Jacques Clément assassinating Henry III
|Died||1 August 1589 (aged c. 22)|
|Known for||Assassinating Henry III of France|
During the French Wars of Religion, Clément became fanatically religious and an ardent partisan of the Catholic League. Viewing Protestantism as heresy, he talked of exterminating the Huguenots and formed a plan to assassinate Henry III. His project was encouraged by some of the heads of the League, in particular Catherine de Guise, the Duchess Montpensier. He was assured of worldly rewards if he succeeded and of eternal bliss if he failed. Having obtained letters for the king, he left Paris on 31 July 1589 and reached Saint-Cloud, the headquarters of Henry, who was besieging Paris, on 1 August 1589.
Clément was admitted to the king's presence, and while he was presenting his letters he told the king he had an important and confidential message to deliver. The attendants then withdrew and, as Clément leaned in to whisper in Henry's ear, he mortally wounded him with a dagger concealed beneath his cloak. The assassin was immediately killed by the returning attendants, but Henry died early in the morning of the following day. Clément’s body was later quartered and burned. His crime led Le Laboureur to anagrammatize “Frère Jacques Clément” into “C'est l'enfer qui m'a créé” (“It is hell that created me”).
Although seen by supporters of Henry III as a fanatical, brutal act, the assassination was viewed with very different feelings in Paris and by the partisans of the League. Clément was seen as a martyr and was praised by Pope Sixtus V. His praise was such that canonization was even discussed, although Clément has not, at least as yet, achieved sainthood.
- See E Lavisse, Histoire de France, tome vi. (Paris, 1904).