I'm Henry IV, I Am

Henry IV of France in Selected Works of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

by Michael G. Paulson (Author)
©2022 Monographs XVI, 162 Pages


This book focuses on Henry IV of France as he is presented in selected works by Voltaire, Alfred de Vigny, Alexandre Dumas père, and George Sand. The book depicts King Henry from his earliest years until his assassination, and shows how Henry was a dominant figure in life and an overwhelming figure as a memory in the minds of his descendants and his subjects. Special mention is made of the St. Bartholomew’s Day’s Massacre, the conquest of the throne, the Edict of Nantes, the religious conversions, and the ladies and multiple offspring of King Henry.
This book will be of interest to students of both nineteenth-century French literature and sixteenth-century French history courses, as a text or as a supplement.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction and Historical Literature
  • 1. Methodology
  • 2. The Historical Novel
  • 3. Liberties Within the Historical Novel
  • Chapter One: I’m Henry IV, I Am: Henry IV: A Biographical Sketch
  • 1. Which Henry IV?
  • 2. The Life of Henry IV of France and Henry III of Navarre
  • 3. Henry IV in Death and Memory
  • 4. Selected Contemporary Views of Henry IV
  • Chapter Two: The Absent Henry in Early Modern French Literature
  • 1. Absences of Henry IV
  • 2. Henry IV as a Memory
  • 3. Henry: Out of Sight but Otherwise Present
  • Chapter Three: Henry IV in the Works of Alfred de Vigny
  • 1. Background of the Novel
  • 2. The Ghost of Henry IV
  • 3. Henry IV in La Maréchale d’Ancre
  • Chapter Four: Henry IV in the Works of George Sand
  • 1. Background to Les Beaux Messieurs de Bois-Doré
  • 2. The Marquis de Bois-Doré
  • 3. The Continued Presence of King Henry
  • 4. George Sand and Monarchy
  • 5. King Henry as a Time Marker
  • 6. Henry’s Character and Influence
  • Chapter Five: Les Trois Mousquetaires: Henry IV’s Ghost
  • 1. Dumas’ Historical Novels
  • 2. King Henry as a Time Marker in Les Trois Mousquetaires
  • 3. King Henry’s “Haunting” of King Louis
  • Chapter Six: Vingt Ans Après: Henry Further Removed, But Not Forgotten
  • 1. Update on the Musketeers
  • 2. The Changing Times and People
  • 3. Henry’s Daughter in Misfortune
  • 4. Henry’s Influence on the Past and in 1648
  • Chapter Seven: Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, Henry IV, and the End of the Musketeers
  • 1. The Musketeers Ten Years Later
  • 2. The Children and Grandchildren of Great Henry
  • 3. Fouquet, Louis XIV, and the Man in the Iron Mask
  • Chapter Eight: Voltaire’s La Henriade or the Rise of Henry IV
  • 1. La Henriade and Its Public
  • 2. Henry III and Henry IV
  • 3. Henry IV vs Charles IX and Henry III
  • 4. The Fighting for and Conquest of the Kingdom
  • 5. Paris Is Worth a Mass for the Good of All
  • Chapter Nine: La Reine Margot and the Young Henry IV
  • 1. Henry at Court
  • 2. Deceiver vs. Deceiver
  • Chapter Ten: Les Quarante-Cinq: Henry of Navarre on His Way to Becoming Henry IV
  • 1. Henry III’s Dilemma
  • 2. Chicot and Henry of Navarre
  • 3. Henry and the Spanish
  • Conclusion: Henry IV, Kings, and Kingship
  • Appendix A The Mistresses and Ladies of Henry IV
  • Appendix B The Children of Henry IV
  • Appendix C Chanson de la Chasse de Henry IV
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index

←x | xi→


There have been many figures known as Henry IV throughout history: these include Kings of England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, in addition to minor dukes, counts, and other members of the nobility. While Shakespeare’s English monarch and Pirandello’s Holy Roman Emperor are probably the best-known figures in their respective literatures, Henry IV of France has not been totally neglected in French literature from the eighteenth through the twenty-first century. While there are countless books and articles that deal with the biography, politics, and reign of this great King, there are few at all that treat him as a literary character. History and historiography are not merely a mirror held up to reality, albeit from a distance; they are narratives about the past that includes and reflects the opinions, biases, stances of the scholar writing and his or her time, culture, religion, and life experience. Literature, as Georg Lukács states, goes beyond the simple prejudices of the historian and allows the reader to see what might have happened or what could have happened to historical figures in situations that history texts and studies could not have imagined. Authors of historical literature have been subject to various accusations, chiefly the one of “inventing” or “creating” situations, dialogs, exchanges, or encounters that cannot be proven to have occurred to and in the lives of historical characters. In historical fiction, however, if writers follow vraisemblance to what is true, they can add interest to historical events without significantly altering actual events.←xi | xii→

In Michael G. Paulson’s study, we examine Henry IV in terms of a living character as well as of being a ghost who haunts the memory of those who remember him as King of France and those who see his influence and importance long after his passing. The present study focuses on him in terms of selected works of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Each of the authors studied lived—at least in part—during the reign of a monarch, be it a King or an Emperor, and each shows his or her individual perception of the institution of monarchy in general and more specifically, King Henry as a significant, if not outstanding example of kingship.

Paulson begins with a brief biography of Henry IV and then proceeds with views from that King’s contemporaries in France and Spain (a country which this King hated) as well as a minor figure in selected works of literature. Individual chapters focus in detail on selected well-known and popular pieces of French literature, which include prose, poetic, and dramatic works by Voltaire, Alfred de Vigny, George Sand, and Alexandre Dumas. The study focuses on the works in a thematic rather than chronological order, first showing the absent Henry, absent from the work where he could have logically been expected or from the splendors and problems of court, then as the “late” Henry as a model for kingship and as a constant memory on the minds of his surviving contemporaries as well as a nostalgic figure alive in the minds of his children and grandchildren. He lives in the minds of the greater and lesser figures of the seventeenth century and seems more real and authentic than many who are still living. Afterwards, we see Henry IV as a still living figure, surviving the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, as an opponent against Henry III and Henry de Guise, as the King of Navarre fighting for his rights to the throne of France, and as Henry the Triumphant, at long last King of France.

Henry appears throughout this study as sometimes being the fool or the brunt of ignorant laughter, but underneath his country bumpkin exterior, lies a cunningly clever man who knows his own destiny. At the same time, he hides his interior self from all by the most perceptive individuals (Catherine de Medici, Chicot), who realize what he is really like, but who are powerless to prevent him from achieving his goals. Henry, as an apparent outsider and loser, marches inextricably toward the steps of the throne of France from the superficially worthless throne of Navarre, a country that seems as unimportant as its King, but one which will enhance his conquest of the greater realm.

The works cited in this study include drama, poetry, and prose and represent a variety of authors, but each of these paints a positive picture of Henry IV and show him to be thoroughly human and humane, one ambitious enough to make himself King, but one completely concerned about the welfare of his people and country. He reveals himself capable of leading and working with others and at the same ←xii | xiii→time, showing signs of human weaknesses. His weaknesses or defects, however, are only his human side, as Paulson shows, and never seriously interfere with his political being. Without these interesting “vices,” Henry IV would not have been Henry IV and would have been lacking that characteristic that had made him so popular with the French people and the French writers from his own day through the present century.

The secondary sources included in this study draw on a wide variety of approaches, including newer critics and historians with their spectrum of approaches, as well as the more traditional sources and those contemporary with the great figure of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Despite a limitless potential of commentary on Henry to draw on, Paulson has selected the most relevant—and in some cases, the most interesting—of those literary, critical, and historical sources and has presented them in a coherent format. The body of his text paints King Henry’s various “selfs” and shows clearly why this great historical figure was and remains today the most popular of all French Kings.

Tamara Alvarez-Detrell

←xiv | xv→


The preparation of the present volume has involved many years of research and consultation with colleagues from several locations in the United States, France, and Spain. I would like to express a large debt of gratitude to my spouse and frequent collaborator, Dr. Tamara Alvarez-Detrell, Professor Emerita of De Sales University, for all her encouragement and support in the preparation of this project as well as my previous ones. Without her directions, support, and patience, this study would not have been possible. In addition to Dr. Alvarez-Detrell, I also wish to express my gratitude to our professor at the Florida State University, Dr. Azzurra B. Givens, late professor of French and Italian, for her many constructive suggestions and encouragement. Dr. Givens always guided her students to search for the truth and not to be limited to any fashionable schools of criticism or trendy approaches to literature or history. Over the past years, we have been assisted by knowledgeable librarians and scholars such as Mrs. Ruth Farmer and Dr. Willy Hardin from the University of Central Arkansas who have assisted our searches as well as the collective staffs at Kutztown University and the University of Miami. There are also countless nameless other people from the various libraries and collection in this country and abroad who have facilitated the task of researching and writing this work on Henry IV. To them too, I express my gratitude.

←xvi | 1→

Introduction and Historical Literature

1. Methodology

The present study on Henry IV is intended as the companion volume to our study, The Figure of Louis XIII in Modern French Literature and The Portrayal of Anne of Austria in Modern French Literature. As we perused the historical novels consulted for our previous works, we note that the figure of Henry IV often loomed in the background and required further investigation. The present study follows the same general type of approach, including the nature of the historical novel or play. Naturally, we have not limited ourselves to those works used previously, since not all of them are germane to Henry IV; on the other hand, we have dwelt more on other works in which he figures prominently, but in which Louis XIII and Anne of Austria were not involved significantly. Henry was a popular monarch and as such, was the subject of pamphlets, diatribes, and literature—even in his own time. Following his death in 1610, his near-contemporaries and later writers devoted much ink to describing various aspects of his life and reign. Not everyone thought of him as “Good King Henry,” but the important issue is that they did indeed think of him.

In this book, we limit the footnote documentation of Henry’s biography to facts that are little known or disputed by the experts. The major details upon which the historians are agreed, such as his date of birth and death (December 13, 1553; ←1 | 2→May 14, 1610), the names of his parents, wives, would-be assassins, etc. are based on information provided by the historical sources found in the bibliography. To document each of these would be pedantry and serve no useful purpose. Only in those instances where there is an element of doubt or scholarly debate will we specifically document the sources.


XVI, 162
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (April)
Henry IV of France in Selected Works of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries Michael G. PAULSON Henry IV Henry III Henry of Guise Wars of Religion Sixteenth-Century France Fanaticism Edict of Nantes I'm Henry IV I Am
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XVI, 162 pp.

Biographical notes

Michael G. Paulson (Author)

Michael G. Paulson is a retired professor of language and history. He received a B.S. from Kutztown University in 1967, an M.A. in French from Florida State University in 1968, an M.A. in history from the University of Central Arkansas in 1983, and a Ph.D. in French and Spanish from Florida State University in 1973. He has taught at South Dakota State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Muhlenberg College, Kutztown University, and the University of Miami. He is the author of several papers, articles, and books.


Title: I'm Henry IV, I Am
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