The privy council, if not persuaded of the propriety of initiating a
policy of toleration, were at least convinced of the necessity of
yielding temporarily to the storm; and even the Guises deemed it
advisable to make concessions, which could easily be revoked on the
advent of more peaceful times.
1 See the synopsis of Coligny's speech in La Planche, 247,
248. Tavannes ascribes Coligny's impunity throughout this reign to
Catharine's interposition, revealing the plans of his enemies, etc.
(Mémoires, ii. 264). It was much more probably owing to his powerful
family alliances, and particularly to the fear of throwing the weight of
the enormous influence of his uncle, Constable Montmorency, into the
opposite scale. Yet it must be confessed that Catharine displayed for
the admiral, on more than one occasion, that respect which integrity
always exacts from vice, and which is most likely to be manifested in
the hour of danger. Early in this reign the court faction had endeavored
to sow discord between the two principal men of the Protestant party, by
intimating to Coligny that Condé was seeking to obtain the governorship
of Picardy, which the former held. The calumny, however, failed of its object.
Accordingly, an edict of pretended amnesty was hastily drawn up, and as
expeditiously published. The king was moved to take this step--so
the edict made him say--by compassion for the number of
persons who, from motives of curiosity or simplicity, had
attended the conventicles of the preachers from Geneva--for the most
part mechanical folk and of no literary attainments--as well as by
reluctance to render the first year of his reign notable in after times
for the effusion of the blood of his poor subjects. By the provisions of
this important instrument the royal judges were forbidden to make
inquisition into, or inflict punishment for any past crime concerning
the faith: and all delinquents were pardoned on condition that they
should hereafter live as good Catholics and obedient sons of Mother Holy
Church. But from the benefits of the amnesty were expressly excluded
all preachers and those who had conspired against the person of the king
or his ministers.1 The edict--much to the surprise of those who knew
the sanguinary disposition of the judges--was promptly registered by
parliament; whether it was that the judges were reconciled to the step
Huguenot defended his adherents against the imputation of having
revolted against their lawful monarch, and maintained that, on the
contrary, they had come to uphold his honor and free him from the
intrigues of the Guises. Seeing, however, the hopelessness of resisting
the superior force of his enemy, Castelnau consented to capitulate,
after exacting from the Duke of Nemours his princely word that he and
his followers should receive no injury, and be permitted to have free
access to the king, in order to lay before him their grievances.
1 Throkmorton's Correspondence in Forbes, State Papers, i. 353, 354, 374-378.
The pledge thus given was redeemed in no chivalrous manner. No account was
made of the terms accepted. Castelnau and his companions-in-arms were at
once thrown into the dungeons of Amboise, and steps were taken for their
trial on a charge of treason.1 Much larger numbers, arriving in the
vicinity of Amboise ignorant of what had happened, were surrounded by
cavalry and brought in tied to the horses' tails. Many a knight, better
accoutred than his fellows, was despatched in a more summary manner and
stripped of his armor, after which his body was carelessly thrown into a
ditch by the roadside.2 La Renaudie was so fortunate as to escape
this fate and the yet more cruel doom that awaited him at Amboise, by
meeting a soldier's death, while courageously fighting against a party
of Guisards who fell in with him. He had just slain his antagonist--one
Pardaillan, his own relative--when (on the nineteenth of March) he was
himself instantly killed by the ball from an arquebuse fired by his
Plenary powers given to the Duke of Guise.
While the alarm arising from the "tumult" was yet at its height, the
Guises took advantage of it to obtain yet larger powers, at the same
time securing their position against future assaults. The king, in his
terror, was readily induced to accept the warlike uncle of his wife as
the only person on whose military prowess and faithfulness he could
rely. He regarded the interest of the Guises and his own as identical;
for he had been told, and he firmly believed it, that the enmity of the
insurgents was directed no less against the crown than against its
unpopular ministers.4 On the seventeenth
1 Hist. du tumulte d'Amboise, ubi supra; La Planche, 251, 252; La Place, 34, 35; De Thou,
ii. 767, 768; Mém. de Castelnau, liv. i., c. 8; Throkmorton to the queen, March 21, 1560,
Forbes, State Papers, i. 376, 377. Vieilleville, if we may credit Carloix, foresaw the
impossibility of keeping his honor in this mission, and refused to take it. Mém. de
Vielleville, ii. 420, etc.
2 La Planche, ubi supra.
3 La Planche, 254; La Place, 35; De Thou, ii. 769; Davila, 25. Sir Nich. Throkmorton,
March 21, 1560, Forbes, State Papers, i. 380. M. Mignet has shown (Journal des Savants,
1857, 477, note) that the death of La Renaudie cannot have taken place before the evening
of the 19th, or the morning of the 20th.
4 Even in their letter to their sister, the Queen Dowager of Scotland (April 9, 1560), the
Cardinal of Lorraine and the Duke of Guise had the assurance to speak of the affair of
Amboise as "a conspiracy made to kill the king, in which we were not forgotten."
Forbes, State Papers, i. 400.
of March he therefore gave a commission to "Francis of Lorraine, Duke of
Guise, peer, grand master, and grand chamberlain," to be his lieutenant-general
with absolute powers, promising to approve of all his acts, and authorizing him
to impose the customary punishment upon the seditious, without form or
figure of process.1
Chancellor Olivier opposes. Forgiveness to the submissive.
There were those about the monarch who could not but look with concern
upon the unlimited authority thus accorded to an ambitious prince.
Chancellor Olivier was of this number. He at first refused to affix the
seal of state to a paper which falsely purported to have been made by
advice of the council. It was, however, at length decided that another
edict should be published contemporaneously, extending forgiveness to
all that had assembled in arms in the neighborhood of the city of
Amboise, under color of desiring to present to the king a confession of
their faith. To avail themselves of the benefits of this pardon, they
must, within "twice twenty-four hours," return to their homes, in
companies of two, or, at the most, three together. The disobedient were
to be hung without process of law, and the tocsin might be rung to
gather a force for the purpose of capturing them. The king, however,
invited all that desired to present him their requests to depute one of
had disappeared. Actuated by curiosity or by a desire to spare his life,
she requested him to be sent for. It was too late; he had already been
despatched.3 For the most part, the victims displayed great
constancy and courage. Many died with the words of the psalms
1 La Planche, 257, 262.
2 "The 17th of this present there were twenty-two of these
rebellis drowned in sacks, and the 18th of the same at night twenty-five
more. Among all these which be taken, there be eighteen of the bravest
captains of France." Throkmorton to the queen, March 21st, Forbes, i. 378.
3 La Planche, 257, 263.
of Marot and Beza on their lips.1 Castelnau, after having in his
interrogatory made patent to all the hypocrisy of the cardinal and the
cowardice of the chancellor, died maintaining that, before he was
pronounced guilty of treason, the Guises ought to be declared kings of
France. Villemongys, upon the scaffold, dipped his hands in the blood of
his companions, and, raising them toward heaven, exclaimed in a loud
voice: "Lord, this is the blood of Thy children, unjustly shed. Thou
wilt avenge it!"2 The body of La Renaudie was first hung upon one of
the bridges of Amboise, with the superscription: "La Renaudie, styling
himself Laforest, author of the conspiracy, chief and leader of the
rebels." Afterward it was quartered, and his head, in company with the
heads of others, was exposed upon a pole on a public square.3 The
sight of these continually recurring executions, succeeding a fearful
struggle in which so many of his subjects had taken part, is said to
have affected even the young king, who asked, with tears, what he had
done to his people to animate them thus against him. It is even reported
that, catching for an instant, through the mist with which his advisers
sought to keep his mind enshrouded, a glimpse of the true cause of the
discontent, he made a feeble suggestion, which was easily parried, that
the Guises should for a time retire from the court, in order that he
might find out whether the popular enmity was in reality directed
against him, or against his uncles.4 Their fertile invention,
however, was not slow in concocting a story that turned his short-lived
pity into settled hatred of the "Huguenot heretics."
The elder D'Aubigné and his son.
On others, and especially upon those whose hearts throbbed with
patriotic devotion, a less transient impression was made. Some months
after, the young Agrippa d'Aubigné, then a mere child of ten years, was
traversing the city of Amboise with his
1 Throkmorton, ubi supra.
2 La Planche, 263, 265; La Place, 34, 35; Hist. du tumulte
d'Amboise, apud Mém. de Condé, i. 327; D'Aubigné, ubi supra.
3 Ibid., 254-258; La Place, 35; Hist. du tumulte, ubi
supra; Throkmorton, ubi supra, i. 380.
4 La Planche, 258.
father. The impaled heads of the victims were still to be recognized.
The barbarous sight moved the elder D'Aubigné's soul to its very
depths. "They have beheaded France, hangmen that they are!"
he cried out in the hearing of the hundreds that were present
at the fair. Then, spurring his horse, he scarcely escaped the hands
of the rabble who had caught his words. Afterward, when his
young son had rejoined him, he placed his hand on Agrippa's head, and
exclaimed, full of emotion: "My child, you must not spare your head
after mine, to avenge these chieftains full of honor, whose heads you
have just seen! If you spare yourself in this matter, you will have my
Peril of the Prince of Condé. He is summoned by the king.
Condé's defiance. Guise's offer.
The Prince of Condé had set out for the court about the time of the
discovery of the conspiracy. If the coldness of the courtiers whom he
met on the way did not convince him that he was suspected, the position
in which he soon found himself at Amboise left him no doubts. Surrounded
by spies, he was viewed more as a prisoner than as a guest. The Guises
even counselled Francis to stab him with his dagger while pretending to
sport with him. The crime was averted both by the caution of the prince
and by a reluctance on the part of the young king to imbrue his hands in
the blood of his kinsman--a sentiment which the Guises interpreted as
cowardice.2 But, unable to resist the urgency of those who accused
Condé of being the true head of the conspiracy, and maintained that the
testimony of many of the prisoners rendered the fact indubitable,
Francis at length summoned the young Bourbon to his presence. He
informed him of the accusations, and assured him that, should they prove
true, he would make him feel the difficulty and the danger of attacking
a king of France. At Condé's request an assembly of all the princes, and
of the members of the Privy Council and of the Order of St. Michael, was
summoned, that he might return his answer to the charges laid against him.3
1 Mémoires de Théodore Agrippa d'Aubigné (Ed. Panthéon lit.), 472.
2 La Planche, 267.
3 I have followed in the text the account of La Planche. La Place, 36, represents Condé
as voluntarily making his appearance and declaration before the king and the princes
and knights that were present, on hearing that the ambassadors of several foreign
princes had named him in their despatches as the author of the enterprise.
In the midst of the august gathering, Louis of Bourbon arose
and recited the conversation which he had had with the king. He knew, he
said, that he had enemies about him who sought his entire ruin and that
of his house. He had, therefore, solicited to be heard in this company,
and his answer was: that, excepting the person of the king, his
brothers, and the queens, his mother and wife--and he said it with all
respect to their presence--whoever had asserted to the king that Condé
was the chief of certain seditious individuals who were said to have
conspired against his person and estate, had "falsely and miserably
lied." To prove his innocence he offered to waive for the time the
privileges of his rank as prince of the blood, and in single combat
force his accuser at the point of the sword to confess himself a
poltroon and a calumniator. As Condé looked proudly around, no one
ventured to accept the gauntlet he had thrown down. On the contrary, the
Duke of Guise, his most bitter enemy, promptly stepped forward to offer
him his services as second in the single combat proposed! Hereupon Condé
begged the king to esteem him hereafter a faithful and honorable man,
and entreated his Majesty to lend no ear to the authors of such
calumnies, but to regard them as common enemies of the crown and of the