History of the rise of the huguenots

Download 3.7 Mb.
Date conversion28.01.2017
Size3.7 Mb.
1   ...   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   ...   61

An investigation subsequently ordered.

Thus did the authors of so much human suffering escape merited

retribution at the hands of earthly justice during the brief remainder

of the reign of Francis the First. If, as some historians have asserted,

that monarch's eyes were at last opened to the enormities committed in

Provence, it was too late for him to do more than enjoin on his son and

successor a careful review of the entire proceedings.2 After the

death of Francis an opportunity for obtaining redress seemed to offer.

Cardinal Tournon and Count De Grignan were in disgrace, and their places

in the royal favor were held by men who hated them heartily. The new

favorites used their influence to secure the Waldenses a hearing.

D'Oppède and the four commissioners were summoned to Paris. Count De

Grignan himself barely escaped being put on trial--as responsible for

the misdeeds of his lieutenant--by securing the advocacy of the Duke of

Guise, which he purchased with the sacrifice of his domains at Grignan.

For fifty days the trial of the other criminals was warmly prosecuted

before the Parliament of Paris; and so ably and lucidly did Auberi

present the claims of the oppressed before the crowded assembly, that a

severe verdict was confidently awaited.
Meagre effect.

The public expectation, however, was doomed to disappointment. Only one

of the accused, the advocate Guérin, being so

1 Letters-Patent of Henry II., ubi supra.

2 De Thou, i. 544; Hist. ecclés., i. 30. It is worthy of

notice, however, that the letters of Henry II., from which we have so

often drawn, and which would naturally have alluded to this incident,

are silent in regard to the supposed change of view on Francis's part.

unfortunate as to possess no great influence at court, was condemned to the
gallows. D'Oppède escaped with De Grignan, through the protection of the
Duke of Guise, and, like his fellow-defendants, was reinstated in office.1
For the rendering of a decision so flagrantly unjust the true cause must be

sought in the sanguinary character of the Parisian judges themselves,

who, while they were reluctant, on the one hand, to derogate from the

credit of another parliament of France, on the other, feared lest, in

condemning the persecuting rage of others, they might seem to be passing

sentence upon themselves for the uniform course of cruelty they had

pursued in the trial of the reformers.2

The oppressed and persecuted of all ages have been ready, not without

reason, to recognize in signal disasters befalling their enemies the

retributive hand of the Almighty himself lifting for a moment the veil

of futurity, to disclose a little of the misery that awaits the

evil-doer in another world. But, in the present instance, it is a candid

historian of different faith who does not hesitate to ascribe to a

special interposition of the Deity the excruciating sufferings and death

which, not long after his acquittal, overtook Baron d'Oppède, the chief

actor in the mournful tragedy we have been recounting.3

1 De Thou, i. 545. Care was even taken to state that Guérin

was punished for a different crime--that of forging papers to clear

himself from accusations of malfeasance in other official duties than

those in which the Waldenses were concerned, and which came to light in

consequence of a quarrel between D'Oppède and himself. Garnier, xxvi.

40; Bouche, ii. 622. The leniency with which D'Oppède was treated may be

accounted for in part, perhaps, by the fact that the Pope addressed

Henry II. a very pressing letter in his behalf, as "persecuted in

consequence of his zeal for religion." Martin, Hist. de France, ix.


2 "Mais, craignant ceux d'entre les juges qui n'étaient pas

moins cruels et sanguinaires en leurs cœurs que les criminels qu'ils

devaient juger, qu'en les condamnant ils ne vinssent à rompre le cours

des jugemens qu'euxmêmes prononçaient tous les jours en pareilles cause,

et voulant aussi sauver l'honneur d'un autre parlement," etc. Hist.

ecclés., i. 50.

3 "Mais il fut saisi pen après d'une douleur si excessive

dans les intestins, qu'il rendit son âme cruelle au milieu des plus

affreux tourmens; Dieu prenant soin lui-même de lui imposer le châtiment

auquel ses juges ne l'avoient pas condamné, et qui, pour avoir été un

peu tardif, n'en fut que plus rigoureux." De Thou, i. 545. See a more

detailed account of his death, and the exhortations of a pious surgeon,

Lamotte, of Aries, in Crespin, fol. 117. Other instances in Hist.


New persecution at Meaux.

The ashes of Mérindol and Cabrières were scarcely cold, before in a

distant part of France the flame of persecution broke out with fresh

energy.1 The city of Meaux, where, under the evangelical preachers

introduced by Bishop Briçonnet, the Reformation had made such auspicious

progress, had never been thoroughly reduced to submission to papal

authority. "The Lutherans of Meaux" had passed into a proverb.

Persecuted, they retained their devotion to their new faith; compelled

to observe strict secrecy, they multiplied to such a degree that their

numbers could no longer be concealed. Twenty years after their

destruction had been resolved upon, the necessity of a regular church

organization made itself felt by the growing congregations. Some of the

members had visited the church of Strasbourg, to which John Calvin had,

a few years before, given an orderly system of government and

worship--the model followed by many Protestant churches of subsequent

formation. On their return a similar polity was established in Meaux. A

simple wool-carder, Pierre Leclerc, brother of one of the first martyrs

of Protestant France, was called from the humble pursuits of the artisan

to the responsible post of pastor. He was no scholar in the usual

acceptation of the term; he knew only his mother-tongue. But his

judgment was sound, his piety fervent, his familiarity with the Holy

Scriptures singularly great. So fruitful were his labors, that the

handful of hearers grew into assemblies often of several hundreds, drawn

to Meaux from villages five or six leagues distant.

A woman's pointed remark. A favorite psalm.

Betrayed by their size, the conventicles came to the knowledge of the

magistrates, and on the eighth of September, 1546, a descent was made

upon the worshipping Christians. Sixty-two persons composed the

gathering. The lieutenant and provost of the city, with their meagre

suite, could easily have been set at defiance. But the announcement of

arrest in the king's

1 The story of the martyrdom of the "Fourteen of Meaux" is

told in detail by Crespin, Actiones et Monimenta, fols. 117-121, and the

Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 31-33.

name prevented any attempt either at resistance on their part,

or at rescue on that of their friends. Respecting the authority
of law, the Protestants allowed themselves to be bound and led

away by an insignificant detachment of officers. Only the pointed remark

of one young woman to the lieutenant, as she was bound, has come down to

us: "Sir, had you found me in a brothel, as you now find me in so holy

and honorable a company, you would not have used me thus." As the

prisoners passed through the streets of Meaux, their friends neither

interfered with the ministers of justice, nor exhibited solicitude for

their own safety; but accompanying them, as in a triumphal procession,

loudly gave expression to their trust in God, by raising one of their

favorite psalms, in Clement Marot's translation:1

Les gens entrez sont en ton heritage:

Ils ont pollu, Seigneur, par leur outrage,

Ton temple sainct, Jerusalem destruite,

Si qu'en monceaux de pierres, l'on reduite.

It was neither the first time, nor was it destined to be by any means

the last, that those rugged, but nervous lines thrilled the souls of the

persecuted Huguenots of France as with the sound of a trumpet, and

braced them to the patient endurance of suffering or to the performance

of deeds of valor.

The "Fourteen of Meaux."

Dragged with excessive and unnecessary violence to Paris, the prisoners

were put on trial, and, within a single month, sentence was passed on

them. The crime of having celebrated the Lord's Supper was almost

inexpiable. Fourteen men, with Leclerc their minister, and Étienne

Mangin, in whose house their worship had been held, were condemned to

torture and the stake; others to whipping and banishment; the remainder,

both men and women, to public penance and attendance upon the execution

of their more prominent brethren. Upon one young man, whose tender years

alone saved him from the flames, a sentence of a somewhat

1 Ps. 79. I quote, with the quaint old spelling, from a

Geneva edition of 1638, in my possession, which preserves unchanged the

original words and the grand music with which the words were so

intimately associated.

whimsical character was pronounced. He was to be suspended under the arms
during the auto-da-fé of his brethren, and, with a halter around his neck, was

from his elevated position to witness their agony, as an instructive

warning of the dangerous consequence of persistence in heretical errors.

Mangin's house was to be razed, and on the site a chapel of the Virgin

erected, wherein a solemn weekly mass was to be celebrated in honor of

the sacramental wafer, the expense being defrayed by the confiscated

property of the Protestants.

Neither in the monasteries to which they were temporarily allotted, nor

on their way back to Meaux, did the courage of the "Fourteen" desert

them. It was even enhanced by the boldness of a weaver, who, meeting

them in the forest of Livry, cried out: "My brethren, be of good cheer,

and fail not through weariness to give with constancy the testimony you

owe the Gospel. Remember Him who is on high in heaven!"[511]
Their execution.

On the seventh of October, Mangin and Leclerc on hurdles, the others on

carts, were taken to the market-square, where fourteen stakes had been

set up in a circle. Here, facing one another, amid the agonies of death,

and in spite of the din made by priests and populace frantically

intoning the hymns "O salutaris hostia" and "Salve Regina" they

continued till their last breath to animate each other and to praise the

Almighty Giver of every blessing. But if the humane heart recoils with

horror from the very thought of the bloody holocaust, the scene of the

morrow inspires even greater disgust; when Picard, a doctor of the

Sorbonne, standing beneath a canopy glittering with gold, near the yet

smoking embers, assured the people that it was essential to salvation to

believe that the "Fourteen" were condemned to the lowest abyss of hell,

and that even the word of an angel from heaven ought not to be credited,

if he maintained the contrary. "For," said he, "God would not be God did

He not consign them to everlasting damnation." Upon which charitable and

pious assertions of the learned theologian the Protestant chronicler had

but a simple observation to make: "However, he could not persuade

1 The hero of this action was of course arrested. Crespin, fol. 120.

those who knew them to be excellent men, and upright in their lives, that this

was so. Consequently the seed of the truth was not destroyed in the city

of Meaux."1

Wider diffusion of the reformed doctrines.

Far from witnessing the extinction of the Reformation in his dominions,

the last year of the life of Francis the First was signalized by its

wider diffusion. At Senlis, at Orleans, and at Fère, near Soissons,

fugitives from Meaux planted the germs of new religious communities.

Fresh fires were kindled to destroy them; and in one place a preacher

was burned in a novel fashion, with a pack of books upon his back.2

Lyons and Langres, in the east, received reformed teachers about the

same time; although from the latter place the pastor and four members of

his flock were carried to the capital and perished at the stake. Even

Sens, see of the primate, contributed its portion of witnesses for the

Gospel, who sealed their testimony in their blood.3

The printer, Jean Chapot, before parliament.

In Paris itself parliament tried a native of Dauphiny, Jean Chapot, who,

having brought several packages of books from Geneva, had been denounced

by a brother printer. His defence was so apt and learned that the judges

were nearly shaken by his animated appeals. It fared ill with three

doctors of the Sorbonne, Dean Nicholas Clerici, and his assistants,

Picard and Maillard, who were called in to refute him; for they could

not stand their ground, and were forced, avoiding proofs from the Holy

Scriptures, to have recourse to the authority of the church. In the end

the theologians covered their retreat with indignant remonstrances

addressed to parliament for listening to such seductive speakers; and

the majority of the judges, mastering their first inclination to acquit

Chapot, condemned him to the stake, reserving for him the easier death

by strangling, in case he recanted. An unusual favor was allowed him. He

was permitted to make a short speech previously to his execution. Faint

and utterly unable to stand, in consequence of the tortures by which his

body had been racked, he was supported on either side by an attendant,

1 Hist. ecclés., i. 33; Crespin, fol. 121.

2 Hist. ecclés., i. 33-35.

3 Ibid., ubi supra.

and thus from the funeral cart explained his belief to the by-standers.

But when he reached the topic of the Lord's Supper, he was interrupted

by one of the priests. The milder sentence of the halter was inflicted,

in order to create the impression that he had been so weak as to repeat

the "Ave Maria." But the practice henceforth uniformly followed by the

"Chambre ardente" of parliament, of cutting out the tongues of the

condemned before sending them to public execution, confirmed the report

that Maillard had exclaimed that "all would be lost, if such men were

suffered to speak to the people."1

1 Hist. ecclés., i. 34. Occasionally, instead of cutting

out the tongue of the "Lutheran," a large iron ball was forced into his

mouth, an equally effective means of preventing distinct utterance. This

was done to two converted monks, degraded and burned in Saintonge, in

August, 1546. A. Crottet, Hist. des églises réf. de Pons, Gémozac et

Mortagne, 212.



Death of Francis I. Impartial estimates of his character.
On the thirty-first of March, 1547, Francis the First died, leaving the

throne to his only surviving son. With whatever assiduity the poets and

scholars of whom the late king had been a munificent patron, and the

courtiers who had basked in the sunshine of his favor, might apply

themselves to the celebration of his resplendent merits, posterity, less

blind to his faults, has declined to confirm the title of "great"

affixed to his name by contemporaries. The candid historian, undazzled

by the glitter of his chivalric enterprises, may condemn the animus, but

can scarcely deny the substantial truth of the bitter reproaches in

which the Emperor Charles the Fifth indulged, respecting the uniform

faithlessness of his ancient rival.1 Much less can he pardon the

cruel persecution which Francis allowed to be exercised against an

unoffending part of his subjects, less from zeal for the tenets of the

church whose cause he espoused than from a selfish fear lest his

prerogative might be impaired.
His three sons. Henry, Duke of Orleans. Character of the new king.

Of the three sons of Francis, the dauphin and his youngest

1 Alluding to the compacts into which Francis had entered,

the emperor accuses him of having purposely violated them all: "los

quales nunca a guardado, como es notorio, sino por el tiempo que no a

podido renobar guerra, ó a querido esperar de hallar oportunidad de

dañarme con disimulacion." From Henry he anticipates little better

treatment. Instruct. of Charles V. to the Infante Philip, Augsburg, Jan.

18, 1548, Pap. d'état du Card, de Granvelle, iii. 285. It ought to be

added, however, that both Francis and his son retorted with similar

accusations; and that, in this case at least, all three princes seem to

have spoken the exact truth.

brother, the Duke of Angoulême, had been snatched away by death during
the lifetime of their father.1 The Duke of Orleans, who now ascended
the throne as Henry the Second, was not a favorite son.2 More than once
he had incurred his father's grave displeasure by insubordination. A mad

frolic, in which the young prince undertook in sport to distribute the

high offices of state, as if his father were already dead, and disclosed

his intention to recall to power the monarch's disgraced courtiers,

occasioned a serious breach. More important consequences might have

flowed from the unfortunate incident, had not the youth and the giddy

companions of his revel sought safety in temporary exile from

court.3 From his father Henry inherited great bodily vigor, and

remarkable skill in all games of strength and agility. His frame,

naturally well proportioned, was finely developed by exercise.4 He

was accounted the fleetest runner, and the most

1 The dauphin Francis died at Tournon, Aug. 10, 1536,

probably from the effects of imprudently drinking ice-water when heated

by a game at ball. None the less was one of his dependants--the Count of

Montecuccoli--compelled by torture to avow, or invent the story, that he

had poisoned him at the instigation of Charles the Fifth. He paid the

penalty of his weakness by being drawn asunder by four horses! How

little Francis I. believed the story is seen from the magnificence and

cordiality with which, three years later, he entertained the supposed

author and abettor of the crime. See an interesting note of M. Guiffrey,

Cronique du Roy Françoys I^er, 184-186. The imperialists replied by

attributing the supposed crime, with equal improbability, to Catharine

de' Medici, the youthful bride of Henry, who succeeded to his brother's

title and expectations. Charles of Angoulême, a prince whose inordinate

ambition, if we may believe the memoirs of Vieilleville, led him to

exhibit unmistakable tokens of joy at a false report of the drowning of

his two elder brothers, died on the 8th of September, 1545, of

infection, to which he wantonly exposed himself by entering a house and

handling the clothes of the dead, with the presumptuous boast "that

never had a son of France been known to die of the plague."

2 See Brantôme, Hommes illustres (Œuvres, vii. 369, 370).

3 This was as early as 1538. Mémoires de Vieilleville (Ed.

Petitot), liv. v. c. 24, 25.

4 "The king is a goodly tall gentleman, well made in all

the parts of his body, a very grim countenance, yet very gentle, meek,

and well beloved of all his people." The Journey of the queen's

ambassadors to Rome, anno 1555 (the last to pay reverence to the Pope,

under Mary), printed in Hardwick, State Papers, I. 68.

graceful rider in France. He rarely suffered a day to pass without playing ball,

not unfrequently after having hunted down a stag or two. In the more

dangerous pastimes of mock combat and jousting he delighted to engage,

to the no small alarm of all spectators.1 Unfortunately, however,

the intellectual and moral development of the young prince had by no

means kept pace with the growth of his physical powers. The sluggishness

of his dull and unready comprehension had, at an earlier date, been

noticed by the Venetian Marino Cavalli, while, with a courtier's

flattery, he likened him to those autumnal fruits that are more tardy in

ripening, but are of better quality and last longer than the fruits of

summer.2 Although he had reached the age of twenty-eight years on

the very day of his accession, he was still a child in all that

respected the serious concerns of life and the duties of his elevated

position. Averse to that careful deliberation which the public affairs

demanded, and willing to be led by those who would think for him, it

immediately became evident that he was destined to be the mere image of

a king, while the powers of royalty were to be enjoyed by his trusted

advisers and by those who could minister to his immoderate love of

pleasure. The issue abundantly proved the truth of the assertion that

his reign ought rather to be called the reign of Diana of Poitiers, of

Montmorency, and of the Cardinal of Lorraine; of whom the last, it was

said, had the king's conscience in his sleeve, and the first his body,

as by some species of sorcery.3

1 "Non senza pericolo," says Matteo Dandolo, "perchè

corrono molte volte alle sbarre con poco vedere, sì che si abbatterono

un giorno a correre all' improvviso il padre (Francis) contra il figlio, e diede lui alla
buona memoria di quello un tal colpo nella fronte, che gli levò la carne più
che se gli avesse dato una gran frignoccola." Relazioni Venete, ii. 171.

2 Relations Vén. (Ed. Tommaseo), i. 286.

3 Histoire ecclésiastique, i., 43. The most striking

features of the character of Henry are well delineated by the Venetian

ambassadors who visited the court of France during the preceding and the

present reigns. Even the Protestants who had experienced his severity

speak well of his natural gentleness, and deplore the evils into which

he fell through want of self-reliance. The discriminating Regnier de la

Planche styles him "prince de doux esprit, mais de fort petit sens, et

du tout propre à se laisser mener en lesse" (Histoire de l'estat de

France, éd. Panthéon litt., 202). Claude de l'Aubespine draws a more

flattering portrait, as might be expected from one who served as

minister of state in the councils of Francis I. and the three succeeding

monarchs: "Ce prince estoit, à la vérité, très-bien nay, tant de corps

1   ...   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   ...   61

The database is protected by copyright ©ininet.org 2016
send message

    Main page