L'Épée du Grand Henri
The most prestigious and exclusive of the gentlemen’s clubs of Paris, L’Épée du Grand Henri was established in 1599 on the rue Chantefleury, near the Louvre. During his life Henri IV was a regular visitor, and a sword reported to be the one carried by the king at the Battle of Arques is a treasured artifact of the club. Favorites of le Grand Henri such as Bellegarde and Bassompierre continue to frequent the club, joined by courtiers of the current king’s court.
The club is elegantly appointed and stocks the finest libations and comestibles available outside of the royal palaces or the hôtels of the grands. Gambling stakes are high at the tables of the Grand Henri, with a minimum bet of 100 £ and no limit. Haughty courtesans dangle like ornaments from the silk-clad arms of the gentilhommes mingling among gaming tables and private salons.
L’Épée du Grand Henri members are often sword nobles: courtiers, members of the royal household, colonels and generals in the royal army, prelates, or presidents of the Parlement de Paris. The club includes the highest proportion of Huguenots among its members of any of the clubs of Paris, though their numbers are still small overall. Members sometimes wear a small jeweled sword pinned to their cloaks or doublets.
The governors of L’Épée du Grand Henri include three chefs du club, two or three treasurers, three or four secretaries, and several managers. Dues are 40 £ per year.
The gentlemen’s club L’Épée du Grand Henri should not be confused with a tavern of the same name located in Boulogne.