The First Bourbon: Henry IV of France and Navarre

  • England, 1971 (Constable, History Book Club); 2013 (Thistle Publishing paperback and e-book)
  • USA, 1972 (Gambit)


Founder of the Bourbon dynasty, Henry IV is the most romantic and adventurous of all French kings. He survived the Massacre of St Bartholomew and the murderous intrigues of the Valois court, fought in over 200 battles or skirmishes, and possessed more than 60 recorded mistresses. After years of savage warfare he united Protestants and Catholics to lay the foundations for the France of Louis XIV. Henry’s reign is of particular interest to literary historians – its writers included Montaigne, Agrippa d’Aubigne and Malherbe – while his own letters were admired by Proust and Andre Maurois.

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Reviews of: The First Bourbon: Henry IV of France and Navarre

  • This sympathetic and well balanced portrait, drawn with a vigorous enthusiasm suitable to the subject … a most enjoyable and useful biography of a great man.

    Dame Veronica Wedgwood, The Daily Telegraph
  • 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