Henri IV, the first "media" king in French history

Henri IV, the first

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  • The Between Words of the Deligued Manant and the Maheustre

    LE CLERIC Jean (1586 - 1633)

  • The Between Words of the Deligued Manant and the Maheustre

    LE CLERIC Jean (1586 - 1633)

The Between Words of the Deligued Manant and the Maheustre

© Gallica

The Between Words of the Deligued Manant and the Maheustre

© Gallica

Publication date: June 2020

Professor at Paris VIII University

Historical context

In his (re) conquest of power after the assassination of Henri III on August 2, 1589 under the knife of Jacques Clément, Henri IV was able to accompany several events of his fragile reign and contested by what could be called a "campaign media ”, if we will excuse the somewhat modern character of this expression.

This poster print by Jean Le Clerc (1586-1633) was widely distributed in 1594 when a large part of the kingdom was still in the hands of ultra Catholic Leaguers. Its sign, rue Saint Jean de Latran, entitled “La Salamandre”, became, in 1601, “La Salamandre royale”.

Image Analysis

In this engraving, three emblematic characters, each named by a legend, occupy most of the scene:

1. «The league» is depicted in the form of an old woman leaving a fortified city - as were a majority of cities at the end of the XVIe century - and - finally - shows its true face by leaving the mask of hypocrisy. The butcher's chopper hanging from his belt is a play on words on the surname of Jean Boucher (1548-1646), who was then one of the most bitter preachers in the League. The world around it is a world of aridity and drought.

2. «The maheustre» (this word meant "soldier", and was understood particularly, among the leaguers, of a Protestant soldier), has the face of a horseman, partisan of Henry IV: he is easily recognizable by his long white scarf; he does not brandish the sword, wisely stored in its scabbard: his hand, which no longer has an iron gauntlet, makes a cordial gesture aimed at the central figure. He is the brave defender of a noble cause. The commentary that accompanies the image qualifies him as a "generous soldier." A heavenly rain (right part of the engraving) brings, in abundance, "beautiful ears", pledge of opulence and prosperity, which contrasts with the sterility that surrounds (left part of the engraving) "The League". For many contemporaries, in particular the inhabitants of the cities, which lived a period of scarcity and dearness, ensuring daily food was then the main concern.

3. « Le Manant ", between these two characters, in the center of the image, turns his back on the League and waves his hat in a friendly gesture to the Maheustre who comes before him: he is a "delegated" peasant. He finally has his eyes open and has left the Union Party (another name for the League) for good to be closer to the proud and peaceful knight.


While the eighth War of Religion (1585-1598) which bloodied many provinces of the kingdom, is far from over, this propaganda engraving is fully reassuring on the intentions of the victors: it says that no reprisals, that no revenge will be exercised on the inhabitants of towns still loyal to the League who will submit to Henry IV.

This image is only one example among dozens of others, widely distributed in the kingdom by Parisian engravers whose names keep coming back: in addition to Jean Le Clerc, we must also mention Thomas de Leu and Léonard Gaultier, publisher and dealer. prints, established rue Saint Jacques.

These engravings attest that Henry IV knew how to "fabricate" a counterimage to respond to the one that described him as a demon. Indeed, at the time of his accession in 1589, the king was still Protestant - he converted in 1593 - and presented by the Leaguing priests as the incarnation of the devil. To respond to critics, this counter-image can only be positive, reassuring, soothing, in order to convince public opinion ("Le Manant") of the correctness, and justice, of the cause of the first Bourbon, to the he emblematic example of the white plume and the white Maheustre scarf, a real rallying point.

It was in the summer of 1589 that the white scarf became the "mark of the king", a sign of recognition in the army, while the portraits of Henri de Navarre were multiplied, accompanied by this identity white (plume or scarf). , to make him the sovereign of the "nation of France", all accompanied by paintings, posters, illustrated books: all the towns which, one by one, rallied to Henri IV, organized "white scarf festivals »To translate their feeling of belonging to the restored monarchy, thus building the mythical figure of an accessible king, close to his subjects. By wearing this white identity, each of the French became, in a way, "portrait of the king".

By the number and the diversity of the images which surrounded the beginning of his reign (winner in the heart of the battles, equestrian portraits, images of his face…), the first of the Bourbons was undoubtedly the first “media” king in history. of France. Recognizing the strength of the image, Henry IV was indeed a "master of communication".

  • Henry IV
  • Henry III
  • religious war
  • religious conflict
  • Catholicism
  • Protestantism
  • army
  • propaganda
  • allegory

To cite this article

Joël CORNETTE, "Henri IV, the first" media "king in the history of France"

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