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Royal Assassination

Royal Assassination

A statue in Paris commemorating French king Henry the Fourth
Author Mark Donnelly explaining techniques used to torture the assassin Ravaillac
Apotheosis of Henry IV and the Proclamation of the Regency by Peter Paul Rubens
The painting includes a snake, an allusion to Henry IV’s assassin, Ravaillac
The engraved pedestal beneath the monument to Henry IV
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Mona Lisa
Napoleon's Lies
Royal Armor
Shattered Crown
Raft of the Medusa

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Did a lone dagger-man kill Henry IV?

Or did his co-conspirators lurk in the shadows?

This is the story of the assassination of a popular head of state – a murder which engendered a still raging controversy over whether the killer acted alone.

The elements are remarkably similar to the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.  But our story took place 400 years ago, when French king Henry IV was killed while riding in a motorcade... or rather... a royal coach, in a Paris street.

As with the Kennedy assassination, a suspect was immediately apprehended. Unlike Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, who was shot dead before he could reveal anything, the king's killer – a man named Ravaillac – was questioned under torture.

He named no co-conspirators. But was he really a lone gunman... or rather... dagger-man?

We may never learn this secret. But we have uncovered evidence that Ravaillac may have had some politically powerful co-conspirators.

Their identities are revealed in Museum Secrets: Inside the Louvre.

Was the assassination an inside job?

Some believe that Henry's queen – Marie de Medici – had a hand in his assassination. 

Evidence to support this is spotty at best, but it is clear she moved quickly to take power, even though her claim to the throne was questionable.

To find out how she cemented her power we invite you to watch our Web Exclusive Video: Marie de Medici.

And as to what the assassin Ravaillac revealed under torture... we invite you to watch our Web Exclusive Video:  French Torture.

Beg to Differ

In the broadcast episode, and in our Web Exclusive Video, torture expert Mark Donnelly concludes that Ravaillac's torture was so severe that he must have told the truth when he said he was acting alone.  Our series story editor, Allen Booth, begs to differ:

"To cite torture to conclude Ravaillac was telling the truth you must assume that torture works. I don't. I assume it doesn't. And I think I'm in good company.  Many credible torture experts say that a victim will say whatever he thinks his tormentors want to hear. If the assassination was a conspiracy guided by powerful people, then Ravaillac would assume his torturers were in league with those powerful people. He would know they would want him to say he acted alone. So that's what he's said. As usual, a confession under torture is worthless."

2 Comments


curious digger 2011 • #15 • 2011-08-13 11:46:35
hi im only after seeing this this paticular part in this episode when i noticed 3 people who bared a remarkable resemblance to the assassins in the asssassins creed games.\n Now i know what your thinking this is just some kid who likes games a bit t


inneedofhelp • #54 • 2013-06-22 07:23:52
@ #15: hey what was that assassins creed episode, i\'ve been looking for it.