June 1st, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Another case of a Frenchman and his head.

Henry IV (1553–1610) was the King of France from 1589–1610, the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon, and grandfather of Louis XIV (aka the “Sun King”).

Henry was a popular ruler, greatly appreciated by his people for his concern for their welfare: he promoted agriculture, drained swamps, encouraged education, built highways, promoted arts, etc. Apparently he’s the guy who gave rise to the phrase “a chicken in every pot.”

Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n’ait les moyens d’avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot!”

(“If God keeps me, I will make sure that no peasant in my realm will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot on Sunday!”)

In his time, there was relative peace and prosperity in France. Henry IV restored Paris, added the Grande Galerie to the Louvre, and built the Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge across the Seine—an equestrian statue of the king stands next to the bridge. Appropriately, Henry was known as le bon roi Henri (“the good king Henry”) and Henri le Grand (“Henry the Great”)

A pragmatic and shrewd player of politics, Henry was, for his time, unusually tolerant of the various factions of Christianity. The man was a Catholic, but converted to Protestantism, and then later reconverted to Catholicism. These back-and-forth shifts might explain his broad views on the matter. Apparently, his reconversion didn’t help his case: he was assassinated by a Catholic fanatic in 1610.

Altogether, Henry IV is remembered for his being a visionary and a man of kindness and compassion.

But he lost his head.

Henry’s embalmed body was buried in the Basilica of St. Denis (which saint, you will recall, is another one of those headless Frenchmen).

About 200 years later, in1793, French revolutionaries ransacked the Basilica and desecrated graves, including Henry’s. And someone stole our man’s head.

For the next two centuries, the head would periodically resurface as it passed among private collectors. Finally, in 2010, a French journalist tracked it to the attic of a retired tax collector, Jacques Bellanger. In an article in the British Medical Journal, a multidisciplinary force confirmed, with a combination of anthropological, paleopathological, and radiological techniques, that it was indeed the lost head of Henry IV. (Recently, DNA from the head was matched with DNA from Louis XIV obtained from his blood mopped on to a handkerchief following the loss of his head on the guillotine.)

The tax collector, Bellanger, donated the head to Louis Alphonse of Bourbon, Duke of Anjou, one of the current pretenders to the defunct French throne. “The moment is very emotional … to have a head of my ancestor, so close to me physically, is something,” the prince told reporters.

I agree: Keep your head close!

For Christians, the Bible says that Jesus is their Head.

He is also head of the body, the church;
and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Colossians 1:18

And it is this Head that renders us whole.

In Him you have been made complete,
and He is the head over all rule and authority.
Colossians 2:10

We are warned to keep this Head close to us, unlike those who are …

… not holding fast to the head,
from whom the entire body, being supported and
knit together by the joints and ligaments,
grows with a growth which is from God.
Colossians 2:19

Yup, don’t lose your Head!



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