry IV has to convert to Catholicism to stay safe.
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
75004 Paris 4
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- Saint Michel - Notre-Dame (B,C)
- Hôtel de Ville (1,11)
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