Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Tireless Lover Who Reduced State Deficit and Instilled Tolerance

France has found a new political pin up: a charismatic leader who reduced the country's deficit by a third and embodied the legend of the tireless French lover - Henri IV (see the Daily Telegraph article).

Henry IV was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and (as Henry III) King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. As a Huguenot, Henry was involved in the Wars of Religion before ascending the throne in 1589. Before his coronation as king of France at Chartres, he changed his faith from Calvinism to Catholicism.  "Paris is worth a Mass", he declared. In 1598, he enacted the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed religious liberties to the Protestants and thereby effectively ended the civil war.
He cut the state deficit by 30 per cent and increased state revenues by 50 per cent while barely raising taxes
One of the most popular French kings, both during and after his reign, Henry showed great care for the welfare of his subjects. Henry was nicknamed in France 'le bon roi Henri' ("the good king Henry"). He is perhaps best known for promising all French workers the "means to have a chicken in the pot every Sunday". (See a recipe for poule au pot).

He was assassinated by a fanatical Catholic, François Ravaillac, in Paris 400 years ago (May 14, 1610.) The anniversary spurred a wave of national nostalgia, with his prowess being feted across the country with a series of books, exhibitions and articles. Henri was a success for France in every sense – politically, economically and romantically.

His right-hand man, the Duke of Sully, managed to cut the state deficit by 30 per cent and increase state revenues by 50 per cent while barely raising taxes. All this has turned him into a national icon.

Henry IV is the eponymous subject of the royal anthem of France, "Marche Henri IV".  Here is a video of the song:

And below is a Russian song about king Henry IV from the film 'The Hussar Ballad' (1962, music by Tikhon Khrennikov, events relate to Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812)

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