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The First Bourbon: Henry IV of France & Navarre

The founder of the Bourbon dynasty, Henry IV, who ruled France from 1589 to 1610, is the most romantic of French kings. Very different from his grandson Louis XIV, he was a hard-fighting, hard swearing Southerner, who fought over 200 battles and had 60 (recorded) mistresses* After surviving his predecessor's murderous court, he rebuilt a France ruined by thirty years of war between Catholics and Protestants, enabling her to become the most powerful country in Europe. A man of enormous charm and humanity, he was famous for promising that every French peasant was going to have a chicken in the pot in Sundays. Even Napoleon admired him, always keeping a statue of him nearby.


"A most enjoyable and useful biography of a great man ... sympathetic and well balanced ... drawn with a vigorous enthusiasm suitable to the subject"

C.V. Wedgwood, Daily Telegraph

"A story that moves swiftly and easily despite its remarkably complex political background"

 The Tiros

"Eminently readable ... Mr Seward has thrown a good deal of light upon a particularly involved period of French history"

Sir Charles Petrie, Illustrated London News

"There is much in this book that is of real interest, and students and non-students alike will find it interesting and instructive"

 The Economist

"This excellent and entertaining biography combines felicity of expression with erudition ... here we have a clear portrait of the man shown against the complex historical background, so that with masterly skill it is all condensed, but not constricted into two hundred pages ... compact in"brmation elegantly presented"

 J.J. Dwyer, The Tablet

"An admirable book. Here a great success story … is not only told with much verve and pellucid readability, but above all is told from within the age itself."

History Today

"The most recent, and the best, biography in English of Henry IV is Desmond Seward’s The First Bourbon (1971)."

Gale Encyclopedia of Biography

"It is hard to imagine a historian more in command of his subject, or better able to bring it howling and thundering to life."


Buy Desmond Seward