Square du Vert Galant

This little park at the western (downstream) tip of the Île de la Cité in Paris was named after the French King Henri IV (1553-1610), who was known as “Le Vert Galant” because of his many mistresses that he continued consorting with at a (relatively) advanced age. Actually he only lived to be 57, which does not seem amazingly old today but was no doubt a ripe old age by the standards of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

You have to go down some steps to get to the park, because it is seven meters lower than the rest of the island. In former times the entire Île de la Cité was this low, which must have made it very susceptible to flooding.

Originally there were three separate islands here, but in 1607 (during the reign of Henri IV) they were joined together for the purpose of building the Pont Neuf (New Bridge), which at that time was the newest but is now the oldest bridge in Paris.

Statue of Henri IV

In case anyone might be in doubt about who the Square du Vert Galant is named after, there is a large equestrian statue of Henri IV on the street at the top of the stairs.

Heinrich Mann’s second novel about Henri IV

The German author Heinrich Mann (1871-1950) went into exile in southern France as soon as the Nazis came into power in Germany in 1933. While he was living in France, he researched and wrote two novels about the life of Henri IV.

The first, Die Jugend des Königs Henri Quatre (later translated into English as Young Henry of Navarre) was published in 1935 and the second, Die Vollendung des Königs Henri Quatre (in English as Henry, King of France) followed in 1938.

These are both highly readable and thought-provoking books, dealing with all aspects of Henri’s life and times but especially with the nature and use of power, a subject which was very much on Heinrich Mann’s mind at the time.

I have also written about Henri IV (and mentioned Heinrich Mann) in my post on Ruebens and Marie de’ Medici in the Louvre.

Square du Vert Galant in the summer, looking towards Pont Neuf

My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2021.

See more posts on the Île de la Cité in Paris.
See also: my post on the Buddenbrooks House in Lübeck, Germany
(scroll down for Heinrich Mann).

11 thoughts on “Square du Vert Galant”

  1. I read a novel by Thomas Mann when I was in college – I have not read anything by Heinrich Mann who sounds like a very interesting writer. And King Henry IV – I wonder if he died of something he caught from one of the many mistresses. I’m guessing from his nickname that he was seen as perpetually young.

    1. Thomas Mann won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1929, and he is still more prominent than his older brother Heinrich.
      King Henri IV was assassinated on May 14, 1610 in Paris.

  2. Henry IV certainly would have reached a higher age than 57, hadn’t he been murdered in 1610… Thank you for the interesting information that he was nicknamed le Vert Galant 😉

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