Henry II was king of France between 1547 and 1559. He was born in 1519 in the Royal Palace of Saint Germain-en-Laye near Paris. Henry II was the second son of Francis I and Claude. When he was seven years old, Henry had been sent by his father as a hostage to Spain in 1526, as surety for his father who had been captured at the Battle of Pavia. On October 28, 1533, Henry married Catherine de Medici. In 1536, his elder brother Francis died and he became heir to the throne of France. From that moment, Henry was under the influence of two characters for the rest of his life; his mistress Diane de Poitiers and Anne of Montmorency, his mentor.
On March 31, 1547, he succeeded his father and was crowned Henry II, King of France, on July 25, 1547. Henry II’s reign was characterized by wars with Austria and the persecution of the Protestant Huguenots. Henry II severely punished them, particularly the ministers, burning them at the stake or cutting off their tongues for speaking their heresies. Even those suspected of being Huguenots could be imprisoned. The Huguenots were the French Calvinists. The Edict of Chateaubriand established that the civil and ecclesiastical courts had to detect and punish all heretics, as it placed severe restrictions on Huguenots, including loss of one third of property to informers, and confiscations. It also strictly regulated the press by prohibiting the sale, importation or printing of any unapproved book.
The Habsburg-Valois War, began when Henry II declared war against Charles V with the intent of recapturing Italy and ensuring French, rather than Habsburg, domination of European affairs. Although Henry’s early offensive into Loraine was successful, he was thoroughly defeated at the Battle of Marciano of 1553 by the Spanish forces of Charles V. In 1557, Henry II was defeated again by Charles V’s son, Philip II king of Spain, at the Battle of Saint-Quentin in France. In response French armies plundered Spanish possessions in the Low Countries, but Henry was nonetheless forced to accept the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis, in which he renounced any further claims to Italy.
On April 24, 1558, Henry’s fourteen-year-old son Francis was married to the future Mary I of Scotland in a union intended to give the future king of France not only the throne of Scotland but a claim to the throne of England. Henry had Mary sign secret documents, illegal in Scottish law, that would ensure Valois rule in Scotland even if she died without heir. Mary’s claim to the English throne quickly became current when Mary I of England died later in 1558, Henry and his Catholic advisors regarding Elizabeth Tudor as illegitimate.
On June 30, 1559, at the Place des Vosges in Paris, during a match to celebrate the Peace Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis with his longtime enemies, the Habsburgs of Austria and to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elisabeth of Valois to King Philip II of Spain, King Henry II was mortally wounded by the lance of Gabriel Montgomery, captain of the King’s Scottish Guard. The lance pierced his temple and, despite the efforts of royal surgeon Ambroise Pare, he died on July 10, 1559. Prior to his death, Queen Catherine denied his mistress Diane de Poitiers access to him, even though he repeatedly asked for her. Following his death, Catherine sent de Poitiers into exile, where she was to live in comfort on her own properties until her death.