François Ravaillac

François Ravaillac

François Ravaillac (1578 [He declared himself thirty-one and thirty-two during his arraignment in 1610.] – May 27, 1610) was a French factotum in the courts of Angoulême and sometime tutor, a religious Catholic zealot who murdered the king, Henry IV of France, an act known as regicide.

Ravaillac was born at Touvre, near Angoulême. He was of not wholly undistinguished origins: François Ravaillac, grandfather of the assassin, was prosecutor of Angoulême. [Anita M. Walker and Edmund H. Dickerman, "Mind of an assassin: Ravaillac and the murder of Henry IV of France" "Canadian Journal of History" (August 1995) ( [ on-line text page 2] ); [ Genealogy of François Ravaillac] .] and began life as a servant, later becoming a school teacher. Obsessed by religion, he sought admission to the ascetic Feuillants order, but after a short probation he was dismissed as being "prey to visions". An application for admission to the Society of Jesus was unsuccessful in 1606.

In 1609, Ravaillac claimed to have experienced a vision instructing him to convince King Henry IV to convert the Huguenots to Catholicism. Between Pentecost 1609 and May 1610 Ravaillac made three separate trips to Paris with the intent of communicating his vision to the king and lodged with Charlotte du Tillet, mistress of Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, duc d'Epernon. Unable to meet the king, he interpreted Henry's decision to invade the Netherlands as the start of a war against the Pope. Determined to stop him, he decided to kill Henry. On May 14, 1610, he lay in wait in the Rue de la Ferronnerie in Paris (now south of the Forum des Halles); when the king passed, his carriage was halted by a blockage in the street and Ravaillac stabbed Henry to death. Ravaillac was immediately seized and taken to the Hôtel de Retz to avoid a mob lynching, before being transferred to the Conciergerie.

In the course of his trial, Ravaillac was frequently tortured in an attempt to make him identify accomplices, but he denied that he had been prompted by anyone or had any accomplices. The fortuitous combination of his knowing the king's route and the blockage of traffic that put the king within reach excited speculation. The king was on his way to visit Sully, who lay ill in the Arsenal; his purpose was to make final preparations for imminent military intervention in the disputed succession to Jülich-Cleves-Berg after the death of Duke John William, an intervention on behalf of a Calvinist candidate that would have brought him in conflict with the Catholic Habsburgs. [Walker and Dickerman 1995, [ on-line text page 1] .] Ravaillac seems to have been apprised of some such development; in his tortured mind "he had seen that the king wanted to make war on the pope."Fact|date=August 2008

At the beginning of his interrogation Ravaillac declared concerning the regicide: "I know very well he is dead; I saw the blood on my knife and the place where I hit him. But I have no regrets at all about dying, because I've done what I came to do." ["Procès, examen de Ravaillac, Memoires de Condé", 6 vols. (Amsterdam, 1743), 6:217, quoted in Walker and Dickerman 1995 ( [ on-line text, page 1] ).]

On May 27, he was taken to the Place de Grève and was tortured one last time before being pulled apart by four horses, a method of execution reserved for regicides. Alistair Horne describes the torture Ravaillac suffered: "Before being drawn and quartered... he was scalded with burning sulphur, molten lead and boiling oil and resin, his flesh then being torn by pincers." Following his execution, Ravaillac's parents were forced into exile and the rest of his family was ordered to never use the name "Ravaillac" again.

In January 1611, Mme Jacqueline d'Escoman, who had known Ravaillac, denounced the duc d'Epernon as the one responsible for the death of Henri IV; she was jailed for the rest of her life. Philippe Erlanger, "L'Étrange Mort de Henri IV" (1957, rev. 1999), reveals Epernon's associations through his mistress and concludes that he, Henriette d'Entragues and Charlotte du Tillet engineered the successful assassination. The view that Ravaillac had no accomplices but his confessors ["Almost up to the time of the assassination he continued to consult with clerics, a risky and highly ambivalent behaviour which invited discovery or prevention, and at the same time precluded both." (Walker and Dickerman 1995 ( [ on-line text p.17] )] is expressed by Roland Mousnier, "L'Assassinat d'Henri IV: 14 mai 1610" (Paris, 1964).

Janine Garrisson, "Ravaillac, le fou de Dieu" (Paris, 1993) is a novelized psychological study of Ravaillac.



* Alistair Horne, "La Belle France: A Short History", New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2004 (ISBN 1-4000-3487-6).
* Roland Mousnier, "The Assassination of Henry IV: The tyrannicide problem and the consolidation of the French absolute monarchy in the early seventeenth century", New York: Scribner, 1973 (ISBN 0684133571).

See also

* Robert-François Damiens, another regicide; includes a description of his execution for regicide.

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