Historical Timeline

1515-1547 Reign of François I. Conquered Milan for a while, his Italian expeditions help bring Renaissance culture to France.
1520 François met Henry VIII of England near Calais at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Spent the rest of his reign making war on Charles V (Holy Roman Emperor).
1547-1559 Reign of Henri II, husband to Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589) and under the thumb of his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Growing power of the House of Guise.
1553 Henry de Bourbon (aka Henri de Navarre and later Henri IV) is born to Jeanne d’Albret, Protestant Queen of Navarre and Antoine de Bourbon, head of that house. Jehan du Lac is born in the Perigord.
1558 Calais recaptured from the English (after 200 years) by François, Duc de Guise.
1559 Henri II killed in a tournament accident. 
1559-1560 Reign of François II, sickly eldest son of Henri II and Catherine, 15 years old. First husband of Mary Queen of Scots, a niece of the Guises. Catherine struggled for power against the Bourbon princes  : Antoine (king of Navarre, and father to Henri IV) and Louis de Condé. The Guises, first rivals with the queen-mother and then in alliance with her, conducted all affairs of state and surpassed in influence their opponents, the Catholic constable Montmorency, and his nephews, the three Châtillon brothers: Gaspard the Admiral de Coligny, François d'Andelot, and Cardinal Châtillon, later leaders of the Huguenots. 
1560-1574 Reign of Charles IX (ten years old on accession), brother to Francis and completely ruled by his mother, Catherine de' Medici.
1562-1598 THE RELIGIOUS WARS. Persecution compelled the Huguenots to take up arms. At the same time, they formed a political party. The ensuing struggles were not only a religious war, but also a political, civil war, in which the leaders of both parties endeavored to exploit the weakness of the crown and get control of the government. The Huguenots were recruited primarily from the nobility (between two-fifths and one-half of the French nobility were at one time Protestant) and from the new capitalist-artisan class. Save in the southwest, very few peasants became Protestants. Paris and the northeast in general remained Catholic. There were eight wars altogether, but the details become monotonous: indecisive defeats and victories and one broken treaty after another. Huguenot cavalry was excellent, the infantry generally weak.
1566 Alexandre de la Main Gauche is born to Henri and Philippe de la Main Gauche.
August 23, 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Murder of Admiral de Coligny (military leader of the Huguenots) and massacre of thousands of Protestants in Paris and in the provinces, on the occasion of the marriage of Henri de Navarre (now King of Navarre on the recent death of his mother, Jeanne d'Albret), to the sister of the Charles IX, Marguerite de Valois. Henri de Navarre saved his life by a pretended conversion to Catholicism and was kept a virtual prisoner of the court for the next 4 years. Jehan du Lac goes to Paris for the wedding in the suite of his uncle (who is killed) but escapes.
1574-1589 Reign of Henri III, brother of Charles IX. Put in an impossible position, he continued to balance the forces of the Protestants and the Catholic League. History remembers him as a dilettante, dressed in extravagant clothes and surrounded with pretty young men, but he was the most capable of the Valois sons.
1576 Henri de Navarre escapes the French court, reassumes the Protestant faith, and becomes leader of the Huguenots. Establishes his court at Nerac, in Guienne, his ancestral territory. A treaty favorable to the Huguenots is signed, Navarre is confirmed as governer of Guienne and the Prince de Condé (the other major Huguenot leader) is made governor of Picardy. The Holy League is first formed in Picardy to resist Condé. In alliance with Philip II of Spain, the League purposes the annihilation of the reformed party and the elevation of the Guises to the throne. The king, out of fear of the league, proclaimed himself its head and forbade the exercise of the Protestant religion
1584 Death of François, duc d'Alençon (since the accession of Henri III, duc d'Anjou), makes extinction of the House of Valois certain, and Henri de Navarre the heir to the throne of France. The Holy League was determined to exclude him and give the crown to his uncle Charles, the aged Cardinal de Bourbon. Pope Sixtus V excommunicates Henri de Navarre and declares him unworthy of the crown of France (1585).
1585-1589 War of the Three Henries (Henri III de Valois, Henri de Navarre, Henri de Guise). The Catholic party triumphed in spite of the victory of Coutras (1587) by Henri de Navarre. Formation of the League of Sixteen at Paris, which purposed the deposition of the weak king. Guise entered Paris, was received with acclamation (King of Paris); the resistance of the king was broken by a popular insurrection. Henri III fled to Blois, where he summoned the estates-general of the kingdom. Finding no support against the League, he had Henri duc de Guise and his brother Louis Cardinal de Lorraine assassinated (Dec. 23, 1588). Catherine de Medici dies (Jan 1589). A revolt broke out, lead by the brother of the murdered men, the Duc de Mayenne. Henri III fled to Henri de Navarre in the Huguenot camp, where he was murdered before Paris by the monk Jacques Clément (July 1589). Jehan du Lac is with Navarre’s army through most of this time.
1589-1610 Reign of Henri IV. The Catholic party refused to recognize Henri IV and made the old Cardinal de Bourbon king under the name Charles X (d.1590). 'Charles X' dies in 1590. Some wished the duc de Mayenne to be his successor, others preferred Philip II of Spain, who laid claim to France on behalf of his daughter by his third marriage with Elizabeth de Valois, sister of Henri III (which would never be allowed by Salic law). Henri defeats Mayenne at Arques (Sept. 1589).
1590 Battle of Ivrey (Mar 14), crucial battle of these wars, in which Henri IV defeated Mayenne. Jehan du Lac takes one wound too many and his friend Henri de la Main Gauche is killed. Henri besieged Paris (Sept.), which was relieved by Mayenne and the Spanish Duke of Parma (probably the most formidable military man in Europe). Jehan arrives at the Poulet Gauche to bring the sad news to Madame de la Main Gauche.
1591 Jehan du Lac marries Madame de la Main Gauche.
1593 Henri IV abjured the reformed religion at St. Denis (with the legendary quip: "Paris is well worth a Mass").
1594 Henri IV crowned at Chartres (Feb. 27). Brissac surrenders Paris to him, he enters in triumph (Mar 22), and the power of the League is basically broken. Henri buys off most of the League leaders and towns on the theory that it is cheaper than war. Marguerite arrives at the Poulet Gauche looking for Dad. Jehan’s wife dies (Oct).
1595 Declaration of war against Spain (Jan). Spain takes Doullens (June) and Cambrai (Oct.) (in Picardy, within 75 miles or so of Calais). Pope Clement VIII finally recognizes Henri IV as king of France (Sept.). Our lovely cook, Jeanne-Marie, flees the brutal sack of Doullens and arrives at the Poulet Gauche.
April 17, 1596 Calais falls to the Spanish after a brief siege and a lackluster defense.
1598 The Edict of Nantes, signed in April, gives Protestants full civil rights and freedom of conscience, but it was not the Kingdom on Earth for which the Protestants had been hoping.  The Protestants were recognized as a separate political entity, with their own fortified towns and garrisons (paid for by the crown) to guarantee their security. Many French resented it, and the last parlement did not recognize the edict until 1600. Eventually, Huguenot independence was viewed as threat to the unity of the kingdom, and Richelieu's policies of absolutism led to war and destruction in 1628. 

From February to May, French and Spanish ambassadors have been meeting in the town of Vervins, not far from Calais, negotiating the terms of a peace. The English and Dutch objected strongly to Henri making his own terms with the Spanish, but it was time for him to get on with the business of rebuilding his own country. The treaty was signed on May 2, and sworn to by Henri IV in an elaborate ceremony in Notre Dame on June 21. The Spanish conducted their formal ceremony in Brussels on July 12. 

Worn out from ruling his far-flung empire for 42 years, Phillip II of Spain died on September 13, 1598. The glory of Spain was not what it once was, but it would be decades before the rest of Europe realized it.

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