Henry became the legal heir to the French throne upon the death (1584) of Francis, duke of Alençon, brother and heir to King Henry III, who had succeeded Charles IX in 1574. The Catholic League, led by Henri, 3d duc de Guise, refused to recognize a Protestant as heir and persuaded the king to revoke concessions to the Protestants and to exclude Henry of Navarre from the succession. In the resulting war, known as the War of the Three Henrys, Henry of Navarre defeated (1587) the king's forces at Coutras but was reconciled with Henry III when the League revolted against him (1588).
After Henry III's death (1589), Henry IV defeated the League forces under the duc de Mayenne at Arques (1589) and Ivry (1590) but was forced to abandon the siege of Paris when the League received Spanish aid. In 1593 he again abjured Protestantism, allegedly with the remark, "Paris is well worth a Mass." He was received in Paris in 1594. His conciliatory policy soon won him general support. To rid France of Spanish influence, Henry declared war on Spain (1595) and brought it to a successful conclusion with the Treaty of Vervins (1598).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.