a petition embracing four points of prime importance.5 They guarded
by reference to the Word of God. Moreover, lest the incidents of the
faict entr'eux." La Place, 157. So Beza himself heard the very morning
supra. So also in his letter of Aug. 30th (Ib., 59): "Cardinalis
informé." Histoire ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 312.
4 "Duodecima hujus mensis profectos esse in aulam octo ex
Beza, Aug. 22, 1561, Baum, 2 App., 44.
5 Aug. 17th. Hist. ecclés., i. 308, etc., where this
document is given; La Place, 154; Letter of Beza of Aug. 22d, ubi supra, 45.
and gaining, if possible, their consent.1 This was no easy matter.
been, it was wrong to hold any sort of discussion.2 Day after day
come seemed no nearer than when they left their distant homes. They were
prepared to maintain.3 Meantime it was notorious that their enemies
advocates of a purer faith.4 At length, weary of the protracted
en cour pleniere." Beza, letter of Aug. 25th, Baum, ii., App., 47
2 La Place, ubi supra. "Nous avons entendu a ce matin
proposées. Les ecclesiastiques qui estoyent presens out dit qu'ils ne
leurs compaygnons." Letter of François de Morel, Aug. 25, 1561, Baum,
ii., App., 55.
3 On the 9th of June, 1561, Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf, i. 308.
4 Letter of Beza to Calvin, Sept. 12, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 60.
enemies.1 It was well for the Protestants that they exhibited such
decision. Catharine, who always deferred a definite decision on
her selfish ends--was constrained to yield a portion of their demands.
appending such notes as they might deem proper. The king would be
present at the discussions, together with the princes of the blood. But
points. This, she said, would only be to furnish the opposite party with
a plausible pretext for refusing to enter into the colloquy.3
caveretur." Beza, ubi supra.
2 Beza to Calvin, Sept. 12, 1561, ubi supra.
3 Not unreasonably did the queen mother allege--and none
intention de tromper." La Place, 157.
4 "Sans rien chercher que la gloire de Dieu, de laquelle
elle estimoit qu'ils fussent studieux et amateurs." La Place, 157.
Compare the letter of Catharine to the Bp. of Rennes, Sept. 14, 1561,
apud Le Laboureur, Add. to Castelnau, i, 733.
perilous an undertaking. As the Protestants left Catharine's apartments,
a deputation of doctors of the Sorbonne entered the door. They came to
beg her not to grant a hearing to heretics already so often condemned.
infection. But Catharine was too far committed to listen to their
petition. She was resolved that the colloquy should be held, and held in
the king's presence.1
1 Beza to Calvin, Sept. 12, 1561, ubi supra; La Place,
157; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 314.
THE COLLOQUY OF POISSY AND THE EDICT OF JANUARY.
The Huguenot ministers and delegates.
On Tuesday, the ninth of September, 1561, the long-expected conference
was to be opened. That morning, at ten o'clock, a procession of
ministers and delegates of the Reformed churches left St.
Germain-en-Laye on horseback for the village of Poissy. The ministers,
twelve in number, were men of note: Théodore de Bèze, or Beza, with whom
the reader is already well acquainted; Augustin Marlorat, a native of
Lorraine, formerly a monk, but now famous in the Protestant ranks, and
the leading pastor in Rouen, a man over fifty years of age; François de
Saint Paul, a learned theologian and the founder of the churches of
Montélimart, a delegate from Provence; Jean Raymond Merlin, professor of
Hebrew at Geneva, and chaplain of Admiral Coligny; Jean Malot, pastor at
Paris; François de Morel, who had presided in the First National Synod
of 1559, and had recently been given to the Duchess Renée of Ferrara, as
her private chaplain; Nicholas Folion, surnamed La Vallée, a former
doctor of the Sorbonne, now pastor at Orleans; Claude de la Boissière,
of Saintes; Jean Bouquin, of Oléron; Jean Virel; Jean de la Tour, a
patriarch of nearly seventy years; and Nicholas des Gallars, who, after
having been a prominent preacher at Geneva and Paris, had for the past
two years ministered to the large congregation of French refugees in
London. It was a body of Huguenot theologians unsurpassed for ability by
any others within the kingdom.1
1 La Place, 154; Baum, Theodor Beza, ii. 230-234. To the
names mentioned in the text must be added the name of Jean de l'Espine,
who joined his brethren soon after their arrival at Poissy. He was a
Carmelite monk of high reputation for learning, who now, for the first
time, threw aside the cowl and subscribed to the reformed confession of
faith. For an interesting account of his conversion caused by conversing
with and witnessing the triumphant death of a Protestant, Jean Rabec,
executed April 24, 1556, see Ph. Vincent, Recherches sur les
So high ran the excitement of the populace, stirred up by frequent
appeals to the worst passions in the human breast, and by highly-colored
accounts of the boldness with which the "new doctrines" had for weeks
been preached within the precincts of the court, that serious
apprehension was entertained lest Beza and his companions might be
assaulted by the way.1 The peaceable ministers of religion were,
therefore, accompanied by a strong escort of one hundred mounted archers
of the royal guard. After a ride of less than half an hour, they reached
the nuns' convent, in which the prelates had been holding their
Assembly in the nuns' refectory. The prelates.
Meantime, an august and imposing assembly was gathered in the spacious
conventual refectory.2 On an elevated seat, upon the dais at its
farther extremity, was the king, on whose youthful shoulders rested the
crushing weight of the government of a kingdom rent by discordant
sentiments and selfish factions, and already upon the verge of an open
civil war. Near him sat his wily mother--that "merchant's daughter"
whose plebeian origin the first Christian baron of France had pointed
out with ill-disguised contempt, but whose plans and purposes had now
acquired such world-wide importance that grave diplomats and shrewd
churchmen esteemed the difficult riddle of her sphinx-like countenance
and character a worthy subject of prolonged study. Not far from their
royal brother, were two children: the elder, a boy of ten years, Edward
Alexander, a few years later to appear on the pages of
commencements et premiers progrès de la Réf. en la ville de la Rochelle,
1693, apud Bulletin, ix. 30-32. The delegates of the churches were
more numerous than the ministers; there were twenty-two, according to
the Histoire ecclésiastique, i. 316; though the Abbé Bruslart (Mém. de
Condé, i. 51), swells the number to twenty-eight. The names of twelve,
representing twelve of the principal provinces, are given, with
variations, by two MSS. of the National Library of Paris (Dupuy Coll.,
vols. 309 and 641), see F. Bourquelot, notes to Mém. de Claude Haton, i. 155.
1 Beza to Calvin, Sept. 12, apud Baum, ii., App. 61; La Place, 158.
Beza, ubi supra. An engraving of the period,
reproduced by Montfaucon, affords a pleasant view of the quaint scene.
history under the altered name of Henry the Third, the last Valois King of
France; the younger, a girl of nine--that Margaret of Valois and Navarre,
whose nuptials have attained a celebrity as wide as the earth and as lasting
as the records of religious dissensions. Antoine and Louis of Bourbon,
brothers by blood but not in character; Jeanne d'Albret, heiress of
Navarre, more queenly at heart than many a sovereign with dominions far
exceeding the contracted territory of Béarn; the princes representing
more distant branches of the royal stock, and the members of the council
of state, completed the group. On two long benches, running along the
opposite sides of the hall, the prelates were arranged according to
their dignities. Tournon, Lorraine, and Châtillon, each in full
cardinal's robes, faced their brethren of the Papal Consistory,
Armagnac, Bourbon, and Guise, while a long row of archbishops and
bishops filled out the line on either side. Altogether, forty or fifty
prelates, with numerous attendant theologians and members of the
superior clergy, regular and secular, had been marshalled to oppose the
little band of reformers.1
It was an array of pomp and power, of ecclesiastical place and wealth
and ambition, of traditional and hereditary nobility, of all that an
ancient and powerful church could muster to meet the attack of fresh and
vigorous thought, the inroad of moral and religious reforms, the
irrepressible conflict of a faith based solely upon a written
revelation. The external promise of victory was all on the side of the
prelates. Yet, strange to say, the engagement that was about to take
place was none of their seeking. With the exception of the Cardinal of
Lorraine, they were well-nigh unanimous in reprobating a venture from
which they apprehended only disaster. Perhaps even Lorraine now repented
his presumption, and felt less assured of his dialectic skill since he
had tried the mettle of his Genevese antagonist. Rarely has battle been
forced upon an army after a greater number of fruitless attempts to
avoid it than those made by the French ecclesiastics, backed by the
La Place, 157; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 314; De Thou, iii. 65.
and menaces of Pius the Fourth, and Philip of Spain. Such reluctance
On the other side, the feeling of the reformers was, indeed, confidence
in the excellence of the cause they represented, but confidence not
unmingled with anxiety.
Diffidence of Beza.
A letter written by Beza only a few days before affords us a glimpse of
the secret apprehensions of the Protestants. "If Martyr come in time,"
he wrote Calvin, "that is, if he greatly hasten, his arrival will
refresh us exceedingly. We shall have to do with veteran sophists, and,
although we be confident that the simple truth of the Word will prove
victorious, yet it is not in the power of every man instantly to resolve
their artifices and allege the sayings of the Fathers. Moreover, it will
be necessary for us to make such answers that we shall not seem, to the
circle of princes and others that stand by, to be seeking to evade the
question. In short, when I contemplate these difficulties, I become
exceedingly anxious, and much do I deplore our fault in neglecting the
excellent instruments which God has given us, and thus in a manner
appearing to tempt His goodness. Meanwhile, however, we have resolved
not to retreat, and we trust in Him who has promised us a wisdom which
the world cannot resist.... Direct us, my father, like children by your
counsels in your absence from us, since you cannot be present with us.
For, simple children I daily see and feel that we are, from whose mouth
I hope that our wonderful Lord will perfect the praise of His
L'Hospital explains the objects in view.
The king opened the conference with a few words before the Protestants
were admitted,2 and then called upon the chancellor to explain more
fully the objects of the gathering. Hereupon Michel de L'Hospital,
seating himself, by Charles's direction, on a stool at the king's right
hand, set forth at considerable length the religious dissensions which
had fallen upon France, and the ineffectual measures to which
1 Letter of Beza to Calvin, Aug. 30, 1561, ap. Baum, ii., App., 59.
2 The speeches of Charles and L'Hospital seem to have been
delivered before the introduction of Beza; cf. Hist. ecclés. des églises
réf., i. 316. Prof. Baum, following La Place, 157, and De Thou, iii.
65-67, represents them as having been delivered subsequently. Theodor Beza, ii. 238.
the king and his predecessors had from time to time resorted. Severity and
mildness had proved equally futile. Dangerous division had crept in. He
begged the assembled prelates to heal this disease of the body politic,
to appease the anger of God visibly resting upon the kingdom by every
means in their power; especially to reform any abuses contrary to God's
word and the ordinances of the apostles, which the sloth or ignorance of
the clergy might have introduced, and thus remove every excuse which
their enemies might possess for slandering them and disturbing the peace
of the country. As the chief cause of sedition was diversity of
religious opinion, Charles had acceded to the advice of two previous
assemblies, and had granted a safe-conduct to the ministers of the new
sect, hoping that an amicable conference with them would be productive
of great advantage. He, therefore, prayed the company to receive them as
a father receives his children, and to take pains to instruct them.
Then, at all events, it could not be said, as had so often been said in
the past, that the dissenters had been condemned without a hearing.
Minutes of the proceedings carefully made and disseminated through the
kingdom would prove that the doctrine they professed had been refuted,
not by violence or authority, but by cogent reasoning. Charles would
continue to be the protector of the Gallican Church.1
The Huguenots are summoned. Beza's retort.
These preliminaries over, the Protestants were summoned. Conducted by
the captain of the royal guard, they entered and advanced toward the
king, until their farther progress was arrested by a railing which
separated the space allotted to the king and his courtiers, with the
assembled prelates, from the lower end of the hall filled by a crowd of
curious spectators.2 No place had been assigned the Protestants
where they might sit during the colloquy on an equality with their
opponents, the Romish ecclesiastics. They
1 La Place, 158; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 314, 315.
I have alluded to the fact, first noticed by Prof. Soldan, that De Thou
and others have placed here a speech which was in reality delivered five
or six weeks earlier; while not only they, but also the accurate La
Place and the author of the Histoire ecclés. des égl. réf., have done
the same by the king's speech, and a rejoinder of Tournon to
2 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 316.
were subjected to the paltry indignity of appearing in the guise of culprits
brought to the bar to be judged and condemned. In truth, the spirit of
conciliation which L'Hospital had been at so much pains to inculcate had
found little welcome in the breast of the prelates. "Here come the Genevese
curs," exclaimed a cardinal as the reformers made their appearance.
"Certainly," quietly retorted Beza, whose ear had caught the insulting
expression, turning to the quarter whence it came, "faithful dogs are
needed in the Lord's sheep-fold to bark at the rapacious wolves."1
Beza's prayer and address.
When the twelve ministers had reached the bar, Theodore Beza, at their
request, addressed the king: "Sire, since the issue of all enterprises,
both great and small, depends upon the aid and favor of our God, and
chiefly when these enterprises concern the interests of His service and
matters which surpass the capacity of our understandings, we hope that
your Majesty will not find it amiss or strange if we begin by the
invocation of His name, supplicating Him after the following manner."
As the orator pronounced these words, he reverently kneeled upon the
floor. His colleagues and the delegates of the churches followed his
example. A deep solemnity fell upon the assembly. According to one
account of the scene, even the Roman cardinals stood with uncovered
heads while the Huguenot minister prayed. Catharine de' Medici joined
with still greater devotion, while King Charles remained seated on his
throne.2 After a moment's pause, Beza, with hands stretched out to
heaven, according to the custom of the reformed churches of
This interesting incident Prof. Baum discovered in a
fragmentary MS. in the remarkable collection of the late Col. Tronchin.
Theodor Beza, ii. 238. The text is thus given in the Bulletin xiii.
(1864) 284: "M. de Besze, entrant dans la conférence de Poissy avec un
ministre de Genève, un cardinal dit: Voici les chiens de Genève! M. de
Besze, l'ayant entendu, répondit: Il est bien nécessaire que, dans la
bergerie du Seigneur, il y ait des chiens pour abboyer contre les
"Es sind auch die Cardinäl, diewyl er geredt, mit
entdektem Houpt gestunden, und beede mal, diewyl sy gebätet, hat sich
die alte Künigin niderglassen und mit gebätet, der Künig aber ist bliben
still sitzen." Letter of Haller to Bullinger, Berne, Sept. 23, 1561,
ap. Baum, ii., App., 73.
France,1 commenced his prayer with the confession of sins which in
the Genevan liturgy of Calvin formed the introduction to the worship of
the Lord's day.2
"Lord God! Almighty and everlasting Father, we acknowledge and confess
before Thy holy majesty that we are miserable sinners, conceived and
born in guilt and corruption, prone to do evil, unfit for any good; who,
by reason of our depravity, transgress without end Thy holy
commandments. Wherefore we have drawn upon ourselves by Thy just
sentence, condemnation and death. Nevertheless, O Lord, with heartfelt
sorrow we repent and deplore our offences; and we condemn ourselves and
our evil ways, with a true repentance beseeching that Thy grace may
relieve our distress. Be pleased, therefore, to have compassion upon us,
O most gracious God! Father of all mercies; for the sake of thy son
Jesus Christ, our Lord and only Redeemer. And, in removing our guilt and
pollution, set us free and grant us the daily increase of Thy Holy
Spirit; to the end that, acknowledging from our inmost hearts our
unrighteousness, we may be touched with a sorrow that shall work true
repentance, and that this may mortify all our sins, and thereby bear the
fruit of holiness and righteousness that shall be well-pleasing to thee,
through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord and only Saviour.
"And, inasmuch as it pleaseth Thee this day so far to exhibit Thy favor
to Thy poor and unprofitable servants, as to enable them with freedom,
and in the presence of the king whom Thou hast set over them, and of the
most noble and illustrious
1 Baum, ii. 245.
La Place, 159; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf. i. 316. The
current, but erroneous belief, that this confession was first composed
by Theodore Beza at the Colloquy of Poissy, has already been noticed. It
had been printed, as we have seen (ante, c. viii. p. 343), in the
Geneva Liturgy as early as in 1542; and earlier still in that of
Strasbourg. It was already the favorite of martyrs and confessors. Jean
Vernou, in 1515, recited it at the estrapade. "Verum antequam
mactaretur," says Jean Crespin, "preces ad Deum fudit, ita exorsus:
'Domine Deus et Pater omnipotens ego certe coram sacrosancta majestate
tua ex animo et syncere agnosco me peccatorem esse miserrimum,' et
cætera quæ in precationum formula recitantur statim initio." The margin
reads: "Initium precum solennium Geneuæ." Actiones et monimenta
martyrum, Genevæ 1560, fol. 321.
company on earth, to declare that which Thou hast given them to
know of Thy holy Truth, may it please Thee to continue the course
of Thy goodness and loving kindness, O God and Father of lights,
and so to illumine our understandings, guide our affections,
and form them to all teachableness, and so to order our
words, that in all simplicity and truth, after having conceived,
according to the measure which it shall please Thee to grant unto us,
the secrets Thou hast revealed to men for their salvation, we may be
able, both with heart and voice to propose that which may conduce to the
honor and glory of Thy holy name, and the prosperity and greatness of
our king and of all those who belong to him, with the rest and comfort
of all Christendom, and especially of this kingdom. O Almighty Lord and
Father, we ask Thee all these things in the name and for the sake of
Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Saviour, as He Himself hath taught us to seek
them, saying: 'Our Father, which art in heaven, etc.'"1