the Guises a state of universal commotion; and deputies from all parts
of France rehearsed in the ears of the Bourbon princes the story of the
usurpations of the Guises and the Protestant grievances, and urged them,
by every consideration of honor and safety, to undertake to redress
them.4 The Guises had for some time been pressing the King of Spain
and the Pope to forward the convening of a universal council, without
which all would go to ruin.5 In view of the great apathy displayed
both by Philip and by Pius--perhaps, also, with the secret hope of
enticing Navarre and Condé to come within their reach6 --they
consented to the plan which Catharine de' Medici, at the suggestion of
L'Hospital and Coligny, now advocated, of summoning a council of
notables to devise measures for allaying the existing excitement.7
1 Throkmorton to Cecil, June 24, 1560, State Paper Office;
printed in Wright, Queen Elizabeth, i. 32, 33.
2 La Planche, 338-343.]
3 Ibid., 315; De Thou, ii. 787, 788.
4 The long address delivered to the two brothers at Nérac,
and reproduced verbatim by La Planche (318-338), is a very complete
summary of the views of the Huguenots at this juncture.
5 Letter of Cardinal Lorraine to the Bishop of Limoges,
French ambassador to Philip the Second, July 28, 1560. The council "we
hold to be the sole and only remedy for our ills," is the minister's
language. Although the state of affairs was better than it had been, yet
"so many persons were imbued with these opinions, that it was not
possible to find out on whom reliance could be placed." Négociations
sous François II., 442-444.
6 Ibid., ubi supra; La Planche, 349; De Thou, ii. 782.
7 La Planche, ubi supra. An assembly of notables was, as
the term imports, a body consisting, not of representatives of the three
orders, regularly summoned under the forms observed in the holding of
the States General, but of the most prominent men of the kingdom,
arbitrarily selected and invited by the crown to act as its advisers on
some extraordinary emergency. "Telles assemblées," says Agrippa
d'Aubigné, "ont esté appelées petits estats." Hist. univ., i. 96.
Assembly of notables at Fontainebleau, August 21, 1560.
On the twenty-first of August this celebrated assembly was convened by
royal letters in the stately palace at Fontainebleau.1 Antoine of
Navarre and the Prince of Condé declined, on specious pretexts, the
king's invitation. Constable Montmorency accepted it, but came with a
formidable escort of eight hundred attendants. His three nephews, the
Châtillons, followed his example, and shared his protection. At the
appointed hour a brilliant company was gathered in the spacious
apartments of the queen mother. On either side of the king's throne sat
Mary of Scots, and Catharine de' Medici, and the young princes--Charles
Maximilian, Duke of Orleans, Edward Alexander, and Hercules.2 Four
cardinals, in their purple--Bourbon, Lorraine, Guise, and Châtillon--sat
below. Next to these were placed the Duke of Guise, as
lieutenant-general of the kingdom; the Duke of Montmorency, as
constable; L'Hospital, as chancellor; Marshals St. André and Brissac;
Admiral Coligny; Marillac, Archbishop of Vienne; Morvilliers, Bishop of
Orleans; Montluc, Bishop of Valence; and the other members of the privy
council. In front of these, the members of the Order of St. Michael, and
the rest of the notables, occupied lower benches.3
Chancellor L'Hospital's speech.
The session opened with brief speeches delivered by Francis and
his mother, setting forth the object of this extraordinary
1 "This house is both beautiful and larger than any I had
before seen in France or England. I may resemble the state thereof to
the honour of Hampton Court, which as it passeth Fontainebleau with the
great hall and chambers, so is it inferior in outward beauty and
uniformity," etc. The Journey of the Queen's Ambassadors to Rome, Anno
1555, Hardwick, State Papers, i. 67.
2 Charles Maximilian, now a boy of ten, was the successor
of Francis, known as Charles the Ninth. Edward Alexander, Duke of
Alençon, had his name changed in 1565 to Henry, and became Duke of
Anjou. He was at this time not quite nine years of age. He was
subsequently king, under the title of Henry the Third. Hercules became
Francis of Alençon in 1565, and was the only one of the brothers that
never ascended the throne. He was now a little over six years old.
3 La Place, 53; La Planche, 350, 351; De Thou, ii. 706;
Mém. de Castelnau, 1. ii., c. 8; Davila, 29. Minor discrepancies between
these accounts need not be noted.
convocation, but referring their auditors to the chancellor and to the king's
uncles for further explanations. Chancellor L'Hospital was less concise.
He entertained the assembly with a lengthy comparison of the political
malady to a bodily disease,1 pronouncing the cure to be easy, if
only the cause could be detected. He closed by assigning a somewhat
singular reason for summoning but two of the three orders of the state.
The presence of the people, he said, was in no wise necessary,
inasmuch as the king's sole object was to relieve the third estate.
Because, forsooth, the poor people--bowed down to the earth with taxes
and burdens, which the noblesse would not touch with one of their
fingers--was the party chiefly interested in the results of the present
deliberations, it was quite unessential that its complaints or requests
should be heard! The Duke of Guise and his brother, the cardinal, next
laid before the assembly an account of their administration of the army
and finances; and the first day's session ended with the pleasant
announcement that the royal revenues annually fell short of the regular
expenses by the sum--very considerable for those days--of two and
one-half millions of livres.
Coligny speaks and presents two petitions.
When next the notables met, two days later, the king formally proposed a
free discussion of the subject in hand. The youngest member of the privy
council was about to speak, when Gaspard de Coligny arose, and,
advancing to the throne, twice bowed humbly to the king. By the royal
orders, he said, he had lately visited Normandy and investigated the
origin of the recent commotions. He had satisfied himself that they were
owing to no ill-will felt toward the crown; but only to the extreme and
illegal violence with which the inhabitants had been treated for
religion's sake. He had, therefore, believed it to be his duty to listen
to the requests of the persecuted, who offered to prove that their
doctrines were conformable to the Holy Scriptures and to the traditions
of the primitive church, and to take charge of the two petitions which
they had drawn up and addressed to his Majesty and the
1 "As if," says Calvin to Bullinger, "finding himself at
his wits' end, he had called in a consultation of state doctors."
(Bonnet, iv. 135.)
queen mother. They were without signatures; for these could not be
affixed without the royal permission previously granted the reformed to
assemble together. But, with that permission, he could obtain the names of fifty
thousand persons in Normandy alone. In answer to Coligny's prayer that the king
would take his action in good part, Francis assured him that his past fidelity was a sufficient pledge of his present zeal; and commanded L'Aubespine, secretary of state, to read the papers which the admiral had just placed in his hands.
The petitions are read. They ask for liberty of worship.
The petitions,1 addressed, one to the king, the other to the queen
mother, purported to come from "the faithful Christians scattered in
various parts of the kingdom." They set forth the severity of the
persecutions the Huguenots had undergone, and were yet undergoing, for
attempting to live according to the purity of God's word, and their
supreme desire to have their doctrine subjected to examination, that it
might be seen to be neither seditious nor heretical. The suppliants
begged for an intermission of the cruel measures which had stained all
France with blood. They professed an unswerving allegiance, as in duty
bound, to the king whom God had called to the throne. And of that king
they prayed that the occasion of so many calumnies, invented against
them by reason of the secret and nocturnal meetings to which they had
been driven by the prohibition of open assemblies, might be removed; and
that, with the permission to meet publicly for the celebration of divine
rites, houses for worship might also be granted to them.
1 "Deux requestes de la part des Fideles de France, qui desirent viure selon la reformation
de l'Euangile, donnees pour presenter au Conseil tenu à Fontainebleau au mois d'Aoust,
M.D.LX." Recueil des choses mémorables faites et passees pour le faict de la
Religion et estat de ce Royaume, depuis la mort du Roy Henry II. iusques
au commencement des troubles. Sine loco, 1565, vol. i. 614-619.
2 La Place, 54, 55, and La Planche, 351, are, as usual in this reign, our best authorities
in reference to Coligny's address and the presentation of the petition; see also Hist. ecclés.,
i. 173, 174; De Thou, ii. 797; Castelnau, liv. ii., c. 8; Davila, bk. ii., p. 30. La
Place and Jean de Serres, De statu, etc., i. 96 (who are followed by De
Thou, etc.), seem to be more correct in assigning the address to the
second session, than La Planche, the Hist. ecclés., etc., who place it
indulging in scandalous excesses, while the fire was kindling in their
dioceses.1 The inferior clergy, who bought their curacies at Rome,
added ignorance to avarice.2 The ecclesiastical office became odious
and contemptible when prelates conferred benefices on their barbers,
cooks, and footmen. What must be done to avert the just anger of God?
Let the king, in the first place, see that God's name be no longer
blasphemed as heretofore. Let God's Word be published and expounded. Let
there be daily sermons in the palace, to stop the mouths of those who
assert that, near the king, God is never spoken of. Let the singing of
psalms take the place of the foolish songs sung by the maids of the
queens; for to prohibit the singing of psalms, which the Fathers extol,
would be to give the seditious a good pretext for saying that the war
was waged not against men, but against God, inasmuch as the publication
and the hearing of His praises were not tolerated. A second remedy was
to be found in a universal council, or, if the sovereign pontiff
continued to refuse so just a demand, in a national council, to which
the most learned of the new sect should be offered safe access. As to punishments,
while the seditious, who took up arms under color of religion, ought to be
repressed, experience had taught how unavailing was the persecution of those
who embraced their views from conscientious motives, and history
1 It was not unfrequently recommended, as a species of
panacea for the evils in the church, that the bishops should all be sent
off to their dioceses. An edict to that effect had recently been
promulgated, and it was supposed that the parish curates would soon be
directed to follow their example. (Languet, ii. 68.) "What else will
result from this I know not," quietly adds the sensible diplomatist,
"but that they will betray their ignorance and baseness, and that the
contempt and hatred already entertained for them by the people will be
the order, he gives this unflattering description of the prelates: "cum
plerique sint plane indocti et præterea luxu, libidinibus, et aliis
sceleribus perditissimi," etc. (Ibid., ii. 73.)
2 "Autant de deux escus que les banquiers avoyent envoyés à Rome,
autant de curés nous avoyent-ils renvoyés," adds Montluc. La Place, 56.
showed that three hundred and eighteen bishops at
the Council of Nice, one hundred and fifty at Constantinople, and six
hundred and thirty at Chalcedon, refused to employ other weapons,
against the worst of convicted heretics, than the word of God. Montluc
closed his eloquent discourse by opposing the proposition to grant the
right of public assembly, because of the dangers to which it might lead;
but advocated a wise discrimination in the punishment of offenders,
according to their respective numbers and apparent motives.1 Address of Archbishop Marillac.
The Archbishop of Vienne, the virtuous Marillac, an elegant and
effective orator, made a still more cogent speech. He regarded the
General Council as the best remedy for present dissensions; but it was
in vain to expect one, since, between the Pope, the emperor, the kings,
and the Lutherans, the right time, place, and method of holding it could
never be agreed upon by all; and France was like a man desperately ill,
whose fever admitted of no delay that a physician might be called in
from a distance. Hence, the usual resort to a national council, in spite
of the Pope's discontent, was imperative. France could not afford to
die in order to please his Holiness.2 Meanwhile, the prelates must
be obliged to reside in their dioceses; nor must the Italians, those
leeches that absorbed one-third of all the benefices and an infinite
number of pensions, be exempted from the operation of the general
rule.3 Would paid troops be permitted thus to absent themselves from
their posts in the hour of danger? Simony must be abolished at once, as
a token of sincerity in the desire to reform the church. Otherwise Christ
would come down and drive his unworthy servants from His church, as He
once drove the money-changers from the temple. Especially must churchmen
1 The harangue of Montluc is contained word for word,
though with erroneous date, in the Recueil des choses mémorables (1565),
pp. 286-305; also in La Place, 55-58; Mém. de Condé, 557-562. Summary in
De Thou, ii. 797-800; Jean de Serres, De statu rel. et reip. (1571), i. 99-106.
2 "Et qu'en tout événement nous ne voulons périr pour luy
complaire." La Place, 60; La Planche, 354.
3 "Et sur ce, ne fault espargner les Italiens qui occupent
la troisiesme partie des bénéfices du royaume, ont pensions infinies,
succent nostre sang comme sangsues," etc. La Place and La Planche, ubi supra.
repent with fasting, and take up the word of God, which is a
sword, "whereas, at present," said the speaker, "we have only the
scabbard--in mitres and croziers, in rochets and tiaras." Everything
that tended to disturb the public tranquillity, whether from seditious
leaders, or from equally seditious zealots, must be repressed.
The States General must be called.
Nor was the advice given by Marillac for securing the continued
obedience of the people less sound. He regarded the assembling of the
States General as indispensable, in view of the great debts and burdens
of the people. He warned the king's counsellors lest the people,
accustomed to have its complaints of grievances unattended to, should
begin to lose the hope of relief, and lest the proverbial promptness and
gentleness which the French nation had always shown in meeting the
king's necessities should be so badly met and so frequently offended as
at last to turn into rage and despair.1
Speech of Admiral Coligny.
Such was "the learned, wise, and Christian harangue," as the chronicler
well styles it, of "an old man eloquent," whom, like another Isocrates,
"the dishonest victory" of his country's real enemies was destined to
"kill with report." The profound impression it made was deepened by the
speech of Admiral Coligny, whose turn it was, on the next day (the