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
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. 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.
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