31 August 1593 – Pierre Barrière
Pierre Barrière failed in his attempt to kill King Henry IV of France, but he lost his life nevertheless.
Despite having the love and respect of his people for his humour and kindness as well as his work towards a religiously tolerant society, Henry was subject to a few assassination attempts.
According to Eric Nelson in the ‘Jesuits and the Monarchy’, E Pasquier – a writer of the day reckoned that the Jesuit preachers were instrumental in provoking such assassination attempts. After all, it was a Jesuit who was to stitch our man up.
Barrière was one such opportunist and he tried to kill the king on 27 August 1593, yet failed. A former solider from the Orleanais, he would have walked away had he not gone to confession.
The unsuspecting Barrière revealed all to a Dominican priest – Father Varade – in a bid to get absolution.
According to E Pasquier in the snappily entitled book ‘Bref discours du process criminal fait à Pierre Barrière, dit la Barre, natif d’Orléans’ Varade encouraged him to confess. So he ‘revealed his bad will and intention, which the Jesuit praised, telling him that it was a good thing, among other similar things, and exhorting him to be courageous, to be steadfast, and to confess, go to Easter mass and take communion’.
Yeah right… Barrière never made it as far as Easter 1594. Instead he was promptly shopped for his indiscretion and arrested on 27 August 1593. It took just four days to convict and execute the would-be assassin.
As a so-called regicide, Barrière’s death was painstakingly slow and torturous. First he was slung on the breaking wheel where his limbs were pulverised, then his broken body was cut down and he was dismembered.
And if you were wondering what happened to Henry IV, well, eventually an assassin plotted to kill him and was successful. His name was Francois Ravaillac – see what torturous fate befell him…