STUDY DAY 'Revisiting the Death of Charles IX and its Aftermath: Continuity and Change in French Politics, Society, and Culture, c.1574-1584'

mort charles9

© 'La Mort de Charles IX' by Raymond Monvoisin, Musée Fabre de Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole - photographie Frédéric Jaulmes

Organised by Christian Martens (Geneva / Warwick) and Ingrid De Smet (Warwick)
With the support of the Swiss National Foundation for Science (SNFS)
With a Keynote Address by Mark Greengrass (Sheffield)


After Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the United Kingdom crowned a new king and entered the New Carolean Age. Such renaming of the future is a practice typical of monarchies, as they break with the past and open up the present. Similarly, the death of Charles IX on May 30, 1574, unleashed a flurry of potential new avenues for action and discourse. The 450th anniversary of his passing offers us the opportunity to revisit that event’s significance. As king he disappointed all the parties involved in the French Wars of Religion. At the moment of his death, the political situation was uncertain and rumours swirled that he had been poisoned.

Taken in isolation, the death of Charles IX forces us to reconsider what happened in the light of what could have been. It suggests a recasting of the event and of its influence on the next decade of the Wars of Religion. Was there any hope the heir, Henri, would not come back? Did the king’s passing change the political calculus of the rebellious nobility? How did the complex and ever-changing European geopolitical chessboard react to another French monarch dying so young? Was the fated death of a hated king fêted by the Huguenots, or resented for its political consequences? Was there hope for change or fear of a break? To put it starkly, did the direction of history seem unsettled, or was the king’s agony another sign of French decadence?


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