The Huguenots of Valence seize the church of the Franciscans.
The course of events in many cities of Southern France is illustrated by
the occurrences at Valence, which the most authentic and trustworthy
historian of this reign has described at length. This episcopal city,
situated on the Rhône, about midway between Lyons and Avignon, had for
some time contained a small community of Huguenots. When, in order to
avoid persecution, their minister, who had become known to their
enemies, was replaced by another, a period of unexampled growth began.
The private houses in which the Protestants met were too small to
contain the worshippers. They now adjourned to the large schools, but at
first held their services by night. Soon their courage grew with the
advent of a second minister and with large accessions to their ranks.
The younger and more impetuous part of the Protestants, disregarding the
prudent counsels of their pastors and elders, ventured upon the bold
step of seizing upon the Church of the Franciscans, and caused the
Gospel to be openly preached from its pulpit. The people assembled,
summoned by the ringing of the bell; and it was not long before the
reformed doctrines were relished and embraced by great crowds. A goodly
number of armed gentlemen simultaneously took possession of the
adjoining cloisters, and protected the Protestant rites. The
co-religionists of Montélimart and Romans, considerable towns not far
distant, emboldened by the example of Valence, resorted to public
preaching in the churches or within their precincts.1
1 Calvin, in a letter sent by François de Saint Paul, a
minister whom he induced to accept the urgent call of the church of
Montélimart, dissuaded that church from this step which was already
contemplated. Better is it, said he, to increase the flock, and to
gather in the scattered sheep, meanwhile keeping quiet yourselves. "At
least, while you hold your assemblies peaceably from house to house, the
rage of the wicked will not so soon be enkindled against you, and you
will render to God what He requires, namely, the glorifying of His name
in a pure manner, and the keeping of yourselves unpolluted by all
superstitious observances, until it please Him to open a wider door."
Lettres françaises (Bonnet), ii. 335, 336. The author of the Histoire
ecclés. des églises réf., i. 138, expresses a belief that had such wise
counsels been followed, incomparably the greater part of the district
would have embraced the Reformation.
A public assembly of citizens. An impressive scene. The public morals.
On receiving the intelligence of the sudden outbreak of Protestant zeal
in his diocese, the Bishop of Valence--himself at one time possibly
half-inclined to become a convert--despatched thither the Seneschal of
Valentinois with the royal Edict of Forgiveness published at Amboise for
all who had taken arms and conspired against the king. The citizens were
summoned to a public assembly, in which the magistrates, the consuls,
the clergy, and the chief Huguenots were conspicuous. After reading and
explaining the terms of the royal clemency, the seneschal turned to the
Protestants, who stood by themselves, and demanded whether they intended
to avail themselves of its protection. Mirabel, their chief spokesman,
replied that it was the custom of the reformed churches to offer prayer
to God before treating of so important affairs as this, and proffered a
request that they be allowed to invoke His presence and blessing.
Permission was granted. A citizen of Valence, who was also a deacon of
the Reformed Church, thereupon came forward, and uttered a fervent
prayer for the prosperity of the king and his realm, and for the
progress of the Gospel. The Protestant gentlemen reverently uncovered
their heads and knelt upon the ground, and their Roman Catholic
neighbors imitated their example. But it was noticed that the clergy
stood unmoved and refused to join in the act of worship. The prayer
being ended, a Huguenot orator delivered the answer of his brethren. It
was, that they rejoiced and rendered thanks for the benignity of their
young prince; but that they could not avail themselves of the pardon
offered. They had never conspired against their king. On the contrary,
they professed a religion that enjoined the most dutiful obedience. As
for bearing arms, it had only been resorted to by the Huguenots in order
that they might protect themselves against the unauthorized insults and
violence of private persons. The citizen was followed by a procureur,
who, for eight years, had kept the criminal records of Valence. He bore
public testimony to a wonderful change that had come
over the city since the introduction of the preaching of the Gospel. The acts
of violence which formerly rendered the streets so dangerous by night that
few dared to venture out of their houses, even to visit their neighbors,
had almost disappeared. The fearful story of crime which used to
confront him every morning had been succeeded by a chronicle of quiet
and peace. It would seem that with a change of doctrine had also come a
transformation of life. The speaker challenged the other side to gainsay
his statements; and when not a voice was heard in contradiction, he
administered to the Papists a scathing rebuke for the calumnies which
some of them had forged against the Protestants behind their backs. With
this triumphant refutation of the charges of disorder, the assembly
The Huguenots of Dauphiny to be exterminated.
The province of Dauphiny, within whose limits Valence, Romans and
Montélimart were comprehended, was a government entrusted to the Duke of
Guise. Moved with indignation at finding it become the hotbed of
Protestantism, he determined to crush the Huguenots before impunity had
given them still greater boldness. The governors of adjacent provinces
were ordered to assist in the pious undertaking. King Francis, in a
paroxysm of rage, wrote to Tavannes, acting governor of Burgundy, to
take all the men-at-arms under his command and march to the assistance
of Clermart, Lieutenant-Governor of Dauphiny, in cutting to pieces those
who had taken up arms under color of religion. They were, he heard,
three or four thousand men, and had instituted public preaching "after
the Geneva fashion," with all other insolent acts conceivable. He begged
him to punish them as they deserved, showing no pity or compassion,
since they had refused to take advantage of the forgiveness of past
offences which had been sent them. He was to extirpate the evil.2
These and other equally brutal instructions were obeyed with alacrity;
but their execution was effected rather by treachery
1 La Planche, 284-286.
2 Letter of Francis II. to Gaspard de Saulx, Seign. de
Tavannes, April 12, 1560, apud Négotiations relatives au règne de
François II., etc. (Collection de documents inédits), 341-343.
than by open force. The Huguenots of Valence were first induced by
promises of security to lay aside their arms, then imprisoned and despoiled
by a party consisting of the very dregs of the population of Lyons and
Vienne. Two of the ministers were put to death1 in company with
three of the principal men, one being the procureur who had given such
noble testimony to the morals of the Protestants. More would have been
executed had not the Bishop of Valence been induced to intercede for his
episcopal city, and obtain amnesty for its citizens. Romans and
Montélimart fared little better than Valence.2
Concourse at Nismes.
At Nismes, in Languedoc--destined periodically, for the next three
centuries, to be the scene of civil dissension arising from religious
intolerance--as early as in Holy Week, three Protestant ministers had
been preaching in private houses and administering baptism. On Easter
Monday a large concourse from the city and the surrounding villages
publicly passed out into the suburbs--armed, if we may believe the
cowardly Vicomte de Joyeuse, with corselets, arquebuses, and pikes--and
celebrated the Lord's Supper "after the manner of Geneva." Neither the
presidial judges nor the consuls exhibited much disposition to second
the efforts of the provincial government in suppressing these
Mouvans in arms in Provence. His message to Guise.
In Provence the commotion assumed a more military aspect, in immediate
connection with the conspiracy of Amboise. Mouvans, an able leader,
after failing in an attempt to gain admission to Aix, long maintained
himself in the open country. Keeping up a wonderful degree of discipline
in his army, he allowed his soldiers, indeed, to destroy the images in
the churches and to melt down the rich reliquaries of gold and silver,
but scrupulously required them to place the precious metal in the hands
of the local authorities. At length, forced to capitulate to the Comte de Tende,
the royal governor, he obtained the promise of security of person and
1 With a label attached to their necks bearing this
inscription: "Voicy les chefs des rebelles."
2 La Planche, 286-289.
3 Letter of the Vte. de Joyeuse to the king, April 26,
1560, apud Nég. sous François II., 361-363.
liberty of worship. New acts of treachery rendered his
position unsafe, and he retired to Geneva. It was thence that he
returned to the Duke of Guise, who professed to be eager to secure for
himself the services of so able a commander, a noble answer: "So long as
I know you to be an enemy of my religion and of the public peace, and to
be occupying the place of right belonging to the princes of the blood,
you may be assured you have an enemy in Mouvans, a poor gentleman, but
able to bring against you fifty thousand good servants of the King of
France, who are ready to endanger life and property in redressing the
wrongs you have inflicted on the faithful subjects of his Majesty."1
A popular awakening.
It was impossible to ignore the fact: France had awakened from the sleep
of ages. The doctrines of the Reformation were being embraced by the
masses. It was impossible to repress the impulse to confess with the
mouth2 what was believed in the heart. At Rouen, the earnest request
of the authorities, seconded by the prudent advice of the ministers,
might prevail upon the Protestant community still to be content with an
unostentatious and almost private worship, upon promise of connivance on
the part of the Parliament of Normandy. But Caen, St. Lô, and Dieppe
witnessed great public assemblies,3 and Central and Southern France
copied the example
1 La Planche, 293.
2 Hence the festival of Corpus Christi witnessed in some
places serious riots, especially in Rouen, where a number of citizens of
the reformed faith refused to join in the otherwise universal practice
of spreading tapestry on the front of their houses when the host was
carried by. Houses were broken into, at the instigation of the priests,
and near a score of persons killed. Languet, Paris, June 16th, Epist.
sec., ii. 59, 60.
3 La Planche, 294; Hist. ecclés., i. 194; Floquet, Hist. du
parl. de Normandie, ii. 284, 288, 294, 302-306, etc. At Dieppe the
Huguenots had gone so far as to erect, with the pecuniary assistance
afforded by Admiral Coligny, an elegant and spacious "temple," as the
Protestant place of worship was styled. Vieilleville, much to his
regret, felt compelled to demolish it (Aug., 1560), for it stood in the
very heart of the city. I quote a part of his secretary's appreciative
description: "C'estoit ung fort brave édifice, ressemblant au théatre
de Rome qu'on appelle Collisée, ou aux arênes de Nysmes. On fut trois
jours à le verser par terre, et ne partismes de Dieppe que n'en
veissions la fin." Mém. de Vieilleville, ii. 448, etc.; Floquet, ii. 318-336.
of Normandy. The time for secret gatherings and a timid worship
had gone by. They were no longer in question. "When cities and
almost entire provinces had embraced the faith of the reformers," a
recent historian has well remarked,1 "secret assemblies became an
impossibility. A whole people cannot shut themselves up in forests and
in caverns to invoke their God. From whom would they hide? From
themselves? The very idea is absurd."
Pamphlets against the usurpers. The queen mother consults La Planche.
The political ferment was not less active than the religious. The
pamphlets and the representations made by the emissaries of the Guises
to foreign powers, in which the movement at Amboise was branded as a
conspiracy directed against the king and the royal authority, called
forth a host of replies vindicating the political Huguenots, and
setting their project in its true light, as an effort to overthrow the
intolerable usurpation of the Guises. The tyrants were no match for the
patriots in the use of the pen; but it fared ill with the author or
printer of these libels, when the strenuous efforts made to discover
them proved successful.2 The politic Catharine de' Medici, fearing a
new and more dreadful outburst of the popular discontent, renewed her
hollow advances to the Protestant churches,3 held a long
consultation with Louis Regnier
1 De Félice, liv. i., c. 12 (Am. ed., p. 111).
2 See La Planche, 312, 313, and the "Histoire des cinq
rois" (Recueil des choses mém), 1598, p. 99, for the punishment of the
possessor of a copy of a virulent pamphlet against the cardinal,
entitled Le Tigre (see the note at the end of this chapter); and
Négociations sous François II., 456, for a letter from court ordering
search to be made for the author and publisher of the "Complaincte des
fidèles de France contre leurs adversaires les papistes." "En ung lundy après
Pasques, 15^e du moys, fut affiché devant S. Hilaire un papier estant imprimé
d'autre impression de Paris, et y avoit à l'intitulation Les Estats opprimez
par la tyrannie de MM. de Guise au roy salut." Journal de Jehan de la Fosse,
37. The piece referred to is inserted in the Mémoires de Condé, i. 405-410.
3 La Planche, 299-302. The remonstrance, signed
Theophilus, which they addressed her, insisted on the ill-success of
the persecutions to which for forty years they had been subjected; for
one killed, two hundred had joined their assemblies; for ten thousand
open adherents, the Reformation had one hundred thousand secret
upholders. The Edict of Forgiveness answered no good purpose: "c'estoit
bien peu d'oster pour un instant la douleur d'une maladie, si quant et
quant la cause et la racine n'en estoit ostée."
de la Planche (the eminent historian, whose profoundly philosophical
and exact chronicle of this short reign leaves us only disappointed
that he confined his masterly investigations to so limited a field)
respecting the grounds of the existing dissatisfaction,1 and despatched
Coligny to Normandy for the purpose of finding a cure for the evil.
Edict of Romorantin, May, 1560. No abatement of rigor.
The Guises, on the other hand, resolved to meet the difficulties of
their situation with boldness. The opposition, so far as it was
religious, must be repressed by legislation strictly enforced.
Accordingly, in the month of May, 1560, an edict was published known as
the Edict of Romorantin, from the place where the court was
sojourning, but remarkable for nothing save the misapprehensions that
have been entertained respecting its origin and object.2 It restored
1 La Place, 41-45; La Planche, 316, 317; Mém. de Castelnau, l. ii., c. 7; De Thou, ii., liv. xxv.
788-791. I confess, however, that the careful perusal of La Planche's bold speech has nearly
convinced me that the ascription of the anonymous "Hist. de l'estat de Fr. sous François II."
to his pen is erroneous. I shall not insist upon the fact that the description of La Planche as
"homme politique plustost que religieux" is inappropriate to the author of this history. But I
can scarcely conceive of La Planche correcting errors in his own speech, and not only
expressing an utter dissent from the account which he himself gave the queen of the motives
that led La Renaudie to engage in the enterprise that had for its object the overthrow of the
Guises, but even accusing himself of falling into a grave mistake with regard to the
importance of the differences of creed between the Protestants and the
Roman Church: "s'abusant en ce qu'il meit en avant des différends de la
religion." La Planche had suggested a conference of
theologians--ostensibly to make a faithful translation of the Bible, in
reality to compare differences--and had expressed the opinion that there
would be found less discord than there appeared to be. The condemnation of this
view certainly does not mark a man of political rather than religious tendencies!
I fear that we must look elsewhere for the author of this excellent history.
2 It has been ascribed to the virtuous and tolerant Chancellor L'Hospital, who, it
is said, drew it up in order to defeat the project of the Guises to introduce the
Spanish Inquisition. (La Planche, 305; cf. also De Thou, ii. 781.) But the edict
was published before the appointment of L'Hospital, and while Morvilliers,
a creature of the Guises, provisionally held the seals after Chancellor Olivier's death;
and the spiritual jurisdiction it established differed little in principle from an
inquisition. In fact, three of the French prelates, the Cardinals of Lorraine, Bourbon,
and Châtillon, had, as we have seen, been constituted a board of inquisitors of the faith;
and, soon after the publication of the Edict of Romorantin, the Cardinal of
Tournon was set over them as inquisitor-general. The subject has been
well discussed by Soldan, Geschichte des Prot. in Frankreich, i.
338-342. The Duc d'Aumale, in his usually accurate Histoire des Princes
de Condé (i. 113), repeats the blunder of La Planche and De Thou.
exclusive jurisdiction in matters of simple heresy to the
clergy, excluding the civil courts from all participation, save to
execute the sentence of the ecclesiastical judge. But it neither
lightened nor aggravated the penalties affixed by previous laws. Death
was still to be the fate of the convicted heretic, to whom it mattered
little whether he were tried by a secular or by a spiritual tribunal,
except that the forms of law were more likely to be observed by the
former than by the latter. A section directed against the "assemblies"
in which, under color of religion, arms were carried and the public
peace threatened, declared those who took part in them to be rebels
liable to the penalties of treason.1
Death of Chancellor Olivier.
A remarkable figure now comes upon the stage of French affairs in the
person of Chancellor Michel de l'Hospital. Chancellor Olivier, who had
merited universal respect while losing office in consequence of his
steadfast resistance to injustice under the previous reign, had
forfeited the esteem of the good by his complaisance when restored to
office by the Guises at the beginning of the present reign. Overcome
with remorse for the cruelties in which he had acquiesced since his
reinstatement, he fell sick shortly after the tumult of Amboise. When
visited during his last illness by the Cardinal of Lorraine, he coldly
turned his back upon him and muttered, "Ah! Cardinal, you have caused us
all to be damned."2 He died not long afterward, and was buried
1 Recueil des anc. lois fr., xiv. 31-33; La Planche, 305,
306; La Place, 46, 47. It is, of course, "an edict holily conceived and
promulgated," in the estimation of Florimond de Ræmond, v. 113. The only
redeeming feature I can find in it is the article by which malicious
informers made themselves liable to all the penalties they had sought to
inflict on others.
2 La Place, 36 (who states that the burning of Du Bourg was
an occasion of deep remorse in Olivier's last hours); La Planche, 266;
J. de Serres, De statu rel. et reip., i., fol. 35; De Thou, ii. (liv.
xxiv.), 775; Hist. du tumulte d'Amboise, ubi supra.
without regret, despised by the patriotic party on account of his
unfaithfulness to early convictions, and hated by the Guises for his
tardy condemnation of their measures.
Chancellor Michel de l'Hospital.
Of L'Hospital, because raised to the vacant charge by the Lorraine
influence, little good was originally expected.1 But the lapse of a
few years revealed the incorruptible integrity of his character and the
sagacity of his plans.2 Elevated to the highest judicial post at a
critical juncture, he accepted a dignity for which he had little
ambition, only that he might the better serve his country. What he could
not remedy he resolved to make as endurable as possible. It was not
within the power of a single virtuous statesman to allay the storm and
quiet the surging waters; but by good-will, perseverance, and nerve, he
might steer the ship of state through many a narrow channel and by many
a hidden rock. An ardent lover and earnest advocate of toleration, he
yet considered it politic to consent to urge the Parliament of Paris, in
the king's name, to register the Edict of Romorantin, in accordance with
which the system of persecution was for a while to be continued. One of
the original conspirators of Amboise, according to the explicit
statement of a writer who saw his signature affixed to the secret papers
of the confederates,3 he made no
1 La Planche, 305.
2 If we may credit that professed panegyrist, Scævola de
St. Marthe, L'Hospital was of an august appearance, of a dignified and
tranquil countenance, and, if his intellectual constitution had a philosophic stamp,
his features bore a not less remarkable resemblance to the head of the Stagirite as
delineated on ancient medals. Elogia doctorum in Gallia virorum qui nostra patrumque
memoria floruerunt (Ienæ, 1696), lib. ii., p. 95.
3 This remarkable statement is made by Agrippa d'Aubigné, Mémoires, 478 (Ed.
Panthéon Lit.). He tells us that he had inherited from his father, himself one of the
conspirators, the original papers of the enterprise of Amboise. The suggestion
was made by a confidant, that the possession of the proof of L'Hospital's
complicity would certainly secure him 10,000 crowns, either from the chancellor
or from his enemies; whereupon the youth threw all the papers into the fire lest
he might in an hour of weakness succumb to the temptation. In his Hist. universelle, i. 95,
D'Aubigné makes the same assertion with great positiveness: "L'Hospital, homme de
grand estime, luy succeda, quoyqu'il eust esté des conjurez pour le faict d'Amboise.
Ce que je maintiens contre tout ce qui en a esté escrit, pource que l'original de
l'entreprise fut consigné entre les mains de mon père, où estoit son
seing tout du long entre celuy de Dandelot et d'un Spifame: chose que
j'ai faict voir a plusieurs personnes de marque."
opposition to the article that pronounced the penalties of treason
upon those who assembled in arms to celebrate the rites of religious
worship. Yet he dissembled not from timidity, treachery, or
ambition, but solely that by unremitting labor he might heal the
unhappy dissensions of his country. "Patience, patience, tout ira
bien," were the words he always had in his mouth for encouragement