This is truly a sad day for France. Their beloved King of twelve years was mortally wounded during a jousting tournament that should have been a happy and care-free affair. France was celebrating the recently-signed peace treaty between Henri II of France, Elizabeth I of England, and Phillip II of Spain. This was a happy affair - the former enemy countries were now united and vowing to keep peace between them. Since this was a great success and accomplishment for Henri, he organized a great celebration to be held at the Place Royale at the Hotel des Tournelles.
They had another reason for celebration also! Henri's daughter with his Queen Catherine de Medici, Princess Elisabeth was newly-betrothed to Phillip of Spain. This was, all in all, a happy time fit for celebration and merriment!
Unfortunately, things were not so happy on 30 June 1559, when Henri was taking part in the jousting and was matched with the captain of the Scottish guard, Gabriel Montgomery. Montgomery's lance shattered against Henri's helmet and a lone splinter penetrated the King's eye. It is thought that the splinter entered his brain and caused an incurable blood infection, known as septicaemia. Of course, Henri was immediately taken away and treated by the royal surgeons, and it was, at least for a time, believed that they could save his life - though of course he would have only one eye. However, (very sadly) on this day in 1559, Henri lay dying at the Place des Vosges, at age fourty.
Perhaps one of the saddest parts of his death is the fact that his true love, Diane de Poitiers was not allowed to see him. After years of the King's affair with Diane, his wife Queen Catherine de Medici, bitter and heartbroken by the King's lack of love for her, finally had the power she had always wanted over her dying husband. Though Henri apparently asked for Diane several times, Catherine refused to allow her rival access to her husband.
When Henri slipped away on this day in 1559, Diane de Poitier's star fell abruptly. She was immediately sent away from court by Catherine de Medici, and was forced to hand over grand estates that had been given to her by Henri - namely the Chateau de Chenonceau, which Catherine had asked Henri for herself. Personally, I think Henri would have been rolling in his grave to see the treatment Diane was getting by his wife, but I suppose you can't really blame Catherine for taking back what should have been rightfully hers - including the crown jewels, which had also been given to Diane. Catherine was bitter, disappointed and lonely for most of her life. Perhaps, even though the death of her husband was a sad one, she may have taken some comfort from it, knowing that her rival's glory had come to an end at last.
Henri was buried in Saint Denis Basilica and was succeeded by his sickly fifteen-year old son, Francis II - who was married to the sixteen-year-old Mary Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, Francis would die only eighteen months later, to be succeeded by his brother Charles IX.
Henri's heart was placed in an urn (as was custom to do after the death of a King) and placed in the Chapel of Orleans, but was unfortunately destroyed in the French Revolution. Now, a monument to Henri II's heart stands at the Louvre. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Henri's accident and death played a major role in ending jousting as a recreational sport in Europe.
Rest in Peace, Henri II! You will forever be one of my favorite European monarchs!