So this is an idea I've been toying around with for a bit and would love to get some perspective on. Henri IV, the first Bourbon King of France, was assassinated in 1610 right before intervening against the Austrians in the War of the Julich succession with the Protestant Princes of the Empire and right after signing an alliance with the Duke of Savoy that planned to push the Spanish out of northern Italy. So, lets say the assassination never happens (the assassin is stopped before getting near the King) or Henri IV survives. What next?

Now, several older threads I've been suggest Henri's survival would mean an earlier 30 years war and that France would likely win, but is that realistic? From my own research, the French army was pretty unprofessional and disorganized at this point (it wasn't until the reign of his son Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu that a true national army emerged) and they would pretty much be going in without major allies; the Dutch had just signed a twelve year truce with Spain the year before and weren't eager to restart the war; Savoy was a pretty minor power; the German Princes were pretty disunited and weren't all that eager to start a civil war (see the slowmotion, stopgap way the OTL Thirty years' war was conducted); Spain was still the largest and wealthiest state in Europe and had a professional army in the form of the Tercios and was in the middle of teasing the Spanish match with England, so could easily pull the trigger there if necessary. So could a European war really start in 1610 or would this more likely be an expensive short intervention in Germany that exposes the French weakness?
 
Ah yes, one of the great underestimated POD!

Overall I have to respectfully, yet strongly, disagree with you on several points of your analysis though, mostly as IMO you underestimate how much things changed between 1610 and 1618.

I. France had a very good army in 1610. Its infantry may night have been the Tercios but its cavalry was the finest in Europe by quite a gap, France had a good advantage in numbers (the 100k Henri had mustered was positively humongous for his time and place) and in command Spinola was both somewhat green (he had only really emerged as a prominent leader on the European scene with his campaign against the Palatinate) and lower in the rungs while France would have had leaders such Lesdiguieres and Henri himself and Spain didn't really have a counter for in the battlefield. Moreover, France had a sizable war chest accumulated by Henri and his foremost minister Sully while Spain was still reeling and exhausted from the massive, and ultimately unsuccessful, military effort of the turn of the century.

What you are thinking about is the French military after it had essentially been gouged by the troubles of the regency, Marie de Medicis' ill governance and her willingness to accept Hapsburg primacy in the name of counter-reformation conducted by military means, all of which forced Louis XIII and Richelieu to more or less restart the process from scratch. The situation with a surviving Henri would have been very different.

II. In OTL the Dutch had shown a willingness to jump on board and did in fact risk the truce to intervene in the Julich succession (the catalyst of the crisis) even with Henri dead. Essentially, it was one thing for them to sign a truce after both England and France had signed peace treaties with Madrid but it would have been another to stay in the sideline of a larger, semi-continental, conflict in which Spain faced much of the states friendly to the Dutch Republic. The former is just basic realism but the later would have meant that the Dutch Republic would have been left terribly exposed in case of a Spanish victory so they mind as well have jumped in and done what they could to have helped the anti-Hapsburg side win.

III. The situation was similarly different for the German princes as France had made a serious effort to get them on board and similarly to the Dutch they did, in fact, intervene in the Julich succession in OTL despite Henri's death. More broadly, unlike in 1618 joining war against the Hapsburg wouldn't have meant fighting them in a relative, if not total, isolation, but instead doing so alongside one of the bona fide superpowers of the Europe of the time, France, and that's not even going into the aura the French great warrior king enjoyed personally too...

IV. It is indeed possible that England won't join the conflict, and James VI was definitely not too enthusiastic about it in OTL, but IMO it is, once more, worth considering the factors that would have favoured intervention compared to 1618 OTL: a bigger chunk of the old Elizabethan crowd was still present in government compared to 1618 and would have tried to drag the country into the conflict and doing so with France leading the charge would have been a very different, and less risky, proposition then doing so without them, like an English intervention in the early TYW would have probably meant in OTL, and presumably having to bear most of its weight on the anti-Hapsburg side.

V. As alluded too on point I., Spain was just not what it would be in 1618. The country was still exhausted from Philip II's effort on multiple fronts at once in the tail end of his reign, which it had to keep going under Philip III, and its ultimate failure alongside the multiple bankruptcies that come with it. The very existence of the long truce of the Dutch Republic is proof of that IMO: even when facing just the Dutch Spain was unable to make meaningful headway so exhausted they were by 1608! The next decade was key in allowing Spain to retake its breath and recover from it .

All and all this won't be a cakewalk but it is unlikely to end well for the Hapsburgs. Henri IV fully deserve its reputation as one of the greatest king of France and a titan of his area. He had fought Spain before and would not have been so willing to reignite war had the circumstances not favored France and he had prepared the ground well, so to speak.
 
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Ah yes, one of the great underestimated POD!

Overall I have to respectfully, yet strongly, disagree with you on several points of your analysis though, mostly as IMO you underestimate how much things changed between 1610 and 1618.

I'm open to any information you might have, as finding sources on the Armée Royale from the 1600-1621 period is proving difficult.

I. France had a very good army in 1610. Its infantry may night have been the Tercios but its cavalry was the finest in Europe by quite a gap, France had a good advantage in numbers (the 100k Henri had mustered was positively humongous for his time and place) and in command Spinola was both somewhat green (he had only really emerged as a prominent leader on the European scene with his campaign against the Palatinate) and lower in the rungs while France would have had leaders such Lesdiguieres and Henri himself and Spain didn't really have a counter for in the battlefield. Moreover, France had a sizable war chest accumulated by Henri and his foremost minister Sully while Spain was still reeling and exhausted from the massive, and ultimately unsuccessful, military effort of the turn of the century.

See this is where I'm having issues finding info. From what I can find, France had a very small standing army in this period and was more or less reliant on grandees raising troops for wartime, who maintained operational control over their soldiers. So while the French may have had a good core force, I don't know if it would be enough to overcome the still powerful Tercios and fight on like three simultanious fronts against a Spain that, while weakened, is still the foremost power of Europe. Also, where did you get the 100K number from? I can't find any figure that high for the Julich intervention preparations; I can find a 22,000 force from January 1610 and an apparent separate 25,000 force from later that year (though that later force included Dutch troops as well), but that's it. And France may have had a sizable war chest, but that would quickly dissociate when fighting a war on at least three fronts (Spain, north Italy and Germany), and likely subsidizing Savoy and the German Princes.

What you are thinking about is the French military after it had essentially been gouged by the troubles of the regency, Marie de Medicis' ill governance and her willingness to accept Hapsburg primacy in the name of counter-reformation conducted by military means, all of which forced Louis XIII and Richelieu to more or less restart the process from scratch. The situation with a surviving Henri would have been very different.

Now I have heard that the regency really weakened France and focused their resources inward on fighting Huguenots, so I buy the idea that the Queen Regent gutted the army (or at least gave power to favorites).

II. In OTL the Dutch had shown a willingness to jump on board and did in fact risk the truce to intervene in the Julich succession (the catalyst of the crisis) even with Henri death. Essentially, it was one thing for them to sign a truce after both England and France had signed peace treaties with Madrid but it would have been another to stay in the sideline of a larger, semi-continental, conflict in which Spain faced much of the states friendly to the Dutch Republic. The former is just basic realism but the later would have meant that the Dutch Republic would have been left terribly exposed in case of a Spanish victory so they mind as well have jumped in and done what they could to have helped the anti-Hapsburg side win.

Not really; the Dutch were willing to skirt the issue (ie fighting with the Austrians and helping the Protestant Princes), but they were willing to negotiate when faced with an early end to the Truce (see the Treaty of Xanten). Though, in OTL the French were very much not willing to get involved, so the Dutch might be more aggressive here. I will say however, that the Dutch were just as exhausted as the Spanish by 1609, and I don't think they'd be willing to jump into another war less then a year after gaining 12 years of breathing room.

III. The situation was similarly different for the German princes as France had made a serious effort to get them on board and similarly to the Dutch they did, in fact, intervene in the Julich succession in OTL despite Henri's death. More broadly, unlike in 1618 joining war against the Hapsburg wouldn't have meant fighting them in a relative, if not total, isolation, but instead doing so alongside one of the bona fide superpowers of the Europe of the time, France, and that's not even going into the aura the French great warrior king enjoyed personally too...

See, I again disagree. Dealing with the German Princlings was like herding cats; deeply difficult and unrewarding. For example, the war Henri IV was intervening in was a succession war between the two Protestant claimants to the United Duchies (Palatine-Neuburg and Brandenburg) against an attempt by Emperor Rudolf to sequester the states indefinitely. In OTL, within a few years of the conflict (1614), the two former allies were fighting each other over their claims. So Henri would have to deal with that fallout sooner or later, with the stong possibility that the "loser" would turn to the Austrians. Or the one who feels cheated. Not to mention the first round of fighting (1609-1610) pretty much exhausted all the Princes (Protestant and Catholic), which led to an end to the fighting. So I doubt that the Germans would be reliable allies.

IV. It is indeed possible that England won't join the conflict, and James VI was definitely not too enthusiastic about it in OTL, but IMO it is, once more, worth considering the factors that would have favoured intervention compared to 1618 OTL: a bigger chunk of the old Elizabethan crowd was still present in government compared to 1618 and would have tried to drag the country into the conflict and doing so with France leading the charge would have been a very different, and less risky, proposition then doing so without them, like an English intervention in the early TYW would have probably meant in OTL, and presumably having to bear most of its weight on the anti-Hapsburg side.

Personally I doubt James would get involved (he liked the image of peacemaker and arbiter too much to do so), but that was merely an example. The Spanish were still the strongest nation in Europe and James had long wanted a Spanish marriage for his son. In fact, I can't find any real push for a French match at all in those years (even when Henri IV was still alive there was never a match suggested between Madame Royale and the Prince of Wales).

V. As alluded too on point I., Spain was just not what it would be in 1618. The country was still exhausted from Philip II's effort on multiple fronts at once in the tail end of his reign, which it had to keep going under Philip III, and its ultimate failure alongside the multiple bankruptcies that come with it. The very existence of the long truce of the Dutch Republic is proof of that IMO: even when facing just the Dutch Spain was unable to make meaningful headway so exhausted they were by 1608! The next decade was key in allowing Spain to retake its breath and recover from it .

All and all this won't be a cakewalk but it is unlikely to end well for the Hapsburgs. Henri IV fully deserve its reputation as one of the greatest king of France and a titan of his area. He had fought Spain before and would not have been so willing to reignite war had the circumstances not favored France and he had prepared the ground well, so to speak.

Now I do agree that Spain isn't in a good spot either, but I do feel that Henri IV overestimated his chances of creating a grand European alliance against the Habsburgs. Realistically, I think it will go something like this; Henri and the Dutch intervene in the Julich succession war, which likely ends more or less similar to OTL for reasons (the Habsburgs were in the middle of a succession dispute between Rudolf II and Matthias, and the Julich mess was a combo of Rudolf attempting to regain the initiative and his cousin Archduke Leopold acting unilaterally). The Germans peace out, as they aren't interested in a full war with the Habsburgs at this time (this is before the arch-Catholic Ferdinand II took the throne) and still want to sort out the United Duchies. Now, depending on how the war goes, Henri might turn to starting a war with the Spanish in Italy (as per the alliance with Savoy). Personally, I don't see him doing anything in the Spanish Netherlands as it was ruled by a different branch of the Habsburgs and that would be starting an extra war for no reason other than overstretching your forces. Now how this goes is anyone's guess (I don't think the Savoyards are getting Milan at this time, but maybe some minor changes to the borders of Savoy and Milan), but I don't think it will be a grand conflict. Moreover, there's the question of round 2 in the Julich war; does Henri intervene again to mediate, against one of his former allies or does he try to stay out of it? I suppose it depends on how the war with Spain is going. And, if the Spanish war turns into a stalemate, how long does the conflict go on for before Henri cuts his losses (like Charles I did in the 1625-1629 Anglo-Spanish war)?

Honestly, I think a grand war would be possible, but 1610 was the wrong time, as there was simply too many variables going on in the early 1610s.
 
I'm open to any information you might have, as finding sources on the Armée Royale from the 1600-1621 period is proving difficult.



I. See this is where I'm having issues finding info. From what I can find, France had a very small standing army in this period and was more or less reliant on grandees raising troops for wartime, who maintained operational control over their soldiers. So while the French may have had a good core force, I don't know if it would be enough to overcome the still powerful Tercios and fight on like three simultanious fronts against a Spain that, while weakened, is still the foremost power of Europe. Also, where did you get the 100K number from? I can't find any figure that high for the Julich intervention preparations; I can find a 22,000 force from January 1610 and an apparent separate 25,000 force from later that year (though that later force included Dutch troops as well), but that's it. And France may have had a sizable war chest, but that would quickly dissociate when fighting a war on at least three fronts (Spain, north Italy and Germany), and likely subsidizing Savoy and the German Princes.



I a. Now I have heard that the regency really weakened France and focused their resources inward on fighting Huguenots, so I buy the idea that the Queen Regent gutted the army (or at least gave power to favorites).



II. Not really; the Dutch were willing to skirt the issue (ie fighting with the Austrians and helping the Protestant Princes), but they were willing to negotiate when faced with an early end to the Truce (see the Treaty of Xanten). Though, in OTL the French were very much not willing to get involved, so the Dutch might be more aggressive here. I will say however, that the Dutch were just as exhausted as the Spanish by 1609, and I don't think they'd be willing to jump into another war less then a year after gaining 12 years of breathing room.



III. See, I again disagree. Dealing with the German Princlings was like herding cats; deeply difficult and unrewarding. For example, the war Henri IV was intervening in was a succession war between the two Protestant claimants to the United Duchies (Palatine-Neuburg and Brandenburg) against an attempt by Emperor Rudolf to sequester the states indefinitely. In OTL, within a few years of the conflict (1614), the two former allies were fighting each other over their claims. So Henri would have to deal with that fallout sooner or later, with the stong possibility that the "loser" would turn to the Austrians. Or the one who feels cheated. Not to mention the first round of fighting (1609-1610) pretty much exhausted all the Princes (Protestant and Catholic), which led to an end to the fighting. So I doubt that the Germans would be reliable allies.



IV. Personally I doubt James would get involved (he liked the image of peacemaker and arbiter too much to do so), but that was merely an example. The Spanish were still the strongest nation in Europe and James had long wanted a Spanish marriage for his son. In fact, I can't find any real push for a French match at all in those years (even when Henri IV was still alive there was never a match suggested between Madame Royale and the Prince of Wales).



V. Now I do agree that Spain isn't in a good spot either, but I do feel that Henri IV overestimated his chances of creating a grand European alliance against the Habsburgs. Realistically, I think it will go something like this; Henri and the Dutch intervene in the Julich succession war, which likely ends more or less similar to OTL for reasons (the Habsburgs were in the middle of a succession dispute between Rudolf II and Matthias, and the Julich mess was a combo of Rudolf attempting to regain the initiative and his cousin Archduke Leopold acting unilaterally). The Germans peace out, as they aren't interested in a full war with the Habsburgs at this time (this is before the arch-Catholic Ferdinand II took the throne) and still want to sort out the United Duchies. Now, depending on how the war goes, Henri might turn to starting a war with the Spanish in Italy (as per the alliance with Savoy). Personally, I don't see him doing anything in the Spanish Netherlands as it was ruled by a different branch of the Habsburgs and that would be starting an extra war for no reason other than overstretching your forces. Now how this goes is anyone's guess (I don't think the Savoyards are getting Milan at this time, but maybe some minor changes to the borders of Savoy and Milan), but I don't think it will be a grand conflict. Moreover, there's the question of round 2 in the Julich war; does Henri intervene again to mediate, against one of his former allies or does he try to stay out of it? I suppose it depends on how the war with Spain is going. And, if the Spanish war turns into a stalemate, how long does the conflict go on for before Henri cuts his losses (like Charles I did in the 1625-1629 Anglo-Spanish war)?

Honestly, I think a grand war would be possible, but 1610 was the wrong time, as there was simply too many variables going on in the early 1610s.
I. The 100K came from Jean-Pierre Babelon's bio of Henri IV, arguably still the reference work on that particular monarch. I do agree that the Tercios remain formidable (and even then, their quality isn't as great as one would expect outside the Army of Flanders) but the troops Henri and his generals would have lead to battle would have been properly drilled by all accounts and would have been no slouch, and cavalry wise France was still very much as good as you had in Western Europe. Of course, fighting on several multiple fronts would have been a trial but so would it have been for Spain as well, and that's where France's (the true foremost power in Western Europe at that time, even if it was to soon loose the title) numerical superiority would have fully played.

Ia. The favourites and Marie's focus on internal affairs were part of it but IMO the main cause of the rooth was simply that she didn't have the authority or competence or husband had, so years of political intrigue, ill maintenance and small scale civil wars pretty quickly too their toll.

II. The Treaty of Xanten was reasonably advantageous to the Protestants, all things considered, and of course the Dutch weren't willing to push things too much if there was no guarantees of substantial assistance coming up to help them do so. A broader war with France fully in it would have been a very different proposition. Not only would they have had way more support available to try to get a settlement more to their tastes but a defeat for the anti-Hapsburg side would have had far greater costs for the Dutch, as mentioned before, so they will be in, as they essentially told Henri they would in OTL.

III. I don't expect France to be able to simply order them around but there is a gap between that and how the Palatinate and the Bohemians were left to fight alone in OTL. France had spent a lot of political capital to get a relatively solid Protestant Union on firm footing and by the end that legwork was starting to pay off, as they were increasingly willing to join the fray if fray there was (as shown by the fact that they intervened even with Henri death). The king's personal prestige didn't hurt there, of course. Of course, keeping them working and working together would be a struggle, and getting some still in the sidelines would help, but IMO they could still provide a very significant contribution to the war effort.

IMO the best paralel here wouldn't be so much the early TYW but the Second Schmalkadic War, where Henri II's France allied with the Protestant Princes and they were reasonably efficient at working with each other. And even then, that was with a Franco-Spanish balance of strength definitely less advantageous to Paris than in 1610 and with a king who didn't have the same kind of prestige Henri IV had in the Protestant world (even after his conversion he was seen, alongside Elizabeth I, as the architect of the Spanish defeats of the turn of the century).

III a. Moreover, it is also worth considering that this is also true for Catholic Princes. It's one thing to fight your fellow German princes and its another to potentially deal with the big French army gathering around Verdun...

IV. In many ways Henri didn't push for a French match because there wasn't a need to at this stage. The memories of the common fight against Philip II's Spain where still very recent so friendship between Paris and London was well established. I do agree James wouldn't have wanted too but a lot of people both around him and in the wider English political community would have wanted too. In toto I think its possible England stay in the side line but I also see him ending going ''fine!'' when enough people tell him that parliament would vote him whatever money he want if he join the fray.

V. In term of broader scenario I was thinking of something around a five to ten years semi continental war (regardless of what its status on paper happen to be the Spanish Netherlands were under the umbrella of, well, Spain, and Henri had seen Parma coming down from there enough time during the Wars of Religion to leave it be), ending in a Hapsburg defeat. How bad its gonna be for them will depend on whether England/Scotland will join the conflict but either way, the array of forces against them is just too strong for things to be otherwise. IMO one of the key factors, and the moment the wheels will start to come off for the Hapsburgs, is when it will become clear that Matthias is set to be succeeded by a Catholic hardliner, either directly or indirectly after Albert, which will eventually bring things to a head in Bohemia and Hungary.
 
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I. The 100K came from Jean-Pierre Babelon's bio of Henri IV, arguably still the reference work on that particular monarch. I do agree that the Tercios remain formidable (and even then, their quality isn't as great as one would expect outside the Army of Flanders) but the troops Henri and his generals would have lead to battle would have been properly drilled by all accounts and would have been no slouch, and cavalry wise France was still very much as good as you had in Western Europe. Of course, fighting on several multiple fronts would have been a trial but so would it have been for Spain as well, and that's where France's (the true foremost power in Western Europe at that time, even if it was to soon loose the title) numerical superiority would have fully played.

OK I can sort of agree with this, but I think you're underestimating the fact that most of these troops would be raised by individual nobles and not the Crown. There will be jealousy, refusal to share command, potential bribes by the Spanish and a whole bunch of drama. It won't derail the war effort, but it will slow things down significantly. Plus, the numberical superiority only matters if the French can successfully supply large armies, something that OTL they weren't able to do until the reign of Louis XIV 50 years from the POD.

Ia. The favourites and Marie's focus on internal affairs were part of it but IMO the main cause of the rooth was simply that she didn't have the authority or competence or husband had, so years of political intrigue, ill maintenance and small scale civil wars pretty quickly too their toll.

Honestly, from my reading, the problem seemed to be Marie had no clue what she was doing and chose to rely on old foreign favorites, pissing off the nobility big time. That these favourites were themselves incompetent made things much worse. Of course, Marie ultimately (and indirectly) gave France Cardinal Richelieu, one of the greatest ministers of the period, so I will give her credit there.

II. The Treaty of Xanten was reasonably advantageous to the Protestants, all things considered, and of course the Dutch weren't willing to push things too much if there was no guarantees of substantial assistance coming up to help them do so. A broader war with France fully in it would have been a very different proposition. Not only would they have had way more support available to try to get a settlement more to their tastes but a defeat for the anti-Hapsburg side would have had far greater costs for the Dutch, as mentioned before, so they will be in, as they essentially told Henri they would in OTL.

But would there be substantial support incoming? In this scenario Henri is wanting to go to war with Spain and would have to take resources to put into Germany. The Dutch would likely still want to wait until closer to the expiration of the truce to engage in a full war, French support or not.

IMO the best paralel here wouldn't be so much the early TYW but the Second Schmalkadic War, where Henri II's France allied with the Protestant Princes and they were reasonably efficient at working with each other. And even then, that was with a Franco-Spanish balance of strength definitely less advantageous to Paris than in 1610 with a king who didn't have the same kind of prestige Henri IV had in the Protestant world (even after his conversion he was seen, alongside Elizabeth I, as the architect of the Spanish defeats of the turn of the century).

I don't disagree that a short war could be ideal, but I think Henri was finally letting his ego cloud his judgement. Yes, keeping the Habsburgs from potentially controlling the United Duchies made sense, but only if the Hahsburgs had a candidate in mind and Henri was putting up an alternative one. Not true. Rudolf II sequestered the Duchies to buy time to figure out a solution and try to boost his support in his conflict with Matthias, while on Henri's side there were two claimants who each wanted the Duchies. The alliance would fall apart as soon as Brandenburg and Palatine-Neuburg started demanding their inheritance, and Henri would be in the middle. I can see Henri going to war with Spain or intervening in the Julich conflict, but not both, or at least not at the same time.

Looking at history, I wonder if the Julich war might end up bigger then OTL. In OTL the whole thing started over Archduke Leopold overreaching in an attempt to support his cousin Rudolf II, with the eye of succeeding the Emperor. This snowballed but ultimately ended in a climb down by everyone and a sane solution (primarily due to Henri's assassination and the final deposition of Rudolf II). Here, that climb down isn't guaranteed. If anything, an invasion by France might get Rudolf and Matthias to set aside their differences and work together, rallying the Catholic league and the neutral princes (Saxony, for example, remained neutral, had a claim to the Duchies and was against foreign intervention; I'm sure there were others). Don't underestimate proto-nationalism; if the Habsburgs can paint the Protestants as puppets of France, it would undermine their efforts. Or the Emperor could offer full enfeoffment to one of the other claimants and try to divide the alliance. I can easily see the Emperor moving to declare an Reichskrieg against France and trying for an Imperial ban on Brandenburg and Palatine-Neuburg. Really, the entire thing could blow up in Henri's face. Hm, I actually really like this idea....

III. I don't expect France to be able to simply order them around but there is a gap between that and how the Palatinate and the Bohemians were left to fight alone in OTL. France had spent a lot of political capital to get a relatively solid Protestant Union on firm footing and by the end that legwork was starting to pay off, as they were increasingly willing to join the fray if fray there was (as shown by the fact that they intervened even with Henri death). The king's personal prestige didn't hurt there, of course. Of course, keeping them working and working together would be a struggle, and getting some still in the sidelines would help, but IMO they could still provide a very significant contribution to the war effort.

Prestige is all well and good, but besides money what exactly can Henri offer the rest of the Union? He's not redistributing territory in the Empire, not reorganizing their constitution or doing anything else. The Protestant union stayed neutral against the Emperor in the Bohemian revolt because they saw it as a bad powergrab by Friedrich V and had no desire to get dragged down. Brandenburg and Palatine-Neuburg inviting the French into Germany could easily lead to the same reaction, or to the Protestant union rallying to the crown if presented correctly. I think you might underestimate how complex the Empire was at this time and the real goals of the various Princes. They weren't a homogenius alliance by any means, and a surviving Henri IV wouldn't change that.

III a. Moreover, it is also worth considering that this is also true for Catholic Princes. It's one thing to fight your fellow German princes and its another to potentially deal with the big French army gathering around Verdun...

Actually, that's even worse for the French. Before the thirty years war fully damaged the unity of the Empire, an external threat to the Empire's stability was often enough to get the various forces to stop fighting each other and start focusing on the new big bad. As I said above, if presented correctly and if the legal rangling can be pulled off, this could end up as a fairly united Empire fighting Henri II and friends. Of course, this would likely fall apart if Matthias is still childless like OTL, but then again, I doubt this war would last 8 plus years.

IV. In many ways Henri didn't push for a French match because there wasn't a need to at this stage. The memories of the common fight against Philip II's Spain where still very recent so friendship between Paris and London was well established. I do agree James wouldn't have wanted too but a lot of people both around him and in the wider English political community would have wanted too. In toto I think its possible England stay in the side line but I also see him ending going ''fine!'' when enough people tell him that parliament would vote him whatever money he want if he join the fray.

Nah, if James wouldn't go to war to protect the rights of his daughter and son-in-law, then he's not gonna magically dogpile on the Habsburgs. There's no territory he would want that the French could offer, and at this point no leverage like helping with the Palatinate.

V. In term of broader scenario I was thinking of something around a five to ten years semi continental war (regardless of what its status on paper happen to be the Spanish Netherlands were under the umbrella of, well, Spain, and Henri had seen Parma coming down from there enough time during the Wars of Religion to leave it be), ending in a Hapsburg defeat. How bad its gonna be for them will depend on whether England/Scotland will join the conflict but either way, the array of forces against them is just too strong for things to be otherwise. IMO one of the key factors, and the moment the wheels will start to come off for the Hapsburgs, is when it will become clear that Matthias is set to be succeeded by a Catholic hardliner, either directly or indirectly after Albert, which will eventually bring things to a head in Bohemia and Hungary.

So you're suggesting that Henri would be going to war with three different countries, at the same time? That would make Henri an idiot. If the war in Germany takes longer then expected, then he'd be a fool to move and attack Spain or the Netherlands. Felipe III might offer support to his cousins if they need it, but not before, while Archdukes Albrect and Isabel wanted to maintain peace and had no reason to want to attack France at this time, so he'd simply be throwing away soldiers for his own ego.

Me personally, I see things going this way; the Julich war ends up longer then OTL, lasting to 1613 to 1614. Henri gets some support among the Princes, but not nearly as much as he expects, with various Princes either opposed to the incease in power for Brandenburg or Palatine-Neuburg, want to make their own claims on the Duchies, the intervention of France into their affairs, loyalty to the Habsburgs or other reasons. Most Princes will remain neutral, but leverge that or their support to the Emperor for concessions, Rudolf will either be forced to make more concessions to Matthias for support in the war or will be de-facto deposed a year or so earlier then OTL, and Matthias (who had some support among the Protestants) rallies the Austrian monarchy to expel the French from the Empire. Ultimately the war will grind down as the Princes get tired of the civil strife that had dominated the Empire for the past decade and make peace with the Emperor (whomever that ends up being) and come to a compromise over the Duchies, leaving the French high and dry. Now maybe the French manage to come to an agreement with the Emperor from a position of strength, but likely won't gain a lot. For example, don't see Henri getting Alsace at this point.

Something else we haven't brought up yet is Henri himself. Even escaping assassination, he was 57 (about to turn 58) in 1610; considering that most of the Bourbons tended to die in their early to mid 60s, he doesn't have a long time left. I can see him living to 1615, maybe 1616 at the latest. After his death, there's no guarantee that the French under Louis XIII/Marie de Medicis (whose likely to remain a dominant force behind her son) will continue the war if its still going on.
 
I. OK I can sort of agree with this, but I think you're underestimating the fact that most of these troops would be raised by individual nobles and not the Crown. There will be jealousy, refusal to share command, potential bribes by the Spanish and a whole bunch of drama. It won't derail the war effort, but it will slow things down significantly. Plus, the numberical superiority only matters if the French can successfully supply large armies, something that OTL they weren't able to do until the reign of Louis XIV 50 years from the POD.

I a. Honestly, from my reading, the problem seemed to be Marie had no clue what she was doing and chose to rely on old foreign favorites, pissing off the nobility big time. That these favourites were themselves incompetent made things much worse. Of course, Marie ultimately (and indirectly) gave France Cardinal Richelieu, one of the greatest ministers of the period, so I will give her credit there.

II. But would there be substantial support incoming? In this scenario Henri is wanting to go to war with Spain and would have to take resources to put into Germany. The Dutch would likely still want to wait until closer to the expiration of the truce to engage in a full war, French support or not.



III. I don't disagree that a short war could be ideal, but I think Henri was finally letting his ego cloud his judgement. Yes, keeping the Habsburgs from potentially controlling the United Duchies made sense, but only if the Hahsburgs had a candidate in mind and Henri was putting up an alternative one. Not true. Rudolf II sequestered the Duchies to buy time to figure out a solution and try to boost his support in his conflict with Matthias, while on Henri's side there were two claimants who each wanted the Duchies. The alliance would fall apart as soon as Brandenburg and Palatine-Neuburg started demanding their inheritance, and Henri would be in the middle. I can see Henri going to war with Spain or intervening in the Julich conflict, but not both, or at least not at the same time.

Prestige is all well and good, but besides money what exactly can Henri offer the rest of the Union? He's not redistributing territory in the Empire, not reorganizing their constitution or doing anything else. The Protestant union stayed neutral against the Emperor in the Bohemian revolt because they saw it as a bad powergrab by Friedrich V and had no desire to get dragged down. Brandenburg and Palatine-Neuburg inviting the French into Germany could easily lead to the same reaction, or to the Protestant union rallying to the crown if presented correctly. I think you might underestimate how complex the Empire was at this time and the real goals of the various Princes. They weren't a homogenius alliance by any means, and a surviving Henri IV wouldn't change that.

Looking at history, I wonder if the Julich war might end up bigger then OTL. In OTL the whole thing started over Archduke Leopold overreaching in an attempt to support his cousin Rudolf II, with the eye of succeeding the Emperor. This snowballed but ultimately ended in a climb down by everyone and a sane solution (primarily due to Henri's assassination and the final deposition of Rudolf II). Here, that climb down isn't guaranteed. If anything, an invasion by France might get Rudolf and Matthias to set aside their differences and work together, rallying the Catholic league and the neutral princes (Saxony, for example, remained neutral, had a claim to the Duchies and was against foreign intervention; I'm sure there were others). Don't underestimate proto-nationalism; if the Habsburgs can paint the Protestants as puppets of France, it would undermine their efforts. Or the Emperor could offer full enfeoffment to one of the other claimants and try to divide the alliance. I can easily see the Emperor moving to declare an Reichskrieg against France and trying for an Imperial ban on Brandenburg and Palatine-Neuburg. Really, the entire thing could blow up in Henri's face. Hm, I actually really like this idea....

Actually, that's even worse for the French. Before the thirty years war fully damaged the unity of the Empire, an external threat to the Empire's stability was often enough to get the various forces to stop fighting each other and start focusing on the new big bad. As I said above, if presented correctly and if the legal rangling can be pulled off, this could end up as a fairly united Empire fighting Henri II and friends. Of course, this would likely fall apart if Matthias is still childless like OTL, but then again, I doubt this war would last 8 plus years.

IV. Nah, if James wouldn't go to war to protect the rights of his daughter and son-in-law, then he's not gonna magically dogpile on the Habsburgs. There's no territory he would want that the French could offer, and at this point no leverage like helping with the Palatinate.

VI. So you're suggesting that Henri would be going to war with three different countries, at the same time? That would make Henri an idiot. If the war in Germany takes longer then expected, then he'd be a fool to move and attack Spain or the Netherlands. Felipe III might offer support to his cousins if they need it, but not before, while Archdukes Albrect and Isabel wanted to maintain peace and had no reason to want to attack France at this time, so he'd simply be throwing away soldiers for his own ego.

V. Me personally, I see things going this way; the Julich war ends up longer then OTL, lasting to 1613 to 1614. Henri gets some support among the Princes, but not nearly as much as he expects, with various Princes either opposed to the incease in power for Brandenburg or Palatine-Neuburg, want to make their own claims on the Duchies, the intervention of France into their affairs, loyalty to the Habsburgs or other reasons. Most Princes will remain neutral, but leverge that or their support to the Emperor for concessions, Rudolf will either be forced to make more concessions to Matthias for support in the war or will be de-facto deposed a year or so earlier then OTL, and Matthias (who had some support among the Protestants) rallies the Austrian monarchy to expel the French from the Empire. Ultimately the war will grind down as the Princes get tired of the civil strife that had dominated the Empire for the past decade and make peace with the Emperor (whomever that ends up being) and come to a compromise over the Duchies, leaving the French high and dry. Now maybe the French manage to come to an agreement with the Emperor from a position of strength, but likely won't gain a lot. For example, don't see Henri getting Alsace at this point.

VII. Something else we haven't brought up yet is Henri himself. Even escaping assassination, he was 57 (about to turn 58) in 1610; considering that most of the Bourbons tended to die in their early to mid 60s, he doesn't have a long time left. I can see him living to 1615, maybe 1616 at the latest. After his death, there's no guarantee that the French under Louis XIII/Marie de Medicis (whose likely to remain a dominant force behind her son) will continue the war if its still going on.

I. They wouldn't have been raised by magnates, even if they would have been commanded by them in some cases. At this point, the French Crown was very much in control and holding the purse strings as well as the levers of power. It was still fragile, as shown by the turn of events after Henri's death, but it was there and the army was very much a royal one.

Ia. Marie essentially had the combo of not having the skills to govern, being unduly on the side of incompetent favorites and having the wrong ideas politically. She really was a calamitous figure in French history. Richelieu was very much a happy accident: he went toward power because she was the one holding it at the time and kept reasonably close to her early on by pragmatism.

II. In this scenario, Henri himself will march north toward the Spanish Netherlands with a big army and other French armies will keep other Hapsburg armies elsewhere busy. That is plenty of support IMO and the Dutch can't really afford to sit this one out for the reasons already mentionned.

III and V. Henry can offer sizable French Armies to support a war effort against the Emperor and his Spanish cousins. That, as mentioned before, changes the equation quite a lot. For the rest, and will all due respect, you are drastically overestimating the unity of the Empire at this stage. German princes of both faiths have had centuries to get used to conducting their own foreign policies and acting as mostly independent, which goes a long way to explain why proto-nationalism simply did not take in Germany to the same degree then elsewhere. There is plenty of examples of them calling on outside support for assistance, including, as mentioned above, Protestant princes collaborating efficiently with France and the future Reichskrieg against France under Henri's grandson where in completely different circumstances, when France was seemingly on the cusp of continental hegemony and religious divisions where not what they used to be. Self-preservation was the fuel here, not proto-nationalism and/or imperial institutions. The Reichskrieg was just something that a coalition that would have formed aniway did because why not...

With all due respect, Protestant princes rallying against Henrician France in the name of imperial unity would have been utterly out of character and would essentially show a degree of cohesion inside the Empire not seen against anyone save the Ottomans for around two centuries at this stage, and even against them that's debatable. A truly empire-wide front is simply not going to happen here, proto-nationalism for not, and there is a bunch of Protestant Principalities in the empire with a long history of better relations with France than with Vienna or their Catholic brethrens, and who would in fact go on to conclude exactly such an alliance during the TYW. In fact, I will go as far as to call upon the Alien Space Bat on this one.

Henri's expectation of support was based on what his representatives heard from the Protestant Princes themselves, not on his ego and over-optimism. He was arguably the canniest political operative alive in Western Europe at this point and wouldn't have left such things to estimation.

IV. I already explained the factors that would push for an English intervention so if you believe it is still impossible we would have to agree to disagree on this one.

VI. No, I am suggesting that the Spanish Netherlands are essentially a Spanish dependency in practice, regardless of their status in paper, and that Vienna and Madrid were close enough that fighting one for any significant lenght of time would mean fighting the other. Henri estimated that he had the strength and the allies needed to pull it off and most Historians of the period agree with him.

VII. Henri was, by all accounts, still a rather robust man and there is no reason to think he didn't have it in him to at least live until his son majority in, ironically, 1618. Considering Louis XIII was independent-minded enough to never really buy into his mother's ideas in foreign policy despite she having been able to control his education after 1610 OTL I simply don't see her having much sway on issues of war and peace on a Louis XIII who had been raised to see things his father's way until his majority.

Moreover, even if he dies earlier on of natural causes, that would leave him the opportunity to take measures to arrange for a regency to his tastes, unlike with his more sudden demise in OTL.

Ravaillac really saved the Hapsburgs' bacon on this one.
 
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@phil03 I've spend the last day or so doing more research on Henri IV's last year, his planned Julich expedition and the "Grand war" he was supposedly planning, and, IMO, it's all either full of sh*t, added in later to make Henri IV seem to be a would-be early incarnation of Louis XIV, or no one really knows what the be all plan was (if there ever was one) and historians are just speculating.

1. According to France in the Age of Henri IV by Mark Greengrass, there was no "grand design" being planned against the Habsburgs, and the Julich expedition was a very limited plan with the goal of maintaining the status quo in the Empire. Per Greengrass "Recent historians have stressed as the important theme France's desire to maintain European peace while articulating France's role within it. They have shown how prudent and cautious French foreign policy was in the months before the king's assassination. Henri IV kept contacts with Madrid, and the ambassador, Don Inigo de Cardenas, remained in Paris throughout the period of mobilization. Henri IV had not offered the Moors any assistance when they were expelled from Spain in 1609. As late as the beginning of May 1610, the Tuscan ambassador in Paris was encouraged to act as marriage broker in a proposed alliance between the Dauphin Louis and an Infanta. Evidence from the first gentleman of the chamber and from Cardinal Richelieu suggests that the king was anxious to restrict his dispute to the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs. There was already some evidence that Rudolph's resolve was weakening, especially as the imperial administrator fled from Julich in the face of the impending military invasion. Was no Henri IV concerned to maintain the status quo in Germany, demonstrate France's authority to the German princes and come to a lasting détente with Spain?" Greengrass goes on to suggest that the entire episode was a possible exercise in brinkmanship with the Emperor and that the king had no desire for a general war. In this interpretation, I'm highly inclined to believe the Treaty of Bruzolo with Savoy was another element of this strategy, meant to be a potential lever to pull against Spain if necessary but one that would ultimately be superseded very quickly. Or that it was an earlier version of Richelieu's strategy with Sweden in the Thirty Years' War; pay an ally to launch a distracting attack on a rival without getting involved themselves.

2. The Flemish dimension. From Henri IV of France: his Reign and Age by Vincent J. Pitts, Henri IV's entire dispute with the Archdukes during this period (and the idea that he was going to invade the Netherlands) was almost entirely due to their harboring of Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency, the Princesse de Condé. Henri IV had wanted her as a mistress and married her to his cousin Henri II de Condé in a marriage of convenience. The King thought that Condé, believed to prefer the company of men, would have no issue with this situation, but was wrong and both left for Brussels, placing themselves under the protection of the Archdukes. Condé left his wife there and later went to Milan in Spanish service (makes me wonder if that contributed with the Savoyard alliance for Milan?). The Archdukes refused the King's demands to send Charlotte back without her husband's permission, though they continued to try and reach a solution favorable to their honor. Henri IV would hear none of that and continued to demand her back, and during the planning of the Julich expedition announced he entended to transit through the Archducal Netherlands. In April/May of 1610 the Archdukes seemed to offer a solution to their predicament (Charlotte's family would request her return while starting annulment proceedings, while the Spanish would force Condé to acquiesce; Henri gets Charlotte back, the Archdukes honor is intact). When approached by the Flemish envoy, Henri's Finance Minister said Pierre Jeannin told him if the princess would be returned home "the biggest thorn would be removed" and further said that, without the affaire Condé, the two kings (of France and Spain) would have no tensions between them. He also said that the tension with Archduke Albrect was entirely due to the princesse remaining in Brussels. So, if anything, this suggests that, far from some kind of brilliant tactician executing a grand plan, Henri IV was a dirty old man pissed that his young would-be mistress had escaped his grasp and was desperate to save face. And that the plan to transit through the Netherlands was meant to put additional pressure on the Archdukes.

3. The Julich crisis itself; both The Thirty years war by Simon Adams and Europe in Flames by John Matusiak puts Henri IV's actions in regard to the crisis in further context. Both authors mention Henri IV's fear of a general European war breaking out and that certain members of the Protestant Union (chief among then the arch-intriguer Christian of Anhalt-Bernburg), would push the situation out of hand if the king didn't intervene and basically "herd the cats". The king wanted to maintain the status quo in the Empire by keeping the United Duchies out of Habsburg hands (if Rudolf II did annex the Duchies it would give the Habsburgs a major expansion of territory in North-west Germany, put troops an another French border and ease communications between Brussels and Vienna), a fairly limited objective. Further, apparently some of the various claimants to the Duchies were French nobles (haven't been able to find out which though), and there was an idea of installing them in the Duchies or that the French would annex them outright, though the King seemed unenthused by that. According to Anhalt, Henri did offer a campaign against the Spanish if they tried to intervene, but both authors suggest that this was either a play to regain control of the situation or an overreach by Anhalt that the king wasn't able to disavow publicly for fear of losing face.

So, in conclusion, the entire crisis that existed near the end of Henri IV's reign seemed to be predicated on three things; the King's desire to maintain a status quo through French mediation; his demand for the return of the Princesse de Condé; and a need to keep the Protestant Princes from pouring gasoline on the situation. Unless the Spanish decide to invade France on behalf of their cousins, I don't see a massive war starting with Madrid. Furthermore, Henri seemed willing to climb down with Brussels over Condé if she was returned (though I do wonder if she would be or if the Archdukes would send her along to Milan to join her husband, leaving the Habsburgs with a bargaining chip while removing a threat to Flanders). Ultimately Henri IV would use the Julich succession war to brandish his credentials to the Protestant Princes (helping them score points against the Habsburgs) and his rep as the arbiter of Europe (negotiating a favorable solution with either Rudolf or Matthias, depending on whose in power by the time negotiations begin) while using the crisis to convince Spain that it would be better to come to a détente with France rather then risk war (potentially using Savoy to put further pressure if necessary). France will emerge stronger then before, with the goodwill of the Protestant Princes, friendly regimes in Julich-Berg and Cleves (Henri himself favored a division like the one implemented at Xanden, so unless he and the Emperor can decide on a third candidate that will get the whole thing, I think the division still happens), potential French garrisons in Germany (to maintain the new division of territories) and a potential prelude to closer relations with Spain.
 
@phil03 I've spend the last day or so doing more research on Henri IV's last year, his planned Julich expedition and the "Grand war" he was supposedly planning, and, IMO, it's all either full of sh*t, added in later to make Henri IV seem to be a would-be early incarnation of Louis XIV, or no one really knows what the be all plan was (if there ever was one) and historians are just speculating.

1. According to France in the Age of Henri IV by Mark Greengrass, there was no "grand design" being planned against the Habsburgs, and the Julich expedition was a very limited plan with the goal of maintaining the status quo in the Empire. Per Greengrass "Recent historians have stressed as the important theme France's desire to maintain European peace while articulating France's role within it. They have shown how prudent and cautious French foreign policy was in the months before the king's assassination. Henri IV kept contacts with Madrid, and the ambassador, Don Inigo de Cardenas, remained in Paris throughout the period of mobilization. Henri IV had not offered the Moors any assistance when they were expelled from Spain in 1609. As late as the beginning of May 1610, the Tuscan ambassador in Paris was encouraged to act as marriage broker in a proposed alliance between the Dauphin Louis and an Infanta. Evidence from the first gentleman of the chamber and from Cardinal Richelieu suggests that the king was anxious to restrict his dispute to the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs. There was already some evidence that Rudolph's resolve was weakening, especially as the imperial administrator fled from Julich in the face of the impending military invasion. Was no Henri IV concerned to maintain the status quo in Germany, demonstrate France's authority to the German princes and come to a lasting détente with Spain?" Greengrass goes on to suggest that the entire episode was a possible exercise in brinkmanship with the Emperor and that the king had no desire for a general war. In this interpretation, I'm highly inclined to believe the Treaty of Bruzolo with Savoy was another element of this strategy, meant to be a potential lever to pull against Spain if necessary but one that would ultimately be superseded very quickly. Or that it was an earlier version of Richelieu's strategy with Sweden in the Thirty Years' War; pay an ally to launch a distracting attack on a rival without getting involved themselves.

2. The Flemish dimension. From Henri IV of France: his Reign and Age by Vincent J. Pitts, Henri IV's entire dispute with the Archdukes during this period (and the idea that he was going to invade the Netherlands) was almost entirely due to their harboring of Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency, the Princesse de Condé. Henri IV had wanted her as a mistress and married her to his cousin Henri II de Condé in a marriage of convenience. The King thought that Condé, believed to prefer the company of men, would have no issue with this situation, but was wrong and both left for Brussels, placing themselves under the protection of the Archdukes. Condé left his wife there and later went to Milan in Spanish service (makes me wonder if that contributed with the Savoyard alliance for Milan?). The Archdukes refused the King's demands to send Charlotte back without her husband's permission, though they continued to try and reach a solution favorable to their honor. Henri IV would hear none of that and continued to demand her back, and during the planning of the Julich expedition announced he entended to transit through the Archducal Netherlands. In April/May of 1610 the Archdukes seemed to offer a solution to their predicament (Charlotte's family would request her return while starting annulment proceedings, while the Spanish would force Condé to acquiesce; Henri gets Charlotte back, the Archdukes honor is intact). When approached by the Flemish envoy, Henri's Finance Minister said Pierre Jeannin told him if the princess would be returned home "the biggest thorn would be removed" and further said that, without the affaire Condé, the two kings (of France and Spain) would have no tensions between them. He also said that the tension with Archduke Albrect was entirely due to the princesse remaining in Brussels. So, if anything, this suggests that, far from some kind of brilliant tactician executing a grand plan, Henri IV was a dirty old man pissed that his young would-be mistress had escaped his grasp and was desperate to save face. And that the plan to transit through the Netherlands was meant to put additional pressure on the Archdukes.

3. The Julich crisis itself; both The Thirty years war by Simon Adams and Europe in Flames by John Matusiak puts Henri IV's actions in regard to the crisis in further context. Both authors mention Henri IV's fear of a general European war breaking out and that certain members of the Protestant Union (chief among then the arch-intriguer Christian of Anhalt-Bernburg), would push the situation out of hand if the king didn't intervene and basically "herd the cats". The king wanted to maintain the status quo in the Empire by keeping the United Duchies out of Habsburg hands (if Rudolf II did annex the Duchies it would give the Habsburgs a major expansion of territory in North-west Germany, put troops an another French border and ease communications between Brussels and Vienna), a fairly limited objective. Further, apparently some of the various claimants to the Duchies were French nobles (haven't been able to find out which though), and there was an idea of installing them in the Duchies or that the French would annex them outright, though the King seemed unenthused by that. According to Anhalt, Henri did offer a campaign against the Spanish if they tried to intervene, but both authors suggest that this was either a play to regain control of the situation or an overreach by Anhalt that the king wasn't able to disavow publicly for fear of losing face.

So, in conclusion, the entire crisis that existed near the end of Henri IV's reign seemed to be predicated on three things; the King's desire to maintain a status quo through French mediation; his demand for the return of the Princesse de Condé; and a need to keep the Protestant Princes from pouring gasoline on the situation. Unless the Spanish decide to invade France on behalf of their cousins, I don't see a massive war starting with Madrid. Furthermore, Henri seemed willing to climb down with Brussels over Condé if she was returned (though I do wonder if she would be or if the Archdukes would send her along to Milan to join her husband, leaving the Habsburgs with a bargaining chip while removing a threat to Flanders). Ultimately Henri IV would use the Julich succession war to brandish his credentials to the Protestant Princes (helping them score points against the Habsburgs) and his rep as the arbiter of Europe (negotiating a favorable solution with either Rudolf or Matthias, depending on whose in power by the time negotiations begin) while using the crisis to convince Spain that it would be better to come to a détente with France rather then risk war (potentially using Savoy to put further pressure if necessary). France will emerge stronger then before, with the goodwill of the Protestant Princes, friendly regimes in Julich-Berg and Cleves (Henri himself favored a division like the one implemented at Xanden, so unless he and the Emperor can decide on a third candidate that will get the whole thing, I think the division still happens), potential French garrisons in Germany (to maintain the new division of territories) and a potential prelude to closer relations with Spain.
Honestly, I am highly sceptical considering the most prominent historians on France in the era, who tend to be French speakers and therefore you may be unable to consult through no faults of your own, tend to still believe in the crisis having a wider scope and the sheer scale of the preparations made would argue if favor of something bigger being underway.

Moreover, I must admit I find a lot of red flags in both Greengrass and Pitts' takes. In Greengrass you have him relying on Richelieu's testimony as authoritative, despite him being a fairly junior at the time and the fact that his depiction of Henri as actually looking for long-term detente is simply out of character for the man. We are talking about someone who once publicly said that the House of Austria and French Royal Familly were like two scales in a balance in that one couldn't go up without the other going down, someone who was essentially raised to see Spain as the Enemy with a capital E, as the heir of Navarra, a Huguenot and a Prince of the Blood, someone who had Spain down his level best to destroy in his early reign and someone whose entire foreign policy during his reign was directed in opposition to Spain. I am just not buying it. The fact that Greengrass' book is fairly old and doesn't seem to have affected the wider take on things is telling.

I am even more dismissive of Pitt's take as buying that that man would risk a semi-continental war just because he wanted his mistress back would suggest a degree of irresponsibility that would be utterly out of character. Yes, he had shown he could underestimate the political risks of some of his affairs, or more precisely of marrying them, but we would be way beyond with him thinking he could simply march an army into the Spanish Netherlands without taking massive risks of war with Spain and everything in his career show that he would be aware of that. He would have dealt with the Condé thing if he was able too but Moreover, it is worth noting that the very ministers who were obtrusive when he was considering marrying Gabrielle D' Estrées were fully on board with this one... TBH this one is striking me as simply buying too much into the memetic side of Henri's philandering ways and his reputation in that regard.

Continuing to pursue the Spanish marriage and his words to the envoy in Bruxelles don't necessarily preclude wider ambitions and could have simply been an effort from a canny political figure to keep Spain on the sidelines for as long as possible and appear like the conciliant party (as by all accounts the Spanish didn't seem to be all motivated to return the Prince and Princess of Condé) or simply to keep his options open as long as possible.

I hold Adams and Matusiak in higher regards, as they have written otherwise good books, but their take do still fail to take into account the scale of French preparations in both military and diplomatic matters, like Greengrass and Pitt for that matter.

Now, its important to not go to the other extreme and by the Grand Design as described by Sully. The whole European institution thing is overwhelmingly likely to be BS and the territorial program he described is unlikely to have been in Henri's mind except maybe as an utterly maximalist take if France was in position to redraw the map to his tastes.

I would argue, however, that one does need to know what Henri had exactly in mind to buy that a semi-continental war was what he had in mind. His foreign policy in general was organized in opposition to Spain, who saw himself (as basically all French kings from François I to Louis XIII, with the possible exception of Charles IX and Henri III due to being busy with the Wars of Religion) as being in a zero-sum game with them. Him going for a larger-scale war when circumstances favored France and when he was still able to lead it himself and put his personal prestige to good use is simply a logical conclusion of his whole foreign policy following the Treaty of Vervin.

Could you have a scenario where Henri pulls back deciding that the circumstances are not, after all, advantageous enough to take the plunge? Sure, but it is at least equally likely that he would have gone with it and the pattern of French actions just before his assassination does demonstrate he was at least considering it IMO.

Mind you, even if he would have pulled back his survival is still pretty bad for the Hapsburgs compared to OTL: France would have continued to work on building up its war chest and army and continuing to pursue a foreign policy aiming at checking Hapsburg's power. That would mean that Madrid and Vienna would face a way less advantageous geopolitical position when the unavoidable crisis (by 1610 a Catholic hardliner was bound to take power in Vienna eventually and I simply can't see the Protestants of the German Hapsburgs' domains see such a development without reacting) finally happen.
 
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