Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 1 out of 11

Adobe PDF icon
Download A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by David Widger












Henry IV. 11

Henry IV. at Ivry 26

"Do not lose Sight of my White Plume." 30

Rosny Castle 30

Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma 32

Charles de Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne 35

Sully 37

Lemaitre, Mayenne, and the Archbishop of Lyons 53

Henry IV.'s Abjuration 56

The Castle of Monceaux 91

The Castle of St. Germain in the Reign of Henry IV. 107

The Castle of Fontainbleau 124

Henry IV. and his Ministers 138

The Arsenal in the Reign of Henry IV. 143

The Louvre 145

Concini, Leonora Galigai, and Mary de' Medici 149

Louis XIII. and Albert de Luynes 154

Murder of Marshal d'Ancre 155

Double Duel 188

"Tapping with his Finger-tips on the Window-pane." 191

Henry, Duke of Montmorency, at Castelnaudary 199

The King and the Cardinal 204

Cinq-Mars and De Thou going to Execution 215

The Parliament of Paris reprimanded 217

The Barefoots 221

The Abbot of St. Cyran 234

Demolishing the Fortifications 244

The Harbor of La Rochelle 248

The King and Richelieu at La Rochelle 250

John Guiton's Oath 254

The Defile of Suza Pass 278

Richelieu and Father Joseph 280

Gustavus Adolphus 282

Death of Gustavus and his Page 290

The Palais-Cardinal 305

The Tomb of Richelieu 308

Descartes at Amsterdam 316

The King's Press 323

Peter Corneille 334

The Representation of "the Cid." 335

Corneille at the Hotel Rambouillet 342

The Great Conde 348

Arrest of Broussel 352

Cardinal de Retz 352

"Ah, Wretch, if thy Father saw thee!" 354

President Mole 355

The Great Mademoiselle 373

Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin 394

Death of Mazarin. 399

Fouquet 404

Vaux le Vicomte 405a

Colbert 405

Louis XIV. dismissing Fouquet 407

Louvois 411

William III., Prince of Orange 434

The Brothers Witt 436

Death of Turenne 443

An Exploit of John Bart's 446

Duquesne victorious over Ruyter 446

Marshal Luxembourg 461a

Heinsius 461

Battle of St. Vincent 465a

The Battle of Neerwinden 465

"Here is the King of Spain." 475

News for William III. 481

Bivouac of Louis XIV. 503

The Grand Dauphin 505

Marshal Villars and Prince Eugene 512

Marly 525

Colonnade of the Louvre 525a

The Louvre and the Tuileries 525b

Versailles 526

Vauban 534

The Torture of the Huguenots 552

Revocation of the Edict of Nantes 556

Death of Roland the Camisard 569

Abbey of Port-Royal 580

Reading the Decree 581

Bossuet 591

Blaise Pascal 597

Fenelon and the Duke of Burgundy 610

La Rochefoucauld and his fair Friends 629

La Bruyere 633

Corneille reading to Louis XIV. 642

Racine 646

Boileau-Despreaux 650

La Fontaine, Boileau, Moliere, and Racine 657

Moliere 664

Death of Moliere 669

Lebrun 674

Le Poussin and Claude Lorrain 675

Lesueur 676

Mignard 677

Perrault 678



On the 2d of August, 1589, in the morning, upon his arrival in his
quarters at Meudon, Henry of Navarre was saluted by the Protestants King
of France. They were about five thousand in an army of forty thousand
men. When, at ten o'clock, he entered the camp of the Catholics at St.
Cloud, three of their principal leaders, Marshal d'Aumont, and Sires
d'Humieres and de Givry, immediately acknowledged him unconditionally, as
they had done the day before at the death-bed of Henry III., and they at
once set to work to conciliate to him the noblesse of Champagne, Picardy,
and Ile-de-France. "Sir," said Givry, "you are the king of the brave;
you will be deserted by none but dastards." But the majority of the
Catholic leaders received him with such expressions as, "Better die than
endure a Huguenot king!" One of them, Francis d'O, formally declared to
him that the time had come for him to choose between the insignificance
of a King of Navarre and the grandeur of a King of France; if he
pretended to the crown, he must first of all abjure. Henry firmly
rejected these threatening entreaties, and left their camp with an urgent
recommendation, to them to think of it well before bringing dissension
into the royal army and the royal party which were protecting their
privileges, their property, and their lives against the League. On
returning to his quarters, he noticed the arrival of Marshal de Biron,
who pressed him to lay hands without delay upon the crown of France, in
order to guard it and save it. But, in the evening of that day and on
the morrow, at the numerous meetings of the lords to deliberate upon the
situation, the ardent Catholics renewed their demand for the exclusion of
Henry from the throne if he did not at once abjure, and for referring the
election of a king to the states-general. Biron himself proposed not to
declare Henry king, but to recognize him merely as captain-general of the
army pending his abjuration. Harlay de Sancy vigorously maintained the
cause of the Salic law and the hereditary rights of monarchy. Biron took
him aside and said, I had hitherto thought that you had sense; now I
doubt it. If, before securing our own position with the King of Navarre,
we completely establish his, he will no longer care for us. The time is
come for making our terms; if we let the occasion escape us, we shall
never recover it." "What are your terms?" asked Sancy. "If it please
the king to give me the countship of Perigord, I shall be his forever."
Sancy reported this conversation to the king, who promised Biron what he

Though King of France for but two days past, Henry IV. had already
perfectly understood and steadily taken the measure of the situation. He
was in a great minority throughout the country as well as the army, and
he would have to deal with public passions, worked by his foes for their
own ends, and with the personal pretensions of his partisans. He made no
mistake about these two facts, and he allowed them great weight; but he
did not take for the ruling principle of his policy and for his first
rule of conduct the plan of alternate concessions to the different
parties and of continually humoring personal interests; he set his
thoughts higher, upon the general and natural interests of France as he
found her and saw her. They resolved themselves, in his eyes, into the
following great points: maintenance of the hereditary rights of monarchy,
preponderance of Catholics in the government, peace between Catholics and
Protestants, and religious liberty for Protestants. With him these
points became the law of his policy and his kingly duty, as well as the
nation's right. He proclaimed them in the first words that he addressed
to the lords and principal personages of state assembled around him.
"You all know," said he, "what orders the late king my predecessor gave
me, and what he enjoined upon me with his dying breath. It was chiefly
to maintain my subjects, Catholic or Protestant, in equal freedom, until
a council, canonical, general, or national, had decided this great
dispute. I promised him to perform faithfully that which he bade me, and
I regard it as one of my first duties to be as good as my word. I have
heard that some who are in my army feel scruples about remaining in my
service unless I embrace the Catholic religon. No doubt they think me
weak enough for them to imagine that they can force me thereby to abjure
my religion and break my word. I am very glad to inform them here, in
presence of you all, that I would rather this were the last day of my
life than take any step which might cause me to be suspected of having
dreamt of renouncing the religion that I sucked in with my mother's milk,
before I have been better instructed by a lawful council, to whose
authority I bow in advance. Let him who thinks so ill of me get him gone
as soon as he pleases; I lay more store by a hundred good Frenchmen than
by two hundred who could harbor sentiments so unworthy. Besides, though
you should abandon me, I should have enough of friends left to enable me,
without you and to your shame, with the sole assistance of their strong
arms, to maintain the rights of my authority. But were I doomed to see
myself deprived of even that assistance, still the God who has preserved
me from my infancy, as if by His own hand, to sit upon the throne, will
not abandon me. I nothing doubt that He will uphold me where He has
placed me, not for love of me, but for the salvation of so many souls who
pray, without ceasing, for His aid, and for whose freedom He has deigned
to make use of my arm. You know that I am a Frenchman and the foe of all
duplicity. For the seventeen years that I have been King of Navarre, I
do not think that I have ever departed from my word. I beg you to
address your prayers to the Lord on my behalf, that He may enlighten me
in my views, direct my purposes, bless my endeavors. And in case I
commit any fault or fail in any one of my duties,--for I acknowledge that
I am a man like any other,--pray Him to give me grace that I may correct
it, and to assist me in all my goings."

[Illustration: Henry IV.----11]

On the 4th of August, 1589, an official manifesto of Henry IV.'s
confirmed the ideas and words of this address. On the same day, in the
camp at St. Cloud, the majority of the princes, dukes, lords, and
gentlemen present in the camp expressed their full adhesion to the
accession and the manifesto of the king, promising him "service and
obedience against rebels and enemies who would usurp the kingdom." Two
notable leaders, the Duke of Epernon amongst the Catholics, and the Duke
of La Tremoille amongst the Protestants, refused to join in this
adhesion; the former saying that his conscience would not permit him to
serve a heretic king, the latter alleging that his conscience forbade him
to serve a prince who engaged to protect Catholic idolatry. They
withdrew, D'Epernon into Angoumois and Saintonge, taking with him six
thousand foot and twelve thousand horse; and La Tremoille into Poitou,
with nine battalions of Reformers. They had an idea of attempting, both
of them, to set up for themselves independent principalities. Three
contemporaries, Sully, La Force, and the bastard of Angouleme, bear
witness that Henry IV. was deserted by as many Huguenots as Catholics.
The French royal army was reduced, it is said, to one half. As a
make-weight, Saucy prevailed upon the Swiss, to the number of twelve
thousand, and two thousand German auxiliaries, not only to continue in
the service of the new king, but to wait six months for their pay, as he
was at the moment unable to pay them. From the 14th to the 20th of
August, in Ile-de-France, in Picardy, in Normandy, in Auvergne, in
Champagne, in Burgundy, in Anjou, in Poitou, in Languedoc, in Orleanness,
and in Touraine, a great number of towns and districts joined in the
determination of the royal army. The last instance of such adherence had
a special importance. At the time of Henry III.'s rupture with the
League, the Parliament of Paris had been split in two; the royalists had
followed the king to Tours, the partisans of the League had remained at
Paris. After the accession of Henry IV., the Parliament of Tours, with
the president, Achille de Harlay, as its head, increased from day to day,
and soon reached two hundred members, whilst the Parliament of Paris, or
Brisson Parliament, as it was called from its leader's name, had only
sixty-eight left. Brisson, on undertaking the post, actually thought it
right to take the precaution of protesting privately, making a
declaration in the presence of notaries "that he so acted by constraint
only, and that he shrank from any rebellion against his king and
sovereign lord." It was, indeed, on the ground of the heredity of the
monarchy and by virtue of his own proper rights that Henry IV. had
ascended the throne; and M. Poirson says quite correctly, in his learned
_Histoire du Regne d'Henri IV._ [t. i. p. 29, second edition, 1862],
"The manifesto of Henry IV., as its very name indicates, was not a
contract settled between the noblesse in camp at St. Cloud and the
claimant; it was a solemn and reciprocal acknowledgment by the noblesse
of Henry's rights to the crown, and by Henry of the nation's political,
civil, and religious rights. The engagements entered into by Henry were
only what were necessary to complete the guarantees given for the
security of the rights of Catholics. As touching the succession to the
throne, the signataries themselves say that all they do is to maintain
and continue the law of the land."

There was, in 1589, an unlawful pretender to the throne of France; and
that was Cardinal Charles de Bourbon, younger brother of Anthony de
Bourbon, King of Navarre, and consequently uncle of Henry IV., sole
representative of the elder branch. Under Henry III., the cardinal had
thrown in his lot with the League; and, after the murder of Guise, Henry
III. had, by way of precaution, ordered him to be arrested and detained
him in confinement at Chinon, where he still was when Henry III. was in
his turn murdered. On becoming king, the far-sighted Henry IV. at once
bethought him of his uncle and of what he might be able to do against
him. The cardinal was at Chinon, in the custody of Sieur de Chavigny,
"a man of proved fidelity," says De Thou, "but by this time old and
blind." Henry IV. wrote to Du Plessis-Mornay, appointed quite recently
governor of Saumur, "bidding him, at any price," says Madame de Mornay,
"to get Cardinal de Bourbon away from Chinon, where he was, without
sparing anything, even to the whole of his property, because he would
incontinently set himself up for king if he could obtain his release."
Henry IV. was right. As early as the 7th of August, the Duke of Mayenne
had an announcement made to the Parliament of Paris, and written notice
sent to all the provincial governors, "that, in the interval until the
states-general could be assembled, he urged them all to unite with him in
rendering with one accord to their Catholic king, that is to say,
Cardinal de Bourbon, the obedience that was due to him." The cardinal
was, in fact, proclaimed king under the name of Charles X.; and eight
months afterwards, on the 5th of March, 1590, the Parliament of Paris
issued a decree "recognizing Charles X. as true and lawful king of
France." Du Plessis-Mornay, ill though he was, had understood and
executed, without loss of time, the orders of King Henry, going bail
himself for the promises that had to be made and for the sums that had
to be paid to get the cardinal away from the governor of Chinon. He
succeeded, and had the cardinal removed to Fontenay-le-Comte in Poitou,
"under the custody of Sieur de la Boulaye, governor of that place, whose
valor and fidelity were known to him." "That," said Henry IV. on
receiving the news, "is one of the greatest services I could have had
rendered me; M. du Plessis does business most thoroughly." On the 9th of
May, 1590, not three months after the decree of the Parliament of Paris
which had proclaimed him true and lawful King of France, Cardinal de
Bourbon, still a prisoner, died at Fontenay, aged sixty-seven. A few
weeks before his death he had written to his nephew Henry IV. a letter in
which he recognized him as his sovereign.

The League was more than ever dominant in Paris; Henry IV. could not
think of entering there. Before recommencing the war in his own name, he
made Villeroi, who, after the death of Henry III., had rejoined the Duke
of Mayenne, an offer of an interview in the Bois de Boulogne to see if
there were no means of treating for peace. Mayenne would not allow
Villeroi to accept the offer. "He had no private quarrel," he said,
"with the King of Navarre, whom he highly honored, and who, to his
certain knowledge, had not looked with approval upon his brothers' death;
but any appearance of negotiation would cause great distrust amongst
their party, and they would not do anything that tended against the
rights of King Charles X." Renouncing all idea of negotiation, Henry IV.
set out on the 8th of August from St. Cloud, after having told off his
army in three divisions. Two were ordered to go and occupy Picardy and
Champagne; and the king kept with him only the third, about six thousand
strong. He went and laid the body of Henry III. in the church of
St. Corneille at Compiegne, took Meulan and several small towns on the
banks of the Seine and Oise, and propounded for discussion with his
officers the question of deciding in which direction he should move,
towards the Loire or the Seine, on Tours or on Rouen. He determined in
favor of Normandy; he must be master of the ports in that province in
order to receive there the re-enforcements which had been promised him by
Queen Elizabeth of England, and which she did send him in September,
1589, forming a corps of from four to five thousand men, Scots and
English, "aboard of thirteen vessels laden with twenty-two thousand
pounds sterling in gold and seventy thousand pounds of gunpowder, three
thousand cannon-balls, and corn, biscuits, wine, and beer, together with
woollens and even shoes." They arrived very opportunely for the close of
the campaign, but too late to share in Henry IV.'s first victory, that
series of fights around the castle of Arques which, in the words of an
eye-witness, the Duke of Angouleme, "was the first gate whereby Henry
entered upon the road of his glory and good fortune."

After making a demonstration close to Rouen, Henry IV., learning that
the Duke of Mayenne was advancing in pursuit of him with an army of
twenty-five thousand foot and eight thousand horse, thought it imprudent
to wait for him and run the risk of being jammed between forces so
considerable and the hostile population of a large city; so he struck
his camp and took the road to Dieppe, in order to be near the coast and
the re-enforcements from Queen Elizabeth. Some persons even suggested
to him that in case of mishap he might go thence and take refuge in
England; but at this prospect Biron answered, "There is no King of
France out of France;" and Henry IV. was of Biron's opinion. At his
arrival before Dieppe, he found as governor there Aymar de Chastes, a
man of wits and honor, a very moderate Catholic, and very strongly in
favor of the party of policists. Under Henry III. he had expressly
refused to enter the League, saying to Villars, who pressed him to do
so, "I am a Frenchman, and you yourself will find out that the Spaniard
is the real head of the League." He had organized at Dieppe four
companies of burgess-guards, consisting of Catholics and Protestants,
and he assembled about him, to consider the affairs of the town, a small
council, in which Protestants had the majority. As soon as he knew, on
the 26th of August, that the king was approaching Dieppe, he went with
the principal inhabitants to meet him, and presented to him the keys of
the place, saying, "I come to salute my lord and hand over to him the
government of this city." "Ventre-saint-gris!" answered Henry IV., "I
know nobody more worthy of it than you are!" The Dieppese overflowed
with felicitations. "No fuss, my lads," said Henry: "all I want is your
affections, good bread, good wine, and good hospitable faces." When he
entered the town, "he was received," says a contemporary chronicler,
"with loud cheers by the people; and what was curious, but exhilarating,
was to see the king surrounded by close upon six thousand armed men,
himself having but a few officers at his left hand." He received at
Dieppe assurance of the fidelity of La Verune, governor of Caen,
whither, in 1589, according to Henry III.'s order, that portion of the
Parliament of Normandy which would not submit to the yoke of the League
at Rouen, had removed. Caen having set the example, St. Lo, Coutances,
and Carentan likewise sent deputies to Dieppe to recognize the authority
of Henry IV. But Henry had no idea of shutting himself up inside
Dieppe: after having carefully inspected the castle, citadel, harbor,
fortifications, and outskirts of the town, he left there five hundred
men in garrison, supported by twelve or fifteen hundred well-armed
burgesses, and went and established himself personally in the old castle
of Arques, standing, since the eleventh century, upon a barren hill;
below, in the burgh of Arques, he sent Biron into cantonments with his
regiment of Swiss and the companies of French infantry; and he lost no
time in having large fosses dug ahead of the burgh, in front of all the
approaches, enclosing within an extensive line of circumvallation both
burgh and castle. All the king's soldiers and the peasants that could
be picked up in the environs worked night and day. Whilst they were at
work, Henry wrote to Countess Corisande de Gramont, his favorite at that
time, "My dear heart, it is a wonder I am alive with such work as I
have. God have pity upon me and show me mercy, blessing my labors, as
He does in spite of a many folks! I am well, and my affairs are going
well. I have taken Eu. The enemy, who are double me just now, thought
to catch me there; but I drew off towards Dieppe, and I await them in a
camp that I am fortifying. Tomorrow will be the day when I shall see
them, and I hope, with God's help, that if they attack me they will find
they have made a bad bargain. The bearer of this goes by sea. The wind
and my duties make me conclude. This 9th of September, in the trenches
at Arques."

All was finished when the scouts of Mayenne appeared. But Mayenne also
was an able soldier: he saw that the position the king had taken and the
works he had caused to be thrown up rendered a direct attack very
difficult. He found means of bearing down upon Dieppe another way, and
of placing himself, says the latest historian of Dieppe, M. Vitet,
between the king and the town, "hoping to cut off the king's
communications with the sea, divide his forces, deprive him of his
re-enforcements from England, and, finally, surround him and capture him,
as he had promised the Leaguers of Paris, who were already talking of the
iron cage in which the Bearnese would be sent to them. "Henry IV.,"
continues M. Vitet, "felt some vexation at seeing his forecasts
checkmated by Mayenne's manoeuvre, and at having had so much earth
removed to so little profit; but he was a man of resources, confident as
the Gascons are, and with very little of pig-headedness. To change all
his plans was with him the work of an instant. Instead of awaiting the
foe in his intrenchments, he saw that it was for him to go and feel for
them on the other side of the valley, and that, on pain of being
invested, he must not leave the Leaguers any exit but the very road they
had taken to come." Having changed all his plans on this new system,
Henry breathed more freely; but he did not go to sleep for all that: he
was incessantly backwards and forwards from Dieppe to Arques, from Arques
to Dieppe and to the Faubourg du Pollet. Mayenne, on the contrary,
seemed to have fallen into a lethargy; he had not yet been out of his
quarters during the nearly eight and forty hours since he had taken them.
On the 17th of September, 1589, in the morning, however, a few hundred
light-horse were seen putting themselves in motion, scouring the country
and coming to fire their pistols close to the fosses of the royal army.
The skirmish grew warm by degrees. "My son," said Marshal de Biron to
the young count of Auvergne [natural son of Charles IX. and Mary
Touchet], "charge: now is the time." The young prince, without his hat,
and his horsemen charged so vigorously that they put the Leaguers to the
rout, killed three hundred of them, and returned quietly within their
lines, by Biron's orders, without being disturbed in their retreat.
These partial and irregular encounters began again on the 18th and 19th
of September, with the same result. The Duke of Mayenne was nettled and
humiliated; he had his prestige to recover. He decided to concentrate
all his forces right on the king's intrenchments, and attack them in
front with his whole army. The 20th of September passed without a single
skirmish. Henry, having received good information that he would be
attacked the next day, did not go to bed. The night was very dark. He
thought he saw a long way off in the valley a long line of lighted
matches; but there was profound silence; and the king and his officers
puzzled themselves to decide if they were men or glow-worms. On the
21st, at five A. M., the king gave orders for every one to be ready and
at his post. He himself repaired to the battle-field. Sitting in a big
fosse with all his officers, he had his breakfast brought thither, and
was eating with good appetite, when a prisoner was brought to him, a
gentleman of the League, who had advanced too far whilst making a
reconnaissance. "Good day, Belin," said the king, who recognized him,
laughing: "embrace me for your welcome appearance." Belin embraced him,
telling him that he was about to have down upon him thirty thousand foot
and ten thousand horse. "Where are your forces?" he asked the king,
looking about him. "O! you don't see them all, M. de Belin," said Henry:
"you don't reckon the good God and the good right, but they are ever with

The action began about ten o'clock. The fog was still so thick that
there was no seeing one another at ten paces. The ardor on both sides
was extreme; and, during nearly three hours, victory seemed to twice
shift her colors. Henry at one time found himself entangled amongst some
squadrons so disorganized that he shouted, "Courage, gentlemen; pray,
courage! Can't we find fifty gentlemen willing to die with their king?"
At this moment Chatillon, issuing from Dieppe with five hundred picked
men, arrived on the field of battle. The king dismounted to fight at his
side in the trenches; and then, for a quarter of an hour, there was a
furious combat, man to man. At last, "when things were in this desperate
state," says Sully, "the fog, which had been very thick all the morning,
dropped down suddenly, and the cannon of the castle of Arques getting
sight of the enemy's army, a volley of four pieces was fired, which made
four beautiful lanes in their squadrons and battalions. That pulled them
up quite short; and three or four volleys in succession, which produced
marvellous effects, made them waver, and, little by little, retire all of
them behind the turn of the valley, out of cannon-shot, and finally to
their quarters." Mayenne had the retreat sounded. Henry, master of the
field, gave chase for a while to the fugitives, and then returned to
Arques to thank God for his victory. Mayenne struck his camp and took
the road towards Amiens, to pick up a Spanish corps which he was
expecting from the Low Countries.

[Illustration: Sully----37]

For six months, from September, 1589, to March, 1590, the war continued
without any striking or important events. Henry IV. tried to stop it
after his success at Arques; he sent word to the Duke of Mayenne by his
prisoner Belin, whom he had sent away free on parole, "that he desired
peace, and so earnestly, that, without regarding his dignity or his
victory, he made him these advances, not that he had any fear of him, but
because of the pity he felt for his kingdom's sufferings." Mayenne, who
lay beneath the double yoke of his party's passions and his own ambitious
projects, rejected the king's overtures, or allowed them to fall through;
and on the 21st of October, 1589, Henry, setting out with his army from
Dieppe, moved rapidly on Paris, in order to effect a strategic surprise,
whilst Mayenne was rejecting at Amiens his pacific inclinations. The
king gained three marches on the Leaguers, and carried by assault the
five faubourgs situated on the left bank of the Seine. He would perhaps
have carried terror-stricken Paris itself, if the imperfect breaking up
of the St. Maixent bridge on the Somme had not allowed Mayenne,
notwithstanding his tardiness, to arrive at Paris in time to enter with
his army, form a junction with the Leaguers amongst the population, and
prevail upon the king to carry his arms elsewhither." The people of
Paris," says De Thou, "were extravagant enough to suppose that this
prince could not escape Mayenne. Already a host of idle and credulous
women had been at the pains of engaging windows, which they let very
dear, and which they had fitted up magnificently, to see the passage of
that fanciful triumph for which their mad hopes had caused them to make
every preparation--before the victory." Henry left some of his
lieutenants to carry on the war in the environs of Paris, and himself
repaired, on the 21st of November, to Tours, where the royalist
Parliament, the exchequer-chamber, the court of taxation, and all the
magisterial bodies which had not felt inclined to submit to the despotism
of the League, lost no time in rendering him homage, as the head and the
representative of the national and the lawful cause. He reigned and
ruled, to real purpose, in the eight principal provinces of the North and
Centre--Ile-de-France, Picardy, Champagne, Normandy, Orleanness,
Touraine, Maine, and Anjou; and his authority, although disputed, was
making way in nearly all the other parts of the kingdom. He made war not
like a conqueror, but like a king who wanted to meet with acceptance in
the places which he occupied and which he would soon have to govern. The
inhabitants of Le Mans and of Alencon were able to reopen their shops on
the very day on which their town fell into his hands, and those of
Vendome the day after. He watched to see that respect was paid by his
soldiers, even the Huguenots, to Catholic churches and ceremonies. Two
soldiers, having made their way into Le Mans, contrary to orders, after
the capitulation, and having stolen a chalice, were hanged on the spot,
though they were men of acknowledged bravery. He protected carefully the
bishops and all the ecclesiastics who kept aloof from political strife.
"If minute details are required," says a contemporary pamphleteer, "out
of a hundred or a hundred and twenty archbishops or bishops existing in
the realm of France not a tenth part approve of the counsels of the
League." It was not long before Henry reaped the financial fruits of his
protective equity; at the close of 1589 he could count upon a regular
revenue of more than two millions of crowns, very insufficient, no doubt,
for the wants of his government, but much beyond the official resources
of his enemies. He had very soon taken his proper rank in Europe: the
Protestant powers which had been eager to recognize him--England,
Scotland, the Low Countries, the Scandinavian states, and Reformed
Germany--had been joined by the republic of Venice, the most judiciously
governed state at that time in Europe, but solely on the ground of
political interests and views, independently of any religious question.
On the accession of Henry IV., his ambassador, Hurault de Maisse, was
received and very well treated at Venice; he was merely excluded from
religious ceremonies: the Venetian people joined in the policy of their
government; the portrait of the new King of France was everywhere
displayed and purchased throughout Venice. Some Venetians went so far as
to take service in his army against the League. The Holy Inquisition
commenced proceedings against them for heresy; the government stopped the
proceedings, and even, says Count Daru, had the Inquisitor thrown into
prison. The Venetian senate accredited to the court of Henry IV. the
same ambassador who had been at Henry III.'s; and, on returning to Tours,
on the 21st of November, 1589, the king received him to an audience in
state. A little later on he did more; he sent the republic, as a pledge
of his friendship, his sword--the sword, he said in his letter, which he
had used at the battle of Ivry. "The good offices were mutual," adds M.
de Daru; the Venetians lent Henry IV. sums of money which the badness of
the times rendered necessary to him; but their ambassador had orders to
throw into the fire, in the king's presence, the securities for the

As the government of Henry IV. went on growing in strength and extent,
two facts, both of them natural, though antagonistic, were being
accomplished in France and in Europe. The moderate Catholics were
beginning, not as yet to make approaches towards him, but to see a
glimmering possibility of treating with him and obtaining from him such
concessions as they considered necessary at the same time that they in
their turn made to him such as he might consider sufficient for his party
and himself. It has already been remarked with what sagacity Pope Sixtus
V. had divined the character of Henry IV., at the very moment of
condemning Henry III. for making an alliance with him. When Henry IV.
had become king, Sixtus V. pronounced strongly against a heretic king,
and maintained, in opposition to him, his alliance with Philip II. and
the League. "France," said he, "is a good and noble kingdom, which has
infinity of benefices and is specially dear to us; and so we try to save
her; but religion sits nearer than France to our heart." He chose for
his legate in France Cardinal Gaetani, whom he knew to be agreeable to
Philip II. and gave him instructions in harmony with the Spanish policy.
Having started for his post, Gaetani was a long while on the road,
halting at Lyons, amongst other places, as if he were in no hurry to
enter upon his duties. At the close of 1589, Henry IV., king for the
last five months and already victorious at Arques, appointed as his
ambassador at Rome Francis de Luxembourg, Duke of Pinei, to try and enter
into official relations with the pope. On the 6th of January, 1590,
Sixtus V., at his reception of the cardinals, announced to them this
news. Badoero, ambassador of Venice at Rome, leaned forward and
whispered in his ear, "We must pray God to inspire the King of Navarre.
On the day when your Holiness embraces him, and then only, the affairs of
France will be adjusted. Humanly speaking, there is no other way of
bringing peace to that kingdom." The pope confined himself to replying
that God would do all for the best, and that, for his own part, he would
wait. On arriving at Rome, "the Duke of Luxembourg repaired to the
Vatican with two and twenty carriages occupied by French gentlemen; but,
at the palace, he found the door of the pope's apartments closed, the
sentries doubled, and the officers on duty under orders to intimate to
the French, the chief of the embassy excepted, that they must lay aside
their swords. At the door of the Holy Father's closet, the duke and
three gentlemen of his train were alone allowed to enter. The
indignation felt by the French was mingled with apprehensions of an
ambush. Luxembourg himself could not banish a feeling of vague terror;
great was his astonishment when, on his introduction to the pontiff, the
latter received him with demonstrations of affection, asked him news of
his journey, said he would have liked to give him quarters in the palace,
made him sit down,--a distinction reserved for the ambassadors of kings,
--and, lastly, listened patiently to the French envoy's long recital. In
fact, the receptions _intra et, extra muros_ bore very little resemblance
one to the other, but the difference between them corresponded pretty
faithfully with the position of Sixtus V., half engaged to the League by
Gaetani's commission and to Philip II. by the steps he had recently
taken, and already regretting that he was so far gone in the direction of
Spain." [_Sixtus V,_ by Baron Hiibner, late ambassador of Austria at
Paris and at Rome, t. ii. pp. 280-282.]

Unhappily Sixtus V. died on the 27th of August, 1590, before having
modified, to any real purpose, his bearing towards the King of France and
his instructions to his legate. After Pope Urban VIII.'s apparition of
thirteen days' duration, Gregory XIV. was elected pope on the 5th of
December, 1590; and, instead of a head of the church able enough and
courageous enough to comprehend and practise a policy European and
Italian as well as Catholic in its scope, there was a pope humbly devoted
to the Spanish policy, meekly subservient to Philip II.; that is, to the
cause of religious persecution and of absolute power, without regard for
anything else. The relations of France with the Holy See at once felt
the effects of this; Cardinal Gaetani received from Rome all the
instructions that the most ardent Leaguers could desire; and he gave his
approval to a resolution of the Sorbonne to the effect that Henry de
Bourbon, heretic and relapsed, was forever excluded from the crown,
whether he became a Catholic or not. Henry IV., had convoked the
states-general at Tours for the month of March, and had summoned to that
city the archbishops and bishops to form a national council, and to
deliberate as to the means of restoring the king to the bosom of the
Catholic church. The legate prohibited this council, declaring,
beforehand, the excommunication and deposition of any bishops who should
be present at it. The Leaguer Parliament of Paris forbade, on pain of
death and confiscation, any connection, any correspondence, with Henry
de Bourbon and his partisans. A solemn procession of the League took
place at Paris, on the 14th of March, and a few days afterwards the
union was sworn afresh by all the municipal chiefs of the population.
In view of such passionate hostility, Henry IV., a stranger to any sort
of illusion at the same time that he was always full of hope, saw that
his successes at Arques were insufficient for him, and that, if he were
to occupy the throne in peace, he must win more victories. He
recommenced the campaign by the siege of Dreux, one of the towns which
it was most important for him to possess in order to put pressure on
Paris, and cause her to feel, even at a distance, the perils and evils
of war.

On Wednesday, the 14th of March, 1590, was fought the battle of Ivry,
a village six leagues from Evreux, on the left bank of the Eure.
"Starting from Dreux on the 12th of March" [Poirson, _Histoire du Regne
d'Henri IV.,__ t. i. p. 180], "the royal army had arrived the same day
at Nonancourt, marching with the greatest regularity by divisions and
always in close order, through fearful weather, frost having succeeding
rain; moreover, it traversed a portion of the road during the shades of
evening. The soldier was harassed and knocked up. But scarcely had he
arrived at his destination for the day, when he found large fires lighted
everywhere, and provisions in abundance, served out with intelligent
regularity to the various quarters of cavalry and infantry. He soon
recovered all his strength and daring." The king, in concert with the
veteran Marshal de Biron, had taken these prudent measures. All the
historians, contemporary and posterior, have described in great detail
the battle of Ivry, the manoeuvres and alternations of success that
distinguished it; by rare good fortune, we have an account of the affair
written the very same evening in the camp at Rosny by Henry IV. himself,
and at once sent off to some of his principal partisans who were absent,
amongst others to M. de la Verune, governor of Caen. We will content
ourselves here with the king's own words, striking in their precision,
brevity, and freedom from any self-complacent gasconading on the
narrator's part, respecting either his party or himself.

[Illustration: Henry IV. at Ivry----26]


"It hath pleased God to grant me that which I had the most desired, to
have means of giving battle to mine enemies; having firm confidence that,
having got so far, God would give me grace to obtain the victory, as it
hath happened this very day. You have heretofore heard how that, after
the capture of the town of Honfleur, I went and made them raise the siege
they were laying to the town of Meulan, and I offered them battle, which
it seemed that they ought to accept, having in numbers twice the strength
that I could muster. But in the hope of being able to do so with more
safety, they made up their minds to put it off until they had been joined
by fifteen hundred lances which the Duke of Parma was sending them; which
was done a few days ago. And then they spread abroad everywhere that
they would force me to fight, wheresoever I might be; they thought to
have found a very favorable opportunity in coming to encounter me at the
siege I was laying before the town of Dreux; but I did not give them the
trouble of coming so far; for, as soon as I was advertised that they had
crossed the river of Seine and were heading towards me, I resolved to put
off the siege rather than fail to go and meet them. Having learned that
they were six leagues from the said Dreux, I set out last Monday, the
12th of this month, and went and took up my quarters at the town of
Nonancourt, which was three leagues from them, for to cross the river
there. On Tuesday, I went and took the quarters which they meant to have
for themselves, and where their quarter-masters had already arrived.
I put myself in order of battle, in the morning, on a very fine plain,
about a league from the point which they had chosen the day before, and
where they immediately appeared with their whole army, but so far from me
that I should have given them a great advantage by going so forward to
seek them; I contented myself with making them quit a village they had
seized close by me; at last, night constrained us both to get into
quarters, which I did in the nearest villages.

"To-day, having had their position reconnoitred betimes, and after it had
been reported to me that they had shown themselves, but even farther off
than they had done yesterday, I resolved to approach so near to them that
there must needs be a collision. And so it happened between ten and
eleven in the morning; I went to seek them to the very spot where they
were posted, and whence they never advanced a step but what they
made to the charge; and the battle took place, wherein God was pleased to
make known that His protection is always on the side of the right; for in
less than an hour, after having spent all their choler in two or three
charges which they made and supported, all their cavalry began to take
its departure, leaving their infantry, which was in large numbers.
Seeing which, their Swiss had recourse to my compassion, and surrendered,
colonels, captains, privates, and all their flags. The lanzknechts and
French had no time to take this resolution, for they were cut to pieces,
twelve hundred of one and as many of the other; the rest prisoners and
put to the rout in the woods, at the mercy of the peasants. Of their
cavalry there are from nine hundred to a thousand killed, and from four
to five hundred dismounted and prisoners; without counting those drowned
in crossing the River Eure, which they crossed to Ivry for to put it
between them and us, and who are a great number. The rest of the better
mounted saved themselves by flight, in very great disorder, having lost
all their baggage. I did not let them be until they were close to
Mantes. Their white standard is in my hands, and its bearer a prisoner;
twelve or fifteen other standards of their cavalry, twice as many more of
their infantry, all their artillery; countless lords prisoners, and of
dead a great number, even of those in command, whom I have not yet been
able to find time to get identified. But I know that amongst others
Count Egmont, who was general of all the forces that came from Flanders,
was killed. Their prisoners all say that their army was about four
thousand horse, and from twelve to thirteen thousand foot, of which I
suppose not a quarter has escaped. As for mine, it may have been two
thousand horse and eight thousand foot. But of this cavalry, more than
six hundred horse joined me after I was in order of battle, on the
Tuesday and Wednesday; nay, the last troop of the noblesse from Picardy,
brought up by Sire d'Humieres, and numbering three hundred horse, came up
when half an hour had already passed since the battle began.

"It is a miraculous work of God's, who was pleased, first of all, to give
me the resolution to attack them, and then the grace to be able so
successfully to accomplish it. Wherefore to Him alone is the glory; and
so far as any of it may, by His permission, belong to man, it is due to
the princes, officers of the crown, lords, captains, and all the
noblesse, who with so much ardor rushed forward, and so successfully
exerted themselves, that their predecessors did not leave them more
beautiful examples than they will leave to their posterity. As I am
greatly content and satisfied with them, so I think that they are with
me, and that they have seen that I had no mind to make use of them
anywhere without I had also shown them the way. I am still following up
the victory with my cousins the princes of Conti, Duke of Montpensier,
Count of St. Paul, Marshal-duke of Aumont, grand prior of France, La
Tremoille, Sieurs de la Guiche and de Givry, and several other lords and
captains. My cousin Marshal de Biron remains with the main army awaiting
my tidings, which will go on, I hope, still prospering. You shall hear
more fully in my next despatch, which shall follow this very closely, the
particulars of this victory, whereof I desired to give you these few
words of information, so as not to keep you longer out of the pleasure
which I know that you will receive therefrom. I pray you to impart it to
all my other good servants yonder, and, especially, to have thanks given
therefor to God, whom I pray to have you in His holy keeping.

"From the camp at Rosny, this 14th day of March, 1590."

[Illustration: Rosny Castle----30]

History is not bound to be so reserved and so modest as the king was
about himself. It was not only as able captain and valiant soldier that
Henry IV. distinguished himself at Ivry; there the man was as conspicuous
for the strength of his better feelings, as generous and as affectionate
as the king was farsighted and bold. When the word was given to march
from Dreux, Count Schomberg, colonel of the German auxiliaries called
reiters, had asked for the pay of his troops, letting it be understood
that they would not fight if their claims were not satisfied. Henry had
replied harshly, "People don't ask for money on the eve of a battle." At
Ivry, just as the battle was on the point of beginning, he went up to
Schomberg. "Colonel," said he, "I hurt your feelings. This may be the
last day of my life. I can't bear to take away the honor of a brave and
honest gentleman like you. Pray forgive me and embrace me." "Sir,"
answered Schomberg, "the other day your Majesty wounded me, to-day you
kill me." He gave up the command of the reiters in order to fight in the
king's own squadron, and was killed in action. As he passed along the
front of his own squadron, Henry halted; and, "Comrades," said he, "if
you run my risks, I also run yours. I will conquer or die with you.
Keep your ranks well, I beg. If the heat of battle disperse you for a
while, rally as soon as you can under those three pear trees you see up
yonder to my right; and if you lose your standards, do not lose sight of
my white plume; you will always find it in the path of honor, and, I
hope, of victory too."

[Illustration: "Do not lose Sight of my White Plume."----30]

Having galloped along the whole line of his army, he halted again, threw
his horse's reins over his arm, and clasped his hands, exclaiming, "O
God, Thou knowest my thoughts, and Thou dost see to the very bottom of my
heart; if it be for my people's good that I keep the crown, favor Thou my
cause and uphold my arms. But if Thy holy will have otherwise ordained,
at least let me die, O God, in the midst of these brave soldiers who give
their lives for me!" When the battle was over and won, he heard that
Rosny had been severely wounded in it; and when he was removed to Rosny
Castle, the king, going close up to his stretcher, said, "My friend, I am
very glad to see you with a much better countenance than I expected; I
should feel still greater joy if you assure me that you run no risk of
your life or of being disabled forever; the rumor was, that you had two
horses killed under you; that you had been borne to earth, rolled over
and trampled upon by the horses of several squadrons, bruised and cut up
by so many blows that it would be a marvel if you escaped, or if, at the
very least, you were not mutilated for life in some limb. I should like
to hug you with both arms. I shall never have any good fortune or
increase of greatness but you shall share it. Fearing that too much
talking may be harmful to your wounds, I am off again to Mantes. Adieu,
my friend; fare you well, and be assured that you have a good master."

Henry IV. had not only a warm but an expansive heart; he could not help
expressing and pouring forth his feelings. That was one of his charms,
and also one of his sources of power.

The victory of Ivry had a great effect in France and in Europe. But not
immediately and as regarded the actual campaign of 1590. The victorious
king moved on Paris, and made himself master of the little towns in the
neighborhood with a view of investing the capital. When he took
possession of St. Denis [on the 9th of July, 1590], he had the relics and
all the jewelry of the church shown to him. When he saw the royal crown,
from which the principal stones had been detached, he asked what had
become of them. He was told that M. de Mayehne had caused them to-be
removed. "He has the stones, then," said the king; "and I have the
soil." He visited the royal tombs, and when he was shown that of
Catherine de' Medici, " Ah!" said he smiling, "how well it suits her!"
And, as he stood before Henry III.'s he said, "Ventre-saint-gris! There
is my good brother; I desire that I be laid beside him." As he thus went
on visiting and establishing all his posts around Paris, the investment
became more strict; it was kept up for more than three months, from the
end of May to the beginning of September, 1590; and the city was reduced
to a severe state of famine, which would have been still more severe if
Henry IV. had not several times over permitted the entry of some convoys
of provisions and the exit of the old men, the women, the children, in
fact, the poorest and weakest part of the population. "Paris must not be
a cemetery," be said; "I do not wish to reign over the dead." "A true
king," says De Thou, "more anxious for the preservation of his kingdom
than greedy of conquest, and making no distinction between his own
interests and the interests of his people." Two famous Protestants,
Ambrose Pare and Bernard Palissy, preserved, one by his surgical and the
other by his artistic genius, from the popular fury, were still living at
that time in Paris, both eighty years of age, and both pleading for the
liberty of their creed and for peace. "Monseigneur," said Ambrose Pare
one day to the Archbishop of Lyons, whom he met at one end of the bridge
of St. Michael, "this poor people that you see here around you is dying
of sheer hunger-madness, and demands your compassion. For God's sake
show them some, as you would have God's shown to you. Think a little on
the office to which God hath called you. Give us peace or give us
wherewithal to live, for the poor folks can hold out no more." The
Italian Danigarola himself, Bishop of Asti and attache to the embassy of
Cardinal Gaetani, having publicly said that peace was necessary, was
threatened by the Sixteen with being sewn up in a sack and thrown into
the river if he did not alter his tone. Not peace, but a cessation of
the investment of Paris, was brought about, on the 23d of August, 1590,
by Duke Alexander of Parma, who, in accordance with express orders from
Philip II., went from the Low Countries, with his army, to join Mayenne
at Meaux and threaten Henry IV. with their united forces if he did not
retire from the walls of the capital.

[Illustration: Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma----32]

Henry IV. offered the two dukes battle, if they really wished to put a
stop to the investment; but "I am not come so far," answered the Duke of
Parma, "to take counsel of my enemy; if my manner of warfare does not
please the King of Navarre, let him force me to change it, instead of
giving me advice that nobody asks him for." Henry in vain attempted to
make the Duke of Parma accept battle. The able Italian established
himself in a strongly intrenched camp, surprised Lagny, and opened to
Paris the navigation of the Marne, by which provisions were speedily
brought up. Henry decided upon retreating; he dispersed the different
divisions of his army into Touraine, Normandy, Picardy, Champagne,
Burgundy, and himself took up his quarters at Senlis, at Compiegne, in
the towns on the banks of the Oise. The Duke of Mayenne arrived on the
18th of September at Paris; the Duke of Parma entered it himself with a
few officers, and left it on the 13th of November with his army on his
way back to the Low Countries, being a little harassed in his retreat by
the royal cavalry, but easy, for the moment, as to the fate of Paris and
the issue of the war, which continued during the first six months of the
year 1591, but languidly and disconnectedly, with successes and reverses
see-sawing between the two parties and without any important results.

Then began to appear the consequences of the victory of Ivry and the
progress made by Henry IV., in spite of the check he received before
Paris and at some other points in the kingdom. Not only did many
moderate Catholics make advances to him, struck with his sympathetic
ability and his valor, and hoping that he would end by becoming a
Catholic, but patriotic wrath was kindling in France against Philip II.
and the Spaniards, those fomenters of civil war in the mere interest of
foreign ambition. We quoted but lately the words used by the governor of
Dieppe, Aymar de Chastes, when he said to Villars, governor of Rouen, who
pressed him to enter the League, "You will yourself find out that the
Spaniard is the real head of this League." On the 5th of August, 1590,
during the investment of Paris, a placard was pasted all over the city.
"Poor Parisians," it said, "I deplore your misery, and I feel even
greater pity towards you for being still such simpletons. See you not
that this son of perdition of a Spanish ambassador [Bernard de Mendoza],
who had our good king murdered, is making game of you, cramming you so
with pap that he would fain have had you burst before now in order to lay
hands on your goods and on France if he could? He alone prevents peace
and the repose of desolated France, as well as the reconciliation of the
king and the princes in real amity. Why are ye so tardy to cast him in a
sack down stream, that he may return the sooner to Spain?" On the 6th of
August, there was found written with charcoal, on the gate of St.
Anthony, the following eight lines:--

"Some folks, for Holy League bear more
Than the prodigal son in the Bible bore;
For he, together with his swine,
On bean, and root, and husk would dine;
Whilst they, unable to procure
Such dainty morsels, must endure
Between their skinny lips to pass
Offal and tripe of horse or ass."

"These," said a Latin inscription on the awnings of the butchers' shops,
"are the rewards of those who expose their lives for Philip" [_Haec sunt
munera pro iis qui vitam pro Philippo proferunt: Memoires de L'Estoile,_
t. ii. pp. 73, 74]. In 1591 these public sentiments, reproduced and
dilated upon in numerous pamphlets, imported dissension into the heart of
the League itself, which split up into two parties, the Spanish League
and the French League. The Committee of Sixteen labored incessantly for
the formation and triumph of the Spanish League; and its principal
leaders wrote, on the 2d of September, 1591, a letter to Philip II.,
offering him the crown of France, and pledging their allegiance to him as
his subjects. "We can positively assure your Majesty," they said, "that
the wishes of all Catholics are to see your Catholic Majesty holding the
sceptre of this kingdom and reigning over us, even as we do throw
ourselves right willingly into your arms as into those of our father, or
at any rate establishing one of your posterity upon the throne." These
ringleaders of the Spanish League had for their army the blindly
fanatical and demagogic populace of Paris, and were, further, supported
by four thousand Spanish troops whom Philip II. had succeeded in getting
almost surreptitiously into Paris. They created a council of ten, the
sixteenth century's committee of public safety; they proscribed the
policists; they, on the 15th of November, had the president, Brisson, and
two councillors of the Leaguer Parliament arrested, hanged them to a beam
and dragged the corpses to the Place de Grove, where they strung them up
to a gibbet with inscriptions setting forth that they were heretics,
traitors to the city and enemies of the Catholic princes. Whilst the
Spanish League was thus reigning at Paris, the Duke of Mayenne was at
Laon, preparing to lead his army, consisting partly of Spaniards, to the
relief of Rouen, the siege of which Henry IV. was commencing. Being
summoned to Paris by messengers who succeeded one another every hour, he
arrived there on the 28th of November, 1591, with two thousand French
troops; he armed the guard of Burgesses, seized and hanged, in a
ground-floor room of the Louvre, four of the chief leaders of the Sixteen,
suppressed their committee, re-established the Parliament in full
authority, and, finally, restored the security and preponderance of the
French League, whilst taking the reins once more into his own hands. But
the French League before long found itself, in its turn, placed in a
situation quite as embarrassing, if not so provocative of odium, as that
in which the Spanish League had lately been; for it had become itself the
tool of personal and unlawful ambition. The Lorraine princes, it is
true, were less foreign to France than the King of Spain was; they had
even rendered her eminent service; but they had no right to the crown.
Mayenne had opposed to him the native and lawful heir to the throne,
already recognized and invested with the kingly power by a large portion
of France, and quite capable of disputing his kingship with the ablest
competitors. By himself and with his own party alone, Mayenne was not in
a position to maintain such a struggle; in order to have any chance he
must have recourse to the prince whose partisans he had just overthrown
and chastised.

[Illustration: Charles de Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne----35]

On the 11th of November, 1591, Henry IV. had laid siege to Rouen with a
strong force, and was pushing the operations on vigorously. In order to
obtain the troops and money without which he could not relieve this
important place, the leader of the French League treated humbly with the
patron of the Spanish League. "In the conferences held at La Fere and at
Lihom-Saintot, between the 10th and the 18th of January, 1592," says M.
Poirson, "the Duke of Parma, acting for the King of Spain, and Mayenne
drew up conventions which only awaited. the ratification of Philip II.
to be converted into a treaty. Mayenne was to receive four millions of
crowns a year and a Spanish army, which together would enable him to
oppose Henry IV. He had, besides, a promise of a large establishment for
himself, his relatives, and the chiefs of his party. In exchange, he
promised, in his own name and that of the princes of his house and the
great lords of the League, that Philip II.'s daughter, the Infanta
Isabella (Clara Eugenia), should be recognized as sovereign and
proprietress of the throne of France, and that the states-general,
convoked for that purpose, should proclaim her right and confer upon her
the throne. It is true," adds M. Poirson, "that Mayenne stipulated that
the Infanta should take a husband, within the year, at the suggestion of
the councillors and great officers of the crown, that the kingdom should
be preserved in its entirety, and that its laws and customs should be
maintained. . . . It even appears certain that Mayenne purposed not
to keep any of these promises, and to emend his infamy by a breach of
faith. . . . But a conviction generally prevailed that he recognized
the rights of the Infanta, and that he would labor to place her on the
throne. The lords of his own party believed it; the legate reported it
everywhere; the royal party regarded it as certain. During the whole
course of the year 1592, this opinion gave the most disastrous assistance
to the intrigues and ascendency of Philip II., and added immeasurably to
the public dangers." [Poirson, _Histoire du Regne d'Henri IV.,_ t. i.
pp. 304-306.]

Whilst these two Leagues, one Spanish and the other French, were
conspiring thus persistently, sometimes together and sometimes one
against the other, to promote personal ambition and interests, at the
same time national instinct, respect for traditional rights, weariness of
civil war, and the good sense which is born of long experience, were
bringing France more and more over to the cause and name of Henry IV.
In all the provinces, throughout all ranks of society, the population
non-enrolled amongst the factions were turning their eyes towards him as
the only means of putting an end to war at home and abroad, the only
pledge of national unity, public prosperity, and even freedom of trade, a
hazy idea as yet, but even now prevalent in the great ports of France and
in Paris. Would Henry turn Catholic? That was the question asked
everywhere, amongst Protestants with anxiety, but with keen desire, and
not without hope, amongst the mass of the population. The rumor ran
that, on this point, negotiations were half opened even in the midst of
the League itself, even at the court of Spain, even at Rome, where Pope
Clement VIII., a more moderate man than his predecessor, Gregory XIV.,
"had no desire," says Sully, "to foment the troubles of France, and still
less that the King of Spain should possibly become its undisputed king,
rightly judging that this would be laying open to him the road to the
monarchy of Christendom, and, consequently, reducing the Roman pontiffs
to the position, if it were his good pleasure, of his mere chaplains."
[_OEconomies royales,_ t. ii. p. 106.] Such being the existing state of
facts and minds, it was impossible that Henry IV. should not ask himself
roundly the same question, and feel that he had no time to lose in
answering it.

At the beginning of February, 1593, he sent for Rosny, one evening very
late. "And so," says Rosny, "I found his Majesty in bed, having already
wished every one a good night; who, as soon as he saw me come in, ordered
a hassock to be brought and me to kneel thereon against his bed, and said
to me, 'My friend, I have sent for you so late for to speak with you
about the things that are going on, and to hear your opinions thereon; I
confess that I have often found them better than those of many others who
make great show of being clever. If you continue to leave me the care of
that which concerns you, and yourself to take continual care of my
affairs, we shall both of us find it to our welfare. I do not wish to
hide any longer that for a long time past I have had my eye upon you in
order to employ you personally in my most important affairs, especially
in those of my finances, for I hold you to be honest and painstaking.
For the present, I wish to speak with you about that large number of
persons of all parties, all ranks, and different tempers, who would be
delighted to exert themselves for the pacification of the kingdom,
especially if I can resolve to make some arrangement as regards religion.
I am quite resolved not to hear of any negotiation or treaty, save on
these two conditions, that some result may be looked for tending both
to the advantage of the people of my kingdom and to the real
re-establishment of the kingly authority. I know that it is your custom,
whenever I put anything before you, to ask me for time to think well
thereon before you are disposed to tell me your opinion; in three or four
days I shall send for you to tell me what has occurred to you touching
all these fine hopes that many would have me anticipate from their
interventions; all of them persons very diverse in temper, purposes,
interests, functions, and religion."

"Whereupon," says Rosny, "the king having dismissed me with a good
evening, he did not fail to send for me again three days afterwards, in
order that I should go and see him again in bed, near the which having
made me kneel as before, he said, 'Come, now, tell me this moment, and
quite at leisurely length, all your foolish fancies, for so you have
always called the best counsels you have ever given me, touching the
questions I put to you the other evening. I am ready to listen to you
right on to the end, without interrupting you.'"

"Sir," said Rosny, "I have reflected not only on what your Majesty was
pleased to tell me three days ago, but also on what I have been able to
learn, as to the same affairs, from divers persons of all qualities and
religions, and even women who have talked to me in order to make me talk,
and to see if I knew any particulars of your private intentions. . . .
As it seems to me, sir, all these goings, comings, writings, letters,
journeys, interventions, parleys, and conferences cannot be better
compared than to that swarming of attorneys at the courts, who take a
thousand turns and walks about the great hall, under pretence of settling
cases, and all the while it is they who give them birth, and would be
very sorry for a single one to die off. In the next place, not a single
one of them troubles himself about right or wrong, provided that the
crowns are forthcoming, and that, by dint of lustily shouting, they are
reputed eloquent, learned, and well stocked with inventions and
subtleties. Consequently, sir, without troubling yourself further with
these treaty-mongers and negotiators, who do nothing but lure you, bore
you, perplex your mind, and fill with doubts and scruples the minds of
your subjects, I opine, in a few words, that you must still for some time
exercise great address, patience, and prudence, in order that there may
be engendered amongst all this mass of confusion, anarchy, and chimera,
that they call the holy catholic union, so many and such opposite
desires, jealousies, pretensions, hatreds, longings, and designs, that,
at last, all the French there are amongst them must come and throw
themselves into your arms, bit by bit, recognize your kingship alone as
possible, and look to nothing but it for protection, prop, or stay.
Nevertheless, sir, that your Majesty may not regard me as a spirit of
contradiction for having found nothing good in all these proposals made
to you by these great negotiators, I will add to my suggestions just one
thing; if a bit of Catholicism were quite agreeable to you, if it were
properly embraced and accepted accordingly, in honorable and suitable
form, it would be of great service, might serve as cement between you and
all your Catholic subjects; and it would even facilitate your other great
and magnificent designs whereof you have sometimes spoken to me.
Touching this, I would say more to you about it if I were of such
profession as permitted me to do so with a good conscience; I content
myself, as it is, with leaving yours to do its work within you on so
ticklish and so delicate a subject."

"I quite understand your opinions," said the king; "they resolve
themselves almost into one single point: I must not allow the
establishment of any association or show of government having the least
appearance of being able to subsist, by itself or by its members, in any
part of my kingdom, or suffer dismemberment in respect of any one of the
royal prerogatives, as regards things spiritual as well as temporal.
Such is my full determination."

"I answered the king," continues Rosny, "that I was rejoiced to see him
taking so intelligent a view of his affairs, and that, for the present, I
had no advice to give him but to seek repose of body and mind, and to
permit me likewise to seek the same for myself, for I was dead sleepy,
not having slept for two nights; and so, without a word more, the king
gave me good night, and, as for me, I went back to my quarters."

A few days before this conversation between the king and his friend
Rosny, on the 26th of January, 1593, the states-general of the League
had met in the great hall of the Louvre, present the Duke of Mayenne,
surrounded by all the pomp of royalty, but so nervous that his speech in
opening the session was hardly audible, and that he frequently changed
color during its delivery. On leaving, his wife told him that she was
afraid he was not well, as she had seen him turn pale three or four
times. A hundred and twenty-eight deputies had been elected; only fifty
were present at this first meeting. They adjourned to the 4th of
February. In the interval, on the 28th of January, there had arrived,
also, a royalist trumpeter, bringing, "on behalf of the princes,
prelates, officers of the crown, and principal lords of the Catholic
faith, who were with the King of Navarre, an offer of a conference
between the two parties, for to lay down the basis of a peace eagerly
desired." On hearing this message, Cardinal Pelleve, Archbishop of Sens,
one of the most fiery prelates of the League, said, "that he was of
opinion that the trumpeter should be whipped, to teach him not to
undertake such silly errands for the future;" "an opinion," said
somebody, "quite worthy of a thick head like his, wherein there is but
little sense."

The states-general of the League were of a different opinion. After long
and lively discussion, the three orders decided, each separately, on the
25th of February, to consent to the conference demanded by the friends of
the King of Navarre. On the 4th of February, when they resumed session,
Cardinal Philip de Sega, Bishop of Placencia (in Spain) and legate of
Pope Clement VIII., had requested to be present at the deliberation of
the assembly, but his request was refused; the states confined themselves
to receiving his benediction and hearing him deliver an address.

The different fate of these two proposals was a clear indication of the
feelings of the assembly; they were very diverse in the three orders
which constituted it; almost all the clergy, prelates, and popular
preachers were devoted to the Spanish League; the noblesse were not at
all numerous at these states. "The most brilliant and most active
members of it," says M. Picot correctly, "had ranged themselves behind
Henry IV.; and it covered itself with eternal honor by having been the
first to discern where to look for the hopes and the salvation of
France." The third estate was very much divided; it contained the
fanatical Leaguers, at the service of Philip II. and the court of Rome,
the partisans, much more numerous, of the French League, who desired
peace, and were ready to accept Henry IV., provided that he turned
Catholic, and a small band of political spirits, more powerful in talent
than number.

Regularly as the deputies arrived, Mayenne went to each of them, saying
privately, "Gentlemen, you see what the question is; it is the very
chiefest of all matters (_res maxima rerum agitur_). I beg you to give
your best attention to it, and to so act that the adversaries steal no
march on us and get no advantage over us. Nevertheless, I mean to abide
by what I have promised them." Mayenne was quite right: it was certainly
the chiefest of all matters. The head of the Protestants of France, the
ally of all the Protestants in Europe--should he become a Catholic and
King of France? The temporal head of Catholic Europe, the King of Spain
--should he abolish the Salic law in France, by placing upon it his
daughter as queen, and dismember France to his own profit and that of the
leaders of the League, his hirelings rather than his allies? Or,
peradventure, should one of these Leaguer-chiefs be he who should take
the crown of France, and found a new dynasty there? And which of these
Leaguer-chiefs should attain this good fortune? A half-German or a true
Frenchman? A Lorraine prince or a Bourbon? And, if a Lorraine prince,
which? The Duke of Mayenne, military head of the League, or his uterine
brother, the Duke of Nemours, or his nephew the young Duke of Guise, son
of the Balafrc? All these questions were mooted, all these pretensions
were on the cards, all these combinations had their special intrigue.
And in the competition upon which they entered with one another, at the
same time that they were incessantly laying traps for one another, they
kept up towards one another, because of the uncertainty of their chances,
a deceptive course of conduct often amounting to acts of downright
treachery committed without scruple, in order to preserve for themselves
a place and share in the unknown future towards which they were moving.
It was in order to have his opinion upon a position so dark and
complicated, and upon the behavior it required, that Henry IV., then at
Mantes, sent once more for Rosny, and had a second conversation, a few
weeks later, with him.

"Well! my friend," said the king, "what say you about all these plots
that are being projected against my conscience, my life, and my kingdom?
Since the death of the Duke of Parma [on the 2d of December, 1592, in the
Abbey of St. Waast at Arras, from the consequences of a wound received in
the preceding April at the siege of Caudebec], it seems that deeds of
arms have given place to intrigues and contests of words. I fancy that
such gentry will never leave me at rest, and will at last, perhaps,
attempt my liberty and my life. I beg you to tell me your opinion
freely, and what remedies, short of cruelty and violence, I might now
employ to get rid of all these hinderances and cabals (monopoles) that
are going on against the rights which have come to me by the will of God,
by birth, and by the laws of the realm."

"Sir," said Rosny, "I do not fancy that deferments and temporizations,
any more than long speeches, would now be seasonable; there are, it seems
to me, but two roads to take to deliver yourself from peril, but not from
anxiety, for from anxiety kings and princes, the greater they are, can
the less secure themselves if they wish to reign successfully. One of
the two roads is to accommodate yourself to the desires and wishes of
those of whom you feel distrust; the other, to secure the persons of
those who are the most powerful, and of the highest rank, and most
suspected by you, and put them in such place as will prevent them from
doing you hurt; you know them pretty nearly all; there are some of them
very rich; you will be able for a long while to carry, on war. As for
advising you to go to mass, it is a thing that you ought not, it seems to
me, to expect from me, who am of the religion; but frankly will I tell
you that it is the readiest and the easiest means of confounding all
these cabals (_monopoles_), and causing all the most mischievous projects
to end in smoke."

The King: "But tell me freely, I beg of you, what you would do if you
were in my place."

Rosny: I can assure you honestly, sir, that I have never thought about
what I should feel bound to do for to be king, it having always seemed to
me that I had not a head able or intended to wear a crown. As to your
Majesty it is another affair; in you, sir, that desire is not only
laudable, but necessary, as it does not appear now this realm can be
restored to its greatness, opulence, and splendor but by the sole means
of your eminent worth and downright kingly courage. But whatever right
you have to the kingdom, and whatever need it has of your courage and
worth for its restoration, you will never arrive at complete possession
and peaceable enjoyment of this dominion but by two sole expedients and
means. In case of the first, which is force and arms, you will have to
employ strong measures, severity, rigor, and violence, processes which
are all utterly opposed to your temper and inclination: you will have to
pass through an infinity of difficulties, fatigues, pains, annoyances,
perils, and labors, with a horse perpetually between your legs, harness
[_halecret,_ a species of light cuirass] on back, helmet on head, pistol
in fist, and sword in hand. And, what is more, you will have to bid
adieu to repose, pleasure, pastime, love, mistress, play, hunting,
hawking, and building; for you will not get out of such matters but by
multiplicity of town-takings, quantity of fights, signal victories, and
great bloodshed. By the other road, which is to accommodate yourself,
as regards religion, to the wish of the greatest number of your subjects,
you will not encounter so many annoyances, pains, and difficulties in
this world, but as to the next, I don't answer for you; it is for your
Majesty to take a fixed resolution for yourself, without adopting it from
any one else, and less from me than from any other, as you well know that
I am of the religion, and that you keep me by you not as a theologian and
councillor of church, but as a man of action and councillor of state,
seeing that you have given me that title, and for a long space employed
me as such."

The king burst out laughing, and, sitting up in his bed, said, after
scratching his head several times, to Rosny,--

"All you say to me is true; but I see so many thorns on every side that
it will go very hard but some of them will prick me full sore. You know
well enough that my cousins, the princes of the blood, and ever so many
other lords, such as D'Epernon, Longueville, Biron, d'O, and Vitry, are
urging me to turn Catholic, or else they will join the League. On the
other hand, I know for certain that Messieurs de Turenne, de la
Tremoille, and their lot, are laboring daily to have a demand made, if I
turn Catholic, on behalf of them of the religion, for an assembly to
appoint them a protector and an establishment of councils in the
provinces; all things that I could not put up with. But if I had to
declare war against them to prevent it, it would be the greatest
annoyance and trouble that could ever happen to me: my heart could not
bear to do ill to those who have so long run my risks, and have employed
their goods and their lives in my defence."

At these last words, Rosny threw himself upon his knees, with his eyes
full of tears, and, kissing the king's hands, he said, "Sir, I am
rejoiced beyond measure to see you so well disposed towards them of the
religion. I have always been afraid that, if you came to change your
religion, as I see full well that you will have to do, you might be
persuaded to hate and maltreat those of us others, of the towns as well
as of the noblesse, who will always love you heartily and serve you
faithfully. And be assured that the number thereof will be so great
that, if there rise up amongst them any avaricious, ambitious, and
factious, who would fain do the contrary, these will be constrained by
the others to return to their duty. What would, in my opinion, be very
necessary, would be to prevail upon the zealous Catholics to change that
belief which they are so anxious to have embraced by all the rest, to
wit, that they of the religion are all damned. There are certainly,
also, some ministers and other obtrusive spirits amongst the Huguenots
who would fain persuade us of the same as regards Catholics; for my own
part, I believe nothing of the kind; I hold it, on the contrary, as
indisputable that, of whatever religion men make outward profession,
if they die keeping the Decalogue and believing in the Creed (Apostles'),
if they love God with all their heart and are charitable towards their
neighbor, if they put their hopes in God's mercy and in obtaining
salvation by the death, merits, and justice of Jesus Christ, they cannot
fail to be saved, because they are then no longer of any erroneous
religion, but of that which is most agreeable to God. If you were
pleased to embrace it and put it in practice all the days of your life,
not only should I have no doubt of your salvation, but I should remain
quite assured that, not regarding us as execrable and damned, you would
never proceed to the destruction or persecution of those of our religion
who shall love you truly and serve you faithfully. From all such
reflections and discourse I conclude that it will be impossible for you
ever to reign in peace so long as you make outward profession of a
religion which is held in such great aversion by the majority of both
great and small in your kingdom, and that you cannot hope to raise it to
such general splendor, wealth, and happiness as I have observed you often
projecting. Still less could you flatter yourself with the idea of ever
arriving at the accomplishment of your lofty and magnifi cent designs for
the establishment of a universal most Christian republic, composed of all
the kings and potentates of Europe who profess the name of Christ; for,
in order to bring about so great a blessing, you must needs have tranquil
possession of a great, rich, opulent, and populous kingdom, and be in a
condition to enter into great and trustworthy foreign associations."
[_OEconomies royales, or Memoires de Sully,_ t. ii. pp. 81-100.] One is
inclined to believe that, even before their conversations, Henry IV. was
very near being of Rosny's opinion; but it is a long stride from an
opinion to a resolution. In spite of the breadth and independence of his
mind, Henry IV. was sincerely puzzled. He was of those who, far from
clinging to a single fact and confining themselves to a single duty, take
account of the complication of the facts amidst which they live, and of
the variety of the duties which the general situation or their own
imposes upon them. Born in the Reformed faith, and on the steps of the
throne, he was struggling to defend his political rights whilst keeping
his religious creed; but his religious creed was not the fruit of very
mature or very deep conviction; it was a question of first claims and of
honor rather than a matter of conscience; and, on the other hand, the
peace of France, her prosperity, perhaps her territorial integrity, were
dependent upon the triumph of the political rights of the Bearnese. Even
for his brethren in creed his triumph was a benefit secured, for it was
an end of persecution and a first step towards liberty. There is no
measuring accurately how far ambition, personal interest, a king's
egotism, had to do with Henry's IV.'s abjuration of his religion; none
would deny that those human infirmities were present; but all this does
not prevent the conviction that patriotism was uppermost in Henry's soul,
and that the idea of his duty as king towards France, a prey to all the
evils of civil and foreign war, was the determining motive of his
resolution. It cost him a great deal. To the Huguenot gentry and
peasantry who had fought with him he said, "You desire peace; I give it
you at my own expense; I have made myself anathema for the sake of all,
like Moses and St. Paul." He received with affectionate sadness the
Reformed ministers and preachers who came to see him. "Kindly pray to
God for me," said he to them, "and love me always; as for me, I shall
always love you, and I will never suffer wrong to be done to you, or any
violence to your religion." He had already, at this time, the Edict of
Nantes in his mind, and he let a glimpse of it appear to Rosny at their
first conversation. When he discussed with the Catholic prelates the
conditions of his abjuration, he had those withdrawn which would have
been too great a shock to his personal feelings and shackled his con duct
tod much in the government, as would have been the case with the promise
to labor for the destruction of heresy. Even as regarded the Catholic
faith, he demand of the doctors who were preparing him for it some
latitude for his own thoughts, and "that he should not have such violence
done to his conscience as to be bound to strange oaths, and to sign and
believe rubbish which he was quite sure that the majority of them did not
believe." [_Memoires de L'Estoile,_ t. ii. p. 472.] The most passionate
Protestants of his own time reproached him, and some still reproach him,
with having deserted his creed and having repaid with ingratitude his
most devoted comrades in arms and brothers in Christ. Perhaps there is
some ingratitude also in forgetting that after four years of struggling
to obtain the mastery for his religious creed and his political rights
simultaneously, Henry IV., convinced that he could not succeed in that,
put a stop to religious wars, and founded, to last for eighty-seven
years, the free and lawful practice of the Reformed worship in France,
by virtue of the Edict of Nantes, which will be spoken of presently.

Whilst this great question was thus discussed and decided between Henry
IV. in person and his principal advisers, the states-general of the
League and the conference of Suresnes were vainly bestirring themselves
in the attempt to still keep the mastery of events which were slipping
away from them. The Leaguer states had an appearance of continuing to
wish for the absolute proscription of Henry IV., a heretic king, even on
conversion to Catholicism, so long as his conversion was not recognized
and accepted by the pope; but there was already great, though timidly
expressed, dissent as to this point in the assembly of the states and
amongst the population in the midst of which it was living. Nearly a
year previously, in May, 1592, when he retired from France after having
relieved Rouen from siege and taken Caudebec, the Duke of Parma, as
clear-sighted a politician as he was able soldier, had said to one of the
most determined Leaguers, "Your people have abated their fury; the rest
hold on but faintly, and in a short time they will have nothing to do
with us." Philip II. and Mayenne perceived before long the urgency and
the peril of this situation: they exerted themselves, at one time in
concert and at another independently, to make head against this change in
the current of thoughts and facts. Philip sent to Paris an ambassador
extraordinary, the Duke of Feria, to treat with the states of the League
and come to an understanding with Mayenne; but Mayenne considered that
the Duke of Feria did not bring enough money, and did not introduce
enough soldiers; the Spanish army in France numbered but four thousand
three hundred men, and Philip had put at his ambassador's disposal but
two hundred thousand crowns, or six hundred thousand livres of those
times; yet had he ordered that, in respect of the assembly, the pay
should not come until after the service was rendered, i.e. after a vote
was given in favor of his election or that of his daughter the Infanta
Isabella to the throne. It was not the states-general only who had to be
won over; the preachers of the League were also, at any rate the majority
of them, covetous as well as fiery; both the former and the latter soon
saw that the Duke of Feria had not wherewith to satisfy them. "And such
as had come," says Villeroi, "with a disposition to favor the Spaniards
and serve them for a consideration, despised them and spoke ill of them,
seeing that there was nothing to be gained from them." The artifices of
Mayenne were scarcely more successful than the stingy presents of
Philip II.; when the Lorrainer duke saw the chances of Spain in the
ascendant as regarded the election of a King of France and the marriage
of the Infanta Isabella, he at once set to work--and succeeded without
much difficulty--to make them a failure; at bottom, it was always for the
house of Lorraine, whether for the marriage of his nephew the Duke of
Guise with the Infanta Isabella or for the prolongation of his power,
that Mayenne labored; he sometimes managed to excite, for the promotion
of this cause, a favorable movement amongst the states-general or a blast
of wrath on the part of the preachers against Henry IV.; but it was
nothing but a transitory and fruitless effort; the wind no longer sat in
the sails of the League; on the 27th of May, 1593, a deputation of a
hundred and twenty burgesses, with the provost of tradesmen at their
head, repaired to the house of Count de Belin, governor of Paris, begging
him to introduce them into the presence of the Duke of Mayenne, to whom
they wished to make a demand for peace, and saying that their request
would, at need, be signed by ten thousand burgesses. Next day, two
colonels of the burgess-militia spoke of making barricades; four days
afterwards, some of the most famous and but lately most popular preachers
of the League were hooted and insulted by the people, who shouted at them
as they passed in the streets that drowning was the due of all those
deputies in the states who prevented peace from being made. The
conference assembled at Suresnes, of which mention has already been
made, had been formed with pacific intentions, or, at any rate, hopes;
accordingly it was more tranquil than the states-general, but it was not
a whit more efficacious. It was composed of thirteen delegates for the
League and eight for the king, men of consideration in the two parties.
At the opening of its sessions, the first time the delegates of the
League repaired thither, a great crowd shouted at them, "Peace! Peace!
Blessed be they who procure it and demand it! Malediction and every
devil take all else!" In the villages they passed through, the peasantry
threw themselves upon their knees, and, with clasped hands, demanded of
them peace. The conference was in session from the 4th of May to the
11th of June, holding many discussions, always temperately and with due
regard for propriety, but without arriving at any precise solution of the
questions proposed. Clearly neither to this conference nor to the
states-general of the League was it given to put an end to this stormy
and at the same time resultless state of things; Henry IV. alone could
take the resolution and determine the issue which everybody was awaiting
with wistfulness or with dread, but without being able to accomplish it.
D'Aubigne ends his account of the conference at Suresnes with these
words: "Those who were present at it reported to the king that there were
amongst the Leaguers so many heart-burnings and so much confusion that
they were all seeking, individually if not collectively, some pretext for
surrendering to the king, and consequently, that one mass would settle it
entirely." [_Histoire Universelle,_ bk. iii. chap. xx. p. 386.]

Powers that are conscious of their opportuneness and utility do not like
to lose time, but are prompt to act. Shortly after his conversations
with Rosny, whose opinion was confirmed by that of Chancellor de Chiverny
and Count Gaspard de Schomberg, Henry IV. set to work. On the 26th of
April, 1593, he wrote to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand de' Medici,
that he had decided to turn Catholic "two months after that the Duke of
Mayenne should have come to an agreement with him on just and suitable
terms;" and, foreseeing the expense that would be occasioned to him by
"this great change in his affairs," he felicitated himself upon knowing
that the grand duke was disposed to second his efforts towards a levy of
four thousand Swiss, and advance a year's pay for them. On the 28th of
April, he begged the Bishop of Chartres, Nicholas de Thou, to be one of
the Catholic prelates whose instructions he would be happy to receive on
the 15th of July, and he sent the same invitation to several other
prelates. On the 16th of May, he declared to his council his resolve to
become a convert. Next day, the 17th, the Archbishop of Bourges
announced it to the conference at Suresnes. This news, everywhere spread
abroad, produced a lively burst of national and Bourbonic feeling even
where it was scarcely to be expected; at the states-general of the
League, especially in the chamber of the noblesse, many members protested
"that they would not treat with foreigners, or promote the election of a
woman, or give their suffrages to any one unknown to them, and at the
choice of his Catholic Majesty of Spain." At Paris, a part of the
clergy, the incumbents of St. Eustache, St. Merri, and St. Sulpice, and
even some of the popular preachers, violent Leaguers but lately, and
notably Guincestre, boldly preached peace and submission to the king if
he turned Catholic. The principal of the French League, in matters of
policy and negotiation, and Mayenne's adviser since 1589, Villeroi,
declared "that he would not bide in a place where the laws, the honor of
the nation, and the independence of the kingdom were held so cheap;" and
he left Paris on the 28th of June. Finally, on this same day, the
Parliament of Paris, all chambers assembled, issued a decree known by the
name of the decree of President Lemaitre, who had the chief hand in it,
and conceived as follows:--

"The court, having, as it has always had, no intention but to maintain
the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion, and the state and crown of
France, under the protection of a most Christian, Catholic, and French
king, hath ordained and doth ordain that representations shall be made,
this afternoon, by President Lemaitre, assisted by a proper number of
councillors of the said court, to the Duke of Mayenne, lieutenant-general
of the state and crown of France, to the end that no treaty be made for
the transfer of the crown to the hands of foreign princes or princesses,
and that the fundamental laws of the realm be observed. . . . And
from the present moment, the said court hath declared and doth declare
all treaties made or hereafter to be made for the setting up of foreign
prince or princess null and of no effect or value, as being made to the
prejudice of the Salic law and other fundamental laws of this realm."

It was understood that this decree excluded from the crown of France not
only Philip II., the Infanta Isabella, Archduke Ernest, and all the
Spanish and Austrian princes, but also all the princes of the house of
Guise, "because the qualification of foreigners applied to all the
princes who were not of the blood royal and who were issue of foreign
houses, even though they might have been born in France and were

Mayenne refused, it is not known on what pretext, to receive the
communication of this decree on the same day on which it was voted by the
Parliament. When President Lemaitre presented it to him the next day
before a large attendance, Mayenne kept his temper, and confined himself
to replying gruffly, "My first care has always been to defend the
Catholic religion and maintain the laws of the realm. It seems now that
I am no longer necessary to the state, and that it will be easy to do
without me. I could have wished, considering my position, that the
Parliament had not decided anything in a matter of such importance
without consulting me. However, I will do all that I find possible for
me and that appears reasonable as to the two points of your
representations." On the following day, 30th of June, Mayenne was dining
with the Archbishop of Lyons, Peter d'Espinac; President Lemaitre was
sent for, and the wrath of the lieutenant-general burst forth. "The
insult put upon me is too palpable for me to be quiet under it; since I
am played fast and loose with in that way, I have resolved to quash the
decree of the Parliament. The Archbishop of Lyons is about to explain to
you my feelings and my motives."

[Illustration: Lemaitre, Mayenne, and the Archbishop of Lyons----53]

The archbishop spoke long and bitterly, dwelling upon the expression that
"the Parliament had played fast and loose " with the prince. President
Lemaitre interrupted him. "I cannot unmoved hear you repeating, sir,
that to which my respect made me shut my eyes when the prince spoke.
Looking upon me as an individual, you might speak to me in any way, you
thought proper; but so soon as the body I represent here is injured by
insulting terms, I take offence, and I cannot suffer it. Know then, sir,
that the Parliament does not deceive or play fast and loose with anybody,
and that it renders to every man his due." The conversation was
continued for some moments in this warm and serious tone; but the quarrel
went no further; from the account they received of it, the Parliament
applauded the premier president's firmness, and all the members swore
that they would suffer anything rather than that there should be any
change in the decree. It remained intact, and Mayenne said no more about

During these disputes amongst the civil functionaries, and continuing all
the while to make proposals for a general truce, Henry IV. vigorously
resumed warlike operations, so as to bring pressure upon his adversaries
and make them perceive the necessity of accepting the solution he offered
them. He besieged and took the town of Dreux, of which the castle alone
persisted in holding out. He cut off the provisions which were being
brought by the Marne to Paris. He kept Poitiers strictly invested.
Lesdiguieres defeated the Savoyards and the Spaniards in the valleys of
Dauphiny and Piedmont. Count Mansfeld was advancing with a division
towards Picardy; but at the news that the king was marching to encounter
him, he retired with precipitation. From the military as well as the
political point of view, there is no condition worse than that of
stubbornness mingled with discouragement. And that was the state of
Mayenne and the League. Henry IV. perceived it, and confidently hurried
forward his political and military measures. The castle of Dreux was
obliged to capitulate. Thanks to the four thousand Swiss paid for him by
the Grand Duke of Florence, to the numerous volunteers brought to him by
the noblesse of his party, "and to the sterling quality of the old
Huguenot phalanx, folks who, from father to son, are familiarized with
death," says D'Aubigne, Henry IV. had recovered, in June, 1593, so good
an army that "by means of it," he wrote to Ferdinand de' Medici, "I shall
be able to reduce the city of Paris in so short a time as will cause you
great contentment." But he was too judicious and too good a patriot not
to see that it was not by an indefinitely prolonged war that he would be
enabled to enter upon definitive possession of his crown, and that it was
peace, religious peace, that he must restore to France in order to really
become her king. He entered resolutely, on the 15th of July, 1593, upon
the employment of the moral means which alone could enable him to attain
this end; he assembled at Mantes the conference of prelates and doctors,
Catholic and Protestant, which he had announced as the preface to his
conversion. He had previously, on the 13th of May, given assurance to
the Protestants as to their interests by means of a declaration on the
part of eight amongst the principal Catholic lords attached to his person
who undertook, "with his Majesty's authorization, that nothing should be
done in the said assemblies to the prejudice of friendly union between
the Catholics who recognized his Majesty and them of the religion, or
contrary to the edicts of pacification." On the 21st of July, the
prelates and doctors of the conference transferred themselves from Mantes
to St. Denis. On Friday, July 23, in the morning, Henry wrote to Gabriel
le d'Estrees, "Sunday will be the day when I shall make the summerset
that brings down the house" (_le, saut perilleux_). A few hours after
using such flippant language to his favorite, he was having a long
conference with the prelates and doctors, putting to them the gravest
questions about the religion he was just embracing, asking them for more
satisfactory explanations on certain points, and repeating to them the
grounds of his resolution. "I am moved with compassion at the misery and
calamities of my people; I have discovered what they desire; and I wish
to be enabled, with a safe conscience, to content them." At the end of
the conference, "Gentlemen," he said, "I this day commit my soul to your
keeping; I pray you, take heed to it, for, wheresoever you are causing me
to enter, I shall never more depart till death; that I swear and protest
to you;" and, in a voice of deep emotion, his eyes dim with tears, "I
desire no further delay; I wish to be received on Sunday and go to mass;
draw up the profession of faith you think I ought to make, and bring it
to me this evening; "when the Archbishop of Bourges and the Bishops of Le
Mans and Evreux brought it to him on the Saturday morning, he discussed
it apart with them, demanding the cutting out of some parts which struck
too directly at his previous creed and life; and Chancellor de Chiverny
and two presidents of the Parliament, Harlay and Groulart, used their
intervention to have him satisfied. The profession of faith was
modified. Next day, Sunday, the 25th of July, before he got up, Henry
conversed with the Protestant minister Anthony de la Faye, and embraced
him two or three times, repeating to him the words already quoted,
"I have made myself anathema for the sake of all, like Moses and St.
Paul." A painful mixture of the frivolous and the serious, of sincerity
and captious reservations, of resolution and weakness, at which nobody
has any right to be shocked who is not determined to be pitiless towards
human nature, and to make no allowance in the case of the best men for
complication of the facts, ideas, sentiments, and duties, under the
influence of which they are often obliged to decide and to act.

[Illustration: Henry IV.'s Abjuration----56]

On Sunday the 25th of July, 1593, Henry IV. repaired in great state to
the church of St. Denis. On arriving with all his train in front of the
grand entrance, he was received by Reginald de Beaune, Archbishop of
Bourges, the nine bishops, the doctors and the incumbents who had taken
part in the conferences, and all the brethren of the abbey. "Who are
you?" asked the archbishop who officiated. "The king." "What want you?"
"To be received into the bosom of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman
Church." "Do you desire it?" "Yes, I will and desire it." At these
words the king knelt and made the stipulated profession of faith. The
archbishop gave him absolution together with benediction; and, conducted
by all the clergy to the choir of the church, he there, upon the gospels,
repeated his oath, made his confession, heard mass, and was fully
reconciled with the church. The inhabitants of Paris, dispensing with
the passports which were refused them by Mayenne, had flocked in masses
to St. Denis and been present at the ceremony. The vaulted roof of the
church resounded with their shouts of Hurrah for the king! There was the
same welcome on the part of the dwellers in the country when Henry
repaired to the valley of Montmorency and to Montmartre to perform his
devotions there. Here, then, was religious peace, a prelude to political
reconciliation between the monarch and the great majority of his


During the months, weeks, nay, it might be said, days immediately
mediately following Henry IV.'s abjuration, a great number of notable
persons and important towns, and almost whole provinces, submitted to the
Catholic king. Henry was reaping the fruits of his decision; France was
flocking to him. But the general sentiments of a people are far from
satisfying and subduing the selfish passions of the parties which have
taken form and root in its midst. Religious and political peace
responded to and sufficed for the desires of the great majority of
Frenchmen, Catholic and Protestant; but it did not at all content the
fanatics, Leaguer or Huguenot. The former wanted the complete
extirpation of heretics; the latter the complete downfall of Catholicism.
Neither these nor those were yet educated up to the higher principle of
religious peace, distinction between the civil and the intellectual
order, freedom of thought and of faith guaranteed by political liberty.
Even at the present day, the community of France, nation and government,
all the while that they proclaim this great and salutary truth, do not
altogether understand and admit its full bearing. The sixteenth century
was completely ignorant of it; Leaguers and Huguenots were equally
convinced that they possessed, in the matter of religion, the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that they were in their right
to propagate its empire at any price. Thence arose, in respect of
religious peace, and of Henry IV., who naturally desired it as the
requirement and the wish of France, a great governmental difficulty.

It is honorable to human nature that it never submits freely and
sincerely to anything but what it considers not only useful, but
essentially true and just; its passions bow to principles only; wherever
the higher principle is wanting, there also is wanting the force that
compels respect from passion. Now the fanatics, Leaguer and Huguenot,
had a fixed principle; with the former, it was the religious sovereignty
of the pope, as representative and depositary of the unity of the
Christian church; with the others, it was the negation of this
sovereignty and the revindication of the free regimen of the primitive
Christian church. To these fixed and peremptory principles the
government of Henry IV. had nothing similar to oppose; it spoke in the
name of social interests, of the public peace, and of mutual toleration;
all excellent reasons, but with merits consisting in their practical
soundness, not in their logical connection with the superior principle to
which the sixteenth century had not yet attained. It was all very well
for Henry IV. to maintain the cause and to have the support of the great
majority in France; but outside of this majority he was incessantly
encountering and incessantly having to put down or to humor two parties,
or rather factions, full of discontent and as irreconcilable with him as
among themselves, for it was not peace and tolerance that they demanded
of him, but victory and supremacy in the name of absolute right.

This, then, was the scene; on one side a great majority of Catholics and
Protestants favorable for different practical reasons to Henry IV.
turned Catholic king; on the other, two minorities, one of stubborn
Catholics of the League, the other of Protestants anxious for their creed
and their liberty; both discontented and distrustful. Such, after Henry
IV.'s abjuration, was the striking feature in the condition of France and
in the situation of her king. This triple fact was constantly present to
the mind of Henry IV., and ruled his conduct during all his reign; all
the acts of his government are proof of that.

His first embarrassments arose from the faction of Catholics to the
backbone. After his abjuration just as much as at his accession, the
League continued to exist and to act against him. The legate, Gaetani,
maintained that the bishops of France had no right, without the pope's
approval, to give an excommunicated prince absolution; he opposed the
three months' truce concluded by Mayenne, and threatened to take his
departure for Rome. Mayenne, to appease him and detain him, renewed the
alliance between the League and Spain, prevailed upon the princes and
marshals to renew also the oath of union, caused the states-general of
the League to vote the adoption of the Council of Trent, and, on
proroguing them, August 8, 1593, received from them a promise to return
at the expiration of the truce. For the members of that assembly it was
not a burdensome engagement; independently of the compensation they had
from their provinces, which was ten livres (thirty-six francs, sixty
centimes) a day during each session, they received from the King of Spain
a regular retainer, which raised it, for the five months from June to
October, to seventy-two thousand one hundred and forty-four francs, which
they divided between themselves. "It was presumed," said Jehan
l'Huillier, provost of tradesmen, to one of his colleagues who was
pressing him to claim this payment from the ambassador of Spain, "that
the money came from M. de Mayenne, not from foreigners; "but honest
people, such as Du Vair and Thielement, did not content themselves with
this presumption, and sent to the Hotel-Dieu, for maintenance of the
poor, the share which was remitted to them. [Poirson, _Histoire du Regne
de Henry IV.,_ t. i. p. 463. Picot, _Histoire des Etats generaux,_
t. iii. p. 249.]

The states-general of the League did not appear again; their prorogation
was their death. The year 1594, which came after them, was for Henry IV.
a year of home conquests, some pacific and due to the spontaneous
movement of the inhabitants, others obtained after resistance and
purchased with gold. The town of Lyons set the example of the first. A
rumor spread that the Spaniards were preparing an expedition against it;
some burgesses met to consult, and sent a private message to Alphonse
d'Ornano, who was conducting the war for the king in Dauphiny, pressing
him to move forward, on a day appointed, to the faubourg de la
Guillotiere. A small force sent by Ornano arrived, accordingly, on the
7th of February, about daybreak, at the foot of the bridge over the
Rhone, in the faubourg, and, after a stubborn resistance, dislodged the
outpost on duty there. At sound of the fighting, excitement broke out in
the town; and barricades were thrown up, amidst shouts of "Hurrah for
French liberty!" without any mention of the king's name. The archbishop,
Peter d'Espignac, a stanch Leaguer, tried to intimidate the burgesses,
or at any rate to allay the excitement. As he made no impression, he
retired into his palace. The people arrested the sheriffs and seized the
arsenal. The king's name resounded everywhere. "The noise of the
cheering was such," says De Thou, "that there was no hearing the sound of
the bells. Everybody assumed the white scarf with so much zeal that by
evening there was not a scrap of white silk left at the tradesmen's.
Tables were laid in the streets; the king's arms were put up on the gates
and in the public thoroughfares." Ornano marched in over the barricades;
royalist sheriffs were substituted for the Leaguer sheriffs, and hastened
to take the oath of allegiance to the king, who had nothing to do but
thank the Lyonnese for having been the first to come over to him without
constraint or any exigency, and who confirmed by an edict all their
municipal liberties. At the very moment when the Lyonnese were thus
springing to the side of their king, there set out from Lyons the first
assassin who raised a hand against Henry IV., Peter Parriere, a poor
boatman of the Loire, whom an unhappy passion for a girl in the household
of Marguerite de Valois and the preachings of fanatics had urged on to
this hateful design. Assassin we have called him, although there was not
on his part so much as an attempt at assassination; but he had, by his
own admission, projected and made preparations for the crime, to the
extent of talking it over with accomplices and sharpening the knife he
had purchased for its accomplishment. Having been arrested at Melun and
taken to Paris, he was sentenced to capital punishment, and to all the
tortures that ingenuity could add to it. He owned to everything, whilst
cursing those who had assured him that "if he died in the enterprise, his
soul, uplifted by angels, would float away to the bosom of God, where he
would enjoy eternal bliss." Moved by his torments and his repentance,
the judge who presided at his execution took upon himself to shorten it
by having him strangled. The judge was reported to the king for this
indulgence. Henry praised him for it, adding that he would have pardoned
the criminal if he had been brought before him. Thus commenced, at the
opening of his reign, the series of attempts to which he was destined to
succumb, after seventeen years of good, able, generous, and mild

In Normandy, at Rouen, the royalist success was neither so easy nor so
disinterested as it had been at Lyons. Andrew de Brancas, Lord of
Villars, an able man and valiant soldier, was its governor; he had served
the League with zeal and determination; nevertheless, "from the month of
August, 1593, immediately after the king's conversion, he had shown a
disposition to become his servant, and to incline thereto all those whom
he had in his power." [_Histoire du Parlement de Normandi,_ by M.
Floquet, t. iii. pp. 611-617.] Henry IV. commissioned Rosny to negotiate
with him; and Rosny went into Normandy, to Louviers first and then to
Rouen itself. The negotiation seemed to be progressing favorably, but a
distrustful whim in regard to Villars, and the lofty pretensions he put
forward, made Rosny hang back for a while, and tell the whole story to
the king, at the same time asking for his instructions. Henry replied,--

"My friend, you are an ass to employ so much delay and import so many
difficulties and manoeuvres into a business the conclusion of which is of
so great importance to me for the establishment of my authority and the
relief of my people. Do you no longer remember the counsels you have so
many times given to me, whilst setting before me as an example that given
by a certain Duke of Milan to King Louis XI., at the time of the war
called that of the Common Weal? It was to split up by considerations of
private interest all those who were leagued against him on general
pretexts. That is what I desire to attempt now, far preferring that it
should cost twice as much to treat separately with each individual as it
would to arrive at the same results by means of a general treaty
concluded with a single leader, who, in that way, would be enabled to
keep up still an organized party within my dominions. You know plenty of
folks who wanted to persuade me to that. Wherefore, do not any longer
waste your time in doing either so much of the respectful towards those
whom you wot of, and whom we will find other means of contenting, or of
the economical by sticking at money. We will pay everything with the
very things given up to us, the which, if they had to be taken by force,
would cost us ten times as much. Seeing, then, that I put entire trust
in you and love you as a good servant, do not hesitate any longer to make
absolute and bold use of your power, which I further authorize by this
letter, so far as there may be further need for it, and settle as soon as
possible with M. de Villars. But secure matters so well that there may
be no possibility of a slip, and send me news thereof promptly, for I
shall be in constant doubt and impatience until I receive it. And then,
when I am peaceably king, we will employ the excellent manoeuvres of
which you have said so much to me; and you may rest assured that I will
spare no travail and fear no peril in order to raise my glory and my
kingdom to the height of splendor. Adieu, my friend. Senlis, this 18th
day of March, 1594."

Amongst the pretensions made by Villars there was one which could not be
satisfied without the consent of a man still more considerable than he,
and one with whom Henry IV. was obliged to settle--Biron. Villars had
received from Mayenne the title and office of admiral of France, and he
wished, at any price, to retain them on passing over to the king's
service. Now Henry IV. had already given this office to Biron, who had
no idea of allowing himself to be stripped of it. It was all very fine
to offer him in exchange the baton of a marshal of France, but he would
not be satisfied with it. "It was necessary," says M. Floquet [_Histoire
du Parlement de Normandie,_ t. iii. pp. 613-616], "for the king's sister
(Princess Catherine) to intervene. At last, a promise of one hundred and
twenty thousand crowns won Biron over, though against the grain." But he
wanted solid securities. Attention was then turned to the Parliament of
Caen, always so ready to do anything and sacrifice anything. Saldaigne
d'Incarville, comptroller-general of finance, having been despatched to
Caen, went straight to the palace and reported to the Parliament the
proposals and conditions of Villers and Biron. "The king," said he, "not
having been able to bring Rouen to reason by process of arms, and being
impatient to put some end to these miseries, wishes now to try gentle
processes, and treat with those whom he has not yet been able to subdue;
but co-operation on the part of the sovereign bodies of the provinces is
necessary." "To that which is for the good of our service is added your
private interest," wrote Henry IV. to the Parliament of Caen; and his
messenger D'Incarville added, "I have left matters at Rouen so arranged
as to make me hope that before a fortnight is over you will be free to
return thither and enter your homes once more." At the first mention of
peace and the prospect of a reconciliation between the royalist
Parliament of Caen and the leaguer Parliament of Rouen, the Parliament,
the exchequer-chamber, and the court of taxation, agreed to a fresh
sacrifice and a last effort. The four presidents of the Parliament lost
no time in signing together, and each for all, an engagement to guarantee
the hundred and twenty thousand crowns promised to Biron. . . . The
members of the body bound themselves all together to guarantee the four
presidents, in their turn, in respect of the engagement they were
contracting, and a letter was addressed on the spot to Henry IV., "to
thank the monarch for his good will and affection, and the honor he was
doing the members of his Parliament of Normandy, by making them
participators in the means and overtures adopted for arriving at the
reduction of the town of Rouen." [M. Floquet, _Histoire du Parlement de
Normandi,_ t. iii. pp. 613-616.]

Here is the information afforded, as regards the capitulation of Villars
to Henry IV., by the statement drawn up by Sully himself, of "the amount
of all debts on account of all the treaties made for the reduction of
districts, towns, places, and persons to obedience unto the king, in
order to the pacification of the realm."

"To M. Villars, for himself, his brother, Chevalier d'Oise, the towns of
Rouen and Havre and other places, as well as for compensation which had
to be made to MM. de Montpensier, Marshal de Biron, Chancellor de
Chiverny, and other persons included in his treaty . . . three
millions four hundred and forty-seven thousand eight hundred livres."
[Poirson, _Histoire du Regne de Henry IV.,_ t. i. p. 667.]

These details have been entered into without hesitation because it is
important to clearly understand by what means, by what assiduous efforts,
and at what price Henry IV. managed to win back pacifically many
provinces of his kingdom, rally to his government many leaders of note,
and finally to confer upon France that territorial and political unity
which she lacked under the feudal regimen, and which, in the sixteenth
century, the religious wars all but put it beyond her power to acquire.
To the two instances just cited of royalist reconciliation--Lyons and the
spontaneous example set by her population, and Rouen and the dearly
purchased capitulation of her governor Villars--must be added a third, of
a different sort. Nicholas de Neufville, Lord of Villeroi, after having
served Charles IX. and Henry III., had become, through attachment to the
Catholic cause, a member of the League, and one of the Duke of Mayenne's
confidants. When Henry IV. was King of France, and Catholic king,
Villeroi tried to serve his cause with Mayenne, and induce Mayenne to be

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest