Biblical Archaeology Review 38:2, March/April 2012

First Person: Privies and Privacy

By Hershel Shanks

In the late 16th century, France was divided both politically and religiously. King Henri III was hated by almost everyone. His closest natural heir was Henri of Navarre, a kingdom in southwestern France, but Navarre had converted to Protestantism. The Catholic Henri III was prepared to recognize Henri of Navarre if he would reconvert to Catholicism. The right-wing Catholic Leaguists, as they were known, would have none of this, however. They were rabidly anti-Navarre. One of their number, a young Dominican friar named Jacques Clement, pretending to bear a secret message from his supporters, gained an audience with Henri III who received him on August 1, 1589, while sitting on the toilet. Clement thereupon drew his dagger and plunged it into the king’s abdomen. Henri III soon bled to death, but not before declaring Henri of Navarre his rightful heir provided he returned to the Catholic Church. Navarre did so and assumed the throne as Henri IV. (“Paris is well worth a Mass,” he supposedly said.)

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