Rapacity of the new favorites. Marshal Saint-André.
Servility toward Diana of Poitiers.
With a weak-minded prince, averse to anything except the gratification
of his passions, and under the influence of such counsellors, France
became almost of necessity a scene of rapacity beyond all precedent. The
princes of the blood continued in their exclusion from official
positions. Each of the new favorites was not only eager to obtain wealth
for himself, but had a number of relations for whom provision must also
be made. To the more prominent courtiers above enumerated was added
Jacques d'Albon de Saint-André, son of Henry's tutor, who, from
accidental intimacy with the king in childhood, was led to aspire to
high dignities in the state, and was not long in obtaining a marshal's
baton.3 Herself securing not only the rank of Duchess of
Valentinois, with the authority of a queen,4 but the enormous revenues derived
from the customary confirmation of offices at the beginning of a new reign,
Diana permitted the constable, the Guises, and Saint-André to partake to a
less degree in the spoils of the kingdom. A contemporary writer likens the
brood of courtiers she gathered about her to swallows in pursuit
1 "Et seroit à desirer que ceste femme et le cardinal
n'eussent jamais esté; car ces deux seuls out esté les flamesches de nos
malheurs." De l'Aubespine, iii. 286. The reader will, after this, make
little account of the extravagant panegyric by the Father Alby (inserted
by Migne in his Dict. des Card., s. v. Lorraine); yet he may be amused
at the precise contradiction between the estimate of the cardinal's
political services made by this ecclesiastic and that of the practical
statesman given above. He seems to the priest born for the good of
others: "ayant pour cela merité de la postérité toutes les louanges d'un
homme né pour le bien des autres, et le titre même de cardinal de
France, qui lui fut donné par quelques écrivains de son temps." This
blundering eulogist makes him to have been assigned by Francis I. as
counsellor of his son.
2 Brantôme, Hommes illustres (Œuvres, viii. 63).
3 Mém. de Vieilleville, i. 179.
4 La Planche, 205.
of flies on a summer's evening. Nothing escaped them--rank,
dignity, bishopric, abbey, office, or other dainty morsel--all
alike were eagerly devoured. Spies and salaried agents were
posted in all parts of the kingdom to convey the earliest intelligence
of the death of those who possessed any valuable benefices. Physicians
in their employ at Paris sent in frequent bulletins of the health of
sick men who enjoyed offices in church or state; nor were instances
wanting in which, for the present of a thousand crowns, they were said
to have hastened a wealthy patient's death. Even the king was unable to
give as he wished, and sought to escape the importunity of his favorites
by falsely assuring them that he had already made promises to others.
Thus only could they be kept at bay.1 The Guises and Montmorency, to
render their power more secure, courted the favor of the king's
mistress. The Cardinal of Lorraine, in particular, distinguished himself
by the servility which he displayed. For two years he put himself to
infinite trouble to be at the table of Diana.2 After her elevation
to the peerage, he addressed to her a letter, still extant, in which he
assured her that henceforth his interest and hers were inseparable.3
To give yet greater firmness to the bond uniting them, the Guises
brought about a marriage between their third brother, the Duke of
Aumale, and one of the daughters of the Duchess of Valentinois; while
the Constable of Montmorency, at a later time, undertook to gain a
similar advantage for his own family by causing his son to wed Diana, a
natural daughter of the king.
Persecution to atone for moral blemishes.
It may at first sight appear somewhat incongruous that a king and court
thus given up, the former to flagrant immorality, the
1 Mém. de Vieilleville, i. 186-189.
2 "Pour du tout s'asseurer, ils se jettèrent du
commencement au party de ceste femme; et specialement le cardinal, qui
estoit des plus parfaicts en l'art de courtiser. Comme tel il se
gehenna tellement par l'espace de près de deux ans, que ne tenant point
de table pour sa personne, il disnoit à la table de Madame; ainsi
estoit-elle appellée par la Royne mesme." L'Aubespine, Hist.
particulière, iii. 281.
3 "Ne pouvant doresenavant estre aultre mon intérest que le
vostre. De quoy Dieu soit loué," etc. Letter of the Card. of Lorraine,
Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franç., ix. (1860), 216.
latter to the unbridled pursuit of riches and honors, should early have
exhibited a disposition to carry forward in an aggravated form the system
of persecution initiated in the previous reign. The secret of the apparent
inconsistency may be found in the fact that the courtiers were not slow
in perceiving, on the one hand, the almost incalculable gains which the
confiscation of the goods of condemned heretics might be made to yield,
and, on the other, the facility with which a monarch of a disposition
naturally gentle and humane1 could be persuaded to countenance the
most barbarous cruelties, as the supposed means of atoning for the
dissoluteness of his own life. The observance of the strict precepts of
the moral law, they argued, was of less importance than the purity of
the faith. The title of "Very Christian" had been borne by some of his
predecessors whose private lives had been full of gallantries. His claim
to it would be forfeited by the adoption of the stern principles of the
reformers; while the Pontiff who conferred it would never venture to
remove the honorable distinction, or refuse to unlock the gates of
paradise to him who should prove himself an obedient son of the church
and a persecutor of its enemies. To fulfil these conditions was the
easier, as the persons upon whom were to be exercised the severities
dictated by heaven, plotted revolutions and aspired to convert France
into a republic, on the pattern of the cantons of Switzerland. Lending a
willing ear to these suggestions, Henry the Second no sooner began to
reign than he began to persecute.2
The "Chambre ardente." Edict of Fontainebleau against books from
Geneva. Deceptive title-pages.
Toward the close of the reign of Francis, the prisons of Normandy had
become so full of persons incarcerated for religion's sake, that a
separate and special chamber had been instituted in the Parliament of
Rouen, to give exclusive attention to the trial of such cases.3 One
of Henry's first acts was to establish a
1 De Thou, i. 496. Henry was a religious prince also, according to Dandolo. The ambassador's
standard, however, was not a very severe one: "Sua maestà si dimostra religiosa, non cavalca
la domenica, almen la mattina." Relaz. Venete, ii. 173.
2 Histoire ecclés. des égl. réf., i, 43, 44.
3 Une chambre spéciale composée de "dix ou douze
conseillers des plus sçavants et des plus zélés, pour connoistre du
faict d'hérésie, sans qu'elle pust vacquer à d'autres affaires." Reg.
secr., 17 avril, 1545; Floquet, Hist. du. parl. de Normandie, ii. 241.
similar chamber in the Parliament of Paris.1 Judges selected with such a commission were not likely to incline to the side of mercy; and the chamber speedily earned for itself, by the numbers of victims it sent to the flames, the
significant popular name of "la Chambre ardente."2 The rapid
propagation of the reformed doctrines by the press gave occasion to the
publication of a new edict. The printing of any book containing matters
pertaining to the Holy Scriptures was strictly forbidden. Equally
prohibited was the sale of books brought from Geneva, Germany, or other
foreign parts, without the approval of the Theological Faculty of Paris.
All annotated copies of the Bible must contain the name of the author,
and the publisher's name and address. Persons of all ranks were warned
against retaining in their possession any condemned work.3 But these
restrictions had little effect in repressing the spread of the
Reformation. If a severe blow was struck at the publishing trade in
France, the dissemination of books printed abroad, and, frequently, with
spurious title-pages,4 was largely
1 In the preamble to the edict of Paris issued two years
later, Henry rehearses the ordinance and its motives: "Et pour ceste
cause dès nostre nouvel avénement à la couronne, voulans à l'exemple et
imitation de feu nostredit seigneur et père, travailler et prester la
main à purger et nettoier nostre royaume d'une telle peste, nous aurions
pour plus grande et prompte expédition desdites matières et procez sur
le fait desdites hérésies, erreurs et fausses doctrines ordonné et
estably une chambre particulière en nostre parlement à Paris, pour
seulement vaquer ausdites expéditions, sans se divertir à autres
actes." Isambert, xiii. 136. Cf. Martin, Hist. de France, ix. 516.
2 Martin, Hist. de France, ix. 516.
3 Edict of Fontainebleau, Dec. 11, 1547. Isambert, xiii. 37, 38.
4 A singular illustration of this device is given in a
letter recently discovered. In 1542 a printer, to secure for his edition
of the Protestant liturgy and psalter a more ready entrance into Roman
Catholic cities, added the whimsical imprint: "Printed in Rome, with
privilege of the Pope"!--Naturally enough, this very circumstance
aroused suspicion at the gates of Metz, and 600 copies were stopped. The
ultimate fate of the books is unknown. Letter of Peter Alexander, May
25, 1542, Baum, Cunitz, and Reuss, Calvini Opera, vi. p. xv. A single
copy of this Roman edition has recently come to light. It proves to be
the earliest edition thus far discovered of Calvin's Strasbourg Liturgy,
the prototype of his Geneva Liturgy. O. Douen, Clement Marot et le
Psautier huguenot (Paris, 1878), i. 334-339; and farther on in note at
the close of this chapter.
increased. It now assumed, however, a more stealthy and cautious character.
Execution of Brugière. The tailor of the Rue St. Antoine.
Blood flowed in every part of the kingdom. Not only the capital, but
also the provinces furnished their constant witnesses to the truth of
the "Lutheran" doctrines. The noted trial and execution of John Brugière
revealed to the First President of Parliament the humiliating fact that
the Reformation had gained a strong foothold in his native
Auvergne.1 At Paris, one Florence Venot was confined seven weeks in
a cell upon the construction of which so much perverted ingenuity had
been expended that the prisoner could neither lie down nor stand erect,
and the hour of release from weary torture was waited for with ardent
longing, even if it led to the stake.2 But the death of a nameless
tailor has, by the singularity of its incidents, acquired a celebrity
surpassing that of any other martyrdom in the early part of this reign.
In the midst of the tourneys and other festivities provided to signalize
the occasion of the queen's coronation and his own solemn entry into
Paris, the desire seized Henry to see with his own eyes and to
interrogate one of the members of the sect to whose account such serious
charges were laid. A poor tailor, arrested in his shop in the Rue St.
Antoine, a few paces from the royal palace, for the crime of working on
a day which the church had declared holy, was brought before him. So
contemptible a dialectician could do little, it was presumed, to shake
the faith of the Very Christian King. But the result disappointed the
expectations of the courtiers
1 Crespin, fols. 152-155. De Thou (i. 446) mistakes the
date of the sentence of the Parliament of Paris, March 3, 1548 (1547 Old
Style), for that of the execution. The awkward old French practice of
making the year begin with Easter, instead of January 1st, has in
this, as in many other instances, led to great confusion, even in the
minds of those who were perfectly familiar with the custom. The
"Histoire ecclésiastique," for instance, places the execution of
Brugière in the reign of Francis I., whereas it belongs to the first
year of the reign of his son. So does White, Massacre of St.
Bartholomew, p. 19.
2 Crespin, fol. 156.
and ecclesiastics that were present. The tailor answered with
respectful boldness to the questions propounded by Châtellain,
Bishop of Macon, a prelate once favorable to the Reformation.
Hereupon Diana of Poitiers, an interested opponent, whose
coffers were being filled with the goods of condemned heretics,
undertook to silence him with the tongue of a witty woman. The tailor,
who had patiently borne the ridicule and scorn with which he had
hitherto been treated, turned upon the mistress of the king a look of
solemn warning as he said: "Madam, let it suffice you to have infected
France, without desiring to mingle your poison and filth with so holy
and sacred a thing as the true religion of our Lord Jesus Christ." The
courtiers were thunderstruck at the turn taken by a discussion to which
they had flocked as to a scene of diversion, and the enraged king
ordered the tailor's instant trial and punishment. He even desired with
his own eyes to see him undergo the extreme penalty of the law. A solemn
procession had been ordered to proceed from St. Paul's to Notre Dame.
The prayers there offered for the destruction of heresy were followed by
an "exemplary demonstration" of the king's pious disposition, in the
execution of four "Lutherans" in as many different squares of the
city.1 In order the better to see the punishment inflicted upon the
tailor of the Rue St. Antoine, Henry posted himself at a window that
commanded the entire spectacle. But it was no coward's death that he
beheld. Soon perceiving and recognizing the monarch before whom he had
witnessed so good a profession, the tailor fixed his gaze upon him, nor
would he avert his face, however much the king ordered that his position
should be changed. Even in the midst of the flames he still continued to
direct his dying glance toward the king, until the latter, abashed, was compelled
to withdraw from the window. For days Henry declared that the spectre haunted
his waking hours and drove sleep from his eyes at night; and he
1 Inedited letter of Constable Montmorency of July 8, 1549,
in the Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. fr., ix. (1860) 124, 125.
"Voilà," says this document, "le debvoir où ledit seigneur s'est mis
pour continuer la possession de ce nom et titre de Très-Chrestien."
affirmed with an oath that never again would he witness so
horrible a scene.1 Happy would it have been for his memory had he
adhered, in the case of Anne du Bourg, to so wise a resolution!
Other victims of intolerance.
The ashes of one martyr were scarcely cold before new fires were
kindled--now before the cathedral, now before some parish church, again
in the crowded market or in the distant provincial town. At one time it
was a widow that welcomed the rope that bound her, as the zone given her
by a heavenly bridegroom in token of her approaching nuptials. A few
years later, it was a nobleman who, when in view of his rank the sentence of the
judges would have spared him the indignity of the halter which was placed
around the neck of his companions, begged the executioner to make no exception
in his case, saying: "Deny me not the collar of so excellent an order."2
Severe edicts and quarrels with Rome. Edict of Châteaubriand, June 27,
1551. War upon the books from Geneva.
The failure, however, of these fearful exhibitions to strike terror into
the minds of the persecuted, or accomplish the end for which they were
undertaken, is proved by their frequent recurrence, and not less by the
new series of sanguinary laws running through the reign of Henry. An
edict from Paris, on the nineteenth of November, 1549, endeavored to
remove all excuse for remissness on the part of the prelates, by conferring on the
ecclesiastical judges the unheard-of privilege of arresting for the crime of heresy, the exclusive right of passing judgment upon simple heresy, and conjoint
jurisdiction with the civil courts in cases in which public scandal, riot, or sedition might be involved.3 Less than two
1 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 50, 51. Crespin, fol. 157, etc. The registers of parliament can
spare for the auto-da-fé but a few lines at the conclusion of a lengthy description of the
magnificent procession, and inaccurately designate the locality: "Cette aprèsdinée
fut faicte exécution d'aucuns condamnez au feu pour crime d'hérésie, tant au parvis N. D.
que en la place devant Ste. Catherine du Val des Escolliers." Reg. of Parl., July 4, 1549
(Félibien, Preuves, iv. 745, 746).
2 Anne Audeberte and Louis de Marsac. Hist. ecclés. Des égl. réf., i. 52, 58; Crespin, fols. 156, 227-234.
3 Isambert, Recueil gén. des anc. lois fr., xiii. 134-138. Of course the provision giving to church
courts the right of arrest, so opposed to the spirit of the "Gallican Liberties," displeased
parliament, which duly remonstrated (Preuves des libertez de l'ég. gall., iii. 171), but
was compelled to register the law, with conditions forbidding the exaction of pecuniary
fines, and the sentence of perpetual imprisonment.
years later, when Henry, uniting with Maurice of Saxony and Albert of
Brandenburg, received the title of Defender of the Empire against Charles
the Fifth, and was on the point of making war on Pope Julius the
Third, he issued an edict forbidding his subjects, under severe penalties,
from carrying gold or silver to Rome.1 But, to convince the world of his orthodoxy, he chose the same time for the publication of a new and more truculent
measure, known as the Edict of Châteaubriand (on the twenty-seventh of June,
1551), directed against the reformed.2 This notable law reiterated the old
complaint of the ill-success of previous efforts, and the statement of
the impossibility of attaining the desired end save by diligent care and
rigorous procedure. Its most striking peculiarity was that it committed
the trial of heretics to the newly appointed "presidial" judges, whose sentence, when ten counsellors had been associated with them, was to be final.3 Thus
1 De Thou, i. 167. Hist. ecclés., i. 53.
2 De Thou, ubi supra. Mézeray well remarks that the
Protestants recognized the fact then, as they always have done since, in
similar circumstances, that there is no more disastrous time for them than when the court
of France has a misunderstanding with that of Rome. Abrégé chronologique, iv. 664.
3 "A right of appeal to the supreme courts has hitherto
been, and still is, granted to persons guilty of poisoning, of forgery,
and of robbery; yet this is denied to Christians; they are condemned by
the ordinary judges to be dragged straight to the flames, without any
liberty of appeal.... All are commanded, with more than usual
earnestness, to adore the breaden god on bended knee. All parish priests
are commanded to read the Sorbonne Articles every Sabbath for the
benefit of the people, that a solemn abnegation of Christ may thus
resound throughout the land.... Geneva is alluded to more than ten times
in the edict, and always with a striking mark of reproach." Calvin's
Letters (Bonnet), Eng. tr., iii. 319, 320. I cannot agree with Soldan
(Geschichte des Prot. in Frankreich, i. 228) in the statement that the
Edict of Châteaubriand left the jurisdiction essentially as fixed by the
ordinance of Nov. 19, 1549. For the edict does not, as he asserts,
permit "the civil judges--presidial judges as well as
parliaments--equally with the spiritual, to commence every process." It
deprives the ecclesiastical judge, 1st, of the right which the ordinance
of 1549 had conferred, of initiating any process where scandal,
sedition, etc., were joined to simple heresy, and these cases--under the
interpretation of the law--constituted a large proportion of cases; 2d,
of the right of deciding with the secular judges in these last-named
cases; and 3d, of the power of arrest. De Thou, himself a president of
parliament (ii. 375, liv. xvi.), therefore styles it "un édit, par
lequel le Roi se réservoit une entière connoissance du Luthéranisme, et
l'attribuoit à ses juges, sans aucune exception, à moins que l'hérésie
dont il s'agissoit ne demandât quelque éclaircissement, ou que les
coupables ne fussent dans les ordres sacrés."
was it contemplated to put an end to the vexatious delays by
means of which the trial of many a reputed "Lutheran" had been
protracted and not a few of the hated sect had in the end escaped. But
the large number of additional articles exhibit in a singular manner the
extent to which the doctrines of the Reformation had spread, the means
of their diffusion, and the method by which it was hoped that they might
be eradicated. Prominent among the provisions appear those that relate
to the products of the press. Evidently the Cardinal of Lorraine and the
other advisers of the king were of the same mind with the great advocate
of unlicensed printing, when he said: "Books are not absolutely dead
things, but do contain a progeny of life in them to be as active as that
soul was whose progeny they are.... I know they are as lively and as
vigorously productive as those fabulous dragon's teeth; and being sown
up and down, may chance to spring up armed men."1 The edict utterly
prohibited the introduction of any books from Geneva and other places
notoriously rebellious to the Holy See, the retention of condemned books
by booksellers, and all clandestine printing. It instituted a
semi-annual visitation of every typographical establishment, a clerical
1 Milton's Areopagitica. This was the view somewhat
bitterly expressed in one of the poems of the "Satyres Chrestiennes de
la cuisine Papale " (Geneva, 1560; reprinted 1857), addressed "aux
Rostisseurs," p. 130:
"Je cognoy, Cagots, que mes liures
Vous sont fascheusement nouueaux.
Bruslez, si en serez deliures
Pour en servir de naueaux.
Mais scavez-vous que c'est, gros veaux,
Fuyez le feu qui s'en fera:
Car la fumée en vos cerueauz
Seulmient vous estouffera."
examination of all packages from abroad, a special inspection thrice a
year at the great fairs of Lyons, through which many suspected books
found their way into the kingdom. The "porte-panier," or pedler, was
forbidden to sell books at all, because many pedlers brought in books
from Geneva under pretext of selling other merchandise. The bearers of
letters from Geneva were to be arrested and punished. The goods and
chattels of those who had fled to Geneva were to be confiscated.
Informers were promised one-third of the property of the condemned. And
lest the tongue should contaminate those whom the printed volume might
not reach, all unlettered persons were warned not even to discuss
matters of faith, the sacraments, and the polity of the church, whether
at the table, in the field, or in secret conventicle.1