Happy Birthday to Henri II of Navarre

Henri II of Navarre was born on 18 April 1503 to Queen Catherine and King John III.

HenriD'Albret painting of Henri II of Navarre

Ferdinand II of Aragon invaded Navarre in 1512 and claimed kingship for himself. In spite of Navarre’s struggles for independence and a failed reconquest attempt of Navarre in 1516,  Ferdinand’s grandson Charles V continued to proclaim himself king as well. The people of Navarre, however, rejected any attempts at Spanish rule and the true heir to the throne, Henry II, was crowned king in Lescar on 12 February 1517.

Henri was an ally and devotee of French interests against the Spanish and under the protection of Francis I of France. As such, he was a thorn in the side of Henry VIII of England for many years, while Henry VIII as still loyal to his first wife, Katherina of Aragon, and her father. Henry VIII also disliked the King of Navarre because Henri was rumored to be sympathetic to the Huguenots and their theology, and Henry Tudor was a good son of the Church until the 1530s. 

King Francis I and Henri were both captured by the forces of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor during the 1525 Battle of Pavia. (Among the dead on the French side was Richard de la Pole, the last serious Yorkist contender to the English throne who had gone to live in exile in France.) Francis’s sister, Margaret of Angoulême, the highly-educated widow of Charles, Duke of Alençon, worked heroically to care for her brother when he fell ill, riding “horseback through wintry woods, twelve hours a day for many days, to meet a safe-conduct deadline, while writing her diplomatic letters at night”. Henri escape using his wits and a disguise, but Francis wasn’t freed until 17 March 1526.

When Francis was freed he arranged the marriage between his sister and Henri.

Marguerite_d'Angoulême queen of navarre

The new queen, Marguerite de Navarre, was a fellow Huguenot sympathizer. She and Henri had one surviving child, a daughter, the future Queen Joan III of Navarre, who “became the acknowledged spiritual and political leader of the French Huguenot movement” during her reign. She was the mother of Henry III of Navarre, who became Henry IV of France after the death of his brother-in-law and distant cousin Henry III of France in 1589.

Henri’s daughter youngest daughter, Henrietta Maria, married Charles I, King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland, in 1625 and was mother of two English king’s, Charles II and James II.

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