In order to discover the truth of the charges, a convocation of the
members of all the chambers was ordered for the last Wednesday of April,
Such a gathering for inquiry into the sentiments and morals of the
judges was called, from the day of the week on which it was held, a
Mercuriale.4 The object of the convocation was announced by the
1 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 106.
2 When President Séguier was defending himself and his
colleagues from the charge made by the Cardinal of Lorraine that they
did not punish the heretics, and alleged as proof the fact that only
three accused of "Lutheranism" remained in their prison, the cardinal
rejoined: "Voire, vous les avez expédiez en les renvoyant devant leurs
évesques! Vrayement voylà une belle expédition, à ceux mesmes qui out
faict profession de leur foy devant vous, tout au contraire de la
saincte église de Rome!" Pierre de la Place, Commentaires de l'estat de
la rel. et rép., p. 11.
3 "Non, non, dict-il, monsieur le président; mais vous
estes cause que non seulement Poictiers, mais tout Poictou jusques au
pays de Bordeaux, Tholouse, Provence, et généralement France est toute
remplie de ceste vermine, qui s'augmente et pullule soubs espérance de
vous." Ib., ubi supra.
4 Ib., ubi supra, Hist. ecclés., i. 107, 108.
royal procureur-general, Bourdin, to be the establishment of an
understanding between the "Grand' chambre" and the "Tournelle"--the
former of which relentlessly condemned the "Lutherans" to the flames,
while the latter, to the great scandal of justice, had let off several
with simple banishment. The wily adversary of the "new doctrines,"
therefore, called upon the judges to express their opinions respecting
the best method of effecting a return to uniformity. The snare was not
laid in vain. For in the free declaration of sentiment, in which the
members according to custom indulged, several judges were bold enough to
call for the assembling of the Œcumenical Council promised by the
lately ratified treaty of peace, as the sole method of extirpating
error, and to propose meanwhile the suspension of the capital penalties
ordained by the royal edicts.1
At his admission into parliament each judge had taken an oath to
maintain inviolable secrecy in reference to the deliberations of the
court. This was rightly supposed to relate in particular to the
expressions of opinion before any formal decision. Nevertheless, the
king was at once acquainted by the First President, Le Maistre, and by
Minard, one of the presidents à mortier, with the entire proceedings
of the Mercuriale. He was told that the "Lutheranism" of certain
judges was now manifest. They had spoken in abominable terms of the
mass, of the ecclesiastical ordinances, and of prevailing abuses. It
would be the ruin of the church if such daring were suffered to pass by
The representation of these enormities inflamed Henry's anger. His
courtiers took good care not to suffer it to cool. What if, emboldened
by impunity, the Protestants, of whose rapid growth in all parts of
France such startling reports were brought to him, should attempt to
carry out the plan that was talked of among them, and seize the
opportunity of the wedding festivities solemnly to present to his Majesty, by
the hands of one of the nobles, the confession of faith of their churches?
What punishment of the audacious agent employed would remove
1 La Place, Comm. de l'estat de la rel. et rép., p 12.
2 Idem. Serranus, de statu, etc., i., fol. 14.
from the minds of the orthodox foreign princes present at court the sinister
impression that heresy had struck deep root in the realm of the Very Christian King?1
Henry goes in person to listen to the deliberations, June 10, 1559.
If a candid gentleman of the bed-chamber, like Vieilleville, privately
urged Henry to reject the advice of prelates in secular matters, and
respectfully decline the assumption of the post of theologian or
inquisitor-general of the faith, his remonstrances were overborne by the
suggestions of Diana and the Guises, who hoped to reap a rich harvest
from new confiscations.2 The king was entreated to go in person to listen to the
discussions in parliament. Early on the morning of the tenth of June, his
chamber was visited by a host of ecclesiastics—among them four cardinals,
two archbishops, two bishops, and several doctors of the Sorbonne, with De
Mouchy, the inquisitor, at their head. They urged him to follow out their suggestion, and were so successful in overcoming his reluctance that, as a contemporary wrote, he thought himself consigned to perdition if he failed to go.3
1 "There is another consideration of the proceadings of
these maters, whiche (savyng your Majestie's correction) in myne
opinion, is as great as the rest: ... that forasmuch as the multitude of
Protestantes, being spred abrode in sundry partes of this realme in
diverse congregations, ment now amiddes of all these triumphes to use
the meane of somme nobleman to exhibit to the King their confession
(wherof your Majesté shall receive a copie herwithal) to th' intent the
same mighte have bene openly notified to the world; the King being
lothe, that at the arrivall here of the Duke of Savoy, the Duke of Alva,
and others, these maters shuld have appeared so farre forward, hathe
thought good before hande, for the daunting of suche as might have semed
to be doers therin, to prevent their purpose by handeling of these
counsaillors in this sorte." Throkmorton to Queen Elizabeth, June 13,
1559, Forbes, State Papers, i. 128.
2 Vieilleville, ii. 401-404; De Thou, ii. 667; Forbes, State Papers, i. 127.
3 Mém. de Vieilleville, ii. 405. The date of Henry's visit
to parliament is not free from the same contradictory statements that affect many of the
most important events of history. De Thou, and, following him, Félibien, Browning, and
others, place it five days later than I have done in the text. La Place, the anonymous
"Discours de la mort du Roy Henry II." (in the Recueil des choses mémorables,
published in 1565, and later in the Mémoires de Condé), Castelnau, the Histoire
ecclés., etc., are our best authorities. As Sir Nicholas Throkmorton
gave an account of the Mercuriale in his despatch to the queen of June
13th (Forbes, State Papers, i. 126-130), I am surprised that Dr. White,
who refers, to this interesting paper (although by an oversight
ascribing it to June 19th) should, while correcting M. de Félice's
error, have preferred the date of June 15th. "Massacre of St. Bartholomew," Am. ed., p. 51.
Parliament meets in the Augustinian monastery.
The magnificent hall of the royal palace on the island of the "Cité," in
which parliament was accustomed to meet, was in course of preparation
for the festivities that were to accompany the marriages of Elizabeth,
Henry's daughter, with Philip the Second of Spain, and of his only
sister, Margaret, with the Duke of Savoy. Parliament was consequently
sitting in the monastery of the Augustinian friars on the southern bank
of the Seine.1 Thither Henry proceeded in state with a retinue of
noblemen, and accompanied by the archers of his body-guard. Taking his
seat upon the elevated throne prepared for him, with the constable, the
Guises, and the princes that had attended him, on his right and left,
Henry made to the judges a short address indicative of his purpose to
take advantage of the peace in order to labor for the re-establishment
of the faith, and of his desire to obtain the advice of his supreme
court.2 When the king had concluded, Bertrand, Cardinal Archbishop
of Sens and Keeper of the Seals, announced the command of his Majesty
that the consideration of the religious questions undertaken in the
Mercuriale should be resumed.
Fearlessness of the counsellors. Anne du Bourg.
The counsellors could be in no doubt respecting the motives of this
solemn and unusual audience; yet they entered upon the
1 Discours de la mort du Roy Henry II. (Recueil des choses
mémorables, 1565.) Dulaure, Hist. de Paris, ii. 434-437. Cf. also the
maps accompanying that work.
2 The Discours de la mort du Roy Henry II. add that Henry
demanded the reason of the Parliament's delay to register an edict they
had received from him against the "Lutherans"--doubtless the
last--establishing the inquisitorial commission of three cardinals.
"Cest édict estoit sorti de l'oracle dudict cardinal de Lorreine." Baum,
Theodore Beza, ii. 31, note, etc., has already called attention to the
gross inaccuracies of Browning, in his description of the incidents of
the Mercuriale, as well as of the king's visit to parliament. (Hist.
of the Huguenots, i. 54, etc.). Among other assertions altogether
unwarranted by the evidence, he states that Henry, in order to entrap
the unwary, "declared himself free from every kind of angry feeling
against those counsellors who had adopted the new religion, and begged
them all to speak their opinions freely," etc. (p. 55). If true, this
would rob Du Bourg's course of half its heroism.
discussion with the utmost fearlessness.1 Claude Viole boldly
recommended the convocation of an œcumenical council. Du Faur
declaimed against the flagrant abuses of the church. While admitting
that the trouble of the kingdom arose from diversity in religion, he pointed
out the necessity of a careful scrutiny into the true authors of those troubles,
lest the accuser of others should himself be met with a retort similar to that of
the ancient prophet to King Ahab--"It is thou that troublest
Israel."2 But Anne du Bourg, a nephew of a late Chancellor of
France, and a learned and eloquent speaker, committed himself still
further to the cause of liberty and truth. He gave thanks to Almighty
God for having brought Henry to listen to the decision of so worthy a
matter, and entreated the monarch to give it his attention, as the cause
of our Lord Jesus Christ, which ought to be upheld by kings. He
advocated a suspension of all persecution against those who were
stigmatized as heretics, until the assembling of a council; and warned
his hearers that it was a thing of no slight importance to condemn to
death those who, in the midst of the flames, called on the name of the
Saviour of men.3 Another counsellor advocated the granting to all
the "Lutherans" of the kingdom a term of six months, within which they
might recant their errors, and at its close might withdraw from France.
But there were others who recommended the employment of severe measures;
and the first president recalled with approval the example of Philip
Augustus, who, in one day, had burned six hundred heretics, and the fate
of the Waldenses, suffocated in the houses and caves in which they had
1 "Whereas," wrote Throkmorton to Queen Elizabeth, "the
Kinge's presence is very rare, and hathe seldome happened but upon somme
great occasion; so I endevored myself (as much as I could) to learne the
cause of their assemblé." Forbes, State Papers, i. 126.
2 Strangely enough, Mr. Smedley, History of the Reformed
Religion in France, i. 87, note, following a careless annotator of De
Thou, discovers an inaccuracy in the allusion where no inaccuracy
exists. It was not to Ahab's question, but to Elijah's retort, that
Du Faur made reference. See La Place, p. 13.
3 La Place, Comm. de l'estat, etc., p. 13; Hist. ecclés.,
i. 122; (Crespin, Gal. chrét., ii. 303); De Thou, ii. 670. Félibien,
Hist. de Paris, ii. 1066.
4 La Place, ubi supra.
Henry is displeased, and orders the arrest of two of the counsellors.
At the conclusion of the deliberation, Henry summoned to him the
noblemen who had accompanied him, and, after having consulted them,
angrily declared his great displeasure at the discovery that many of his
judges had departed from the faith, and his determination to inflict
upon them an exemplary punishment. Then turning to Montmorency, he
ordered him to arrest two of the counsellors that had spoken in his
presence--Louis du Faur and Anne du Bourg. The constable at once obeyed,
and gave them over into the custody of Gabriel, Count Montgomery,
captain of the Scottish body-guard. Three other judges soon shared their
rigorous imprisonment in the Bastile,1 and as many more escaped only
by flight. It was, however, with the boldness of Du Bourg that Henry was
chiefly enraged. He swore that he would see him burned with his own
The first National Synod, May, 1559.
But, whilst the enemies of the Reformation were devising new schemes of
persecution, and were preparing to strike a blow at the more tolerant
sentiments which had stolen into the breasts of the very judges of
parliament, its friends took a step that was at once indicative of its
progress and dictated by its necessities. A few days before Henry was
persuaded to call for a continuation of the discussion commenced at the
"Mercuriale"--on the twenty-sixth of May3--the first National Synod
of the French Protestants convened in the city of Paris. It was a small
assemblage in comparison with some others on the list of these national
councils extending down for about a century, and its sessions were held
with the utmost secrecy in a house in the Faubourg St. Germain. But it
performed for French Protestantism the two important
1 Among them Paul de Foix, "who is cousin to the King of
Navarre." Throkmorton to Queen Elizabeth, June 23, 1559, Forbes i. 126.
2 La Place, Com. de l'estat, etc., p. 14; Discours de la
mort du Roy Henry II.; De Thou, ii. 671; Félibien, Hist. de Paris, ii.
1067; Vieilleville, ii. 405-406; Hist. ecclés. i., 122-123. Even Anne de
Montmorency was struck with Du Bourg's boldness, and exclaimed, "Vous
faictes la bravade." Forbes, State Papers, i. 126.
3 The date is variously given as the 25th or 26th of May.
The latter, adopted by the Histoire ecclésiastique, is probably correct.
See Triqueti, Premiers jours du protestantisme en France (Paris, 1859),
services of giving an authoritative statement of its system of doctrine,
and of establishing the principles of its form of government. The confession
of faith was full and explicit, as well on the points in which the
Protestant and the Roman churches agreed, as respecting the distinctive
tenets of the reformed. The "diabolical imaginations" of Servetus were
equally condemned with the gross abuses of monastic vows, pilgrimages,
celibacy, auricular confession, and indulgences. The pure observance of
the sacraments was established, as well against their corrupt and
superstitious use in the papal church, as against the "fantastic
sacramentarians" who rejected them entirely. Nor need we be surprised to
find the warrant of magistrates to interfere in behalf of the truth
formally recognized. The right of the individual conscience was a right
for the most part ignored by thinking men on both sides during the
sixteenth century--covered and hidden by the fallacious application of
the principle of universal obligation to the inflexible law of right and
of God. The lesson of liberty based upon order was learned only in the
school of long and severe persecution. Even after thirty-seven or eight
years of violent suffering, the Protestant church of France admitted as
an article in her creed, that "God has placed the sword in the hand of
magistrates to repress the sins committed not only against the second
table of God's commandments, but also against the first!"1
Ecclesiastical discipline adopted.
The "Ecclesiastical Discipline" laid the foundation of the organization
of the Protestants in France. Thoroughly democratic and representative
in its character, it instituted, or rather recognized, a court--the
consistory--in each particular congregation, with its popular element in
the superintendents (surveillants) or elders, who sat with the
pastors to adjudicate upon the inferior and local concerns of the
members. It provided for the more direct participation of the people in
the control of affairs by making the offices of elder and deacon
elective, and not perpetual. It provided a court of
1 "Confession de Foy faite d'un commun accord par les
Françoys, qui desirent vivre selon la purité de l'Evangile," etc. In the
Recueil des choses mémorables (1565) this document is published with the
preface and the supplicatory letter addressed to the king (Francis II.)
after the "Tumulte d'Amboise."
appeal in the provincial colloques or synods, to be held at least twice a year,
in which each church was to be represented by its pastor and elder. Above
all stood the National Synod, the ultimate ecclesiastical authority.
The constitution strove to preclude the establishment of a hierarchy, by
declaring all churches and ministers equal, and to secure correctness of
teaching, not only by requiring the ministers to sign the confession,
but by providing for the deposition of those who had lapsed from the faith.
Thus it was that, in the midst of a monarchy surpassed by none for its
arbitrary and tyrannical administration, and not many hundred paces from
the squares where for a generation the eyes of the public had been
periodically feasted with the sight of human sacrifices offered up in
the name of religion, the founders of the Huguenot church framed the
plan of an ecclesiastical republic, in which the elements of popular
representation and decisive authority in an ultimate tribunal, the
embodiment of the judgment of the entire church, were perhaps more
completely realized than they had ever before been since the times of
the early Christians.1 The few ministers that had met in an upper
room, at the hazard of their lives, to vindicate the profession of faith
of their persecuted co-religionists, and to sketch the plan of their
churchly edifice, as noiselessly retraced their steps to the
congregations committed to their charge. But they had planted the seed
of a mighty tree which would stand the blasts of many a tempest--always
buffeted by the winds, and bearing the scars of many a conflict with the
elements--but proudly pre-eminent, and firm as the rock around which its
sturdy roots were wound.
Marriages and festivities of the court.
Henry had sworn to behold with his own eyes the punishment of Anne du
Bourg. But the grateful sight was not in store for him. From the
Mercuriale and the persecution of
1 The proceedings of the first French National Synod are
best given in Aymon, Tous les synodes nationaux des églises réf. de
France (La Haye, 1710), i. 1-12; Hist. univ. du sieur d'Aubigné, liv.
ii., c. iii., t. i., pp. 56-64. They are faithfully, although not always
literally, translated in Quick's Synodicon in Gallia Reformata (London,
1692), i., viii.-xv., 2-7. See also Histoire ecclésiastique, i. 108-121;
La Place, Com. de l'estat de la religion, et république soubs les roys
Henry et François Seconds, etc., 14-16.
heretics he turned his attention to the celebration of the marriages which were
to cement the indissoluble peace that had at length been concluded between
the kingdoms of France and Spain. The most splendid preparations were made
for the entertainment of the brilliant train of noblemen who came to represent
the dignity of the crown of Spain, and to claim the destined bride of
Philip. The "Hôtel des Tournelles"--a favorite palace of more than one
king of France--was magnificently decorated; for in its great hall the
nuptials were appointed to be celebrated. In the broad street of Saint
Antoine, in front of this palace, the lists were erected, and the beauty
and nobility of France viewed, from the windows on either side, the
contest of the most distinguished knights, and applauded their feats of
daring and skill. A few paces farther, and just inside the moat, stood a
frowning pile, whose sombre and repulsive front might have struck a
beholder as being as much out of place as the skeleton at the feast--the
ill-omened Bastile.1 Five prisoners, immured for their conscientious
boldness in its gloomy dungeons, and awaiting a terrible fate,
distinctly heard, day after day, as the tourney continued, the inspiriting notes
of the clarion and hautboy, deepening by contrast the horrors of their
situation.2 There was the same incongruity between the king's pursuit of
pleasure and his ferocity. From the festivities, it is said, he turned aside to
order Montgomery to proceed, the very moment the tourney was over, to the
Pays de Caux--a hot-bed of the "Lutheran" heresy--to destroy with the sword
the resisting, to put out the eyes of the suspected, and to torture and burn
the guilty.3 It was believed, moreover, that he himself would then proceed
to the southern parts of France, and set on foot a rigorous persecution of the
Protestants, with whom those regions swarmed.4
1 See the history of the Hôtel des Tournelles and the plan of Paris in the reign of Francis I.,
in Dulaure, Hist. de Paris, iii. 355-357, and Atlas.
2 "Duquel lieu tous les prisonniers de léans pouvoyent ouir
les clairons, hault-bois et trompettes dudict tournoy." Discours de la
mort du Roy Henry II., Recueil des choses mémorables, p. 5; Mémoires de Condé, i. 216.
3 Ibid., ubi supra.
4 "I am credibly enformed, that the Frenche King, after the
perfection of the ceremonies toching his doughter and King Philip, and
his suster to the Duke of Savoy, myndeth himself to make a journey to
the countreis of Poictou, Gascoigne, Guyon, and other places, for the
repressing of religion; and to use th' extremest persecution he may
against the protestants in his countreys, and the like in Scotlande; and
that with celerité, ymediatly after the finishing of the same
ceremonies." Throkmorton to Cecil, May 23, 1559, Forbes, State Papers, i. 101.
The nuptial torches burned not less bright for the gloom overhanging the
despised and abominated Lutherans. But in an instant, as by the touch of
a magician's wand, they were turned into the funereal tapers of Henry