ENRY OF NAVARRE by Hesketh Pearson
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Although Hesketh Pearson makes a grandstand statement- aside from Charles II, Henry of Navarre was ""the only monarch in history who had a thoroughly civilized outlook"" -- he nevertheless communicates, in a succinct, eminently satisfying biography, all the characteristic charm, courage, candor and, yes, idealism which made the man the favorite of the French. Even his sins (""when lust was in the ascendant, all other desires were suspended"") and his squabbles (a number of religious or royal wars), are never the product of a personality closed, prejudiced or petty. Against an age of brawls and bigotry, interests and intrigues, he had what we would call today ""experiential openness""; he was both heroic and very human, and (to compare outrageously) displayed the grandeur of de Gaulle and the liveliness of lc roi solcil. He built the Louvre, finished the Tuilleries, promulgated the Edict of Nantes, outmaneuvered Habsburg machinations, and dreamed the ""great design"", a European federation. This is an idea, incidentally, usually credited to the Duc de Sully, his minister, whose memoirs Pearson has apparently and enthusiastically ransacked from top to bottom. Excellent.

Publisher: Harper & Row