The War of the Three Henrys (1587-1589) was the eighth and final conflict in the series of civil wars in France known as the Wars of Religion. The war was fought between the royalists, led by Henry III of France; the Huguenots, led by the heir-presumptive Henry of Navarre; and the Catholic League, led by Henry I, Duke of Guise and funded and supported by Philip II of Spain.
The war was instigated by King Philip to keep Spain's enemy, France, from interfering with the Spanish army in the Netherlands and his planned invasion of England and Russia.
The war began when the Catholic League convinced King Henry III to issue an edict outlawing Protestantism and annulling Henry of Navarre's right to the throne; Henry III was possibly influenced by the royal favorite, Anne, Duke of Joyeuse.
For the first part of the war, the royalists and the Catholic League were uneasy allies against their common enemy, the Huguenots, but after Joyeuse was killed at the Battle of Coutras, relations between the two failed: the Catholic League seized the city of Paris in an uprising planned in part by the Spanish diplomat Bernardino de Mendoza, forcing the king to flee to Blois.
After the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the king called the Estates-General in the midst of intrigue and plotting. Henri of Guise planned to assassinate the king and seize the throne, but the king struck first by having Guise killed by his guards, The Forty-Five.
Open war erupted between the royalists and the Catholic League, and Henry III allied with his heir, Henry of Navarre. At first, the royalist-Huguenots enjoyed astounding success and almost reached the gates of Paris, but Jacques Clément, a fanatical Catholic monk assassinated King Henry III at Saint-Cloud.
Many Catholic royalists were unwilling to serve the Protestant Henry IV, and the army retreated from Paris.
In the spring, Henry IV returned to the field; he won significant victories at Ivry and Arques and laid siege to Paris (despite being greatly outnumbered), but a Spanish army under Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma lifted the siege.
Deciding that further fighting was not worth the cost, Henry converted to Catholicism. The people of Paris were weary of war and disillusioned with the leaders of the League, and welcomed him amidst jubilation.
The war lasted several more years, as League diehards and Spanish troops continued to resist the reunification of France. But once those were dealt with, Henry IV's reign inaugurated a time of commerce and peace, commonly regarded as a golden age, and he remains one of France's most beloved kings.
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