The death of Francis saves the Huguenots. Transfer of power.
If the sudden catastrophe which brought to an end the bloody rule of
Henry was naturally interpreted as a marked interposition of Heaven in
behalf of the persecuted "Lutherans," it is not surprising that the
unexpected death of his eldest son, in the flower of his youth, and
after the briefest reign in the royal annals, seemed little short of a
miracle. Had Francis lived but a week longer, the ruin of the Huguenots
might perhaps have been consummated. Condé would have been executed at
the opening of the States General. Navarre and Montmorency, if no worse
doom befell them, would have been incarcerated at Loches and Bourges.
The Estates, deprived of the presence of these leaders, and overawed by
the formidable military preparations of the Guises,1 would readily
have acquiesced in the most extreme measures. Liberty and reform would
have found a common grave.2 But a few hours sufficed to disarrange
this programme. The political power was, at one stroke, transferred from
the hands of
1 Evidently the Guises had acquiesced with so much alacrity
in the convocation of the States General only because of their
confidence in their power to intimidate any party that should undertake
to oppose them. Chantonnay, the Spanish ambassador, informed Philip of
this before Francis's death, and gave the Cardinal of Lorraine as his
authority for the statement: "Le ha dicho el cardenal de Lorrena que
para aquel tiempo avria aqui tanta gente de guerra y se daria tal órden
que a qualquiera que quiziesse hablar se le cerrasse la boca, y assi ne
se hiziesse mas dello que ellos quiziessen." Simancas MSS., apud
Mignet, Journal des savants, 1859, p. 40.
2 Letter of Beza to Bullinger, Jan. 22, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 18.
Francis and Charles of Lorraine to those of Catharine de'
Medici and the King of Navarre; and the Protestants of Paris recognized
in the event a direct answer to the petitions which they had offered to
Almighty God on the recent days of special humiliation and prayer.1
Alarm of the Guises. Funeral obsequies of Francis II.
The altered posture of affairs was equally patent to the princes of late
complete masters of the destinies of the country. In the first moments
of their excessive terror, they are said to have shut themselves up in
their palaces, and to have declined to leave this refuge until assured
that no immediate violence was contemplated.2 Even after the
immediate danger had passed, however, they were too shrewd to pay to the
remains of their nephew the tokens of respect exacted of the constable
in behalf of Henry's corpse,3 preferring to provide for their own
safety and future influence by being present at the meeting of the
States. The paltry convoy of Francis from Orleans to the royal vaults of
St. Denis presented so unfavorable a contrast to the pompous ceremonial
of his father's interment, that it was wittily said, "that the mortal
enemy of the Huguenots had not been able to escape being himself buried
like a Huguenot."4 A bitter taunt aimed at the unfaithfulness and
ingratitude of the Guises fell under their own eyes. A slip of paper was
found pinned to the velvet funereal pall, on which were written--with
allusion to that famous chamberlain of Charles the Seventh, who, seeing
his master's body abandoned by the courtiers that had flocked to do
obeisance to his son and successor, himself buried it with great pomp
and at his own expense--the words: "Where is Messire Tanneguy du
Chastel? But he was a Frenchman!"5
1 From Nov. 20th to Dec. 1st, De la Place, 77, 78.
2 La Planche, 418.
3 "Si possible estoit," wrote Calvin, "il seroit bon de
leur faire veiller le corps da trespassé, comme ils out faict jouer ce
rosle aux aultres." Letter to ministers of Paris, Lettres franchises, ii. 347.
4 "Lutherano more sepultus Lutheranorum hostis." Letter of
Beza to Bullinger, ubi supra, p. 19. "Dont advint un brocard: que le
roy, ennemy mortel des huguenauds, n'avoit pen empescher d'estre enterré
à la huguenaute." La Planche, 421.
5 De la Place, 76.
Navarre's opportunity. His contemptible character.
Adroitness and success of Catharine.
Never had prince of the blood a finer opportunity for maintaining the
right, while asserting his own just claims, than fell to the lot of
Antoine of Navarre. The sceptre had passed from the grasp of a youth of
uncertain majority to that of a boy who was incontestably a minor.
Charles, the second son of Henry the Second, who now succeeded his older
brother, was only ten years of age. It was beyond dispute that the
regency belonged to Antoine as the first prince of the blood. Every
sentiment of self-respect dictated that he should assume the high rank
to which his birth entitled him,1 and that, while exercising the
power with which it was associated, in restraining or punishing the
common enemies both of the public liberties and of the family of the
Bourbons, he should protect the Huguenots, who looked up to him as their
natural defender. But the King of Navarre had, unfortunately, entered
into the humiliating compact with the queen mother, to which reference
was made in the last chapter. From this agreement he now showed no
disposition to withdraw. The utopian vision of a kingdom of Navarre,
once more restored to its former dimensions, still flitted before his
eyes, and he preferred the absolute sovereignty of this contracted
territory to the influential but dangerous regency which his friends
urged him to seize. Besides, he was sluggish, changeable, and altogether
untrustworthy. "He is an exceedingly weak person"--suggetto
debolissimo--said Suriano. "As to his judgment, I shall not stop to say
that he wears rings on his fingers and pendants in his ears like a
woman, although he has a gray beard and bears the burden of many years;
and that in great matters he listens to the counsels of flatterers and
vain men, of whom he has a thousand about him."2 Liberal in promises,
and exhibiting occasional sparks of courage, the fire of Antoine's resolution
soon died out, and he earned the reputation of being no more
1 "De consentir que une femme veuve, une estrangère et
Italienne domine, non-seulement il luy tourneroit à grand déshonneur,
mais à un tel préjudice de la couronne, qu'il en seroit blasmé à
jamais." Calvin to the ministers of Paris, Lettres fr., ii. 346.
2 Commentarii del regno di Francia, probably written early
in 1562, in Tommaseo, Rel. des Amb. Vén., i. 552-554.
formidable than the most treacherous of advocates.
Sensual indulgence had sapped the very foundations of his
character.1 It is true that his friends, forgetting the
disappointment engendered by his recent displays of timidity, reminded
him again of the engagements into which he had entered, to interfere in
defence of the oppressed, of his glorious opportunity, and of his
accountability before the Divine Tribunal.2 But their appeals
accomplished little. Catharine was able to boast, in a letter to the
French Ambassador at Madrid, just a fortnight after the death of
Francis, that "she had great reason to be pleased" with Navarre's
conduct, for "he had placed himself altogether in her hands, and had
despoiled himself of all power and authority." "I dispose of him," she
said, "just as I please."3 And to her daughter, Queen Isabella of
Spain, she wrote by the same courier: "He is so obedient; he has no
authority save that which I permit him to exercise."4 The
apprehensions felt by Philip the Second regarding the exaltation of a
heretic, in the person of his hated neighbor of Navarre,
1 Calvin, who read his contemporaries thoroughly, wrote to
Bullinger (May 24, 1561): "Rex Navarræ non minus segnis aut flexibilis
quam hactenus liberalis est promissor; nulla fides, nulla constantia,
etsi enim videtur interdum non modo viriles igniculos jacere, sed
luculentam flammam spargere, mox evanescit. Hoc quando subinde accidit
non aliter est metuendus quam prævaricator forensis. Adde quod totus est
venereus," etc. Baum, vol. ii., App., 32.
2 Letter of Francis Hotman, Strasbourg, December 31, 1560,
to the King of Navarre, Bulletin, ix. (1860) 32.
3 "En quoy il fault que je vous dye que le roy de Navarre,
qui est le premier, et auquel les lois du royaume donnent beaucoup
d'avantage, s'est si doulcement et franchement porté à mon endroict, que
j'ay grande occasion de m'en contenter, s'estant du tout mis entre mes
mains et despouillé du pouvoir et d'auctorité soubz mon bon plaisir....
Je l'ay tellement gaigné, que je fais et dispose de luy tout ainsy qu'il
me plaist." Letter of Catharine to the Bishop of Limoges, December 19,
1560, ap. Négociations relat. au règne de Fr. II., p. 786, 787.
4 "Encore que je souy contraynte d'avoyr le roy de Navarre
auprès de moy, d'aultent que lé louys de set royaume le portet ynsin,
quant le roy ayst en bas ayage, que les prinse du sanc souyt auprès de
la mère; si ne fault-y qu'il entre en neule doulte, car y m'é si
aubéysant et n'a neul comendement que seluy que je luy permès." The fact
that this letter was written by Catharine's own hand well accounts for
the spelling. Négociations, etc., 791.
to the first place in the vicinage of the French throne, might well be
quieted after such reassuring intelligence.
Financial embarrassment. The religions situation. Catharine's neutrality.
Yet the position of Catharine, it must be admitted, was by no means an
easy one. The ablest statesman might have shrunk from coping with the
financial difficulties that beset her. The crown was almost hopelessly
involved. Henry the Second had in the course of a dozen years
accumulated, by prodigal gifts and by needless wars, a debt--enormous
for that age--of forty-two millions of francs, besides alienating the
crown lands and raising by taxation a larger sum of money than had been
collected in eighty years previous.1 The Venetian Michele summed up
the perplexities of the political situation under two questions: How to
relieve the people, now thoroughly exhausted;2 and, how to rescue
the crown from its poverty. But, in reality, the financial embarrassment
was the least of the difficulties of the position Catharine had assumed.
The kingdom was rent with dissensions. Two religions were
struggling--the one for exclusive supremacy, the other at least for
toleration and recognition. Catharine had no strong religious
convictions to actuate her in deciding which of the two she should
embrace. Two powerful political parties were contending for the
ascendency--that of the princes of the blood and of constitutional
usage, and that of an ambitious family newly introduced into the
kingdom, but a family which had succeeded in attaching to itself most,
if not all, of the favorites of preceding kings. Catharine's ambition,
in the absence of any convictions of right, regarded the success of
either as detrimental to her own authority. She had, therefore, resolved
to play off the one against the other, in the hope of being able,
through their mutual antagonism, to become the mistress of both. Under
the reign of Francis the Second she had gained some notion of the
humiliation to which the Guises, in their moment of fancied
1 Mémoires de Castelnau, liv. iii., c. 2. In July, 1561,
the salaries of the officers of the Parliament of Paris were in arrears
for nearly a year and a half. Mémoires de Condé (Edit. Michaud et
2 "Che certo non può più." Relaz. di Giovanne Michele,
ap. Tommaseo, Relations des Amb. Vén., i. 408.
security, would willingly have reduced her. Yet, after all, the illegal
usurpation of the Guises, who might, from their past experience, be more
tolerant of her ambitious designs, was less formidable to her than the claims
of the Bourbon princes, based as were these claims upon ancestral usage and
right, and equally fatal to her pretensions and to those of their
rivals. It was a situation of appalling difficulty for a woman sustained
in her course by no lofty consciousness of integrity and devotion to
duty--for a woman who was by nature timid, and by education inclined to
resort for guidance to judicial astrology or magic rather than to
Opening of the States General, Dec. 13, 1560.
A brief delay in the opening of the sessions of the States General was
necessitated by the sudden change in the administration. At length, on
the thirteenth of December, the pompous ceremonial took place in the
city of Orleans. It was graced by the presence of the boy-king, Charles
the Ninth, and of his mother, his brother, the future Henry the Third,
and his sister Margaret. The King of Navarre, the aged Renée of Ferrara,
and other members of the royal house, also figured here with all that
was most distinguished among the nobility of the realm.
Address of Chancellor De l'Hospital. Co-existence of two religions
To the chancellor was, as usual, entrusted the honorable and
1 And yet--such are the inconsistencies of human character--this queen, whose nature
was a singular compound of timidity, hypocrisy, licentiousness, malice, superstition,
and atheism, would seem at times to have felt the need of the assistance of a higher
power. If Catharine was not dissembling even in her most confidential letters to
her daughter, it was in some such frame of mind that she recommended
Isabella to pray to God for protection against the misfortunes that had
befallen her mother. The letter is so interesting that I must lay the most characteristic
passage under the reader's eye. The date is unfortunately lost. It was written soon after
Charles's accession: "Pour se, ma fille, m'amye, recommendé-vous bien à Dyeu, car
vous m'avés veue ausi contente come vous, ne pensent jeamès avoyr aultre
tryboulatyon que de n'estre asés aymayé à mon gré du roy vostre père, qui m'onoret
pluls que je ne merités, mes je l'aymé tant que je avés tousjour peur, come vous savés
fayrement asés: et Dyeu me l'a haulté, et ne se contente de sela, m'a haulté vostre frère
que je aymé come vous savés, et m'a laysée aveque troys enfans petys, et en heun
reaume (un royaume) tout dyvysé, n'y ayent heum seul à qui je me puise du tout fyer,
qui n'aye quelque pasion partycoulyère." God alone, she goes on to say, can maintain
her happiness, etc. Négociations, etc., 781, 782.
responsible duty of laying before the representatives of the three
orders the reasons of their present convocation. This office he
discharged in a long and learned harangue. If the hearers were treated
without stint to that profusion of ancient learning, upon which the
orators of the age seem to have rested a great part of their claim to
patient attention, they also listened to much that was of more immediate
concern to them, respecting the origin of the States General, and the
occasions for which they had from time to time been summoned by former
kings. L'Hospital announced that the special object of the present
meeting was to devise the means of allaying the seditions which had
arisen in consequence of religious differences. "These," said
L'Hospital, "are the causes of the most serious dissensions. It is folly
to hope for peace, rest, and friendship between persons of opposite
creeds. A Frenchman and an Englishman holding a common faith will
entertain stronger affection for each other than two citizens of the
same city who disagree about their theological tenets."1 So powerful
was still the prejudice of the age with one who was among the first to
catch a glimpse of the true principles of religious toleration! That two
discordant religions should permanently co-exist in a state, he agreed
with most of his contemporaries in regarding as utterly impossible. For
how could the adherents of the papacy and the disciples of the new faith
conceal their differences under the cloak of a common charity and mutual
1 "C'est folie d'espérer paix, repos et amitié entre les
personnes qui sont de diverses religions.... Deux François et Anglois
qui sont d'une mesme religion, ont plus d'affection et d'amitié entre
eux que deux citoyens d'une mesme ville, subjects à un mesme seigneur,
qui seroyent de diverses religions." La Place, p. 85; Histoire ecclés.,
2 Yet the Huguenots, more enlightened than the chancellor,
while not renouncing the notion that the civil magistrate is bound to
maintain the true religion, justly censured L'Hospital's statements as
refuted by the experience of the greater part of the world. "Disaient
davantage, qu'à la vérité, puisqu'il n'y a qu'une vraye religion à
laquelle tous, petite et grands, doivent viser, le magistrat doit sur
toutes choses pourvoir à ce qu'elle seule soit avouée et gardée aux pays
de sa sujettion; mais ils niaient que de là il fallût conclure qu'amitié
aucune ni paix ne pût être entre sujets de diverses religions, se
pouvant vérifier le contraire tant par raisons péremptoires, que par
expérience du temps passé et présent en la plupart du monde." Histoire
ecclés., i. 268.
Names of factions must be abolished.
Yet the dawn of more enlightened principles could be detected in a
subsequent part of the chancellor's speech. After prescribing a
universal council--that panacea which all the state doctors of the day
offered for the cure of the ills of the body politic--he advocated the
employment, meantime, of persuasion instead of force, of gentleness
rather than rigor, of charity and good works, as more effective than the
most trenchant of material weapons. And, while he recommended his
hearers to pray for the conversion of the erring, he exclaimed: "Let us
remove those diabolical words, names of parties, factions, and
seditions--'Lutherans,' 'Huguenots,' and 'Papists'--and let us retain
only the name of 'Christians.'"1 In concluding his address, he did
not forget to dwell upon the lamentable condition of the royal finances,
thrown into almost inextricable confusion by twelve or thirteen years of
continuous war and the expenses attending three magnificent weddings. He
begged the estates, while they exposed their grievances, not to fail to
provide the king with means for meeting his obligations.2
1 "Ostons ces mots diaboliques, noms de parts, factions et
séditions; luthériens, huguenauds, papistes; ne changeons le nom
de chrestien." La Place, p. 87.
2 The chancellor's address is given in extenso in Pierre
de la Place, Commentaires de l'estat de la religion et république pp.
80-88; and in the Histoire ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 257-268. De Thou,
iii. (liv. xxvii.) 3-7. "Habuit longam orationem Cancellarius," says
Beza, "in qua initio quidem pulchre multa de antiquo regni statu
disseruit, sed mox aulicum suum ingenium prodidit." Letter to
Bullinger, Jan. 22, 1561, Baum, Theod. Beza, ii. App., 19. Prof. Baum
has shown (vol. ii., p. 159, note) that this last assertion is fully
borne out by portions of the speech, even when viewed quite
independently of the impatience naturally felt by a Huguenot when an
enlightened statesman undertook to sail a middle course where justice
was so evidently on one side. I refer, for instance, to that
extraordinary passage in which L'Hospital speaks of the treatment to
which the Protestants had hitherto been subjected as so gentle, "qu'il
semble plus correction paternelle que punition. Il n'y a eu ni portes
forcées, ny murailles de villes abbattues, ni maisons bruslées, ny
priviléges ostés aux villes, commes les princes voisins ont faict de
nostre temps en pareils troubles et séditions." La Place, ubi supra,
p. 87. See other points specified in Histoire ecclés., ubi supra.
Effrontery of Cardinal Lorraine. De Rochefort orator for the noblesse.
L'Ange for the tiers état.
It now devolved upon the deputies to prepare a statement of their
grievances, and for this purpose the "noblesse" retired to the
Dominican, the clergy to the Franciscan, and the "tiers" to the
Carmelite convents.1 The Cardinal of Lorraine had had the effrontery
to solicit, through his creatures, the honor of representing the three
orders collectively; but the proposition had been rejected with
undissembled derision. Loud voices were heard from among the deputies of
the people, crying, "We do not choose to select him to speak for us of
whom we intend to offer our complaints!"2 Three orators were deputed
to speak for the three orders.3 The Sieur de Rochefort, in behalf of
the nobles, declared their approval of the government of Catharine, but
insisted at some length upon the necessity of conciliating their good
will by a studious regard for their privileges. He likened the king to
the sun and the "noblesse" to the moon. Any conflict between the two
would produce an eclipse that would darken the entire earth. He
denounced the chicanery of the ecclesiastical courts and the non-residence
of the priests;4 and he closed by presenting a petition, which was read
1 La Place, 88.
2 Ib., 79; Hist. ecclés., i. 269, 270; Beza to Bullinger,
Jan. 22, 1561, ubi supra: "quam ipsius audaciam cum nobilitas et plebs
magno cum fremitu repulisset, indignatus ille ne suæ quidem Ecclesiæ
patrocinium suscipere voluit."
3 This was on the 1st day of Jan., 1561: "Habuerunt hi
singuli suas orationes publice, sedente rege et delecto ipsius concilio,
Calendis Januarii." Letter of Beza, ubi supra, p. 20.
4 All previous legislation appears to have proved
fruitless. "Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be
gathered together." It was all in vain to endeavor to confine the gay
and aspiring ecclesiastics to the provinces, so long as promotion was
only to be found at Paris and worldly pleasures in the large cities. An
edict of 1557, enjoining residence, Haton tells us, had little effect.
It was obeyed only by the poorest and most obscure of the curates, and
by them only for a short time. The great were not able to observe it, if
they would. How could they? They could not have told on which benefice
to reside, for they held many. "Ung homme seul tenoit un archevesché, un
évesché et trois abbayes tout ensemble; ung aultre deux ou trois cures,
avec aultant de prieurez, le tout par permission et dispense du pape....
Et pour ce ne sçavoient auquel desditz bénéfices ilz debvoient
résider." Mém. de Claude Haton, i. 91.
aloud by one of the secretaries of state, demanding the grant of churches
for the use of those nobles who preferred the purer worship.1 The
Bordalese lawyer, Jean L'Ange, in the name of the people, dwelt chiefly
on the three capital vices of the clergy--ignorance, avarice, and luxury,2
and portrayed very effectively the general disorders, the intolerable tyranny
of the Guises, the exhausted state of the public treasury, and the means of
restoring the Church to purity of faith and regularity of discipline.