History of the rise of the huguenots

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Montpellier. Churches visited and stripped.

In the south of France the people were less easily curbed, and the

indiscretion or treachery of their enemies often furnished provocation

for acts which the sober judgment of their pastors refused to sanction.

The chapter of the cathedral of Montpellier, with the view of overawing

the city, had, in October, introduced a garrison into the commanding

Fort St. Pierre. On a Sunday (the nineteenth of October) the Protestants

laid siege, and on the succeeding day the chapter entered into a

composition with the citizens, by which the canons retained the liberty

of celebrating their services, but bound themselves to lay down their

arms and dismiss the soldiers they had called in. When, however, a

soldier, as he was leaving, drew a pistol and killed one of the

Protestants, the fury of the latter could not be repressed. They cried

that treacherous designs were on foot, and madly killed many of the

canons and their sympathizers. Then, directing their indignation against

the churches, where the doctrine that no faith need

1 Otherwise, 15,000 or 20,000 Huguenots, of whom 2,000 or

3,000 were armed horsemen, would doubtless have come together, and

possibly seized some church edifices. The prince issued a very severe

order against future assailants. Letter of Languet, Oct. 17, 1561.

Epist. secr., ii. 149, 150. Ordonnance de M. le Prince de La

Roche-sur-Yon, lieutenant-général de sa Majesté en la ville de Paris,

publié le 16 Octobre 1561, Mém. de Condé, i. 57-59. Bruslart, as usual,

misrepresents the whole affair, i. 56. Languet was present with the


2 Languet, ii. 155.

be kept with heretics had been inculcated, they overturned in a few hours the

work of four or five centuries. The next day, of sixty churches and chapels in

Montpellier or its neighborhood, not one was open. Not a priest, not a

monk, dared to show his face. Yet this same excitable populace, which

had been wrought up to frenzy by a soldier's treacherous act, submitted

without resistance when, on the twentieth of November, Joyeuse, in the

king's name, published the obnoxious edict for the restitution of all

churches within twenty-four hours. The cathedral was given up, and the

services according to the rites of the reformed church were held in the

spacious "École mage," until, by a new arrangement with the canons, the

Protestants were once more put in possession of two of the old

ecclesiastical edifices. Yet the edict did not arrest the rapid progress

of the new faith. The mass was not reinstated, and the small Roman

Catholic minority remained at home on the feast-days. Even the lowest

class of the population--elsewhere, from ignorance and prejudice, the

stronghold of the papal religion--here seemed to share in the universal

tendency, and, unfortunately, as a local chronicler, to whom we are

indebted for these particulars, informs us, took no better way of

testifying its devotion than by "mutilating sepulchral monuments,

unearthing the dead, and committing a thousand acts of folly." Carrying

their hatred of everything that reminded them of the period of judicial

abuse to the length of detesting even the insignia of office, the people

compelled the ministers of the law to doff their traditional square cap

and assume a hat such as was worn by the rest of the population.1

Thus the strength of the reformatory current could be gauged by the mud

and rubbish which it tore from the banks on either side--an addition to

its bulk that contributed nothing to its power, while marring its purity

and sullying its fair antecedents. A class of persons attached

themselves to the Huguenot

1 Mémoires de Philippi (Collection Michaud et Poujoulat),

624, 625: "Le populaire des fidèles continuoit de mettre en pièces les

sepulchres, déterrer les morts, et faire mille follies.... Le peuple

porta sa haine jusqu'aux bennets quarrés, et les gens de justice furent

obligés de prendre des chapeaux ou bonnets ronds."

community that could not be brought into subjection to the discipline instituted

with such difficulty at Geneva. It would seem invidious to lay their excesses to
the account of the Huguenot leaders, whether religious or political, since those
excesses met with the severe reprobation of the latter.[1234]
The rein, and not the spur, needed. Marriages and baptisms at court,
"after the fashion of Geneva."

"Would that our friends might restrain themselves at least for two

months!" was the ejaculation of Beza, in view of the natural impatience

exhibited on all sides. "I fear our own party more than I do our

adversaries."[1235] The rein was needed, not the spur. When, instead of

two hundred persons, the Parisian assemblies of Huguenots often

consisted of six thousand, a fanatical populace, accustomed for a whole

generation to see the very suspicion of Lutheranism expiated in the

flames of the Place de Grève or of the Halles, could ill brook the sight

of such open gatherings for the reformed worship. How much greater the

popular indignation when it became known that Chancellor L'Hospital had

authorized two places for public worship according to the rites of the

reformed churches, in the neighborhood of the Gate of St. Antoine and

the Gate of St. Marceau! Added to these palpable proofs of the court's

complicity with the heretics, was the no less scandalous fact that

marriages and baptisms, celebrated "after the fashion of Geneva," were

of frequent occurrence; that the nuptials of young De Rohan, cousin of

Antoine of Navarre, and Mademoiselle de Brabançon, niece of the Duchess

d'Étampes, had been performed on St. Michael's Day, and in the presence of
Condé and the Queen of Navarre, by Theodore Beza himself; and that in a masquerade

1 As a single instance out of many, I cite a passage from

a letter of Pierre Viret to Calvin (Nismes, Oct. 31, 1561), illustrative

of the relation of the Huguenot ministers to the acts of mistaken zeal

with which this period abounded: "Hic apud nos omnia sunt pacatissima,

Dei beneficio. Ego, quoad possum, studeo in officio continere non solum

nostros Nemausenses [inhabitants of Nismes], sed etiam vicinos omnes:

sed interea multis in locis et templa occupantur, et idola dejiciuntur

sine nostro consilio. Ego omnia Domino committo, qui pro sua bona

voluntate cuncta moderabitur." Baum, ii., App., 120.

2 Letter from St. Germain, Nov. 4, 1561, Baum, ii., App.,

121. "Denique nostros potius quam adversaries metuo."

in the royal palace Charles the Ninth had worn a cap which

bore an unmistakable resemblance to a bishop's mitre![1236]

Tanquerel's seditious declaration.

While legate and nuncio labored to put an end to these hateful

manifestations by personal solicitation addressed to Catharine, to

Cardinal Châtillon, and others,[1237] the priests and monks were no less

active in stirring up the passions of the people to open resistance. In

the scholastic halls of the Collége de Harecourt, one Tanquerel, a

doctor of the Sorbonne, enunciated the dangerous maxim that "the Pope

can depose heretical kings and emperors." At this menacing declaration,

which, under a king in his minority and a regency divided in its

sentiments on religious questions, was much more than a theoretical

abstraction, the government took alarm. The Parliament of Paris

investigated the offence, and the doctrine of Tanquerel was severely

condemned. Tanquerel himself having fled from the city to avoid the

consequences of his rashness, the Dean of the Sorbonne was required, by

order of the supreme court, to utter in his name a solemn recantation in

the presence of the assembled theologians and of a committee

1 Mém. de Condé, i. 67, etc.; Letter of Santa Croce (Nov.

15, 1561), in Cimber et Danjou, vi. 5, 6, and Aymon, i. 5.

2 Santa Croce, ubi supra. Of the Cardinal of Ferrara's

apprehensions and the grounds for them, Shakerley, the legate's own

organist, and a spy of the English ambassador, secretly wrote to

Throkmorton from the French court at St. Germain: "Here is new fire,

here is new green wood reeking; new smoke and much contrary wind blowing

against Mr. Holy Pope; for in all haste the King of Navarre with his

tribe will have another council, and the Cardinal [of Ferrara] stamps

and takes on like a madman, and goeth up and down here to the Queen,

there to the Cardinal of Tournon, with such unquieting of himself as all

the house marvels at it." Shakerley to Throkmorton, Dec. 16, 1561, State

Paper Office. Printed in Froude, vii. 391. When a "holy friar" was

preaching before the court, his sermon "being without salt," the hearers

laughed, the king played with his dog, Catharine went to sleep, and

Ferrara "plucked down his cap." Same to same, Dec. 14, 1561, "two

o'clock after midnight." This industrious correspondent, who employed

the small hours of the night in transmitting to the English ambassador

his master's secrets, confessed to Throkmorton that he had no belief in

the depth of Ferrara's assumed concern, having "so marked the living of

priests" that he believed that "whensoever they are sure to have the

same livings that they have without being troubled, they care not an the

Pope were hanged, with all his indulgences," Letter of Dec. 16, 1561.

State Paper Office.

of parliament; and two theologians were deputed to St. Germain to beg the

king's forgiveness.1

Jean de Hans.

The preachers were not behind the doctors in the use of seditious

language. They attacked the government and its entire policy; and one of

their number--Jean de Hans--while delivering Advent discourses in the

church of St. Barthélemi, in the very neighborhood of the palace, so

distinguished himself for the extravagance of his denunciations, that he

was arrested and carried off to the court at St. Germain. Yet such was

his well-known popularity with the Parisians, that it was found

necessary to effect his capture by a troop of forty armed men; and the

powerful intercession made in his behalf induced the government to

forget his disrespectful language respecting the princes, and to release

him after barely a week's imprisonment.2

Philip threatens to interfere in French affairs. "A true defender of the faith."

Courteville's mission to Flanders.

Unfortunately, Tanquerel's treasonable thesis and Hans's excited

declamation were not mere harmless speculations which might never be of

any practical importance to the state. The King of Spain had taken the

pains to inform the queen mother that he had fully made up his mind to

interfere in the affairs of France, and to enforce Catholic supremacy at

the point of the sword. She might accept or decline the offers of the

self-appointed champion of orthodoxy; but, if she declined, he was

resolved none the less to afford his succor to any true friend of the

Church that chose to request it. Timid and irresolute Catharine, who

desired to steer

1 Journal de Bruslart, Mém. de Condé, i. 60, etc.

2 Ibid., i. 65; a highly colored, partisan, and consequently inaccurate account is given by
Claude Haton, i. 214-221. T. Shakerley, in his letter of Dec. 16th, relates the friar's interview
with Catharine, who, on seeing the fellow's boldness and the strength of his popularity among
the merchants of Paris (at least sixty of whom escorted him), easily accepted his disclaimers,
told him "she was much content to hear that his preaching was good, without giving trouble to

the people," and bade him "go his way and preach and fear no harm, for it should always please

her son and her that the people should be taught as in old time they had been preached unto."
The intercession of the Parisians, accompanied "by offers of forty thousand crowns pledge of
his forthcoming," Shakerley affirms, "has given such a blow to the preachers of the other side
[the Huguenots] that there is wonderful change." State Paper Office.

clear of the Scylla of Spanish intervention quite as much as of the

Charybdis of Huguenot supremacy, trembled for the security of
her unballasted bark. But the watchful old man who sat on

St. Peter's reputed seat was thrown into a paroxysm of delight. When the

Ambassador Vargas handed him a copy of the message his master had sent

to St. Germain, Pope Pius paused a moment, after he had read the

undisguised threat, then burst out with a flood of benedictions on the

head of the Spanish king. "There," he cried, "is a truly Catholic

prince, there a true defender of the faith! I expected no less of

him."1 And Philip intended to carry his menaces into effect. On the

twenty-fifth of October his secretary, Courteville, left Madrid,

ostensibly on a visit to his infirm father in Flanders, but in reality

intrusted with a very important commission, which, in an age when it was

no uncommon thing for a messenger to be waylaid and robbed of his

despatches, could scarcely be otherwise discharged. He was to make

diligent inquiries of Margaret of Parma, Regent of the Netherlands, as

to the actual condition of the provinces, and the material support they

could give the undertaking upon which Philip has set his heart. While

passing through Paris he was to confide his dangerous secret to the

Ambassador Chantonnay, and instruct him to support any of the Roman

Catholic nobles that might show a disposition to rise,2 or to

instigate them to action by the promise of Philip's support. Neither

Margaret nor Chantonnay, however, could fulfil the monarch's desires.

The former thought that Philip had thrown away the golden opportunity by

failing to interfere

1 "Y quando leyó aquel passo de la letra (que si la reyna

madre no quisiesse el ayuda que se le offrescia, la darie V. M. á quien

se la pidiesse para favorescer la religion y conservarle en la verdad)

reparó un rato y hechó á V. M. muchas bendiciones, diziendo que aquello

era un principe veramente cathólico y defensor de la religion, y que no

esperava ménos de V. M." Vargas to Philip II., Nov. 7, 1561, Papiers

d'état du card. de Granvelle, vi. 399. The Pope had agreed to assist the

orthodox party with sixty galleys (Ibid., vi. 437), and he cared little

if the French knew that he was in league with Philip (Ibid., vi.

401)--their fears might serve as a check upon their insolence.

2 "Qui premier voulsist monstrer les dens audist Sieur de

Vendosme et ses adhérens."

while the question of Catharine's and Navarre's claims to the
administration was in dispute, and when the number of sectaries
was much smaller than at present; and by the time Courteville

reached Poissy, where Chantonnay was stopping, the assembled nobles had

dispersed to their homes, and the Guises were practically farther from

Paris than from Brussels. So the execution of Philip's plan, both

agreed, must be deferred for some time.1
The ill-starred Medici family. The Venetian envoy's lugubrious
account of France.

It could not be denied that the situation was critical in the extreme.

Long-headed diplomatists of the conservative school shook their heads

ominously. They hinted that there might be only too much truth in the

current Catholic saying that the Medici family was destined to be fatal

to Christendom. Under Leo the Tenth Germany was lost to the papacy,

under Clement the Eighth England had apostatized, and now under Pius the

Fourth, a third Pope of the same ill-starred race, France was on the

brink of ruin. The king was a boy, without experience and without

authority, the council full of discord, the supreme power in the hands

of the queen, who, though sagacious, was yet only a woman, and both

timid and irresolute. The King of Navarre, while noble and gracious, was

a prince of little constancy and limited practice in government. The

people were in disorder and manifest division. Everywhere there were

seditious and insolent men, who, under the pretext of religion, had

disturbed the general peace, overturned customs and discipline, and put

in doubt the royal authority and the safety of all. Oh, that Philip the

Second had the courage of his father, or that Charles the Fifth had had

his son's glorious opportunity--then would France be France no

longer!2 For just so certainly as the Spanish king was looked upon

with suspicion by the rulers, was he longed for by all that hated the

present state of things, and,

1 "Rapport secret du secrétaire Courtewille, et fondement

de son envoy devers Madame la duchesse de Parma ès Pays-Bas en Decembre,

1561." Papiers d'état du card. de Granvelle, vi. 433, etc. Letter of

Margaret of Parma to Philip II., Dec. 13, 1561, Ibid., vi. 444, seq.

2 "E s'avesse quello spirito che aveva il padre, o il

padre avesse avuto la presente fortuna, la Francia non saria più


most of all, by the prelates and the rest of the Catholics, who knew not

in what other quarter to look for salvation.1
Romish complaints of Huguenot boldness.

It was not possible that peace should long be maintained under such

circumstances. It could not be but that the Huguenots, conscious of

their growing numbers, confident of the near approach of the day when

their rights were to be formally recognized, and impatient of the

fetters with which their enemies still attempted to embarrass their

progress, would assert their rights from day to day with increasing

boldness. The priests and the rabble, on the other hand, regarded this

new courage with suspicion, and interpreted every action as springing

from insufferable insolence. They were on the watch to detect fresh

examples of Huguenot audacity. They complained of the numbers that

flocked to hear the reformed preachers, of the arms which some carried

for self-defence--a precaution not very astonishing in view of the

excited feelings of the Parisians and the frequent outbursts of their

fury, and still less extraordinary on the part of the "noblesse," who

were accustomed to wear a sword at all times. They went so far as to

assert that the Huguenot multitude usurped the entire pavement, and were

become so overbearing that they were ready to pick a quarrel with any

one that presumed "to look at them." A peaceable Catholic must needs, to

avoid abuse and hard blows, show more skill in getting out of their way

than he would in shunning a mad dog. The streets resounded with their

profane psalm-singing, and ill fared it with the unlucky wight that

ventured to remonstrate, or dared to find fault with their provoking use

of meat on the prohibited days. He was likely to have a broken head for

his pains, or be shut up in prison by judges who sympathized with the

"new doctrines."2 The court, however, more correctly ascribing the

disturbances that occurred on such occasions to the attacks made upon

the Protestants by their

1 Michel Suriano, Rel. des Amb. Vén., i. 558-562.

2 Discours sur le Saceagement des Eglises Catholiques ...

en l'an 1562. Par F. Claude de Sainctes, 1563. Reprinted in Cimber et

Danjou, iv. 371. Claude Haton, i. 177, 178. I need not stop to refute

these partial statements. They are not surprising, coming as they do

from writers who accept all the vile stories of Huguenot midnight orgies

with unquestioning faith.

opponents, detached the "chevalier du guet" and his archers to attend
the meetings and to prevent the disturbance of the worshippers on
their way to and from the places assigned for the Protestant services
in the suburbs.
The "tumult of Saint Médard."

At length, on Saturday, the twenty-seventh of December, a serious

commotion took place. One of the two spots where Catharine, at the

chancellor's suggestion, had permitted the Huguenots of the capital to

meet for worship, was a spacious building on the southern side of the

Seine, outside the walls and not far from the gate of St. Marceau. It

bore the enigmatical designation of "Le Patriarche," derived--so

antiquarians alleged--from the circumstance that it had been built long

before by a patriarch of Alexandria expelled from his see by the

Moslems.1 Here a congregation of several thousand persons2 had

assembled in the afternoon. The introductory services over, the pastor,

Jean Malot, had been preaching for a quarter of an hour, when his sermon

was noisily interrupted. Separated from the "Patriarche" by a narrow

lane stood the parish church of Saint Médard. Under the pretext of

summoning the people to vespers, the priests had ordered all the bells

in the tower to be rung violently, and hoped by the din to put an end to

the heretical worship in the vicinity. Finding it impossible to make himself
heard, the minister endeavored to restrain his excited audience, and after
the singing of a psalm resumed his discourse. It was all in vain:
St. Médard's bells pealed out the tocsin, and the sound of the discharge

1 It is described in an "arrêt" of parliament as "une

maison size au fauxbourg S. Marcel, rue de Mouffetard, vulgairement

dicte la maison du Patriarche, pour ce que un patriarche d'Alexandrie

déchassé par les barbares la fit anciennement bastir, ayant entrée sur

la grande rue dudict S. Marcel." Félibien, Hist. de Paris, iv., Preuves,


2 De Thou (iii. 100) is much below the mark in stating the

number at about two thousand; the author of the "Histoire véritable de

la mutinerie" does not seem to exaggerate when he estimates it at twelve

thousand to thirteen thousand. The congregation was unusually large, the

day being the festival of St. John, and a holiday. The day before, the

Protestants had for the first time been permitted to assemble on a

feast-day, and Beza himself had preached without interruption to crowded

audiences at Popincourt and at the Patriarche. He had again preached on

the morning of St. John's Day. Letter of Beza to Calvin, Dec, 30, 1561,

Baum, ii., App., 148.

of fire-arms, and the crash of stones hurled from the belfry,

increased the confusion. Meanwhile two Protestants had quietly gone over

to the side door of the church, to request an abatement of the

interruption. Their civil request was answered with violence. One of the

men barely escaped with his life; the other, a deacon of the church, was

killed on the spot. Five or six royal archers, commanded by the provost,

Rouge-Oreille, next summoned the party within the church to desist, but

met with no better success. At length the people, now congregated around

the entrance, and subjected to a storm of missiles from the windows and

the tower, forced open the doors and entered the church. Here they

discovered the corpse of their murdered brother. The priests and

sacristans, though armed with swords and clubs, were soon driven to take

refuge in the belfry. In the struggle the ecclesiastics themselves

became iconoclasts, and, when their supply of less sacred implements ran

low, broke in pieces the images of saints, and rained the fragments upon

the Huguenot crowd. Finally a threat to set fire to the belfry put an

end at once to the ringing of the tocsin and to the holy shower.

Meantime the tumultous peals of St. Médard's bells had drawn to the spot

the "chevalier du guet," one Gabaston, who, on learning the

circumstances, promptly lent aid in quelling the disturbance, and

arrested a number of the leaders in the riotous proceedings. Yielding to

an injudicious impulse, the motley crowd of Huguenots and of persons who

had been attracted to the scene by the noise resolved to accompany the

prisoners to the "Petit Châtelet," and the march assumed the appearance

of a triumphal procession. Between Gabaston's troop of over two hundred

mounted and foot archers, and the detachment of Rouge-Oreille, walked a

band of unarmed Protestants, followed by the Roman Catholic prisoners,

many of them in their ecelesiastical dresses, and tied together two by

two. It was deemed little short of a miracle that the procession, even

with its escort of soldiery, should be suffered to enter the city and

pass through its densely crowded streets on a public holiday, without

being attacked by the intensely Roman Catholic populace.1

1 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 422.

Such was the famous "tumult of Saint Médard"--the result of a plan

adopted expressly to stir up the inveterate hostility of the Parisians

against the adherents of the Reformation, and to serve as the pretext

for demanding the prohibition of the Protestant "assemblies."1 The

popular explosion that had been expected instantly to follow the

application of the match was deferred until the morrow, when a rabble

such as the capital alone could pour forth gutted the interior of the

"Patriarche" and would have set it on fire, had it not been repulsed

by a small body of Huguenot gentlemen.2 The plot had proved

abortive; but it was the innocent victims and the friends of good order,

not the conspirators, who paid the penalty of the broken law. While the

priest of Saint Médard and his accomplices were promptly discharged, without
even a reprimand, Gabaston and one "Nez-d'Argent," royal officers who had
interfered to restore order, were executed by command of parliament.3

1 That the disturbance was premeditated is proved by the

fact, attested by the Histoire véritable, p. 60, that the precious

possessions of the church had been removed from St. Médard a few hours

before its occurrence. Its object was clearly revealed by the haste with

which the parliament despatched a messenger to St. Germain, to solicit

the king in council to revoke the permission heretofore granted the

Protestants to meet in the suburbs of Paris. Hist. ecclés. des égl.

réf., i. 422.

2 With this scene the connection of the "Patriarche" with

the reformed services disappears from history. It had been let to the

Protestants by a merchant of Lucca, who was himself only a tenant. In

the ensuing summer the owner, moved by displeasure for the impiety of

the religious services it had witnessed, made a gift of the "Patriarche"

to the parliament, asking that it might be employed for the relief of

the poor and other charitable purposes. Arrêt of parliament, Aug. 18,

1562, Félibien, iv., Preuves, 806. Of course, Saint Médard was suitably

propitiated by solemn expiatory processions and pageantry.

3 And with every indignity on the part of the people. See

extracts from "Journal de 1562," in Baum, ii. 480, 481. The authorities

I have made use of in the account of the St. Médard riot given in the

text are: "Histoire véritable de la mutinerie, tumulte et sédition,

faite par les Prestres Sainct Médard contre les Fideles, le Samedy xxvii

iour de Decembre, 1561" (in Recueil des choses mémorables, 822, etc.;

Mém. de Condé, ii. 541, etc.; Cimber et Danjou, iv. 49, etc.), a

contemporaneous pamphlet written by an eye-witness; other documents

inserted in Mém. de Condé, among them the Journal de Bruslart, i. 68;

Letter of Beza, who was present, to Calvin, Dec. 30, 1561, apud Baum,

ii. App., 148-150; Hist. ecclés., i. 421; De Thou, iii. 100; Claude

Haton, i. 179, etc.; Castelnau, l. iii., c. 5; J. de Serres, i. 346;

Claude de Sainctes, Saccagement (in Cimber et Danjou). It is almost

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