History of the rise of the huguenots

The Huguenots of Valence seize the church of the Franciscans

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The Huguenots of Valence seize the church of the Franciscans.

The course of events in many cities of Southern France is illustrated by

the occurrences at Valence, which the most authentic and trustworthy

historian of this reign has described at length. This episcopal city,

situated on the Rhône, about midway between Lyons and Avignon, had for

some time contained a small community of Huguenots. When, in order to

avoid persecution, their minister, who had become known to their

enemies, was replaced by another, a period of unexampled growth began.

The private houses in which the Protestants met were too small to

contain the worshippers. They now adjourned to the large schools, but at

first held their services by night. Soon their courage grew with the

advent of a second minister and with large accessions to their ranks.

The younger and more impetuous part of the Protestants, disregarding the

prudent counsels of their pastors and elders, ventured upon the bold

step of seizing upon the Church of the Franciscans, and caused the

Gospel to be openly preached from its pulpit. The people assembled,

summoned by the ringing of the bell; and it was not long before the

reformed doctrines were relished and embraced by great crowds. A goodly

number of armed gentlemen simultaneously took possession of the

adjoining cloisters, and protected the Protestant rites. The

co-religionists of Montélimart and Romans, considerable towns not far

distant, emboldened by the example of Valence, resorted to public

preaching in the churches or within their precincts.1

1 Calvin, in a letter sent by François de Saint Paul, a

minister whom he induced to accept the urgent call of the church of

Montélimart, dissuaded that church from this step which was already

contemplated. Better is it, said he, to increase the flock, and to

gather in the scattered sheep, meanwhile keeping quiet yourselves. "At

least, while you hold your assemblies peaceably from house to house, the

rage of the wicked will not so soon be enkindled against you, and you

will render to God what He requires, namely, the glorifying of His name

in a pure manner, and the keeping of yourselves unpolluted by all

superstitious observances, until it please Him to open a wider door."

Lettres françaises (Bonnet), ii. 335, 336. The author of the Histoire

ecclés. des églises réf., i. 138, expresses a belief that had such wise

counsels been followed, incomparably the greater part of the district

would have embraced the Reformation.

A public assembly of citizens. An impressive scene. The public morals.

On receiving the intelligence of the sudden outbreak of Protestant zeal

in his diocese, the Bishop of Valence--himself at one time possibly

half-inclined to become a convert--despatched thither the Seneschal of

Valentinois with the royal Edict of Forgiveness published at Amboise for

all who had taken arms and conspired against the king. The citizens were

summoned to a public assembly, in which the magistrates, the consuls,

the clergy, and the chief Huguenots were conspicuous. After reading and

explaining the terms of the royal clemency, the seneschal turned to the

Protestants, who stood by themselves, and demanded whether they intended

to avail themselves of its protection. Mirabel, their chief spokesman,

replied that it was the custom of the reformed churches to offer prayer

to God before treating of so important affairs as this, and proffered a

request that they be allowed to invoke His presence and blessing.

Permission was granted. A citizen of Valence, who was also a deacon of

the Reformed Church, thereupon came forward, and uttered a fervent

prayer for the prosperity of the king and his realm, and for the

progress of the Gospel. The Protestant gentlemen reverently uncovered

their heads and knelt upon the ground, and their Roman Catholic

neighbors imitated their example. But it was noticed that the clergy

stood unmoved and refused to join in the act of worship. The prayer

being ended, a Huguenot orator delivered the answer of his brethren. It

was, that they rejoiced and rendered thanks for the benignity of their

young prince; but that they could not avail themselves of the pardon

offered. They had never conspired against their king. On the contrary,

they professed a religion that enjoined the most dutiful obedience. As

for bearing arms, it had only been resorted to by the Huguenots in order

that they might protect themselves against the unauthorized insults and

violence of private persons. The citizen was followed by a procureur,

who, for eight years, had kept the criminal records of Valence. He bore

public testimony to a wonderful change that had come

over the city since the introduction of the preaching of the Gospel. The acts

of violence which formerly rendered the streets so dangerous by night that

few dared to venture out of their houses, even to visit their neighbors,

had almost disappeared. The fearful story of crime which used to

confront him every morning had been succeeded by a chronicle of quiet

and peace. It would seem that with a change of doctrine had also come a

transformation of life. The speaker challenged the other side to gainsay

his statements; and when not a voice was heard in contradiction, he

administered to the Papists a scathing rebuke for the calumnies which

some of them had forged against the Protestants behind their backs. With

this triumphant refutation of the charges of disorder, the assembly

broke up.1
The Huguenots of Dauphiny to be exterminated.

The province of Dauphiny, within whose limits Valence, Romans and

Montélimart were comprehended, was a government entrusted to the Duke of

Guise. Moved with indignation at finding it become the hotbed of

Protestantism, he determined to crush the Huguenots before impunity had

given them still greater boldness. The governors of adjacent provinces

were ordered to assist in the pious undertaking. King Francis, in a

paroxysm of rage, wrote to Tavannes, acting governor of Burgundy, to

take all the men-at-arms under his command and march to the assistance

of Clermart, Lieutenant-Governor of Dauphiny, in cutting to pieces those

who had taken up arms under color of religion. They were, he heard,

three or four thousand men, and had instituted public preaching "after

the Geneva fashion," with all other insolent acts conceivable. He begged

him to punish them as they deserved, showing no pity or compassion,

since they had refused to take advantage of the forgiveness of past

offences which had been sent them. He was to extirpate the evil.2

These and other equally brutal instructions were obeyed with alacrity;

but their execution was effected rather by treachery

1 La Planche, 284-286.

2 Letter of Francis II. to Gaspard de Saulx, Seign. de

Tavannes, April 12, 1560, apud Négotiations relatives au règne de

François II., etc. (Collection de documents inédits), 341-343.

than by open force. The Huguenots of Valence were first induced by

promises of security to lay aside their arms, then imprisoned and despoiled
by a party consisting of the very dregs of the population of Lyons and

Vienne. Two of the ministers were put to death1 in company with

three of the principal men, one being the procureur who had given such

noble testimony to the morals of the Protestants. More would have been

executed had not the Bishop of Valence been induced to intercede for his

episcopal city, and obtain amnesty for its citizens. Romans and

Montélimart fared little better than Valence.2
Concourse at Nismes.

At Nismes, in Languedoc--destined periodically, for the next three

centuries, to be the scene of civil dissension arising from religious

intolerance--as early as in Holy Week, three Protestant ministers had

been preaching in private houses and administering baptism. On Easter

Monday a large concourse from the city and the surrounding villages

publicly passed out into the suburbs--armed, if we may believe the

cowardly Vicomte de Joyeuse, with corselets, arquebuses, and pikes--and

celebrated the Lord's Supper "after the manner of Geneva." Neither the

presidial judges nor the consuls exhibited much disposition to second

the efforts of the provincial government in suppressing these


Mouvans in arms in Provence. His message to Guise.

In Provence the commotion assumed a more military aspect, in immediate

connection with the conspiracy of Amboise. Mouvans, an able leader,

after failing in an attempt to gain admission to Aix, long maintained

himself in the open country. Keeping up a wonderful degree of discipline

in his army, he allowed his soldiers, indeed, to destroy the images in

the churches and to melt down the rich reliquaries of gold and silver,

but scrupulously required them to place the precious metal in the hands

of the local authorities. At length, forced to capitulate to the Comte de Tende,
the royal governor, he obtained the promise of security of person and

1 With a label attached to their necks bearing this

inscription: "Voicy les chefs des rebelles."

2 La Planche, 286-289.

3 Letter of the Vte. de Joyeuse to the king, April 26,

1560, apud Nég. sous François II., 361-363.

liberty of worship. New acts of treachery rendered his

position unsafe, and he retired to Geneva. It was thence that he

returned to the Duke of Guise, who professed to be eager to secure for

himself the services of so able a commander, a noble answer: "So long as

I know you to be an enemy of my religion and of the public peace, and to

be occupying the place of right belonging to the princes of the blood,

you may be assured you have an enemy in Mouvans, a poor gentleman, but

able to bring against you fifty thousand good servants of the King of

France, who are ready to endanger life and property in redressing the

wrongs you have inflicted on the faithful subjects of his Majesty."1

A popular awakening.

It was impossible to ignore the fact: France had awakened from the sleep

of ages. The doctrines of the Reformation were being embraced by the

masses. It was impossible to repress the impulse to confess with the

mouth2 what was believed in the heart. At Rouen, the earnest request

of the authorities, seconded by the prudent advice of the ministers,

might prevail upon the Protestant community still to be content with an

unostentatious and almost private worship, upon promise of connivance on

the part of the Parliament of Normandy. But Caen, St. Lô, and Dieppe

witnessed great public assemblies,3 and Central and Southern France

copied the example

1 La Planche, 293.

2 Hence the festival of Corpus Christi witnessed in some

places serious riots, especially in Rouen, where a number of citizens of

the reformed faith refused to join in the otherwise universal practice

of spreading tapestry on the front of their houses when the host was

carried by. Houses were broken into, at the instigation of the priests,

and near a score of persons killed. Languet, Paris, June 16th, Epist.

sec., ii. 59, 60.

3 La Planche, 294; Hist. ecclés., i. 194; Floquet, Hist. du

parl. de Normandie, ii. 284, 288, 294, 302-306, etc. At Dieppe the

Huguenots had gone so far as to erect, with the pecuniary assistance

afforded by Admiral Coligny, an elegant and spacious "temple," as the

Protestant place of worship was styled. Vieilleville, much to his

regret, felt compelled to demolish it (Aug., 1560), for it stood in the

very heart of the city. I quote a part of his secretary's appreciative

description: "C'estoit ung fort brave édifice, ressemblant au théatre

de Rome qu'on appelle Collisée, ou aux arênes de Nysmes. On fut trois

jours à le verser par terre, et ne partismes de Dieppe que n'en

veissions la fin." Mém. de Vieilleville, ii. 448, etc.; Floquet, ii. 318-336.

of Normandy. The time for secret gatherings and a timid worship

had gone by. They were no longer in question. "When cities and
almost entire provinces had embraced the faith of the reformers," a

recent historian has well remarked,1 "secret assemblies became an

impossibility. A whole people cannot shut themselves up in forests and

in caverns to invoke their God. From whom would they hide? From

themselves? The very idea is absurd."
Pamphlets against the usurpers. The queen mother consults La Planche.

The political ferment was not less active than the religious. The

pamphlets and the representations made by the emissaries of the Guises

to foreign powers, in which the movement at Amboise was branded as a

conspiracy directed against the king and the royal authority, called

forth a host of replies vindicating the political Huguenots, and

setting their project in its true light, as an effort to overthrow the

intolerable usurpation of the Guises. The tyrants were no match for the

patriots in the use of the pen; but it fared ill with the author or

printer of these libels, when the strenuous efforts made to discover

them proved successful.2 The politic Catharine de' Medici, fearing a

new and more dreadful outburst of the popular discontent, renewed her

hollow advances to the Protestant churches,3 held a long

consultation with Louis Regnier

1 De Félice, liv. i., c. 12 (Am. ed., p. 111).

2 See La Planche, 312, 313, and the "Histoire des cinq

rois" (Recueil des choses mém), 1598, p. 99, for the punishment of the

possessor of a copy of a virulent pamphlet against the cardinal,

entitled Le Tigre (see the note at the end of this chapter); and

Négociations sous François II., 456, for a letter from court ordering

search to be made for the author and publisher of the "Complaincte des

fidèles de France contre leurs adversaires les papistes." "En ung lundy après
Pasques, 15^e du moys, fut affiché devant S. Hilaire un papier estant imprimé
d'autre impression de Paris, et y avoit à l'intitulation Les Estats opprimez
par la tyrannie de MM. de Guise au roy salut." Journal de Jehan de la Fosse,
37. The piece referred to is inserted in the Mémoires de Condé, i. 405-410.

3 La Planche, 299-302. The remonstrance, signed

Theophilus, which they addressed her, insisted on the ill-success of

the persecutions to which for forty years they had been subjected; for

one killed, two hundred had joined their assemblies; for ten thousand

open adherents, the Reformation had one hundred thousand secret

upholders. The Edict of Forgiveness answered no good purpose: "c'estoit

bien peu d'oster pour un instant la douleur d'une maladie, si quant et

quant la cause et la racine n'en estoit ostée."

de la Planche (the eminent historian, whose profoundly philosophical
and exact chronicle of this short reign leaves us only disappointed
that he confined his masterly investigations to so limited a field)
respecting the grounds of the existing dissatisfaction,1 and despatched
Coligny to Normandy for the purpose of finding a cure for the evil.
Edict of Romorantin, May, 1560. No abatement of rigor.

The Guises, on the other hand, resolved to meet the difficulties of

their situation with boldness. The opposition, so far as it was

religious, must be repressed by legislation strictly enforced.

Accordingly, in the month of May, 1560, an edict was published known as

the Edict of Romorantin, from the place where the court was

sojourning, but remarkable for nothing save the misapprehensions that

have been entertained respecting its origin and object.2 It restored

1 La Place, 41-45; La Planche, 316, 317; Mém. de Castelnau, l. ii., c. 7; De Thou, ii., liv. xxv.
788-791. I confess, however, that the careful perusal of La Planche's bold speech has nearly
convinced me that the ascription of the anonymous "Hist. de l'estat de Fr. sous François II."
to his pen is erroneous. I shall not insist upon the fact that the description of La Planche as
"homme politique plustost que religieux" is inappropriate to the author of this history. But I
can scarcely conceive of La Planche correcting errors in his own speech, and not only
expressing an utter dissent from the account which he himself gave the queen of the motives
that led La Renaudie to engage in the enterprise that had for its object the overthrow of the
Guises, but even accusing himself of falling into a grave mistake with regard to the

importance of the differences of creed between the Protestants and the

Roman Church: "s'abusant en ce qu'il meit en avant des différends de la

religion." La Planche had suggested a conference of

theologians--ostensibly to make a faithful translation of the Bible, in

reality to compare differences--and had expressed the opinion that there

would be found less discord than there appeared to be. The condemnation of this
view certainly does not mark a man of political rather than religious tendencies!
I fear that we must look elsewhere for the author of this excellent history.

2 It has been ascribed to the virtuous and tolerant Chancellor L'Hospital, who, it
is said, drew it up in order to defeat the project of the Guises to introduce the
Spanish Inquisition. (La Planche, 305; cf. also De Thou, ii. 781.) But the edict
was published before the appointment of L'Hospital, and while Morvilliers,
a creature of the Guises, provisionally held the seals after Chancellor Olivier's death;
and the spiritual jurisdiction it established differed little in principle from an
inquisition. In fact, three of the French prelates, the Cardinals of Lorraine, Bourbon,
and Châtillon, had, as we have seen, been constituted a board of inquisitors of the faith;
and, soon after the publication of the Edict of Romorantin, the Cardinal of

Tournon was set over them as inquisitor-general. The subject has been

well discussed by Soldan, Geschichte des Prot. in Frankreich, i.

338-342. The Duc d'Aumale, in his usually accurate Histoire des Princes

de Condé (i. 113), repeats the blunder of La Planche and De Thou.

exclusive jurisdiction in matters of simple heresy to the

clergy, excluding the civil courts from all participation, save to

execute the sentence of the ecclesiastical judge. But it neither

lightened nor aggravated the penalties affixed by previous laws. Death

was still to be the fate of the convicted heretic, to whom it mattered

little whether he were tried by a secular or by a spiritual tribunal,

except that the forms of law were more likely to be observed by the

former than by the latter. A section directed against the "assemblies"

in which, under color of religion, arms were carried and the public

peace threatened, declared those who took part in them to be rebels

liable to the penalties of treason.1

Death of Chancellor Olivier.

A remarkable figure now comes upon the stage of French affairs in the

person of Chancellor Michel de l'Hospital. Chancellor Olivier, who had

merited universal respect while losing office in consequence of his

steadfast resistance to injustice under the previous reign, had

forfeited the esteem of the good by his complaisance when restored to

office by the Guises at the beginning of the present reign. Overcome

with remorse for the cruelties in which he had acquiesced since his

reinstatement, he fell sick shortly after the tumult of Amboise. When

visited during his last illness by the Cardinal of Lorraine, he coldly

turned his back upon him and muttered, "Ah! Cardinal, you have caused us

all to be damned."2 He died not long afterward, and was buried

1 Recueil des anc. lois fr., xiv. 31-33; La Planche, 305,

306; La Place, 46, 47. It is, of course, "an edict holily conceived and

promulgated," in the estimation of Florimond de Ræmond, v. 113. The only

redeeming feature I can find in it is the article by which malicious

informers made themselves liable to all the penalties they had sought to

inflict on others.

2 La Place, 36 (who states that the burning of Du Bourg was

an occasion of deep remorse in Olivier's last hours); La Planche, 266;

J. de Serres, De statu rel. et reip., i., fol. 35; De Thou, ii. (liv.

xxiv.), 775; Hist. du tumulte d'Amboise, ubi supra.

without regret, despised by the patriotic party on account of his

unfaithfulness to early convictions, and hated by the Guises for his

tardy condemnation of their measures.
Chancellor Michel de l'Hospital.

Of L'Hospital, because raised to the vacant charge by the Lorraine

influence, little good was originally expected.1 But the lapse of a

few years revealed the incorruptible integrity of his character and the

sagacity of his plans.2 Elevated to the highest judicial post at a

critical juncture, he accepted a dignity for which he had little

ambition, only that he might the better serve his country. What he could

not remedy he resolved to make as endurable as possible. It was not

within the power of a single virtuous statesman to allay the storm and

quiet the surging waters; but by good-will, perseverance, and nerve, he

might steer the ship of state through many a narrow channel and by many

a hidden rock. An ardent lover and earnest advocate of toleration, he

yet considered it politic to consent to urge the Parliament of Paris, in

the king's name, to register the Edict of Romorantin, in accordance with

which the system of persecution was for a while to be continued. One of

the original conspirators of Amboise, according to the explicit

statement of a writer who saw his signature affixed to the secret papers

of the confederates,3 he made no

1 La Planche, 305.

2 If we may credit that professed panegyrist, Scævola de

St. Marthe, L'Hospital was of an august appearance, of a dignified and

tranquil countenance, and, if his intellectual constitution had a philosophic stamp,
his features bore a not less remarkable resemblance to the head of the Stagirite as
delineated on ancient medals. Elogia doctorum in Gallia virorum qui nostra patrumque
memoria floruerunt (Ienæ, 1696), lib. ii., p. 95.

3 This remarkable statement is made by Agrippa d'Aubigné, Mémoires, 478 (Ed.
Panthéon Lit.). He tells us that he had inherited from his father, himself one of the
conspirators, the original papers of the enterprise of Amboise. The suggestion
was made by a confidant, that the possession of the proof of L'Hospital's
complicity would certainly secure him 10,000 crowns, either from the chancellor
or from his enemies; whereupon the youth threw all the papers into the fire lest
he might in an hour of weakness succumb to the temptation. In his Hist. universelle, i. 95,
D'Aubigné makes the same assertion with great positiveness: "L'Hospital, homme de
grand estime, luy succeda, quoyqu'il eust esté des conjurez pour le faict d'Amboise.
Ce que je maintiens contre tout ce qui en a esté escrit, pource que l'original de

l'entreprise fut consigné entre les mains de mon père, où estoit son

seing tout du long entre celuy de Dandelot et d'un Spifame: chose que

j'ai faict voir a plusieurs personnes de marque."

opposition to the article that pronounced the penalties of treason
upon those who assembled in arms to celebrate the rites of religious
worship. Yet he dissembled not from timidity, treachery, or
ambition, but solely that by unremitting labor he might heal the
unhappy dissensions of his country. "Patience, patience, tout ira
bien," were the words he always had in his mouth for encouragement
and consolation.1

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