New and tolerant order.
The only salvation of France lay in putting an end to such alarming
exhibitions of discord, from the frequent recurrence of which it was to
be feared that the country stood upon the verge of civil war. For this
reason, Catharine de' Medici yielded to the persuasions of Chancellor
L'Hospital, and, on the nineteenth of April, caused a royal letter to be
addressed to all the judges, in which the practice of self-control and
tolerance was enjoined. Insulting expressions based on differences of
religion were strictly forbidden. The very use of
1 "Car, de toutes les choses, la plus incompatible en ung
estat, ce sont deux religions contraires."
2 Journal de Bruslart, Mémoires de Condé, i. 26, etc.;
Registers of Parliament, ibid., ii. 341, etc., and apud Félibien,
Hist. de Paris, Preuves, iv. 798, Arrêt of April 28th and 29th.
According to the information that had reached Calvin, twelve had been
killed and forty wounded by Longjumeau and his friends (Calvin to
Bullinger, ubi supra). The parliamentary registers do not give the
precise number. The good curate of S. Barthélemi makes no allusion to
any attack, but sets down the loss of the Roman Catholics at three
killed and nine wounded. Journal de Jehan de la Fosse, 41. Hubert
Languet says seven were killed. Epist. secr., ii. 117.
the hateful epithets of "Papist" and "Huguenot" was proscribed. Far from
offering a reward for denunciation, the king proclaimed it criminal to violate
the sanctity of the home for the alleged purpose of ferreting out unlawful
assemblages. He again ordered the release of all imprisoned for
religion's sake, and extended an invitation to exiles to return to their
homes, if they would live in a Catholic manner, granting them
permission, if they were otherwise disposed, to sell their property and
leave the kingdom.1
Opposition of the Parliament of Paris.
It would have been not a little surprising if so tolerant an edict, even
though it did little more than repeat the provisions of the last royal
letters on the same subject (of the twenty-eighth of January), had been
accepted without opposition by the Romish party.2 Still more
strange if parliamentary jealousy had not taken umbrage at the neglect
of immemorial usage, when the letter was sent to the lower courts before
having received the honor of a formal registry at the hands of the
Parisian judges. It is difficult to say which offence was most resented.
Toleration, parliament remonstrated, was a tacit approval of a diversity
of religion--a thing unheard of from Clovis's reign down to the present
day. Kings and emperors--nay, even popes--had
1 Letters patent of Fontainebleau, April 19, 1561, Mém. De Condé, ii. 334,
335; La Place; and Hist. ecclés., ubi supra; De Thou, iii. (liv. xxviii.) 52.
2 How the devoted adherents of the Roman church received
this edict and its predecessor appears from the Mémoires of Claude
Haton. In the city of Provins, a short distance from Paris, one or two
preachers reluctantly consented to read it in the churches; but "maistre
Barrier," a Franciscan and curate of Sainte Croix, instead of the
required proclamation, made these remarks to the people at the
commencement of his sermon: "On m'a cejourd'-huy apporté ung mémoire et
papier escript, qu'on m'a dict estre la coppie d'un édict du roy, pour
vous le publier; et veult-on que je vous dye que les chatz et les ratz
doibvent vivre en paix les ungs avec les aultres, sans se rien faire de
mal l'ung à l'autre, et que nous aultres Françoys, e'est assavoir les
hérétiques et les catholicques, fassions ainsi, et que le roy le veult.
Je ne suis crieur ni trompette de la ville pour faire telles
publications. Dieu veuille par sa miséricorde avoir pitié de son église
et du royaume de France, les deux ensemble sont prestz de tomber en
grande ruyne; Dieu veuille bailler bon conseil à nostre jeune roy et
inspirer ses gouverneurs à bien faire; ils entrent à leur gouvernement
par ung pauvre commencement, mais ce est en punition de noz pechez."
Mémoires de Claude Haton, i. 123, 124.
fallen into error and been proclaimed heretical or schismatic, but never had
such calamity befallen a king of France. It were better for Charles to make
open profession of his intention to live and die in his religion, and to
enforce conformity on the part of his subjects, than to open the door
wide to sedition by tolerating dissent. Better to renew the prohibition
of heretical conventicles, and to reiterate the ancient penalties.
Particularly ill-advised was it that Charles should be made to pronounce
seditious those who applied the names "Papist" and "Huguenot" to their
opponents, for it seemed to establish side by side two rival sects,
although the name of the one was so novel as never to have found a place
in any former missives of the crown.1
Popular cry for Protestant pastors.
The refusal of the Parisian parliament to verify the edict in the
customary manner prevented its universal observance; but,
notwithstanding this untoward circumstance, it proved exceedingly
favorable to the development of the Huguenot movement.2 Scarcely a
month after its publication, Calvin, in a letter to which we have more
than once had occasion to refer, expressed his astonishment at the ardor
with which the French Protestants were pressing forward to still greater
achievements. The cry from all parts of Charles the Ninth's dominions
was for ministers of the Gospel.3 "The eagerness with which pastors
1 La Place, 124-126; Histoire ecclés., i. 288, etc.; De Thou, iii. (liv. xxviii.) 52, 53. The
remonstrance of parliament was, in point of fact, little more than an echo of the strenuous
protest of the Spanish ambassador to the queen mother. See Chantonnay to Catharine
de' Medici, April 22, 1561, Mémoires de Condé, ii. 6-10.
2 According to Claude Haton, the edict was received with ineffable delight, especially
in those cities of the kingdom where there were Huguenot judges. The Catholics were
despised. The Huguenots became bold: "En toutes compagnies, assemblées et lieux
publicz, ilz huguenotz avoient le hault parler." Despite the prohibition of the employment of
insulting terms, they called their adversaries "papaux, idolâtres,
pauvres abusez." and "tisons du purgatoire du pape." Mémoires, i. 122.
Doubtless a smaller measure of free speech than this would have sufficed
to stir up the bile of the curate of Mériot.
3 Already, on the 6th of March, Claude Boissière had
written to the Genevan reformer from Saintes: "God has so augmented His
church that we number to-day by the grace of God thirty-eight pastors in
this province" (Saintonge in Western France), "each of us having the
care of so many towns and parishes, that, had we fifty more, we should
scarcely be able to satisfy half the charges that present themselves."
Geneva MSS., apud Bulletin, xiv. (1855) 320, and Crottet, Hist. des
égl. réf. de Pons, Gémozac, etc., 57.
are sought for on all hands from us is not less than that with
which sacerdotal offices are wont to be solicited among the papists.
Those who are in quest of them besiege my doors, as if I must be
entreated after the fashion of the court; and vie with each other, as if
the possession of Christ's kingdom were a quiet one. And, on our part,
we desire to fulfil their earnest prayers to the extent of our ability;
but we are thoroughly exhausted; nay, we have for some time been
compelled to drag from the book-stores every workman that could be found
possessed even of a slight tincture of literature and religious
The letters that reached Calvin and his colleagues by every messenger
from Southern France--many of which have recently come to light in the
libraries of Paris and Geneva--present a vivid picture of the condition
of whole districts and provinces. From Milhau comes the intelligence
that the mass has for some time been banished from the place, but that a
single pastor is by no means sufficient; he must have a colleague, that
one minister may take exclusive care of the neighboring country, "where
there is an infinite number of churches," while the other remains in the
city. Everywhere there is an abundance of hot-headed persons who, by
their breaking of crosses and images, and even plundering of churches,
give the adversary an opportunity for calumniating. "May the Lord, of
His goodness, be pleased to purge His church of them!"2
Moderation of the Huguenot ministers.
In these most difficult circumstances--while, on the one hand, the
demand for ministers was largely in excess of the supply, and, on the
other, the folly of certain inconsiderate enthusiasts seemed likely to
draw upon the great body of Protestants the unwarranted charge of
disorder and insubordination to law--the Huguenot ministers fearlessly
took a position that strikingly exhibits their excellent judgment, as
1 Letter to Bullinger, May 24, 1561, apud Baum, ii.,
App., 32, and Bonnet, Eng. tr., iv. 190.
2 Letter of Gilbert de Vaux, April 5, 1561. MS. in Nat.
Lib. of Paris, apud Bulletin, xiv. 321, 322.
well as their high moral principle. They declined to countenance a
policy which offered, to say the least, bright temporary advantages.
They refused to trust the vessel freighted with their best hopes for the
future of France, to be carried into port on the treacherous waves of
popular excitement. They preferred to abate somewhat of the proper
demands which they might have exacted with success, that they might
deprive their enemies of the slightest ground for maligning their
loyalty to their native land and its legitimate king. When the
Protestants of Montauban--a town then beginning to assume a religious
character which it has never since lost--learned that they had been
falsely accused of having revolted from the king, and of having elected
a governor of their own, established a polity similar to that of the
Swiss cantons, and coined money as an independent state, they not only
refuted the charges to the satisfaction of the royal lieutenant sent to
investigate the truth,1 but they discontinued the public
celebration of the Lord's Supper, in order to avoid even the appearance
of unwillingness to obey the king's commands. At the same time they
wrote to Geneva an earnest request that, notwithstanding the need of
teachers in France, no persons that had been monks or chaplains should
be admitted to the ministry unless after long and careful scrutiny. They
did more harm, they disquieted the churches more, they said, than the
most violent persecutions that had befallen the Protestants. For they
refused to submit to discipline, made light of the decisions of their
brethren, and, while seeking only their own pleasure, drew odium upon
the ministers who endeavored to uphold good order among the people.2
Inconsistent laws and practice. Judicial perplexity.
The position of the Huguenots was certainly anomalous, and presented the
strangest inconsistencies. The royal letters enjoined that no inquiries
should be made with the view of disturbing
1 After having examined the churches, convents, etc., the
lieutenant, though a Roman Catholic, reported to the Toulouse parliament
"qu'il avoit trouvé une telle obéissance en ceste ville que le roy
demande à tous ses subjects, de sorte qu'il n'y avoit eu jamais un coup
frappé, ne injure dicte aux papistes par ceux de l'Evangile."
2 Letter of Du Vignault to M. d'Espeville (Calvin), May
26, 1561, in Geneva MSS., Bulletin, xiv. (1865) 322-324.
any one for religion's sake; the Parliament of Paris refused to register
these letters and obey the provisions; the still more fanatical counsellors
of the Parliament of Toulouse rather increased than diminished their severities, and daily consigned fresh victims to the flames.1 It was natural that
the clergy should take advantage of these circumstances to renew their
remonstrances against the continuance of the existing toleration. The
Cardinal of Lorraine seized the opportunity afforded him by the solemn
ceremonial of Charles's anointing at Rheims (on the thirteenth of June,
1561) to present to the queen mother the collective complaints of the
prelates, because, so far from witnessing the rigid enforcement of the
royal edicts, they beheld the heretical conventicles held with more and
more publicity from day to day, and the judges excusing themselves from
the performance of their duty by alleging the number of conflicting
laws, in the midst of which their course was by no means easy. He
therefore recommended the convocation of the parliament with the princes
and members of the council, that, by their advice, some permanent and
proper settlement of this vexed question might be reached.2
Catharine, who, in the publication of the letters-patent of April, had
followed the advice of Chancellor L'Hospital, and seemed to lean to the
side of toleration, now yielded to the cardinal's persuasions--whether
from a belief that the mixed assembly which he proposed to convene would
pursue the path of conciliation already pointed out by the government,
or from a fear of alienating a powerful party in the state.
The "Mercuriale" of 1561.
On the twenty-third of June, Charles, accompanied by his mother, by the
King of Navarre, and the other princes of the blood, and by the council
of state, came to the chamber of parliament, and the chancellor announced
to the assembled members the object of this extraordinary visit.
1 "Ceux de Tholoze sont du tout enragés, car ils ne
cessent de brusler les paoures fidèles de jour à aultre. Le trouppeau
est fort désolé, et croy qu'est sans pasteur." Letter of La Chasse,
Montpellier, June 14, 1561, to M. d'Espeville, Geneva MSS., ubi supra,
2 La Place, 127, 128; De Thou, iii., liv. xxviii. 53.
It was to obtain advice not respecting religion itself--that
was reserved for the deliberation of the national council, and its
merits could not be discussed here--but respecting the best method of
appeasing the commotions daily on the increase, caused by a diversity of
religious tenets. He therefore begged all present to express in brief
terms their opinions on this important topic. It is not surprising that
the answers given should have been of the most varied import. Ever since
the time of Henry the Second, the Parliament of Paris had contained a
considerable number of friends, more or less open, of Protestantism, and
among the princes and noblemen who came to join in the deliberation, the
number of its warm advocates was proportionately still greater. At the
same time, the Roman Catholic party was largely represented in the ranks
of the members of the parliament proper, as recent events had indicated;
while, among the high nobility and the dignitaries of the church, the
weight of the constable and the Duke of Guise, the cardinals of Bourbon,
Tournon, Lorraine, and Guise, and the Bishop of Paris, counterbalanced
the influence of the King of Navarre, the Prince of Condé, the
Châtillons, and the chancellor. Five or six different opinions were
announced by the successive speakers;1 but they could all be
reduced to three. The more tolerant advocated the suspension of all
punishments until the determination of the questions in dispute by a
council. A second class, on the contrary, maintained the propriety and
expediency of enforcing the laws which made death the penalty of heretical
1 Mémoires de Castelnau, 1. iii., c. 3. The discussion was
long, and would have been tedious, had it not turned upon so important a
topic. There were 140 members of parliament, and according to its
regulations no one was allowed to concur simply in the views of another,
but each counsellor was compelled to express his own sentiments, which
were then committed to writing. As some of the high dignitaries of state
also gave their opinions, there were altogether more than 150 speakers,
and parliament met twice a day to listen to them. The Bishop of Paris,
after harshly advocating the rekindling of the extinct fires of the
estrapade, was compelled to hear in return some plain words from Admiral
Coligny, who boldly accused the bishops and priests of being the cause
of all the evils from which the Christian world was suffering, while at
the same time they instigated a cruel persecution of those who exposed
their crimes. The letters of Hubert Languet, who was in Paris at the
time, are exceedingly instructive. Epist. secr., ii. 122, 125, etc.
belief. The rest--and they mustered in the end a majority of
three1 over the advocates of toleration, while they were much
more numerous than the champions of bloody persecution--advised the king
to give to the ecclesiastical courts exclusive cognizance of heresy,
according to the provisions of the Edict of Romorantin, and to forbid
the holding of public or private conventicles, whether with or without
arms, in which sermons should be preached or the sacraments administered
otherwise than according to the customs of the Romish Church.2 Such
was the result of the deliberations of the Mercuriale of June and July,
1561,3 in the course of which opinions had been freely expressed
far more radical than those of Anne Du Bourg in the Mercuriale of 1559.
The "Edict of July." Disappointment at its severity.
The edict for which the direction had been thus marked out was published
on the eleventh of July, 1561.4 It has become celebrated in history
as the "Edict of July." After reiterating the injunctions of previous
royal letters, and forbidding all insults and breaches of the peace, on
pain of the halter, Charles was made to prohibit "all enrollings,
signatures, or other things tending to sedition." Preachers in the
churches were strictly commanded to abstain from uttering words
calculated to excite the popular passions or prejudice. The most
important portion of the law, however, was that which punished, by
confiscation of body and goods, all who attended, whether with or
without arms, conventicles in which preaching was held or the holy
sacraments administered. Of simple heresy the cognizance was still
restricted, as by the edict of Romorantin in the previous year, to the church
courts; but no higher penalty could be imposed on the guilty, when handed
1 Or seven, according to Languet, Epist. sec., ii. 130.
2 Journal de Bruslart, Mémoires de Condé, i. 40, etc.;
Despatches of Chantonnay, Mém. de Condé, ii. 12-15; La Place, 130; Hist.
ecclés., i. 293, 294; De Thou, iii. (liv. xxviii.) 54. Cf. Martin, Hist.
de France, x. 82, Baum, Theod. Beza, ii. 172, etc., and Soldan,
Geschichte des Prot. in Frankreich, i. 428.
3 It is styled a "mercuriale" in a contemporary letter
of Du Pasquier (Augustin Marlorat), Rouen, July 11, 1561, Bulletin, xiv.
(1865) 364: "On dit que la mercuriale est achevée, mais la conclusion
n'est pas encores publiée."
4 H. Martin, Hist. de France, x. 83.
over to the secular arm, than banishment from the kingdom.
The punishment of all offences in which public disorder or sedition was
mingled with heresy, remained in the hands of the presidial
judges.1 These were the leading features of this severe ordinance.
It is true that the edict was expressly stated to be only
provisional--to last no longer than until the Universal or National
Council, whichever might be held--that pardon was offered to those who
would live in a Catholic manner for the future, that calumny was
threatened with exemplary punishment. Yet it was clear that the law was
framed in the interest of the Roman Catholics, and in their interest
alone. The Duke of Guise openly exulted. He exclaimed in the hearing of
many, "that his sword would never rest in its scabbard when the
execution of this decision was in question."2 The disappointment of
the Protestants was not less extreme. At court, Admiral Coligny did not
hesitate to declare that its provisions could never be executed.3
The farther they were removed from St. Germain, the more loudly the
Huguenots murmured, the greater was their indisposition to submit to the
harsh conditions imposed upon them. In Guyenne and Gascony, and in
Languedoc, where whole towns were to be found containing scarcely one
avowed partisan of the papacy, the discontent was open and threatening.
How long did the bigots of Paris intend to keep their eyes closed and
refuse to recognize the altered aspect of affairs? Until what future day
was the simplest of rights--the right of the social and public worship
of God--to be proscribed? Must the inhabitants of entire districts
continue, month after month, and year after year, to stand in the eye of
the law as culprits, with the halter around their necks, and beg mercy
of a despised priesthood and a dissolute court, for the crime of assembling
in the open field, in the school-houses, or even in the parish churches,
1 The text of the Edict of July is given in Isambert,
Recueil gén. des anc. lois fr., xiv. 109-111; Histoire ecclés., i.
294-296; Mém. de Condé, i. 42-45. Cf. La Place, 130, 131; De Thou, iii.
54, 55; Mém. de Castelnau, 1. iii., c. 3.
2 "Que son épée ne tiendrait jamais au fourreau quand il
serait question da faire sortir effet à cet arrêté." Martin, x. 83.
3 Ibid., ubi supra.
where their fathers had worshipped before them, to
listen to the preaching of God's word?
Iconoclasm at Montauban.
With the rising excitement the power of the ministers to control the
ardor of their flocks steadily declined. How could the people be
moderate, or even prudent, when their rights were so thoroughly ignored?
The events of Montauban during August and the succeeding months, may
serve to illustrate the growing impatience of the laity. Until now, as
we have seen, the earnest warnings of their pastors had generally been
successful in restraining the Huguenots from touching the symbols of a
hated system so temptingly exhibited before their eyes. But, a few weeks
after the unofficial intelligence of the enactment of the edict of July
had reached the city, the work of destruction commenced. On the night of
the fourteenth of August the Church of St. Jacques received the first
bands of iconoclasts. The pictures and images were torn down or hurled
from their niches and destroyed; but the chalices, the silver crosses,
and other precious articles, were left untouched. The object was neither
robbery nor plunder. A week later, the same fate befel the paintings in
the church of the Augustinians. After another and a shorter interval,
the chapels of St. Antoine, St. Michel, St. Roch, St. Barthélemi, and
Notre Dame de Baquet, witnessed similar scenes of destruction. It was at
this juncture that the edict of July was brought to Montauban and
publicly proclaimed. Nothing could have been more inopportune. The
raging fever of the popular pulse had been mistaken for a transient
excitement, and the specific now administered, far from quenching the
patient's burning thirst, only stimulated it to a more irrepressible
craving. That very evening (Tuesday, the twenty-sixth of August), the
people, irritated beyond endurance, gathered around the Dominican
church. The monks, forewarned of their danger, had taken the precaution
to fortify themselves. They now rang the tocsin, but no one came to
their rescue, and the stronghold was speedily taken. The assailants,
however, cherished no enmity toward God's image in human flesh and
bones. So, after effectually destroying all man's efforts to represent
the Divine likeness in stone or on canvas, the Huguenots proceeded to
the Carmelite Church.
Here rich trophies awaited them--a "Saint Suaire"
and relics, which, on close inspection, were found to be the bones of
horses instead of belonging to the saintly personages whose names they
had borne. The reader will scarcely feel surprise to learn that the
monks--with the single exception of the Franciscans--now judged that the
time for them to leave the city had arrived.
Instructed by the somewhat suggestive example of the fate that had
befallen their brethren, the black and white friars, and, doubtless
considering discretion the better part of valor, the priests of the
collegiate church of St. Stephen abandoned their preparations for
defence, and, stipulating only for their own safety, gave up their
paintings to be consigned to the flames. A bonfire was kindled on one of
the public squares; and while the sacred pictures and images thrown upon
it were being slowly consumed, bands of children looked on and chanted
in chorus the metrical paraphrase of the ten commandments. The city
being thus cleared of its public objects of superstitious
devotion,1 the people next turned their attention to those of a
more private character. As the crowds moved along the streets they
earnestly appealed to the inmates of the houses to follow the noble
example the churches had set them. We are informed by a contemporary
record that the iconoclasts carefully abstained from trespassing, and
confined themselves to an exhibition of those passages of Sacred Writ in
which an idolatrous worship was prohibited. But, if the brief
argumentation for which the rapidity of the transaction allowed time was
not in all cases sufficient to produce entire conviction, it may be
presumed that any remaining scruples were removed by the contagion of
the popular enthusiasm. Montauban was purged of image-worship as in a
day, and without the injury of man, woman, or child.2