History of the rise of the huguenots

Urgency of Parisian Huguenots

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Urgency of Parisian Huguenots.

The Protestants of Paris viewed the matter in a different light. So soon

as they heard that Beza had concluded not to accede to their request,

they wrote again, on the tenth of August. In this letter they begged

him, although it was already so late that they had little hope of his

being able to reach Poissy in time to take part in the opening of the

colloquy, at least to change his mind, and to set out as soon, and

travel as expeditiously as possible, in order to succor those who had,

in his absence, entered upon the contest. Already, seeing little

eagerness on the part of the Protestants, their adversaries had begun to

boast of victory. The common cry at Paris, even, was that the

Protestants would not dare to maintain their errors "before so good a

company." If the prelates should be allowed to adjourn without advantage

being taken of the opportunity accorded the reformers of defending their

faith, the nobles would be too much disgusted to interfere in their

behalf a second time; and the queen had distinctly said that, in that

case, she would never be able to believe that they had any right on

their side. "As to the edict," they added, "which has induced you to

adopt this resolution, although it is very bad, yet it can place you in

no danger; for by it there is nothing condemned excepting the

'assemblies;' and as to simple heresy, as they call it, it can at most

be punished only by banishment from the kingdom, without other loss.

Moreover, we know with certainty that this edict was made for the sole

purpose of contenting King Philip and the Pope, and drawing some money

from the ecclesiastics. These ends are bad, but it seems to us that

there is nothing in all this that ought to prevent our appearing for the

maintenance of the truth of God, since it has pleased Him to give us the

opportunity of coming forward and being heard, as we have so long

desired."1 Two days later Antoine of Navarre added his

solicitations in an earnest letter to the "Magnificent Seigniors, the

Syndics and Council of the Seigniory of Geneva."2

1 Letter of La Rivière, in the name of all the ministers

of Paris, Aug. 10, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 37-39.

2 The letter, now in the State archives of Geneva, is

signed "Le Roy de Navarre bien vostre, Anthoyne," Baum, ubi supra,

ii. 40. The character of this contemptible prince is best understood

when such lines are read in the light of the intrigues he was at this

very moment--as we shall have occasion to see--carrying on at Rome. When

it is borne in mind that the colloquy of Poissy preceded the edict of

Beza comes to St. Germain.

That it was no personal fear which had occasioned Beza's delay was soon

proved. Antoine had written on the twelfth of August; on the sixteenth,

without waiting for a safe-conduct, the reformer was already on his way

to St. Germain, acting upon the principle laid down by Calvin: "If it be

not yet God's pleasure to open a door, it is our duty to creep in at

the windows, or to penetrate through the smallest crevices, rather

than allow the opportunity of effecting a happy arrangement to escape

us."1 So expeditious, in fact, was Beza, that on the twenty-second

of August he was in Paris.2 The next day he reached the royal court

at St. Germain.
Beza's previous history.

The theologian whose advent had been so anxiously awaited was a French

exile for religion's sake. Born, on the twenty-fourth of June, 1519, of

noble parents, in the small but famous Burgundian city of Vezelay, none

of the reformers sacrificed more flattering prospects than did Theodore

Beza when he cast in his lot with the persecuted Protestants. At Bourges

he had been a pupil of Wolmar, until that eminent teacher was recalled

to Germany. At Orleans he had been admitted a licentiate in law when

scarcely twenty years old. At Paris he gave to the world a volume of

Latin poetry of no mean merit, which secured the author great applause.

The "Juvenilia" were neither more nor less pagan in tone than the rest

of the amatory literature of the age framed on the model of the

classics. That they were immoral seems never to have been suspected

until Beza became a Protestant, and it was desirable

January by four months, and that Beza manifested no little hesitation

in coming to France, it becomes somewhat difficult to comprehend Mr.

Froude's account (Hist. of England, vii. 390): "The Cardinal of Lorraine

demanded from the Parliament of Paris the revocation of the edicts (sic)

of January. Confident of his power, he even challenged the Protestants

to a public discussion before the court. Theodore Beza snatched

eagerly at the gage; the Conference of Poissy followed," etc.

1 Letter of Calvin to Martyr, Aug. 17, 1561, apud Baum,

ii., App., 40; and Bonnet, Calvin's Letters, Eng. tr., iv. 209

2 Letter of Beza to Calvin, Aug. 22, 1561, written three

hours after his arrival, apud Baum, ii., App., 44.

to find means to sully his reputation. The discovery of the hidden depths of
iniquity in the reformer's youthful productions it was reserved for the same

prurient imaginations to make that afterward fancied that they had

detected obscene allusions in the most innocent lines of the Huguenot

psalter. At the age of forty-two years, Beza, after having successively

discharged with great ability the functions of professor of Greek in the

Académie of Lausanne, and of professor of theology in that of Geneva,

was, next to Calvin, the most distinguished Protestant teacher of French

origin. He was a man of commanding presence, of extensive erudition, of

quick and ready wit, of elegant manners and bearing. No better selection

could have been made by the Huguenots of a champion to represent them at

the court of Charles the Ninth.1
Wrangling of the prelates.

Meantime the prelates had been in session more than three weeks. But

little good had thus far come of their deliberations. In vain, had the

king delivered before them a speech in which he incited them "to provide

such good means that the people might be induced to live in concord, and

in obedience to the Catholic Church." In vain had he assured them that

he would not give them permission to separate until they had made a

satisfactory settlement of the religious affairs of the kingdom.2

1 See the admirable biography of Beza, by Dr. H. Heppe,

being the sixth volume of the Leben und ausgewählte Schriften der Väter

und Begründer der reformirte Kirche; as well as the more extended work

of Prof. Baum, frequently referred to.

2 "Les avertissant qu'il ne leur donneroit congé de se

départir jusques à ce qu'ils y eussent donné ordre." Letter of the Sieur

du Mortier, French amb. at Rome, to the Bp. of Rennes, Aug. 9, 1561,

apud Le Laboureur, Additions to Castelnau, i. 730. This authority

would seem to be a positive proof that the speech which is attributed by

La Place and other historians of the period to the king at the opening

of the conference with the Protestants on the 9th of September, has, by

a very natural error, been transposed from this place. De Thou, La

Popelinière, and others have made the more serious blunder of placing

the chancellor's speech, which belongs here, at the same conference, and

omitting the true address which La Place, etc., insert. Prof. Baum

(Theodor Beza, ii. 242, note) first detected the inconsistencies between

the two reported speeches of L'Hospital on the 9th of September, but

gave preference in the text to the wrong document. Prof. Soldan has

elucidated the whole matter with his usual skill (Geschichte des Prot.

in Frankreich, i. 440, note).

The prelates much preferred to fritter away their time in the discussion

of petty details of ecclesiastical order and discipline--in regulating

the number of priests, settling the dignity of cathedral churches,

prescribing the duties of bishops, and other matters of equal

importance--"fancying that, in answering such questions, they were

applying an efficacious remedy to the ills that desolated the church in

these times of troubles and divisions."1 In the words of a minister

of state, writing to a French ambassador on the very day of Beza's arrival at court,

they intended to treat of the reformation of manners alone, "without coming to
the point of doctrine, which they had as life touch as handle fire."2
Cardinal Châtillon's communion.

The doubtful allegiance of some of their own number to the Romish Church

was a source of peculiar vexation. As the prelates were about to join in

the celebration of the Lord's Supper, Cardinal Châtillon and two other

bishops insisted upon communicating under both forms; and when their

demand was refused, they went to another church and celebrated the

divine ordinance with many of the nobility, all partaking both of the bread and
of the wine, thus earning for themselves the nickname of Protestants.3
Determination of Catharine and L'Hospital.

What with the disinclination of the bishops to enter into the

consideration of the real difficulties that beset the kingdom, and the

open hostility of the Pope and of Philip the Second4 to any

assembly that bore the least resemblance to a national council, Catharine and
her principal adviser, the chancellor, had an arduous and well-nigh hopeless
task. They strove to quiet the King of Spain and the Pope by the

1 De Thou, iii. 63; La Place, 155.

2 "Sans venir au fait de la doctrine, où ils ne veulent

toucher non plus qu'au feu." Letter of Secretary Bourdin to his

brother-in-law Bochetel, the Bishop of Rennes, French ambassador in

Germany, Aug. 23, 1561, apud Laboureur, Add. aux Mém. de Castelnau, i.

731. If we are to construe the language of the Histoire ecclés. des égl.

réf. (i. 307) with verbal strictness, the theological discussions

occasionally waxed so hot that the prelates found themselves unable to

solve the knotty questions with which they were occupied, without

recourse to the convincing argument of the fist!

3 Languet, letter of Aug. 6th, ii. 130.

4 Letter of Chantonnay, Aug. 31 (Mém. de Condé, ii. 16).

assurance that the prelates had only been assembled in

order to prepare them to go in a body to attend the universal council

soon to be convened. "Those who are dangerously ill," wrote Catharine in

her defence, "may be excused for applying all herbs to their ache, in

order to alleviate it when it becomes insupportable. Meanwhile they send

for the good physician--whom I take to be a good council--to cure so

furious and dangerous a disease." Only those who feel the suffering, she

intimated, can talk understandingly with respect to its treatment.1
A remarkable letter to the Pope. Effect produced at Rome.

Catharine was not, however, satisfied with this general apology; she

even undertook to express to the pontifical court her idea of some of

the reforms which were dictated by the times.2 On the fourth of

August--nearly three weeks before Beza's arrival--she wrote a letter to

Pius the Fourth of so radical a character that its authenticity has been

called into question, although without sufficient reason. After

acquainting the Pope with the extraordinary increase in the number of

those who had forsaken the Roman Church, and with the impossibility of

restoring unity by means of coercion, she declared it a special mark of

divine favor that there were among the dissidents neither Anabaptists

nor Libertines, for all held the creed as explained by the early councils of the

1 "Mais ceux qui sont extremement malades sont excusez

d'appliquer toutes herbes à la douleur pour l'appaiser, quand elle est

insupportable, attendant le bon medecin, que j'estime devoir estre un

bon Concile, pour une si furieuse et dangereuse maladie." Letter of

Catharine to the Bishop of Rennes, Aug. 23, 1561, apud Le Laboureur,

Add. to Castelnau, i. 727.

2 An incident, preserved for us by Languet, which happened

about this time, reveals somewhat of Catharine's temper and of the

doubts that pervaded the young king's mind. On Corpus Christi day, the

queen mother, in conversation with her son, recommended to him that,

while duly reverencing the sacrament, he should not entertain so gross a

belief as that the bread which was carried around in the procession was

the very body of Christ which hung from the cross. Charles replied that

he had received the same warning from others, but coupled with the

injunction that he should say nothing about it to any one. "Yet,"

responded Catharine smiling, "you must take care not to forsake your

ancestral religion, lest your kingdom may be thrown into confusion, and

you yourself be driven into banishment." To which Charles aptly replied:

"The Queen of England has changed the religion of her kingdom, but no

one gives her any trouble." Epist. secr., ii. 127.

Church. It was, consequently, the conviction of many

pious persons that, by the concession of some points of practice, the

present divisions might be healed. But more frequent and peaceful

conferences must be held, the ministers of religion must preach concord

and charity to their flocks, and the scruples of those who still

remained in the pale of the Church must be removed by the abolition of

all unnecessary and objectionable practices. Images, forbidden by God

and disapproved of by the Fathers, ought at once to be banished from

public worship, baptism to be stripped of its exorcisms, communion in

both forms to be restored, the vernacular tongue to be employed in the

services of the church, private masses to be discountenanced. Such were

the abuses which it seemed proper to correct, while leaving the papal

authority undiminished, and the doctrines of the Church unaffected by

innovations.1 To such a length was a woman--herself devoid of

strong convictions, and possessing otherwise little sympathy with the

belief or the practice of the reformers--carried by the force of the

current by which she was surrounded. But, whether the letter was

dictated by L'Hospital, or inspired by Bishop Montluc--at this time

suspected of being more than half a Huguenot at heart--the fact that a

production openly condemning the Roman Catholic traditional usages on

more than one point should have emanated from the pen of Catharine de'

Medici, is certainly somewhat remarkable. At Rome the letter produced a

deep impression. If the Pope did not at once give utterance to his

serious apprehensions, he was at least confirmed in his resolution to

redeem his pledge in respect to a universal council, and he must have

congratulated himself on having already despatched an able negotiator to

the French court, in the person of the Cardinal of Ferrara, a legate

whose intrigues will occupy us again presently.2

1 De Thou (iii., liv. xxviii., pp. 60-63) gives the

substance, Gerdesius (Scrinium Antiq., v. 339, seq.) the text of this

extraordinary letter. See also Jean de Serres, i. 212, etc.

2 From Hurault's letter of July 12th, to the Bishop of

Rennes, we learn the date of the Cardinal of Ferrara's departure from

Rome--July 2d. He travelled so slowly, however, that it was not until

September 19th that he reached St. Germain.

Beza's flattering reception.

Despite Pope and prelates, Beza met with the most flattering reception.

He was welcomed upon his arrival by the principal statesmen of the

kingdom. L'Hospital showed his eagerness to obtain the credit of having

introduced him. Coligny, the King of Navarre, and the Prince of Condé

betrayed their joy at his coming. The Cardinals of Bourbon and Châtillon

shook hands with him. Indeed, the contrast between Bourbon's present

cordiality and his coldness a year before at Nérac, provoked Beza to

make the playful remark that "he had not undergone any change since the

cardinal had refused to speak to him through fear of being

excommunicated."1 Afterward, attended by a numerous escort,2

the reformer was conducted to the quarters of the Prince of Condé, where

the princess and Madame de Coligny showed themselves "marvellously well

disposed." On the morrow, which was Sunday, Beza preached in the

prince's apartments before a large and honorable audience. Condé

himself, however, was absent, engaged in making that unfortunate St.

Bartholomew's Day reconciliation with the Duke of Guise, of which

mention has already been made.3 Certainly neither Beza nor the

other reformers could complain of the greeting extended to

1 "Que je n'avoys reçu change depuis qu'il n'avoit voulu

parler à moy de peur d'estre excommunié." Letter of Beza to Calvin, Aug.

25, 1561, Baum, ii. Appendix, 46. This long and important letter, giving

a graphic account of the first days of Beza at St. Germain, was signed,

for safety's sake, "T. de Chalonoy," and addressed to "Monsieur

d'Espeville, à Villedieu." The Duke d'Aumale has also published this

letter in his Histoire des Princes de Condé, i. 340-342. There are some

striking differences in the two; none more noteworthy than the omission

in Prof. Baum's copy of a sentence which very clearly marks the distrust

still felt by the reformers of the upright Chancellor L'Hospital. After

reference to L'Hospital's greeting, Beza originally wrote: "Force me fut

de le suyvre, mais ce fut avec un tel visage qu'il congnut assez que je

le congnoissois." From the later copy and from the Latin translation

inserted by Beza himself in the collection of Calvin's letters, these

words are omitted.

2 "Avec une troupe cent foys plus grande que je n'eusse desiré." Ubi supra.

3 Letter of Beza of Aug. 25th, ubi supra. Beza, to whom

Condé immediately afterward gave an account of the act of

reconciliation, was not altogether satisfied with it. I have spoken of

it as unfortunate, because it removed all the obstacles to the more

complete union of the constable and the Guises against the Huguenots. La

Place, 140; De Thou, iii. (liv. xxviii.) 56.

them. "They received a more cordial welcome than would have awaited the Pope
of Rome, had he come to the French court," remarks a contemporary curate

with a spice of bitterness.1

Beza meets Cardinal Lorraine. The cardinal professes to be satisfied.

A witty woman's caution.

That very evening Beza and Lorraine crossed swords for the first time in

the apartments of Navarre.2 The former, coming by invitation, was

much surprised to find there before him not only Antoine and his

brothers, but Catharine de' Medici and Cardinal Lorraine, neither of

whom had he previously met. Without losing his self-possession, however,

he briefly adverted to the occasion of his coming, and the queen mother

in return graciously expressed the joy she would experience should his

advent conduce to the peace and quietness of the realm. Hereupon the

cardinal took part in the conversation, and said that he hoped Beza

might be as zealous in allaying the troubles of France as he had been

successful in fomenting discord--a remark which Beza did not let pass

unchallenged, for he declared that he neither had distracted nor

intended to distract his native land. From inquiries respecting Beza's

great master, Calvin, his age and health, the discourse turned to

certain obnoxious expressions which Lorraine attributed to Beza himself;

but the latter entirely disclaimed being their author, much to the

confusion of the cardinal, who had expected to create a strong prejudice

against his opponent in the minds of the by-standers. The greater part

of the evening, however, was consumed in a discussion respecting the

real presence. Beza, while denying that the sacramental bread and wine

were transmuted into the body and blood of Christ, was willing to admit,

according to Calvin's views and his own, "that the bread is

sacramentally Christ's body--that is, that although that body is now in

heaven alone, while we have the signs with us on earth, yet the very

body of Christ is as truly given to us and received by faith, and that

to our eternal life, on account of God's promise, as the sign is in a

natural manner placed in our

1 "Estant arrivez à la court, ilz y furent mieux

accueillis que n'eust esté le pape de Rome, s'il y fust venu." Mém. de

Claude Haton, i. 155.

2 Letter of Beza of Aug. 25th, Baum. ii., Appendix, 47-54; La Place, 155-157;
De Thou, iii. (liv. xxviii.) 64; Hist. ecclés. Des égl. réf. i. 309-312.

hands."1 The statement was certainly far enough removed

from the theory of the Romish Church to have consigned its
author to the flames, had the theologians of the Sorbonne been
his judges. But it satisfied the cardinal,2 who confessed that

he was little at home in a discussion foreign to his ordinary studies--a

fact quite sufficiently apparent from his confused statements3--and

did not attempt to conceal the little account which he made of the dogma

of transubstantiation.4 "See then, madam," said Beza, "what are

those sacramentarians, who have been so long persecuted and overwhelmed

with all kinds of calumnies." "Do you hear, cardinal?" said the queen to

Lorraine. "He says that the sacramentarians hold no other opinion than

that to which you have assented."5 With this satisfactory

conclusion the discussion, which had lasted a couple of hours,6 was

concluded. The queen mother left greatly pleased with the substantial

agreement which the two champions of opposite creeds had attained in

their first interview, and flattering herself that greater results might

attend the public conferences. The cardinal, too, professed high esteem

for Beza, and said to him, as he was going

1 "Nous confessons, dy-je, que panis est corpus

sacramentale, et pour définir que c'est à dire sacramentaliter, nous

disons qu'encores que le corps soit aujourd'huy au ciel et non ailleurs,

et les signes soyent en la terre avec nous, toutefoys aussi

veritablement nous est donné ce corps et reçu par nous, moyennant la

foy," etc. Baum, ii. App., 52.

2 "Je le croy ainsy, dit-il, Madame, et voilà qui me contente." Ibid., ubi supra.

3 "Sed illud totum ita complectebatur, ut satis ostenderet

penitus se non tenere quid hoc rei esset. Agnoscebat enim se aliis

studiis tempus impendisse." Beza, ubi supra, p. 50. The Latin version

of Beza's letter of August 25th, made under the writer's own

supervision, for publication with a selection of Calvin's letters

(Geneva, 1576), contains a fuller account of the discussion than the

French original actually despatched. See Baum, ubi supra, 45-54.

4 "Cardinalis testatus iterum non urgere se

transubstantiationem." Latin version, ubi supra. "Car, disoit il, pour

la transsubstantiation je ne suys poinct d'advis qu'il y ayt schisme en

l'eglise." French original, ubi supra, 50, 51.

5 "Tum ego ad reginam conversus: 'Ecce inquam

sacramentarios illos tam diu vexatos, et omnibus calumniis oppressos.'

'Escoutez vous,' dit elle, 'Monsieur le cardinal? Il dit que les

sacrementaires n'out point aultre opinion que ceste-cy à laquelle vous

accordez.'" Letter of Beza, ubi supra, 52.

6 Cf. letter of Beza, ubi supra, 47 and 52.

away: "I adjure you to confer with me; you will not find me so black as I am

painted."1Beza might have been pardoned, had he permitted the
cardinal's professions somewhat to shake his convictions of the man's true

character. He was, however, placed on his guard by the pointed words of

a witty woman. Madame de Crussol, who had listened to the entire

conversation, as she shook the cardinal's hand at the close of the

evening, significantly said, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all:

"Good man for to-night; but to-morrow--what?"2 The covert

prediction was soon fulfilled. The very next day the cardinal was

industriously circulating the story that Beza had been vanquished in

their first encounter.3

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