France · Political

The assassination of Good King Henri

May 14, 1610
Paris, Kingdom of France
King Henri IV, also known as “Henri the Good,” is assassinated

François Ravaillac was a Catholic zealot and is suspected by some modern historians to have been schizophrenic. He had previously attempted to petition Henri, who had converted to Catholicism in 1593, on several occasions to exile or forcibly convert the Huguenots (French Protestants). When Ravaillac was unable to deliver his petition, he had a vision which he believed was God instructing him to kill Henri for being an evil tyrant.

On May 14, Henri and his entourage rode in a procession to the Queen’s coronation ceremony. When the royal carriage paused due to traffic congestion, Ravaillac ran to Henri and stabbed him in the ribs with a broken table knife. The king lifted his arm and remarked “I’m wounded.” Ravaillac took the opportunity to stab Henri in the ribs again, puncturing his lung and killing him.

The citizens who witnessed the assassination immediately became a mob intent on killing Ravaillac, though he was protected from their rage by guards. He was taken into custody and tortured with the hopes of extracting information regarding any co-conspirators, of which Ravaillac repeatedly admitted there were none.

On May 27, Ravaillac’s public torture and execution began. His hand was burnt with flaming brimstone (burning sulfur, a torture usually done to the hand which held a weapon used during an assassination), his flesh was ripped with pinchers from his limbs and chest, and boiling oil was poured into his wounds and molten metal into his navel. Finally, his limbs were tied to four horses who pulled him, literally, limb from limb.

Once Ravaillac was dead the mob of spectators descended upon his corpse. The body was ripped apart with pieces of flesh and bone taken as souvenirs, and at least one person was witnessed to take a piece of Ravaillac’s flesh, fry it with an egg, and eat it.


Illustrations of King Henri’s assassination


Assassin François Ravailiac


The execution of Ravaillac

Sources:

Widacka, Hanna. “Jakub Sobieski about the execution of Ravaillac and a French cannibal.” Passage of Knowledge. Accessed: May 14, 2019. http://www.wilanow-palac.pl/jakub_sobieski_about_the_execution_of_ravaillac_and_a_french_cannibal.html
Seward, Desmond. The Bourbon Kings of France. London, Thistle Publishing: 2013
Seward, Desmond. The First Bourbon: Henri IV, King of France and Navarre. London: Thistle Publishing, 2013

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