30 June

King Henry II of France is mortally wounded in a jousting match against Gabriel, comte de Montgomery.

Henry II was an avid hunter and a participant in jousts and tournaments. On 30 June 1559, at the Place des Vosges at the Hôtel des Tournelles, during a match to celebrate the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis with his longtime enemies, the Habsburgs of Austria, and to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elisabeth of Valois to King Philip II of Spain, King Henry was wounded in the eye by a fragment of the splintered lance of Gabriel Montgomery, captain of the King’s Scottish Guard. Despite the efforts of royal surgeon Ambroise Paré, the king died of septicemia on 10 July 1559. He was buried in a cadaver tomb in Saint Denis Basilica. Henry’s death was a factor in the end of jousting as a sport.

As Henry lay dying, Queen Catherine limited access to his bedside and denied his mistress Diane de Poitiers permission to see him, even though he repeatedly asked for her. Following his death, Catherine sent Diane into exile, where she lived in comfort on her own properties until her death.

It was the practice to enclose the heart of the king in an urn. The Monument to the Heart of Henry II is in the collection of the Louvre, but was originally in the Chapel of Orleans beneath a pyramid. The original bronze urn holding the king’s heart was destroyed during the French Revolution and a replica was made in the 19th century. The marble sculpture of the Three Graces holding the urn, executed from a single piece of marble by Germain Pilon, the sculptor to Catherine de’ Medici, survives.

Henry was succeeded by his sickly fifteen-year-old son, Francis II. He was married to sixteen-year-old Mary Queen of Scots, who had been his childhood friend and fiancée since her arrival at the French court when she was five. Francis II died 18 months later in 1560, and Mary returned to Scotland the following summer. Francis II was succeeded by his ten-year-old brother Charles IX. His mother, Catherine de Medici, acted as Regent. Starting in 1562 and for the rest of the century, France was filled with turbulence as Protestants and Catholics fought the bitter Wars of Religion.