Remembering King Henri, a smelly philanderer who won France's heart

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France marks 400 years since the death of a monarch who enforced religious tolerance and raised standard of living.

Two hundred years before the storming of the Bastille and the stirrings of a revolution that would take down the monarchy, a handsome 35-year-old from the south-western city of Pau began a reign that would make France fall in love with him. Today, as the country remembers his death at the hands of a fanatical Catholic assassin, there is no sign that this love is fading.

In fact, 400 years after he drew his last breath on a Paris side-street, Henri IV is everywhere: on magazine covers, on billboards and staring benevolently from shop windows. Parisian guides are offering Henri IV walking tours; museums are hosting exhibitions; and locals in his native region near the Pyrenean foothills are hosting feasts of poule au pot and garfou – the late monarch's favourite sweet treat.

Judging by the tributes being paid to him now, Henri IV seems to be working his magic from beyond the grave. Such was the impact of his reign – and the shock of his untimely death – that he has become a martyr who is viewed almost as the personification of good leadership

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