History of the rise of the huguenots

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Fate of the remaining judges.

Of the five counsellors of parliament arrested by the late king's

orders, Du Bourg was the only martyr. By the others greater weakness was

shown, or the judges were less willing to fulfil the cardinal's bloody

injunctions.1 La Porte was reprimanded for finding fault with the

rigorous sentences of the "grand' chambre," and liberated on declaring

those sentences good and praiseworthy. De Foix was condemned to make a

public declaration of his belief in the sole validity of the sacrament

as administered in the Romish Church, and to be suspended from his

office for a year; Du Faur to beg pardon of God, the king, and his

fellow-judges, for having maintained the propriety of holding a holy and

free universal council before extirpating the heretics, to pay a

considerable fine, and to suffer a five years' suspension. Fumée, more

fortunate than his associates, was acquitted in spite of the most

strenuous exertions of the Cardinal of Lorraine.2
Public indignation against the Guises.
Must the faithful submit passively to usurpation?

The savage persecution of the Protestants tended powerfully to

strengthen the current of popular sentiment that was setting in against

the government of the Guises. The sight of so many cruel executions for

more than thirty years had not accustomed either the dissidents or the

more reflecting among those of the opposite creed to the barbarous work.

"Is it not time," they asked, "to put a stop to the ravages of the

flames and of the sword of the executioner, when such signal failure has

attended their application? Will the

1 Compare La Planche, 242.

2 The singular details of these trials, which strikingly

illustrate the horrible corruption of the French judiciary in the

sixteenth century, are given by La Planche, 242-245; Hist. ecclés., i.

160-164; De Thou, ii. 703, 704; La Place, 24, who remarks upon the

singularly different judgments in the five cases, and attributes the

variety to the change in the state of the kingdom, and to the diversity

of the interrogatories addressed to the prisoners. The sentences against

Du Faur and De Foix were subsequently annulled and erased from the

records of the parliament, on the ground of irregularity.

terror of the estrapade quench the burning courage of a sect which has spread

over the whole of France, if it could not stifle the fire when first kindled at
Meaux and at Paris? Has not the policy of extermination thus far persisted in
only accelerating the growth of the new doctrines? Shall the sword rage

forever, and must princes of the blood and the noblest and purest in

lower ranks of society incur a common fate? Must the persecuted submit

with as good grace to the arbitrary decrees of the usurpers who, through

their connection with a minor king, have made themselves supreme, as to

the legitimate authority of the monarch, advised by his council of

state? The Gospel, doubtless, enjoins upon all Christians the most

patient submission to legally constituted authority. Its success is to

be won by the display of faith and obedience. But concession may

degenerate into cowardice, and submission into craven subserviency.

Obedience to a tyrant is rebellion against the king whom he defrauds of

his authority, his revenues, and his reputation; and treason against

God, whose name is suffered to be blasphemed, and whose children are

unjustly distressed."

Oppression becomes intolerable. The convocation of the States General.

The religious grievances thus ran parallel with the political, and could

scarcely be distinguished in the great aggregate of the intolerable

oppression to which France was subjected. The legislation of which such

grave complaint was made, it must be admitted, was sometimes

sufficiently whimsical. The resources of the royal treasury, for

instance, being inadequate to meet the demands of creditors, it was

necessary to silence their importunity. An inhuman decree was

accordingly published, enjoining upon all petitioners who had come to

Fontainebleau, where the king was sojourning, to solicit the payment of

debts or pensions, to leave the court within twenty-four hours, on pain

of the halter! A gallows newly erected in front of the castle was a

significant warning as to the serious character of the threat.1 In

order to provide against uprisings such as the violent course taken was well

1 De Thou, ii. 699; Agrippa d'Aubigné, Histoire universelle (Maillé, 1616), i. 89.

calculated to occasion, the people must be disarmed. Accordingly,

an edict was published, within a fortnight after the accession of

Francis, strictly forbidding all persons from carrying pistols and other

firearms, and the prohibition was more than once repeated during this

brief reign.1 While thus seeking to repress the display of the

popular displeasure in acts of violence and sedition, the Guises

resolved to prevent the overthrow of their usurped authority by

legitimate means. The convocation of the States General was the

safety-valve through which, in accordance with a wise provision, the

overheated passions of the people were wont to find vent. But the

assembling of the representatives of the three orders would be

equivalent to signing the death-warrant of the Guises; while to

Catharine, the queen mother, it would betoken an equally dreaded

termination of long-cherished hopes. Both Catharine and the Guises,

therefore, gave out that whoever talked of convening the States was a

mortal enemy of the king, and made himself liable to the pains of

treason.2 Every precaution had been taken to make the boiler tight,

and to render impossible the escape of the scalding waters and the

steam; it only remained to be seen whether the structure was proof

against an explosion.
Calvin and Beza consulted. They dissuade armed resistance.
Calvin foresees civil war. More favorable replies.

Such a catastrophe, indeed, seemed now to be imminent.[806] Among the

more restless, especially, there was a manifest preparation for some new

enterprise. The correspondence of the reformers reveals the fact that,

as early as in the commencement of September, a knotty question

1 Recueil gén. des anc. lois franç. (July 23, 1359), xiv. 1; (Dec. 17th), xiv. 14; and (Aug. 5,
1560), xiv. 46.

2 La Planche, 218. Cf. Histoire du tumulte d'Amboise.

3 "In Gallia omnia sunt perturbatissima," wrote Languet

(Jan. 31, 1560), "et scribitur esse omnino impossibile, ut res diu eo

modo consistant." The Cardinal of Lorraine, he added, has dissipated the

single church of Paris, but during this very period there have been

established more than sixty churches in other parts of the kingdom; nor

are the Genevese able to supply so many ministers as they are asked to

furnish. Meantime many are defending themselves against the royal

officers. The Gascons lately drove off the commissioners sent by the Parliament of

Bordeaux to make inquisition for Lutherans. The same has happened in the district
of Narbonne, not far from Marseilles. Epistolæ sec., ii., pp. 32, 33.

had been propounded to the Genevese theologians:1 "Is it lawful to make

an insurrection against those enemies not only of religion, but of the

very state, particularly when, according to law, the king himself

possesses no authority on which they can rest their usurpation?" This

was an interrogatory often put by those who would gladly have followed

the example of a Scævola, and sacrificed their own lives to purchase

freedom for France. "Hitherto," notes Beza, "we have answered that the

storm must be overcome by prayer and by patience, and that He will not

desert us who lately showed by so wonderful an example (the death of

Henry) not only what He can, but what He will do for His church. Until

now this advice has been followed."2 As the plan for a forcible

overthrow of the Guises began to develop under the increasing

oppression, and as malcontents from France came to the free city on Lake

Leman in greater numbers, Calvin expressed his convictions with more and

more distinctness, and endeavored to dissuade the refugees from

embarking in so hazardous an undertaking. Its advocates in vain urged

that they had received from a prince of the blood (entitled, by the

immemorial custom of the realm, to the first place in the council, in

the absence of his brother, the King of Navarre) the promise to present

their confession of faith to the young monarch of France, and that

thousands would espouse his defence if he were assailed. The reformer

saw more clearly than they the rising of the clouds of civil war

portending ruin to his native land. "Let but a single drop of blood be

shed," said Calvin, "and streams will flow that must inundate

France."3 But his prudent advice was unheeded.

1 Beza to Bullinger, Sept. 12, 1559 (Baum, ii., App., p.

3). Calvin, in his letters to Bullinger and Peter Martyr, both dated May

11, 1560, by the expression "eight months ago," points back to the same

period. Calvin's Letters (Bonnet), Eng. tr., iv. 104-106.

2 Beza, ubi supra.

3 Calvin's Letters, iv. 107. So the ministers of Geneva

declare before the council: "que pour les troubles arrivés en France,

ils n'en sont nullement coupables; qu'il ne doit pas être inconnu au

Conseil qu'ils ont détourné, autant qu'ils ont pu, d'aller à Amboise,

ceux qu'ils ont sceu avoir quelque dessein d'y aller." Registers, Jan.

28, 1561, apud Gaberel, Histoire de l'égl. de Genève, i., pieces justif., 203.

Other theologians and jurists of France and Germany had been questioned.
They replied more favorably, "It is lawful," they said, "to take up arms to repel
the violence of the Guises, under the authority of a prince of the blood,

and at the solicitation of the estates of France, or the soundest part

of them. Having seized the persons of the obnoxious ministers, it will

next be proper to assemble the States General, and put them on trial for

their flagrant offences."1
Godefroy de la Renaudie. His grounds for revenge.

An active and energetic man was needed to organize the movement and

control it until the proper moment should come for Condé--the "mute"

head, whose name was for the time to be kept secret--to declare himself.

Such a leader was found in Godefroy de Barry, Seigneur de la Renaudie, a

gentleman of ancient family in Périgord. The result justified the wisdom

of the choice. Besides the discontent animating him in common with the

better part of the kingdom, La Renaudie had private wrongs of his own to

avenge. Less than a year before the accession of Francis, his

brother-in-law, Gaspard de Heu, had been arrested as a pretended agent

for bringing about an alliance between the King of Navarre and the

Protestant princes of Germany.2 In the gloomy castle of the Bois de

Vincennes a private trial had been held, in which none of the accustomed

forms of law were observed. De Heu had been barbarously tortured and

secretly despatched.3 That it was a judicial murder was proved by the

1 La Planche, 237.

2 De Heu was a man of great influence. He had been

échevin at Metz, and the chief mover in introducing Protestantism into

that city. In 1543 he invited Farel to come thither. Persecution drove

him to Switzerland. He returned from exile upon the fall of Metz into

the hands of the French, in 1552. When he found that the change had only

aggravated the condition of the Protestants, he became prominent in the

effort to enlist the sympathy and support of the German princes in

behalf of the French reformation. Bulletin de l'hist. du prot. fr., xxv.

(1876), 164.

3 The whole affair remained involved in impenetrable

obscurity until the recent fortunate discovery of the "Procès verbal"

(or original minute) "de l'exécution à mort de Caspar de Heu, S^r. de

Buy" among the MSS. of the Bibliothèque Nationale, 22562, 1re partie,

pp. 110-113. It is now printed in the Appendix to "Le Tigre," 103-108,

and Bulletin de l'hist. du prot. fr., xxv. (1876), 164-168. The very

date (which proves to be Sept. 1, 1558) was previously unknown.

extraordinary precautions taken to conceal the procedure from the

knowledge of the public, and by the selection of the most lonely place

about the castle for the grave into which his official assassins hastily

thrust the body.1 La Renaudie held the Cardinal of Lorraine to be

the author of the cowardly deed.2

He assembles the malcontents at Nantes, Feb. 1, 1560. Well-devised plans.

La Renaudie displayed incredible diligence.3 In a few days he had

travelled over a great part of France, visiting all the most prominent

opponents of the Guises, urging the reluctant, assuring the timid,

inciting all to a determined effort. On the first of February he

assembled in the city of Nantes a large number of noblemen and of

persons belonging to the "tiers état," who claimed to be as complete a

representation of the estates of France as the circumstances of the

country would admit. It was a hazardous undertaking; but so prudently

did the deputies deport themselves, that, although the Parliament of

Brittany was then sitting at Nantes, they were not detected in the crowd

of pleaders before the court. After solemnly protesting that the enterprise

was directed neither against the majesty of the king and of the

1 "Ce pendant," says the royal lieutenant, in the

interesting document just described, "aurions fait faire une fosse dans

les fosses du donjon dudit chasteau, soubz les arches du pont de la

poterne, comme nous semblant lieu le plus caché et secret d'alentour

dudit chasteau, d'autant que l'on ne va souvent ny aysement esdits

fossez, et que les herbes y sont communément grandes," etc. Le Tigre, 108.

2 The author of that terrible invective, "Le Tigre,"

reminds the cardinal of this crime in one of the finest outbursts of

indignant reproach: "N'oys-tu pas crier le sang de celuy que tu fis

estrangler dans une chambre du boys de Vincennes? S'il estoit coupable,

que [pourquoi] n'a il esté puny publiquement? Où sont les tesmoingts qui

l'ont chargé? Pourquoy as-tu voulu en sa mort rompre et froisser toutes

les loix de France, si tu pençoys que par les loix, il peut estre

condemné?" Also in the versified "Tigre," lines 315-326. It is only

just to La Renaudie to add that, according to La Planche, those who knew

him best acquitted him of the charge of being much influenced by these

and other personal considerations. Hist. de l'estat de France, 238,


3 "Homme, comme l'on dit, de grand esprit, et de diligence

presque incroyable." Hist. du tumulte d'Amboise, in Recueil des choses

mémorables (1565), and Mémoires de Condé, i. 324.

princes of the blood, nor against the legitimate estate of the

kingdom, the assembly was intrusted with the secret of the name of the

prince by whose authority the arrest of the Guises was to be attempted.

The tenth of March1 was fixed upon for the execution of the design.

At that date, it was supposed, Francis and his court would be sojourning

on the banks of the Loire.2 Five hundred gentlemen were selected,

and placed under the command of ten captains. All were to obey the

directions of the "mute" chief, and his delegate, La Renaudie. Others of

the confederates were pledged to prevent the provincial towns from

sending assistance to the Guises. The force thus raised was to be

disbanded only when a legitimate government had been re-established, and

the usurpers brought to punishment.3
Confidence of the Guises.

The plan was well devised, and its execution was entrusted to capable

hands. The omens, indeed, were favorable. The

1 According to De Thou, ii. 762, March 15th. So Davila, 22,

and La Place, 33. Calvin (Letter to Sturm, March 23, 1560, Bonnet, iv.

91) says "before March 15." Castelnau, i. 6, says March 10th.

2 The uniform statement of the contemporary authorities

from whom our accounts of the "Tumult" are derived, is to the effect

that the blow was to be struck at Blois, but that, on discovering their

peril, the Guises hastily removed the court, for greater safety, to the

castle of Amboise. And yet the correspondence of the English

commissioners discloses the fact that the time of the removal had been

decided upon on the 28th of January, several days before the Nantes

assembly. See Ranke, Am. ed., 176. "The Frenche King, as it is said, the

5th of February removeth hens towardes Amboise; and will be fifteen

dayes in going thither." Despatch of Killigrew and Jones, from Blois,

January 28, 1559/60, Forbes, State Papers, i. 315. In fact, the general

outline of the royal progress was indicated by the Spanish ambassador,

Perrenot Chantonnay, to Philip II., so far back as December 2, 1559: "La

cour, lui avait-il écrit, a le projet de passer le curéme à Amboise,

de se rendre en Guyenne au printemps, en passant par Poitiers, Bordeaux,

Bayonne, d'aller ensuite à Toulouse, de demeurer l'hiver suivant en

Provence et en Languedoc, et d'agir vigoureusement contre les

hérétiques." Mignet, Journal des Savants, 1857, 419, from Simancas MSS.

The Spanish ambassador saw so much that appalled him in the rapid

progress of the Reformation in every part of France, that he feared alike for the

North and the South, when the king was not present to check its growth.

3 La Planche, 238, 239; Hist. ecclés., i. 158, 159; De

Thou, ii. 754-762 (where La Renaudie's harangue is given at length);

Castelnau, liv. i., c. 8; Davila, 22; La Place, 33. Hist. du tumult d'Amboise, ubi supra.

Cardinal of Lorraine and his brother, intoxicated by the uniform success

hitherto attending their ambitious projects, despised such vague rumors
of opposition as reached their ears. The party adverse to their tyranny,
composed not only of Protestants and others who sought the best interests
of their country, but recruited from the ranks of the restless and of those who
had private wrongs to redress, was sure, on the first tidings of its

uprising, to secure the active co-operation of many of the most powerful

nobles, and possibly might enlist the majority of the population. Rarely

has an important secret been so long and so successfully kept. It was

deemed little short of a miracle that, in a time of peace, and in a

country where the regal authority was so implicitly obeyed, a

deliberative assembly of no mean size had been convened from all the

provinces of France, and the Guises had obtained intimations of the

conspiracy of their enemies by letters from Germany, Spain, and Italy,

before any tidings of it reached the ears of their spies carefully

posted in every part of the kingdom. So close a reticence augured ill

for the permanence of the present usurpation.1

The plot betrayed.

But the timidity or treachery of a single person disconcerted all the

steps so cautiously taken. The curiosity of Des Avenelles, a lawyer at

Paris, in whose house La Renaudie lodged, was excited by the number of

the visitors whom his guest attracted. As his host was a Protestant, La

Renaudie believed that he risked nothing in making of him a confidant.

But the secret was too valuable, or too dangerous, to be kept, and Des

Avenelles secured his safety, as well as a liberal reward, by disclosing

it to two dependants of the Guises, by whom it was faithfully reported

to their masters.2 The

1 De Thou, ii. 762, 763.

2 Castelnau, 1. i., c. 8; La Planche, 245, 246; Hist.

eccl., i. 164; La Place, 33; De Thou, ii. 763. The Histoire du tumulte

d'Amboise, apud Recueil des choses mémorables (1565), i. 5, and Mém.

de Condé, i. 329, describes Des Avenelles as "prest de se donner à

louage au premier offrant;" adding "estant ambitieux et nécessiteux tout

ensemble, il pensa avoir trouvé le moyen pour se rendre riche et

memorable à jamais." For a favorable view of Des Avenelles's motives,

see De Thou, ii. 775. The 12th of February was the date when these

tidings reached the Guises, as appears from the speech of Morage or

Morague, sent in March to deliver to parliament for registry the edict

of amnesty for past religious offences. Mém. de Condé, i. 337. The king,

astounding information was at first received

with incredulity, but soon a second witness was obtained. It could no

longer be doubted that the blow of the approach of which letters from

abroad, and especially from Cardinal Granvelle, in Flanders,1 had

warned them, was about to descend upon their heads.

The "Tumult of Amboise."

When fuller revelations of the extent of the plot were made, the court

in consternation shut itself up in the defences of Amboise. Catharine

de' Medici, recalling the warning of the Church of Paris, declared that

now she saw that the Protestants were men of their word.2
The Châtillons consulted. Coligny gives Catharine good advice.

Meanwhile, not only were vigorous measures adopted to guard against

attack, but the most powerful nobles, who might be suspected of

complicity, were sounded respecting their intentions. Coligny and his

brother, D'Andelot, who, in virtue of their offices as Admiral and

Colonel-General of the infantry, stood at the head of the army, received

affectionate invitations from Catharine to visit the court. Upon

who had started on his hunting tour from Blois on the 5th of February,

was, when the news came, between Marchenoir and Montoire (places north

and northwest of Blois). The first intimations must, however, have been

very vague and general, since, on the 19th of February, the Cardinal of

Lorraine wrote to Coignet, French ambassador in Switzerland, directing

him to set one or two persons to watch La Renaudie ("à la queue de la

Regnaudie pour l'observer de loin, n'en perdre connaissance ni jour, ni

nuit"), and seize him the moment he entered the French

territories--evidently supposing him to be still in Switzerland and far

from Amboise. Letter of Card. Lorraine from Montoire, Feb. 19, 1560,

Imp. Lib. Paris, Mignet, Journal des Savants, 1857, 420, 421. It was,

doubtless, the receipt of more definite warnings that led the Guises to

hasten the termination of the king's pleasure excursion. On the 22d of

February, Francis arrived at Amboise, "which was two dayes sooner then

was loked for." Throkmorton to the queen, Feb. 27, 1560, Forbes, State

Papers, i. 334.

1 Castelnau, ubi supra.

2 La Planche and Hist. ecclés., ubi supra. I need not

call attention to the gross absurdity into which Jean de Tavannes falls

(Mém. ii. 260, 261), when he makes Catharine, through policy and hatred

of Mary of Scots and of the Guises, whom the Scottish queen supported,

favor the malcontents! Can the younger Tavannes have been misled by the

hypocritical representations with which she once and again attempted ineffectually

to deceive the reformers when they appealed to her to put an end to the persecutions?

their arrival they were taken apart, and were earnestly entreated by the queen

mother and Chancellor Olivier to assist them by their counsel, and not

to abandon the young king. To so urgent a request Coligny made a frank

reply. He explained the existing discontent and its causes, both

religious and political. Persecution, and the usurpation of those who

were esteemed foreigners by the French, lay at the root of the troubles.

He advised the relaxation of the rigorous treatment of the adherents of

the Reformation. Extermination was out of the question. The numbers of

the Protestants had become too great to permit the entertaining of such

a thought. Moreover, the court might be assured that there were

those--and they were not few--who would no longer consent to endure the

cruelty to which, for forty years, they had been subjected, especially

now that it was exercised under the authority of a young king governed

by persons "more hated than the plague," and known to be inspired less

by religious zeal than by excessive ambition, and by an avarice that

could be satisfied only by obtaining the property of the richest houses

in France. An edict of toleration, couched in explicit terms and

honestly executed, was the only remedy to restore peace and quiet until

the convocation of a free and holy council.1

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