Today in Catholic History – Henry IV becomes Catholic

On 25 July 1593, Henry IV of France converted to Catholicism.

Henry was raised as a member of the Huguenot or Calvinist faith in France at a time in which there was much conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Just six days after his wedding in Paris in 1572, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre took place during which several thousand Protestants who had come to Paris for the wedding were killed. Henry saved his own life by converting to Catholicism, but would return to Protestantism after he escaped Paris in 1576.

In 1584, he became the heir to the French throne. While Henry was given aid by Elizabeth I in his quest to claim the throne from his Catholic opponents, Henry decided that adoption of Catholicism was the best way to gain the support of the French population. Legend purports him claiming, “Paris is well worth a Mass”. He would proclaim his conversion at the Church of Saint Denis.

While his conversion earned him the hostility of England, it did give him the support he needed to become king and he was crowned King of France on 27 February 1594. Still, he did not forget his Protestant roots and would later issue the Edict of Nantes which gave limited toleration to the Huguenots in France and bring an end to the French Wars of Religion.

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