Urgency of Parisian Huguenots.
The Protestants of Paris viewed the matter in a different light. So soon
as they heard that Beza had concluded not to accede to their request,
they wrote again, on the tenth of August. In this letter they begged
him, although it was already so late that they had little hope of his
being able to reach Poissy in time to take part in the opening of the
colloquy, at least to change his mind, and to set out as soon, and
travel as expeditiously as possible, in order to succor those who had,
in his absence, entered upon the contest. Already, seeing little
eagerness on the part of the Protestants, their adversaries had begun to
boast of victory. The common cry at Paris, even, was that the
Protestants would not dare to maintain their errors "before so good a
company." If the prelates should be allowed to adjourn without advantage
being taken of the opportunity accorded the reformers of defending their
faith, the nobles would be too much disgusted to interfere in their
behalf a second time; and the queen had distinctly said that, in that
case, she would never be able to believe that they had any right on
their side. "As to the edict," they added, "which has induced you to
adopt this resolution, although it is very bad, yet it can place you in
no danger; for by it there is nothing condemned excepting the
'assemblies;' and as to simple heresy, as they call it, it can at most
be punished only by banishment from the kingdom, without other loss.
Moreover, we know with certainty that this edict was made for the sole
purpose of contenting King Philip and the Pope, and drawing some money
from the ecclesiastics. These ends are bad, but it seems to us that
there is nothing in all this that ought to prevent our appearing for the
maintenance of the truth of God, since it has pleased Him to give us the
opportunity of coming forward and being heard, as we have so long
desired."1 Two days later Antoine of Navarre added his
solicitations in an earnest letter to the "Magnificent Seigniors, the
Syndics and Council of the Seigniory of Geneva."2
1 Letter of La Rivière, in the name of all the ministers
of Paris, Aug. 10, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 37-39.
2 The letter, now in the State archives of Geneva, is
signed "Le Roy de Navarre bien vostre, Anthoyne," Baum, ubi supra,
ii. 40. The character of this contemptible prince is best understood
when such lines are read in the light of the intrigues he was at this
very moment--as we shall have occasion to see--carrying on at Rome. When
it is borne in mind that the colloquy of Poissy preceded the edict of
Beza comes to St. Germain.
That it was no personal fear which had occasioned Beza's delay was soon
proved. Antoine had written on the twelfth of August; on the sixteenth,
without waiting for a safe-conduct, the reformer was already on his way
to St. Germain, acting upon the principle laid down by Calvin: "If it be
not yet God's pleasure to open a door, it is our duty to creep in at
the windows, or to penetrate through the smallest crevices, rather
than allow the opportunity of effecting a happy arrangement to escape
us."1 So expeditious, in fact, was Beza, that on the twenty-second
of August he was in Paris.2 The next day he reached the royal court
at St. Germain.
Beza's previous history.
The theologian whose advent had been so anxiously awaited was a French
exile for religion's sake. Born, on the twenty-fourth of June, 1519, of
noble parents, in the small but famous Burgundian city of Vezelay, none
of the reformers sacrificed more flattering prospects than did Theodore
Beza when he cast in his lot with the persecuted Protestants. At Bourges
he had been a pupil of Wolmar, until that eminent teacher was recalled
to Germany. At Orleans he had been admitted a licentiate in law when
scarcely twenty years old. At Paris he gave to the world a volume of
Latin poetry of no mean merit, which secured the author great applause.
The "Juvenilia" were neither more nor less pagan in tone than the rest
of the amatory literature of the age framed on the model of the
classics. That they were immoral seems never to have been suspected
until Beza became a Protestant, and it was desirable
January by four months, and that Beza manifested no little hesitation
in coming to France, it becomes somewhat difficult to comprehend Mr.
Froude's account (Hist. of England, vii. 390): "The Cardinal of Lorraine
demanded from the Parliament of Paris the revocation of the edicts (sic)
of January. Confident of his power, he even challenged the Protestants
to a public discussion before the court. Theodore Beza snatched
eagerly at the gage; the Conference of Poissy followed," etc.
1 Letter of Calvin to Martyr, Aug. 17, 1561, apud Baum,
ii., App., 40; and Bonnet, Calvin's Letters, Eng. tr., iv. 209
2 Letter of Beza to Calvin, Aug. 22, 1561, written three
hours after his arrival, apud Baum, ii., App., 44.
to find means to sully his reputation. The discovery of the hidden depths of
iniquity in the reformer's youthful productions it was reserved for the same
prurient imaginations to make that afterward fancied that they had
detected obscene allusions in the most innocent lines of the Huguenot
psalter. At the age of forty-two years, Beza, after having successively
discharged with great ability the functions of professor of Greek in the
Académie of Lausanne, and of professor of theology in that of Geneva,
was, next to Calvin, the most distinguished Protestant teacher of French
origin. He was a man of commanding presence, of extensive erudition, of
quick and ready wit, of elegant manners and bearing. No better selection
could have been made by the Huguenots of a champion to represent them at
the court of Charles the Ninth.1
Wrangling of the prelates.
Meantime the prelates had been in session more than three weeks. But
little good had thus far come of their deliberations. In vain, had the
king delivered before them a speech in which he incited them "to provide
such good means that the people might be induced to live in concord, and
in obedience to the Catholic Church." In vain had he assured them that
he would not give them permission to separate until they had made a
satisfactory settlement of the religious affairs of the kingdom.2
1 See the admirable biography of Beza, by Dr. H. Heppe,
being the sixth volume of the Leben und ausgewählte Schriften der Väter
und Begründer der reformirte Kirche; as well as the more extended work
of Prof. Baum, frequently referred to.
2 "Les avertissant qu'il ne leur donneroit congé de se
départir jusques à ce qu'ils y eussent donné ordre." Letter of the Sieur
du Mortier, French amb. at Rome, to the Bp. of Rennes, Aug. 9, 1561,
apud Le Laboureur, Additions to Castelnau, i. 730. This authority
would seem to be a positive proof that the speech which is attributed by
La Place and other historians of the period to the king at the opening
of the conference with the Protestants on the 9th of September, has, by
a very natural error, been transposed from this place. De Thou, La
Popelinière, and others have made the more serious blunder of placing
the chancellor's speech, which belongs here, at the same conference, and
omitting the true address which La Place, etc., insert. Prof. Baum
(Theodor Beza, ii. 242, note) first detected the inconsistencies between
the two reported speeches of L'Hospital on the 9th of September, but
gave preference in the text to the wrong document. Prof. Soldan has
elucidated the whole matter with his usual skill (Geschichte des Prot.
in Frankreich, i. 440, note).
The prelates much preferred to fritter away their time in the discussion
of petty details of ecclesiastical order and discipline--in regulating
the number of priests, settling the dignity of cathedral churches,
prescribing the duties of bishops, and other matters of equal
importance--"fancying that, in answering such questions, they were
applying an efficacious remedy to the ills that desolated the church in
these times of troubles and divisions."1 In the words of a minister
of state, writing to a French ambassador on the very day of Beza's arrival at court,
they intended to treat of the reformation of manners alone, "without coming to
the point of doctrine, which they had as life touch as handle fire."2
Cardinal Châtillon's communion.
The doubtful allegiance of some of their own number to the Romish Church
was a source of peculiar vexation. As the prelates were about to join in
the celebration of the Lord's Supper, Cardinal Châtillon and two other
bishops insisted upon communicating under both forms; and when their
demand was refused, they went to another church and celebrated the
divine ordinance with many of the nobility, all partaking both of the bread and
of the wine, thus earning for themselves the nickname of Protestants.3
Determination of Catharine and L'Hospital.
What with the disinclination of the bishops to enter into the
consideration of the real difficulties that beset the kingdom, and the
open hostility of the Pope and of Philip the Second4 to any
assembly that bore the least resemblance to a national council, Catharine and
her principal adviser, the chancellor, had an arduous and well-nigh hopeless
task. They strove to quiet the King of Spain and the Pope by the
1 De Thou, iii. 63; La Place, 155.
2 "Sans venir au fait de la doctrine, où ils ne veulent
toucher non plus qu'au feu." Letter of Secretary Bourdin to his
brother-in-law Bochetel, the Bishop of Rennes, French ambassador in
Germany, Aug. 23, 1561, apud Laboureur, Add. aux Mém. de Castelnau, i.
731. If we are to construe the language of the Histoire ecclés. des égl.
réf. (i. 307) with verbal strictness, the theological discussions
occasionally waxed so hot that the prelates found themselves unable to
solve the knotty questions with which they were occupied, without
recourse to the convincing argument of the fist!
3 Languet, letter of Aug. 6th, ii. 130.
4 Letter of Chantonnay, Aug. 31 (Mém. de Condé, ii. 16).
assurance that the prelates had only been assembled in
order to prepare them to go in a body to attend the universal council
soon to be convened. "Those who are dangerously ill," wrote Catharine in
her defence, "may be excused for applying all herbs to their ache, in
order to alleviate it when it becomes insupportable. Meanwhile they send
for the good physician--whom I take to be a good council--to cure so
furious and dangerous a disease." Only those who feel the suffering, she
intimated, can talk understandingly with respect to its treatment.1
A remarkable letter to the Pope. Effect produced at Rome.
Catharine was not, however, satisfied with this general apology; she
even undertook to express to the pontifical court her idea of some of
the reforms which were dictated by the times.2 On the fourth of
August--nearly three weeks before Beza's arrival--she wrote a letter to
Pius the Fourth of so radical a character that its authenticity has been
called into question, although without sufficient reason. After
acquainting the Pope with the extraordinary increase in the number of
those who had forsaken the Roman Church, and with the impossibility of
restoring unity by means of coercion, she declared it a special mark of
divine favor that there were among the dissidents neither Anabaptists
nor Libertines, for all held the creed as explained by the early councils of the
1 "Mais ceux qui sont extremement malades sont excusez
d'appliquer toutes herbes à la douleur pour l'appaiser, quand elle est
insupportable, attendant le bon medecin, que j'estime devoir estre un
bon Concile, pour une si furieuse et dangereuse maladie." Letter of
Catharine to the Bishop of Rennes, Aug. 23, 1561, apud Le Laboureur,
Add. to Castelnau, i. 727.
2 An incident, preserved for us by Languet, which happened
about this time, reveals somewhat of Catharine's temper and of the
doubts that pervaded the young king's mind. On Corpus Christi day, the
queen mother, in conversation with her son, recommended to him that,
while duly reverencing the sacrament, he should not entertain so gross a
belief as that the bread which was carried around in the procession was
the very body of Christ which hung from the cross. Charles replied that
he had received the same warning from others, but coupled with the
injunction that he should say nothing about it to any one. "Yet,"
responded Catharine smiling, "you must take care not to forsake your
ancestral religion, lest your kingdom may be thrown into confusion, and
you yourself be driven into banishment." To which Charles aptly replied:
"The Queen of England has changed the religion of her kingdom, but no
one gives her any trouble." Epist. secr., ii. 127.
Church. It was, consequently, the conviction of many
pious persons that, by the concession of some points of practice, the
present divisions might be healed. But more frequent and peaceful
conferences must be held, the ministers of religion must preach concord
and charity to their flocks, and the scruples of those who still
remained in the pale of the Church must be removed by the abolition of
all unnecessary and objectionable practices. Images, forbidden by God
and disapproved of by the Fathers, ought at once to be banished from
public worship, baptism to be stripped of its exorcisms, communion in
both forms to be restored, the vernacular tongue to be employed in the
services of the church, private masses to be discountenanced. Such were
the abuses which it seemed proper to correct, while leaving the papal
authority undiminished, and the doctrines of the Church unaffected by
innovations.1 To such a length was a woman--herself devoid of
strong convictions, and possessing otherwise little sympathy with the
belief or the practice of the reformers--carried by the force of the
current by which she was surrounded. But, whether the letter was
dictated by L'Hospital, or inspired by Bishop Montluc--at this time
suspected of being more than half a Huguenot at heart--the fact that a
production openly condemning the Roman Catholic traditional usages on
more than one point should have emanated from the pen of Catharine de'
Medici, is certainly somewhat remarkable. At Rome the letter produced a
deep impression. If the Pope did not at once give utterance to his
serious apprehensions, he was at least confirmed in his resolution to
redeem his pledge in respect to a universal council, and he must have
congratulated himself on having already despatched an able negotiator to
the French court, in the person of the Cardinal of Ferrara, a legate
whose intrigues will occupy us again presently.2
1 De Thou (iii., liv. xxviii., pp. 60-63) gives the
substance, Gerdesius (Scrinium Antiq., v. 339, seq.) the text of this
extraordinary letter. See also Jean de Serres, i. 212, etc.
2 From Hurault's letter of July 12th, to the Bishop of
Rennes, we learn the date of the Cardinal of Ferrara's departure from
Rome--July 2d. He travelled so slowly, however, that it was not until
September 19th that he reached St. Germain.
Beza's flattering reception.
Despite Pope and prelates, Beza met with the most flattering reception.
He was welcomed upon his arrival by the principal statesmen of the
kingdom. L'Hospital showed his eagerness to obtain the credit of having
introduced him. Coligny, the King of Navarre, and the Prince of Condé
betrayed their joy at his coming. The Cardinals of Bourbon and Châtillon
shook hands with him. Indeed, the contrast between Bourbon's present
cordiality and his coldness a year before at Nérac, provoked Beza to
make the playful remark that "he had not undergone any change since the
cardinal had refused to speak to him through fear of being
excommunicated."1 Afterward, attended by a numerous escort,2
the reformer was conducted to the quarters of the Prince of Condé, where
the princess and Madame de Coligny showed themselves "marvellously well
disposed." On the morrow, which was Sunday, Beza preached in the
prince's apartments before a large and honorable audience. Condé
himself, however, was absent, engaged in making that unfortunate St.
Bartholomew's Day reconciliation with the Duke of Guise, of which
mention has already been made.3 Certainly neither Beza nor the
other reformers could complain of the greeting extended to
1 "Que je n'avoys reçu change depuis qu'il n'avoit voulu
parler à moy de peur d'estre excommunié." Letter of Beza to Calvin, Aug.
25, 1561, Baum, ii. Appendix, 46. This long and important letter, giving
a graphic account of the first days of Beza at St. Germain, was signed,
for safety's sake, "T. de Chalonoy," and addressed to "Monsieur
d'Espeville, à Villedieu." The Duke d'Aumale has also published this
letter in his Histoire des Princes de Condé, i. 340-342. There are some
striking differences in the two; none more noteworthy than the omission
in Prof. Baum's copy of a sentence which very clearly marks the distrust
still felt by the reformers of the upright Chancellor L'Hospital. After
reference to L'Hospital's greeting, Beza originally wrote: "Force me fut
de le suyvre, mais ce fut avec un tel visage qu'il congnut assez que je
le congnoissois." From the later copy and from the Latin translation
inserted by Beza himself in the collection of Calvin's letters, these
words are omitted.
2 "Avec une troupe cent foys plus grande que je n'eusse desiré." Ubi supra.
3 Letter of Beza of Aug. 25th, ubi supra. Beza, to whom
Condé immediately afterward gave an account of the act of
reconciliation, was not altogether satisfied with it. I have spoken of
it as unfortunate, because it removed all the obstacles to the more
complete union of the constable and the Guises against the Huguenots. La
Place, 140; De Thou, iii. (liv. xxviii.) 56.
them. "They received a more cordial welcome than would have awaited the Pope
of Rome, had he come to the French court," remarks a contemporary curate
with a spice of bitterness.1
Beza meets Cardinal Lorraine. The cardinal professes to be satisfied.
A witty woman's caution.
That very evening Beza and Lorraine crossed swords for the first time in
the apartments of Navarre.2 The former, coming by invitation, was
much surprised to find there before him not only Antoine and his
brothers, but Catharine de' Medici and Cardinal Lorraine, neither of
whom had he previously met. Without losing his self-possession, however,
he briefly adverted to the occasion of his coming, and the queen mother
in return graciously expressed the joy she would experience should his
advent conduce to the peace and quietness of the realm. Hereupon the
cardinal took part in the conversation, and said that he hoped Beza
might be as zealous in allaying the troubles of France as he had been
successful in fomenting discord--a remark which Beza did not let pass
unchallenged, for he declared that he neither had distracted nor
intended to distract his native land. From inquiries respecting Beza's
great master, Calvin, his age and health, the discourse turned to
certain obnoxious expressions which Lorraine attributed to Beza himself;
but the latter entirely disclaimed being their author, much to the
confusion of the cardinal, who had expected to create a strong prejudice
against his opponent in the minds of the by-standers. The greater part
of the evening, however, was consumed in a discussion respecting the
real presence. Beza, while denying that the sacramental bread and wine
were transmuted into the body and blood of Christ, was willing to admit,
according to Calvin's views and his own, "that the bread is
sacramentally Christ's body--that is, that although that body is now in
heaven alone, while we have the signs with us on earth, yet the very
body of Christ is as truly given to us and received by faith, and that
to our eternal life, on account of God's promise, as the sign is in a
natural manner placed in our
1 "Estant arrivez à la court, ilz y furent mieux
accueillis que n'eust esté le pape de Rome, s'il y fust venu." Mém. de
Claude Haton, i. 155.
2 Letter of Beza of Aug. 25th, Baum. ii., Appendix, 47-54; La Place, 155-157;
De Thou, iii. (liv. xxviii.) 64; Hist. ecclés. Des égl. réf. i. 309-312.
hands."1 The statement was certainly far enough removed
from the theory of the Romish Church to have consigned its
author to the flames, had the theologians of the Sorbonne been
his judges. But it satisfied the cardinal,2 who confessed that
he was little at home in a discussion foreign to his ordinary studies--a
fact quite sufficiently apparent from his confused statements3--and
did not attempt to conceal the little account which he made of the dogma
of transubstantiation.4 "See then, madam," said Beza, "what are
those sacramentarians, who have been so long persecuted and overwhelmed
with all kinds of calumnies." "Do you hear, cardinal?" said the queen to
Lorraine. "He says that the sacramentarians hold no other opinion than
that to which you have assented."5 With this satisfactory
conclusion the discussion, which had lasted a couple of hours,6 was
concluded. The queen mother left greatly pleased with the substantial
agreement which the two champions of opposite creeds had attained in
their first interview, and flattering herself that greater results might
attend the public conferences. The cardinal, too, professed high esteem
for Beza, and said to him, as he was going
1 "Nous confessons, dy-je, que panis est corpus
sacramentale, et pour définir que c'est à dire sacramentaliter, nous
disons qu'encores que le corps soit aujourd'huy au ciel et non ailleurs,
et les signes soyent en la terre avec nous, toutefoys aussi
veritablement nous est donné ce corps et reçu par nous, moyennant la
foy," etc. Baum, ii. App., 52.
2 "Je le croy ainsy, dit-il, Madame, et voilà qui me contente." Ibid., ubi supra.
3 "Sed illud totum ita complectebatur, ut satis ostenderet
penitus se non tenere quid hoc rei esset. Agnoscebat enim se aliis
studiis tempus impendisse." Beza, ubi supra, p. 50. The Latin version
of Beza's letter of August 25th, made under the writer's own
supervision, for publication with a selection of Calvin's letters
(Geneva, 1576), contains a fuller account of the discussion than the
French original actually despatched. See Baum, ubi supra, 45-54.
4 "Cardinalis testatus iterum non urgere se
transubstantiationem." Latin version, ubi supra. "Car, disoit il, pour
la transsubstantiation je ne suys poinct d'advis qu'il y ayt schisme en
l'eglise." French original, ubi supra, 50, 51.
5 "Tum ego ad reginam conversus: 'Ecce inquam
sacramentarios illos tam diu vexatos, et omnibus calumniis oppressos.'
'Escoutez vous,' dit elle, 'Monsieur le cardinal? Il dit que les
sacrementaires n'out point aultre opinion que ceste-cy à laquelle vous
accordez.'" Letter of Beza, ubi supra, 52.
6 Cf. letter of Beza, ubi supra, 47 and 52.
away: "I adjure you to confer with me; you will not find me so black as I am
painted."1Beza might have been pardoned, had he permitted the
cardinal's professions somewhat to shake his convictions of the man's true
character. He was, however, placed on his guard by the pointed words of
a witty woman. Madame de Crussol, who had listened to the entire
conversation, as she shook the cardinal's hand at the close of the
evening, significantly said, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all:
"Good man for to-night; but to-morrow--what?"2 The covert
prediction was soon fulfilled. The very next day the cardinal was
industriously circulating the story that Beza had been vanquished in
their first encounter.3