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A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

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king, but only thirteen days; she is not pretty, but she is possessed of
extraordinary wisdom and prudence; no doubt of her being fit to govern;
nevertheless she is not consulted or considered so much as she well might
be." Five years later, in 1557, after the battle and capture of
Saint-Quentin, France was in a fit of stupor; Paris believed the enemy
to be already beneath her walls; many of the burgesses were packing up
and flying, some to Orleans, some to Bourges, some still farther. The
king had gone to Compiegne "to get together," says Brantome, "a fresh

[Illustration: Catherine de' Medici (in her young days)----255]

Queen Catherine was alone at Paris. Of her own motion "she went to the
Parliament (according to the _Memoires de la Chatre_ it was to the Hotel
de Ville that she went and made her address) in full state, accompanied
by the cardinals, princes, and princesses; and there, in the most
impressive language, she set forth the urgent state of affairs at the
moment. She pointed out that, in spite of the enormous expenses into
which the Most Christian king had found himself drawn in his late wars,
he had shown the greatest care not to burden the towns. In the
continuous and extreme pressure of requirements her Majesty did not think
that any further charge could be made on the people of the country
places, who in ordinary times always bear the greatest burden. With so
much sentiment and eloquence that she touched the heart of everybody, the
queen then explained to the Parliament that the king had need of three
hundred thousand livres, twenty-five thousand to be paid every two
months; and she added that she would retire from the place of session, so
as not to interfere with liberty of discussion; and she, accordingly,
retired to an adjoining room. A resolution to comply with the wishes of
her Majesty was voted, and the queen, having resumed her place, received
a promise to that effect. A hundred notables of the city offered to give
at once three thousand francs apiece. The queen thanked them in the
sweetest form of words; and thus terminated this session of Parliament
with so much applause for her Majesty and such lively marks of
satisfaction at her behavior that no idea can be given of them.
Throughout the whole city nothing was spoken of but the queen's prudence
and the happy manner in which she proceeded in this enterprise."

Such is the account, not of a French courtier, but of the Venetian
ambassador, Giacomo Lorenzo, writing confidentially to his government.
From that day the position of Catherine de' Medici was changed in France,
amongst the people as well as at court. "The king went more often to see
her; he added to his habits that of holding court at her apartments for
about an hour every day after supper in the midst of the lords and
ladies." It is not to be discovered anywhere in the contemporary
Memoires, whether Catherine had anything to do with the resolution taken
by Henry II. on returning from Compiegne; but she thenceforward assumed
her place, and gave a foretaste of the part she was to play in the
government of France. Unhappily for the honor of Catherine and for the
welfare of France, that part soon ceased to be judicious, dignified, and
salutary, as it had been on that day of its first exhibition.

On entering Paris again the king at once sent orders to the Duke of Guise
to return in haste from Italy with all the troops he could bring. Every
eye and every hope were fixed upon the able and heroic defender of Metz,
who had forced Charles V. to retreat before him. A general appeal was at
the same time addressed to "all soldiers, gentlemen and others, who had
borne or were capable of bearing arms, to muster at Laon under the Duke
of Nevers, in order to be employed for the service of the king and for
the tuition [protection] of their country, their families, and their
property." Guise arrived on the 20th of October, 1557, at
Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where the court happened to be just then: every
mark of favor was lavished upon him; all the resources of the state were
put at his disposal; there was even some talk of appointing him viceroy;
but Henry II. confined himself to proclaiming him, on the very day of
his arrival, lieutenant-general of the armies throughout the whole
extent of the monarchy, both within and without the realm. His brother,
the Cardinal of Lorraine, who was as ambitious and almost as able as he,
had the chief direction in civil, financial, and diplomatic affairs;
never, since the great mayors-of-the-palace under the Merovingian kings,
had similar power been in the hands of a subject. Like a man born to
command, Guise saw that, in so complicated a situation, a brilliant
stroke must be accomplished and a great peril be met by a great success.
"He racked his brains for all sorts of devices for enabling him to do
some remarkable deed which might humble the pride of that haughty
Spanish nation and revive the courage of his own men; and he took it
that those things which the enemy considered as the most secure would be
the least carefully guarded. Some years previously it had been
suggested to the constable that an attempt might be made upon Calais,
negligently guarded as it was, and the place itself not being in good
order. The Duke of Guise put the idea of this enterprise forward once
more, and begged the king's permission to attempt it, without saying a
word about it to anybody else, which the king considered to be a very
good notion." Guise took the command of the army, and made a feint of
directing its movements towards an expedition in the east of the
kingdom; but, suddenly turning westwards, he found himself on the night
of January 1, 1558, beneath the walls of Calais, "whither, with right
good will, all the princes, lords, and soldiers had marched." On the 3d
of January he took the two forts of Nieullay and Risbank, which covered
the approaches to the place. On the 4th he prepared for, and on the 6th
he delivered, the assault upon the citadel itself, which was carried; he
left there his brother, the Duke of Aumale, with a sufficient force for
defence; the portion of the English garrison which had escaped at the
assault fell back within the town; the governor, Lord Wentworth, "like a
man in desperation, who saw he was all but lost," made vain attempts to
recover this important post under cover of night and of the high sea,
which rendered impossible the prompt arrival of any aid for the French;
but "they held their own inside the castle." The English requested the
Duke of Aumale "to parley so as to come to some honorable and reasonable
terms;" and Guise assented. On the 8th of January, whilst he was
conferring in his tent with the representatives of the governor,
Coligny's brother, D'Andelot, entered the town at the solicitation of
the English themselves, who were afraid of being all put to the sword.
The capitulation was signed. The inhabitants, with their wives and
children, had their lives spared, and received permission to leave
Calais freely and without any insult, and withdraw to England or
Flanders. Lord Wentworth and fifty other persons, to be chosen by the
Duke of Guise, remained prisoners of war; with this exception, all the
soldiers were to return to England, but with empty hands. The place was
left with all the cannons, arms, munitions, utensils, engines of war,
flags and standards which happened to be in it. The furniture, the gold
and silver, coined or other, the merchandise, and the horses passed over
to the disposal of the Duke of Guise. Lastly the vanquished, when they
quitted the town, were to leave it intact, having no power to pull down
houses, unpave streets, throw up earth, displace a single stone, pull
out a single nail. The conqueror's precautions were as deliberate as
his audacity had been sudden. On the 9th of January, 1558, after a
week's siege, Calais, which had been in the hands of the English for two
hundred and ten years, once more became a French town, in spite of the
inscription which was engraved on one of its gates, and which may be
turned into the following distich:--

"A siege of Calais may seem good
When lead and iron swim like wood."

The joy was so much the greater in that it was accompanied by great
surprise: save a few members of the king's council, nobody expected this
conquest. "I certainly thought that you must be occupied in preparing
for some great exploit, and that you wished to wait until you could
apprise me of the execution rather than the design," wrote Marshal de
Brissac to the Duke of Guise, on the 22d of January, from Italy.
Foreigners were not less surprised than the French themselves; they had
supposed that France would remain for a long while under the effects of
the reverse experienced at Saint-Quentin. "The loss of Calais," said
Pope Paul IV., "will be the only dowry that the Queen of England will
obtain from her marriage with Philip. For France such a conquest is
preferable to that of half the kingdom of England." When Mary Tudor,
already seriously ill, heard the news, she exclaimed from her deathbed,
on the 20th of January, "If my heart is opened, there will be found
graven upon it the word Calais." And when the Grand Prior of France, on
repairing to the court of his sister, Mary of Lorraine, in Scotland, went
to visit Queen Elizabeth, who had succeeded Mary Tudor, she, after she
had made him dance several times with her, said to him, "My dear prior, I
like you very much, but not your brother, who robbed me of my town of

Guise was one of those who knew that it is as necessary to follow up a
success accomplished as to proceed noiselessly in the execution of a
sudden success. When he was master of Calais he moved rapidly upon the
neighboring fortresses of Guines and Ham; and he had them in his power
within a few days, notwithstanding a resistance more stout than he had
encountered at Calais. During the same time the Duke of Nevers,
encouraged by such examples, also took the field again, and gained
possession, in Champagne and the neighborhood, of the strong castles of
Herbemont, Jamoigne, Chigny, Rossignol, and Villemont. Guise had no idea
of contenting himself with his successes in the west of France; his
ambition carried him into the east also, to the environs of Metz, the
scene of his earliest glory. He heard that Vieilleville, who had become
governor of Metz, was setting about the reduction of Thionville, "the
best picture of a fortress I ever saw," says Montluc. "I have heard,"
wrote Guise to Vieilleville, "that you have a fine enterprise on hand; I
pray you do not commence the execution of it, in any fashion whatever,
until I be with you: having given a good account of Calais and Guines, as
lieutenant-general of his Majesty in this realm, I should be very vexed
if there should be done therein anything of honor and importance without
my presence." He arrived before Thionville on the 4th of June, 1558.
Vieilleville and his officers were much put out at his interference.
"The duke might surely have dispensed with coming," said D'Estrees, chief
officer of artillery; "it will be easy for him to swallow what is all
chewed ready for him." But the bulk of the army did not share this
feeling of jealousy. When the pioneers, drawn up, caught sight of Guise,
"Come on, sir," they cried, "come and let us die before Thionville; we
have been expecting you this long while." The siege lasted three weeks
longer. Guise had with him two comrades of distinction, the Italian
Peter Strozzi, and the Gascon Blaise do Montluc. On the 20th of June
Strozzi was mortally wounded by an arquebuse-shot, at the very side of
Guise, who was talking to him with a hand upon his shoulder. "Ah! by
God's head, sir," cried Strozzi, in Italian, "the king to-day loses a
good servant, and so does your excellency." Guise, greatly moved,
attempted to comfort him, and spoke to him the name of Jesus Christ; but
Strozzi was one of those infidels so common at that time in Italy.
"'Sdeath," said he, "what Jesus are you come hither to remind me of?
I believe in no God; my game is played." "You will appear to-day before
His face," persisted Guise, in the earnestness of his faith. "'Sdeath,"
replied Strozzi, "I shall be where all the others are who have died in
the last six thousand years." The eyes of Guise remained fixed a while
upon his comrade dying in such a frame of mind; but he soon turned all
his thoughts once more to the siege of Thionville. Montluc supported him
valiantly. A strong tower still held out, and Montluc carried it at the
head of his men. Guise rushed up and threw his arm round the warrior's
neck, saying, "Monseigneur, I now see clearly that the old proverb is
quite infallible: 'A good horse will go to the last.' I am off at once to
my quarters to report the capture to the king. Be assured that I shall
not conceal from him the service you have done." The reduction of
Thionville was accomplished on that very day, June 22, 1558. That of
Arlon, a rich town in the neighborhood, followed very closely. Guise,
thoroughly worn out, had ordered the approaches to be made next morning
at daybreak, requesting that he might be left to sleep until he awoke of
himself; when he did awake, he inquired whether the artillery had yet
opened fire; he was told that Montluc had surprised the place during the
night. "That is making the pace very fast," said he, as he made the sign
of the cross; but he did not care to complain about it. Under the
impulse communicated by him the fortunes of France were reviving
everywhere. A check received before Gravelines, on the 13th of July,
1558, by a division commanded by De Termes, governor of Calais, did not
subdue the national elation and its effect upon the enemy themselves.
"It is an utter impossibility for me to keep up the war," wrote Philip
II., on the 15th of February, 1559, to Granvelle. On both sides there
was a desire for peace; and conferences were opened at Cateau-Cambresis.
On the 6th of February, 1559, a convention was agreed upon for a truce
which was to last during the whole course of the negotiation, and for six
days after the separation of the plenipotentiaries, in case no peace took

It was concluded on the 2d of April, 1559, between Henry II. and
Elizabeth, who had become Queen of England at the death of her sister
Mary (November 17, 1558); and next day, April 3, between Henry II.,
Philip II., and the allied princes of Spain, amongst others the Prince of
Orange, William the Silent, who, whilst serving in the Spanish army, was
fitting himself to become the leader of the Reformers, and the liberator
of the Low Countries. By the treaty with England, France was to keep
Calais for eight years in the first instance, and on a promise to pay
five hundred thousand gold crowns to Queen Elizabeth or her successors.
The money was never paid, and Calais was never restored, and this without
the English government's having considered that it could make the matter
a motive for renewing the war. By the treaty with Spain, France was to
keep Metz, Toul, and Verdun, and have back Saint-Quentin, Le Catelet, and
Ham; but she was to restore to Spain or her allies a hundred and
eighty-nine places in Flanders, Piedmont, Tuscany, and Corsica. The
malcontents--for the absence of political liberty does not suppress
them entirely--raised their voices energetically against this last
treaty signed by the king, with the sole desire, it was supposed, of
obtaining the liberation of his two favorites, the Constable de
Montmorency and Marshal de Saint-Andre, who had been prisoners in Spain
since the defeat at Saint-Quentin. "Their ransom," it was said, "has
cost the kingdom more than that of Francis I." Guise himself said to
the king, "A stroke of your Majesty's pen costs more to France than
thirty years of war cost." Ever since that time the majority of
historians, even the most enlightened, have joined in the censure that
was general in the sixteenth century; but their opinion will not be
indorsed here; the places which France had won during the war, and which
she retained by the peace,--Metz, Toul, and Verdun on her frontier in
the north-east, facing the imperial or Spanish possessions, and Boulogne
and Calais on her coasts in the north-west, facing England,--were, as
regarded the integrity of the state and the security of the inhabitants,
of infinitely more importance than those which she gave up in Flanders
and Italy. The treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, too, marked the termination
of those wars of ambition and conquest which the Kings of France had
waged beyond the Alps an injudicious policy, which, for four reigns, had
crippled and wasted the resources of France in adventurous expeditions,
beyond the limits of her geographical position and her natural and
permanent interests.

More or less happily, the treaty of Cateau-Cambreis had regulated all
those questions of external policy which were burdensome to France; she
was once more at peace with her neighbors, and seemed to have nothing
more to do than to gather in the fruits thereof. But she had in her own
midst questions far more difficult of solution than those of her external
policy, and these perils from within were threatening her more seriously
than any from without. Since the death of Francis I., the religious
ferment had pursued its course, becoming more general and more fierce;
the creed of the Reformers had spread very much; their number had very
much increased; permanent churches, professing and submitting to a fixed
faith and discipline, had been founded; that of Paris was the first, in
1555; and the example had been followed at Orleans, at Chartres, at
Lyons, at Toulouse, at Rochelle, in Normandy, in Touraine, in Guienne, in
Poitou, in Dauphiny, in Provence, and in all the provinces, more or less.
In 1561, it was calculated that there were twenty-one hundred and fifty
reformed, or, as the expression then was, rectified (dressees), churches.
"And this is no fanciful figure; it is the result of a census taken at
the instigation of the deputies who represented the reformed churches at
the conference of Poissy on the demand of Catherine de' Medici, and in
conformity with the advice of Admiral de Coligny." [_La Reformation en
France pendant sa premiere periode,_ by Henri Luttheroth, pp. 127-132.]
It is clear that the movement of the Reformation in the sixteenth century
was one of those spontaneous and powerful movements which have their
source and derive their strength from the condition of men's souls and
of whole communities, and not merely from the personal ambitions and
interests which soon come and mingle with them, whether it be to promote
or to retard them. One thing has been already here stated and confirmed
by facts; it was specially in France that the Reformation had this truly
religious and sincere character; very far from supporting or tolerating
it, the sovereign and public authorities opposed it from its very birth;
under Francis I. it had met with no real defenders but its martyrs; and
it was still the same under Henry II. During the reign of Francis I.,
within a space of twenty-three years, there had been eighty-one capital
executions for heresy; during that of Henry II., twelve years, there were
ninety-seven for the same cause, and at one of these executions Henry II.
was present in person, on the space in front of Notre-Dame: a spectacle
which Francis I. had always refused to see. In 1551, 1557, and 1559,
Henry II., by three royal edicts, kept up and added to all the
prohibitions and penalties in force against the Reformers. In 1550, the
massacre of the Vaudians was still in such lively and odious remembrance
that a noble lady of Provence, Madame de Cental, did not hesitate to
present a complaint, in the name of her despoiled, proscribed, and
murdered vassals, against the Cardinal de Tournon, the Count de Grignan,
and the Premier President Maynier d'Oppede, as having abused, for the
purpose of getting authority for this massacre, the religious feelings of
the king, who on his death-bed had testified his remorse for it. "This
cause," says De Thou, "was pleaded with much warmth, and occupied fifty
audiences, with a large concourse of people, but the judgment took all
the world by surprise. Guerin alone, advocate-general in 1545, having no
support at court, was condemned to death, and was scape-goat for all the
rest. D'Oppede defended himself with fanatical pride, saying that he
only executed the king's orders, like Saul, whom God commanded to
exterminate the Amalekites. He had the Duke of Guise to protect him; and
he was sent back to discharge the duties of his office. Such was the
prejudice of the Parliament of Paris against the Reformers that it
interdicted the hedge-schools (_ecoles buissonnieres_), schools which the
Protestants held out in the country to escape from the jurisdiction of
the precentor of Notre-Dame de Paris, who had the sole supervision of
primary schools. Hence comes the proverb, to play truant (_faire l'ecole
buissonniere--to go to hedge school_). All the resources of French civil
jurisdiction appeared to be insufficient against the Reformers. Henry
II. asked the pope for a bull, transplanting into France the Spanish
Inquisition, the only real means of extirpating the root of the errors."
It was the characteristic of this Inquisition, that it was completely in
the hands of the clergy, and that its arm was long enough to reach the
lay and the clerical indifferently. Pope Paul IV. readily gave the king,
in April, 1557, the bull he asked for, but the Parliament of Paris
refused to enregister the royal edict which gave force in France to the
pontifical brief. In 1559 the pope replied to this refusal by a bull
which comprised in one and the same anathema all heretics, though they
might be kings or emperors, and declared them to have "forfeited their
benefices, states, kingdoms, or empires, the which should devolve on the
first to seize them, without power on the part of the Holy See itself to
restore them." [_Magnum Bullarium Romanum, a Beato Leone Magno ad
Paulum IV.,_ t. i. p. 841: Luxembourg, 1742.] The Parliament would not
consent to enregister the decree unless there were put in it a condition
to the effect that clerics alone should be liable to the inquisition, and
that the judges should be taken from amongst the clergy of France. For
all their passionate opposition to the Reformation, the Magistrates had
no idea of allowing either the kingship or France to fall beneath the
yoke of the papacy.

Amidst all these disagreements and distractions in the very heart of
Catholicism, the Reformation went on growing from day to day. In 1558,
Lorenzo, the Venetian ambassador, set down even then the number of the
Reformers at four hundred thousand. In 1559, at the death of Henry II.,
Claude Haton, a priest and contemporary chronicler on the Catholic side,
calculated that they were nearly a quarter of the population of France.
They held at Paris, in May, 1559, their first general synod; and eleven
fully established churches sent deputies to it. This synod drew up a
form of faith called the Gallican Confession, and likewise a form of
discipline. "The burgess-class, for a long while so indifferent to the
burnings that took place, were astounded at last at the constancy with
which the pile was mounted by all those men and all those women who had
nothing to do but to recant in order to save their lives. Some could not
persuade themselves that people so determined were not in the right;
others were moved with compassion. 'Their very hearts,' say
contemporaries, 'wept together with their eyes.'" It needed only an
opportunity to bring these feelings out. Some of the faithful one day in
the month of May, 1558, on the public walk in the Pre-aux-Clercs, began
to sing the psalms of Marot. Their singing had been forbidden by the
Parliament of Bordeaux, but the practice of singing those psalms had but
lately been so general that it could not be looked upon as peculiar to
heretics. All who happened to be there, suddenly animated by one and the
same feeling, joined in with the singers, as if to protest against the
punishments which were being repeated day after day. This manifestation
was renewed on the following days. The King of Navarre, Anthony de
Bourbon, Prince Louis de Conde, his brother, and many lords took part in
it together with a crowd, it is said, of five or six thousand persons.
It was not in the Pre-aux-Clercs only and by singing that this new state
of mind revealed itself amongst the highest classes as well as amongst
the populace. The Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d'Albret, in her early youth,
"was as fond of a ball as of a sermon," says Brantome, "and she had
advised her spouse, Anthony de Bourbon, who inclined towards Calvinism,
not to perplex himself with all these opinions." In 1559 she was
passionately devoted to the faith and the cause of the Reformation. With
more levity, but still in sincerity, her brother-in-law, Louis de Conde,
put his ambition and his courage at the service of the same cause.
Admiral de Coligny's youngest brother, Francis d'Andelot, declared
himself a Reformer to Henry II. himself, who, in his wrath, threw a plate
at his head, and sent him to prison in the castle of Melun. Coligny
himself, who had never disguised the favorable sentiments he felt towards
the Reformers, openly sided with them on the ground of his own personal
faith, as well as of the justice due to them. At last the Reformation
had really great leaders, men who had power and were experienced in the
affairs of the world; it was becoming a political party as well as a
religious conviction; and the French Reformers were henceforth in a
condition to make war as well as die at the stake for their faith.
Hitherto they had been only believers and martyrs; they became the
victors and the vanquished, alternately, in a civil war.

A new position for them, and as formidable as it was grand. It was
destined to bring upon them cruel trials and the worth of them in
important successes; first, the Saint-Bartholomew, then the accession of
Henry IV. and the edict of Nantes. At a later period, under Louis XIII.
and Louis XIV., the complication of the religious question and the
political question cost them the advantages they had won; the edict of
Nantes disappeared together with the power of the Protestants in the
state. They were no longer anything but heretics and rebels. A day was
to come, when, by the force alone of moral ideas, and in the name alone
of conscience and justice, they would recover all the rights they had for
a time possessed, and more also; but in the sixteenth century that day
was still distant, and armed strife was for the Reformers their only
means of defence and salvation. God makes no account of centuries, and a
great deal is required before the most certain and the most salutary
truths get their place and their rights in the minds and communities of

On the 29th of June, 1559, a brilliant tournament was celebrated in lists
erected at the end of the street of Saint-Antoine, almost at the foot of
the Bastille. Henry II., the queen, and the whole court had been present
at it for three days. The entertainment was drawing to a close. The
king, who had run several tilts "like a sturdy and skilful cavalier,"
wished to break yet another lance, and bade the Count de Montgomery,
captain of the guards, to run against him. Montgomery excused himself;
but the king insisted. The tilt took place. The two jousters, on
meeting, broke their lances skilfully; but Montgomery forgot to drop at
once, according to usage, the fragment remaining in his hand; he
unintentionally struck the king's helmet and raised the visor, and a
splinter of wood entered Henry's eye, who fell forward upon his horse's
neck. All the appliances of art were useless; the brain had been
injured. Henry II. languished for eleven days, and expired on the 10th
of July, 1559, aged forty years and some months. An insignificant man,
and a reign without splendor, though fraught with facts pregnant of grave

[Illustration: Joust between Henri II. and Count de Montgomery----268]


During the course, and especially at the close of Henry II.'s reign, two
rival matters, on the one hand the numbers, the quality, and the zeal of
the Reformers, and on the other, the anxiety, prejudice, and power of the
Catholics, had been simultaneously advancing in development and growth.
Between the 16th of May, 1558, and the 10th of July, 1559, fifteen
capital sentences had been executed in Dauphiny, in Normandy, in Poitou,
and at Paris. Two royal edicts, one dated July 24, 1558, and the other
June 14, 1559, had renewed and aggravated the severity of penal
legislation against heretics. To secure the registration of the latter,
Henry II., together with the princes and the officers of the crown, had
repaired in person to Parliament; some disagreement had already appeared
in the midst of that great body, which was then composed of a hundred and
thirty magistrates; the seniors who sat in the great chamber had in
general shown themselves to be more inclined to severity, and the juniors
who formed the chamber called La Tournelle more inclined to indulgence
towards accusations of heresy. The disagreement reached its climax in
the very presence of the king. Two councillors, Dubourg and Dufaure,
spoke so warmly of reforms which were, according to them, necessary and
legitimate, that their adversaries did not hesitate to tax them with
being Reformers themselves. The king had them arrested, and three of
their colleagues with them. Special commissioners were charged with the
preparation of the case against them. It has already been mentioned that
one of the most considerable amongst the officers of the army, Francis
d'Andelot, brother of Admiral Coligny, had, for the same cause, been
subjected to a burst of anger on the part of the king. He was in prison
at Meaux when Henry II. died. Such were the personal feelings and the
relative positions of the two parties when Francis II., a boy of sixteen,
a poor creature both in mind and body, ascended the throne.

[Illustration: Francis II----269]

Deputies from Parliament went, according to custom, to offer their
felicitations to the new king, and to ask him "to whom it was his
pleasure that they should, thenceforward, apply for to learn his will and
receive his commands." Francis II. replied, "With the approbation of the
queen my mother, I have chosen the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of
Lorraine, my uncles, to have the direction of the state; the former will
take charge of the department of war, the latter the administration of
finance and justice." Such had, in fact, been his choice, and it was no
doubt with his mother's approbation that he had made it. Equally
attentive to observe the proprieties and to secure her own power,
Catherine de' Medici, when going out to drive with her son and her
daughter-in-law Mary Stuart, on the very day of Henry II.'s death, said
to Mary, "Step in, madame; it is now your turn to go first."

[Illustration: MARY STUART----270]

During the first days of mourning she kept herself in a room entirely
hung with black; and there was no light beyond two wax-candles burning on
an altar covered with black cloth. She had upon her head a black veil,
which shrouded her entirely, and hid her face; and, when any one of the
household went to speak to her, she replied in so agitated and so weak
a tone of voice that it was impossible to catch her words, whatever
attention might be paid to them. But her presence of mind and her
energy, so far as the government was concerned, were by no means affected
by it; he who had been the principal personage at the court under Henry
II., the Constable de Montmorency, perfectly understood, at his first
interview with the queen-mother, that he was dismissed, and all he asked
of her was, that he might go and enjoy his repose in freedom at his
residence of Chantilly, begging her at the same time to take under her
protection the heirs of his house. Henry II.'s favorite, Diana de
Poitiers, was dismissed more harshly. "The king sent to tell Madame de
Valentinois," writes the Venetian ambassador, "that for her evil
influence (_mali officii_) over the king his father she would deserve
heavy chastisement; but, in his royal clemency, he did not wish to
disquiet her any further; she must, nevertheless, restore to him all the
jewels given her by the king his father." "To bend Catherine de' Medici,
Diana was also obliged," says De Thou, "to give up her beautiful house at
Chenonceaux on the Cher, and she received in exchange the castle of
Chaumont on the Loire." The Guises obtained all the favors of the court
at the same time that they were invested with all the powers of the

In order to give a good notion of Duke Francis of Guise and his brother
the Cardinal of Lorraine, the two heads of the house, we will borrow the
very words of those two men of their age who had the best means of seeing
them close and judging them correctly, the French historian De Thou and
the Venetian ambassador John Micheli. "The Cardinal of Lorraine," says
De Thou, "was of an impetuous and violent character; the Duke of Guise,
on the contrary, was of a gentle and moderate disposition. But as
ambition soon overleaps the confines of restraint and equity, he was
carried away by the violent counsels of the cardinal, or else surrendered
himself to them of his own accord, executing with admirable prudence and
address the plans which were always chalked out by his brother." The
Venetian ambassador enters into more precise and full details. "The
cardinal," he says, "who is the leading man of the house, would be, by
common consent, if it were not for the defects of which I shall speak,
the greatest political power in this kingdom. He has not yet completed
his thirty-seventh year; he is endowed with a marvellous intellect, which
apprehends from half a word the meaning of those who converse with him;
he has an astonishing memory, a fine and noble face, and a rare eloquence
which shows itself freely on any subject, but especially in matters of
politics. He is very well versed in letters: he knows Greek, Latin, and
Italian. He is very strong in the sciences, chiefly in theology. The
externals of his life are very proper and very suitable to his dignity,
which could not be said of the other cardinals and prelates, whose habits
are too scandalously irregular. But his great defect is shameful
cupidity, which would employ, to attain its ends, even criminal means,
and likewise great duplicity, whence comes his habit of scarcely ever
saying that which is. There is worse behind. He is considered to be
very ready to take offence, vindictive, envious, and far too slow in
benefaction. He excited universal hatred by hurting all the world as
long as it was in his power to. As for Mgr. de Guise, who is the eldest
of the six brothers, he cannot be spoken of save as a man of war, a good
officer. None in this realm has delivered more battles and confronted
more dangers. Everybody lauds his courage, his vigilance, his steadiness
in war, and his coolness, a quality wonderfully rare in a Frenchman. His
peculiar defects are, first of all, stinginess towards soldiers; then he
makes large promises, and even when he means to keep his promise he is
infinitely slow about it."

To the sketch of the Cardinal of Lorraine Brantome adds that he was,
"as indeed he said, a coward by nature." a strange defect in a Guise.

It was a great deal, towards securing the supremacy of a great family
and its leading members, to thus possess the favor of the court and the
functions of government; but the power of the Guises had a still higher
origin and a still deeper foundation. "It was then," said Michael de
Castelnau, one of the most intelligent and most impartial amongst the
chroniclers of the sixteenth century, "that schism and divisions in
religious matters began to be mixed up with affairs of state. Well, all
the clergy of France, and nearly all the noblesse and the people who
belonged to the Roman religion, considered that the Cardinal of Lorraine
and the Duke of Guise were, as it were, called of God to preserve the
Catholic religion established in France for the last twelve hundred
years. And it seemed to them not only an act of impiety to change or
alter it in any way whatever, but also an impossibility to do so without
ruin to the state. The late king, Henry, had made a decree in the month
of June, 1559, being then at Ecouen, by which the judges were bound to
sentence all Lutherans to death, and which was published and confirmed by
all the Parliaments, without any limitation or modification whatever, and
with a warning to the judges not to mitigate the penalty, as they had
done for some years previously. Different judgments were pronounced upon
the decree: those who took the most political and most zealous view of
religion considered that it was necessary, as well to preserve and
maintain the Catholic religion as to keep down the seditious, who, under
the cloak of religion, were doing all they could to upset the political
condition of the kingdom. Others, who cared nothing for religion, or for
the state, or for order in the body politic, also thought the decree
necessary, not at all for the purpose of exterminating the Protestants,
--for they held that it would tend to multiply them,--but because it
would offer a means of enriching themselves by the confiscations ensuing
upon condemnation, and because the king would thus be able to pay off
forty-two millions of livres which he owed, and have money in hand, and,
besides that, satisfy those who were demanding recompense for the
services they had rendered the crown, wherein many placed their hopes."
[_Memoires de Michael de Castelnau, in the Petitot collection,_ Series
I., t. xxxiii. pp. 24-27.]

The Guises were, in the sixteenth century, the representatives and the
champions of these different cliques and interests, religious or
political, sincere in their belief or shameless in their avidity, and
all united under the flag of the Catholic church. And so, when they came
into power, "there was nothing," says a Protestant chronicler, "but fear
and trembling at their name." Their acts of government soon confirmed
the fears as well as the hopes they had inspired. During the last six
months of 1559 the edict issued by Henry II. from Ecouen was not only
strictly enforced, but aggravated by fresh edicts; a special chamber was
appointed and chosen amongst the Parliament of Paris, which was to have
sole cognizance of crimes and offences against the Catholic religion. A
proclamation of the new king, Francis II., ordained that houses in which
assemblies of Reformers took place should be razed and demolished. It
was death to the promoters of "unlawful assemblies for purposes of
religion or for any other cause." Another royal act provided that all
persons, even relatives, who received amongst them any one condemned for
heresy should seize him and bring him to justice, in default whereof they
would suffer the same penalty as he. Individual condemnations and
executions abounded after these general measures; between the 2d of
August and the 31st of December, 1559, eighteen persons were burned alive
for open heresy, or for having refused to communicate according to the
rites of the Catholic church, or go to mass, or for having hawked about
forbidden books. Finally, in December, the five councillors of the
Parliament of Paris, whom, six months previously, Henry II. had ordered
to be arrested and shut up in the Bastille, were dragged from prison and
brought to trial. The chief of them, Anne Dubourg, nephew of Anthony
Dubourg, Chancellor of France under Francis I., defended himself with
pious and patriotic persistency, being determined to exhaust all points
of law and all the chances of justice he could hope for without betraying
his faith. Everything shows that he had nothing to hope for from his
judges; one of them, the President Minard, as he was returning from the
palace on the evening of December 12, 1559, was killed by a pistol-shot;
the assassin could not be discovered; but the crime, naturally ascribed
to some friend of Dubourg, served only to make certain and to hasten the
death of the prisoner on trial. Dubourg was condemned on the 22d of
December, and heard unmoved the reading of his sentence. "I forgive my
judges," said he; "they have judged according to their own lights, not
according to the light that comes from on high. Put out your fires, ye
senators; be converted, and live happily. Think without ceasing of God
and on God." After these words, which were taken down by the clerk of
the court, "and which I have here copied," says De Thou, Dubourg was
taken on the 23d of December, in a tumbrel to the Place de Greve. As he
mounted the ladder he was heard repeating several times, "Forsake me not,
my God, for fear lest I forsake thee." He was strangled before he was
cast into the flames (De Thou, t. iii. pp. 399-402), the sole favor his
friends could obtain for him.

But extreme severity on the part of the powers that be is effectual only
when it falls upon a country or upon parties that are effete with age, or
already vanquished and worn out by long struggles; when, on the contrary,
it is brought to bear upon parties in the flush of youth, eager to
proclaim and propagate themselves, so far from intimidating them, it
animates them, and thrusts them into the arena into which they were of
themselves quite eager to enter. As soon as the rule of the Catholic,
in the persons and by the actions of the Guises, became sovereign and
aggressive, the threatened Reformers put themselves into the attitude of
defence. They too had got for themselves great leaders, some valiant and
ardent, others prudent or even timid, but forced to declare themselves
when the common cause was greatly imperilled. The house of Bourbon,
issuing from St. Louis, had for its representatives in the sixteenth
century Anthony de Bourbon, King of Navarre and husband of Jeanne
d'Albret, and his brother Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Conde. The King of
Navarre, weak and irresolute though brave enough, wavered between
Catholicism and the Reformation, inclining rather in his heart to the
cause of the Reformation, to which the queen his wife, who at first
showed indifference, had before long become Passionately attached. His
brother, the Prince of Conde, young, fiery, and often flighty and rash,
put himself openly at the head of the Reformed party. The house of
Bourbon held itself to be the rival perforce of the house of Lorraine.
It had amongst the high noblesse of France two allies, more fitted than
any others for fighting and for command, Admiral de Coligny and his
brother, Francis d'Andelot, both of them nephews of the Constable Anne de
Montmorency, both of them already experienced and famous warriors, and
both of them devoted, heart and soul, to the cause of the Reformation.
Thus, at the accession of Francis II., whilst the Catholic party, by
means of the Guises, and with the support of the majority of the country,
took in hand the government of France, the reforming party ranged
themselves round the King of Navarre, the Prince of Conde, and Admiral de
Coligny, and became, under their direction, though in a minority, a
powerful opposition, able and ready, on the one hand, to narrowly watch
and criticise the actions of those who were in power, and on the other to
claim for their own people, not by any means freedom as a general
principle in the constitution of the state, but free manifestation of
their faith, and free exercise of their own form of worship.

Apart from--we do not mean to say above-these two great parties, which
were arrayed in the might and appeared as the representatives of the
national ideas and feelings, the queen-mother, Catherine de' Medici, was
quietly laboring to form another, more independent of the public, and
more docile to herself, and, above all, faithful to the crown and to the
interests of the kingly house and its servants; a party strictly
Catholic, but regarding as a necessity the task of humoring the Reformers
and granting them such concessions as might prevent explosions fraught
with peril to the state; a third party (tiers part), as we should say
nowadays, politic and prudent, somewhat lavish of promises without being
sure of the power to keep them, not much embarrassed at having to change
attitude and language according to the shifting phases of the moment, and
anxious above everything to maintain public peace and to put off
questions which it could not solve pacifically. In the sixteenth
century, as at every other time, worthy folks of moderate views and
nervous temperaments, ambitious persons combining greed with suppleness,
old servants of the crown, and officials full of scruples and far from
bold in the practical part of government, were the essential elements of
this party. The Constable de Montmorency sometimes issued forth from
Chantilly to go and aid the queen-mother, in whom he had no confidence,
but whom he preferred to the Guises. A former councillor of the
Parliament, for a long while chancellor under Francis I. and Henry II.,
and again summoned, under Francis II., by Catherine de' Medici to the
same post, Francis Olivier, was an honorable executant of the party's
indecisive but moderate policy. He died on the 15th of March, 1560;
and Catherine, in concert with the Cardinal of Lorraine, had the
chancellorship thus vacated conferred upon Michael de l'Hospital, a
magistrate already celebrated, and destined to become still more so. As
soon as he entered upon this great office he made himself remarkable by
the marvellous ability he showed in restraining within bounds "the
Lorraines themselves, whose servant he was," says the Protestant
chronicler Regnier de la Planche; "to those who had the public weal at
heart he gave hope that all would at last turn out well, provided that he
were let alone; and, to tell the truth, it would be impossible to
adequately describe the prudence he displayed; for, assuredly, although
if he had taken a shorter road towards manfully opposing the mischief he
would have deserved more praise, and God would perhaps have blessed his
constancy, yet, so far as one can judge, he alone, by his moderate
behavior, was the instrument made use of by God for keeping back many an
impetuous flood under which every Frenchman would have been submerged.
External appearances, however, seemed to the contrary. In short, when
any one represented to him some trouble that was coming, he always had
these words on his lips: 'Patience, patience; all will go well.'" This
philosophical and patriotic confidence on the part of Chancellor de
l'Hospital was fated to receive some cruel falsifications.

A few months, and hardly so much, after the accession of Francis II.,
a serious matter brought into violent collision the three parties whose
characteristics and dispositions have just been described. The supremacy
of the Guises was insupportable to the Reformers, and irksome to many
lukewarm or wavering members of the Catholic nobility. An edict of the
king's had revoked all the graces and alienations of domains granted by
his father. The crown refused to pay its most lawful debts, and duns
were flocking to the court. To get rid of them, the Cardinal of Lorraine
had a proclamation issued by the king, warning all persons, of whatever
condition, who had come to dun for payment of debts, for compensations,
or for graces, to take themselves off within twenty-four hours on pain of
being hanged; and, that it might appear how seriously meant the threat
was, a very conspicuous gibbet was erected at Fontainebleau close to the
palace. It was a shocking affront. The malcontents at once made up to
the Reformers. Independently of the general oppression and perils under
which these latter labored, they were liable to meet everywhere, at the
corners of the streets, men posted on the lookout, who insulted them and
denounced them to the magistrates if they did not uncover themselves
before the madonnas set up in their way, or if they did not join in the
litanies chanted before them. A repetition of petty requisitions soon
becomes an odious tyranny. An understanding was established between very
different sorts of malcontents; they all said and spread abroad that the
Guises were the authors of these oppressive and unjustifiable acts. They
made common cause in seeking for means of delivering themselves, at the
same time drawing an open distinction between the Guises and the king,
the latter of whom there was no idea of attacking. The inviolability of
kings and the responsibility of ministers, those two fundamental maxims
of a free monarchy, had already become fixed ideas; but how were they to
be taken advantage of and put in practice when the institutions whereby
political liberty exerts its powers and keeps itself secure were not in
force? The malcontents, whether Reformers or Catholics, all cried out
for the states-general. Those of Tours, in 1484, under Charles VIII.,
had left behind them a momentous and an honored memory. But the Guises
and their partisans energetically rejected this cry. "They told the king
that whoever spoke of convoking the states-general was his personal enemy
and guilty of high treason; for his people would fain impose law upon him
from whom they ought to take it, in such sort that there would be left to
him nothing of a king but the bare title. The queen-mother, though all
the while giving fair words to the malcontents, whether Reformers or
others, was also disquieted at their demands, and she wrote to her
son-in-law, Philip II., King of Spain, 'that they wanted, by means of the
said states, to reduce her to the condition of a maid-of-all-work.'
Whereupon Philip replied 'that he would willingly employ all his forces
to uphold the authority of the king his brother-in-law and of his
ministers, and that he had forty thousand men all ready in case anybody
should be bold enough to attempt to violate it.'"

In their perplexity, the malcontents, amongst whom the Reformers were
becoming day by day the most numerous and the most urgent, determined to
take the advice of the greatest lawyers and most celebrated theologians
of France and Germany. They asked whether it would be permissible, with
a good conscience and without falling into the crime of high treason, to
take up arms for the purpose of securing the persons of the Duke of Guise
and the Cardinal of Lorraine, and forcing them to render an account of
their administration. The doctors, on being consulted, answered that it
would be allowable to oppose by force the far from legitimate supremacy
of the Guises, provided that it were done under the authority of princes
of the blood, born administrators of the realm in such cases, and with
the consent of the orders composing the state, or the greatest and
soundest portion of those orders. A meeting of the princes who were
hostile to the Guises were held at Vendome to deliberate as to the
conduct to be adopted in this condition of opinions and parties;
the King of Navarre and his brother the Prince of Conde, Coligny,
D'Andelot, and some of their most intimate friends took part in it;
and D'Ardres, confidential secretary to the Constable de Montmorency, was
present. The Prince of Conde was for taking up arms at once and swoop
down upon the Guises, taking them by surprise. Coligny formally opposed
this plan; the king, at his majority, had a right, he said, to choose his
own advisers; no doubt it was a deplorable thing to see foreigners at the
head of affairs, but the country must not, for the sake of removing them,
be rashly exposed to the scourge of civil war; perhaps it would be enough
if the queen-mother were made acquainted with the general discontent.
The constable's secretary coincided with Coligny, whose opinion was
carried. It was agreed that the Prince of Conde should restrain his
ardor, and let himself be vaguely regarded as the possible leader of the
enterprise if it were to take place, but without giving it, until further
notice, his name and co-operation. He was called the mute captain.

There was need of a less conspicuous and more pronounced leader for that
which was becoming a conspiracy. And one soon presented himself in the
person of Godfrey de Barri, Lord of La Renaudie, a nobleman of an ancient
family of Perigord, well known to Duke Francis of Guise, under whose
orders he had served valiantly at Metz in 1552, and who had for some time
protected him against the consequences of a troublesome trial, at which
La Renaudie had been found guilty by the Parliament of Paris of forging
and uttering false titles. Being forced to leave France, he retired into
Switzerland, to Lausanne and Geneva, where it was not long before he
showed the most passionate devotion for the Reformation. "He was a man,"
says De Thou, "of quick and insinuating wits, ready to undertake
anything, and burning with desire to avenge himself, and wipe out,
by some brilliant deed, the infamy of a sentence which he had incurred
rather through another's than his own crime. He, then, readily offered
his services to those who were looking out for a second leader, and he
undertook to scour the kingdom in order to win over the men whose names
had been given him. He got from them all a promise to meet him at Nantes
in February, 1560, and he there made them a long and able speech against
the Guises, ending by saying, 'God bids us to obey kings even when they
ordain unjust things, and there is no doubt but that they who resist the
powers that God has set up do resist His will. We have this advantage,
that we, ever full of submission to the prince, are set against none but
traitors hostile to their king and their country, and so much the more
dangerous in that they nestle in the very bosom of the state, and, in the
name and clothed with the authority of a king who is a mere child, are
attacking the kingdom and the king himself. Now, in order that you may
not suppose that you will be acting herein against your consciences, I am
quite willing to be the first to protest and take God to witness that I
will not think, or say, or do anything against the king, against the
queen his mother, against the princes his brothers, or against those of
his blood; and that, on the contrary, I will defend their majesty and
their dignity, and, at the same time, the authority of the laws and the
liberty of the country against the tyranny of a few foreigners.'" [De
Thou, t. iii. pp. 467-480.]

"Out of so large an assemblage," adds the historian, "there was not found
to be one whom so delicate an enterprise caused to recoil, or who asked
for time to deliberate. It was agreed that, before anything else, a
large number of persons, without arms and free from suspicion, should
repair to court and there present a petition to the king, beseeching him
not to put pressure upon consciences any more, and to permit the free
exercise of religion; that at almost the same time a chosen body of
horsemen should repair to Blois, where the king was, that their
accomplices should admit them into the town and present a new petition
to the king against the Guises, and that, if these princes would not
withdraw and give an account of their administration, they should be
attacked sword in hand; and, lastly, that the Prince of Conde, who had
wished his name to be kept secret up to that time, should put himself at
the head of the conspirators. The 15th of June was the day fixed for the
execution of it all."

But the Guises were warned; one of La Renaudie's friends had revealed the
conspiracy to the Cardinal of Lorraine's secretary; and from Spain,
Germany, and Italy they received information as to the conspiracy hatched
against them. The cardinal, impetuous and pusillanimous too, was for
calling out the troops at once; but his brother the duke, "who was not
easily startled," was opposed to anything demonstrative. They removed
the king to the castle of Amboise, a safer place than the town of Blois;
and they concerted measures with the queen-mother, to whom the
conspirators were, both in their plans and their persons, almost as
objectionable as to them. She wrote, in a style of affectionate
confidence, to Coligny, begging him to come to Amboise and give her his
advice. He arrived in company with his brother D'Andelot, and urged the
queen-mother to grant the Reformers liberty of conscience and of worship,
the only way to checkmate all the mischievous designs and to restore
peace to the kingdom. Something of what he advised was done: a royal
decree was published and carried up to the Parliament on the 15th of
March, ordaining the abolition of every prosecution on account of
religion, in respect of the past only, and under reservations which
rendered the grace almost inappreciable. The Guises, on their side,
wrote to the Constable de Montmorency to inform him of the conspiracy,
"of which you will feel as great horror as we do," and they signed, Your
thoroughly best friends. The Prince of Conde himself, though informed
about the discovery of the plot, repaired to Amboise without showing any
signs of being disconcerted at the cold reception offered him by the
Lorraine princes. The Duke of Guise, always bold, even in his
precautions, "found an honorable means of making sure of him," says
Castelnau, "by giving him the guard at a gate of the town of Amboise,"
where he had him under watch and ward himself. The lords and gentlemen
attached to the court made sallies all around Amboise to prevent any
unexpected attack. "They caught a great many troops badly led and badly
equipped. Many poor folks, in utter despair and without a leader, asked
pardon as they threw down upon the ground some wretched arms they bore,
and declared that they knew no more about the enterprise than that there
had been a time appointed them to see a petition presented to the king
which concerned the welfare of his service and that of the kingdom."
[_Memoires de Castelnau,_ pp. 49, 50.] On the 18th of March, La Renaudie,
who was scouring the country, seeking to rally his men, encountered a
body of royal horse who were equally hotly in quest of the conspirators;
the two detachments attacked one another furiously; La Renaudie was
killed, and his body, which was carried to Amboise, was strung up to a
gallows on the bridge over the Loire with this scroll: "This is La
Renaudie, called La Forest, captain of the rebels, leader and author of
the sedition." Disorder continued for several days in the surrounding
country; but the surprise attempted against the Guises was a failure, and
the important result of the riot of Amboise (_tumulte d'Amboise_), as it
was called, was an ordinance of Francis II., who, on the 17th of March,
1560, appointed Duke Francis of Guise "his lieutenant-general,
representing him in person absent and present in this good town of
Amboise and other places of the realm, with full power, authority,
commission, and special mandate to assemble all the princes, lords, and
gentlemen, and generally to command, order, provide, and dispose of all
things requisite and necessary."

[Illustration: Death of La Renaudie----283]

The young king was, nevertheless, according to what appears, somewhat
troubled at all this uproar and at the language of the conspirators.
"I don't know how it is," said he sometimes to the Guises, "but I hear it
said that people are against you only. I wish you could be away from
here for a time, that we might see whether it is you or I that they are
against." But the Guises set about removing this idea by telling the
king that neither he nor his brothers would live one hour after their
departure, and "that the house of Bourbon were only seeking how to
exterminate the king's house." The caresses of the young queen Mary
Stuart were enlisted in support of these assertions of her uncles. They
made a cruel use of their easy victory "for a whole month," according to
contemporary chronicles, "there was nothing but hanging or drowning
folks. The Loire was covered with corpses strung, six, eight, ten, and
fifteen, to long poles. . . ." "What was strange to see," says
Regnier de la Planche, "and had never been wont under any form of
government, they were led out to execution without having any sentence
pronounced against them publicly, or having the cause of their death
declared, or having their names mentioned. They of the Guises reserved
the chief of them, after dinner, to make sport for the ladies; the two
sexes were ranged at the windows of the castle, as if it were a question
of seeing some mummery played. And what is worse, the king and his young
brothers were present at these spectacles, as if the desire were to
'blood' them; the sufferers were pointed out to them by the Cardinal of
Lorraine with all the signs of a man greatly rejoiced, and when the poor
wretches died with more than usual firmness, he would say, 'See, sir,
what brazenness and madness; the fear of death cannot abate their pride
and felonry. What would they do, then, if they had you in their

It was too much vengeance to take and too much punishment to inflict for
a danger so short-lived and so strictly personal. So hideous was the
spectacle that the Duchess of Guise, Anne d'Este, daughter of Renee of
France, Duchess of Ferrara, took her departure one day, saying, as she
did so, to Catherine de' Medici, "Ah! madame, what a whirlwind of hatred
is gathering about the heads of my poor children!" There was, throughout
a considerable portion of the country, a profound feeling of indignation
against the Guises. One of their victims, Villemongey, just as it came
to his turn to die, plunged his hands into his comrades' blood, saying,
"Heavenly Father, this is the blood of Thy children: Thou wilt avenge
it!" John d'Aubigne, a nobleman of Saintonge, as he passed through
Amboise one market-day with his son, a little boy eight years old,
stopped before the heads fixed upon the posts, and said to the child,
"My boy, spare not thy head, after mine, to avenge these brave chiefs; if
thou spare thyself, thou shalt have my curse upon thee." The Chancellor
Olivier himself, for a long while devoted to the Guises, but now
seriously ill and disquieted about the future of his soul, said to
himself, quite low, as he saw the Cardinal of Lorraine, from whom he had
just received a visit, going out, "Ah! cardinal, you are getting us all

[Illustration: Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condo----285]

The mysterious chieftain, the mute captain of the conspiracy of Amboise,
Prince Louis of Conde, remained unattainted, and he remained at Amboise
itself. People were astounded at his security. He had orders not to
move away; his papers were seized by the grand prelate; but his coolness
and his pride did not desert him for an instant. We will borrow from the
_Histoire des Princes de Conde_ (t. i. pp. 68-71), by the Duke of
Aumale, the present heir, and a worthy one, of that line, the account of
his appearance before Francis II., "in full council, in presence of the
two queens, the knights of the order, and the great officers of the
crown. 'As I am certified,' said he, 'that I have near the king's person
enemies who are seeking the ruin of me and mine, I have begged him to do
me so much favor as to hear my answer in this company here present. Now,
I declare that, save his own person and the persons of his brothers, of
the queen his mother and of the queen regnant, those who have reported
that I was chief and leader of certain sedition-mongers, who are said to
have conspired against his person and state, have falsely and miserably
lied. And renouncing, for the nonce, my quality as prince of the blood,
which I hold, however, of God alone, I am ready to make them confess, at
the sword's point, that they are cowards and rascals, themselves seeking
the subversion of the state and the crown, whereof I am bound to promote
the maintenance by a better title than my accusers. If there be, amongst
those present, any one who has made such a report and will maintain it,
let him declare as much this moment.' The Duke of Guise, rising to his
feet, protested that he could not bear to have so great a prince any
longer calumniated, and offered to be his second. Conde, profiting by
the effect produced by his proud language, demanded and obtained leave
to retire from the court, which he quitted at once."

All seemed to be over; but the whole of France had been strongly moved by
what had just taken place; and, though the institutions which invite a
people to interfere in its own destinies were not at the date of the
sixteenth century in regular and effective working order, there was
everywhere felt, even at court, the necessity of ascertaining the feeling
of the country. On all sides there was a demand for the convocation of
the states-general. The Guises and the queen-mother, who dreaded this
great and independent national power, attempted to satisfy public opinion
by calling an assembly of notables, not at all numerous, and chosen by
themselves. It was summoned to meet on August 21, 1560, at
Fontainebleau, in the apartments of the queen-mother. Some great lords,
certain bishops, the Constable de Montmorency, two marshals of France,
the privy councillors, the knights of the order, the secretaries of state
and finance, Chancellor de l'Hospital and Coligny, took part in it; the
King of Navarre and the Prince of Conde did not respond to the summons
they received; the constable rode up with a following of six hundred
horse. The first day was fully taken up by a statement, presented to the
assembly by L'Hospital, of the evils that had fallen upon France, and by
a declaration on the part of the Guises that they were ready to render an
account of their administration and of their actions. Next day, just as
the Bishop of Valence was about to speak, Coligny went up to the king,
made two genuflections, stigmatized in energetic terms the Amboise
conspiracy and every similar enterprise, and presented two petitions,
one intended for the king himself and the other for the queen-mother.
"They were forwarded to me in Normandy," said he, "by faithful
Christians, who make their prayers to God in accordance with the true
rules of piety. They ask for nothing but the liberty of holding their
own creed, and that of having temples and celebrating their worship in
certain fixed places. If necessary, this petition would be signed by
fifty thousand persons." "And I," said the Duke of Guise brusquely,
"would find a million to sign a contrary petition." This incident went
no further between the two speakers. A great discussion began as to the
reforms desirable in the church, and as to the convocation of a general
council, or, in default thereof, a national council. The Cardinal of
Lorraine spoke last, and vehemently attacked the petitions presented by
Admiral de Coligny. "Though couched in moderate and respectful terms,"
said he, "this document is, at bottom, insolent and seditious; it is as
much as to say that those gentry would be obedient and submissive if the
king would be pleased to authorize their mischievous sentiments. For the
rest," he added, "as it is merely a question of improving morals and
putting in force strict discipline, the meeting of a council, whether
general or national, appears to me quite unnecessary. I consent to the
holding of the states-general."

The opinion of the Cardinal of Lorraine was adopted by the king, the
queen-mother, and the assemblage. An edict dated August 26 convoked a
meeting of the states-general at Meaux on the 10th of December following.
As to the question of a council, general or national, it was referred to
the decision of the pope and the bishops of France. Meanwhile, it was
announced that the punishment of sectaries would, for the present, be
suspended, but that the king reserved to himself and his judges the right
of severely chastising those who had armed the populace and kindled
sedition. "Thus it was," adds De Thou, "that the Protestant religion,
hitherto so hated, began to be tolerated, and in a manner authorized, by
consent of its enemies themselves." [_Histoire Universelle,_ t. iii.
p. 535.]

The elections to the states-general were very stormy; all parties
displayed the same ardor; the Guises by identifying themselves more and
more with the Catholic cause, and employing, to further its triumph, all
the resources of the government; the Reformers by appealing to the rights
of liberty and to the passions bred of sect and of local independence.
A royal decree was addressed to all the bailiffs of the kingdom.
"Ye shall not fail," said the king to them, "to keep your eyes open,
and give orders that such mischievous spirits as may be composed of the
remnants of the Amboise rebellion or other gentry, studious of innovation
and alteration in the state, be so discovered and restrained that they be
not able to corrupt by their machinations, under whatsoever pretexts they
may hide them, simple folks led on by confidence in the clemency whereof
we have heretofore made use." The bailiffs followed, for the most part
successfully, but in some cases vainly, the instructions they had
received. One morning in December, 1560, the Duke of Guise was visited
by a courier from the Count de Villars, governor of Languedoc; he
informed the duke that the deputies of that province had just been
appointed, and that they all belonged to the new religion, and were
amongst the most devoted to the sect; there was not a moment to lose,
"for they were men of wits, great reputation, and circumspection. The
governor was very vexed at not having been able to prevent their election
and departure; but plurality of votes had carried the day against him."
This despatch was "no sooner received than some men were got ready to go
and meet those deputies, in order to put them in a place where they would
never have been able to do good or harm." The deputies of Languedoc
escaped this ambuscade, and arrived safe and sound at Orleans; but they
"were kept under strict watch, and their papers were confiscated up to
the moment when the death of the king occurred to deliver them from all
fear." [_Histoire des Etats generaux,_ by G. Picot, t. ii. pp. 25-29.]
In Provence, in Dauphiny, in the countship of Avignon, at Lyons, on
occasion and in the midst of the electoral struggle, several local
risings, seizures of arms, and surprisals of towns took place and
disturbed the public peace. There was not yet religious civil war, but
there were the preparatory note and symptoms of it.

At the same time that they were thus laboring to keep out of the
approaching states-general adversaries of obscure rank and belonging to
the people, the Guises had very much at heart a desire that the great
leaders of the Reformers and of the Catholic malcontents, especially the
two princes of the house of Bourbon, the King of Navarre and the Prince
of Conde, should come to this assembly, and there find themselves under
the thumb of their enemies. They had not gone to the assemblage of
notables at Fontainebleau, and their hostility to the Guises had been
openly shown during and since that absence. Nothing was left untried to
attract them, not to Meaux any longer, but to Orleans, whither the
meeting of the states-general had been transferred. King Francis II.,
a docile instrument in the hands of his uncles and his young queen their
niece, wrote letter after letter to the King of Navarre, urging him to
bring with him his brother the Prince of Conde to clear himself of the
accusations brought against him "by these miserable heretics, who made
marvellous charges against him. . . . Conde would easily prove the
falsity of the assertions made by these rascals." The King of Navarre
still hesitated; the king insisted haughtily. "I should be sorry," he
wrote on the 30th of August, 1560, "that into the heart of a person of
such good family, and one that touches me so nearly, so miserable an
inclination should have entered; being able to assure you that
whereinsoever he refuses to obey me I shall know perfectly well how to
make it felt that I am king." The Prince of Conde's mother-in-law, the
Countess of Roye, wrote to the queen-mother that the prince would appear
at court if the king commanded it; but she begged her beforehand not to
think it strange if, on going to a place where his most cruel enemies had
every power, he went attended by his friends. Whether she really were,
or only pretended to be, shocked at what looked like a threat, Catherine
replied that no person in France had a right to approach the king in any
other wise than with his ordinary following, and that, if the Prince of
Conde went to court with a numerous escort, he would find the king still
better attended. At last the King of Navarre and his brother made up
their minds. How could they elude formal orders? Armed resistance had
become the only possible resource, and the Prince of Conde lacked means
to maintain it; his scarcity of money was such that, in order to procure
him a thousand gold crowns, his mother-in-law had been obliged to pledge
her castle of Germany to the Constable de Montmorency. In spite of fears
and remonstrances on the part of their most sincere friends, the two
chiefs of the house of Bourbon left their homes and set out for Orleans.
On their arrival before Poitiers, great was their surprise: the governor,
Montpezat, shut the gates against them as public enemies. They were on
the point of abruptly retracing their steps; but Montpezat had ill
understood his instructions; he ought to have kept an eye upon the
Bourbons without displaying any bad disposition towards them, so long as
they prosecuted their journey peacefully; the object was, on the
contrary, to heap upon them marks of respect, and neglect nothing to give
them confidence. Marshal de Termes, despatched in hot haste, went to
open the gates of Poitiers to the princes, and receive them there with
the honors due to them. They resumed their route, and arrived on the
30th of October at Orleans.

The reception they there met with cannot be better described than it has
been by the Duke of Aumale: "Not one of the crown's officers came to
receive the princes; no honor was paid them; the streets were deserted,
silent, and occupied by a military guard. In conformity with usage, the
King of Navarre presented himself on horseback at the great gate of the
royal abode; it remained closed. He had to pocket the insult, and pass
on foot through the wicket, between a double row of gentlemen wearing an
air of insolence. The king awaited the princes in his chamber; behind
him were ranged the Guises and the principal lords; not a word, not a
salutation on their part. After this freezing reception, Francis II.
conducted the two brothers to his mother, who received them, according to
Regnier de la Planche's expression, 'with crocodile's tears.' The Guises
did not follow them thither, in order to escape any personal dispute, and
so as not to be hearers of the severe words which they had themselves
dictated to the young monarch. The king questioned Conde sharply; but
the latter, 'who was endowed with great courage, and spoke as well as
ever any prince or gentleman in the world, was not at all startled, and
defended his cause with many good and strong reasons,' protesting his
own innocence and accusing the Guises of calumniation. When he haughtily
alluded to the word of honor which had been given him, the king,
interrupting him, made a sign; and the two captains of the guard, Breze
and Chavigny, entered and took the prince's sword. He was conducted to a
house in the city, near the Jacobins', which was immediately barred,
crenelated, surrounded by soldiers, and converted into a veritable
bastile. Whilst they were removing him thither, Conde exclaimed loudly
against this brazen violation of all the promises of safety by which he
had been lured on when urged to go to Orleans. The only answer he
received was his committal to absolutely solitary confinement and the
withdrawal of his servants. The King of Navarre vainly asked to have his
brother's custody confided to him; he obtained nothing but a coarse
refusal; and he himself, separated from his escort, was kept under ocular
supervision in his apartment."

The trial of the Prince of Conde commenced immediately. He was brought
before the privy council. He claimed, as a prince of the blood and
knight of the order of St. Michael, his right to be tried only by the
court of Parliament furnished with the proper complement of peers and
knights of the order. This latter safeguard was worth nothing in his
case, for there had been created, just lately, eighteen new knights, all
friends and creatures of the Guises. His claim, however, was rejected;
and he repeated it, at the same time refusing to reply to any
interrogation, and appealing "from the king ill advised to the king
better advised." A priest was sent to celebrate mass in his chamber: but
"I came," said he, "to clear myself from the calumnies alleged against
me, which is of more consequence to me than hearing mass." He did not
attempt to conceal his antipathy towards the Guises, and the part he had
taken in the hostilities directed against them. An officer, to whom
permission had been given to converse with him in presence of his
custodians, told him "that an appointment (accommodation) with the Duke
of Guise would not be an impossibility for him." "Appointment between
him and me!" answered Conde: "it can only be at the point of the lance."
The Duchess Renee of Ferrara, daughter of Louis XII., having come to
France at this time, went to Orleans to pay her respects to the king.
The Duke of Guise was her son-in-law, and she reproached him bitterly
with Conde's trial. "You have just opened," said she, "a wound which
will bleed a long while; they who have dared to attack persons of the
blood royal have always found it a bad job." The prince asked to see, in
the presence of such persons as the king might appoint, his wife, Eleanor
of Roye, who, from the commencement of the trial, "solicited this favor
night and day, often throwing herself on her knees before the king with
tears incredible; but the Cardinal of Lorraine, fearing lest his Majesty
should be moved with compassion, drove away the princess most rudely,
saying that, if she had her due, she would herself be placed in the
lowest dungeon." For them of Guise the princess was a thorn in the
flesh, for she lacked not wits, or language, or courage, insomuch that
they had some discussion about making away with her. [_Memoires de
Castelnau,_ p. 119; _Histoire de l'Etat de France, Cant de la Republique
que de la Religion, sous Francois II.,_ by L. Regnier, Sieur de la
Planche.] She demanded that at any rate able lawyers might act as
counsel for her husband. Peter Robert and Francis de Marillac, advocates
of renown in the Parliament of Paris, were appointed by the king for that
purpose, but their assistance proved perfectly useless; on the 26th of
November, 1560, the Prince of Conde was sentenced to death; and the
sentence was to be carried out on the 10th of December, the very day of
the opening of the states-general. Most of the historians say that, when
it came to the question of signing it, three judges only, Chancellor de
l'Hospital, the councillor of state, Duportail, and the aged Count of
Sancerre, Louis de Bueil, refused to put their names to it. "For my
part," says the scrupulous De Thou, "I can see nothing quite certain as
to all that. I believe that the sentence of death was drawn up and not
signed. I remember to have heard it so said a long while afterwards by
my father, a truthful and straightforward man, to whom this form of
sentence had always been distasteful."

Many contemporaries report, and De Thou accords credence to the report,
that, in order to have nothing more to fear from the house of Bourbon,
the Guises had resolved to make away with King Anthony of Navarre as well
as his brother the Prince of Conde, but by another process. Feeling
persuaded that it would be impossible to obtain against the elder brother
a sentence ever so little in accordance with justice, for his conduct had
been very reserved, they had, it is said, agreed that King Francis II.
should send for the King of Navarre into his closet and reproach him
severely for his secret complicity with his brother Conde, and that if
the King of Navarre defended himself stubbornly, he should be put to
death on the spot by men posted there for the purpose. It is even added
that Francis II. was to strike the first blow. Catherine de' Medici, who
was beginning to be disquieted at the arrogance and successes of the
Lorraine princes, sent warning of this peril to the King of Navarre by
Jacqueline de Longwy, Duchess of Montpensier; and, just as he was
proceeding to the royal audience from which he was not sure to return,
Anthony de Bourbon, who was wanting in head rather than in heart, said to
Renty, one of his gentlemen, "If I die yonder, carry my blood-stained
shirt to my wife and my son, and tell my wife to send it round to the
foreign princes of Christendom, that they may avenge my death, as my son
is not yet of sufficient age." We may remark that the wife was Jeanne
d'Albret, and the son was to be Henry IV. According to the chroniclers,
when Francis II. looked in the eyes of the man he was to strike, his
fierce resolve died away: the King of Navarre retired, safe and sound,
from the interview, and the Duke of Guise, irritated at the weakness of
the king his master, muttered between his teeth, "'Tis the very whitest
liver that ever was."

In spite of De Thou's indorsement of this story, it is doubtful whether
its authenticity can be admitted; if the interview between the two kings
took place, prudence on the part of the King of Navarre seems to be quite
as likely an explanation of the result as hesitation to become a murderer
on the part of Francis II.

One day Conde was playing cards with some officers on guard over him,
when a servant of his who had been permitted to resume attendance on his
master, pretending to approach him for the purpose of picking up a card,
whispered in his ear, "Our gentleman is _croqued_." The prince,
mastering his emotion, finished his game. He then found means of being
for a moment alone with his servant, and learned from him that Francis
II. was dead. [_Histoire des Princes de Conde, by the Duke d'Aumale,_
t. i. p. 94.] On the 17th of November, 1560, as he was mounting his
horse to go hunting, he fainted suddenly. He appeared to have recovered,
and was even able to be present when the final sentence was pronounced
against Conde; but on the 29th of November there was a fresh
fainting-fit. It appears that Ambrose Pare, at that time the first
surgeon of his day, and a faithful Reformer, informed his patron, Admiral
Coligny, that there would not be long to wait, and that it was all over
with the king. Up to the very last moment, either by themselves or
through their niece Mary Stuart, the Guises preserved their influence
over him: Francis II. sent for the King of Navarre, to assure him that it
was quite of his own accord, and not by advice of the Guises, that he had
brought Conde to trial. He died on the 5th of December, 1560, of an
effusion on the brain, resulting from a fistula and an abscess in the

[Illustration: Mary Stuart----284]

Through a fog of brief or doubtful evidence we can see at the bedside of
this dying king his wife Mary Stuart, who gave him to the last her tender
ministrations, and Admiral de Coligny, who, when the king had heaved his
last sigh, rose up, and, with his air of pious gravity, said aloud before
the Cardinal of Lorraine and the others who were present, "Gentlemen, the
king is dead. A lesson to us to live." At the same moment the Constable
de Montmorency, who had been ordered some time ago to Orleans, but had,
according to his practice, travelled but slowly, arrived suddenly at the
city gate, threatened to hang the ill-informed keepers of it, who
hesitated to let him enter, and hastened to fold in his arms his niece,
the Princess of Conde, whom the death of Francis II. restored to hope.

[Illustration: Coligny at the Death-bed of Francis II.----295]


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.

[Illustration: Francis de Lorraine, Duke of Aumale and of Guise----302]

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.

[Illustration: Massacre of Protestants---305]

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

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.

[Illustration: The Duke of Guise waylaid---315]

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

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