|part in the enterprise--the conquest of the kingdom of Naples.
Montmorency's success, however, fell far short of the reputation
he enjoyed for consummate generalship. Not only did he fail
to relieve his nephews Coligny and D'Andelot, who had shut
themselves up with a handful of men in the fortress of St. Quentin; but
he himself (on the tenth of August, 1557) met with a signal defeat in
which the flower of the French army was routed, and many of its leaders,
including the constable himself, were taken prisoners.
Rage against the "Lutherans."
The French capital was thrown into a paroxysm of fear on receipt of the
intelligence. The road to Paris lay open to the victorious army. The
king, not less than the people, expected to hear the Spaniards within a
few brief days thundering at the very gates of the city. Charles the
Fifth, from his retirement at Yuste, is said to have asked the courier
with impatience, whether his son was already in Paris. In the minds
of the populace, disappointment and fear were mingled with rage against
"the accursed sect of the Lutherans"--the reputed authors of all the
public calamities. Every prediction which the priests had for a
generation been ringing in the ears of the people seemed now to be in
course of fulfilment. In the startling defeat of a large and
well-appointed army of France, led by an experienced general, all eyes
read tokens of the evident displeasure of the Almighty, not because of
the ignorance and immorality of the people, or the bad doctrine and
worse lives of its spiritual leaders, or the barbarous cruelty, the
shameless impurity, and unexampled bad faith of the court; but because
of the existence of heretics who
1 Besides the accounts of the disastrous battle of St.
Quentin given by the Mémoires of Rabutin, Coligny and other
contemporaries, and by De Thou and other historians of a somewhat later
date, the graphic narrative of its incidents contained in Prescott's
Reign of Philip the Second (lib. i., c. vii.) is well worthy of
2 Prescott, i. 240, note.
denied the authority of the Pope, and refused to bow down
and worship the transubstantiated wafer. The popular anger
was the more ready to kindle because the harsh measures of the
government had confessedly failed of accomplishing their object, and
because--to use the expressive language of the royal edict--the fire
still burned beneath the ashes. An incident which happened little
more than a fortnight after the battle of St. Quentin disclosed the
bitter fruits of the slanderous reports and violent teachings
disseminated among the excitable inhabitants of Paris.
The affair of the Rue St. Jacques, Sept. 4, 1557.
Assault upon the worshippers.
The Protestants of the capital, far from rejoicing over the misfortunes
of the kingdom, as their adversaries falsely asserted, met even more
frequently than before to offer their united prayers in its behalf. On
the evening of the fourth of September, 1557, three or four hundred
persons, of every rank of society, quietly repaired to a house in the
Rue St. Jacques, almost under the very shadow of the Sorbonne, where the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper was to be administered according to
previous appointment. Their coming together had not been so noiseless,
however, as to escape the attention of some priests, residing in the
Collége du Plessis, on the other side of the way, whose suspicions had
for some time been fixed upon the spot. The reformed were not
1 "Comme feu soubs la cendre." Recueil gén. des anc. Lois fr., xiii. 134.
2 By an unpardonable negligence, Mr. Browning places the
"affaire de la rue St. Jacques" before the battle of St. Quentin, in the
month of May, 1557. History of the Huguenots, i. 45.
3 A contemporary account of the affair by the reformer Knox, dated Dieppe, Dec. 7, 1557,
although it adds little to our knowledge of the incidents, is of considerable interest. I cite
a few sentences: "Almost in everie notabill Citie within France thair be assemblit godlie
Congregationis of sic as refusit all societie with the sinagoge of Sathan, so were (and yit
are) dyvers Congregationis in Paris, and kirkis having thair learnit ministeris for preishing
Chrystis Evangell, and for trew ministratioun of the halie Sacramentis instated be him.
The brute whairof being spred abrod, great search was maid for thair aprehensioun, and
at lenth, according to the pre-disingnit consall of oure God, who hath apoyntit the memberis
to be lyke to the heid, the bludthirstie wolves did violentlie rusche in amongis a portioun
of Chrystis simpill lambis. For thois hell-houndis of Sorbonistis, accompanyit with the rascall
pepill, and with sum sergeantis maid apt for thair purpois, did so furiouslie invade a halie
assemblie convenit (nye the number of four hundreth personis) to celebrat the memorie
of oure Lordis deth," etc. Printed from MS. volume in possession of Dr. McCrie, in David
Laing's Works of John Knox (Edinb., 1855), iv. 299.
disturbed during the exercise of their worship. But when, toward
midnight, they prepared to return to their homes, the fury of their
enemies discharged upon them the full force of its pent-up energies. A
fanatical crowd blocked the street or filled the opposite windows, ready
to overwhelm with a shower of stones and missiles of all descriptions
any that might leave the protection of the house. Continual accessions
were made of those whom the cries of "Thieves!" "Robbers!" "Conspirators
against the realm!" attracted to the place. The discovery of the fact
that it was a company not of robbers, but of "Lutherans," only inflamed
the rage of the new-comers. The cry was now for blood. Every avenue of
escape was guarded, and bonfires lighted here and there dispelled the
friendly darkness. Carts and wagons were drawn across the streets, and
armed men occupied the street-corners, or, if too cowardly to expose
themselves to any danger, stood ready at doors and windows to thrust the
fugitives through with their pikes.
The assembled Protestants, awakened to their danger, at first expected a
general massacre. But the exhortations of their pastors and elders gave
them new courage. In the midst of the storm raging without, they betook
themselves to prayer. At length the necessity was recognized of coming
to a prompt decision. To await the coming of the civil authorities, for
whom their enemies had sent, was to give themselves up to certain death.
Nothing remained but to force their way out--a course recommended, we
are told, by those who knew the cowardice of a Parisian mob. The men who
were provided with swords were placed in the front rank, the unarmed
followed in their wake. Again and again small companies issued into the
street and faced the angry storm. Each successive company reached a safe
refuge. In fact, of all that adopted the bolder course of action, only
one person was knocked down and left upon the ground to be brutally
murdered and suffer the most shameful
indignities. There were, however, many--one hundred and
twenty or more women and children, with a few men--whom
fear prevented from following the example of their companions.
Around them the rabble, balked of the greater part of its expected
victims, raged with increased fury. At one moment they presented
themselves at the windows to the view of their enemies, in the vain hope
that the sight of so much innocence and helplessness would secure
compassion. When only blind hatred and malice were exhibited in return,
they withdrew and quietly awaited the fate which they believed to be in
store for them at the hands of the mob. From this they were delivered by
the sudden arrival of Martine, the king's "procureur" belonging to the
Châtelet, with a strong detachment of commissaries and sergeants.
With great difficulty restraining the impetuosity of the mob, the
magistrate made on the very spot an examination into the services that
had been held. The whole story was told him in simple terms. He found
that, while the Protestants had been assembling, the Scriptures had for
a long time been read in the French language. The minister had next
offered prayer, the whole company kneeling upon the floor. He had
afterward set forth the institution of the holy supper as given by St.
Paul, had exhibited its true utility and how it ought to be approached,
and had debarred from the communion all seditious, disobedient, impure,
and other unworthy participants, forbidding them to come near to the
sacred table. Then those who had been deemed to be in a fit frame to
receive the sacrament had presented themselves, and received the bread
and the wine from the hands of the ministers, with the words: "This is
the communion of the body and blood of the Lord." Prayers had followed
for the king and the prosperity of his kingdom, for all the poor in
their affliction, and for the church in general. The services had closed
with the singing of several psalms.
Treatment of the prisoners.
So clear a confession was amply sufficient to justify the arrest of the
entire company. Men, women, and children were dragged at early dawn to
the prison. But their escort was too small, or too indifferent, to afford protection
from the insults and violence of the immense throng through the midst
of which they passed.1 Not content with applying
alike to men and to women the most opprobrious epithets, the rabble tore
their clothing, covered them with mud and filth, and dealt many a
blow--especially to those who from their long robes or age were
suspected of being preachers.2 Into these outrages no judicial
investigation was ever instituted, so prevalent was the persuasion that
the zeal of the people in defence of the established faith must not be
too narrowly watched.
The blame for these excesses must not, however, be laid exclusively to
the account of the populace. There were rumors afloat that owed their
origin to the deliberate and malicious invention of the better
instructed, and that were firmly believed by the ignorant masses. The
nocturnal meetings, to which the Protestants were driven by persecution,
were represented as devoted to the most abominable orgies. The
Protestants were accused of eating little children. It was boldly stated
that a luxurious banquet was spread, and that at its conclusion the
candles were extinguished, and a scene of the most indiscriminate
lewdness ensued.3 One of the judges of the tribunal of the Châtelet
was found sufficiently pliant to declare, in contradiction to the
unanimous testimony of the accused, that preparations for the repetition
of similar crimes had been discovered in the rooms of the house in the
rue St. Jacques, where the Protestants had been surprised. These
infamous accusations even found their way
1 "As ravisching wolves rageing for blood, murderit sum,
oppressit all, and schamfullie intreatit both men and wemen of great
blude and knawin honestie." Knox, ubi supra, p. 300.
2 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 73-75. This detailed and
most authentic account is taken verbatim from that of Crespin, which may
be read in the Galerie chrétienne, ii. 253-259; De la Place (ed.
Panthéon lit.), p. 4; De Thou, v. 530. Claude Haton gives a story which
bears but a faint resemblance to the truth--the mingled result of
imperfect information and prejudice. Mémoires, i. 51-53.
3 "And yit is not this the end and chief point of thair
malice; for thai, as children of thair father, wha is the autour of all
lies, incontinent did spread a most schamfull and horribill sclander, to
wit, that thai convenit upon the nycht for no uthir cause but to
satisfie the filthie lustis of the flesche." Knox, ubi supra, p. 300.
For an unfriendly account of the pretended orgies, see Claude Haton
(Mém.), i. 49-51.
into print, and were disseminated far and wide by the priestly party.
Trials and executions.
While the poor prisoners were confined in the most loathsome
cells--highwaymen and murderers being removed to better quarters to make
room for Christians--a judicial investigation was set on foot. The
king himself expedited the trials. Within little more than three
weeks from the time of their apprehension, three Protestants were put to
death (on the twenty-seventh of September). Both sexes and the extremes
of youth and old age were represented in these victims. To one, a
beautiful young lady of wealth and rank, barely twenty-three years old,
the favor was granted of being strangled before her body was consigned
to the flames. Yet even in her case the cruel executioner had not
abstained from first applying a firebrand wantonly and indecently to
different parts of her person. Her companions were burned alive.
One of them was an advocate in parliament; both were elders of the
reformed church. Five days later a physician and a solicitor met the
same fate, but endured greater sufferings, as the wind blew the flames
from beneath them, prolonging their torture; and these
1 Foul play was even employed, in addition to barbarous
treatment, if Knox was rightly informed: "But theis cruell tirantis and
privie murdereris, as thai have permittit libertie of toung to none, sa
by poysone haif thai murderit dyvers in prisone." Knox, ubi supra.
2 Henry ordered parliament to try the accused by a
commission consisting of two presidents and sixteen counsellors, and
enjoined that this matter should take precedence of all others. Hist.
ecclés des égl. réf., ubi infra; Crespin, ubi infra.
3 The courageous words of Philippine de Luns, when she was
bidden to give her tongue to have it cut off, were long remembered:
"Since I bemoan not my body," said she, "shall I bemoan my tongue?" Beza
alludes to her as "matrona quædam et genere et pietate valde nobilis,
fidem ad extremum usque spiritum professa signis omnibus, quum, abscisa
lingua et ardente face pudendis ipsius turpissime ac crudelissime
injecta, torreretur." Beza ad Turicenses (inhabitants of Zurich), Nov.
24, 1557; given in Baum, App. to vol. i. 501; Hist. ecclés., i. 82. A
courtier, the Marquis of Trans, son-in-law of the keeper of the seals,
was not ashamed to ask for and obtain the confiscation of her estates,
in violation of the provision of the late Edict of Compiègne, "que
plusieurs trouvèrent mauvais." De la Place, Commentaires de l'estat de
la religion et république, soubs les rois Henry et François Seconds et
Charles Neufviesme, p. 4.
were quickly followed by two students at Paris, both of them from the
southern part of the realm (on the twenty-third of October).1
Intercession of the Swiss cantons and others. Calvin's interest.
Meanwhile the wretched prisoners were not deserted by their brethren.
Their innocence of the dreadful crimes laid to their charge was
maintained in pamphlets, which showed that these accusations were but
repetitions of slanders invented by the heathen to overwhelm the early
Christians. Their doctrinal orthodoxy was proved by citations from the
early church fathers.2 The Protestants of Paris found means to
introduce a long remonstrance into the very chamber of the king.
Unfortunately, it had as little influence upon him as similar
productions had had with his predecessor. In Switzerland and in a
portion of Germany the tidings made a deep impression. Less than two
weeks after the blow had been struck at the small community of Parisian
Protestants, Calvin wrote the first of a series of letters calculated to
sustain their drooping courage, and suggested some of the wise ends
Providence might have in view in permitting so severe a discipline.3
Meantime he applied himself vigorously to arouse in their behalf an
effective intervention. "My good brethren," he wrote to the people of
Lausanne, "though all the rest should not suffice to move the hearts of
those brethren to whom an appeal is made, yet this emergency admits of
no delay. It can scarcely be but that, amid so many tortures, first
1 Beza to Farel, Nov. 11, 1557, Baum, i. 490.
2 The Scotch reformer, John Knox, being detained by
unfavorable tidings at Dieppe, on his return from Geneva, not only
devoted himself to visiting and strengthening his persecuted brethren in
France (M'Crie, Life of Knox, i. 202; Brandes, J. Knox, Elberfeld, 1862,
p. 136), but had the Apology of the Parisian Protestants translated into
English, himself adding the prefatory remarks, from which several
quotations have been made above. The treatise seems never to have been
printed until the present century, the probable reason, according to Mr.
Laing, being the subsequent release of so many of the prisoners as
3 "Jusques icy ceulx qui out esté appeléz au martyre ont
esté contemptibles au monde, tant pour la qualité de leurs
personnes, que pource que le nombre n'a pas esté si grand pour ung
coup. Que sçavons-nous s'il a desjà appresté une issue telle qu'il y
aura de quoy nous esjouir et le glorifier au double?" Letter of Calvin,
Sept 16, 1557. Bonnet, Lett. fr. de Calv., ii. 139-145.
one and then another be involved in them, until the number of sufferers
become an infinite one. In short, the whole kingdom will be in flames.
The question no longer is how to satisfy the desire of the poor
brethren, but, if we have a single spark of humanity within us, to
succor them in such extremity.... Though money be not promptly obtained
elsewhere, yet shall I make such efforts, should I be obliged to pledge
my head and my feet, that it be forthcoming here."1
Beza, with his associates, Carmel, Farel, and Budé, at the same time, by
Calvin's request, took active steps to induce the Protestant cantons and
princes to intercede with Henry, and their exertions were not in
vain.2 It was the object of the reformers to enlist the intervention
of those Protestant powers, in particular, whose alliance and assistance
might be deemed indispensable by the French king in his present
straits.3 The four "evangelical" Swiss cantons, encouraged by the
success of a recent mission in behalf of the Waldenses of Piedmont, sent
to Paris a deputation, whose appearance was greeted by the Protestants
with the utmost joy. The ambassadors, however, allowed themselves to be
cajoled and deceived by the Cardinal of Lorraine, to whom they had the
imprudence to intrust their petition. In reply to their address to the
king, they were told (on the fifth of November), in the name of his
Majesty, that he invited the confederates in future to trouble themselves
no further with the internal affairs of his kingdom, especially in
matters of religion, since he was resolved to follow in the steps of
1 Calvin aux églises de Lausanne, de Mouden, et de Payerne, Ibid., ii. 150, 151.
2 The MS. letter of Beza and his companions to the
"Seigneurs" of Berne (to whom their allies had referred the entire
matter, in order to obviate all delay), dated Basle, Sept. 27, 1557, is
in the archives of Berne, and has been printed for the first time in the
Bulletin, xvii. (April, 1868) 164-166. The writers urge the utmost
haste, both for the sake of the prisoners of Paris and of some other
Protestants confined in the dungeons of Dijon.
3 This was particularly the advice of the friendly Count
George of Montbéliard, as recorded by Beza: "Comes fuit in ea sententia,
ut, dum Helvetii priores cum rege agerent, sollicitaremus alios etiam
Germanos principes, ac præsertim eos, a quibus Pharao ille nova
auxilia hoc ipso tempore postularet." Letter to Zurich, Nov. 24, 1557, Baum, i. 495.
his predecessors.1 Discouraged by this rebuff, they did not
even attempt to press the matter upon the king's notice, or by a
personal interview endeavor to mitigate his anger against their
brethren. It had been better never to have engaged in the intercession
than support it so weakly.2 The German princes could not be induced
to give to the affair the consideration it merited; but a letter of the
Count Palatine seems to have somewhat diminished the violence of the
1 "Par la response que le roy fit dernièrement aux députés
que les seigneurs des cantons de Zurich, Berne, Basle et Schaffouse, ses
très-chers et bons amys envoyèrent par deçà à la requeste de ceulx de la
vallée d'Angrogne, pour le faict de la religion, Sa Majesté estimoit que
les dicts seigneurs des dicts cantons se contenteroient et ne
prendroient plus d'occasion de renvoyer devers luy pour semblable cause,
comme ils ont faict les seigneurs Johan Escher, Jean Wyss, Jacob Gœtz
et Louys Oechsly, présens porteurs ... ce que le dict seigneur a trouvé
un pen estrange, pour la considération qu'il a tousiours eue envers les
dicts seigneurs des cantons et aultres ses amys de ne s'empescher ni
soulcier des choses qui touchent l'administration de leurs Estats, ni la
justice de leurs subiets, ainsi qu'il luy semble qu'ils doibvent [faire]
envers luy, priant les dicts seigneurs des dicts cantons estre contans
de doresnavant ne se donner peine de ce qu'il fera et exécutera en son
royaulme, et moings au faict de la religion, qu'il veult et a délibéré
d'observer et suivre, telle que ses prédécesseurs et luy (comme roys
très-chrestiens) ont faict par le passé, et contenir ses dicts subiects
en icelle, dont il n'a à rendre compte à aultre que à Dieu, par l'aide,
bonté et protection duquel il s'asseure maintenir son dict royaulme en
estat, en la tranquillité et prospérité là où il a esté jusques icy."
Réponse du roi. The Swiss envoys were intrusted on their return with a
letter from the Cardinal of Lorraine to the magistrates of the
Protestant cantons, full as usual of honeyed words. It closed with these
words: "Priant Dieu, Messieurs, vous donner ce que plus désyrez. De
Sainct-Germain en Laye, le 6^e jour de novembre 1557. Vostre meilleur
voysin et amy, Cardinal de Lorraine." This was pretty fair dissembling
even for the smooth tongue of the arch-persecutor of the Huguenots. It
must be confessed, however, that the sheep's clothing never seemed to
fit him well; the wolfish foot or the bloodthirsty jaws had an
irresistible propensity to show themselves. The letter of the cantons,
the king's reply, and Lorraine's letter, from the MSS. in the archives of Basle,
are printed in the Bulletin de la Société de l'hist. du prot. français, xvii. 164-167.
2 Baum, Theodor Beza, i. 317; Heppe, Leben Theod. Beza, 52-58.
3 "Ab eo tempore (Oct. 23d) audimus perlectis Palatini
literis datas aliquas judiciorum inducias." Beza's letter of Nov. 24th,
ubi supra. It is not improbable that the interference of Henry's
allies had some salutary effect, in spite of the rough answer they
received. Hist. ecclés. des églises réf., i. 84, which, however, says
nothing of the reply to the Swiss.