Elizabeth is the protestant Queen of England. Although she is England’s first female leader, she is quite the enlightened monarch, importing and refining the European renaissance. She is a fierce rival of the catholic Philip of Spain, and thus readily supports the Hugenots in France. With the construction of the Spanish Armarda, her alliance with Conde and Navarre became much more desperate.
William the Silent is the ruler of the Netherlands. Locked in a brutal conflict with Catholic Spain, William is always eager to help the Huguenots in France. He is intelligent, strong willed, and a great organizer: the physical manifestation of Dutch resistance against Spain. At several points, it was his intervention that changed the war for better or for worse, depending on your perspective.
Catherine de Medici is the queen mother of France. She was widowed when Henry Valois died in a jousting tournament, and like her namesake family, her best time is probably behind her. Her one dream is to look out for her three sons, but it is her indecisiveness, instead of the cavalier strength innate to house Valois, that characterize her oldest son. In her effort to navigate between House Guise and the protestant Princes, clumsily trying to play them against each other, she threw all of France confusion, losing all of House Valois’s authority in the process. Cursed to outlive all her children, she would lose her life right when the war she created came to an end.
Francis, or better known as Anjou, is the youngest of the Valois brothers. Always afraid of being outdone, and correctly fearing that he would never inherit the throne, Anjou always strived to make an impact, whether it was good natured or not. He became a protestant, courted Elizabeth of England, and even organized the Malcontents, a group of young lords who openly opposed Anjou’s own brother, the King. Smart, handsome, and blessed with many friends, Anjou was quite unlike his two older brothers in that he emitted royal grace and dignity. Unfortunately, his passionate nature, mixing with his desire to outdo his brothers, caused him to make a huge mistake that destroyed the balance of France.
Henry is childhood friends with Conde and Navarre. Unlike his older brother, Charles, he is tall, fair, and striking: a reincarnation of his grandfather, Francis. He is a distinguished soldier, and a charismatic leader, and well versed in both war and politics. Intelligent and moral, Henry seemed poised to reverse the fortunes of House Valois, should something happen to his brother, and many hope he is able to shake off the influence of his mother, Catherine. Such is his fame in Europe, that the Poles elected him king of Poland at the young age of 22. Henry’s one fault is his moral background: he is a romantic at heart and believed in a hidden, unspoken code of honor that guides all men. This left him vulnerable to the machinations of House Guise, and as France further collapses towards civil war, Henry’s optimism towards human nature will take a beating as well.
The first of the the third generation of Valois kings, Charles was crowned king at a very young age. Although he has the makings of a good king, (after all, he is descended from Francis Valois), Charles proved sickly from the start, and is easily dominated by his mother, Catherine d’ Medici: a woman who’s extreme devotion to her children is only outmatched by her incompetence in leading France. Weak, easily swayed, and lacking all of the healthy confidence of the past Valois kings, Charles has good intentions for France, but under his indecisive rule the power of the Valois waned. As religious fervor sweep through Europe and French lords call their vassals to arms, Charles’s indecisiveness worsened the discord, destroying the delicate power balance and throwing the country into civil war.
Henry is the second son of Francis Valois, the first Valois King. One of the strongest kings in the history of France, Henry finished his father’s age old war with the Habesburgs and united France’s many different nobles. Ironically, Henry died in the jousting tournament celebrating the end of the war, killed by a shard of the shattered lance of his most loyal bodyguard. Strong and fair, Henry held the reins of power while he lived, but with his death, his three young sons now face the impossible task of carrying on the Valois legacy.