Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Brittany, in 1536. As a child, Henry and his elder brother spent over four years in captivity in Spain as hostages in exchange for their father. Henry pursued his father's policies in matters of art, war, and religion. He persevered in the Italian Wars against the House of Habsburg and tried to suppress the Protestant Reformation, even as the Huguenot numbers were increasing drastically in France during his reign.
The Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), which put an end to the Italian Wars, had mixed results: France renounced its claims to territories in Italy, but gained certain other territories, including the Pale of Calais and the Three Bishoprics. In addition, even if the Habsburgs maintained a position of primacy, France managed to change the European balance of power by forcing Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor to abdicate during the Eighth Italian War and divide the Habsburg Empire between Spain and Austria.
Henry suffered an untimely death in a jousting tournament held to celebrate the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. The king's surgeon, Ambroise Paré, was unable to cure the infected wound inflicted by Gabriel de Montgomery, the captain of his Scottish Guard. He was succeeded in turn by three of his sons, whose ineffectual reigns helped to spark the French Wars of Religion between Protestants and Catholics.