XXXIII. CHARLES IX. AND THE RELIGIOUS WARS. (1560-1574.)
We now enter upon the era of the civil wars, massacres, and assassinations caused by religious fanaticism or committed on religious pretexts. The latter half of the sixteenth century is the time at which the human race saw the opening of that great drama, of which religious liberty is the beginning and the end; and France was then the chief scene of it. At the close of the fifteenth and at the commencement of the sixteenth centuries, religious questions had profoundly agitated Christian Europe; but towards the middle of the latter century they had obtained in the majority of European states solutions which, however incomplete, might be regarded as definitive. Germany was divided into Catholic states and Protestant states, which had established between themselves relations of an almost pacific character. Switzerland was entering upon the same course. In England, Scotland, the Low Countries, the Scandinavian states, and the free towns their neighbors, the Reformation had prevailed or was clearly tending to prevail. In Italy, Spain, and Portugal, on the contrary, the Reformation had been stifled, and Catholicism remained victorious. It was in France that, notwithstanding the inequality of forces, the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism was most obstinately maintained, and appeared for the longest time uncertain. After half a century of civil wars and massacres it terminated in Henry IV., a Protestant king, who turned Catholic, but who gave Protestants the edict of Nantes; a precious, though insufficient and precarious pledge, which served France as a point of departure towards religious liberty, and which protected it for nearly a century, in the midst of the brilliant victory won by Catholicism. [The edict of Nantes, published by Henry IV. in 1598, was revoked by Louis XIV. in 1685.]
For more than three centuries civilized Europe has been discussing, pro or con, the question of religious liberty, but from instinct and with passion far more than with a serious understanding of what is at the bottom of things. Even in our own day it is not without difficulty that a beginning is being made to understand and accept that principle in its true sense and in all its bearings. Men were wonderfully far from it in 1560, at the accession of Charles IX., a child ten years old; they were entering, in blind confidence, upon a religious war, in order to arrive, only after four centuries of strife and misconception, at a vindication of religious liberty. "Woe to thee, O country, that hast a child for king!" said, in accordance with the Bible, the Venetian Michael Suriano, ambassador to France at that time. Around that royal child, and seeking to have the mastery over France by being masters over him, were struggling the three great parties at that time occupying the stage in the name of religion. The Catholics rejected altogether the idea of religious liberty for the Protestants; the Protestants had absolute need of it, for it was their condition of existence; but they did not wish for it in the case of the Catholics, their adversaries. The third party (tiers parti), as we call it nowadays, wished to hold the balance continually wavering between the Catholics and the Protestants, conceding to the former and the latter, alternately, that measure of liberty which was indispensable for most imperfect maintenance of the public peace, and reconcilable with the sovereign power of the kingship. On such conditions was the government of Charles IX. to establish its existence.
The death of Francis II. put an end to a grand project of the Guises, which we do not find expressly indicated elsewhere than in the Memoires of Michael de Castelnau, one of the best informed and most intelligent historians of the time. "Many Catholics," says he, "were then of opinion that, if the authority of the Duke of Guise had continued to be armed with that of the king as it had been, the Protestants would have had enough to do. For orders had been sent to all the principal lords of the kingdom, officers of the crown and knights of the order, to show themselves in the said city of Orleans on Christmas-day at the opening of the states, for that they might be all made to sign the confession of the Catholic faith in presence of the king and the chapter of the order; together with all the members of the privy council, reporting-masters (of petitions), domestic officers of the king's household, and all the deputies of the estates. The same confession was to be published throughout all the said kingdom, in order to have it sworn by all the judges, magistrates, and officers, and, finally, all private persons from parish to parish. And in default of so doing, proceedings were to be taken by seizures, condemnations, executions, banishments, and confiscations. And they who did repent themselves and abjured their Protestant religion were to be absolved." [Memoires de Michel de Castelnau, book ii. chap. xii. p. 121, in the Petitot collection.] It is not to be supposed that, even if circumstances had remained as they were under the reign of Francis II., such a plan could have been successful; but it is intelligible that the Guises had conceived such an idea: they were victorious; they had just procured the condemnation to death of the most formidable amongst the Protestant princes, their adversary Louis de Conde; they were threatening the life of his brother the King of Navarre; and the house of Bourbon seemed to be on the point of disappearing beneath the blows of the ambitious, audacious, and by no means scrupulous house of Lorraine. Not even the prospect of Francis II.'s death arrested the Guises in their work and their hopes; when they saw that he was near his end, they made a proposal to the queen-mother to unite herself completely with them, leave the Prince of Conde to execution, rid herself of the King of Navarre, and become regent of the kingdom during the minority of her son Charles, taking them, the Lorraine princes and their party, for necessary partners in her government. But Catherine de' Medici was more prudent, more judicious, and more egotistical in her ambition than the Guises were in theirs; she was not, as they were, exclusively devoted to the Catholic party; it was power that she wanted, and she sought for it every day amongst the party or the mixtures of parties in a condition to give it her. She considered the Catholic party to be the strongest, and it was hers; but she considered the Protestant party strong enough to be feared, and to give her a certain amount of security and satisfaction: a security necessary, moreover, if peace at home, and not civil war, were to be the habitual and general condition of France. Catherine was, finally, a woman, and very skilful in the strifes of court and of government, whilst, on the field of battle, the victories, though won in her name, would be those of the Guises more than her own. Without openly rejecting the proposals they made to her under their common apprehension of Francis II.'s approaching death, she avoided making any reply. She had, no doubt, already taken her precautions and her measures in advance; her confidante, Jacqueline de Longwy, Duchess of Montpensier and a zealous Protestant, had brought to her rooms at night Antony de Bourbon, King of Navarre, and Catherine had come to an agreement with him about the partition of power between herself and him at the death of the king her son. She had written to the Constable de Montmorency, a rival of the Guises and their foe though a stanch Catholic, to make haste to Orleans, where his presence would be required. As soon as Chancellor de l'Hospital became aware of the proposals which were being made by the Guises to the queen-mother, he flew to her and opposed them with all the energy of his great and politic mind and sterling nature. Was she going to deliver the Prince of Conde to the scaffold, the house of Bourbon to ruin, France to civil war, and the independence of the crown and of that royal authority which she was on the point of wielding herself to the tyrannical domination of her rivals the Lorraine princes and of their party? Catherine listened with great satisfaction to this judicious and honest language. When the crown passed to her son Charles she was free from any serious anxiety as to her own position and her influence in the government. The new king, on announcing to the Parliament the death of his brother, wrote to them that "confiding in the virtues and prudence of the queen-mother, he had begged her to take in hand the administration of the kingdom, with the wise counsel and advice of the King of Navarre and the notables and great personages of the late king's council." A few months afterwards the states-general, assembling first at Orleans and afterwards at Pontoise, ratified this declaration by recognizing the placement of "the young King Charles IX.'s guardianship in the hands of Catherine de' Medici, his mother, together with the principal direction of affairs, but without the title of regent." The King of Navarre was to assist her in the capacity of lieutenant-general of the kingdom. Twenty-five members specially designated were to form the king's privy council. [Histoire des Etats generaux, by M. Picot, t. ii. p. 73.] And in the privacy of her motherly correspondence Catherine wrote to the Queen of Spain, her daughter Elizabeth, wife of Philip II., "Madame, my dear daughter, all I shall tell you is, not to be the least anxious, and to rest assured that I shall spare no pains to so conduct myself that God and everybody may have occasion to be satisfied with me. . . . You have seen the time when I was as happy as you are, not dreaming of ever having any greater trouble than that of not being loved as I should have liked to be by the king your father. God took him from me, and is not content with that; He has taken from me your brother, whom I loved you well know how much, and has left me with three young children, and in a kingdom where all is division, having therein not a single man in whom I can trust, and who has not some particular object of his own."
The queen-mother of France, who wrote to her daughter the Queen of Spain with such firmness of tone and such independence of spirit, was, to use the words of the Venetian ambassador John Michieli, who had lived at her court, "a woman of forty-three, of affable manners, great moderation, superior intelligence, and ability in conducting all sorts of affairs, especially affairs of state. As mother, she has the personal management of the king; she allows no one else to sleep in his room; she is never away from him. As regent and head of the government, she holds everything in her hands, public offices, benefices, graces, and the seal which bears the king's signature, and which is called the cachet (privy-seal or signet). In the council, she allows the others to speak; she replies to any one who needs it; she decides according to the advice of the council, or according to what she may have made up her own mind to. She opens the letters addressed to the king by his ambassadors and by all the ministers. . . . She has great designs, and does not allow them to be easily penetrated. As for her way of living, she is very fond of her ease and pleasure; she observes few rules; she eats and drinks a great deal; she considers that she makes up for it by taking a great deal of exercise a-foot and a-horseback; she goes a-hunting; and last year she always joined the king in his stag-chases, through the woods and thick forests, a dangerous sort of chase for anyone who is not an excellent rider. She has an olive complexion, and is already very fat; accordingly the doctors have not a good opinion of her life. She has a dower of three hundred thousand francs a year, double that of other queens-dowager. She was formerly always in money-difficulties and in debt; now, she not only keeps out of debt, but she spends and gives more liberally than ever." [Relations des Ambassadeurs venztzens, published by A. N. Tommaseo, t. i. pp. 427-429.]
As soon as the reign of Charles IX. and the queen-mother's government were established, notice was sent to the Prince of Conde that he was free. He refused to stir from prison; he would wait, he said, until his accusers were confined there. He was told that it was the king's express order, and was what Francis II. on his death-bed had himself impressed upon the King of Navarre. Conde determined to set out for La Fere, a place belonging to his brother Anthony de Bourbon, and there await fresh orders from the king. In February, 1561, he left La Fare for Fontainebleau. On his road to Paris his friends flocked to him and made him a splendid escort. On approaching the king's palace Conde separated himself from his following, and advanced alone with two of his most faithful friends. All the lords of the court, the Duke of Guise amongst them, went to meet him. On the 15th of March he was admitted to the privy council. Chancellor de l'Hospital, on the prince's own demand, affirmed that no charge had been found against him. The king declared his innocence in a deed signed by all the members of the council. On the 13th of June, in solemn session, the Parliament of Paris, sitting as a court of peers, confirmed this declaration. Notwithstanding the Duke of Guise's co-operation in all these acts, Conde desired something of a more personal kind on his part.
On the 24th of August, at St. Germain, in presence of the king, the queen-mother, the princes, and the court, the Duke of Guise, in reply to a question from the king, protested "that he had not, and would never have desired to, put forward anything against the prince's honor, and that he had been neither the author nor the instigator of his imprisonment." "Sir," said Conde, "I consider wicked and contemptible him or them who caused it." "So I think, sir," answered Guise, "and it does not apply to me at all." Whereupon they embraced, and a report was drawn up of the ceremony, which was called their reconciliation. Just as it was ending, Marshal Francis de Montmorency, eldest son of the constable, and far more inclined than his father was towards the cause of the Reformers, arrived with a numerous troop of friends, whom he had mustered to do honor to Conde. The court was a little excited at this incident. The constable declared that, having the honor to be so closely connected with the princes of Bourbon, his son would have been to blame if he had acted differently. The aged warrior had himself negotiated this reconciliation; and when it was accomplished, and the Duke of Guise had performed his part in it with so much complaisance, the constable considered himself to be quits with his former allies, and free to follow his leaning towards the Catholic party. "The veteran," says the Duke of Autnale, "did not pique himself on being a theologian; but he was sincerely attached to the Catholic faith because it was the old religion and the king's; and he separated himself definitively from those religious and political innovators whom he had at first seemed to countenance, and amongst whom he reckoned his nearest relatives." In vain did his eldest son try to hold him back; a close union was formed between the Constable de Montmorency, the Duke of Guise, and Marshal de Saint-Andre, and it became the Catholic triumvirate against which Catherine de' Medici had at one time to defend herself, and of which she had at another to avail herself in order to carry out the policy of see-saw she had adopted as her chief means of government.
Before we call to mind and estimate as they deserve the actions of that government, we must give a correct idea of the moral condition of the people governed, of their unbridled passions, and of the share of responsibility reverting to them in the crimes and shocking errors of that period. It is a mistake and an injustice, only too common, to lay all the burden of such facts, and the odium justly due to them, upon the great actors almost exclusively whose name has remained attached to them in history; the people themselves have very often been the prime movers in them; they have very often preceded and urged on their masters in the black deeds which have sullied their history; and on the masses as well as on the leaders ought the just sentence of posterity to fall. The moment we speak of the St. Bartholomew, it seems as if Charles IX., Catherine de' Medici, and the Guises issued from their grave to receive that sentence; and God forbid that we should wish to deliver them from it; but it hits the nameless populace of their day as well as themselves, and the hands of the people, far more than the will of kings, began the tale of massacres for religion's sake. This is no vague and general assertion; and, to show it, we shall only have to enumerate, with their dates, the principal facts of which history has preserved the memory, whilst stigmatizing them, with good reason, as massacres or murders. The greater number, as was to be expected, are deeds done by Catholics, for they were by far the more numerous and more frequently victorious; but Protestants also have sometimes deserved a place in this tragic category, and when we meet with them, we will assuredly not blot them out.
We confine the enumeration to the reign of Charles IX., and in it we place only such massacres and murders as were not the results of any legal proceeding. We say nothing of judicial sentences and executions, however outrageous and iniquitous they may have been.
The first fact which presents itself is a singular one. Admiral de Coligny's eldest brother, Odet de Chatillon, was a Catholic, Bishop of Beauvais, and a cardinal; in 1550, he had gone to Rome and had co-operated in the election of Pope Julius III.; in 1554, he had published some Constitutions synodales (synodal regulations), to remedy certain abuses which had crept into his diocese, and, in 1561, he proposed to make in the celebration of the Lord's Supper some modifications which smacked, it is said, of the innovations of Geneva. The populace of Beauvais were so enraged at this that they rose up against him, massacred a schoolmaster whom he tried to protect, and would have massacred the bishop himself if troops sent from Paris had not come to his assistance.
In the same year, 1561, the Protestants had a custom of meeting at Paris, for their religious exercises, in a house called the Patriarch's house, very near the church of St. Medard. On the 27th of December, whilst the Reformed minister was preaching, the Catholics had all the bells of St. Medard rung in full peal. The minister sent two of his congregation to beg the incumbent to have the bell-ringing stopped for a short time. The mob threw themselves upon the two messengers: one was killed, and the other, after making a stout defence, returned badly wounded to the Patriarch's house, and fell dead at the preacher's feet. The provost of tradesmen was for having the bells stopped; the riot became violent; the house of the Reformers was stormed; and the provost's archers had great difficulty in putting a stop to the fight. More than a hundred persons, it is said, were killed or wounded.
In 1562, in the month of February, whilst the Guises were travelling in Germany, with the object of concluding, in the interests of policy, alliances with some German Lutheran princes, disturbances broke out at Cahors, Amiens, Sens, and Tours, between the Protestants and the Catholics. Which of the two began them? It would be difficult to determine. The passions that lead to insult, attack, defence, and vengeance were mutually felt and equally violent on both sides. Montluc was sent to Guienne by the queen-mother to restore order there; but nearly everywhere he laid the blame on the Protestants. His Memoires prove that he harried them without any form of justice. "At Sauveterre," says he, "I caught five or six, all of whom I had hanged without expense of paper or ink, and without giving them a hearing, for those gentry are regular Chrysostoms (parlent d'or)." "I was informed that at Gironde there were sixty or eighty Huguenots belonging to them of La Reole, who had retreated thither; the which were all taken, and I had them hanged to the pillars of the market-place without further ceremony. One hanged has more effect than a hundred slain." When Montluc took Monsegur, "the massacre lasted for ten hours or more," says he, "because search was made for them in the houses; the dead were counted and found to be more than seven hundred." [Memoires de Montluc, t. ii. pp. 442, 443-447.]
Almost at the very time at which Montluc, who had been sent to Guienne to restore order there between the Catholics and the Protestants, was treating the latter with this shocking severity, an incident, more serious because of the rank of the persons concerned, took place at Vassy, a small town in Champagne, near which the Duke of Guise passed on returning from Germany. Hearing, as he went, the sound of bells, he asked what it meant. "It is the church of the Huguenots of Vassy," was the answer. "Are there many of them?" asked the duke. He was told that there were, and that they were increasing more and more. "Then," says the chronicler, "he began to mutter and to put himself in a white heat, gnawing his beard, as he was wont to do when he was enraged or had a mind to take vengeance." Did he turn aside out of his way with his following, to pass right through Vassy, or did he confine himself to sending some of his people to bring him an account of what was happening there? When a fact which was at the outset insignificant has become a great event, it is hardly possible to arrive at any certain knowledge of the truth as to the small details of its origin. Whatever may have been the case in the first instance, a quarrel, and, before long, a struggle, began between the preacher's congregation and the prince's following. Being informed of the matter whilst he was at table, the Duke of Guise rose up, went to the spot, found the combatants very warmly at work, and himself received several blows from stones; and, when the fight was put a stop to, forty-nine persons had been killed in it, nearly all on the Protestant side; more than two hundred others, it is said, came out of it severely wounded; and, whether victors or vanquished, all were equally irritated. The Protestants complained vehemently; and Conde offered, in their name, fifty thousand men to resent this attack, but his brother, the King of Navarre, on the contrary, received with a very bad grace the pleading of Theodore de Beze. "It is true that the church of God should endure blows and not inflict them," said De Beze, "but remember, I pray you, that it is an anvil which has used up a great many hammers."
The massacre of Vassy, the name which has remained affixed to it in history, rapidly became contagious. From 1562 to 1572, in Languedoc, in Provence, in Dauphiny, in Poitou, in Orleanness, in Normandy even and in Picardy, at Toulouse, at Gaillac, at Frejus, at Troyes, at Sens, at Orleans, at Amiens, at Rouen, and in many other towns, spontaneous and disorderly outbreaks between religiously opposed portions of the populace took place suddenly, were repeated, and spread, sometimes with the connivance of the local authorities, judicial or administrative, but more often through the mere brutal explosion of the people's passions. It is distasteful to us to drag numerous examples from oblivion; but we will cite just two, faithful representations of those sad incidents, and attested by authentic documents. The little town of Gaillac was almost entirely Catholic; the Protestants, less numerous, had met the day after Pentecost, May 18, 1562, to celebrate the Lord's Supper. "The inhabitants in the quarter of the Chateau de l'Orme, who are all artisans or vine-dressers," says the chronicler, "rush to arms, hurry along with them all the Catholics of the town, invest the place of assembly, and take prisoners all who were present. After this capture, they separate: some remain in the meeting-house, on guard over the prisoners; the rest go into dwellings to work their will upon those of the religion who had remained there. Then they take the prisoners, to the number of sixty or eighty, into a gallery of the Abbey of St. Michael, situated on a steep rock, at the base of which flows the River Tarn; and there, a field laborer, named Cabral, having donned the robe and cape of the judge's deputy, whom he had slain with his own hand, pronounces judgment, and sentences all the prisoners to be thrown from the gallery into the river, telling them to go and eat fish, as they had not chosen to fast during Lent; which was done forthwith. Divers boatmen who were on the river despatched with their oars those who tried to save themselves by swimming." [Histoire generale du Languedoc, liv. xxxviii. f. v., p. 227.] At Troyes, in Champagne, "during the early part of August, 1572, the majority of the Protestants of the town, who were returning from Esleau-Mont, where they had a meeting-house and a pastor under authorization from the king, were assailed in the neighborhood of Croncels by the excited populace. A certain number of individuals, accompanying a mother carrying a child which had just received baptism, were pursued with showers of stones; several were wounded, and the child was killed in its mother's arms." This affair did not give rise to any prosecution. "It is no use to think about it any longer," said the delegate of the bailiff and of the mayor of Troyes, in a letter from Paris on the 27th of August. The St. Bartholomew had just taken place on the 24th of August. [Histoire de la Ville de Troyes, by H. Boutiot, t. iii. p. 25.]
Where they happened to be the stronger, and where they had either vengeance to satisfy or measures of security to take, the Protestants were not more patient or more humane than the Catholics. At Nimes, in 1567, they projected and carried out, in the town and the neighboring country, a massacre in which a hundred and ninety-two Catholics perished; and several churches and religious houses were damaged or completely destroyed. This massacre, perpetrated on St. Michael's day, was called the Michaelade. The barbarities committed against the Catholics in Dauphiny and in Provence by Francis de Beaumont, Baron of Adrets, have remained as historical as the massacre of Vassy, and he justified them on the same grounds as Montluc had given for his in Guienne. "Nobody commits cruelty in repaying it," said he; "the first are called cruelties, the second justice. The only way to stop the enemy's barbarities is to meet them with retaliation." Though experience ought to have shown them their mistake, both Adrets and Montluc persisted in it. A case, however, is mentioned in which Adrets was constrained to be merciful. After the capture of Montbrison, he had sentenced all the prisoners to throw themselves down, with their hands tied behind them, from the top of the citadel; one of them made two attempts, and thought better of it; "Come, twice is enough to take your soundings," shouted the baron, who was looking on. "I'll give you four times to do it in," rejoined the soldier. And this good saying saved his life.
The weak and undecided government of Catherine de' Medici tried several times, but in vain, to prevent or repress these savage explosions of passion and strife amongst the people; the sterling moderation of Chancellor de l'Hospital was scarcely more successful than the hypocritical and double-faced attentions paid by Catherine de' Medici to both the Catholic and the Protestant leaders; the great maladies and the great errors of nations require remedies more heroic than the adroitness of a woman, the wisdom of a functionary, or the hopes of a philosopher. It was formal and open civil war between the two communions and the two parties that, with honest and patriotic desire, L'Hospital and even Catherine were anxious to avoid. From 1561 to 1572 there were in France eighteen or twenty massacres of Protestants, four or five of Catholics, and thirty or forty single murders sufficiently important to have been kept in remembrance by history; and during that space of time formal civil war, religious and partisan, broke out, stopped and recommenced in four campaigns, signalized, each of them, by great battles, and four times terminated by impotent or deceptive treaties of peace which, on the 24th of August, 1572, ended, for their sole result, in the greatest massacre of French history, the St. Bartholomew.
The first religious war, under Charles IX., appeared on the point of breaking out in April, 1561, some days after that the Duke of Guise, returning from the massacre of Vassy, had entered Paris, on the 16th of March, in triumph. The queen-mother, in dismay, carried off the king to Melun at first, and then to Fontainebleau, whilst the Prince of Conde, having retired to Meaux, summoned to his side his relatives, his friends, and all the leaders of the Reformers, and wrote to Coligny, "that Caesar had not only crossed the Rubicon, but was already at Rome, and that his banners were beginning to wave all over the neighboring country." For some days Catherine and L'Hospital tried to remain out of Paris with the young king, whom Guise, the Constable de Montmorency, and the King of Navarre, the former being members and the latter an ally of the triumvirate, went to demand back from them. They were obliged to submit to the pressure brought to bear upon them. The constable was the first to enter Paris, and went, on the 2d of April, and burned down the two places of worship which, by virtue of the decree of January 17, 1561, had been granted to the Protestants. Next day the King of Navarre and the Duke of Guise, in their turn, entered the city in company with Charles IX. and Catherine. A council was assembled at the Louvre to deliberate as to the declaration of war, which was deferred. Whilst the king was on his way back to Paris, Conde hurried off to take up his quarters at Orleans, whither Coligny went promptly to join him. They signed, with the gentlemen who came to them from all parts, a compact of association "for the honor of God, for the liberty of the king, his brothers and the queen-mother, and for the maintenance of decrees;" and Conde, in writing to the Protestant princes of Germany to explain to them his conduct, took the title of protector of the house and crown of France. Negotiations still went on for nearly three months. The chiefs of the two parties attempted to offer one another generous and pacific solutions; they even had two interviews; but Catherine was induced by the Catholic triumvirate to expressly declare that she could not allow in France more than one single form of worship. Conde and his friends said that they could not lay down their arms until the triumvirate was overthrown, and the execution of decrees granting them liberty of worship, in certain places and to a certain extent, had been secured to them. Neither party liked to acknowledge itself beaten in this way without having struck a blow. And in the early part of July, 1562, the first religious war began.
We do not intend to dwell upon any but its leading facts, facts which at the moment when they were accomplished might have been regarded as decisive in respect of the future. In this campaign there were two; the battle of Dreux, on the 19th of December, 1562; and the murder of the Duke of Guise by Poltrot, on the 18th of February, 1563.
The two armies met in the plain of Dreux with pretty nearly equal forces, the royal army being superior in artillery and the Protestant in cavalry. When they had arrived in front of one another, the triumvirs sent to ask the queen-mother's authority to give battle. "I am astounded," said Catherine to her favorite adviser, Michael de Castelnau, "that the constable, the Duke of Guise, and Saint-Andre, being good, prudent, and experienced captains, should send to ask counsel of a woman and a child, both full of sorrow at seeing things in such extremity as to be reduced to the risk of a battle between fellow-countrymen." "Hereupon," says Castelnau, "in came the king's nurse, who was a Huguenot, and the queen, at the same time that she took me to see the king, who was still in bed, said to me with great agitation and jeeringly, 'We had better ask the king's nurse whether to give battle or not; what think you?' Then the nurse, as she followed the queen into the king's chamber according to her custom, said several times that, as the Huguenots would not listen to reason, she would say, 'Give battle.' Whereupon there was, at the privy council, much discourse about the good and the evil that might result therefrom; but the resolution arrived at was, that they who had arms in their hands ought not to ask advice or orders from the court; and I was despatched on the spot to tell them from the king and the queen, that, as good and prudent captains, they were to do what they considered most proper." Next day, at ten in the morning, the armies met. "Then every one," says La Noue, one of the bravest amongst the Reformers' leaders, "steadied himself, reflecting that the men he saw coming towards him were not Spaniards, or English, or Italians, but Frenchmen, that is, the bravest of the brave, amongst whom there were some who were his own comrades, relatives, and friends, and that within an hour they would have to be killing one another, which created some sort of horror of the fact, without, however, diminution of courage. . . . One thing worthy of being noted," continues La Noue, "is the long duration of the fight, it being generally seen in battles that all is lost or won within a single hour, whereas this began about one P. M., and there was no issue until after five. Of a surety, there was marvellous animosity on both sides, whereof sufficient testimony is to be found in the number of dead, which exceeded seven thousand, as many persons say; the majority whereof were killed in the fight rather than the pursuit. . . . Another incident was the capture of the two chiefs of the armies, a thing which rarely happens, because generally they do not fight until the last moment and in extremity; and often a battle is as good as won before they come to this point. But in this case they did not put it off so long, for, at the very first, each was minded to set his men an example of not sparing themselves. The Constable de Montmorency was the first taken, and seriously wounded, having always received wounds in seven battles at which he was present, which shows the boldness that was in him. The Prince of Conde was taken at the end, also wounded. As both of them had good seconds, it made them the less fearful of danger to their own persons, for the constable had M. de Guise, and the Prince of Conde Admiral de Coligny, who showed equally well to the front in the melley. . . . Finally I wish to bring forward another matter, which will be supernumerary because it happened after the battle; and that is, the courteous and honorable behavior of the Duke of Guise victorious towards the Prince of Conde a prisoner; which most men, on one side as well as on the other, did not at all think he would have been disposed to exhibit, for it is well known how hateful, in civil wars, are the chiefs of parties, and what imputations are made upon them. Nevertheless here quite the contrary happened: for, when the prince was brought before the duke, the latter spoke to him respectfully and with great gentleness of language, wherein he could not pretend that there was any desire to pique him or blame him. And whilst the prince staid in the camp, the duke often dined with him. And forasmuch as on this day of the battle there were but few beds arrived, for the baggage had been half-plundered and dispersed, the Duke of Guise offered his own bed to the Prince of Conde, which the prince would accept in respect of the half only. And so these two great princes, who were like mortal foes, found themselves in one bed, one triumphant and the other captive, taking their repast together." [Memoires de Francois de La Noue, in the Petitot collection; 1st series, t. xxxiv. pp. 172-178.]
The results of the battle of Dreux were serious, and still more serious from the fate of the chiefs than from the number of the dead. The commanders of the two armies, the Constable de Montmorency, and the Prince of Conde, were wounded and prisoners. One of the triumvirs, Marshal de Saint-Andre, had been killed in action. The Catholics' wavering ally, Anthony de Bourbon, King of Navarre, had died before the battle of a wound which he had received at the siege of Rouen; and on his death-bed had resumed his Protestant bearing, saying that, if God granted him grace to get well, he would have nothing but the gospel preached throughout the realm. The two staffs (etats-majors), as we should now say, were disorganized: in one, the Duke of Guise alone remained unhurt and at liberty; in the other, Coligny, in Conde's absence, was elected general-in-chief of the Protestants. At Paris, for a while, it was believed that the battle was lost. "If it had been," says Montluc, "I think that it was all over with France, for the state would have changed, and so would the religion; a young king can be made to do as you please;" Catherine de' Medici showed a facile resignation to such a change. "Very well," she had said, "then we will pray to God in French." When the victory became known there was general enthusiasm for the Duke. of Guise; but he took only a very modest advantage of it, being more anxious to have his comrades' merits appreciated than his own. At Blois, as he handed the queen-mother her table-napkin at dinner-time, he asked her if he might have an audience of her after the repast. "Jesu! my dear cousin," said Catherine, "whatever are you saying?" "I say it, madame, because I would fain show you in the presence of everybody what I have done, since my departure from Paris, with your army which you gave in charge to me together with the constable, and also present to you all the good captains and servants of the king and of yourself who have served you faithfully, as well your own subjects as also foreigners, and horsemen and foot;" whereupon he discoursed about the battle of Dreux, "and painted it so well and so to the life," says Brantome, "that you would have said that they were still about it, whereat the queen felt very great pleasure. . . . Every one listened very attentively, without the least noise in the world; and he spoke so well that there was none who was not charmed, for the prince was the best of speakers and eloquent, not with a forced and overladen eloquence, but simple and soldierly, with a grace of his own to match; so much so that the queen-mother said that she had never seen him in such good form." [Brantome, Tries des Brands Capitaines, t. ii. pp. 247-250.] The good form, however, was not enough to prevent the ill-humor and jealousy felt by the queen-mother and her youthful son the king at such a great success which made Guise so great a personage. After the victory of Dreux he had written to the king to express his wish to see conferred upon a candidate of his own choosing the marshal's baton left vacant by the death of Saint-Andre. "See now," said Charles IX. to his mother and some persons who were by, "if the Duke of Guise does not act the king well; you would really say that the army was his, and that victory came from his hand, making no mention of God, who, by His great goodness, hath given it us. He thrusts the bargain into my fist (dictates to me). Yet must I give him a civil answer to satisfy him; for I do not want to make trouble in my kingdom, and irritate a captain to whom my late father and I have given so much credit and authority." The king almost apologized for having already disposed of the baton in favor of the Marquis de Vieilleville, and he sent the Duke of Guise the collar of the order for two of his minions, and at the same time the commission of lieutenant-general of the kingdom and commander-in-chief of the army for himself. Guise thanked him, pretending to be satisfied: the king smiled as he read his letter; and "Non ti fidar, e non sarai gabbato" (Don't trust, and you'll not be duped), he said in the words of the Italian proverb.
He had not to disquiet himself for long about this rival. On the 18th of February, 1563, the Duke of Guise was vigorously pushing forward the siege of Orleans, the stronghold of the Protestants, stoutly defended by Coligny. He was apprised that his wife, the Duchess Anne d'Este, had just arrived at a castle near the camp with the intention of using her influence over her husband in order to spare Orleans from the terrible consequences of being taken by assault. He mounted his horse to go and join her, and he was chatting to his aide-de-camp Rostaing about the means of bringing about a pacification, when, on arriving at a cross-road where several ways met, he felt himself struck in the right shoulder, almost under the arm, by a pistol-shot fired from behind a hedge at a distance of six or seven paces. A white plume upon his head had made him conspicuous, and as, for so short a ride, he had left off his cuirass, three balls had passed through him from side to side. "That shot has been in keeping for me a long while," said he: "I deserve it for not having taken precautions." He fell upon his horse's neck, as he vainly tried to draw his sword from the scabbard; his arm refused its office.
When he had been removed to the castle, where the duchess, in tears, received him, "I am vexed at it," said he, "for the honor of France;" and to his son Henry, Prince of Joinville, a boy of thirteen, he added, kissing him, "God grant you grace, my son, to become a good man." He languished for six days, amidst useless attentions paid him by his surgeons, giving Catherine de' Medici, who came daily to see him, the most pacific counsels, and taking of the duchess his wife the most tender farewells mingled with the most straightforward and honest avowals. "I do not mean to deny," he said to her, "that the counsels and frailties of youth have led me sometimes into something at which you had a right to be offended; I pray you to be pleased to excuse me and forgive me." His brother, the Cardinal de Guise, Bishop of Metz, which the duke had so gloriously defended against Charles V., warned him that it was time to prepare himself for death by receiving the sacraments of the church. "Ah! my dear brother," said the duke to him, "I have loved you greatly in times past, but I love you now still more than ever, for you are doing me a truly brotherly turn." On the 24th of February they still offered him aliment to sustain his rapidly increasing weakness but "Away, away," said he; "I have taken the manna from heaven, whereby I feel myself so comforted that it seems to me as if I were already in paradise. This body has no further need of nourishment;" and so he expired on the 24th of February, 1563, an object, at his death, of the most profound regret amongst his army and his party, as well as his family, after having been during his life the object of their lively admiration. "I do not forget," says his contemporary Stephen Pasquier in reference to him, "that it was no small luck for him to die at this period, when he was beyond reach of the breeze, and when shifting Fortune had not yet played him any of those turns whereby she is so cunning in lowering the horn of the bravest."
It is a duty to faithfully depict this pious and guileless death of a great man, at the close of a vigorous and a glorious life, made up of good and evil, without the evil's having choked the good. This powerful and consolatory intermixture of qualities is the characteristic of the eminent men of the sixteenth century, Catholics or Protestants, soldiers or civilians; and it is a spectacle wholesome to be offered in times when doubt and moral enfeeblement are the common malady even of sound minds and of honest men.
The murderer of Duke Francis of Guise was a petty nobleman of Angoumois, John Poltrot, Lord of Mere, a fiery Catholic in his youth, who afterwards became an equally fiery Protestant, and was engaged with his relative La Renaudie in the conspiracy against the Guises. He had been employed constantly from that time, as a spy it is said, by the chiefs of the Reformers—a vocation for which, it would seem, he was but little adapted, for the indiscretion of his language must have continually revealed his true sentiments. When he heard, in 1562, of the death of Anthony de Bourbon, King of Navarre, "That," said he, "is not what will put an end to the war; what is wanted is the dog with the big collar." "Whom do you mean?" asked somebody. "The great Guisard; and here's the arm that will do the trick." "He used to show," says D'Aubigne, "bullets cast to slay the Guisard, and thereby rendered himself ridiculous." After the battle of Dreux he was bearer of a message from the Lord of Soubise to Admiral de Coligny, to whom he gave an account of the situation of the Reformers in Dauphiny and in Lyonness. His report no doubt interested the admiral, who gave him twenty crowns to go and play spy in the camp of the Duke of Guise, and, some days later, a hundred crowns to buy a horse. It was thus that Poltrot was put in a position to execute the design he had been so fond of proclaiming before he had any communication with Coligny. As soon as, on the 18th of February, 1563, in the outskirts of Orleans, he had, to use his own expression, done his trick, he fled full gallop, so as not to bear the responsibility of it; but, whether it were that he was troubled in his mind, or that he was ill acquainted with the region, he wandered round and round the place where he had shot the Duke of Guise, and was arrested on the 20th of February by men sent in search of him. Being forthwith brought before the privy council, in the presence of the queen-mother, and put to the torture, he said that Admiral de Coligny, Theodore de Beze, La Rochefoucauld, Soubise, and other Huguenot chiefs had incited him to murder the Duke of Guise, persecutor of the faithful, "as a meritorious deed in the eyes of God and men." Coligny repudiated this allegation point blank. Shrinking from the very appearance of hypocrisy, he abstained from any regret at the death of the Duke of Guise. "The greatest blessing," said he, "which could come to this realm and to the church of God, especially to myself and all my house;" and he referred to conversations he had held with the Cardinal of Lorraine and the Duchess of Guise, and to a notice which he had sent, a few days previously, to the Duke of Guise himself, "to take care, for there was somebody under a bond to kill him." Lastly, he demanded that, to set in a clear light "his integrity, innocence, and good repute," Poltrot should be kept, until peace was made, in strict confinement, so that the admiral himself and the murderer might be confronted. It was not thought to be obligatory or possible to comply with this desire; amongst the public there was a passionate outcry for prompt chastisement. Poltrot, removed to Paris, put to the torture and questioned by the commissioners of Parliament, at one time confirmed and at another disavowed his original assertions. Coligny, he said, had not suggested the project to him, but had cognizance of it, and had not attempted to deter him. The decree sentenced Poltrot to the punishment of regicides. He underwent it on the 18th of March, 1563, in the Place de Greve, preserving to the very end that fierce energy of hatred and vengeance which had prompted his deed. He was heard saying to himself in the midst of his torments, and as if to comfort himself, "For all that, he is dead and gone,—the persecutor of the faithful,—and he will not come back again." The angry populace insulted him with yells; Poltrot added, "If the persecution does not cease, vengeance will fall upon this city, and the avengers are already at hand."
Catherine de' Medici, well pleased, perhaps, that there was now a question personally embarrassing for the admiral and as yet in abeyance, had her mind entirely occupied apparently with the additional weakness and difficulty resulting to the position of the crown and the Catholic party from the death of the Duke of Guise; she considered peace necessary; and, for reasons of a different nature, Chancellor de l'Hospital was of the same opinion: he drew attention to "scruples of conscience, the perils of foreign influence, and the impossibility of curing by an application of brute force a malady concealed in the very bowels and brains of the people." Negotiations were entered into with the two captive generals, the Prince of Conde and the Constable de Montmorency; they assented to that policy; and, on the 19th of March, peace was concluded at Amboise in the form of an edict which granted to the Protestants the concessions recognized as indispensable by the crown itself, and regulated the relations of the two creeds, pending "the remedy of time, the decisions of a holy council, and the king's majority." Liberty of conscience and the practice of the religion "called Reformed" were recognized "for all barons and lords high-justiciary, in their houses, with their families and dependants; for nobles having fiefs without vassals and living on the king's lands, but for them and their families personally." The burgesses were treated less favorably; the Reformed worship was maintained in the towns in which it had been practised up to the 7th of March in the current year; but, beyond that and noblemen's mansions, this worship might not be celebrated save in the faubourgs of one single town in every bailiwick or seneschalty. Paris and its district were to remain exempt from any exercise of the said "Reformed religion."
During the negotiations and as to the very basis of the edict of March 19, 1563, the Protestants were greatly divided; the soldiers and the politicians, with Conde at their head, desired peace, and thought that the concessions made by the Catholics ought to be accepted. The majority of the Reformed pastors and theologians cried out against the insufficiency of the concessions, and were astonished that there should be so much hurry to make peace when the Catholics had just lost their most formidable captain. Coligny, moderate in his principles, but always faithful to his church when she made her voice heard, showed dissatisfaction at the selfishness of the nobles. "To confine the religion to one town in every bailiwick," he said, "is to ruin more churches by a stroke of the pen than our enemies could have pulled down in ten years; the nobles ought to have recollected that example had been set by the towns to them, and by the poor to the rich." Calvin, in his correspondence with the Reformed churches of France, severely handled Conde on this occasion. At the moment when peace was made, the pacific were in the right; the death of the Duke of Guise had not prevented the battle of Dreux from being a defeat for the Reformers; and, when war had to be supported for long, it was especially the provincial nobles and the people on their estates who bore the burden of it. But when the edict of Amboise had put an end to the first religious war, when the question was no longer as to who won or lost battles, but whether the conditions of that peace to which the Catholics had sworn were loyally observed, and whether their concessions were effective in insuring the modest amount of liberty and security promised to the Protestants, the question changed front, and it was not long before facts put the malcontents in the right. Between 1563 and 1567 murders of distinguished Protestants increased strangely, and excited amongst their families anxiety accompanied by a thirst for vengeance. The Guises and their party, on their side, persisted in their outcries for proceedings against the instigators, known or presumed, of the murder of Duke Francis. It was plainly against Admiral de Coligny that these cries were directed; and he met them by a second declaration, very frank as a denial of the deed which it was intended to impute to him, but more hostile than ever to the Guises and their party. "The late duke," said he, "was of the whole army the man I had most looked out for on the day of the last battle; if I could have brought a gun to bear upon him to kill him, I would have done it; I would have ordered ten thousand arquebusiers, had so many been under my command, to single him out amongst all the others, whether in the field, or from over a wall, or from behind a hedge. In short, I would not have spared any of the means permitted by the laws of war in time of hostility to get rid of so great an enemy as he was for me and for so many other good subjects of the king."
After three years of such deadly animosity between the two parties and the two houses, the king and the queen-mother could find no other way of stopping an explosion than to call the matter on before the privy council, and cause to be there drawn up, on the 29th of January, 1566, a solemn decree, "declaring the admiral's innocence on his own affirmation, given in the presence of the king and the council as before God himself, that he had not had anything to do with or approved of the said homicide. Silence for all time to come was consequently imposed upon the attorney-general and everybody else; inhibition and prohibition were issued against the continuance of any investigation or prosecution. The king took the parties under his safeguard, and enjoined upon them that they should live amicably in obedience to him." By virtue of this injunction, the Guises, the Colignies, and the Montmorencies ended by embracing, the first-named accommodating themselves with a pretty good grace to this demonstration: "but God knows what embraces!" [Words used in La Harenga, a satire of the day in burlesque verse upon the Cardinal of Lorraine.] Six years later the St. Bartholomew brought the true sentiments out into broad daylight.
At the same time that the war was proceeding amongst the provinces with this passionate doggedness, royal decrees were alternately confirming and suppressing or weakening the securities for liberty and safety which the decree of Amboise, on the 19th of March, 1563, had given to the Protestants by way of re-establishing peace. It was a series of contradictory measures which were sufficient to show the party-strife still raging in the heart of the government. On the 14th of June, 1563, Protestants were forbidden to work, with shops open, on the days of Catholic festivals. On the 14th of December, 1563, it was proclaimed that Protestants might not gather alms for the poor of their religion, unless in places where that religion was practised, and nowhere else. On the 24th of June, 1564, a proclamation from the king interdicted the exercise of the Reformed religion within the precincts of any royal residence. On the 4th of August, 1564, the Reformed churches were forbidden to hold synods and make collections of money, and their ministers to quit their places of residence and to open schools. On the 12th of November, 1567, a king's ordinance interdicted the conferring of judiciary offices on non-Catholics. In vain did Conde and Coligny cry out loudly against these violations of the peace of Amboise; in vain, on the 16th of August, 1563, at the moment of proclaiming the king's majority, was an edict issued giving full and entire confirmation to the edict of the 19th of March preceding, with the addition of prescriptions favorable to the royal authority, as well as, at the same time, to the maintenance of the public peace; scarcely any portion of these prescriptions was observed; the credit of Chancellor de l'Hospital was clearly very much on the decline; and, whilst the legal government was thus falling to pieces or languishing away, Gaspard de Tavannes, a proved soldier and royalist, who, however, was not yet marshal of France, was beginning to organize, under the name of Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit, a secret society intended to renew the civil war "if it happened that occasion should offer for repressing and chastising them of the religion called Reformed." It was the League in its cradle. At the same time, the king had orders given for a speedy levy of six thousand Swiss, and an army-corps was being formed on the frontiers of Champagne. The queen-mother neglected no pains, no caresses, to hide from Conde the true moving cause at the bottom of all these measures; and as "he was," says the historian Davila, "by nature very ready to receive all sorts of impressions," he easily suffered himself to be lulled to sleep. One day, however, in June, 1567, he thought it about time to claim the fulfilment of a promise that had been made him at the time of the peace of Amboise of a post which would give him the rank and authority of lieutenant-general of the kingdom, as his late brother, the King of Navarre, had been; and he asked for the sword of constable which Montmorency, in consequence of his great age, seemed disposed to resign to the king. Catherine avoided giving any answer; but her favorite son, Henry, Duke of Anjou, who was as yet only sixteen, repudiated this idea with so much haughtiness that Conde felt called upon to ask some explanations; there was no longer any question of war with Spain or of an army to be got together. "What, pray, will you do," he asked, "with the Swiss you are raising?" The answer was, "We shall find good employment for them."
It is the failing of a hypocritical and lying policy, however able, that, if it do not succeed promptly, a moment arrives when it becomes transparent and lets in daylight. Even Conde could not delude himself any longer; the preparations were for war against the Reformers. He quitted the court to take his stand again with his own party. Coligny, D'Andelot, La Rochefoucauld, La Noue, and all the accredited leaders amongst the Protestants, whom his behavior, too full of confidence or of complaisance towards the court, had shocked or disquieted, went and joined him. In September, 1567, the second religious war broke out.
It was short, and not decisive for either party. At the outset of the campaign, success was with the Protestants; forty towns, Orleans, Montereau, Lagny, Montauban, Castres, Montpellier, Uzes, &c., opened their gates to them or fell into their hands.
They were within an ace of surprising the king at Monceaux, and he never forgot, says Montluc, that "the Protestants had made him do the stretch from Meaux to Paris at something more than a walk." It was around Paris that Conde concentrated all the efforts of the campaign. He had posted himself at St. Denis with a small army of four thousand foot and two thousand horse. The Constable de Montmorency commanded the royal army, having a strength of sixteen thousand foot and three thousand horse. Attempts were made to open negotiations; but the constable broke them off brusquely, roaring out that the king would never tolerate two religions. On the 10th of November, 1567, the battle began at St. Denis, and was fought with alternations of partial success and reverse, which spread joy and sadness through the two hosts in turn; but in resisting a charge of cavalry, led to victory by Conde, the constable fell with and under his horse; a Scot called out to him to surrender; for sole response, the aged warrior, "abandoned by his men, but not by his manhood," says D'Aubigne, smashed the Scot's jaw with the pommel of his broken sword; and at the same moment he fell mortally wounded by a shot through the body. His death left the victory uncertain and the royal army disorganized. The campaign lasted still four months, thanks to the energetic perseverance of Coligny and the inexhaustible spirits of Conde, both of whom excelled in the art of keeping up the courage of their men. "Where are you taking us now?" asked an ill-tempered officer one day. "To meet our German allies," said Conde. "And suppose we don't find them?" "Then we will breathe on our fingers, for it is mighty cold." They did at last, at Pont-a-Mousson, meet the German re-enforcements, which were being brought up by Prince John Casimir, son of the elector-palatine, and which made Conde's army strong enough for him to continue the war in earnest. But these new comers declared that they would not march any farther unless they were paid the hundred thousand crowns due to them. Conde had but two thousand. "Thereupon," says La Noue, "was there nothing for it but to make a virtue of necessity; and he as well as the admiral employed all their art, influence, and eloquence to persuade every man to divest himself of such means as he possessed for to furnish this contribution, which was so necessary. They themselves were the first to set an example, giving up their own silver plate. . . . Half from love and half from fear, this liberality was so general, that, down to the very soldiers' varlets, every one gave; so that at last it was considered a disgrace to have contributed little. When the whole was collected, it was found to amount, in what was coined as well as in plate and gold chains, to more than eighty thousand livres, which came in so timely, that without it there would have been a difficulty in satisfying the reiters. . . . Was it not a thing worthy of astonishment to see an army, itself unpaid, despoiling itself of the little means it had of relieving its own necessities and sparing that little for the accommodation of others, who, peradventure, scarcely gave them a thankee for it?" [Memoires de La Noue, in the Petitot collection, 1st Series, t. xxxiv. p. 207.]
So much generosity and devotion, amongst the humblest as well as the most exalted ranks of the army, deserved not to be useless: but it turned out quite differently. Conde and Coligny led back to Paris their new army, which, it is said, was from eighteen to twenty thousand strong, and seemed to be in a condition either to take Paris itself, or to force the royal army to enter the field and accept a decisive battle. To bring that about, Conde thought the best thing was to besiege Chartres, "the key to the granary of Paris," as it was called, and "a big thorn," according to La Noue, "to run into the foot of the Parisians." But Catherine de' Medici had quietly entered once more into negotiations with some of the Protestant chiefs, even with Conde himself. Charles IX. published an edict in which he distinguished between heretics and rebels, and assured of his protection all Huguenots who should lay down arms. Chartres seemed to be on the point of capitulating, when news came that peace had just been signed at Longjumeau, on the 23d of March. The king put again in force the edict of Amboise of 1563, suppressing all the restrictions which had been tacked on to it successively. The Prince of Conde and his adherents were reinstated in all their possessions, offices, and honors; and Conde was "held and reputed good relative, faithful subject, and servant of the king." The Reformers had to disband, restore the new places they had occupied, and send away their German allies, to whom the king undertook to advance the hundred thousand gold crowns which were due to them. He further promised, by a secret article, that he too would at a later date dismiss his foreign troops and a portion of the French.
This news caused very various impressions amongst the Protestant camp and people. The majority of the men of family engaged in the war, who most frequently had to bear the expense of it, desired peace. The personal advantages accruing to Conde himself—made it very acceptable to him. But the ardent Reformers, with Coligny at their head, complained bitterly of others being lured away by fine words and exceptional favors, and not prosecuting the war when, to maintain it, there was so good an army and the chances were so favorable. A serious dispute took place between the pacific negotiators and the malcontents. Chancellor de l'Hospital wrote, in favor of peace, a discourse on the pacific settlement of the troubles of the year 1567, containing the necessary causes and reasons of the treaty, together with the means of reconciling the two parties to one another, and keeping them in perpetual concord; composed by a high personage, true subject, and faithful servant of the French crown. But, if the chancellor's reasons were sound, the hopes he hung upon them were extravagant; the parties were at that pitch of passion at which reasoning is in vain against impressions, and promises are powerless against suspicions. Concluded "through the vehemence of the desire to get home again," as La Noue says, the peace of Longjumeau was none the less known as the little peace, the patched-up peace, the lame and rickety peace; and neither they who wished for it nor they who spurned it prophesied its long continuance.
Scarcely six months having elapsed, in August, 1568, the third religious war broke out. The written guarantees given in the treaty of Longjumeau for security and liberty on behalf of the Protestants were misinterpreted or violated. Massacres and murders of Protestants became more numerous, and were committed with more impunity than ever: in 1568 and 1569, at Amiens, at Auxerre, at Orleans, at Rouen, at Bourges, at Troyes, and at Blois, Protestants, at one time to the number of one hundred and forty or one hundred and twenty, or fifty-three, or forty, and at another singly, with just their wives and children, were massacred, burned, and hunted by the excited populace, without any intervention on the part of the magistrates to protect them or to punish their murderers. The contemporary Protestant chroniclers set down at ten thousand the number of victims who perished in the course of these six months, which were called a time of peace: we may, with De Thou, believe this estimate to be exaggerated; but, without doubt, the peace of Longjumeau was a lie, even before the war began again.
During this interval Conde was living in Burgundy, at Noyers, a little fortress he possessed through his wife, Frances of Orleans, and Coligny was living not far from Noyers, at Tanlay, which belonged to his brother D'Andelot. They soon discovered, both of them, not only what their party had to suffer, but what measures were in preparation against themselves. Agents went and sounded the depth of the moats of Noyers, so as to report upon the means of taking the place. The queen-mother had orders given to Gaspard de Tavannes to surround the Prince of Conde at Noyers. "The queen is counselled by passion rather than by reason," answered the old warrior; "I am not the sort of man to succeed in this ill-planned enterprise of distaff and pen; if her Majesty will be pleased to declare open war, I will show how I understand my duty." Shocked at the dishonorable commands given him, Tavannes resolved to indirectly raise Conde's apprehensions, in order to get him out of Burgundy, of which he, Tavannes, held the governorship; and he sent close past the walls of Noyers bearers of letters containing these words: "The stag is in the toils; the hunt is ready." Conde had the bearers arrested, understood the warning, and communicated it to Coligny, who went and joined him at Noyers, and they decided, both of them, upon quitting Burgundy without delay, to go and seek over the Loire at La Rochelle, which they knew to be devoted to their cause, a sure asylum and a place suitable for their purposes as a centre of warlike operations. They set out together on the 24th of August, 1568. Conde took with him his wife and his four children, two of tender age. Coligny followed him in deep mourning; he had just lost his wife, Charlotte de Laval, that worthy mate of his, who, six years previously, in a grievous crisis for his soul as well as his cause, had given him such energetic counsels: she had left him one young daughter and three little children, the two youngest still in the nurse's arms. His sister-in-law, Anne do Salm, wife of his brother D'Andelot, was also there with a child of two years, whilst her husband was scouring Anjou and Brittany to rally the friends of his cause and his house. A hundred and fifty men, soldiers and faithful servants, escorted these three noble and pious families, who were leaving their castles to go and seek liberties and perils in a new war. When they arrived at the bank of the Loire, they found all points in the neighborhood guarded; the river was low; and a boatman pointed out to them, near Sancerre, a possible ford. Conde went over first, with one of his children in his arms.
They all went over singing the psalm, When Israel went out of Egypt, and on the 16th of September, 1568, Conde entered La Rochelle. "I fled as far as I could," he wrote the next day, "but when I got here I found the sea; and, inasmuch as I don't know how to swim, I was constrained to turn my head round and gain the land, not with feet, but with hands." He assembled the burgesses of La Rochelle, and laid before them the pitiable condition of the kingdom, the wicked designs of people who were their enemies as well as his own: he called upon them to come and help; he promised to be aidful to them in all their affairs, and, "as a pledge of my good faith," said he, "I will leave you my wife and children, the dearest and most precious jewels I have in this world." The mayor of La Rochelle, La Haise, responded by offering him "lives and property in the name of all the citizens," who confirmed this offer with an outburst of popular enthusiasm. The Protestant nobles of Saintonge and Poitou flocked in. A royal ally was announced; the Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d'Albret, was bringing her son Henry, fifteen years of age, whom she was training up to be Henry IV. Conde went to meet them, and, on the 28th of September, 1568, all this flower of French Protestantism was assembled at La Rochelle, ready and resolved to commence the third religious war.
It was the longest and most serious of the four wars of this kind which so profoundly agitated France in the reign of Charles IX. This one lasted from the 24th of August, 1568, to the 8th of August, 1570, between the departure of Conde and Coligny for La Rochelle and the treaty of peace of St. Germain-en-Laye: a hollow peace, like the rest, and only two years before the St. Bartholomew. On starting from Noyers with Coligny, Conde had addressed to the king, on the 23d of August, a letter and a request, wherein, "after having set forth the grievances of the Reformers, he attributed all the mischief to the Cardinal of Lorraine, and declared that the Protestant nobles felt themselves constrained, for the safety of the realm, to take up arms against that infamous priest, that tiger of France, and against his accomplices." He bitterly reproached the Guises "with treating as mere policists, that is, men who sacrifice religion to temporal interests, the Catholics inclined to make concessions to the Reformers, especially the Chancellor de l'Hospital and the sons of the late Constable de Montmorency." The Guises, indeed, and their friends did not conceal their distrust of De l'Hospital, any more than he concealed his opposition to their deeds and their designs. Whilst the peace of Longjumeau was still in force, Charles IX. issued a decree interdicting all Reformers from the chairs of the University and the offices of the judicature; L'Hospital refused to seal it: "God save us from the chancellor's mass!" was the remark at court. L'Hospital, convinced that he would not succeed in preserving France from a fresh civil war, made up his mind to withdraw, and go and live for some time at his estate of Vignay [a little hamlet in the commune of Gironville, near Etampes, Seine-et-Oise]. The queen-mother eagerly took advantage of his withdrawal to demand of him the seals, of which, she said, she might have need daily. L'Hospital gave them up at once, at the same time retaining his title of chancellor, and letting the queen know "that he would take pains to recover his strength in order to return to his post, if and when it should be the king's and the queen's pleasure." From his rural home he wrote to his friends, "I am not downhearted because the violence of the wicked has snatched from me the seals of the kingdom. I have not done as sluggards and cowards do, who hide themselves at the first show of danger, and obey the first impulses of fear. As long as I was strong enough, I held my own. Deprived of all support, even that of the king and the queen, who dared no longer defend me, I retired, deploring the unhappy condition of France. Now I have other cares; I return to my interrupted studies and to my children, the props of my old age and my sweetest delight. I cultivate my fields. The estate of Vignay seems to me a little kingdom, if any man may consider himself master of anything here below. . . . I will tell you more; this retreat, which satisfies my heart, also flatters my vanity; I like to imagine myself in the wake of those famous exiles of Athens or Rome whom their virtues rendered formidable to their fellow-citizens. Not that I dare compare myself with those great men, but I say to myself that our fortunes are similar. I live in the midst of a numerous family whom I love; I have books; I read, write, and meditate; I take pleasure in the games of my children; the most frivolous occupations interest me. In fine, all my time is filled up, and nothing would be wanting to my happiness if it were not for the awful apparition hard by which sometimes comes, bringing trouble and desolation to my heart."
This "apparition hard by" was war, everywhere present or imminent in the centre and south-west of France, accompanied by all those passions of personal hatred and vengeance which are characteristic of religious wars, and which add so much of the moral sufferings to the physical calamities of life. L'Hospital, when sending the seals to the queen-mother, who demanded them of him, considered it his bounden duty to give her without any mincing, and the king whom she governed, a piece of patriotic advice. "At my departure," he says in his will and testament, "I prayed of the king and queen this thing, that, as they had determined to break the peace, and proceed by war against those with whom they had previously made peace, and as they were driving me from the court because they had heard it said that I was opposed to and ill content with their enterprise, I prayed them, I say, that if they did not acquiesce in my counsel, they would, at the very least, some time after they had glutted and satiated their hearts and their thirst with the blood of their subjects, embrace the first opportunity that offered itself for making peace, before that things were reduced to utter ruin; for, whatever there might be at the bottom of this war, it could not but be very pernicious to the king and the kingdom." During the two years that it lasted, from August, 1568, to August, 1570, the third religious war under Charles IX. entailed two important battles and many deadly faction-fights, which spread and inflamed to the highest pitch the passions of the two parties. On the 13th of March, 1569, the two armies, both about twenty thousand strong, and appearing both of them anxious to come to blows, met near Jarnac, on the banks of the Charente; the royal army had for its chief Catherine de' Medici's third son, Henry, Duke of Anjou, advised by the veteran warrior Gaspard de Tavannes, and supported by the young Duke Henry of Guise, who had his father to avenge and his own spurs to win.
The death of Conde gave to the battle of Jarnac an importance not its own. A popular ditty of the day called that prince "the great enemy of the mass." "His end," says the Duke of Aumale, "was celebrated by the Catholics as a deliverance; a solemn Te Deum was chanted at court and in all the churches of France. The flags taken were sent to Rome, where Pope Pius IV. went with them in state to St. Peter's. As for the Duke of Anjou, he showed his joy and his baseness together by the ignoble treatment he caused to be inflicted upon the remains of his vanquished relative, a prince of the blood who had fallen sword in hand. At the first rumor of Conde's death, the Duke of Montpensier's secretary, Coustureau, had been despatched from headquarters with Baron de Magnac to learn the truth of the matter. 'We found him there,' he relates, 'laid upon an ass; the said sir baron took him by the hair of the head for to lift up his face, which he had turned towards the ground, and asked me if I recognized him. But as he had lost an eye from his head, he was mightily disfigured; and I could say no more than it was certainly his figure and his hair, and further than that I was unable to speak.' Meanwhile," continues the Duke of Aumale, "the accounts of those present removed all doubt; and the corpse, thus thrown across an ass, with arms and legs dangling, was carried to Jarnac, where the Duke of Anjou lodged on the evening of the battle. There the body of Conde was taken down amidst the sobs of some Protestant prisoners, who kissed, as they wept, the remains of their gallant chief. This touching spectacle did not stop the coarse ribaldry of the Duke of Anjou and his favorites; and for two days the prince's remains were left in a ground-floor room, there exposed to the injurious action of the air and, to the gross insults of the courtiers. The Duke of Anjou at last consented to give up the body of Conde to the Duke of Longueville, his brother-in-law, who had it interred with due respect at Vendome in the burial-place of his ancestors."
When in 1569 he thus testified, from a mixture of hatred and fear, an ignoble joy at the death of Louis de Conde, the valiant chief of Protestantism, the Duke of Anjou did not foresee that, nearly twenty years later, in 1588, when he had become Henry III., King of France, he would also testify, still from a mixture of hatred and fear, the same ignoble joy at sight of the corpse of Henry de Guise, the valiant chief of Catholicism, murdered by his order and in his palace.
As soon as Conde's death was known at La Rochelle, the Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d'Albret, hurried to Tonnay-Charente, whither the Protestant army had fallen back; she took with her her own son Henry, fifteen years old, and Henry de Bourbon, the late Prince of Conde's son, who was seventeen; and she presented both of them to the army. The younger, the future Henry IV., stepped forward briskly. "Your cause," said he, "is mine; your interests are mine; I swear on my soul, honor, and life, to be wholly yours." The young Conde took the same oath. The two princes were associated in the command, under the authority of Coligny, who was immediately appointed lieutenant-general of the army. For two years their double signature figured at the bottom of the principal official acts of the Reformed party; and they were called "the admiral's pages." On both of them Jeanne passionately enjoined union between themselves, and equal submission on their part to Coligny, their model and their master in war and in devotion to the common cause. Queen, princes, admiral, and military leaders of all ranks stripped themselves of all the diamonds, jewels, and precious stones which they possessed, and which Elizabeth, the Queen of England, took in pledge for the twenty thousand pounds sterling she lent him. The Queen of Navarre reviewed the army, which received her with bursts of pious and warlike enthusiasm; and leaving to Coligny her two sons, as she called them, she returned alone to La Rochelle, where she received a like reception from the inhabitants, "rough and loyal people," says La Noue, "and as warlike as mercantile." After her departure, a body of German horse, commanded by Count Mansfeld, joined Coligny in the neighborhood of Limoges. Their arrival was an unhoped-for aid. Coligny distributed amongst them a medal bearing the effigy of Queen Jeanne of Navarre with this legend: "Alone, and with the rest, for God, the king, the laws, and peace."
With such dispositions on one side and the other, war was resumed and pushed forward eagerly from June, 1569, to June, 1570, with alternations of reverse and success. On the 23d of June, 1569, a fight took place at Roche l'Abeille, near St. Yrieix in Limousin, wherein the Protestants had the advantage. The young Catholic noblemen, with Henry de Guise at their head, began it rashly, against the desire of their general, Gaspard de Tavannes, to show off their bravery before the eyes of the queen-mother and the Cardinal of Lorraine, both of whom considered the operations of the army too slow and its successes too rare. They lost five hundred men and many prisoners, amongst others Philip Strozzi, whom Charles IX. had just made colonel-general of the infantry. They took their revenge on the 7th of September, 1569, by forcing Coligny to raise the siege of Poitiers, which he had been pushing forward for more than two months, and on the 3d of October following, at the battle of Moncontour in Poitou, the most important of the campaign, which they won brilliantly, and in which the Protestant army lost five or six thousand men and a great part of their baggage. Before the action began, "two gentlemen on the side of the Catholics, being in an out-of-the-way spot, came to speech," says La Noue, "with some of the (Protestant) religion, there being certain ditches between them.
'Sirs,' said they, 'we bear the marks of enemies, but we do not hate you in any wise, or your party. Warn the admiral to be very careful not to fight, for our army is marvellously strong by reason of re-enforcements that have come in to it, and it is very determined withal. Let the admiral temporize for a month only, for all the nobles have sworn and said to Monseigneur that they will not wait any longer, that he must employ them within that time, and they will then do their duty. Let the admiral remember that it is dangerous to stem the fury of Frenchmen, the which, however, will suddenly ooze away; if they have not victory speedily, they will be constrained to make peace, and will offer it you on advantageous terms. Tell him that we know this from a good source, and greatly desired to advertise him of it.' Afterwards they retired. The others," continues La Noue, "went incontinently to the admiral for to make their report, which was to his taste. They told it also to others of the principals; and some there were who desired that it should be acted upon; but the majority opined that this notice came from suspected persons, who had been accustomed to practise fraud and deceit, and that no account should be made of it." The latter opinion prevailed; and the battle of Moncontour was fought with extreme acrimony, especially on the part of the Catholics, who were irritated by the cruelties, as La Noue himself says, which the Protestants had but lately practised at the fight of La Roche l'Abeille. Coligny was wounded in the action, after having killed with his own hand the Marquis Philibert of Baden; and the melley had been so hot that the admiral's friends found great difficulty in extricating him and carrying him off the field to get his wound attended to. Three weeks before the battle, on the 13th of September, Coligny had been sentenced to death by the Parliament of Paris, and hanged in effigy on the Place de Greve; and a reward of fifty thousand gold crowns had been offered to whosoever should give him up to the king's justice dead or alive, words added, it is said, to the decree at the desire of Charles IX. himself. Family sorrows were in Coligny's case added to political reverses; on the 27th of May, in this same year 1569, he had lost his brother D'Andelot, his faithful comrade in his religious as well as his warlike career. "He found himself," says D'Aubigne, "saddled with the blame due to accident, his own merits being passed over in silence; with the remnant of an army which, when it was whole, was in despair even before the late disaster; with weak towns, dismayed garrisons, and foreigners without baggage; himself moneyless, his enemies very powerful, and pitiless towards all, especially towards him; abandoned by all the great, except one woman, the Queen of Navarre, who, having nothing but the title, had advanced to Niort in order to lend a hand to the afflicted and to affairs in general. This old man, worn down by fever, endured all these causes of anguish and many others that came to rack him more painfully than his grievous wound. As he was being borne along in a litter, Lestrange, an old nobleman, and one of his principal counsellors, travelling in similar fashion, and wounded likewise, had his own litter, where the road was broad, moved forward in front of the admiral's, and putting his head out at the door, he looked steadily at his chief, saying, with tears in his eyes, 'Yet God is very merciful.' Thereupon they bade one another farewell, perfectly at one in thought, without being able to say more. This great captain confessed to his intimates that these few friendly words restored him, and set him up again in the way of good thoughts and firm resolutions for the future." He was so much restored, that, between the end of 1569 and the middle of 1570, he marched through the south and the centre of France the army which he had reorganized, and with which, wherever he went, he restored, if not security, at any rate confidence and zeal, to his party.
On arriving at Arnay-le-Duc, in Burgundy, he found himself confronted by Marshal de Cosse with thirteen thousand men of the king's troops. Coligny had barely half as many; but he did not hesitate to attack, and on the 13th of June, 1570, he was so near victory that the road was left open before him. On the 7th of July he arrived at Charite-sur-Loire. Alarm prevailed at Paris. A truce for ten days was signed, and negotiations were reopened for a fresh attempt at peace.
"If any one, in these lamentable wars, worked hard, both with body and mind," says La Noue, "it may be said to have been the admiral, for, as regards the greatest part of the burden of military affairs and hardships, it was he who supported them with much constancy and buoyancy; and he was as respectful in his bearing towards the princes his superiors as he was modest towards his inferiors. He always had piety in singular esteem, and a love of justice, which made him valued and honored by them of the party which he had embraced. He did not seek ambitiously for commands and honors; they were thrust upon him because of his competence and his expertness. When he handled arms and armies, he showed that he was very conversant with them, as much so as any captain of his day, and he always exposed himself courageously to danger. In difficulties, he was observed to be full of magnanimity and resource in getting out of them, always showing himself quite free from swagger and parade. In short, he was a personage worthy to re-establish an enfeebled and a corrupted state. I was fain to say these few words about him in passing, for, having known him and been much with him, and having profited by his teaching, I should have been wrong if I had not made truthful and honorable mention of him." [Memoires de La Noue, in the Petitot collection, 1st series, t. xxxiv. p. 288.]
The negotiations were short. The war had been going on for two years. The two parties, victorious and vanquished by turns, were both equally sick of it. In vain did Philip II., King of Spain, offer Charles IX. an aid of nine thousand men to continue it. In vain did Pope Pius V. write to Catherine de' Medici, "As there can be no communion between Satan and the children of the light, it ought to be taken for certain that there can be no compact between Catholics and heretics, save one full of fraud and feint." "We have beaten our enemies," says Montluc, "over and over again; but notwithstanding that, they had so much influence in the king's council that the decrees were always to their advantage. We won by arms, but they won by those devils of documents." Peace was concluded at St. Germain-en-Laye on the 8th of August, 1570, and it was more equitable and better for the Reformers than the preceding treaties; for, besides a pretty large extension as regarded free exercise of their worship and their civil rights in the state, it granted "for two years, to the princes of Navarre and Conde and twenty noblemen of the religion, who were appointed by the king, the wardenship of the towns of La Rochelle, Cognac, Montauban, and La Charite, whither those of the religion who dared not return so soon to their own homes might retire." All the members of the Parliament, all the royal and municipal officers, and the principal inhabitants of the towns where the two religions existed were further bound over on oath "to maintenance of the edict."
Peace was made; but it was the third in seven years, and very shortly after each new treaty civil war had recommenced. No more was expected from the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye than had been effected by those of Amboise and Longjumeau, and on both sides men sighed for something more stable and definitive. By what means to be obtained and with what pledges of durability? A singular fact is apparent between 1570 and 1572; there is a season, as it were, of marriages and matrimonial rejoicings. Charles IX. went to receive at the frontier of his kingdom his affianced bride, Archduchess Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of the emperor, Maximilian II., who was escorted by the Archbishop of Treves, chancellor of the empire; the nuptials were celebrated at Mezieres, on the 26th of November, 1570; the princes and great lords of the Protestant party were invited; they did not think it advisable to withdraw themselves from their asylum at La Rochelle; but Coligny wrote to the queen-mother to excuse himself, whilst protesting his forgetfulness of the past and his personal devotion. Four months afterwards, Coligny himself married again; it was three years since he had lost his noble wife, Charlotte de Laval, and he had not contemplated anything of the kind, when, in the concluding weeks of 1570, he received from the castle of St. Andre de Briord, in Le Bugey, a letter from a great lady, thirty years of age, Jacqueline de Montbel, daughter of Count d'Entremont, herself a widow, who wrote to him "that she would fain marry a saint and a hero, and that he was that hero." "I am but a tomb," replied Coligny. But Jacqueline persisted, in spite of the opposition shown by her sovereign, Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, who did not like his fair subjects to marry foreigners; and in February, 1571, she furtively quitted her castle, dropped down the Rhone in a boat as far as Lyons, mounted on horseback, and, escorted by five devoted friends, arrived at La Rochelle. All Coligny's friends were urgent for him to accept this passionate devotion proffered by a lady who would bring him territorial possessions valuable to the Protestants, "for they were an open door to Geneva." Coligny accepted; and the marriage took place at La Rochelle on the 24th of March, 1571. "Madame Jacqueline wore, on this occasion," says a contemporary chronicler, "a skirt in the Spanish fashion, of black gold-tissue, with bands of embroidery in gold and silver twist, and, above, a doublet of white silver-tissue embroidered in gold, with large diamond-buttons." She was, nevertheless, at that moment almost as poor as the German arquebusiers who escorted her litter; for an edict issued by the Duke of Savoy on the 31st of January, 1569, caused her the loss of all her possessions in her own country. She was received in France with the respect due to her; and when, five months after the marriage, Charles; IX. summoned Coligny to Paris, "to serve him in his most important affairs, as a worthy minister, whose virtues were sufficiently known and tried," he sent at the same time to Madame l'Amirale a safe-conduct in which he called her my fair cousin. Was there any one belonging to that august and illustrious household who had, at that time, a presentiment of their impending and tragic destiny?
At the same period, the Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d'Albret, obtained for her young nephew, Henry de Bourbon, Prince of Conde, son of the hero of Jarnac, and companion of Henry of Navarre, the hand of his cousin, Mary of Cleves; and there was still going on in London, on behalf of one of Charles IX.'s brothers,—at one time the Duke of Anjou and at another the Duke of Alencon,—the negotiation which was a vain attempt to make Queen Elizabeth espouse a French prince.
Coincidently with all these marriages or projects of marriage amongst princes and great lords came the most important of all, that which was to unite Henry of Navarre and Charles IX.'s sister, Marguerite de Valois. There had already, thirteen or fourteen years previously, been some talk about it, in the reign of King Henry II., when Henry of Navarre and Margaret de Valois, each born in 1553, were both of them mere babies. This union between the two branches of the royal house, one Catholic and the other Protestant, ought to have been the most striking sign and the surest pledge of peace between Catholicism and Protestantism. The political expediency of such a step appeared the more evident and the more urgent in proportion as the religious war had become more direful and the desire for peace more general. Charles IX. embraced the idea passionately. At the outset he encountered an obstacle. The young Duke of Guise had already paid court to Marguerite, and had obtained such marked favor with her that the ambassador of Spain wrote to the king, "There is no public topic in France just now save the marriage of my Lady Marguerite with the Duke of Guise." People even talked of a tender correspondence between the princess and the duke, which was carried on through one of the queen's ladies, the Countess of Mirandola, who was devoted to the Guises and a favorite with Marguerite. "If it be so," said Charles IX., savagely, "we will kill him;" and he gave such peremptory orders on this subject, that Henry de Guise, somewhat disquieted, avoided for a while taking part in the royal hunts, and thought it well that there should be resumed on his behalf a project of marriage with Catherine of Cleves, widow of the Prince of Portien (Le Porcien) and the wealthy heiress to some great domains, especially the countship of Eu. So long as he had some hope of marrying Marguerite de Valois, the Duke of Guise had repudiated, not without offensiveness, all idea of union with Catherine of Cleves. "Anybody who can make me marry the Princess of Portien," said he, "could make me marry a negress." He, nevertheless, contracted this marriage, so greatly disdained, on the 4th of October, 1570; and at this price recovered the good graces of Charles IX. The queen-mother charged the Cardinal Louis de Lorraine, him whom the people called Cardinal Bottles (from his conviviality), to publicly give the lie to any rumor of a possible engagement between her daughter Marguerite and Henry de Guise; and a grand council of the kings, after three holdings, adopted in principle the marriage of Marguerite de Valois with "the little Prince of Bearn."
Charles IX. at once set his hand to the work to turn this resolution to good account, being the only means, he said, of putting a stop at last to this incessantly renewed civil war, which was the plague of his life as well as of his kingdom. He first of all sent Marshal de Cosse to La Rochelle, to sound Coligny as to his feelings upon this subject, and to urge him to thus cut short public woes and the Reformers' grievances. "The king has always desired peace," said the marshal; "he wishes it to be lasting; he has proved only too well, to his own misery and that of his people, that of all the evils which can afflict a state, the most direful is civil war. But what means this withdrawal, since the signing of peace at St. Germain, of the Queen of Navarre and her children, of the Prince of Conde, and so many lords and distinguished nobles, still separated from their houses and their families, and collected together in a town like Rochelle, which has great advantages by land and sea for all those who would fain begin the troubles again? Why have they not returned home? During the hottest part of the war, they ardently desired to see once more their houses, their wives, and their children; and now, when peace leaves them free to do so, they prefer to remain in a land which is in some sort foreign, and where, in addition to great expenses, they are deprived of the conveniences they would find at home. The king cannot make out such absurdity; or, rather, he is very apprehensive that this long stay means the hatching of some evil design." The Protestants defended themselves warmly against this supposition; they alleged, in explanation of their persistent disquietude, the very imperfect execution of the conditions granted by the peace of St. Germain, and the insults, the attacks which they had still to suffer in many parts of the kingdom, and quite recently at Rouen and at Orange. The king attempted, without any great success, to repress these disorders amongst the populace. The Queen of Navarre, the two princes, Coligny, and many Protestant lords remained still at La Rochelle, where was being held at this time a general synod of the Reformed churches. Charles IX. sent thither Marshal de Biron, with formal orders to negotiate the marriage of Marguerite de Valois and the Prince of Navarre, and to induce that prince, his mother the Queen of Navarre, and Coligny to repair to the court in order to conclude the matter. The young prince was at that time in Warn. The queen, his mother, answered, "That she would consult her spiritual advisers, and, as soon as her conscience was at rest, there were no conditions she would not accept with a view of giving satisfaction to the king and the queen, of marking her obedience and respect towards them, and of securing the tranquillity of the state, an object for which she would willingly sacrifice her own life. . . . But," she added, "I would rather sink to the condition of the humblest damoisel in France than sacrifice to the aggrandizement of my family my own soul and my son's."
In September, 1571, Charles IX. and the queen-mother repaired to Blois; and at their urgent request Coligny went thither to talk over the projected marriage and the affairs of Europe. The king received him with emotional satisfaction, calling him my father, and saying to him, "Now we have you, and you shall not escape us when you wish to." Jeanne d'Albret, more distrustful, or, one ought rather to say, more clear-sighted, refused to leave La Rochelle, and continued to negotiate vaguely and from a distance. Catherine de' Medici insisted. "Satisfy," she wrote to her, "the extreme desire we have to see you in this company; you will be loved and honored therein as accords with reason and with what you are." Jeanne still waited. It was only in the following year, at the end of January, that, having earnestly exhorted her son "to remain Bearn-wards whilst she was at the court of France," she set out for Blois, where Charles IX. received her most affectionately, calling her my good aunt, my dear aunt, and lavishing upon her promises as well as endearments. Jeanne was a strict and a judicious person; and the manners and proceedings of the court at Blois displeased her. On the 8th of March, 1572, she wrote to her son, "I find it necessary to negotiate quite contrariwise to what I had expected and what had been promised me; I have no liberty to speak to the king or my Lady Marguerite, only to the queen-mother, who treats me as if I were dirt. . . . Seeing, then, that no advance is made, and that the desire is to make me hurry matters, and not conduct them orderly, I have thrice spoken thereof to the queen, who does nothing but make a fool of me, and tell everybody the opposite of what I told her; in such sort that my friends find fault with me, and I know not how to bring her to book, for when I say to her, 'Madame, it is reported that I said so-and-so to you,' though it was she herself who reported it, she denies it flatly, and laughs in my face, and uses me in such wise that you might really say that my patience passes that of Griselda. . . . Thenceforward I have a troop of Huguenots, who come to converse with me, rather for the purpose of being spies upon me than of assisting me. Then I have some of another humor, who hamper me no less, and who are religious hermaphrodites. I defend myself as best I may. . . I am sure that if you only knew the trouble I am in, you would have pity upon me, for they give me empty speeches and raillery instead of treating with me gravely, as the matter deserves; in such sort that I am bursting, because I am so resolved not to lose my temper that my patience is a miracle to see. . . . I found your letter very much to my taste; I will show, it to my Lady Marguerite if I can. She is beautiful, and discreet, and of good demeanor, but brought up in the most accursed and most corrupt society that ever was. I would not, for anything in the world, have you here to remain here. That is why I desire to get you married, and you and your wife withdraw from this corruption; for though I believed it to be very great, I find it still more so. Here it is not the men who solicit the women; it is the women who solicit the men. If you were here, you would never escape without a great deal of God's grace."
Side by side with this motherly and Christianly scrupulous negotiation, Coligny set on foot another, noble and dignified also, but even less in harmony with the habits and bent of the government which it concerned. The puritan warrior was at the same time an ardent patriot: he had at heart the greatness of France as much as he had his personal creed; the reverses of Francis I. and the preponderance of Spain in Europe oppressed his spirit with a sense of national decadence, from which he wanted France to lift herself up again. The moment appeared to him propitious; let the king ally himself with Queen Elizabeth of England, the Prince of Orange in the Low Countries, and the Protestant princes of Germany; here was for France a certain guarantee of power in Europe, and at the same time a natural opportunity for conquering Flanders, a possession so necessary to her strength and her security. But high above this policy, so thoroughly French, towered a question still more important than that of even the security and the grandeur of France; that was the partition of Europe between Catholicism and Protestantism; and it was in a country Catholic in respect of the great majority, and governed by a kingship with which Catholicism was hereditary, that, in order to put a stop to civil war between French Catholics and Protestants, Coligny pressed the king to put himself at the head of an essentially Protestant coalition, and make it triumphant in Europe. This was, in the sixteenth century, a policy wholly chimerical, however patriotic its intention may have been; and the French Protestant hero who recommended it to Charles IX. did not know that Protestantism was on the eve of the greatest disaster it would have to endure in France.
A fact of a personal character tended to mislead Coligny. By his renown, by the loftiness of his views, by the earnest gravity of his character and his language he had produced a great effect upon Charles IX., a young king of warm imagination and impressible and sympathetic temperament, but, at the same time, of weak judgment. He readily gave way, in Coligny's company, to outpourings which had all the appearance of perfect and involuntary frankness. "Speaking one day to the admiral about the course of conduct to be adopted as to the enterprise against Flanders, and well knowing that the queen-mother lay under his suspicion, 'My dear father,' said he, 'there is one thing herein of which we must take good heed; and that is, that the queen, my mother, who likes to poke her nose everywhere, as you know, learn nothing of this enterprise, at any rate as regards the main spring of it, for she would spoil all for us.' 'As you please, sir; but I take her to be so good a mother, and so devoted to the welfare of your kingdom, that when she knows of it she will do nothing to spoil it.' 'You are mistaken, my dear father,' said the king; 'leave it to me only; I see quite well that you do not know my mother; she is the greatest meddler in all the world.'" Another time, when he was speaking likewise to Teligny, Coligny's son-in-law, about this enterprise against Flanders, the king said, "Wouldst have me speak to thee freely, Teligny? I distrust all these gentry; I am suspicious of Tavannes' ambition; Vieilleville loves nothing but good wine; Cosse is too covetous; Montmorency cares only for his hunting and hawking; the Count de Retz is a Spaniard; the other lords of my court and those of my council are mere blockheads; my Secretaries of State, to hide nothing of what I think, are not faithful to me; insomuch that, to tell the truth, I know not at what end to begin." This tone of freedom and confidence had inspired Coligny with reciprocal confidence; he believed himself to have a decisive influence over the king's ideas and conduct; and when the Protestants testified their distrust upon this subject, he reproached them vehemently for it; he affirmed the king's good intentions and sincerity; and he considered himself in fact, said Catherine de' Medici with temper, "a second king of France."
How much sincerity was there about these outpourings of Charles IX. in his intercourse with Coligny, and how much reality in the admiral's influence over the king? We are touching upon that great historical question which has been so much disputed: was the St. Bartholomew a design, long ago determined upon and prepared for, of Charles IX. and his government, or an almost sudden resolution, brought about by events and the situation of the moment, to which Charles IX. was egged on, not without difficulty, by his mother Catherine and his advisers?
We recall to mind here what was but lately said in this very chapter as to the condition of minds and morals in the sixteenth century, and as to the tragic consequences of it. Massacre, we add no qualifying term to the word, was an idea, a habit, we might say almost a practice, familiar to that age, and one which excited neither the surprise nor the horror which are inseparable from it in our day. So little respect for human life and for truth was shown in the relations between man and man! Not that those natural sentiments, which do honor to the human race, were completely extinguished in the hearts of men; they reappeared here and there as a protest against the vices and the crimes of the period; but they were too feeble and too rare to struggle effectually against the sway of personal passions and interests, against atrocious hatreds and hopes, against intellectual aberrations and moral corruption. To betray and to kill were deeds so common that they caused scarcely any astonishment, and that people were almost resigned to them beforehand. We have cited fifteen or twenty cases of the massacres which in the reign of Charles IX., from 1562 to 1572, grievously troubled and steeped in blood such and such a part of France, without leaving any lasting traces in history. Previously to the massacre called the St. Bartholomew, the massacre of Vassy is almost the only one which received and kept its true name. The massacre of Vassy was, undoubtedly, an accident, a deed not at all forecast or prepared for. The St. Bartholomew massacre was an event for a long time forecast and announced, promised to the Catholics and thrown out as a threat to the Protestants, written beforehand, so to speak, in the history of the religious wars of France, but, nevertheless, at the moment at which it was accomplished, and in the mode of its accomplishment, a deed unexpected so far as the majority of the victims were concerned, and a cause of contest even amongst its originators. Accordingly it was, from the very first, a subject of surprise and horror, throughout Europe as well as in France; not only because of the torrents of blood that were shed, but also because of the extraordinary degree in which it was characterized by falsehood and ferocious hatred.
We will bring forward in support of this double assertion only such facts and quotations as appear to us decisive.
In 1565, Charles IX. and Catherine de' Medici had an interview at Bayonne with the Duke of Alba, representative of Philip II., to consult as to the means of delivering France from heretics. "They agreed at last," says the contemporary historian Adriani [continuer of Guicciardini; he had drawn his information from the Journal of Cosmo de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who died in 1574], "in the opinion of the Catholic king, who thought that this great blessing could not have accomplishment save by the death of all the chiefs of the Huguenots, and by a new edition, as the saying was, of the Sicilian Vespers. 'Take the big fish,' said the Duke of Alba, 'and let the small fry go; one salmon is worth more than a thousand frogs.' They decided that the deed should be done at Moulins in Bourbonness, whither the king was to return. The execution of it was afterwards deferred to the date of the St. Bartholomew, in 1572, at Paris, because of certain suspicions which had been manifested by the Huguenots, and because it was considered easier and more certain to get them all together at Paris than at Moulins."
Catherine de' Medici charged Cardinal Santa Croce to assure Pope Pius V. "that she and her son had nothing more at heart than to get the admiral and all his confidants together some day and make a massacre (un macello) of them; but the matter," she said, "was so difficult that there was no possibility of promising to do it at one time more than at another."
La Noue bears witness in his Memoires to "the resolution taken at Bayonne, with the Duke of Alba aiding, to exterminate the Huguenots of France and the beggars (gueux) of Flanders; whereof warning had been given by those about whom there was no doubt. All these things, and many others as to which I am silent, mightily waked up those," he adds, "who had no desire to be caught napping. And I remember that the chiefs of the religion held, within a short time, three meetings, as well at Valeri as at Chatillon, to deliberate upon present occurrences, and to seek out legitimate and honorable expedients for securing themselves against so much alarm, without having recourse to extreme remedies."
De Thou regards these facts as certain, and, after having added some details, he sums them all up in the words, "This is what passed at Bayonne in 1565."
In 1571, after the third religious war and the peace of St. Germain-en-Laye, Marshal de Tavaunes wrote to Charles IX., "Peace has a chance of lasting, because neither of the two parties is willing or able to renew open war; but, if one of the two sees quite a safe opportunity for putting a complete end to what is at the root of the question, this it will take; for to remain forever in the state now existing is what nobody can or ought to hope for. And there is no such near approximation to a complete victory as to take the persons. For to surprise what they (the Reformers) hold, to put down their religion, and to break off all at once the alliances which support them—this is impossible. Thus there is no way but to take the chiefs all together for to make an end of it."
Next year, on the 24th of August, 1572, when the St. Bartholomew broke out, Tavannes took care to himself explain what he meant in 1571 by those words, to take the chiefs all together for to make an end of it. Being invested with the command in Paris, "he went about the city all day," says Brantome, "and, seeing so much blood spilt, he said and shouted to the people, 'Bleed, bleed; the doctors say that bleeding is as good all through this month of August as in May.'"
In the year which preceded the outbreak of the massacre, when the marriage of Marguerite de Valois with the Prince of Navarre was agreed upon, and Coligny was often present at court, sometimes at Blois and sometimes at Paris, there arose between the king and the queen-mother a difference which there had been up to that time nothing to foreshadow. It was plain that the union between the two branches, Catholic and Protestant, of the royal house and the patriotic policy of Coligny were far more pleasing to Charles IX. than to his mother.
On the matrimonial question the king's feeling was so strong that he expressed it roughly. Jeanne d'Albret having said to him one day that the pope would make them wait a long while for the dispensation requested for the marriage, "No, no, my clear aunt," said the king; "I honor you more than I do the pope, and I love my sister more than I fear him. I am not a Huguenot, but no more am I an ass. If the pope has too much of his nonsense, I will myself take Margot by the hand and carry her off to be married in open conventicle." Toligny, for his part, was so pleased with the measures that Charles IX. had taken in favor of the Low Countries in their quarrels with Philip II., and so confident himself of his influence over the king, that when Tavannes was complaining in his presence "that the vanquished should make laws for the victors," Coligny said to his face, "Whoever is not for war with Spain is not a good Frenchman, and has the red cross inside him." The Catholics were getting alarmed and irritated. The Guises and their partisans left the court. It was near the time fixed for the marriage of Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois; the new pope, Gregory XIII., who had at first shown more pliancy than his predecessor Pius V., attached to the dispensation conditions to which neither the intended husband nor King Charles IX. himself was inclined to consent. The Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d'Albret, who had gone to Paris in preparation for the marriage, had died there on the 8th of June, 1572; a death which had given rise to very likely ill-founded accusations of poisoning. "A princess," says D'Aubigne, "with nothing of a woman but the sex, with a soul full of everything manly, a mind fit to cope with affairs of moment, and a heart invincible in adversity." It was in deep mourning that her son, become King of Navarre, arrived at court, attended by eight hundred gentlemen, all likewise in mourning. "But," says Marguerite de Valois herself, "the nuptials took place a few days afterwards with such triumph and magnificence as none others of my quality; the King of Navarre and his troop having changed their mourning for very rich and fine clothes, and I being dressed royally, with crown and corset of tufted ermine, all blazing with crown-jewels, and the grand blue mantle with a train four ells long borne by three princesses, the people choking one another down below to see us pass." The marriage was celebrated on the 18th of August, by the Cardinal of Bourbon, in front of the principal entrance of Notre-Dame. When the Princess Marguerite was asked if she consented, she appeared to hesitate a moment; but King Charles IX. put his hand a little roughly on her head, and made her lower it in token of assent. Accompanied by the king, the queen-mother, and all the Catholics present, Marguerite went to hear mass in the choir; Henry and his Protestant friends walked about the cloister and the nave; Marshal de Damville pointed out to Coligny the flags, hanging from the vaulted roof of Notre-Dame, which had been taken from the vanquished at the battle of Moncontour. "I hope," said the admiral, "that they will soon have others better suited for lodgement in this place." He was already dreaming of victories over the Spaniards.
Meanwhile Charles IX. was beginning to hesitate. He was quite willing to disconnect himself from the King of Spain, and even to incur his displeasure, but not to be actively embroiled with him and make war upon him; he could not conceal from himself that this policy, thoroughly French though it was, was considered in France too Protestant for a Catholic king. Coligny urged him vehemently. "If you want men," he said, "I have ten thousand at your service;" whereupon Tavannes said to the king, "Sir, whoever of your subjects uses such words to you, you ought to have his head struck off. How is it that he offers you that which is your own? It is that he has won over and corrupted them, and that he is a party-leader to your prejudice." Tavannes, a rough and faithful soldier, did not admit that there could be amongst men moral ties of a higher kind than political ties. Charles IX., too weak in mind and character to think and act with independence and consistency in the great questions of the day, only sought how to elude them, and to leave time, that inscrutable master, to settle them in his place. His indecision brought him to a state of impotence, and he ended by inability to do anything but dodge and lie, like his mother, and even with his mother. Whilst he was getting his sister married to the King of Navarre and concerting his policy with Coligny, he was adopting towards the three principal personages who came to talk over those affairs with him three different sorts of language; to Cardinal Alessandrino, whom Pope Pius V. had sent to him to oppose the marriage, he said, "My lord cardinal, all that you say to me is sound; I acknowledge it, and I thank the pope and you for it; if I had any other means of taking vengeance on my enemies, I would not make this marriage; but I have no other." With Jeanne d'Albret, he lauded himself for the marriage as the best policy he could pursue. "I give my sister," he said, "not to the Prince of Navarre, but to all the Huguenots, to marry them as it were, and take from them all doubt as to the unchangeable fixity of my edicts." And to humor his mother Catherine, he said to her, on the very evening of his interview with Jeanne d'Albret, "What think you, madam? Do I not play my partlet well?" "Yes, very well; but it is nothing if it is not continued." And Charles continued to play his part, even after the Bartholomew was over, for he was fond of saying with a laugh, "My big sister Margot caught all those Huguenot rebels in the bird-catching style. What has grieved me most is being obliged to dissimulate so long."
His contemporary Catholic biographer, Papirius Masson, who was twenty-eight years old at the time of the St. Bartholomew, says of him, "He is impatient in waiting, ferocious in his fits of anger, skilfully masked when he wishes, and ready to break faith as soon as that appears to his advantage."
Such was the prince, fiery and flighty, inconsistent and artful, accessible to the most opposite sympathies as well as hatreds, of whom Catherine de' Medici and Admiral Coligny were disputing the possession.
In the spring of 1572 Coligny might have considered himself the victor in this struggle; at his instance Charles IX. had written on the 27th of April to Count Louis of Nassau, leader of the Protestant insurrection in Hainault, "that he was determined, so far as opportunities and the arrangements of his affairs permitted him, to employ the powers which God had put into his hands for the deliverance of the Low Countries from the oppression under which they were groaning." Fortified by this promise of the king's, Coligny had raised a body of French Protestants, and had sent it under the command of La Noue to join the army of Louis of Nassau. The Reformers had at first had some successes; they had taken Valenciennes and Mons; but the Duke of Alba restored the fortunes of the King of Spain; he re-entered Valenciennes and he was besieging Mons. Coligny sent to the aid of that place a fresh body of French under the orders of Senlis, one of his comrades in faith and arms. Before setting out, Senlis saw Charles IX., received from him money together with encouragement, and, in the corps he led, some Catholics were mixed with the Protestants. But from the very court of France there came to the Duke of Alba warnings which put him in a position to surprise the French corps; and Senlis was beaten and made prisoner on the 10th of July. "I have in my hands," the Duke of Alba sent word to his king, "a letter from the King of France which would strike you dumb if you were to see it; for the moment, it is expedient to say nothing about it." "News of the defeat of Senlis," says Tavannes, "comes flying to court, and changes hearts and counsels. Disdain, despite, is engendered in the admiral, who hurls this defeat upon the heads of those who have prevented the king from declaring himself; he raises a new levy of three thousand foot, and, not regarding who he is and where he is, he declares, in the presumption of his audacity, that he can no longer hold his partisans, and that it must be one of two wars, Spanish or civil. It is all thunder-storm at court; everyone remains on the watch at the highest pitch of resolution." A grand council was assembled. Coligny did not care. He had already, at the king's request, set forth in a long memorial all the reasons for his policy of a war with Spain; the king had appeared struck with them; but, "as he only sought," says De Thou, "to gain time without its being perceived," he handed the admiral's memorial to the keeper of the seals, John de Morvilliers, requesting him to set forth also all the reasons for a pacific policy. Coligny, a man of resolution and of action, did not take any pleasure in thus prolonging the discussion; nevertheless he again brought forward and warmly advocated, at the grand council, the views he had so often expressed. They were almost unanimously rejected. Coligny did not consider himself bound to give them up. "I have promised," said he, "on my own account, my assistance to the Prince of Orange; I hope the king will not take it ill if by means of my friends, and perhaps in person, I fulfil my promise." This reservation excited great surprise. "Madam," said Coligny to the queen-mother, "the king is to-day shunning a war which would promise him great advantages; God forbid that there should break out another which he cannot shun!" The council broke up in great agitation. "Let the queen beware," said Tavannes, "of the king her son's secret councils, designs, and sayings; if she do not look out, the Huguenots will have him. At any rate, before thinking of anything else, let her exert herself to regain the mother's authority which the admiral has caused her to lose."
The king was hunting at Brie. The queen-mother went and joined him; she shut herself up with him in a cabinet, and, bursting into tears, she said, "I should never have thought that, in return for having taken so much pains to bring you up and preserve to you the crown, you would have had heart to make me so miserable a recompense. You hide yourself from me, me who am your mother, in order to take counsel of your enemies. I know that you hold secret counsels with the admiral; you desire to plunge rashly into war with Spain, in order to give your kingdom, yourself, and the persons that are yours, over as a prey to them of the religion. If I am so miserable a creature, yet before I see that, give me leave to withdraw to the place of my birth; remove from you your brother, who may call himself unfortunate in having employed his own life to preserve yours; give him at least time to withdraw out of danger and from the presence of enemies made in doing you service; Huguenots who desire not war with Spain, but with France, and the subversion of all the Estates in order to set up themselves."
Tavannes himself terms these expressions "an artful harangue;" but he says, "it moved, astounded, and dismayed the king, not so much on the score of the Huguenots as of his mother and brother, whose subtlety, ambition, and power in the state he knew; he marvelled to see his counsels thus revealed; he avowed them, asked pardon, promised obedience. Having sown this distrust, having shot this first bolt, the queen-mother, still in displeasure, withdrew to Monceaux. The trembling king followed her; he found her with his brother and Sieurs de Tavannes, de Retz, and the Secretary of State de Sauve, the last of whom threw himself upon his knees and received his Majesty's pardon for having revealed his counsels to his mother. The infidelity, the bravado, the audacity, the menaces, and the enterprises of the Huguenots were magnified with so much of truth and art that from friends behold them converted into enemies of the king, who, nevertheless, wavering as ever, could not yet give up the desire he had conceived of winning glory and reputation by war with Spain."
A fresh incident increased the agitation in the royal circle. In July, 1572, the throne of Poland had become vacant. A Polish embassy came to offer it to the Duke of Anjou. On his part and his mother's, there was at first great eagerness to accept it; Catherine was charmed to see her favorite son becoming a king. "If we had required," says a Polish historian, "that the French should build a bridge of solid gold over the Vistula, they would have agreed." Hesitation soon took the place of eagerness; Henry demanded information, and took time to reply. He had shown similar hesitation at the time of the negotiations entered upon in London, in 1571, with a view of making him the husband of Elizabeth, Queen of England: Coligny, who was very anxious to have him away, pressed Charles IX. to insist upon a speedy solution. "If Monsieur," said he, "who would not have England by marriage, will not have Poland either by election, let him declare once for all that he will not leave France." The relations between the two brothers became day by day more uncomfortable: two years later, Henry, for a brief period King of Poland, himself told the story of them to his physician Miron. "When, by any chance," he said, "the queen-mother and I, after the admiral's departure, approached the king to speak to him of any matters, even those which concerned merely his pleasure, we found him marvellously quick-tempered and cross-grained, with rough looks and bearing, and his answers still more so. One day, a very short time before the St. Bartholomew, setting out expressly from my quarters to go and see the king, somebody told me on inquiry that he was in his cabinet, whence the admiral, who had been alone with him a very long while, had just that instant gone out. I entered at once, as I had been accustomed to do. But as soon as the king my brother perceived me, he, without saying anything to me, began walking about furiously and with long steps, often looking towards me askance and with a very evil eye, sometimes laying his hand upon his dagger, and in so excited a fashion that I expected nothing else but that he would come and take me by the collar to poniard me. I was very vexed that I had gone in, reflecting upon the peril I was in, but still more upon how to get out of it; which I did so dexterously, that, whilst he was walking with his back turned to me, I retreated quickly towards the door, which I opened, and, with a shorter obeisance than at my entry, I made my exit, which was scarcely perceived by him until I was outside. And straightway I went to look for the queen my mother; and, putting together all reports, notifications, and suspicions, the time, and past circumstances, in conjunction with this last meeting, we remained both of us easily persuaded, and as it were certain, that it was the admiral who had impressed the king with some bad and sinister opinion of us, and we resolved from that moment to rid ourselves of him."
One idea immediately occurred to Catherine and her son. Two persons felt a passionate hatred towards Coligny; they were the widow of Duke Francis of Guise, Anne d'Este, become Duchess of Nemours by a second marriage, and her son Henry de Guise, a young man of twenty-two. They were both convinced that Coligny had egged on Poltrot to murder Duke Francis, and they had sworn to exact vengeance. Being informed of the queen-mother's and the Duke of Anjou's intention, they entered into it eagerly; the young Duke of Guise believed his mother quite capable of striking down the admiral in the very midst of one of the great assemblies at court; the fair ladies of the sixteenth century were adepts in handling dagger and pistol. In default of the Duchess of Nemours, her son was thought of for getting rid of Coligny. "It was at one time decided," says the Duke de Bouillon in his Memoires, "that M. de Guise should kill the admiral during a tilt-at-the-ring which the king gave in the garden of the Louvre, and in which all Messieurs were to lead sides. I was on that of the duke, who was believed to have an understanding with the admiral. On this occasion, it was so managed that our dresses were not ready, and the late duke and his side did not tilt at all. The resolution against the admiral was changed prudently; inasmuch as it was very perilous, for the person of the king and of Messieurs, to have determined to kill him in that place, there being present more than four hundred gentlemen of the religion, who might have gone very far in case of an assault upon that lord, who was so much beloved by them." Everything considered, it was thought more expedient to employ for the purpose an inferior agent; Catherine and the Duke of Anjou sent for a Gascon captain, a dependant of the house of Lorraine, whom they knew to be resolute and devoted. "We had him shown the means he should adopt," says the Duke of Anjou, "in attacking him whom we had in our eye; but, having well scanned him, himself and his movements, and his speech and his looks, which had made us laugh and afforded us good pastime, we considered him too hare-brained and too much of a wind-bag to deal the blow well." They then applied to an officer "of practice and experience in murder," Charles de Louviers, Sieur de Maurevert, who was called the king's slaughterman (le tueur du roi), because he had already rendered such a service, and they agreed with him as to all the circumstances of place, time, and procedure most likely to secure the success of the deed, whilst giving the murderer chances of escape.
In such situations there is scarcely any project the secret of which is so well kept that there does not get abroad some rumor to warn an observant mind; and when it is the fate of a religious or a popular hero that is in question, there is never any want of devoted friends or servants about him, ready to take alarm for him. When Coligny mounted his horse to go from Chatillon to Paris, a poor countrywoman on his estates threw herself before him, sobbing, "Ah! sir, ah! our good master, you are going to destruction; I shall never see you again if once you go to Paris; you will die there, you and all those who go with-you." At Paris, on the approach of the St. Bartholomew, the admiral heard that some of his gentlemen were going away. "They treat you too well here," said one of them, Langoiran, to him; "better to be saved with the fools than lost for the sake of being thought over-wise." "The admiral was beset by letters which reminded him of the queen-mother's crooked ways, and the detestable education of the king, trained to every sort of violence and horrible sin; his Bible is Macchiavelli; he has been prepared by the blood of beasts for the shedding of human blood; he has been persuaded that a prince is not bound to observe an edict extorted by his subjects." To all these warnings Coligny replied at one time by affirming the king's good faith, and at another by saying, "I would rather be dragged dead through the muck-heaps of Paris than go back to civil war." This great soul had his seasons, not of doubt as to his faith or discouragement as to his cause, but of profound sorrow at the atrocious or shameful spectacles and the public or private woes which had to be gone through.
Charles IX. himself felt some disquietude as to the meeting of the Guises and Coligny at his court. The Guises had quitted it before the 18th of August, the day fixed for the marriage of King Henry of Navarre with Marguerite de Valois. When the marriage was over, they were to return, and they did. At the moment of their returning, the king said to Coligny, with demonstrations of the most sincere friendship, "You know, my dear father, the promise you made me not to insult any of the Guises as long as you remained at court. On their side, they have given me their word that they will have for you, and all the gentry of your following, the consideration you deserve. I rely entirely upon your word, but I have not so much confidence in theirs; I know that they are only looking for an opportunity of letting their vengeance burst forth; I know their bold and haughty character; as they have the people of Paris devoted to them, and as, on coming hither, under pretext of the rejoicings at my sister's marriage, they have brought a numerous body of well-armed soldiers, I should be inconsolable if they were to take anything in hand against you; such an outrage would recoil upon me. That being so, if you think as I do, I believe the best thing for me is to order into the city the regiment of guards, with such and such captains (he mentioned none but those who were not objects of suspicion to Coligny); this re-enforcement," added the king, "will secure public tranquillity, and, if the factious make any disturbance, there will be men to oppose to them." The admiral assented to the king's proposal. He added that he was ready to declare "that never had he been guilty or approving of the death of Duke Francis of Guise, and that he set down as a calumniator and a scoundrel whoever said, that he had authorized it." Though frequently going to the palace, both he and the Guises, they had not spoken when they met. Charles had promised the Lorraine princes "not to force them to make friends with Coligny more than was agreeable to them." He believed that he had taken every precaution necessary to maintain in his court, for some time at least, the peace he desired.
On Friday, the 22d of August, 1572, Coligny was returning on foot from the Louvre to the Rue des Fosses—St.-Germain-l'Auxerrois, where he lived; he was occupied in reading a letter which he had just received; a shot, fired from the window of a house in the cloister of St. Germain-l'Auxerrois, smashed two fingers of his right hand and lodged a ball in his left arm; he raised his eyes, pointed out with his injured hand the house whence the shot had come, and reached his quarters on foot. Two gentlemen who were in attendance upon him rushed to seize the murderer; it was too late; Maurevert had been lodging there and on the watch for three days at the house of a canon, an old tutor to the Duke of Guise; a horse from the duke's stable was waiting for him at the back of the house; and, having done his job, he departed at a gallop. He was pursued for several leagues without being overtaken.
Coligny sent to apprise the king of what had just happened to him. "There," said he, "was a fine proof of fidelity to the agreement between him and the Duke of Guise." "I shall never have rest, then!" cried Charles, breaking the stick with which he was playing tennis with the Duke of Guise and Teligny, the admiral's son-in-law; and he immediately returned to his room. The Duke of Guise took himself off without a word. Teligny speedily joined his father-in-law. Ambrose Pare had already attended to him, cutting off the two broken fingers; somebody expressed a fear that the balls might have been poisoned. "It will be as God pleases as to that," said Coligny; and, turning towards the minister, Merlin, who had hurried to him, he added, "pray that He may grant me the gift of perseverance." Towards midday, Marshals de Damville, De Cosse, and De Villars went to see him "out of pure friendship," they told him, "and not to exhort him to endure his mishap with patience: we know that you will not lack patience." "I do protest to you," said Coligny, "that death affrights me not; it is of God that I hold my life; when He requires it back from me, I am quite ready to give it up. But I should very much like to see the king before I die; I have to speak to him of things which concern his person and the welfare of his state, and which I feel sure none of you would dare to tell him of." "I will go and inform his Majesty, . . ." rejoined Damville; and he went out with Villars and Teligny, leaving Marshal de Cosse in the room. "Do you remember," said Coligny to him, "the warnings I gave you a few hours ago? You will do well to take your precautions."
About two P. M., the king, the queen-mother, and the Dukes of Anjou and Alencon, her two other sons, with many of their high officers, repaired to the admiral's. "My dear father," said the king, as he went in, "the hurt is yours; the grief and the outrage mine; but I will take such vengeance that it shall never be forgotten;" to which he added his usual imprecations. "Then the admiral, who lay in bed sorely wounded," says the Duke of Anjou himself, in his account of this interview, "requested that he might speak privately to the king, which the king granted readily, making a sign to the queen my mother, and to me, to withdraw, which we did incontinently into the middle of the room, where we remained standing during this secret colloquy, which caused us great misgiving. We saw ourselves surrounded by more than two hundred gentlemen and captains of the admiral's party, who were in the room and another adjoining, and, besides, in a ball below, the which, with sad faces and the gestures and bearing of malcontents, were whispering in one another's ears, frequently passing and repasssing before and behind us, not with so much honor and respect as they ought to have done, and as if they had some suspicion that we had somewhat to do with the admiral's hurt. We were seized with astonishment and fear at seeing ourselves shut in there, as my mother has since many times confessed to me, saying that she had never been in any place where there was so much cause for fright, and whence she had gone away with more relief and pleasure. This apprehension caused us to speedily break in upon the conversation the admiral was having with the king, under a polite excuse invented by the queen my mother, who, approaching the king, said out loud that she had no idea he would make the admiral talk so much, and that she saw quite well that his physicians and surgeons considered it bad for him, as it certainly was very dangerous, and enough to throw him into a fever, which was, above everything, to be guarded against. She begged the king to put off the rest of their conversation to another time, when the admiral was better. This vexed the king mightily, for he was very anxious to hear the remainder of what the admiral had to say to him. However, he being unable to gainsay so specious an argument, we got the king away. And incontinently the queen-mother (and I too) begged the king to let us know the secret conversation which the admiral had held with him, and in which he had been unwilling that we should be participators; which the king refused several times to do. But finding himself importuned and hard pressed by us, he told us abruptly and with displeasure, swearing by God's death that what the admiral said was true, that kings realized themselves as such in France only in so far as they had the 'power of doing harm or good to their subjects and servants, and that this power and management of affairs had slipped imperceptibly into the hands of the queen my mother and mine.' 'This superintendent domination, the admiral told me, might some day be very prejudicial to me and to all my kingdom, and that I should hold it in suspicion and beware of it; of which he was anxious to warn me, as one of my best and most faithful subjects, before he died. There, God's death, as you wish to know, is what the admiral said to me.' This, said as it was with passion and fury, went straight home to our hearts, which we concealed as best we might, both of us, however, defending ourselves in the matter. We continued this conversation all the way from the admiral's quarters to the Louvre, where, having left the king in his room, we retired to that of the queen my mother, who was piqued and hurt to the utmost degree at this language used by the admiral to the king, as well as at the credence which the king seemed to accord to it, and was fearful lest it should bring about some change and alteration in our affairs and in the management of the state. Being unable to resolve upon any course at the moment, we retired, putting off the question till the morrow, when I went to see my mother, who was already up. I had a fine racket in my head, and so had she, and for the time there was no decision come to save to have the admiral despatched by some means or other. It being impossible any longer to employ stratagems and artifices, it would have to be done openly, and the king brought round to that way of thinking. We agreed that, in the afternoon, we would go and pay him a visit in his closet, whither we would get the Sieur de Nevers, Marshals de Tavannes and de Retz, and Chancellor de Birague to come, merely to have their opinion as to the means to be adopted for the execution, which we had already determined upon, my mother and I."
On Saturday, the 23d of August, in the afternoon, the queen-mother, the Duke of Anjou, Marshals do Tavannes and de Retz, the Duke of Nevers, and the Chancellor de Birague met in the king's closet, who was irresolute and still talking of exacting from the Guises heavy vengeance for the murderous attack upon Coligny. Catherine "represented to him that the party of the Huguenots had already seized this occasion for taking up arms against him; they had sent," she said, "several despatches to Germany to procure a levy of ten thousand reiters, and to the cantons of the Swiss for another levy of ten thousand foot; the French captains, partisans of the Huguenots, had already, most of them, set out to raise levies within the kingdom time and place of meeting had already been assigned and determined. All the Catholics, on their side," added Catherine, "disgusted with so long a war and harassed by so many kinds of calamities, have resolved to put a stop to them; they have decided amongst them to elect a captain-general, to form a league offensive and defensive against the Huguenots. The whole of France would thus be seen armed and divided into two great parties, between which the king would remain isolated, without any command and with about as much obedience. For so much ruin and calamity in anticipation and already within a finger's reach, and for the slaughter of so many thousands of men, a preventive may be found in a single sword-thrust; all that is necessary is to kill the admiral, the head and front of all the civil wars; the designs and the enterprises of the Huguenots will die with him, and the Catholics, satisfied with the sacrifice of two or three men, will remain forever in obedience to the king. . . ." "At the beginning," continues the Duke of Anjou, in his account, "the king would not by any means consent to have the admiral touched; feeling, however, some fear of the danger which we had so well depicted and represented, to him, he desired that, in a case of such importance, every one should at once state his opinion." When each of those present had spoken, the king appeared still undecided. The queen-mother then resolved "to let him hear the truth in toto from Marshal de Retz, from whom she knew that he would take it better than from any other," says his sister Marguerite de Valois in her Memoires, "as one who was more in his confidence and favor than any other. The which came to see him in the evening, about nine or ten, and told him that, as his faithful servant, he could not conceal from him the danger he was in if he were to abide by his resolution to do justice on M. de Guise, because it was necessary that he should know that the attack upon the admiral was not M. de Guise's doing alone, but that my brother Henry, the King of Poland, afterwards King of France, and the queen my mother, had been concerned in it; which M. de Guise and his friends would not fail to reveal, and which would place his Majesty in a position of great danger and embarrassment." Towards midnight, the queen-mother went down to the king, followed by her son Henry and four other councillors. They found the king more put out than ever. The conversation began again, and resolved itself into a regular attack upon the king. "The Guises," he was told, "will denounce the king himself, together with his mother and brother; the Huguenots will believe that the king was in concert with the party, and they will take the whole royal family to task. War is inevitable. Better to win a battle in Paris, where we hold all the chiefs in our clutches, than put it to hazard in the field. After a struggle of an hour and a half, Charles, in a violent state of agitation, still hesitated; when the queen-mother, fearing lest, if there were further delay, all would be discovered, said to him, 'Permit me and your brother, sir, to retire to some other part of the kingdom.' Charles rose from his seat. 'By God's death,' said he, 'since you think proper to kill the admiral, I consent; but all the Huguenots in Paris as well, in order that there remain not one to reproach me afterwards. Give the orders at once.'" And he went back into his room.
In order to relieve and satisfy her own passions and those of her favorite son, which were fear and love of power, the queen-mother had succeeded in working her king-son into a fit of weakness and mad anger. Anxious to profit by it, "she gave orders on the instant for the signal, which was not to have been given until an hour before daybreak," says De Thou, "and, instead of the bell at the Palace of Justice, the tocsin was sounded by the bell of St.-Germain-Auxerrois, which was nearer."
Even before the king had given his formal consent, the projectors of the outrage had carefully prepared for its execution; they had apportioned out amongst themselves or to their agents the different quarters of the city. The Guises had reserved for themselves that in which they considered they had personal vengeance as well as religious enmity to satisfy, the neighborhood of St.-Germain-l'Auxerrois, and especially Rue de Bethisy and Rue des Fosses-St.-Germain. Awakened by the noise around his house, and, before long, by arquebuse-shots fired in his court-yard, Coligny understood what was going to happen; he jumped out of bed, put on his dressing-gown, and, as he stood leaning against the wall, he said to the clergyman, Merlin, who was sitting up with him, "M. Merlin, say me a prayer; I commit my soul to my Saviour." One of his gentlemen, Cornaton, entered the room. "What is the meaning of this riot?" asked Ambrose Pare, who had also remained with the admiral.
"My lord," said Cornaton to Coligny, "it is God calling us." "I have long been ready to die," said the admiral; "but you, my friends, save yourselves, if it is still possible." All ran up stairs and escaped, the majority by the roof; a German servant, Nicholas Muss, alone remained with the admiral, "as little concerned," says Cornaton, "as if there were nothing going on around him." The door of his room was forced. Two men, servants of the Guises, entered first. One of them, Behme, attached to the Duke of Guise's own person, came forward, saying, "Art thou not the admiral?" "Young man," said Coligny, "thou comest against a wounded and an aged man. Thou'lt not shorten my life by much." Behme plunged into his stomach a huge pointed boar-spear which he had in his hand, and then struck him on the head with it. Coligny fell, saying, "If it were but a man! But 'tis a horse-boy." Others came in and struck him in their turn. "Behme!" shouted the Duke of Guise from the court-yard, "hast done?" "'Tis all over, my lord," was the answer; and the murderers threw the body out of the window, where it stuck for an instant, either accidentally or voluntarily, and as if to defend a last remnant of life. Then it fell. The two great lords, who were waiting for it, turned over the corpse, wiped the blood off the face, and said, "Faith, 'tis he, sure enough."
Some have said that Guise gave him a kick in the face. A servant of the Duke of Nevers cut off the head, and took it to the queen-mother, the king, and the Duke of Anjou. It was embalmed with care, to be sent, it is said, to Rome. What is certain is that, a few days afterwards, Mandelot, governor of Lyons, wrote to the king, "I have received, sir, the letter your Majesty was pleased to write to me, whereby you tell me that you have been advertised that there is a man who has set out from over yonder with the head he took from the admiral after killing him, for to convey it to Rome, and to take care, when the said man arrives in this city, to have him arrested, and to take from him the said head. Whereupon I incontinently gave such strict orders, that, if he presents himself, the command which it pleases your Majesty to lay upon me will be acted upon. There hath not passed, for these last few days, by way of this city, any person going Romewards save a squire of the Duke of Guise's, named Paule, the which had departed four hours previously on the same day on which I received the said letter from your Majesty."
We do not find anywhere, in reference to this incident, any information going further than this reply of the governor of Lyons to Charles IX. However it may be, the remains of Coligny's body, after having been hung and exposed for some days on the gibbet of Montfaucon, were removed by Duke Francis de Montmorency, the admiral's relative and friend, who had them transferred to Chantilly and interred in the chapel of the castle. After having been subjected, in the course of three centuries, at one time to oblivion and at others to divers transferences, these sad relics of a great man, a great Christian, and a great patriot, have been resting, for the last two and twenty years, in the very castle of Chatillon-sur-Loing, his ancestors' own domain having once more become the property of a relative of his family, the Duke of Luxembourg, to whom Count Anatole de Montesquiou transferred them, and who, in 1851, had them sealed up in a bit of wall in ruins, at the foot of an old tower, under the site of the bed-chamber of the Duchesses of Chatillon, where, in all probability, Coligny was born. The more tardy the homage, the greater.
The actual murderers of Coligny, the real projectors of the St. Bartholomew, Catherine de' Medici and her son the Duke of Anjou, at the very moment when they had just ordered the massacre, were seized with affright at the first sound of their crime. The Duke of Anjou finishes his story with this page "After but two hours' rest during the night, just as the day was beginning to break, the king, the queen my mother, and I went to the frontal of the Louvre, adjoining the tennis-court, into a room which looks upon the area of the stable-yard, to see the commencement of the work. We had not been there long when, as we were weighing the issues and the consequence of so great an enterprise, on which, sooth to say, we had up to that time scarcely bestowed a thought, we heard a pistol-shot fired. I could not say in what spot, or whether it knocked over anybody; but well know I that the sound wounded all three of us so deeply in spirit that it knocked over our senses and judgment, stricken with terror and apprehension at the great troubles which were then about to set in. To prevent them, we sent a gentleman at once and with all haste to M. de Guise, to tell him and command him expressly from us to retire into his quarters, and be very careful to take no steps against the admiral, this single command putting a stop to everything else, because it had been determined that in no spot in the city should any steps be taken until, as a preliminary, the admiral had been killed. But soon afterwards the gentleman returning told us that M. de Guise had answered him that the command came too late, that the admiral was dead, and the work was begun throughout the rest of the city. So we went back to our original determination, and let ourselves follow the thread and the course of the enterprise."
The enterprise, in fact, followed its thread and natural course without its being in the power of anybody to arrest or direct it. It had been absolutely necessary to give information of it the evening before to the provost of tradesmen of Paris, Le Charron, president in the court of taxation (Board of Excise), and to the chief men of the city. According to Brantome, "they made great difficulties and imported conscience into the matter; but M. de Tavannes, in the king's presence, rebuked them strongly, and threatened them that, if they did not make themselves busy, the king would have them hanged. The poor devils, unable to do aught else, thereupon answered, 'Ha! is that the way you take it, sir, and you, monsieur? We swear to you that you shall hear news thereof, for we will ply our hands so well right and left that the memory shall abide forever of a right well kept St. Bartholomew.'" "Wherein they did not fail," continues Brantome, "but they did not like it at first." According to other reports, the first opposition of the provost of tradesmen, Le Charron, was not without effect; it was not till the next day that he let the orders he had received take their course; and it was necessary to apply to his predecessor in his office, the ex-provost Marcel, a creature of the queen-mother's, to set in motion the turbulent and the fanatical amongst the populace, "which it never does to 'blood,' for it is afterwards more savage than is desirable." Once let loose upon the St. Bartholomew, the Parisian populace was eager indeed, but not alone in its eagerness, for the work of massacre; the gentlemen of the court took part in it passionately, from a spirit of vengeance, from religious hatred, from the effect of smelling blood, from covetousness at the prospect of confiscations at hand. Teligny, the admiral's son-in-law, had taken refuge on a roof; the Duke of Anjou's guards make him a mark for their arquebuses. La Rochefoucauld, with whom the king had been laughing and joking up to eleven o'clock the evening before, heard a knocking at his door, in the king's name; it is opened; enter six men in masks and poniard him. The new Queen of Navarre, Marguerite de Valois, had gone to bed by express order of her mother Catherine. "Just as I was asleep," says she, "behold a man knocking with feet and hands at the door and shouting, Navarre! Navarre! My nurse, thinking it was the king my husband, runs quickly to the door and opens it. It was a gentleman named M. de Leran, who had a sword-cut on the elbow, a gash from a halberd on the arm, and was still pursued by four archers, who all came after him into my bedroom. He, wishing to save himself, threw himself on to my bed; as for me, feeling this man who had hold of me, I threw myself out of bed towards the wall, and he after me, still holding me round the body. I did not know this man, and I could not tell whether he had come thither to offer me violence, or whether the archers were after him in particular, or after me. We both screamed, and each of us was as much frightened as the other. At last it pleased God that M. de Nanqay, captain of the guards, came in, who, finding me in this plight, though he felt compassion, could not help laughing; and, flying into a great rage with the archers for this indiscretion, he made them begone, and gave me the life of that poor man who had hold of me, whom I had put to bed and attended to in my closet, until he was well."
We might multiply indefinitely these anecdotical scenes of the massacre, most of them brutally ferocious, others painfully pathetic, some generous and calculated to preserve the credit of humanity amidst one of its most direful aberrations. History must show no pity for the vices and crimes of men, whether princes or people; and it is her duty as well as her right to depict them so truthfully that men's souls and imaginations may be sufficiently impressed by them to conceive disgust and horror at them; but it is not by dwelling upon them and by describing them minutely, as if she had to exhibit a gallery of monsters and madmen, that history can lead men's minds to sound judgments and salutary impressions; it is necessary to have moral sense and good sense always in view, and set high above great social troubles, just as sailors, to struggle courageously against the tempest, need to see a luminous corner where the sky is visible, and a star which reveals to them the port. We take no pleasure, and we see no use, in setting forth in detail the works of evil; we should be inclined to fear that, by familiarity with such a spectacle, men would lose the perception of good, and cease to put hope in its legitimate and ultimate superiority. Nor will we pause either to discuss the secondary questions which meet us at the period of which we are telling the story; for example, the question whether Charles IX. fired with his own hand on his Protestant subjects whom he had delivered over to the evil passions of the aristocracy and of the populace, or whether the balcony from which he is said to have indulged in this ferocious pastime existed at that time, in the sixteenth century, at the palace of the Louvre, and overlooking the Seine. These questions are not without historic interest, and it is well for learned men to study them; but we consider them incapable of being resolved with certainty; and, even were they resolved, they would not give the key to the character of Charles IX. and to the portion which appertains to him in the deed of cruelty with which his name remains connected. The great historic fact of the St. Bartholomew is what we confine ourselves to; and we have attempted to depict it accurately as regards Charles IX.'s hesitations and equally feverish resolutions, his intermixture of open-heartedness and double-dealing in his treatment of Coliguy, towards whom he felt himself drawn without quite understanding him, and his puerile weakness in presence of his mother, whom he feared far more than he trusted. When he had plunged into the orgies of the massacre, when, after having said, "Kill them all!" he had seen the slaughter of his companions in his royal amusements, Teligny and La Rochefoucauld, Charles IX. abandoned himself to a fit of mad passion. He was asked whether the two young Huguenot princes, Henry of Navarre and Henry de Conde, were to be killed also; Marshal de Retz had been in favor of it; Marshal de Tavannes had been opposed to it; and it was decided to spare them. On the very night of the St. Bartholomew, the king sent for them both. "I mean for the future," said he, "to have but one religion in my kingdom; the mass or death; make your choice." Henry of Navarre reminded the king of his promises, and asked for time to consider; Henry de Conde "answered that he would remain firm in the true religion though he should have to give up his life for it." "Seditious madman, rebel, and son of a rebel," said Charles, "if within three days you do not change your language, I will have you strangled." At this first juncture, the king saved from the massacre none but his surgeon, Ambrose Pare, and his nurse, both Huguenots; on the very night after the murder of Coligny, he sent for Ambrose Pare into his chamber, and made him go into his wardrobe, says Brantome, "ordering him not to stir, and saying that it was not reasonable that one who was able to be of service to a whole little world should be thus massacred." A few days afterwards, "Now," said the king to Pare, "you really must be a Catholic." "By God's light," answered Pars, "I think you must surely remember, sir, to have promised me, in order that I might never disobey you, never, on the other hand, to bid me do four things—find my way back into my mother's womb, catch myself fighting in a battle, leave your service, or go to mass." After a moment's silence Charles rejoined, "Ambrose, I don't know what has come over me for the last two or three days, but I feel my mind and my body greatly excited, in fact, just as if I had a fever; meseems every moment, just as much waking as sleeping, that those massacred corpses keep appearing to me with their faces all hideous and covered with blood. I wish the helpless and the innocent had not been included." "And in consequence of the reply made to him," adds Sully in his (Economies royales t. i. p. 244, in the Petitot collection), "he next day issued his orders, prohibiting, on pain of death, any slaying or plundering; the which were, nevertheless, very ill observed, the animosities and fury of the populace being too much inflamed to defer to them."
The historians, Catholic or Protestant, contemporary or researchful, differ widely as to the number of the victims in this cruel massacre; according to De Thou, there were about two thousand persons killed in Paris the first day; D'Aubigne says three thousand; Brantome speaks of four thousand bodies that Charles IX. might have seen floating down the Seine; La Popeliniere reduces them to one thousand. There is to be found, in the account-books of the city of Paris, a payment to the grave-diggers of the cemetery of the Innocents for having interred eleven hundred dead bodies stranded at the turns of the Seine near Chaillot, Auteuil, and St. Cloud; it is probable that many corpses were carried still farther, and the corpses were not all thrown into the river. The uncertainty is still greater when one comes to speak of the number of victims throughout the whole of France; De Thou estimates it at thirty thousand, Sully at seventy thousand, Perefixe, Archbishop of Paris in the seventeenth century, raises it to one hundred thousand; Papirius Masson and Davila reduce it to ten thousand, without clearly distinguishing between the massacre of Paris and those of the provinces; other historians fix upon forty thousand. Great uncertainty also prevails as to the execution of the orders issued from Paris to the governors at the provinces; the names of the Viscount d'Orte, governor of Bayonne, and of John le Hennuyer, Bishop of Lisieux, have become famous from their having refused to take part in the massacre; but the authenticity of the letter from the Viscount d'Orte to Charles IX. is disputed, though the fact of his resistance appears certain; and as for the bishop, John le Hennuyer, M. de Formeville seems to us to have demonstrated in his Histoire de l'ancien Eveche-comte de Lisieux (t. ii. pp. 299-314), "that there was no occasion to save the Protestants of Lisieux, in 1572, because they did not find themselves in any danger of being massacred, and that the merit of it cannot be attributed to anybody, to the bishop, Le Hennuyer, any more than to Captain Fumichon, governor of the town. It was only the general course of events and the discretion of the municipal officers of Lisieux that did it all." One thing which is quite true, and which it is good to call to mind in the midst of so great a general criminality, is that, at many spots in France, it met with a refusal to be associated in it; President Jeannin at Dijon, the Count de Tende in Provence, Philibert de la Guiche at Macon, Tanneguy le Veneur de Carrouge at Rouen, the Count de Gordes in Dauphiny, and many other chiefs, military or civil, openly repudiated the example set by the murderers of Paris; and the municipal body of Nantes, a very Catholic town, took upon this subject, as has been proved from authentic documents by M. Vaurigaud, pastor of the Reformed Church at Nantes [in his Essai sur l'Histoire des Eglises reformees de Bretagne, t. i. pp. 190-194], a resolution which does honor to its patriotic firmness as well as to its Christian loyalty.
A great, good man, a great functionary, and a great scholar, in disgrace for six years past, the Chancellor Michael de l'Hospital, received about this time, in his retreat at Vignay, a visit from a great philosopher, Michael de Montaigne, "anxious," said the visitor, "to come and testify to you the honor and reverence with which I regard your competence and the special qualities which are in you; for, as to the extraneous and the fortuitous, it is not to my taste to put them down in the account." Montaigne chose a happy moment for disregarding all but the personal, and special qualities of the chancellor; shortly after his departure, L'Hospital was warned that some sinister-looking horsemen were coming, and that he would do well to take care of himself. "No matter, no matter," he answered; "it will be as God pleases when my hour has come." Next day he was told that those men were approaching his house, and he was asked whether he would not have the gates shut against them, and have them fired upon, in case they attempted to force an entrance. "No," said he, "if the small gate will not do for them to enter by, let the big one be opened." A few hours afterwards, L'Hospital was informed that the king and the queen-mother were sending other horsemen to protect him. "I didn't know," said the old man, "that I had deserved either death or pardon." A rumor of his death flew abroad amongst his enemies, who rejoiced at it. "We are told," wrote Cardinal Granvelle to his agent at Brussels (October 8, 1572), "that the king has had Chancellor de l'Hospital and his wife despatched, which would be a great blessing." The agent, more enlightened than his chief, denied the fact, adding, "They are a fine bit of rubbish left, L'Hospital and his wife." Charles IX. wrote to his old adviser to reassure him, "loving you as I do." Some time after, however, he demanded of him his resignation of the title of chancellor, wishing to confer it upon La Birague, to reward him for his co-operation in the St. Bartholomew. L'Hospital gave in his resignation on the 1st of February, 1573, and died six weeks afterwards, on the 18th of March. "I am just at the end of my long journey, and shall have no more business but with God," he wrote to the king and the queen-mother. "I implore Him to give you His grace, and to lead you with His hand in all your affairs, and in the government of this great and beautiful kingdom which He hath committed to your keeping, with all gentleness and clemency towards your good subjects, in imitation of Himself, who is good and, patient in bearing our burdens, and prompt to forgive you and pardon you everything."
From the 24th to the 31st of August, 1572, the bearing and conduct of Charles IX. and the queen-mother produced nothing but a confused mass of orders and counter-orders, affirmations and denials, words and actions incoherent and contradictory, all caused by a habit of lying and the desire of escaping from the peril or embarrassment of the moment. On the very first day of the massacre, about midday, the provost of tradesmen and the sheriffs, who had not taken part in the "Paris matins," came complaining to the king "of the pillage, sack, and murder which were being committed by many belonging to the suite of his Majesty, as well as to those of the princes, princesses, and lords of the court, by noblemen, archers, and soldiers of the guard, as well as by all sorts of gentry and people mixed with them and under their wing." Charles ordered them "to get on horseback, take with them all the forces in the city, and keep their eyes open day and night to put a stop to the said murder, pillage, and sedition arising," he said, "because of the rivalry between the houses of Guise and Chatillon, and because they of Guise had been threatened by the admiral's friends, who suspected them of being at the bottom of the hurt inflicted upon him." He, the same day, addressed to the governors of the provinces a letter in which he invested the disturbance with the same character, and gave the same explanation of it. The Guises complained violently at being thus disavowed by the king, who had the face to throw upon them alone the odium of the massacre which he had ordered. Next day, August 25, the king wrote to all his agents, at home and abroad, another letter, affirming that "what had happened at Paris had been done solely to prevent the execution of an accursed conspiracy which the admiral and his allies had concocted against him, his mother, and his brothers;" and, on the 26th of August, he went with his two brothers to hold in state a bed of justice, and make to the Parliament the same declaration against Coligny and his party. "He could not," he said, "have parried so fearful a blow but by another very violent one; and he wished all the world to know that what had happened at Paris had been done not only with his consent, but by his express command." Whereupon it was enjoined upon the court, says De Thou, "to cause investigations to be made as to the conspiracy of Coligny, and to decree what it should consider proper, conformably with the laws and with justice." The next day but one, August 28, appeared a royal manifesto running, "The king willeth and intendeth that all noblemen and others whosoever of the religion styled Reformed be empowered to live and abide in all security and liberty, with their wives, children, and families, in their houses, as they have heretofore done and were empowered to do by benefit of the edicts of pacification. And nevertheless, for to obviate the troubles, scandals, suspicion, and distrust, which might arise by reason of the services and assemblies that might take place both in the houses of the said noblemen and elsewhere, as is permitted by the aforesaid edicts of pacification, his Majesty doth lay very express inhibitions and prohibitions upon all the said noblemen and others of the said religion against holding assemblies, on any account whatsoever, until that, by the said lord the king, after having provided for the tranquillity of his kingdom, it be otherwise ordained. And that, on pain of confiscation of body and goods in case of disobedience."
These tardy and lying accusations officially brought against Coligny and his friends; these promises of liberty and security for the Protestants, renewed in the terms of the edicts of pacification, and, in point of fact, annulled at the very moment at which they were being renewed; the massacre continuing here and there in France, at one time with the secret connivance and at another notwithstanding the publicly-given word of the king and the queen-mother; all this policy, at one and the same time violent and timorous, incoherent and stubborn, produced amongst the Protestants two contrary effects: some grew frightened, others angry. At court, under the direct influence of the king and his surroundings, "submission to the powers that be" prevailed; many fled; others, without abjuring their religion, abjured their party. The two Reformer-princes, Henry of Navarre and Henry de Conde, attended mass on the 29th of September, and, on the 3d of October, wrote to the pope, deploring their errors and giving hopes of their conversion. Far away from Paris, in the mountains of the Pyrenees and of Languedoc, in the towns where the Reformers were numerous and confident, at Sancerre, at Montauban, at Nimes, at La Rochelle, the spirit of resistance carried the day. An assembly, meeting at Milhau, drew up a provisional ordinance for the government of the Reformed church, "until it please God, who has the hearts of kings in His keeping, to change that of King Charles IX. and restore the state of France to good order, or to raise up such neighboring prince as is manifestly marked out, by his virtue and by distinguishing signs, for to be the liberator of this poor afflicted people." In November, 1572, the fourth religious war broke out. The siege of La Rochelle was its only important event. Charles IX. and his councillors exerted themselves in vain to avoid it. There was everything to disquiet them in this enterprise: so sudden a revival of the religious war after the grand blow they had just struck, the passionate energy manifested by the Protestants in asylum at La Rochelle, and the help they had been led to hope for from Queen Elizabeth, whom England would never have forgiven for indifference in this cause. Marshal de Biron, who was known to favor the Reformers, was appointed governor of La Rochelle; but he could not succeed in gaining admittance within the walls, even alone and for the purpose of parleying with the inhabitants. The king heard that one of the bravest Protestant chiefs, La Noue Ironarm, had retired to Mons with Prince Louis of Nassau. The Duke of Longueville, his old enemy, induced him to go to Paris. The king received him with great favor, gave up to him the property of Teligny, whose sister La Noue had married, and pressed him to go to La Rochelle and prevail upon the inhabitants to keep the peace. La Noue refused, saying that he was not at all fitted for this commission. The king promised that he would ask nothing of him which could wound his honor. La Noue at last consented, and repaired, about the end of November, 1572, to a village close by La Rochelle, whither it was arranged that deputies from the town would come and confer with him. And they came, in fact, but at their first meeting, "We are come," they said, "to confer with M. de La Noue, but we do not see him here." La Noue got angry. "I am astonished," he said, "that you have so soon forgotten one who has received so many wounds and lost an arm fighting for you." "Yes, there is a M. de La Noue, who was one of us, and who bravely defended our cause; but he never flattered us with vain hopes, he never invited us to conferences to betray us." La Noue got more fiercely angry. "All I ask of you is, to report to the senate what I have to say to them." They complied, and came back with permission for him to enter the town. The people looked at him, as he passed, with a mixture of distrust and interest. After hearing him, the senate rejected the pacific overtures made to them by La Noue. "We have no mind to treat specially and for ourselves alone; our cause is that of God and of all the churches of France; we will accept nothing but what shall seem proper to all our brethren. For yourself, we give you your choice between three propositions: remain in our town as a simple burgess, and we will give you quarters; if you like better to be our commandant, all the nobility and the people will gladly have you for their head, and will fight with confidence under your orders; if neither of these propositions suits you, you shall be welcome to go aboard one of our vessels and cross over to England, where you will find many of your friends." La Noue did not hesitate; he became, under the authority of the mayor Jacques Henri, the military head of La Rochelle, whither Charles IX. had sent him to make peace. The king authorized him to accept this singular position. La Noue conducted himself so honorably in it, and everybody was so convinced of his good faith as well as bravery, that for three months he commanded inside La Rochelle, and superintended the preparations for defence, all the while trying to make the chances of peace prevail. At the end of February, 1573, he recognized the impossibility of his double commission, and he went away from La Rochelle, leaving the place in better condition than that in which he had found it, without either king or Rochellese considering that they had any right to complain of him.
Biron first and then the Duke of Anjou in person took the command of the siege. They brought up, it is said, forty thousand men and sixty pieces of artillery. The Rochellese, for defensive strength, had but twenty-two companies of refugees or inhabitants, making in all thirty-one hundred men. The siege lasted from the 26th of February to the 13th of June, 1573; six assaults were made on the place; in the last, the ladders had been set at night against the wall of what was called Gospel bastion; the Duke of Guise, at the head of the assailants, had escaladed the breach, but there he discovered a new ditch and a new rampart erected inside; and, confronted by these unforeseen obstacles, the men recoiled and fell back. La Rochelle was saved. Charles IX. was more and more desirous of peace; his brother, the Duke of Anjou, had just been elected King of Poland; Charles IX. was anxious for him to leave France and go to take possession of his new kingdom. Thanks to these complications, the peace of La Rochelle was signed on the 6th of July, 1573. Liberty of creed and worship was recognized in the three towns of La Rochelle, Montauban, and Nimes. They were not obliged to receive any royal garrison, on condition of giving hostages to be kept by the king for two years. Liberty of worship throughout the extent of their jurisdiction continued to be recognized in the case of lords high-justiciary. Everywhere else the Reformers had promises of not being persecuted for their creed, under the obligation of never holding an assembly of more than ten persons at a time. These were the most favorable conditions they had yet obtained.
Certainly this was not what Charles IX. had calculated upon when he consented to the massacre of the Protestants. "Provided," he had said, "that not a single one is left to reproach me." The massacre had been accomplished almost without any resistance but that offered by certain governors of provinces or towns, who had refused to take part in it. The chief leader of French Protestantism, Coligny, had been the first victim. Far more than that, the Parliament of Paris had accepted the royal lie which accused Coligny of conspiring for the downfall of the king and the royal house; a decree, on that very ground, sentenced to condemnation the memory, the family, and the property of Coligny, with all sorts of rigorous, we should rather say atrocious, circumstances. And after having succeeded so well against the Protestants, Charles IX. saw them recovering again, renewing the struggle with him, and wresting from him such concessions as he had never yet made to them. More than ever might he exclaim, "Then I shall never have rest!" The news that came to him from abroad was not more calculated to satisfy him.
The St. Bartholomew had struck Europe with surprise and horror; not only amongst the princes and in the countries that were Protestant, in England, Scotland, and Northern Europe, but in Catholic Germany itself, there was a very strong feeling of reprobation; the Emperor Maximilian II. and the Elector Palatine Frederic III., called the Pious, showed it openly; when the Duke of Anjou, elected King of Poland, went through Germany to go and take possession of his kingdom, he was received at Heidelberg with premeditated coolness. When he arrived at the gate of the castle, not a soul went to meet him; alone he ascended the steps, and found in the hall a picture representing the massacre of St. Bartholomew; the elector called his attention to the portraits of the principal victims, amongst others that of Coligny, and at table he was waited upon solely by French Protestant refugees. At Rome itself, in the midst of official satisfaction and public demonstrations of it exhibited by the pontifical court, the truth came out, and Pope Gregory XIII. was touched by it when certain of my lords the cardinals who were beside him "asked wherefore he wept and was sad at so goodly a despatch of those wretched folk, enemies of God and of his Holiness: 'I weep,' said the pope, 'at the means the king used, exceeding unlawful and forbidden of God, for to inflict such punishment; I fear that one will fall upon him, and that he will not have a very long bout of it (will not live very long). I fear, too, that amongst so many dead folk there died as many innocent as guilty.'" [Brantome, t. iv. p. 306. He attributes this language to Pope Pius V., who died four months before the St. Bartholomew. Gregory XIII., elected May 15, 1572, was pope when the massacre took place.] Only the King of Spain, Philip II., a fanatical despot, and pitiless persecutor, showed complete satisfaction at the event; and he offered Charles IX. the assistance of his army, if he had need of it, against what there was remaining of heretics in his kingdom.
Charles IX. had not mind or character sufficiently sound or sufficiently strong to support, without great perturbation, the effect of so many violent, repeated, and often contradictory impressions. Catherine de Medici had brought up her three sons solely with a view of having their confidence and implicit obedience. "All the actions of the queen-mother," said the Venetian ambassador Sigismund Cavalli, who had for a long while resided at her court, "have always been prompted and regulated by one single passion, the passion of ruling." Her son Charles had yielded to it without an effort in his youth. "He was accustomed to say that, until he was five and twenty, he meant to play the fool; that is to say, to think of nothing but of enjoying his heyday; accordingly he showed aversion for speaking and treating of business, putting himself altogether in his mother's hands. Now, he no longer thinks and acts in the same way. I have been told that, since the late events, he requires to have the same thing said more than three times over by the queen, before obeying her." It was not with regard to his mother only that Charles had changed. "His looks," says Cavalli, "have become melancholy and sombre; in his conversations and audiences he does not look the speaker in the face; he droops his head, closes his eyes, opens them all at once, and, as if he found the movement painful, closes them again with no less suddenness. It is feared that the demon of vengeance has possessed him; he used to be merely severe; it is feared that he is becoming cruel. He is temperate in his diet; drinks nothing but water. To tire himself at any price, is his object. He remains on horseback for twelve or fourteen consecutive hours; and so he goes hunting and coursing through the woods the same animal, the stag, for two or three days, never stopping but to eat, and never resting but for an instant during the night." He was passionately fond of all bodily exercises, the practice of arms, and the game of tennis. "He had a forge set up for himself," says Brantome, "and I have seen him forging cannon, and horseshoes, and other things as stoutly as the most robust farriers and forgemen." He, at the same time, showed a keen and intelligent interest in intellectual works and pleasures. He often had a meeting, in the evening, of poets, men of letters, and artists—Ronsard, Amadis Jamin, Jodelle, Daurat, Baif; in 1570 he gave them letters patent for the establishment of an Academy of poetry and music, the first literary society founded in France by a king; but it disappeared amidst the civil wars. Charles IX. himself sang in the choir, and he composed a few hunting-airs. Ronsard was a favorite, almost a friend, with him; he used to take him with him on his trips, and give him quarters in his palace, and there was many an interchange of verse between them, in which Ronsard did not always have the advantage. Charles gave a literary outlet to his passion for hunting; he wrote a little treatise entitled La Chasse royale, which was not published until 1625, and of which M. Henry Chevreul brought out, in 1857, a charming and very correct edition. Charles IX. dedicated it to his lieutenant of the hunt, Mesnil, in terms of such modest and affectionate simplicity that they deserve to be kept in remembrance. "Mesnil," said the king, "I should feel myself far too ungrateful, and expect to be chidden for presumption, if, in this little treatise that I am minded to make upon stag hunting, I did not, before any one begins to read it, avow and confess that I learnt from you what little I know. . . . I beg you, also, Mesnil, to be pleased to correct and erase what there is wrong in the said treatise, the which, if peradventure it is so done that there is nothing more required than to re-word and alter, the credit will be firstly yours for having so well taught me, and then mine for having so well remembered. Well, then, having been taught by so good a master, I will be bold enough to essay it, begging you to accept it as heartily as I present it and dedicate it to you."
These details and this quotation are allowable in order to shed full light upon the private and incoherent character of this king, who bears the responsibility of one of the most tragic events in French history. In the spring of 1574, at the age of twenty-three years and eleven months, and after a reign of eleven years and six months, Charles IX. was attacked by an inflammatory malady, which brought on violent hemorrhage; he was revisited, in his troubled sleep, by the same bloody visions about which, a few days after the St. Bartholomew, he had spoken to Ambrose Pare. He no longer retained in his room anybody but two of his servants and his nurse, "of whom he was very fond, although she was a Huguenot," says the contemporary chronicler Peter de l'Estoile. "When she had lain down upon a chest, and was just beginning to doze, hearing the king moaning, weeping, and sighing, she went full gently up to the bed. 'Ah, nurse, nurse,' said the king, 'what bloodshed and what murders! Ah! what evil counsel have I followed! O, my God! forgive me them and have mercy upon me, if it may please Thee! I know not what hath come to me, so bewildered and agitated do they make me. What will be the end of it all? What shall I do? I am lost; I see it well.' Then said the nurse to him, 'Sir, the murders be on the heads of those who made you do them! Of yourself, sir, you never could; and since you are not consenting thereto, and are sorry therefor, believe that God will not put them down to your account, and will hide them with the cloak of justice of His Son, to whom alone you must have recourse. But for God's sake, let your Majesty cease weeping!' And thereupon, having been to fetch him a pocket-handkerchief, because his own was soaked with tears, after that the king had taken it from her hand, he signed to her to go away and leave him to his rest."
On Sunday, May 30, 1574, Whitsunday, about three in the afternoon, Charles IX. expired, after having signed an ordinance conferring the regency upon his mother Catherine, "who accepted it," was the expression in the letters patent, "at the request of the Duke of Alencon, the King of Navarre, and other princes and peers of France." According to D'Aubigne, Charles used often to say of his brother Henry, that, "when he had a kingdom on his hands, the administration would find him out, and that he would disappoint those who had hopes of him." The last words he said were, "that he was glad not to have left any young child to succeed him, very well knowing that France needs a man, and that, with a child, the king and the reign are unhappy."