History of the rise of the huguenots

Theodore Beza invited to Nérac. Jeanne d'Albret

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Theodore Beza invited to Nérac. Jeanne d'Albret.

On the twentieth of July, at the urgent request of the King and Queen of

Navarre, the "Venerable Company of the Pastors of Geneva" had sent the

eloquent Theodore Beza to Gascony "to instruct" the royal family in the

word of God.2 In the dress of a nobleman he had traversed France and

reached Nérac in safety. Here he at once exercised a powerful influence

upon the king. The fickle mind of Antoine was susceptible of no deep

impressions; but it was very easily affected for the time. His queen,

Jeanne d'Albret, was his very opposite in mental and moral constitution.

Whereas the very first blast threw him into a fervor of enthusiastic

devotion to the purer faith, the heart of the queen--a woman not made to

be led, but to lead--yielded slowly to the melting influences of the

Gospel. But it never lost its

1 Remonstrances, plaintes, et doléançes de l'estat ecclés.,

MSS. Arch. du départ, de la Vienne, Hist. des Protestants et des églises

réf. du Poitou, par A. Lièvre (Poitiers, 1856), i. 84, 85.

2 Geneva MS., apud Baum, Theodor Beza, ii. 110.

glow. Jeanne came very reluctantly to the determination to cast

in her lot with the Reformation. She hesitated to risk the loss
of her possessions, and regretted to abandon the attractions
of the world. When, however, the decision was once made, the

question was never reopened for fresh deliberation.1

Antoine's short-lived zeal. New pressure upon Navarre and Condé.
Navarre's concessions.

At this time, Antoine, we are told, renounced the mass, and was supposed

to think, as he certainly spoke, of nothing but the means of advancing

the cause in which he had embarked. Beza preached before him in one of

the churches, and all signs pointed to the rapid establishment of the

Reformation on a firm basis. The eloquent orator added his persuasion to

the entreaties of the representatives of the Protestant churches of

France and the exhortations of Constable Montmorency. All had urged

Antoine to make his appearance at Fontainebleau with a powerful escort.

We have seen the ill-success with which the joint effort was attended.

The spies whom the Guises kept in pay around the King of Navarre, in the

persons of his most intimate advisers, deterred him from a movement

which they portrayed as fraught with peril. A few days after the

conclusion of the assembly came the king's summons. To this Antoine at

first replied that, if the accusers of his brother, of whose innocence

he was fully persuaded, would declare themselves, and if he were assured

that impartial justice would be shown, he would come to the court in

company with few attendants. Condé wrote, at the same time, and

expressed perfect confidence in his ability to disprove all the

allegations against him, provided a safe access to the court was

afforded him. On this point the suspicions of the Bourbon princes were

soon set at rest by new letters from the king and his mother, assuring

them that they would find not only security, but an opportunity to

refute charges which Francis and Catharine professed themselves

unwilling to credit.2 To these reassuring words were

1 See the interesting passage in the Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 204.

2 "As touching the occurrents of this Court, it may please your Majesty to be advertised,
that the King of Navarre being on his way to this Court, hath had letters, as I am informed,
written unto him, of great good opinion conceived of him by this King, with all other kind of

courtesies, to cause him to repair thither." Despatch of Sir Nicholas

Throkmorton, Orleans, Nov. 17, 1560, Hardwick, State Papers, i. 138.

joined the solicitations of their own brother, the shallow Cardinal of

Bourbon,1 and of the Cardinal of Armagnac. The princes, already

discouraged by tidings of the failure of the projects of Montbrun,

Mouvans and Maligny in the east, lent too ready an ear to these

suggestions. The first open manifestation of weakness was when the King

and Queen of Navarre, with their son, young Prince Henry of Béarn,

consented to hear mass in the presence of many of their courtiers. But

the extent of Antoine's concessions was, for a time, kept concealed from

his followers. At the very moment when Beza was diligently visiting the

well affected nobles, and urging them to lend prompt assistance, the

Guises were exulting, with joy mingled with fear, over the promise given

by Antoine to the Count of Crussol, that he would come, with an

insignificant escort to Orleans, whither Francis had advanced. The

tidings appeared too good to be true.2 For, although the French king

had received assurances of assistance from Philip--who was reported by

the French envoy at Toledo to be favorable to the exercise of any

severity against the Bourbon princes,3 so great

1 The portrait of this personage is painted in no

flattering colors by Calvin in two letters, to Sulcer, Oct. 1, 1560

("whose mind is more lumpish than a log, unless when it is a little

quickened by wine"), and to Bullinger, of the same date ("one whom you

might easily mistake for a cask or a flagon, so little has he the shape

of a human being"). Bonnet, Eng. tr., iv. 131-135.

2 The despatches that passed between the court and the

French ambassador in Spain reveal the general alarm. Oct. 4th, Cardinal

Lorraine expects Navarre and Condé within the first half of the month,

"dont je suis fort ayse." Oct. 5th, Francis writes that, within two

days, he has heard that they intend carrying out their enterprise. Oct.

9th, the secretary of state complains of "fresh alarm daily." Négoc.

sous François II., 604-607, 610, 650. Others were, in the end, as much

astounded as the Guises at Navarre's pacific attitude. Throkmorton,

writing to the privy council that this king was looked for shortly at

Orleans, adds that all bruits of trouble by him were clean appeased,

which caused great marvel. Despatch to privy council, Paris, Oct. 24,

1560, State Paper Office.

3 Letter of Bishop of Limoges to the Cardinal of Lorraine,

Sept. 26, 1560, apud Négotiations sous François II., 562: "Je vous

supplie de croire que le roy et mes seigneurs de son conseil [i. e.,

Francis and the Guises] ne feront rien pour extirper un tel mal qui ne

soit icy [in Spain] bien pris et receu à l'endroict de qui que ce

soit [sc. Navarre and Condé]: tant ceux-cy craignent qu'il y ait

changement en notre religion et estat." Cf. also pp. 551, 552.

was his personal enmity toward them--yet the same ambassador had not failed to

inform Charles that the troops ostensibly prepared for a French campaign were

really intended for Italy and to make good the Spanish monarch's losses

in Africa. On the other hand, unless Philip could send six hundred

thousand or seven hundred thousand crowns to Flanders to pay arrearages

and debts, he could not move a soldier across the lines from that


The Huguenot gentry offer him aid. He dismisses his escort.

The strictest orders had been given to the commandants of important

points, such as Bordeaux and Poitiers, through which Antoine might

intend passing, to guard them against him, in case of his showing any

inclination to come otherwise than peaceably.2 These precautions,

however, proved unnecessary. Antoine intended to abide by his

engagement. When by slow stages he had at length reached Limoges, he

found a number of friendly noblemen awaiting him. In a few days more

seven or eight hundred gentlemen had come in, well equipped and armed.

They begged him at once to declare for the liberation of France,

according to his previous promises. The nobility, they said, were only

waiting for the word of command. Meanwhile Gascony, Poitou, and the

coasts offered six or seven thousand foot soldiers, already enrolled

under captains, and prepared to defend him against present attack.

Provence and Languedoc would march to his assistance with three or four

thousand horse and foot. Normandy would raise as many more. He would at

once become so formidable that, without a blow, he could assume the

guardianship of the king. Bourges and Orleans would fall into his hands,

and the States General be held free of constraint. The very forces of

the enemy would desert the sinking cause of the hated Guises. As for the

necessary funds, with the best filled purses in France at his command,

he could scarcely feel any lack. The suggestions of the Huguenot lords,

backed by the entreaties of Beza, were,

1 Négociations sous François II., 553, 554.

2 Instructions of the king to M. de La Burie, commanding in

Guyenne, Sept., 1560, apud Négociations sous François II., 578-580;

also Ib., 644.

however, overborne by the secret insinuations of his treacherous counsellors.

At Verteuil--a few leagues beyond--Navarre clearly announced his intentions,
and dismissed his numerous friends with hearty thanks for their kind attentions.
He would ask the king's pardon for those who had accompanied him thus far

in arms. "Pardon!" replied one of the gentlemen, "think only of very

humbly asking it for yourself, who are going to give yourself up as a

prisoner with the halter around your neck. So far as I can see, you have

more need of it than we have, who have determined not to sell our lives

at so cheap a rate, but to die fighting rather than submit to the mercy

of those detested enemies of the king. And since we are miserably

forsaken by our leaders, we hope that God will raise up others to free

us from the oppression of these tyrants."1 This retort proving

futile, as did also the warning of the Princess of Condé, who wrote and

sent a messenger to her husband to escape from the toils of his enemies

while it was still possible, the Huguenot gentry retired in disgust; and

Beza seized the first opportunity (on the seventeenth of October) to

steal away from the King of Navarre, and undertake his perilous return

to Geneva, which he succeeded in reaching after a series of hair-breadth


Infatuation of the Bourbons.

The King of Navarre had disregarded the counsels of Calvin and other

prudent advisers, who believed that, if he presented himself with a

powerful escort at the gates of Orleans, the Guises would yield without

a blow.3 Antoine felt confident that his enemies would never venture

to lay hands on a prince of the royal blood. His blind infatuation

seemed to infect Condé also. Their presumption was somewhat shaken when

the royal governor of Poitiers forbade

1 La Planche, 377.

2 La Planche, 375; Baum, Theodor Beza, ii. 120-123, whose

account of this episode in the reformer's life is well written and

interesting. For the general facts above stated the best authority is,

as usual, La Planche, 373-377; see also La Place, 71; De Thou, ii. 807,

827; Hist. ecclés., i. 205; Castelnau, l. ii., c. 9; Davila, 34, 35;

Calvin's Letters (Bonnet), iv., pp. 132, 137, 143, 147-151.

3 Calvin to Bullinger, Dec. 4th, and to Sulcer, Dec. 11,

1560 (Bonnet, iv. 149 and 151).

their entrance into that city. But the depth of the ruin into which they had

plunged was more clearly revealed to their eyes as they began to approach
Orleans. Friendly voices whispered the existence of a plan for their
destruction; friendly hands offered to effect their escape to Angers, and thence
into Normandy.1 But the die was cast. Hostile troops enveloped them, and
they resolved to continue their journey.

They reach Orleans. Condé arrested.

Navarre had figured upon the journey much as a provost-marshal leading

his brother to prison.2 Now the imaginary resemblance was turned

into a sad reality. On Thursday, the thirty-first of October, the

Bourbons reached Orleans.3 Their reception soon convinced them that

they had placed their heads in the jaws of the lion. None of the

courtiers save the cardinal, their brother, and La Roche-sur-Yon, their

cousin, deigned to do them honor. That very day, after a few angry

accusations from Francis, and a courageous vindication of his conduct by

the chivalrous prince, Condé was arrested in the king's presence and by

his order.4 The King of Navarre also was, indeed, little better than

a prisoner, so closely did he find himself watched.5 In vain did

Navarre remonstrate and plead the royal promise of security, offering

himself to become a surety for his brother; the king denied redress.

Then it was that Condé turned to the Cardinal of Bourbon, one of the few

that had come to do him honor and said: "Sir, by your assurances you

have delivered up your own

1 La Planche, 377; Agrippa d'Aubigné, liv. ii., c. 19.

2 La Planche, ubi supra.

3 Sommaire récit de la calomnieuse accusation de M. le prince de Condé, in the
Recueil des choses mém. (1565), 722-754, and Mémoires de Condé, ii.
373-395--a contemporaneous account by one who speaks of himself as "ayant assisté
à la conduicte de la plus grand part de tout le négoce."

4 "Nevertheless, upon his coming, being accompanied with

his brethren, the Cardinal of Bourbon and Prince of Condé, after they

have [had] done their reverence to the king and queens, the Prince of

Condé was brought before the council, who committed him forthwith

prisoner to the guard of Messrs. de Bresy and Chauveney, two captains of

the guard, and their companies of two hundred archers." Despatch of Sir

Nicholas Throkmorton, ubi supra.

5 "The King of Navarre goeth at liberty, but as it were a

prisoner." Despatch of Sir Nich. Throkmorton, ubi supra. "Tanquam

captivus." Same to Lord Robert Dudley, same date, State Paper Office.

brother to death."1 Others shared in Condé's misfortune. Madame de Roye,

his mother-in-law and a sister of Admiral Coligny, was brought a prisoner to
St. Germain, and a careful search was made among her papers and elsewhere
for the purpose of obtaining proofs of Condé's guilt.2
Return of Renée of Ferrara.

It was at this inauspicious moment that a distinguished princess reached

Orleans, after an absence of thirty-two years from her native land, and

was received with marked honors by the king and all the court, who went

out to meet her and escort her to the city.3 This was the celebrated

Renée, younger daughter of Louis the Twelfth, and widow of Ercole, Duke

of Ferrara, now returning, after the death of her husband, to spend her

declining years at her retreat of Montargis on the Loing. The scene

which she beheld awakened in her breast regret and indignation which she

was not slow in expressing. To the Duke of Guise, who had married her

daughter, Anne d'Este, she administered a severe rebuke. "Had I been

present," she said, "I would have prevented this ill-advised step. It is

no trifling matter to treat a prince of the blood in such a manner. The

wound is one that will long bleed; for no man has ever yet attacked the

blood of France but he has had reason to regret it."4
Condé's courage. His wife repulsed.

The courage of the imprisoned prince rose with his misfortunes. The

house in which he was incarcerated was flanked by a tower whose

embrasures commanded the approach, the windows were newly barred, and

the door was half-walled

1 La Place, 73; La Planche, 380, 381; Castelnau, 1. ii., c. 10.

2 La Place, 74: La Planche and Castelnau, ubi supra;

Sommaire récit, ubi supra. "Madame de Roy (Roye), the Admiral of

France his sister ... is taken and constituted prisoner." Despatch of

Sir Nich. Throkmorton, Orleans, November 17, 1560, Hardwick, State Papers, i. 139.

3 "The Dutchess of Ferrara, mother to the Duke that now is,

according to that I wrote heretofore to your Majesty, is arrived at this

Court, the 7th of this present, and was received by the King of Navarre,

the French King's brethren, and all the great Princes of this Court." Ubi supra.

4 Brantôme, Femmes illustres, Renée de France; La Planche,

381; La Place, 74; "que si elle y eust esté, elle l'eust empesché, et

que ceste playe saigneroit long temps après, d'autant que jamais homme

ne s'estoit attaché au sang de France, qu'il ne s'en fust trouvé mal." De Thou, ii. 830.

up to preclude the possibility of escape.1 But Prince Louis
stoutly maintained that it was not he that was a captive, since,
though his body was confined, his spirit was free and his
conscience clean and guiltless; but rather they were prisoners,

who, with the freedom of their body, felt their conscience to be

enslaved and harassed by a ceaseless recollection of their crimes.2

His wife, the virtuous Éléonore de Roye, fruitlessly applied for

admission in order to minister to his wants. She was rudely repulsed by

the king, at whose feet she had thrown herself in a flood of tears, with

the bitter remark that her husband was his mortal enemy, who had

conspired not only to obtain his crown, but his life also, and that he

could do no less than avenge himself upon him.3 It was only by

special effort that the few who dared avow themselves friends of the

disgraced Bourbons, succeeded in obtaining for Condé legal counsel, and

that these were allowed to hold brief interviews with the prince in the

presence of two officers of the crown.4 No others were admitted,

save a pretended friend, to sound his disposition toward the Guises.

Comprehending the motive of his visit, Condé begged him to inform those

who had sent him, "that he had received so many outrages at their hands

that there remained no path of reconciliation, save at the point of the

sword; and that, although he seemed to be at their mercy, he still had

confidence that God would avenge the injury done by them to a prince who

had come at the command and relying on the word of his king, but had

been shamefully imprisoned at their suggestion, in order to make in him

a beginning of the destruction of the royal blood."5

Condé tried by a commission. He is found guilty and sentenced to
be beheaded.

A commission, consisting of Chancellor L'Hospital, President De

Thou, Counsellors Faye and Viole, and a few others, was

1 "He remaineth close in a house, and no man permitted to

speak with him; and his process is in hand. And I hear he shall now be

committed to the castle of Loches, the strongest prison in all this

realm." Sir Nich. Throkmorton, November 17, 1560, ubi supra, i. 138.

2 La Place, 75, ubi supra; De Thou, ii. 832, 833 (liv.

26); Sommaire récit, ubi supra.

3 La Planche, 402.

4 Ib., 401; La Place, 75; Sommaire récit, ubi supra.

5 La Planche, 400; Castelnau, liv. ii., c. 10.

appointed, on the thirteenth of November, to conduct the trial. Condé refused

to plead before them, taking refuge in his privilege, as a prince, to be tried

only before the king and by his peers.1 His appeals, however, were

rejected by the privy council, and he was commanded, in the king's name,

to answer, under pain of being held a traitor. In view of the known

desire and intention of the king and his chief advisers, the trial was

likely to be expeditious and not over-scrupulous.2 The most innocent

expressions of disapproval of the violent executions at Amboise were

perverted into open approval of a plot against the king. The prosecution

sought to establish the heresy of the prince, in order to furnish some

ground for finding him guilty of treason against Divine as well as royal

authority. Nor was this difficult. A priest, in full officiating

vestments, was introduced, as by royal command, to say mass in Condé's

presence. But the young Bourbon drove him out with rough words,

declaring "that he had come to his Majesty with no intention of holding

any communion with the impieties and defilements of the Roman

Antichrist, but solely to relieve himself of the false accusations that

had been made against him."3 Before so partial a court the trial could have
but one issue. Condé was found guilty, and condemned to be beheaded
on a scaffold erected before the king's temporary residence, at the opening

1 Sommaire récit, ubi supra. "For, being a prince of the

blood, he said, his process was to be adjudged either by the Princes of

the blood or by the twelve Peers; and therefore willed the Chancellor

and the rest to trouble him no further." Throkmorton, Nov. 28, 1560,

Hardwick, State Papers, i. 151. Castelnau (liv. ii., c. 11) has, by a

number of precedents, proved the validity of this claim.

2 Mémoires de Condé, i. 619, containing the royal arrêt

of Nov. 20th, rejecting Condé's demand; Sommaire récit. The (subsequent)

First President of parliament, Christopher de Thou, was, after

Chancellor L'Hospital, the leading member of the commission. His son,

the historian, may be pardoned for dismissing the unpleasant subject

with careful avoidance of details. La Planche makes no mention of the

chancellor in connection with the case, but records Condé's indignant

remonstrance against so devoted a servant of the Guises as the first

president acting as judge.

3 La Planche, 399.

of the States General.1 The sentence was signed not

only by the judges to whom the investigation had been entrusted, but by

members of the privy council, by the members of the Order of St.

Michael, and by a large number of less important dignitaries, without

even a formal examination into the merits of the case--so anxious were

the Guises to involve as many influential persons as possible in the

same responsibility with themselves. Of the privy councillors, Du

Mortier and Chancellor de l'Hospital alone refused to append their

signatures without a longer term for reflection, and endeavored to ward

off the blow by procrastination.2

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