HENRY HI. (1551-1589), king of France, third son of Henry II. and Catherine de' Medici, succeeded to the throne of France in 1374. In his youth, as duke of Anjou, lie was warmly attached to the Huguenot opinions, as we learn from his sister Margaret of Navarre ; but his unstable character soon gave way before his mother's will, and both Henry and Margaret remained as choice ornaments of the Catholic Church. Henry won two brilliant victories at Jarnac and Moncontour (1569), and thereby attracted the eyes of the Polish nobles, who elected him their king in 1573. He went to Warsaw, but, on the death of his brother Charles IX. in 1574, came back to France and assumed the crown. He returned to a wretched kingdom, torn with civil war. Now began that " reign of favourites" which has made his career a byword. His mother, ever balancing between parties, first favoured the favourites, then went with the Huguenot .chiefs. In these days the famous League was organized (see FRANCE, vol. ix. p. 562), and Henry declared himself its head in 1576, He took but a feeble part in the sixth and seventh civil wars, and was little in earnest till, in 1584, the death of his younger brother, Francis, duke of Anjou, made Henry of Navarre next heir to the throne, and excited to the utmost the fierce passions of the Guises and the League. The Parisian development of the League under the " sixteen " (1585), with its devotion to Henry, duke of Guise, and its determination to exclude the heretic of Navarre, to depose the wavering Henry III., and to make Cardinal Bourbon king, - this, as well as the menacing attitude of Philip IL of Spain, forced Henry III. to draw towards his distant cousin Henry of Navarre. And so he was driven to desperation by the commanding position assumed by the house of Guise ; and in 1588 Henry of Guise and his brother the cardinal were assassinated by his orders. Henry III. now found himself powerless ; early in 1589 lie again joined Henry of Navarre, and with him laid siege to Paris. There he was murdered by one Jacques Clement, a priest. With Henry III. ended the direct line of the house of Valois. In his young days he had been enthusiastic for learning and the new religious opinions ; as he grew older he grew worse ; and the last of the sons of Catherine dc' Medici was perhaps the most debauched of the kings who hitherto had sat on the throne of France.
See Memoires de Tce,'annes ; .Memoires de Vieillerillc ; Memoires de Castelacta; Brantiime, Denies illastres Francoises ; Mentoires du Due de la Force ; Tbnanus (De Thou), Mist. sun temp. Libri, CXX V. ; Journal de l'Estoile ; ,Ilemoires de la Ligue ; Art de verifier les dates, ser. ii. tom. vi.