Apr 4, 2016 |

O sleep, O gentle sleep,

Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,

That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down,

And steep my senses in forgetfulness?

Shakespeare (c.1596) Henry IV Part 2, Act III, Scene 1, ll.1709-1712.

This is Henry IV of England (1367-1413) with all the worries of how he will make good his grandfather’s claim to the throne of France.  A hundred and forty years later, for Henri IV of France (1553-1610), Good King Henry, Nature’s soft nurse is much kinder:

Sleep hears his voice, and slow to Henry’s bower,

On lazy pinions moves the drowsy power.

The zephyrs scarcely breathe as he goes by,

Hope’s children, airy Dreams, around him fly.

Voltaire (1723) La Henriade.

But why is the French Henri considered to be good?  Possibly because he tried to reconcile competing claims to power in his kingdom, most notably with the Edict of Nantes in 1598.  The Edict gave civil rights to the Huguenots and made France a more tolerant state.  The actual document was very likely signed on 30th April 1598, and, as readers of this will be excited to learn, the signing ceremony took place somewhere in Nantes.  The Act, the original document itself, is mysteriously missing and no-one can agree on the place of signing, both of which make for a very interesting challenge.  Some say it was at the Maison des Tourelles, 4 du quai de la Fosse, next to rue Maréchal-de-Lattre-de-Tassigny. It is a theory I like, because it is a quayside or dock where Henri-Quatre could have easily come ashore and then left again quickly and safely.  The Horatio Hornblower novel, from an earlier post, shows how agile a boat can be for navigating the urban space of Nantes if you are unsure of your reception there.


Posted in: Travels with Charlie in Search of French | Tags: , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. The Château des ducs de Bretagne at 4 Place Marc Elder, 44000 Nantes makes more sense to historians since this was the seat of power in the region of old Bretagne before the map of France was re-drawn. If you look at it on Google Maps, here, you can see it is still well-connected to the Loire:

    Thanks for the question!