HISTORY OF THE
RISE OF THE HUGUENOTS.
HENRY M. BAIRD,
PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
FROM THE EDICT OF JANUARY (1562), TO THE DEATH OF CHARLES THE NINTH (1574).
London: HODDER AND STOUGHTON, 27, PATERNOSTER ROW. MDCCCLXXX.
Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Printers, London and Aylesbury.
Page THE FIRST CIVIL WAR 3 Unsatisfactory Character of the Edict of January 3 Huguenot Leaders urge its Observance 3 Seditious Sermons 5 Opposition of Parliaments 6 New Conference at St. Germain 7 Defection of Antoine of Navarre, and its Effects 9 He is cheated with Vain Hopes 10 Jeanne d'Albret constant 10 Immense Crowds at Huguenot Preaching 11 The Canons of Sainte-Croix 12 The Guises meet Christopher of Wuertemberg at Saverne 13 Their Lying Assurances 15 The Guises deceive Nobody 17 Throkmorton's Account of the French Court 17 The Massacre of Vassy 19 The Huguenots call for the Punishment of the Murderers 23 The Pretence of Want of Premeditation 24 Louis of Conde appeals to the King 26 Beza's Remonstrance 27 An Anvil that had worn out many Hammers 28 Guise enters Paris 28 The Queen Mother takes Charles to Melun 30 Her Letters imploring Conde's Aid 31 Revolutionary Measures of the Triumvirs 32 Conde retires to Meaux 33 La Noue justifies his Prudence 33 The Huguenot Summons 34 Admiral Coligny's Reluctance to take up Arms 34 Guise and Navarre seize the King and bring him to Paris 36 Montmorency's Exploit at the "Temples" 37 He earns the Title of "Le Capitaine Brulebanc" 37 Conde throws himself into Orleans 38 His "Justification" 39 Stringent Articles of Association 40 The Huguenot Nobles and Cities 41 Can Iconoclasm be repressed? 42 An Uncontrollable Impulse 43 It bursts out at Caen 44 The "Idol" of the Church of Sainte-Croix 45 Massacre of Huguenots at Sens 46 Disorders and War in Provence and Dauphiny 47 William of Orange and his Principality 48 Massacre by Papal Troops from Avignon 49 Merciless Revenge of the Baron des Adrets 50 His Grim Pleasantry at Mornas 51 Atrocities of Blaise de Montluc 51 The Massacre at Toulouse 52 The Centenary celebrated 53 Foreign Alliances sought 54 Queen Elizabeth's Aid invoked 55 Cecil's Urgency and Schemes 56 Divided Sympathies of the English 56 Diplomatic Manoeuvres 57 Conde's Reply to the Pretended "Petition" 59 Third National Synod of the Protestants 61 Interview of Catharine and Conde at Toury 62 The "Loan" of Beaugency 63 Futile Negotiations 64 Spasmodic Efforts in Warfare 65 Huguenot Discipline 66 Severities of the Parisian Parliament 68 Military Successes of the "Triumvirs" at Poitiers and Bourges 71 Help from Queen Elizabeth 73 Siege of Rouen 76 Ferocity of the Norman Parliament 80 Death of Antoine, King of Navarre 81 The English in Havre 84 Conde takes the Field and appears before Paris 85 Dilatory Diplomacy 90 The Battle of Dreux 93 Montmorency and Conde Prisoners 94 Riotous Conduct of the Parisians 96 Orleans Invested 98 Coligny again in Normandy 99 Huguenot Reverses 101 Assassination of Duke Francois de Guise 103 Execution of Poltrot 105 Beza and Coligny accused 106 They vindicate Themselves 106 Estimates of Guise's Character 109 Renee de France at Montargis 110 Deliberations for Peace 113 The "Noblesse" in favor of the Terms—the Ministers against them 114 The Edict of Pacification 115 Remonstrance of the English Ambassador 116 Coligny's Disappointment 116 Results of the First Civil War 118 It prevents France from becoming Huguenot 119
* * * * *
Huguenot Ballads and Songs 120
THE PEACE OF AMBOISE AND THE BAYONNE CONFERENCE 126 Charles demands Havre of the English 126 The Siege 127 How the Peace was received 128 Vexatious Delays in Normandy 129 The Norman Parliament protests and threatens 130 A Rude Rebuff 131 Commissioners to enforce the Edict 132 A Profligate Court alienated from Protestantism 132 Profanity a Test of Catholicity 134 Admiral Coligny accused of Guise's Murder 135 His Defence espoused by the Montmorencies 135 Petition of the Guises 136 The King adjourns the Decision 137 Embarrassment of Catharine 137 Charles's Majority proclaimed 138 The King and the Refractory Parisian Parliament 139 The Pope's Bull against Princely Heretics 141 Proceedings against Cardinal Chatillon 141 The Queen of Navarre cited to Rome 141 Spirited Reply of the French Council 142 Catharine seeks to seduce the Huguenot Leaders 144 Weakness of Conde 145 Recent Growth of Protestantism 146 Milhau-en-Rouergue 147 Montpellier—Bearn 148 Jeanne d'Albret's Reformation 148 Attempt to kidnap her 150 Close of the Council of Trent 152 Cardinal Lorraine's Attempt to secure the Acceptance of its Decrees 154 His Altercation with L'Hospital 155 General Plan for suppressing Heresy 156 "Progress" of Charles and his Court 157 Calumnies against the Huguenots 159 Their Numbers 159 Catharine's New Zeal—Citadels in Protestant Towns 160 Interpretative Declarations infringing upon the Edict 160 Assaults upon Unoffending Huguenots—No Redress 162 Conde appeals to the King 163 Conciliatory Answers to Huguenot Inhabitants of Bordeaux and Nantes 164 Protestants excluded from Judicial Posts 165 Marshal Montmorency checks the Parisian Mob 166 His Encounter with Cardinal Lorraine 166 The Conference at Bayonne 167 What were its Secret Objects? 168 No Plan of Massacre adopted 169 History of the Interview 170 Catharine and Alva 172 Catharine rejects all Plans of Violence 175 Cardinal Granvelle's Testimony 176 Festivities and Pageantry 176 Henry of Bearn an Actor 177 Roman Catholic Confraternities 179 Hints of the Future Plot of the "League" 180 The Siege of Malta and French Civilities to the Sultan 181 Constable Montmorency defends Cardinal Chatillon 182 The Court at Moulins 183 Feigned Reconciliation of the Guises and Coligny 184 L'Hospital's Measure for the Relief of the Protestants 185 Another Altercation between Cardinal Lorraine and the Chancellor 186 Progress of the Reformation at Cateau-Cambresis 187 Insults and Violence 192 Huguenot Pleasantries 192 Alarm of the Protestants 193 Attempts to murder Coligny and Porcien 194 Alva sent to the Netherlands 195 The Swiss Levy 196 Conde and Coligny remonstrate 197 Discredited Assurances of Catharine 198 "The very Name of the Edict employed to destroy the Edict itself" 199
* * * * *
The Huguenot Attempts at Colonization in Florida 199 The First and Second Expeditions (1562, 1564) 199 Third Expedition (1565) 200 Massacre by Menendez 200 Indignation of the French Court 201 Sincere Remonstrances 201 Sanguinary Revenge of De Gourgues 202
THE SECOND CIVIL WAR AND THE SHORT PEACE 203 Coligny's Pacific Counsels 203 Rumors of Plots to destroy the Huguenots 203 D'Andelot's Warlike Counsels prevail 204 Cardinal Lorraine to be seized and King Charles liberated 205 The Secret slowly leaks out 206 Flight of the Court to Paris 207 Cardinal Lorraine invites Alva to France 208 Conde at Saint Denis 209 The Huguenot Movement alienates the King 210 Negotiations opened 210 The Huguenots abate their Demands 211 Montmorency the Mouthpiece of Intolerance 211 Insincerity of Alva's Offer of Aid 212 The Battle of St. Denis (Nov. 10, 1567) 213 Constable Montmorency mortally wounded 215 His Character 216 The Protestant Princes of Germany determine to send Aid 217 The Huguenots go to meet it 219 Treacherous Diplomacy 220 Catharine implores Alva's Assistance 221 Conde and John Casimir meet in Lorraine 222 Generosity of the Huguenot Troops 223 The March toward Orleans 223 The "Michelade" at Nismes 224 Huguenot Successes in the South and West 226 La Rochelle secured for Conde 226 Spain and Rome oppose the Negotiations for Peace 228 Santa Croce demands Cardinal Chatillon's Surrender 229 A Rebuff from Marshal Montmorency 229 March of the "Viscounts" to meet Conde 230 Siege of Chartres 231 Chancellor L'Hospital's Memorial 232 Edict of Pacification (Longjumeau, March 23, 1568) 234 Conde for and Coligny against the Peace 235 Conde's Infatuation 235 Was the Court sincere? 236 Catharine short-sighted 238 Imprudence of the Huguenots 238 Judicial Murder of Rapin at Toulouse 239 Seditious Preachers and Mobs 240 Treatment of the Returning Huguenots 241 Expedition and Fate of De Cocqueville 242 Garrisons and Interpretative Ordinances 244 Oppression of Royal Governors 245 "The Christian and Royal League" 246 Insubordination to Royal Authority 247 Admirable Organization of the Huguenots 247 Murder runs Riot throughout France 248 La Rochelle, etc., refuse Royal Garrisons 250 Coligny retires for Safety to Tanlay, Conde to Noyers 251 D'Andelot's Remonstrance 252 Catharine sides with L'Hospital's Enemies 254 Remonstrance of the three Marshals 255 Catharine's Intrigues 255 The Court seeks to ruin Conde and Coligny 256 Teligny sent to remonstrate 256 The Oath exacted of the Huguenots 257 The Plot Disclosed 259 Intercepted Letter from Spain 259 Isabella of Spain her Husband's Mouthpiece 261 Charles begs his Mother to avoid War 262 Her Animosity against L'Hospital 263 Another Quarrel between Lorraine and the Chancellor 263 Fall of Chancellor L'Hospital 264 The Plot 265 Marshal Tavannes its Author 266 Conde's Last Appeal to the King 267 Flight of the Prince and Admiral 268 Its Wonderful Success 269 The Third Civil War opens 270
* * * * *
The City of La Rochelle and its Privileges 270
THE THIRD CIVIL WAR 274 Relative Advantages of Huguenots and Roman Catholics 274 Enthusiasm of Huguenot Youth 274 Enlistment of Agrippa d'Aubigne 275 The Court proscribes the Reformed Religion 275 Impolicy of this Course 277 A "Crusade" published at Toulouse 278 Fanaticism of the Roman Catholic Preachers 279 Huguenot Places of Refuge 280 Jeanne d'Albret and D'Andelot reach La Rochelle 281 Successes in Poitou, Angoumois, etc. 282 Powerful Huguenot Army in the South 284 Effects a Junction with Conde's Forces 284 Huguenot Reprisals and Negotiations 287 William of Orange tries to aid the Huguenots 288 His Declaration in their behalf 290 Aid sought from England 291 Generously accorded by Clergy and Laity 292 Misgivings of Queen Elizabeth 294 Her Double Dealing and Effrontery 295 Fruitless Sieges and Plots 297 Growing Superiority of Anjou's Forces 298 The Armies meet on the Charente 299 Battle of Jarnac (March 13, 1569) 301 Murder of Louis, Prince of Conde 302 The Prince of Navarre remonstrates against the Perfidy shown 305 Exaggerated Bulletins 307 The Pope's Sanguinary Injunctions 308 Sanguinary Action of the Parliament of Bordeaux 310 Queen Elizabeth colder 310 The Queen of Navarre's Spirit 311 The Huguenots recover Strength 312 Death of D'Andelot 312 New Responsibility resting on Coligny 314 The Duke of Deux Ponts comes with German Auxiliaries 315 They overcome all Obstacles and join Coligny 317 Death of Deux Ponts 318 Huguenot Success at La Roche Abeille 319 Furlough of Anjou's Troops 320 Huguenot Petition to the King 320 Coligny's Plans overruled 324 Disastrous Siege of Poitiers 324 Cruelties to Huguenots in the Prisons of Orleans 326 Montargis a Safe Refuge 327 Flight of the Refugees to Sancerre 328 The "Croix de Gastines" 329 Ferocity of Parliament against Coligny and Others 330 A Price set on Coligny's Head 330 The Huguenots weaker 332 Battle of Moncontour (Oct. 3, 1569) 333 Coligny wounded 334 Heavy Losses of the Huguenots 335 The Roman Catholics exultant 336 Mouy murdered by Maurevel 337 The Assassin rewarded with the Collar of the Order 338 Fatal Error committed by the Court 338 Siege of St. Jean d'Angely 340 Huguenot Successes at Vezelay and Nismes 344 Coligny encouraged 347 Withdrawal of the Troops of Dauphiny and Provence 348 The Admiral's Bold Plan 348 He Sweeps through Guyenne 349 "Vengeance de Rapin" 351 Coligny pushes on to the Rhone 351 His Singular Success and its Causes 351 He turns toward Paris 353 His Illness interrupts Negotiations 353 Engagement of Arnay-le-Duc 354 Coligny approaches Paris 356 Progress of Negotiations 356 The English Rebellion affects the Terms offered 358 Better Conditions proposed 360 Charles and his Mother for Peace 360 The War fruitless for its Authors 361 Anxiety of Cardinal Chatillon 363 The Royal Edict of St. Germain (Aug. 8, 1570) 363 Dissatisfaction of the Clergy 365 "The Limping and Unsettled Peace" 366
THE PEACE OF ST. GERMAIN 367 Sincerity of the Peace 367 The Designs of Catharine de' Medici 369 Charles the Ninth in Earnest 370 Tears out the Parliament Record against Cardinal Chatillon 371 His Assurances to Walsingham 371 Gracious Answer to German Electors 372 Infringement on Edict at Orange 373 Protestants of Rouen attacked 374 The "Croix de Gastines" pulled down 375 Projected Marriage of Anjou to Queen Elizabeth of England 377 Machinations to dissuade Anjou 379 Charles indignant at Interference 379 Alencon to be substituted as Suitor 380 Anjou's new Ardor 380 Elizabeth interposes Obstacles 381 Papal and Spanish Efforts 382 Vexation of Catharine at Anjou's fresh Scruples 383 Louis of Nassau confers with the King 384 Admiral Coligny consulted 386 Invited to Court 387 His Honorable Reception 389 Disgust of the Guises and Alva 390 Charles gratified 391 Proposed Marriage of Henry of Navarre to the King's Sister 392 The Anjou Match falls through 396 The Praise of Alencon 398 Pius the Fifth Alarmed 400 Cardinal of Alessandria sent to Paris 400 The King's Assurances 400 Jeanne d'Albret becomes more favorable to her Son's Marriage 403 Her Solicitude 403 She is treated with Tantalizing Insincerity 404 She is shocked at the Morals of the Court 405 Her Sudden Death 407 Coligny and the Boy-King 408 The Dispensation delayed 410 The King's Earnestness 411 Mons and Valenciennes captured 412 Catharine's Indecision 413 Queen Elizabeth inspires no Confidence 414 Rout of Genlis 415 Determines Catharine to take the Spanish Side 416 Loss of the Golden Opportunity 416 The Admiral does not lose Courage 417 Charles and Catharine at Montpipeau 418 Rumors of Elizabeth's Desertion of her Allies 419 Charles thoroughly cast down 420 Coligny partially succeeds in reassuring him 421 Elizabeth toys with Dishonorable Proposals from the Netherlands 422 Fatal Results 423 The Memoires inedits de Michel de la Huguerye 423 His View of a long Premeditation 423 Studied Misrepresentation of Jeanne d'Albret 424
THE MASSACRE OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY 426 The Huguenot Nobles reach Paris 426 The Betrothal of Henry of Navarre to Margaret of Valois 427 Entertainment in the Louvre 429 Coligny's Letter to his Wife 430 Festivities and Mock Combats 431 Huguenot Grievances to be redressed 432 Catharine and Anjou jealous of Coligny's Influence over the King 433 The Duchess of Nemours and Guise 434 Was the Massacre long premeditated? 435 Salviati's Testimony 435 Charles' Cordiality to Coligny 436 Coligny wounded 437 Agitation of the King 439 Coligny courageous 440 Visited by the King and his Mother 441 Catharine attempts to break up the Conference 443 Charles writes Letters expressing his Displeasure 444 The Vidame de Chartres advises the Huguenots to leave Paris 445 Catharine and Anjou come to a Final Decision 446 They ply Charles with Arguments 447 The King consents reluctantly 449 Few Victims first selected 450 Religious Hatred 452 Precautionary Measures 452 Orders issued to the Prevot des Marchands 454 The First Shot and the Bell of St. Germain l'Auxerrois 455 Murder of Admiral Coligny 456 His Character and Work 460 Murder of Huguenot Nobles in the Louvre 465 Navarre and Conde spared 468 The Massacre becomes general 470 La Rochefoucauld and Teligny fall 470 Self-defence of a few Nobles 471 Victims of Personal Hatred 472 Adventures of young La Force 472 Pitiless Butchery 474 Shamelessness of the Court Ladies 476 Anjou, Montpensier, and others encourage the Assassins 476 Wonderful Escapes 477 Death of the Philosopher Ramus 478 President Pierre de la Place 479 Regnier and Vezins 480 Escape of Chartres and Montgomery 481 Charles himself fires on them 482 The Massacre continues 484 Pillage of the Rich 485 Orders issued to lay down Arms 487 Little heeded 487 Miracle of the "Cimetiere des Innocents" 488 The King's First Letter to Mandelot 490 Guise throws the Responsibility on the King 491 Charles accepts it on Tuesday morning 492 The "Lit de Justice" 492 Servile Reply of Parliament 493 Christopher De Thou 493 Ineffectual Effort to inculpate Coligny 495 His Memory declared Infamous 496 Petty Indignities 496 A Jubilee Procession 498 Charles declares he will maintain his Edict of Pacification 498 Forced Conversion of Navarre and Conde 499
THE MASSACRE IN THE PROVINCES, AND THE RECEPTION OF THE TIDINGS ABROAD 501 The Massacre in the Provinces 501 The Verbal Orders 502 Instructions to Montsoreau at Saumur 503 Two Kinds of Letters 504 Massacre at Meaux 505 At Troyes 507 The Great Bloodshed at Orleans 508 At Bourges 511 At Angers 512 Butchery at Lyons 513 Responsibility of Mandelot 517 Rouen 519 Toulouse 521 Bordeaux 522 Why the Massacre was not Universal 524 Policy of the Guises 525 Spurious Accounts of Clemency 525 Bishop Le Hennuyer, of Lisieux 525 Kind Offices of Matignon at Caen and Alencon 526 Of Longueville and Gordes 526 Of Tende in Provence 527 Viscount D'Orthez at Bayonne 528 The Municipality of Nantes 529 Uncertain Number of Victims 530 News of the Massacre received at Rome 530 Public Thanksgivings 532 Vasari's Paintings in the Vatican 533 French Boasts count for Nothing 535 Catharine writes to Philip, her son-in-law 536 The Delight of Philip of Spain 537 Charles instigates the Murder of French Prisoners 539 Alva jubilant, but wary 540 England's Horror 541 Perplexity of La Mothe Fenelon 541 His Cold Reception by Queen Elizabeth 543 The Ambassador disheartened 546 Sir Thomas Smith's Letter 546 Catharine's Unsuccessful Representations 547 Briquemault and Cavaignes hung for alleged Conspiracy 548 The News in Scotland 550 In Germany 550 In Poland 552 Sympathy of the Genevese 554 Their Generosity and Danger 557 The Impression at Baden 558 Medals and Vindications 559 Disastrous Personal Effect on King Charles 560 How far was the Roman Church Responsible? 562 Gregory probably not aware of the intended Massacre 564 Paul the Fifth instigates the French Court 564 He counsels exterminating the Huguenots 565
* * * * *
A New Account of the Massacre at Orleans 569
THE SEQUEL OF THE MASSACRE, TO THE DEATH OF CHARLES THE NINTH 572 Widespread Terror 572 La Rochelle and other Cities in Huguenot Hands 573 Nismes and Montauban 573 La Rochelle the Centre of Interest 576 A Spurious Letter of Catharine 577 Designs on the City 577 Mission of La Noue 579 He is badly received 580 The Royal Proposals rejected 581 Marshal Biron appears before La Rochelle 582 Beginning of the Fourth Religious War 582 Description of La Rochelle 582 Resoluteness of the Defenders 583 Their Military Strength 584 Henry, Duke of Anjou, appointed to conduct the Siege 585 The Besieged pray and fight 585 Bravery of the Women 586 La Noue retires—Failure of Diplomacy 587 English Aid miscarries 588 Huguenot Successes in the South 589 Sommieres and Villeneuve 589 Beginning of the Siege of Sancerre 589 The Incipient Famine 590 Losses of the Army before La Rochelle 591 Roman Catholic Processions 592 Election of Henry of Anjou to the Crown of Poland 593 Edict of Pacification (Boulogne, July, 1573) 593 Meagre Results of the War 594 The Siege and Famine of Sancerre continue 595 The City capitulates 597 Reception of the Polish Ambassadors 598 Discontent of the South with the Terms of Peace 599 Assembly of Milhau and Montauban 600 Military Organization of the Huguenots 600 Petition to the King 601 "Les Fronts d'Airain" 603 Catharine's Bitter Reply 604 The Huguenots firm 604 Decline of Charles's Health 605 Project of an English Match renewed 606 Intrigues with the German Princes 608 Death of Louis of Nassau 610 Anjou's Reception at Heidelberg 610 Frankness of the Elector Palatine 611 Last Days of Chancellor L'Hospital 613 The Party of the "Politiques" 615 Hotman's "Franco-Gallia" 615 Treacherous Attempt on La Rochelle 616 Huguenots reassemble at Milhau 617 They complete their Organization 618 The Duke of Alencon 619 Glandage Plunders the City of Orange 620 Montbrun's Exploits in Dauphiny 621 La Rochelle resumes Arms (Beginning of the Fifth Religious War) 622 Diplomacy tried in Vain 623 The "Politiques" make an Unsuccessful Rising 625 Flight of the Court from St. Germain 626 Alencon and Navarre examined 627 Execution of La Mole and Coconnas 628 Conde retires to Germany 629 Reasons for the Success of the Huguenots 630 Montgomery lands in Normandy 631 He is forced to Surrender 632 Delight of Catharine 632 Execution of Montgomery 633 Last Days of Charles the Ninth 635 Distress of his Young Queen 636 Death and Funeral Rites of Charles 638 Had Persecution, War and Treachery Succeeded? 639
FROM THE EDICT OF JANUARY (1562) TO THE DEATH OF CHARLES THE NINTH (1574).
THE FIRST CIVIL WAR.
[Sidenote: Inconsistencies of the Edict of January.]
The Edict of January was on its very face a compromise, and as such rested on no firm foundation. Inconsistent with itself, it fully satisfied neither Huguenot nor Roman Catholic. The latter objected to the toleration which the edict extended; the former demanded the unrestricted freedom of worship which it denied. If the existence of two diverse religions was compatible with the welfare of the state, why ignominiously thrust the places of Protestant worship from the cities into the suburbs? If the two were irreconcilable, why suffer the Huguenots to assemble outside the walls?
[Sidenote: Huguenot leaders urge the observance of the edict.]
Yet there was this difference between the attitude assumed by the rival parties with reference to the edict: while the Roman Catholic leaders made no secret of their intention to insist upon its repeal, the Huguenot leaders were urgent in their advice to the churches to conform strictly to its provisions, restraining the indiscreet zeal of their more impetuous members and exhibiting due gratitude to Heaven for the amelioration of their lot. To the people it was, indeed, a bitter disappointment to be compelled to give up the church edifices, and to resort for public service to the outskirts of the town. Less keen was the regret experienced by others not less sincerely interested in the progress of the purer doctrines, who, on account of their appreciation of the violence of the opposition to be encountered, had not been so sanguine in their expectations. And so Beza and other prominent men of the Protestant Church, after obtaining from Chancellor L'Hospital some further explanations on doubtful points, addressed to their brethren in all parts of France a letter full of wholesome advice. "God," said they, "has deigned to employ new means of protecting His church in this kingdom, by placing those who profess the Gospel under the safeguard of the king, our natural prince, and of the magistrates and governors established by him. This should move us so much the more to praise the infinite goodness of our Heavenly Father, who has at length answered the cry of His children, and lovingly to obey the king, in order that he may be induced to aid our just cause." The provisional edict, they added, was not all that might yet be hoped for. As respected the surrender of the churches, those Huguenots who had seized them on their own individual authority ought rather to acknowledge their former indiscretion than deplore the necessity for restitution. In fine, annoyance at the loss of a few privileges ought to be forgotten in gratitude for the gain of many signal advantages. The letter produced a deep impression, and its salutary advice was followed scrupulously, if not cheerfully, even in southern France, where the Huguenots, in some places, outnumbered the adherents of the Romish Church.
[Sidenote: Seditious Sermons.]
The papal party was less ready to acquiesce. The Edict of January was, according to its representative writers, the most pernicious law for the kingdom that could have been devised. By forbidding the magistrates from interfering with the Protestant conventicles held in the suburbs, by permitting the royal officers to attend, by conferring upon the ministers full liberty of officiating, a formal approval was, for the first time, given to the new sect under the authority of the royal seal. The pulpits resounded with denunciations of the government. The King of Navarre and the queen mother were assailed under scriptural names, as favoring the false prophets of Baal. Scarcely a sermon was preached in which they did not figure as Ahab and Jezebel. A single specimen of the spirited discourses in vogue will suffice. A Franciscan monk—one Barrier—the same from whose last Easter sermon an extract has already been given—after reading the royal ordinance in his church of Sainte-Croix, in Provins, remarked: "Well now, gentlemen of Provins, what must I, and the other preachers of France, do? Must we obey this order? What shall we tell you? What shall we preach? 'The Gospel,' Sir Huguenot will say. And pray, stating that the errors of Calvin, of Martin Luther, of Beza, Malot, Peter Martyr, and other preachers, with their erroneous doctrine, condemned by the Church a thousand years ago, and since then by the holy oecumenical councils, are worthless and damnable—is not this preaching the Gospel? Bidding you beware of their teaching, bidding you refuse to listen to them, or read their books; telling you that they only seek to stir up sedition, murder, and robbery, as they have begun to do in Paris and numberless places in the realm—is not this preaching 'the Gospel?' But some one may say: 'Pray, friar, what are you saying? You are not obeying the king's edict; you are still talking of Calvin and his companions; you call them and those who hold their sentiments heretics and Huguenots; you will be denounced to the courts of justice, you will be thrown into prison—yes, you will be hung as a seditious person.' I answer, that is not unlikely, for Ahab and Jezebel put to death the prophets of God in their time, and gave all freedom to the false prophets of Baal. 'Stop, friar, you are saying too much, you will be hung.' Very well, then there will be a gray friar hung! Many others will therefore have to be hung, for God, by His Holy Spirit, will inspire the pillars of His church to uphold the edifice, which will never be overthrown until the end of the world, whatever blows may be struck at it."
[Sidenote: Opposition of the parliaments.]
The parliaments exhibited scarcely less opposition to the edict than did the pulpits of the Roman Catholic churches. One—the Parliament of Dijon—never registered it at all; while that of Paris instituted a long and decided resistance. "Non possumus, nec debemus," "non possumus, nec debemus pro conscientia," were the words in which it replied when repeatedly pressed to give formal sanction. The counsellors were equally displeased with the contents of the edict, and with the irregularity committed in sending it first to the provincial parliaments. Even when the king, yielding to their importunity, by a supplementary "declaration," interpreted the provision of the edict relative to the attendance of royal officers upon the reformed services, as applicable only to the bailiffs, seneschals, and other minor magistrates, and strictly prohibited the attendance of the members of parliament and other high judicatories, the counsellors, instead of proceeding to the registry of the obnoxious law, returned a recommendation that the intolerant Edict of July be enforced! It was not possible until March to obtain a tardy assent to the reception of the January Edict into the legislation of the country, and then only a few of the judges vouchsafed to take part in the act. The delay served to inflame yet more the passions of the people.
[Sidenote: New conference.]
Scarcely had the edict which was to adjust the relations of the two religious parties been promulgated, when a new attempt was made to reconcile the antagonistic beliefs by the old, but ever unsuccessful method of a conference between theologians. On the twenty-eighth of January a select company assembled in the large council-chamber of the royal palace of St. Germain, and commenced the discussion of the first topic submitted for their deliberation—the question of pictures or images and their worship. Catharine herself was present, with Antoine of Navarre and Jeanne d'Albret, Michel de l'Hospital, and other members of the council. On the papal side appeared the Cardinals of Bourbon, Tournon, and Ferrara, and a number of less elevated dignitaries. Beza and Marlorat were most prominent on the side of the reformed. The discussion was long and earnest, but it ended leaving all the disputants holding the same views that they had entertained at the outset. Beza condemned as idolatrous the practice of admitting statues or paintings into Christian churches, and urged their entire removal. The Inquisitor De Mouchy, Fra Giustiniano of Corfu, Maillard, dean of the Sorbonne, and others, attempted to refute his positions in a style of argument which exhibited the extremes of profound learning and silly conceit. Bishop Montluc of Valence, and four doctors of theology—Salignac, Bouteiller, D'Espense, and Picherel—not only admitted the flagrant abuses of image-worship, but drew up a paper in which they did not disguise their sentiments. They recommended the removal of representations of the Holy Trinity, and of pictures immodest in character, or of saints not recognized by the Church. They reprobated the custom of decking out the portraits of the saints with crowns and dresses, the celebration of processions in their honor, and the offering of gifts and vows. And they yielded so far to the demands of the Protestants as to desire that only the simple cross should be permitted to remain over the altar, while the pictures should be placed high upon the walls, where they could neither be kissed nor receive other objectionable marks of adoration. It was a futile task to reconcile views so discordant even among the Roman Catholic partisans. Two weeks were spent in profitless discussion, and, on the eleventh of February, the new colloquy was permitted to dissolve without having entered upon any of the more difficult questions that still remained upon the programme marked out for it. The cardinals had prevailed upon Catharine de' Medici to refer the settlement to the Council of Trent. The joy of De Mouchy, the inquisitor, and of his companions, knew no bounds when Chancellor L'Hospital declared the queen's pleasure, and requested the members to retire to their homes, and reduce their opinions to writing for future use. They were ready to throw themselves on Beza's neck in their delight at being relieved of the necessity of debating with him!
[Sidenote: Defection of Antoine and its results.]
[Sidenote: Constancy of Jeanne.]
But, in truth, the time for the calm discussion of theological differences, the time for friendly salutation between the champions of the rival systems of faith, was rapidly drawing to a close. If some rays of sunshine still glanced athwart the landscape, conveying to the unpractised eye the impression of quiet serenity, there were also black and portentous clouds already rising far above the horizon. Those who could read the signs of the times had long watched their gathering, and they trembled before the coming of the storm. Although they were mercifully spared the full knowledge of the overwhelming ruin that would follow in the wake of that fearful war of the elements, they saw the angry commotion of the sky, and realized that the air was surcharged with material for the most destructive bolts of heaven. And yet it is the opinion of a contemporary, whose views are always worthy of careful consideration, that, had it not been for the final defection of the King of Navarre at this critical juncture, the great woes impending over France might still have been delayed or averted. That unhappy prince seemed determined to earn the title of the "Julian Apostate" of the French Reformation. Plied by the arts of his own servants, D'Escars (of whom Mezeray pithily remarks that he was ready to sell himself for money to anybody, save his master) and the Bishop of Auxerre; flattered by the Triumvirate, tempted by the Spanish Ambassador, Cardinal Tournon, and the papal legate, he had long been playing a hypocritical part. He had been unwilling to break with the Huguenots before securing the golden fruit with which he was lured on, and so he was at the same time the agent and the object of treachery. Even after he had sent in his submission to the Pope by the hands of D'Escars, he pretended, when remonstrated with by his Protestant friends, that "he would take care not to go so far that he could not easily extricate himself." He did not even show displeasure when faithfully rebuked and warned. Yet he had after long hesitation completely cast in his lot with the papal party. He was convinced at last that Philip was in earnest in his intention to give him the island of Sardinia, which was depicted to him as a terrestrial paradise, "worth four Navarres." It was widely believed that he had received from the Holy See the promise of a divorce from his heretical consort, which, while permitting him to retain the possessions which she had justly forfeited by her spiritual rebellion, would enable him to marry the youthful Mary of Scots, and add a substantial crown to his titular claims. But we would fain believe that even Antoine of Bourbon had not sunk to such a depth of infamy. Certain it is, however, that he now openly avowed his new devotion to the Romish Church, and that the authority of his name became a bulwark of strength to the refractory parliament in its endeavor to prevent the execution of the edict of toleration. But he was unsuccessful in dragging with him the wife whom he had been the instrument of inducing first to declare herself for the persecuted faith of the reformers. And when Catharine de' Medici, who cared nothing for religion, tried to persuade her to arrange matters with her husband, "Sooner," she said, "than ever go to mass, had I my kingdom and my son in my hand, I would cast them both into the depth of the sea, that they might not be a hinderance to me." Brave mother of Henry the Fourth! Well would it have been, both for her son and for France, if that son had inherited more of Jeanne d'Albret's devotion to truth, and less of his father's lewdness and inconstancy!
[Sidenote: Immense crowds at Huguenot preaching.]
[Sidenote: The canons of Sainte Croix.]
As early as in February, Beza was of the opinion that the King of Navarre would not suffer him to remain longer in the realm to which he himself had invited him so earnestly only six months before. At all events, he would be publicly dismissed by the first of May, and with him many others. With this disquieting intelligence came also rumors of an alliance between the enemies of the Gospel and the Spaniard, which could not be treated with contempt as baseless fabrications. But meanwhile the truth was making daily progress. At a single gathering for prayer and preaching, but a few days before, twenty-five thousand persons, it was computed, had been in attendance, representing all ranks of the population, among whom were many of the nobility. In the city of Troyes, a few weeks later, eight or nine thousand persons assembled from the neighboring country to celebrate the Lord's Supper, and the number of communicants was so great that they could not all partake on a single day; so the services were repeated on the morrow. Elsewhere there was equal zeal and growth. Indeed, so rapid was the advance of Protestantism, so pressing the call for ministers, that the large and flourishing church of Orleans, in a letter written the last day of February, proclaimed their expectation of establishing a theological school to supply their own wants and those of the adjacent regions; and it is no insignificant mark of the power with which the reformatory movement still coursed on, that the canons of the great church of Sainte Croix had given notice of their intention to attend the lectures that were to be delivered! In such an encouraging strain did "the ministers, deacons, and elders" of the most Protestant city of northern France write on the day before that deplorable massacre of Vassy, which was to be the signal for an appeal from argument to arms, upon which the newly enkindled spirit of religious inquiry was to be quenched in partisan hatred and social confusion. Within less than two months the tread of an armed host was to be heard in the city which it had been hoped would be thronged by the pious students of the gospel of peace, and frenzied soldiers would be hurling upon the floors of Sainte Croix the statues of the saints that had long occupied their elevated niches.
We must now turn to the events preceding the inauspicious occurrence the fruits of which proved so disastrous to the French church and state.
[Sidenote: The Guises meet the Duke of Wuertemberg at Saverne.]
Having at length made sure of the co-operation of the King of Navarre in the contest upon which they had now resolved with the view of preventing the execution of the Edict of January, the Guises desired to strengthen themselves in the direction of Germany, and secure, if not the assistance, at least the neutrality of the Protestant princes. Could the Protestants on the other side of the Rhine be made indifferent spectators of the struggle, persuaded that their own creed resembled the faith of the Roman Catholics much more than the creed of the Huguenots; could they be convinced that the Huguenots were uneasy and rebellious radicals, whom it were better to crush than to assist; could, consequently, the "reiters" and "lansquenets" be kept at home—it would, thought the Guises, be easy, with the help of the German Catholics, perhaps of Spain also, to render complete the papal supremacy in France, and to crush Conde and the Chatillons to the earth. Accordingly, the Guises extended to Duke Christopher of Wuertemberg an invitation to meet them in the little town of Saverne (or Zabern, as it was called by the Germans), in Alsace, not far from Strasbourg. The duke came as he was requested, accompanied by his theologians, Brentius and Andreae; and the interview, beginning on the fifteenth of February, lasted four days. Four of the Guises were present; but the conversations were chiefly with Francis, the Duke of Guise, and Charles, the Cardinal of Lorraine; the Cardinal of Guise and the Grand Prior of the Knights of St. John taking little or no active part. Christopher and Francis had been comrades in arms a score of years back, for the former had served several years, and with no little distinction, in the French wars. This circumstance afforded an opportunity for the display of extraordinary friendship. And what did the brothers state, in this important consultation, respecting their own sentiments, the opinions of the Huguenots, and the condition of France? Happily, a minute account, in the form of a manuscript memorandum taken down at the time by Duke Christopher, is still extant in the archives of Stuttgart. Little known, but authentic beyond the possibility of cavil, this document deserves more attention than it has received from historians; for it places in the clearest light the shameless mendacity of the Guises, and shows that the duke had nearly as good a claim as the cardinal, his brother, to the reputation which the Venetian ambassador tells us that Charles had earned "of rarely telling the truth."
[Sidenote: Lying assurances.]
Duke Christopher made the acquaintance of Charles of Lorraine as a preacher on the morning after his arrival, when he heard him, in a sermon on the temptation in the wilderness, demonstrate that no other mediators or intercessors must be sought for but Jesus Christ, who is our only Saviour and the only propitiation for our sins. That day Christopher had a long conversation with Guise respecting the unhappy condition of France, which the latter ascribed in great part to the Huguenot ministers, whose unconciliatory conduct, he said, had rendered abortive the Colloquy of Poissy. Wuertemberg corrected him by replying that the very accounts of the colloquy which Guise had sent him showed that the unsuccessful issue was owing to the prelates, who had evidently come determined to prevent any accommodation. He urged that the misfortunes that had befallen France were much rather to be ascribed to the cruel persecutions that had been inflicted on so many guiltless victims. "I cannot refrain from telling you," he added, "that you and your brother are strongly suspected in Germany of having contributed to cause the death, since the decease of Henry the Second—and even before, in his lifetime—of several thousands of persons who have been miserably executed on account of their faith. As a friend, and as a Christian, I must warn you. Beware, beware of innocent blood! Otherwise the punishment of God will fall upon you in this life and in the next." "He answered me," writes Wuertemberg, "with great sighs: 'I know that my brother and I are accused of that, and of many other things also. But we are wronged, as we shall both of us explain to you before we leave.'"
The cardinal entered more fully than his brother into the doctrinal conference, talking now with Wuertemberg, now with his theologian Brentius, and trying to persuade both that he was in perfect accord with them. While pressing his German friends to declare the Zwinglians and the Calvinists heretics—which they carefully avoided doing—and urging them to state the punishment that ought to be inflicted on heretics, there seemed to be no limit to the concessions which Lorraine was willing to make. He adored and invoked only Christ in heaven. He merely venerated the wafer. He acknowledged that his party went too far in calling the mass a sacrifice, and celebrating it for the living and the dead. The mass was not a sacrifice, but a commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the altar of the cross ("non sacrificium, sed memoria sacrificii praestiti in ara crucis"). He believed that the council assembled at Trent would do no good. When the Romish hierarchy, with the Pope at its head, as the pretended vicar of God on earth, was objected to, he replied that that matter could easily be adjusted. As for himself, "in the absence of a red gown, he would willingly wear a black one."
[Sidenote: The Guises deceive no one.]
He was asked whether, if Beza and his colleagues could be brought to consent to sign the Augsburg confession, he also would sign it. "You have heard it," he replied, "I take God to witness that I believe as I have said, and that by God's grace I shall live and die in these sentiments. I repeat it: I have read the Confession of Augsburg, I have also read Luther, Melanchthon, Brentius, and others; I entirely approve their doctrines, and I might speedily agree with them in all that concerns the ecclesiastical hierarchy. But I am compelled still to dissemble for a time, that I may gain some that are yet weak in the faith." A little later he adverted to Wuertemberg's remarks to Guise. "You informed my brother," he said, "that in Germany we are both of us suspected of having contributed to the execution of a large number of innocent Christians during the reigns of Henry and of Francis the Second. Well! I swear to you, in the name of God my Creator, and pledging the salvation of my soul, that I am guilty of the death of no man condemned for religion's sake. Those who were then privy to the deliberations of state can testify in my favor. On the contrary, whenever crimes of a religious character were under discussion, I used to say to King Henry or to King Francis the Second, that they did not belong to my department, that they had to do with the secular power, and I went away." He even added that, although Du Bourg was in orders, he had begged the king to spare him as a learned man. "In like manner," says Wuertemberg, "the Duke of Guise with great oaths affirmed that he was innocent of the death of those who had been condemned on account of their faith. 'The attempt,' he added, 'has frequently been made to kill us, both the cardinal and myself, with fire-arms, sword, and poison, and, although the culprits have been arrested, I never meddled with their punishment.'" And when the Duke of Wuertemberg again "conjured them not to persecute the poor Christians of France, for God would not leave such a sin unpunished," both the cardinal and the Duke of Guise gave him their right hands, promising on their princely faith, and by the salvation of their souls, that they would neither openly nor secretly persecute the partisans of the "new doctrines!" Such were the barefaced impostures which this "par nobile fratrum" desired Christopher of Wuertemberg to publish for their vindication among the Lutherans of Germany. But the liars were not believed. The shrewd Landgrave of Hesse, on receiving Wuertemberg's account, even before the news of the massacre of Vassy, came promptly to the conclusion that the whole thing was an attempt at deception. Christopher himself, in the light of later events, added to his manuscript these words: "Alas! It can now be seen how they have kept these promises! Deus sit ultor doli et perjurii, cujus namque res agitur."
[Sidenote: Throkmorton's account of the French court.]
Meanwhile events of the greatest consequence were occurring at the capital. The very day after the Saverne conference began, Sir Nicholas Throkmorton wrote to Queen Elizabeth an account of "the strange issue" to which affairs had come at the French court since his last despatch, a little over a fortnight before. His letter gives a vivid and accurate view of the important crisis in the first half of February, 1562, which we present very nearly in the words of the ambassador himself. "The Cardinal of Ferrara," says Throkmorton, "has allured to his devotion the King of Navarre, the Constable, Marshal St. Andre, the Cardinal of Tournon, and others inclined to retain the Romish religion. All these are bent to repress the Protestant religion in France, and to find means either to range [bring over to their side] the Queen of Navarre, the Prince of Conde, the Admiral, and all others who favor that religion, or to expel them from the court, with all the ministers and preachers. The queen mother, fearing this conspiracy might be the means of losing her authority (which is as dear to her as one religion or the other), and mistrusting that the Constable was going about to reduce the management of the whole affair into the King of Navarre's hands, and so into his own, has caused the Constable to retire from the court, as it were in disgrace, and intended to do the like with the Cardinal of Tournon and the Marshal St. Andre. The King of Navarre being offended with these proceedings, and imputing part of her doings to the advice of the Admiral, the Cardinal Chatillon, and Monsieur D'Andelot, intended to compel those personages to retire also from the court. In these garboils [commotions] the Prince of Conde, being sick at Paris, was requested to repair to the court and stand her [Catharine] in stead. In this time there was great working on both sides to win the house of Guise. So the Queen Mother wrote to them—they being in the skirts of Almain—to come to the court with all speed. The like means were made [use of] by the King of Navarre, the Cardinal of Ferrara and the Constable, to ally them on their part. During these solicitations the Duke D'Aumale arrived at the court from them, who was requested to solicit the speedy repair to the court of the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine.
"The Prince of Conde went from hence in a horse litter to the court of St. Germain, where he found the Protestant preachers prohibited from preaching either in the King's house or in the town, and that the King of Navarre had solemnly vowed to retain and maintain the Romish religion, and had given order that his son should be instructed in the same. The Prince, finding the Queen of Navarre and the house of Chatillon ready to leave the court, fell again dangerously sick. Nevertheless his coming so revived them, as by the covert aid of the Queen Mother, they attempted to make the Protestant preachers preach again at the town's end of St. Germain, and were entreated to abide at the court, where there is an assembly which is like to last until Easter. The Cardinal of Ferrara assists daily at these disputes. The King of Navarre persists in the house of Chatillon retiring from the court, and it is believed the Queen of Navarre, and they, will not tarry long there."
Such was the picture drawn by the skilful pencil of the English envoy. It was certainly dark enough. Catharine and Navarre had sent Lansac to assure the Pope that they purposed to live in and defend the Roman Catholic religion. Sulpice had gone on a like mission to Spain. It was time, Throkmorton plainly told Queen Elizabeth, that she should show as great readiness in maintaining the Protestant religion as Ferrara and his associates showed in striving to overthrow it. And in a private despatch to Cecil, written the same day, he urged the secretary to dissuade her Majesty from longer retaining candles and cross on the altar of the royal chapel, at a time when even doctors of the Sorbonne consented to the removal of images of all sorts from over the altar in places of worship.
From Saverne the Cardinal of Lorraine returned to his archbishopric of Rheims, while the duke, accompanied by the Cardinal of Guise, proceeded in the direction of the French capital. On his route he stopped at Joinville, one of the estates of the family, recently erected in their favor into a principality. Here he was joined by his wife, Anne d'Este; here, too, he listened to fresh complaints made by his mother, Antoinette of Bourbon, against the insolence of the neighboring town of Vassy, where a considerable portion of the inhabitants had lately had the audacity to embrace the reformed faith.
[Sidenote: Vassy in Champagne.]
[Sidenote: Origin of the Huguenot Church.]
Vassy, an important town of Champagne—though shorn of much of its influence by the removal of many of its dependencies to increase the dignity of Joinville—and one of the places assigned to Mary of Scots for her maintenance, had apparently for some time contained a few professors of the "new doctrines." It was, however, only in October, 1561, after the Colloquy of Poissy, that it was visited by a Protestant minister, who, during a brief sojourn, organized a church with elders and deacons. Notwithstanding the disadvantage of having no pastor, and of having notoriously incurred the special hatred of the Guises, the reformed community grew with marvellous rapidity. For the Gospel was preached not merely in the printed sermons read from the pulpit, but by the lips of enthusiastic converts. When, after a short absence, the founder of the church of Vassy returned to the scene of his labors, he came into collision with the Bishop of Chalons, whose diocese included this town. The bishop, unaccustomed to preach, set up a monk in opposition; but no one would come to hear him. The prelate then went himself to the Protestant gathering, and sat through the "singing of the commandments" and a prayer. But when he attempted to interrupt the services and asserted his episcopal authority, the minister firmly repelled the usurpation, taking his stand on the king's edict. Then, waxing warm in the discussion, the dauntless Huguenot exposed the hypocrisy of the pretended shepherd, who, not entering the fold by canonical election, but intruding himself into it without consulting his charge, was more anxious to secure his own ease than to lead his sheep into green pastures. The bishop soon retired from a field where he had found more than his match in argument: but the common people, who had come to witness his triumph over the Huguenot preacher, remained after his unexpected discomfiture, and the unequal contest resulted in fresh accessions to the ranks of the Protestants. Equally unsuccessful was the Bishop of Chalons in the attempt to induce the king to issue a commission to the Duke of Guise against the unoffending inhabitants, and Vassy was spared the fate of Merindol and Cabrieres. At Christmas nine hundred communicants, after profession of their faith, partook of the Lord's Supper according to the reformed rites; and in January, 1562, after repeated solicitations, the church obtained the long-desired boon of a pastor, in the person of the able and pious Leonard Morel. Thus far the history of Vassy differed little from that of hundreds of other towns in that age of wonderful awakening and growth, and would have attracted little attention had not its proximity to the Lorraine princes secured for it a tragic notoriety.
[Sidenote: Approach of the Duke of Guise.]
On the twenty-eighth of February, Guise, with two hundred armed retainers, left Joinville. That night he slept at Dommartin-le-Franc. On Sunday morning, the first of March, he continued his journey. Whether by accident or from design, it is difficult to say, he drew near to Vassy about the time when the Huguenots were assembling for worship, and his ears caught the sound of their bell while he was still a quarter of a league distant. The ardor of Guise's followers was already at fever-heat. They had seen a poor artisan apprehended in a town that lay on their track, and summarily hung by their leader's order, for the simple offence of having had his child baptized after the reformed rites. When Guise heard the bell of the Vassy church, he turned to his suite to inquire what it meant. "It is the Huguenots' preaching," some one replied. "Par la mort-Dieu," broke in a second, "they will soon be huguenotted after another fashion!" Others began to make eager calculations respecting the extent of the plunder. A few minutes later an unlucky cobbler was espied, who, from his dress or manner, was mistaken for a Huguenot minister. It was well that he could answer the inquiries of the duke, before whom he was hurried, by assuring him that he was no clergyman and had never studied; otherwise, he was told, his case had been an extremely ugly one.
[Sidenote: The massacre.]
On entering Vassy Guise repaired to the monastery chapel to hear mass said. He was followed by some of the gentlemen of his suite. Meantime, their valets found their way to the doors of the building in which the Protestants were worshipping, scarcely more than a stone's throw distant. This motley crowd was merely the vanguard of the Papists. Soon two or three gentlemen sent by Guise, according to his own account, to admonish the Huguenot assembly of their want of due obedience, entered the edifice, where they found twelve hundred persons quietly listening to the word of God. They were politely invited to sit down: but they replied by noisy interruption and threats. "Mort-Dieu, they must all be killed!" was their exclamation as they returned to report to Guise what they had seen. The defenceless Huguenots were thrown into confusion by these significant menaces, and hastened to secure the entrance. It was too late. The duke himself was approaching, and a volley from the arquebuses of his troop speedily scattered the unarmed worshippers. It is unnecessary to describe in all its details of horror the scene that ensued. The door of the sheep-fold was open and the wolf was already upon his prey. All the pent-up hatred of a band of fanatical and savage soldiers was vented upon a crowd of men, women, and children, whose heterodoxy made them pleasing victims, and whose unarmed condition rendered victory easy. No age, no sex was respected. It was enough to be a Huguenot to be a fit object for the sword or the gun. To escape from the doomed building was only possible by running the gauntlet of the troops that lay in wait. Those who sought to climb from the roof to the adjacent houses were picked off by the arquebuses of the besieging party. Only after an hour and a half had elapsed were the soldiers of Guise called off by the trumpet sounding a joyful note of victory. The evidence of their prowess, however, remained on the field of contest, in fifty or sixty dead or dying men and women, and in nearly a hundred more or less dangerously wounded.
In a few hours more Guise was resuming his journey toward Paris. He was told that the Huguenots of Vassy had forwarded their complaints to the king. "Let them go, let them go!" he exclaimed. "They will find there neither their Admiral nor their Chancellor."
Upon whose head rests the guilt of the massacre of Vassy? This was the question asked by every contemporary so soon as he realized the startling fact that the blow there struck was a signal that called every man to take the sword, and stand in defence of his own life. It is the question which history, more calm and dispassionate, because farther removed from the agitations of the day, now seeks to solve, as she looks back over the dreary torrents of blood that sprang from that disastrous source. The inquiry is not an idle one—for justice ought to find such a vindication in the records of past generations as may have been denied at the time of the commission of flagrant crimes.
The Huguenots declared Guise to be a murderer. Theodore Beza, in eloquent tones, demanded the punishment of the butcher of the human race. So imposing was the cry for retribution that the duke himself recognized the necessity of entering a formal defence, which was disseminated by the press far and wide through France and Germany. He denied that the massacre was premeditated. He averred that it was merely an unfortunate incident brought about by the violence of the Protestants of Vassy, who had provided themselves with an abundant supply of stones and other missiles, and assailed those whom he had sent to remonstrate courteously with them. He stated the deaths at only twenty-five or thirty. Most of these had been occasioned by the indignant valets, who, on seeing their masters wounded, had rushed in to defend them. So much against his will had the affair occurred, that he had repeatedly but ineffectually commanded his men to desist. When he had himself received a slight wound from a stone thrown by the Huguenots, the sight of the blood flowing from it had infuriated his devoted followers.
The Duke's plea of want of premeditation we may, perhaps, accept as substantially true—so far, at least, as to suppose that he had formed no deliberate plan of slaughtering the inhabitants of Vassy who had adopted the reformed religion. It is difficult, indeed, to accept the argument of Brantome and Le Laboureur, who conceive that the fortuitous character of the event is proved by the circumstance that the deed was below the courage of Guise. Nor, perhaps, shall we give excessive credit to the asseverations of the duke, repeated, we are told, even on his death-bed. For why should these be more worthy of belief than the oaths with which the same nobleman had declared to Christopher of Wuertemberg that he neither had persecuted, nor would persecute the Protestants of France? But the Duke of Guise admits that he knew that there was a growing community of Huguenots at Vassy—"scandalous, arrogant, extremely seditious persons," as he styles them. He tells us that he intended, as the representative of Mary Stuart, and as feudal lord of some of their number, to admonish them of their disobedience; and that for this purpose he sent Sieur de la Bresse (or Brosse) with others to interrupt their public worship. He accuses them, it is true, of having previously armed themselves with stones, and even of possessing weapons in an adjoining building; but what reason do the circumstances of the case give us for doubting that the report may have been based upon the fact that those who in this terror-stricken assembly attempted to save their lives resorted to whatever missiles they could lay their hands upon? If the presence of his wife, and of his brother the cardinal, is used by the duke as an argument to prove the absence of any sinister intentions on his part, how much stronger is the evidence afforded to the peaceable character of the Protestant gathering by the numbers of women and children found there? But the very fact that, as against the twenty-five or thirty Huguenots whom he concedes to have been slain in the encounter, he does not pretend to give the name of a single one of his own followers that was killed, shows clearly which side it was that came prepared for the fight. And yet who that knows the sanguinary spirit generally displayed by the Roman Catholic masses in the sixteenth century, could find much fault with the Huguenots of Vassy if they had really armed themselves to repel violence and protect their wives and children—if, in other words, they had used the common right of self-preservation?
The fact is that Guise was only witnessing the fruits of his instructions, enforced by his own example. He had given the first taste of blood, and now, perhaps without his actual command, the pack had taken the scent and hunted down the game. He was avowedly on a crusade to re-establish the supremacy of the Roman Catholic religion throughout France. If he had not hesitated to hang a poor pin-dealer for allowing his child to be baptized according to the forms of Calvin's liturgy; if he was on his way to Paris to restore the Edict of July by force of arms, it is idle to inquire whether he or his soldiers were responsible for the blood shed in peace. "He that sowed the seed is the author of the harvest."
[Sidenote: Conde appeals to the king.]
The news quickly flew to Conde that the arch-enemy of the Protestants had begun the execution of the cruel projects he had so long been devising with his fanatical associates; that Guise was on his way toward seditious Paris, with hands yet dripping with the blood of the inhabitants of a quiet Champagnese town, surprised and murdered while engaged in the worship of their God. Indignant, and taking in the full measure of the responsibility imposed upon him as the most powerful member of the Protestant communion, the prince, who was with the court at the castle of Monceaux—built for herself by Catharine in a style of regal magnificence—laid before the king and his mother a full account of the tragic occurrence. It was a pernicious example, he argued, and should be punished promptly and severely. Above all, the perpetrators ought not to be permitted to endanger the quiet of France by entering the capital. Catharine was alarmed and embarrassed by the intelligence; but, her fear of a conjunction between Guise and Navarre overcoming her reluctance to affront the Lorraine family, induced her to consent; and she wrote to the Duke, who had by this time reached his castle of Nanteuil, forbidding him to go to Paris, but inviting him to visit the court with a small escort. At the same time she gave orders to Saint Andre to repair at once to Lyons, of which he was the royal governor. But neither of the triumvirs showed any readiness to obey her orders. The duke curtly replied that he was too busy entertaining his friends to come to the king; the marshal promptly refused to leave the king while he was threatened by such perils.
[Sidenote: Beza's remonstrance.]
[Sidenote: An anvil that has worn out many hammers.]
The King of Navarre now came from Paris to Monceaux, to guard the interests of the party he had espoused. He was closely followed by Theodore Beza and Francour, whom the Protestants of Paris had deputed, the former on behalf of the church, the latter of the nobility, to demand of the king the punishment of the authors of the massacre. The queen mother, as was her wont, gave a gracious audience, and promised that an investigation should be made. But Navarre, being present, seemed eager to display a neophyte's zeal, and retorted by blaming the Huguenots for going in arms to their places of worship. "True," said Beza, "but arms in the hands of the wise are instruments of peace, and the massacre of Vassy has shown the necessity under which the Protestants were laid." When Navarre exclaimed: "Whoever touches my brother of Guise with the tip of his finger, touches my whole body!" the reformer reminded him, as one whom Antoine had himself brought to France, that the way of justice is God's way, and that kings owe justice to their subjects. Finally, when he discovered, by Navarre's adoption of all the impotent excuses of Guise, that the former had sold himself to the enemies of the Gospel, Theodore Beza made that noble reply which has become classic as the motto of the French Reformation: "Sire, it is, in truth, the lot of the Church of God, in whose name I am speaking, to endure blows and not to strike them. But also may it please you to remember that it is an anvil that has worn out many hammers."
[Sidenote: Guise's entry into Paris.]
At Nanteuil, Guise had been visited by the constable, with two of his sons, by Saint Andre, and by other prominent leaders. Accompanied by them, he now took the decided step of going to Paris in spite of Catharine's prohibition. His entry resembled a triumphal procession. In the midst of an escort estimated by eye-witnesses at two thousand horse, Francis of Guise avoided the more direct gate of St. Martin, and took that of St. Denis, through which the kings of France were accustomed to pass. Vast crowds turned out to meet him, and the cries of "Vive Monsieur de Guise!" sounding much like regal acclammations, were uttered without rebuke on all sides. The "prevost des marchands" and other members of the municipal government received him with great demonstrations of joy, as the defender of the faith. At the same hour the Prince of Conde, surrounded by a large number of Protestant noblemen, students, and citizens, was riding to one of the preaching-places. The two cavalcades met, but no collision ensued. The Huguenot and the papist courteously saluted each other, and then rode on. It is even reported that between the leaders themselves less sincere amenities were interchanged. Guise sent word to Conde that he and his company, whom he had assembled only on account of the malevolent, were at the prince's commands. Conde answered by saying that his own men were armed only to prevent the populace of Paris from making an attack upon the Protestants as they went to their place of worship.
[Sidenote: Anxieties of Catharine de' Medici.]
For weeks the position of the queen mother had been one of peculiar difficulty and anxiety. That she was "well inclined to advance the true religion," and "well affected for a general reformation in the Church," as Admiral Coligny at this time firmly believed, is simply incredible. But, on the other hand, there can be little doubt that Catharine saw her interest in upholding the Huguenot party, of which Conde and the three Chatillon brothers were acknowledged leaders. Unfortunately, the King of Navarre, "hoping to compound with the King of Spain for his kingdom of Navarre," had become the tool of the opposite side—he was "all Spanish now"—and Chantonnay, Philip's ambassador, was emboldened to make arrogant demands. The envoy declared that, "unless the house of Chatillon left the court, he was ordered to depart from France." Grave diplomatists shook their heads, and thought the menace very strange, "the rather that another prince should appoint what counsellors should remain at court;" and sage men inferred that "to such princes as are afraid of shadows the King of Spain will enterprise far enough." None the less was Catharine deeply disturbed. She felt distrust of the heads of the Roman Catholic party, but she feared to break entirely with them, and was forced to request the Protestant leaders to withdraw for a time from the vicinity of Paris. That city itself presented to the eye a sufficiently strange and alarming aspect, "resembling more a frontier town or a place besieged than a court, a merchant city, or university." Both sides were apprehensive of some sudden commotion, and the Protestant scholars, in great numbers, marched daily in arms to the "sermons," in spite of the opposition of the rector and his council. The capital was unquestionably no place for Catharine and her son, at the present moment.
[Sidenote: She removes the king to Melun.]
[Sidenote: and thence to Fontainebleau.]
[Sidenote: Her painful indecision.]
At length, Catharine de' Medici, apprehensive of the growing power of the triumvirate, and dreading lest the king, falling into its hands, should become a mere puppet, her own influence being completely thrown into the shade, removed the court from Monceaux to Melun, a city on the upper Seine, about twenty-five miles south-east of Paris. She hoped apparently that, by placing herself nearer the strongly Huguenot banks of the Loire, she would be able at will to throw herself into the arms of either party, and, in making her own terms, secure future independence. But she was not left undisturbed. At Melun she received a deputation from Paris, consisting of the "prevost des marchands" and three "echevins," who came to entreat her, in the name of the Roman Catholic people of the capital, to return and dissipate by the king's arrival the dangers that were imminent on account of Conde's presence, and to give the people the power to defend themselves by restoring to them their arms. Still hesitating, still experiencing her old difficulty of forming any plans for the distant future, and every moment balancing in her mind what she should do the next, she nevertheless pushed on ten miles farther southward, to the royal palace of Fontainebleau, and found herself not far from half the way to Orleans. But change of place brought the vacillating queen mother no nearer to a decision. Soubise, the last of the avowed Protestants to leave her, still dreamed he might succeed in persuading her. Day after day, in company with Chancellor L'Hospital, the Huguenot leader spent two or three hours alone with her in earnest argument. "Sometimes," says a recently discovered contemporary account, "they believed that they had gained everything, and that she was ready to set off for Conde's camp; then, all of a sudden, so violent a fright seized her, that she lost all heart." At last the time came when the triumvirs were expected to appear at Fontainebleau on the morrow, to secure the prize of the king's person. Soubise and the indefatigable chancellor made a last attempt. Five or six times in one day they returned to the charge, although L'Hospital mournfully observed that he had abandoned hope. He knew Catharine well: she could not be brought to a final resolution. It was even so. Soubise himself was forced to admit it when, at the last moment—almost too late for his own safety—he hurriedly left, Catharine still begging him to stand by her, and made his way to his friends.
[Sidenote: She implores Conde's aid.]
It seems to have been during this time of painful anxiety that Catharine wrote at least the last of those remarkable letters to Conde which that prince afterward published in his own justification, and respecting the authenticity of which the queen would have been glad had she been able to make the world entertain doubts. They breathed a spirit of implicit confidence. She called herself his "good cousin," that was not less attached to him than a mother to a son. She enjoined upon him to remember the protection which he was bound to give to "the children, the mother, and the kingdom." She called upon him not to desert her. She declared that, in the midst of so many adverse circumstances, she would be driven almost to despair, "were it not for her trust in God, and the assurance that Conde would assist her in preserving the kingdom and service of the king, her son, in spite of those who wished to ruin everything." More than once she told him that his kindness would not go unrequited; and she declared that, if she died before having an opportunity to testify her gratitude, she would charge her children with the duty.
In Paris events were rapidly succeeding each other. Marshal Montmorency, the constable's eldest son, was too upright a man to serve the purposes of the triumvirs; and, with his father's consent and by Navarre's authority, he was removed, and Cardinal Bourbon installed in his place as governor of the city. A few days after Antoine himself came to Paris and lodged in the constable's house. Here, with Guise, Saint Andre, and the other chief statesmen who were of the same party, conferences were held to which Conde and his associates were not invited; and to these irregular gatherings, notwithstanding the absence of the king, the name of the royal council was given.
[Sidenote: Conde retires to Meaux.]
There were nine or ten thousand horse—Papist and Huguenot—under arms in Paris. It was evident that Conde and Guise could not longer remain in the city without involving it in the most bloody of civil contests. Under these circumstances the prince offered, through his brother, the Cardinal of Bourbon, to accede to the wish of Catharine, and leave Paris by one gate at the same moment that the triumvirs should leave by another. Indeed, without waiting to obtain their promise, he retired with his body of Protestant noblesse to Meaux, where he had given a rendezvous to Admiral Coligny and others whom he had summoned from their homes. This step has generally been stigmatized as the first of Conde's egregious mistakes. Beza opposed it at the time, and likened the error to that of Pompey in abandoning Rome; and the "History of the Reformed Churches" has perpetuated the comparison. The same historical parallel was drawn by Etienne Pasquier. But the judicious Francois de la Noue, surnamed Bras-de-Fer, thought very differently; and we must here, as in many other instances, prefer the opinion of the practical soldier to that of the eminent theologian or the learned jurist. Parliament, the clergy, the municipal government, the greater part of the university, and almost all the low populace, with the partisans and servants of the hostile princes and noblemen, were intensely Roman Catholic. The three hundred resident Protestant gentlemen, with, as many more experienced soldiers, four hundred students, and a few untrained burgesses, were "but as a fly matched with an elephant." The novices of the convents and the priests' chambermaids, armed only with sticks, could have held them in check. It were better to lose the advantages of the capital than to be overwhelmed within its walls by superior forces, being completely cut off from that part of France where the main strength of the Protestants lay.
[Sidenote: The Huguenot summons.]
From Meaux messengers were sent to the Protestant churches in all parts of France to request their aid, both in money and in men. "Since," said the letter they bore, "God has brought us to such a point that no one can disturb our repose without violating the protection it has pleased our king to accord us, and consequently without declaring himself an enemy of his Majesty and of this kingdom's peace, there is no law, divine or human, that does not permit us to take measures for defence, calling for help on those whom God has given the authority and the will to remedy these evils."
[Sidenote: Admiral Coligny's reluctance.]
Happily for the Huguenot cause, however, the nobles and gentry that favored it had not waited to receive this summons, but had, many of them, already set out to strengthen the forces of the prince. Among others, and by far more important than all the rest, came Gaspard de Coligny, whose absence from court during the few previous weeks has been regarded as one of the most untoward circumstances of the time. At his pleasant castle of Chatillon-sur-Loing, surrounded by his young family, he received intelligence, first, of the massacre, then of the ominous events that had occurred at the capital. Conde sent to solicit his support; his brothers and many friends urged him to rush at once to the rescue. But still, even after the threatening clouds had risen so high that they must soon burst over the devoted heads of the Huguenots, the admiral continued to hesitate. Every instinct of his courageous nature prompted the skilful defender of St. Quentin to place himself at once at the post of danger. But there was one fear that seemed likely to overcome all his martial impulses. It was the fear of initiating a civil war. He could not refer to the subject without shuddering, for the horrors of such a contest were so vividly impressed upon his mind that he regarded almost anything as preferable to the attempt to settle domestic difficulties by an appeal to the sword. But the tears and sighs of his wife, the noble Charlotte de Laval, at length overmastered his reluctance. "To be prudent in men's esteem," she said, "is not to be wise in that of God, who has given you the science of a general that you might use it for the good of His children." When her husband rehearsed again the grounds of his hesitation, and, calling upon her seriously to consider the suffering, the privations, the anxiety, the bereavements, the ignominy, the death which would await not only those dearest to her, but herself, if the struggle should prove unsuccessful, offered her three weeks to make her decision, with true womanly magnanimity she replied: "The three weeks are already past; you will never be conquered by the strength of your enemies. Make use of your resources, and bring not upon your head the blood of those who may die within three weeks. I summon you in God's name not to defraud us any more, or I shall be a witness against you at His judgment." So deep was the impression which these words made upon Coligny, that, accepting his wife's advice as the voice of heaven, he took horse without further delay, and joined Conde and the other Protestant leaders.
[Sidenote: The king seized and brought to Paris.]
It was unfortunate that the prince, for a week after leaving Paris, should have felt too feeble to make any movement of importance. Otherwise, by a rapid march, he might, according to his plan, have reached Fontainebleau in advance of his opponents, and, with the young king and his mother under his protection, have asserted his right as a prince of the blood to defend Charles against those who had unjustly usurped the functions of royalty. As it was, the unlucky delay was turned to profit by his enemies. These now took a step that put further deliberation on Catharine's part out of the question, and precluded any attempt to place the person of the king in Conde's hands. Leaving a small garrison in Paris, Guise proceeded with a strong body of troops to Fontainebleau, determined to bring the king and his mother back to Paris. Persuasion was first employed; but, that failing, the triumvirate were prepared to resort to force. Navarre, acting at Guise's suggestion, at length told Catharine distinctly that, as guardian of the minor king, he must see to it that he did not fall into his brother's hands; as for Catharine, she might remain or follow him, as she pleased. Tears and remonstrances were of no avail. Weeping and sad, Charles is said to have repeatedly exclaimed against being led away contrary to his will; but the triumvirs would not be balked of their game, and so brought him with his mother first to Melun, then, after a few days, to the prison-like castle of Vincennes, and finally to the Louvre.
[Sidenote: The constable's exploits at the "temples."]
[Sidenote: D'Andelot and Conde throw themselves into Orleans.]
The critical step had been taken to demonstrate that the reign of tolerance, according to the prescriptions of the Edict of January, was at an end. The constable, preceding the king to Paris, immediately upon his arrival instituted a system of arbitrary arrests. On the next morning (the fourth of April) he visited the "temple of Jerusalem," one of the two places which had been accorded to the Huguenots for their worship outside of the walls. Under his direction the pulpit and the benches of the hearers were torn up, and a bonfire of wood and Bibles was speedily lighted, to the great delight of the populace of Paris. In the afternoon the same exploits were repeated at the other Huguenot church, known from its situation, outside of the gate of St. Antoine, as "Popincourt." Here, however, not only the benches, but the building itself was burned, and several adjacent houses were involved in the conflagration. Having accomplished these outrages and encouraged the people to imitate his lawless example, the aged constable returned to the city. He had well earned the contemptuous name which the Huguenots henceforth gave him of "Le Capitaine Brulebanc." If the triumvirate succeeded, it was plain that all liberty of worship was proscribed. It was even believed that the Duchess of Guise had been sent to carry a message, in the king's name, to her mother, the aged Renee of France, to the effect that if she did not dismiss the Huguenot preachers from Montargis, and become a good Catholic, he would have her shut up for the rest of her life in a convent. Whatever truth there may have been in this story, one thing was certain: in Paris it would have been as much as any man's life was worth to appear annoyed at the constable's exploit, or to oppose the search made for arms in suspected houses. Every good Catholic had a piece of the Huguenots' benches or pulpit in his house as a souvenir; "so odious," says a contemporary, "is the new religion in this city." Meantime, on Easter Monday (the thirtieth of March) Conde left Meaux at the head of fifteen hundred horse, the flower of the French nobility, "better armed with courage than with corselets"—says Francois de la Noue. As they approached the capital, the whole city was thrown into confusion, the gates were closed, and the chains stretched across the streets. But the host passed by, and at St. Cloud crossed the Seine without meeting any opposition. Here the news of the seizure of the person of Charles by the triumvirs first reached the prince, and with it one great object of the expedition was frustrated. The Huguenots, however, did not delay, but, instead of turning toward Fontainebleau, took a more southerly route directly for the city of Orleans. D'Andelot, to whom the van had been confided, advanced by a rapid march, and succeeded by a skilful movement in entering the city, of which he took possession in the name of the Prince of Conde, acting as lieutenant of the king unlawfully held in confinement. Catharine de' Medici, who, having been forced into the party of the triumvirs, had with her usual flexibility promptly decided to make the most of her position, sent messengers to Conde hoping to amuse him with negotiations while a powerful Roman Catholic detachment should by another road reach Orleans unobserved. But the danger coming to Andelot's knowledge, he succeeded in warning Conde; and the prince, with the main body of the Protestant horse, after a breakneck ride, threw himself, on the second of April, into the city, which now became the headquarters of the religion in the kingdom. The inhabitants came out to meet him with every demonstration of joy, and received him between double lines of men, women, and children loudly singing the words of the French psalms, so that the whole city resounded with them.
[Sidenote: Conde's justification.]
No sooner had the Prince of Conde established himself upon the banks of the Loire, than he took measures to explain to the world the necessity and propriety of the step upon which he had ventured. He wrote, and he induced the Protestant ministers who were with him to write, to all the churches of France, urging them to send him reinforcements of troops and to fill his empty treasury. At the same time he published a "declaration" in justification of his resort to arms. He recapitulated the successive steps that revealed the violent purposes of the triumvirs—the retreat of the Guises and of the constable from court, Nemours's attempt to carry the Duke of Orleans out of the kingdom, the massacre at Vassy, Guise's refusal to visit the royal court and his defiant progress to the capital, the insolent conduct of Montmorency and Saint-Andre, the pretended royal council held away from the king, the detention of Charles and of his mother as prisoners. And from all these circumstances he showed the inevitable inference to be that the triumvirs had for one of their chief objects the extirpation of the religion "which they call new," "either by open violence or by the change of edicts, and the renewal of the most cruel persecutions that have ever been exercised in the world." It was not party interest that had induced him to take up arms, he said, but loyalty to God, to his king, and to his native land, a desire to free Charles from unlawful detention, and a purpose to insist upon the execution of the royal edicts, especially that of January, and to prevent new ministers of state from misapplying the sums raised for the payment of the national debts. He warned all lovers of peace not to be astonished at any edicts that might emanate from the royal seal so long as the king remained a prisoner, and he begged Catharine to order the triumvirs to lay down their arms. If they did so, he declared that he himself, although of a rank far different from theirs, would consent to follow their example.