Clement VIII, Pope
- Autograph letter signed ("Clemens papa") to King Henri IV of France, 31 May, 1603.
- paper, ink, leather
Catherine de Medici had arranged for the protestant Henri III of Bourbon to marry her youngest daughter Marguerite, in an attempt to unite Valois and Bourbon interests. Their marriage produced no children, and was annulled in 1599. Their wedding day was marked by the bloody massacre of Saint Barthélemy, in which several thousands of protestants who had come to Paris to witness the marriage were massacred by a Catholic mob. Henri only avoided death with the help of his new wife, and the promise to convert to Catholicism.
Translated, in part: "Most dear son in Christ, greetings, and the Apostolic blessing. Your most Christian majesty will have noted well how the face of things has been changed, God be praised, since the death of that perverse Queen..."
Clement absolved Henri in 1595, bringing an end to thirty years of religious wars in France. Henri later helped secure the Pope's position in Spain, and Clement assisted in bringing about a peace treaty between France and Spain; the two remained friends. In the letter's postscript, the Pope begs forgiveness for his shaky handwriting, owing to pain in his hand [from gout].