Henri III: Elizabeth I’s unlikely ally

She was the defiantly Protestant queen of England, he the Catholic king of France. And yet, against the odds, the two became firm friends. Estelle Paranque reveals how common enemies drove Henri III and Elizabeth I into one another’s affections

Elizabeth I shown in the Darnley portrait of c1575 and (right) the French king Henri III. (Images by Alamy/Getty Images)

Elizabeth I wasn’t the only monarch fighting for her survival in 1588. In May that year, as the Spanish Armada prepared to embark upon an invasion of England, another military force was besieging Paris, forcing the hapless French king, Henri III, into flight.

Things were looking bleak for Henri as he sheltered in the nearby city of Chartres. His enemies, led by the formidable Guise family, were in the ascendant; backing for his ailing regime was draining away. Yet he wasn’t without support and, when it materialised, it came from an unlikely source. It arrived in the form of a fervent Protestant named Thomas Bodley, dispatched to Chartres by none other than Queen Elizabeth I herself.

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