History of the rise of the huguenots

The death of Francis saves the Huguenots. Transfer of power

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The death of Francis saves the Huguenots. Transfer of power.

If the sudden catastrophe which brought to an end the bloody rule of

Henry was naturally interpreted as a marked interposition of Heaven in

behalf of the persecuted "Lutherans," it is not surprising that the

unexpected death of his eldest son, in the flower of his youth, and

after the briefest reign in the royal annals, seemed little short of a

miracle. Had Francis lived but a week longer, the ruin of the Huguenots

might perhaps have been consummated. Condé would have been executed at

the opening of the States General. Navarre and Montmorency, if no worse

doom befell them, would have been incarcerated at Loches and Bourges.

The Estates, deprived of the presence of these leaders, and overawed by

the formidable military preparations of the Guises,1 would readily

have acquiesced in the most extreme measures. Liberty and reform would

have found a common grave.2 But a few hours sufficed to disarrange

this programme. The political power was, at one stroke, transferred from

the hands of

1 Evidently the Guises had acquiesced with so much alacrity

in the convocation of the States General only because of their

confidence in their power to intimidate any party that should undertake

to oppose them. Chantonnay, the Spanish ambassador, informed Philip of

this before Francis's death, and gave the Cardinal of Lorraine as his

authority for the statement: "Le ha dicho el cardenal de Lorrena que

para aquel tiempo avria aqui tanta gente de guerra y se daria tal órden

que a qualquiera que quiziesse hablar se le cerrasse la boca, y assi ne

se hiziesse mas dello que ellos quiziessen." Simancas MSS., apud

Mignet, Journal des savants, 1859, p. 40.

2 Letter of Beza to Bullinger, Jan. 22, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 18.

Francis and Charles of Lorraine to those of Catharine de'

Medici and the King of Navarre; and the Protestants of Paris recognized

in the event a direct answer to the petitions which they had offered to

Almighty God on the recent days of special humiliation and prayer.1
Alarm of the Guises. Funeral obsequies of Francis II.

The altered posture of affairs was equally patent to the princes of late

complete masters of the destinies of the country. In the first moments

of their excessive terror, they are said to have shut themselves up in

their palaces, and to have declined to leave this refuge until assured

that no immediate violence was contemplated.2 Even after the

immediate danger had passed, however, they were too shrewd to pay to the

remains of their nephew the tokens of respect exacted of the constable

in behalf of Henry's corpse,3 preferring to provide for their own

safety and future influence by being present at the meeting of the

States. The paltry convoy of Francis from Orleans to the royal vaults of

St. Denis presented so unfavorable a contrast to the pompous ceremonial

of his father's interment, that it was wittily said, "that the mortal

enemy of the Huguenots had not been able to escape being himself buried

like a Huguenot."4 A bitter taunt aimed at the unfaithfulness and

ingratitude of the Guises fell under their own eyes. A slip of paper was

found pinned to the velvet funereal pall, on which were written--with

allusion to that famous chamberlain of Charles the Seventh, who, seeing

his master's body abandoned by the courtiers that had flocked to do

obeisance to his son and successor, himself buried it with great pomp

and at his own expense--the words: "Where is Messire Tanneguy du

Chastel? But he was a Frenchman!"5

1 From Nov. 20th to Dec. 1st, De la Place, 77, 78.

2 La Planche, 418.

3 "Si possible estoit," wrote Calvin, "il seroit bon de

leur faire veiller le corps da trespassé, comme ils out faict jouer ce

rosle aux aultres." Letter to ministers of Paris, Lettres franchises, ii. 347.

4 "Lutherano more sepultus Lutheranorum hostis." Letter of

Beza to Bullinger, ubi supra, p. 19. "Dont advint un brocard: que le

roy, ennemy mortel des huguenauds, n'avoit pen empescher d'estre enterré

à la huguenaute." La Planche, 421.

5 De la Place, 76.

Navarre's opportunity. His contemptible character.

Adroitness and success of Catharine.

Never had prince of the blood a finer opportunity for maintaining the

right, while asserting his own just claims, than fell to the lot of

Antoine of Navarre. The sceptre had passed from the grasp of a youth of

uncertain majority to that of a boy who was incontestably a minor.

Charles, the second son of Henry the Second, who now succeeded his older

brother, was only ten years of age. It was beyond dispute that the

regency belonged to Antoine as the first prince of the blood. Every

sentiment of self-respect dictated that he should assume the high rank

to which his birth entitled him,1 and that, while exercising the

power with which it was associated, in restraining or punishing the

common enemies both of the public liberties and of the family of the

Bourbons, he should protect the Huguenots, who looked up to him as their

natural defender. But the King of Navarre had, unfortunately, entered

into the humiliating compact with the queen mother, to which reference

was made in the last chapter. From this agreement he now showed no

disposition to withdraw. The utopian vision of a kingdom of Navarre,

once more restored to its former dimensions, still flitted before his

eyes, and he preferred the absolute sovereignty of this contracted

territory to the influential but dangerous regency which his friends

urged him to seize. Besides, he was sluggish, changeable, and altogether

untrustworthy. "He is an exceedingly weak person"--suggetto

debolissimo--said Suriano. "As to his judgment, I shall not stop to say

that he wears rings on his fingers and pendants in his ears like a

woman, although he has a gray beard and bears the burden of many years;

and that in great matters he listens to the counsels of flatterers and

vain men, of whom he has a thousand about him."2 Liberal in promises,
and exhibiting occasional sparks of courage, the fire of Antoine's resolution
soon died out, and he earned the reputation of being no more

1 "De consentir que une femme veuve, une estrangère et

Italienne domine, non-seulement il luy tourneroit à grand déshonneur,

mais à un tel préjudice de la couronne, qu'il en seroit blasmé à

jamais." Calvin to the ministers of Paris, Lettres fr., ii. 346.

2 Commentarii del regno di Francia, probably written early

in 1562, in Tommaseo, Rel. des Amb. Vén., i. 552-554.

formidable than the most treacherous of advocates.

Sensual indulgence had sapped the very foundations of his

character.1 It is true that his friends, forgetting the

disappointment engendered by his recent displays of timidity, reminded

him again of the engagements into which he had entered, to interfere in

defence of the oppressed, of his glorious opportunity, and of his

accountability before the Divine Tribunal.2 But their appeals

accomplished little. Catharine was able to boast, in a letter to the

French Ambassador at Madrid, just a fortnight after the death of

Francis, that "she had great reason to be pleased" with Navarre's

conduct, for "he had placed himself altogether in her hands, and had

despoiled himself of all power and authority." "I dispose of him," she

said, "just as I please."3 And to her daughter, Queen Isabella of

Spain, she wrote by the same courier: "He is so obedient; he has no

authority save that which I permit him to exercise."4 The

apprehensions felt by Philip the Second regarding the exaltation of a

heretic, in the person of his hated neighbor of Navarre,

1 Calvin, who read his contemporaries thoroughly, wrote to

Bullinger (May 24, 1561): "Rex Navarræ non minus segnis aut flexibilis

quam hactenus liberalis est promissor; nulla fides, nulla constantia,

etsi enim videtur interdum non modo viriles igniculos jacere, sed

luculentam flammam spargere, mox evanescit. Hoc quando subinde accidit

non aliter est metuendus quam prævaricator forensis. Adde quod totus est

venereus," etc. Baum, vol. ii., App., 32.

2 Letter of Francis Hotman, Strasbourg, December 31, 1560,

to the King of Navarre, Bulletin, ix. (1860) 32.

3 "En quoy il fault que je vous dye que le roy de Navarre,

qui est le premier, et auquel les lois du royaume donnent beaucoup

d'avantage, s'est si doulcement et franchement porté à mon endroict, que

j'ay grande occasion de m'en contenter, s'estant du tout mis entre mes

mains et despouillé du pouvoir et d'auctorité soubz mon bon plaisir....

Je l'ay tellement gaigné, que je fais et dispose de luy tout ainsy qu'il

me plaist." Letter of Catharine to the Bishop of Limoges, December 19,

1560, ap. Négociations relat. au règne de Fr. II., p. 786, 787.

4 "Encore que je souy contraynte d'avoyr le roy de Navarre

auprès de moy, d'aultent que lé louys de set royaume le portet ynsin,

quant le roy ayst en bas ayage, que les prinse du sanc souyt auprès de

la mère; si ne fault-y qu'il entre en neule doulte, car y m'é si

aubéysant et n'a neul comendement que seluy que je luy permès." The fact

that this letter was written by Catharine's own hand well accounts for

the spelling. Négociations, etc., 791.

to the first place in the vicinage of the French throne, might well be

quieted after such reassuring intelligence.
Financial embarrassment. The religions situation. Catharine's neutrality.

Yet the position of Catharine, it must be admitted, was by no means an

easy one. The ablest statesman might have shrunk from coping with the

financial difficulties that beset her. The crown was almost hopelessly

involved. Henry the Second had in the course of a dozen years

accumulated, by prodigal gifts and by needless wars, a debt--enormous

for that age--of forty-two millions of francs, besides alienating the

crown lands and raising by taxation a larger sum of money than had been

collected in eighty years previous.1 The Venetian Michele summed up

the perplexities of the political situation under two questions: How to

relieve the people, now thoroughly exhausted;2 and, how to rescue

the crown from its poverty. But, in reality, the financial embarrassment

was the least of the difficulties of the position Catharine had assumed.

The kingdom was rent with dissensions. Two religions were

struggling--the one for exclusive supremacy, the other at least for

toleration and recognition. Catharine had no strong religious

convictions to actuate her in deciding which of the two she should

embrace. Two powerful political parties were contending for the

ascendency--that of the princes of the blood and of constitutional

usage, and that of an ambitious family newly introduced into the

kingdom, but a family which had succeeded in attaching to itself most,

if not all, of the favorites of preceding kings. Catharine's ambition,

in the absence of any convictions of right, regarded the success of

either as detrimental to her own authority. She had, therefore, resolved

to play off the one against the other, in the hope of being able,

through their mutual antagonism, to become the mistress of both. Under

the reign of Francis the Second she had gained some notion of the

humiliation to which the Guises, in their moment of fancied

1 Mémoires de Castelnau, liv. iii., c. 2. In July, 1561,

the salaries of the officers of the Parliament of Paris were in arrears

for nearly a year and a half. Mémoires de Condé (Edit. Michaud et

Poujoulat), 579.

2 "Che certo non può più." Relaz. di Giovanne Michele,

ap. Tommaseo, Relations des Amb. Vén., i. 408.

security, would willingly have reduced her. Yet, after all, the illegal

usurpation of the Guises, who might, from their past experience, be more
tolerant of her ambitious designs, was less formidable to her than the claims
of the Bourbon princes, based as were these claims upon ancestral usage and

right, and equally fatal to her pretensions and to those of their

rivals. It was a situation of appalling difficulty for a woman sustained

in her course by no lofty consciousness of integrity and devotion to

duty--for a woman who was by nature timid, and by education inclined to

resort for guidance to judicial astrology or magic rather than to

Opening of the States General, Dec. 13, 1560.

A brief delay in the opening of the sessions of the States General was

necessitated by the sudden change in the administration. At length, on

the thirteenth of December, the pompous ceremonial took place in the

city of Orleans. It was graced by the presence of the boy-king, Charles

the Ninth, and of his mother, his brother, the future Henry the Third,

and his sister Margaret. The King of Navarre, the aged Renée of Ferrara,

and other members of the royal house, also figured here with all that

was most distinguished among the nobility of the realm.
Address of Chancellor De l'Hospital. Co-existence of two religions

To the chancellor was, as usual, entrusted the honorable and

1 And yet--such are the inconsistencies of human character--this queen, whose nature
was a singular compound of timidity, hypocrisy, licentiousness, malice, superstition,
and atheism, would seem at times to have felt the need of the assistance of a higher
power. If Catharine was not dissembling even in her most confidential letters to

her daughter, it was in some such frame of mind that she recommended

Isabella to pray to God for protection against the misfortunes that had

befallen her mother. The letter is so interesting that I must lay the most characteristic

passage under the reader's eye. The date is unfortunately lost. It was written soon after
Charles's accession: "Pour se, ma fille, m'amye, recommendé-vous bien à Dyeu, car
vous m'avés veue ausi contente come vous, ne pensent jeamès avoyr aultre
tryboulatyon que de n'estre asés aymayé à mon gré du roy vostre père, qui m'onoret
pluls que je ne merités, mes je l'aymé tant que je avés tousjour peur, come vous savés
fayrement asés: et Dyeu me l'a haulté, et ne se contente de sela, m'a haulté vostre frère
que je aymé come vous savés, et m'a laysée aveque troys enfans petys, et en heun
reaume (un royaume) tout dyvysé, n'y ayent heum seul à qui je me puise du tout fyer,
qui n'aye quelque pasion partycoulyère." God alone, she goes on to say, can maintain
her happiness, etc. Négociations, etc., 781, 782.

responsible duty of laying before the representatives of the three

orders the reasons of their present convocation. This office he

discharged in a long and learned harangue. If the hearers were treated

without stint to that profusion of ancient learning, upon which the

orators of the age seem to have rested a great part of their claim to

patient attention, they also listened to much that was of more immediate

concern to them, respecting the origin of the States General, and the

occasions for which they had from time to time been summoned by former

kings. L'Hospital announced that the special object of the present

meeting was to devise the means of allaying the seditions which had

arisen in consequence of religious differences. "These," said

L'Hospital, "are the causes of the most serious dissensions. It is folly

to hope for peace, rest, and friendship between persons of opposite

creeds. A Frenchman and an Englishman holding a common faith will

entertain stronger affection for each other than two citizens of the

same city who disagree about their theological tenets."1 So powerful

was still the prejudice of the age with one who was among the first to

catch a glimpse of the true principles of religious toleration! That two

discordant religions should permanently co-exist in a state, he agreed

with most of his contemporaries in regarding as utterly impossible. For

how could the adherents of the papacy and the disciples of the new faith

conceal their differences under the cloak of a common charity and mutual


1 "C'est folie d'espérer paix, repos et amitié entre les

personnes qui sont de diverses religions.... Deux François et Anglois

qui sont d'une mesme religion, ont plus d'affection et d'amitié entre

eux que deux citoyens d'une mesme ville, subjects à un mesme seigneur,

qui seroyent de diverses religions." La Place, p. 85; Histoire ecclés.,

i. 264.

2 Yet the Huguenots, more enlightened than the chancellor,

while not renouncing the notion that the civil magistrate is bound to

maintain the true religion, justly censured L'Hospital's statements as

refuted by the experience of the greater part of the world. "Disaient

davantage, qu'à la vérité, puisqu'il n'y a qu'une vraye religion à

laquelle tous, petite et grands, doivent viser, le magistrat doit sur

toutes choses pourvoir à ce qu'elle seule soit avouée et gardée aux pays

de sa sujettion; mais ils niaient que de là il fallût conclure qu'amitié

aucune ni paix ne pût être entre sujets de diverses religions, se

pouvant vérifier le contraire tant par raisons péremptoires, que par

expérience du temps passé et présent en la plupart du monde." Histoire

ecclés., i. 268.

Names of factions must be abolished.

Yet the dawn of more enlightened principles could be detected in a

subsequent part of the chancellor's speech. After prescribing a

universal council--that panacea which all the state doctors of the day

offered for the cure of the ills of the body politic--he advocated the

employment, meantime, of persuasion instead of force, of gentleness

rather than rigor, of charity and good works, as more effective than the

most trenchant of material weapons. And, while he recommended his

hearers to pray for the conversion of the erring, he exclaimed: "Let us

remove those diabolical words, names of parties, factions, and

seditions--'Lutherans,' 'Huguenots,' and 'Papists'--and let us retain

only the name of 'Christians.'"1 In concluding his address, he did

not forget to dwell upon the lamentable condition of the royal finances,

thrown into almost inextricable confusion by twelve or thirteen years of

continuous war and the expenses attending three magnificent weddings. He

begged the estates, while they exposed their grievances, not to fail to

provide the king with means for meeting his obligations.2

1 "Ostons ces mots diaboliques, noms de parts, factions et

séditions; luthériens, huguenauds, papistes; ne changeons le nom

de chrestien." La Place, p. 87.

2 The chancellor's address is given in extenso in Pierre

de la Place, Commentaires de l'estat de la religion et république pp.

80-88; and in the Histoire ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 257-268. De Thou,

iii. (liv. xxvii.) 3-7. "Habuit longam orationem Cancellarius," says

Beza, "in qua initio quidem pulchre multa de antiquo regni statu

disseruit, sed mox aulicum suum ingenium prodidit." Letter to

Bullinger, Jan. 22, 1561, Baum, Theod. Beza, ii. App., 19. Prof. Baum

has shown (vol. ii., p. 159, note) that this last assertion is fully

borne out by portions of the speech, even when viewed quite

independently of the impatience naturally felt by a Huguenot when an

enlightened statesman undertook to sail a middle course where justice

was so evidently on one side. I refer, for instance, to that

extraordinary passage in which L'Hospital speaks of the treatment to

which the Protestants had hitherto been subjected as so gentle, "qu'il

semble plus correction paternelle que punition. Il n'y a eu ni portes

forcées, ny murailles de villes abbattues, ni maisons bruslées, ny

priviléges ostés aux villes, commes les princes voisins ont faict de

nostre temps en pareils troubles et séditions." La Place, ubi supra,

p. 87. See other points specified in Histoire ecclés., ubi supra.
Effrontery of Cardinal Lorraine. De Rochefort orator for the noblesse.
L'Ange for the tiers état.

It now devolved upon the deputies to prepare a statement of their

grievances, and for this purpose the "noblesse" retired to the

Dominican, the clergy to the Franciscan, and the "tiers" to the

Carmelite convents.1 The Cardinal of Lorraine had had the effrontery

to solicit, through his creatures, the honor of representing the three

orders collectively; but the proposition had been rejected with

undissembled derision. Loud voices were heard from among the deputies of

the people, crying, "We do not choose to select him to speak for us of

whom we intend to offer our complaints!"2 Three orators were deputed

to speak for the three orders.3 The Sieur de Rochefort, in behalf of

the nobles, declared their approval of the government of Catharine, but

insisted at some length upon the necessity of conciliating their good

will by a studious regard for their privileges. He likened the king to

the sun and the "noblesse" to the moon. Any conflict between the two

would produce an eclipse that would darken the entire earth. He

denounced the chicanery of the ecclesiastical courts and the non-residence
of the priests;4 and he closed by presenting a petition, which was read

1 La Place, 88.

2 Ib., 79; Hist. ecclés., i. 269, 270; Beza to Bullinger,

Jan. 22, 1561, ubi supra: "quam ipsius audaciam cum nobilitas et plebs

magno cum fremitu repulisset, indignatus ille ne suæ quidem Ecclesiæ

patrocinium suscipere voluit."

3 This was on the 1st day of Jan., 1561: "Habuerunt hi

singuli suas orationes publice, sedente rege et delecto ipsius concilio,

Calendis Januarii." Letter of Beza, ubi supra, p. 20.

4 All previous legislation appears to have proved

fruitless. "Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be

gathered together." It was all in vain to endeavor to confine the gay

and aspiring ecclesiastics to the provinces, so long as promotion was

only to be found at Paris and worldly pleasures in the large cities. An

edict of 1557, enjoining residence, Haton tells us, had little effect.

It was obeyed only by the poorest and most obscure of the curates, and

by them only for a short time. The great were not able to observe it, if

they would. How could they? They could not have told on which benefice

to reside, for they held many. "Ung homme seul tenoit un archevesché, un

évesché et trois abbayes tout ensemble; ung aultre deux ou trois cures,

avec aultant de prieurez, le tout par permission et dispense du pape....

Et pour ce ne sçavoient auquel desditz bénéfices ilz debvoient

résider." Mém. de Claude Haton, i. 91.

aloud by one of the secretaries of state, demanding the grant of churches
for the use of those nobles who preferred the purer worship.1 The
Bordalese lawyer, Jean L'Ange, in the name of the people, dwelt chiefly
on the three capital vices of the clergy--ignorance, avarice, and luxury,2
and portrayed very effectively the general disorders, the intolerable tyranny
of the Guises, the exhausted state of the public treasury, and the means of

restoring the Church to purity of faith and regularity of discipline.

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