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

Part 8 out of 8

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was to take up arms and unite with other princes against the king; though
he made religion a pretext, he had no right to take up arms against his
sovereign." And again: "The union of the King of France with the
heretics is no longer a matter of doubt; but, after all, Henry of Navarre
is worth a great many of Henry III.; this latter will have the measure he
meted to the Guises." So much equity and mental breadth on the pope's
part was better suited for the republic of Venice than for the King of
Spain. "We have but one desire," wrote the Doge Cicogna to Badoero, his
ambassador at Rome, "and that is to keep the European peace. We cannot
believe that Sixtus V., that great pontiff, is untrue to his charge,
which is to ward off from the Christian world the dangers that threaten
it; in imitation of Him whom he represents on earth, he will show mercy,
and not proceed to acts which would drive the King of France to despair."
During the great struggle with which Europe was engaged in the sixteenth
century, the independence of states, religious tolerance, and political
liberty thus sometimes found, besides their regular and declared
champions, protectors, useful on occasion although they were timid, even
amongst the habitual allies of Charles V.'s despotic and persecuting
successor.

On arriving before Paris towards the end of July, 1589, the two kings
besieged it with an army of forty-two thousand men, the strongest and the
best they had ever had under their orders. "The affairs of Henry III.,"
says De Thou, "had changed face; fortune was pronouncing for him."
Quartered in the house of Count de Retz, at St. Cloud, he could thence
see quite at his ease his city of Paris. "Yonder," said he, "is the
heart of the League; it is there that the blow must be struck. It was
great pity to lay in ruins so beautiful and goodly a city. Still, I must
settle accounts with the rebels who are in it, and who ignominiously
drove me away." "On Tuesday, August 1, at eight A. M., he was told,"
says L'Estoile, "that a monk desired to speak with him, but that his
guards made a difficulty about letting him in. 'Let him in,' said the
king: 'if he is refused, it will be said that I drive monks away and will
not see them.' Incontinently entered the monk, having in his sleeve a
knife unsheathed. He made a profound reverence to the king, who had just
got up and had nothing on but a dressing-gown about his shoulders, and
presented to him despatches from Count de Brienne, saying that he had
further orders to tell the king privately something of importance. Then
the king ordered those who were present to retire, and began reading the
letter which the monk had brought asking for a private audience
afterwards; the monk, seeing the king's attention taken up with reading,
drew his knife from his sleeve and drove it right into the king's small
gut, below the navel, so home that he left the knife in the hole; the
which the king having drawn out with great exertion struck the monk a
blow with the point of it on his left eyebrow, crying, 'Ah! wicked monk!
he has killed me; kill him!' At which cry running quickly up, the guards
and others, such as happened to be nearest, massacred this assassin of a
Jacobin who, as D'Aubigne says, stretched out his two arms against the
wall, counterfeiting the crucifix, whilst the blows were dealt him.
Having been dragged out dead from the king's chamber, he was stripped
naked to the waist, covered with his gown and exposed to the public."

Whilst Henry de Valois was thus struck down at St. Cloud, Henry of
Navarre had moved with a good number of troops to the Pre-aux-Clercs;
and seeing Rosny, who was darting along, pistol in hand, amongst the
foremost, he called one of his gentlemen and said, "Maignan, go and tell
M. de Rosny to come back; he will get taken or wounded in that rash
style." "I should not care to speak so to him," answered Maignan. "I
will tell him that your Majesty wants him." Meanwhile up came a
gentleman at a gallop, who said three or four words in the King of
Navarre's ear. "My friend," said Henry to Rosny, "the king has just been
wounded with a knife in the stomach; let us go and see about it; come
with me." Henry took with him five and twenty gentlemen. The king
received him affectionately, exhorted him to change his religion for his
salvation's sake in another world and his fortunes in this; and,
addressing the people of quality who thronged his chamber, he said, "I do
pray you as my friends, and as your king I order you, to recognize after
my death my brother here. For my satisfaction and as your bounden duty,
I pray you to swear it to him in my presence." All present took the
oath. Henry III. spoke in a firm voice; and his wound was not believed
to be mortal. Letters were sent in his name to the queen, to the
governors of the provinces and to the princes allied to the crown, to
inform them of the accident that had happened to the king, "which, please
God, will turn out to be nothing." The King of Navarre asked for some
details as to the assassin. James Clement was a young Dominican who,
according to report, had been a soldier before he became a monk. He was
always talking of waging war against Henry de Valois, and he was called
"Captain Clement." He told a story about a vision he had of an angel,
who had bidden him "to put to death the tyrant of France, in return for
which he would have the crown of martyrdom." Royalist writers report
that he had been placed in personal communication with the friends of
Henry de Guise, even with his sister the Duchess of Montpensier, and his
brother the Duke of Mayenne. When well informed of the facts, the King
of Navarre returned to his quarters at Meudon, and Rosny to his lodging
at the foot of the castle. Whilst Rosny was at supper, his secretary
came and said to him, "Sir, the King of Navarre, peradventure the King of
France, wants you. M. d'Orthoman writes to him to make haste and come to
St. Cloud if he would see the king alive." The King of Navarre at once
departed. Just as he arrived at St. Cloud, he heard in the street cries
of "Ah! my God, we are lost!" He was told that the king was dead. Henry
III., in fact, expired on the 2d of August, 1589, between two and three
in the morning. The first persons Henry of Navarre encountered as he
entered the Hotel de Retz were the officers of the Scottish guard, who
threw themselves at his feet, saying, "Ah! sir, you are now our king and
our master."

[Illustration: Henry of Navarre and the Scotch Guard----448]

END OF VOLUME IV.

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