Henry III., the last king of the Valois family, born in Fontainebleau, Sept. 19, 1551, died Aug. 2, 1589. He was the third son of Henry II., and the favorite of his mother, Catharine de' Medici, and before his accession bore the title of duke of Anjou. Being placed at the head of the Catholic army in the reign of Charles IX., he won in 1569 the victories of Jarnac and Moncontour over the Protestants. He participated in the councils that brought about the St. Bartholomew massacre in 1572. His military reputation, aided by his mother's intrigues, procured his election to the throne of Poland in 1573; but his refined and effeminate habits were distasteful to the Poles, while he disliked their independent spirit and coarse manners. On hearing of the death of his brother Charles IX. in 1574, he secretly escaped and returned to France, passing through Vienna and Venice. His arrival was marked by the renewal of civil war. The Protestant party, being strengthened by their alliance with that party of Catholics known as the politiques, had taken up arms; but their German auxiliaries were defeated at Dormans, Oct. 11, 1575, by the duke of Guise; and the king, fearful of the growing popularity of that prince, hastened to conclude the peace of Beaulieu, in May, 1576, the terms of which were so favorable to the Protestants as to be considered a betrayal of the Catholic cause.
This gave rise to the holy league, which, under pretence of protecting religion, aimed chiefly at furthering the ambitious designs of the house of Guise. Henry attempted to avert the danger by declaring himself chief of the league during the session of the states general which met at Blois in December, 1576; but the association clung faithfully to Guise as their leader, and made use of their majority in the states to curtail the prerogatives of the king and force him into another Avar against the Protestants. After reluctantly carrying it on for a few months, he ended it by the treaty of Bergerac, Sept. 17, 1577, and tried by conciliatory measures to win over the most influential of the Catholics. This policy was of little avail; the so-called "lovers' war" broke out, which he succeeded in bringing to an early conclusion by the treaty of Fleix, Nov. 20, 1580. A momentary lull occurred; but the king became more and more unpopular by his unbounded licentiousness and prodigality. On the death of his younger brother, the duke of Alencon, by which the succession to the crown reverted to the Protestant Henry of Navarre, the spirit of the league rekindled; the association extended all over the provinces, and became more formidable than ever; the majority of the nation was indeed adverse to accepting as heir apparent a prince who was not a Catholic. Henry III., although not sharing this popular prejudice, was obliged to go to war with Henry of Navarre, and assembled four armies.
By thus increasing its burdens he hoped to make the nation weary of the contest, while he exerted his ingenuity to make such combinations as would thwart the projects of the league. But his favorite Joyeuse was defeated by the king of Navarre at Coutras in 1587, and his own unpopularity increased, the league making him answerable for the reverses which befell the Catholic party. On all sides he was denounced as a traitor, and his deposition was publicly advocated. The duke of Guise was recalled to Paris by his adherents, and, notwithstanding repeated orders from the king, triumphantly entered the capital. Henry having summoned troops for his own defence, the Parisians raised a formidable rebellion; barricades were constructed, May 12, 1588; and the king barely escaped from his ambitious rival. He immediately convoked the states general at Blois, in the hope of finding support among them; but the majority was still against him; his life and crown were at stake; he resorted to violent means, and on Dec. 23, 1588, caused the duke of Guise to be murdered in his own apartment by his body guards, the "forty-five." This was a new incentive to the league.
Henry, branded as an assassin, anathematized by the pope, deposed by decrees of the Sorbonne and the parliament, had no resource but to unite with Henry of Navarre, and they marched in concert against Paris, the principal seat of the league. During the siege of that city a Dominican monk, Jacques Clement, whose fanaticism had been encouraged by Guise's own sister, the duchess of Montpensier, presented himself at St. Cloud to the king as the bearer of an important letter, Aug. 1, 1589, and stabbed him with a knife, inflicting a wound of which he died on the following day. With Henry III. the Valois family became extinct.
Henry III., emperor of Germany, of the Franconian line, surnamed the Black, the Bearded, the Old, and the Pious, born in 1017, died in 1056. He was the son and successor of the emperor Conrad II., having been elected during his father's life, and ascended the throne in 1039. He repeatedly and successfully interfered in the affairs of Hungary, and a portion of that country (from the Kahlenberg to the Leitha) was definitively united with Austria. Three claimants at this time were contesting the papal tiara. Henry summoned a council at Sutri in 1046, set them all aside, and created a German bishop of Bamberg (Suidger) pope, under the title of Clement II. He subsequently gave three successive German popes to Rome, reserving to himself a thorough control of the spiritual administration. He held the temporal princes at the same time in subjection, transforming the German empire into a monarchy of which the elected sovereign was absolute ruler. He promoted education, and encouraged art and science. His first wife was a daughter of Canute, king of Denmark and England.