who complied with the invitation arrived at Paris after the
colloquy--too late to do any harm, if not soon enough to do much good.
They were courteously received by the court. The Würtembergers, in
particular, were allowed frequent opportunities of explaining the merits
of the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Before their return into
Germany, they were distinctly informed by Navarre that, while he
recommended a closer union between the two branches of the Protestant
Church, his own views accorded with those of the adherents of the
Augsburg Confession; and that his only reason for delaying to subscribe
to it was a fear lest this step might interfere with the execution of
the union he desired to effect.2
1 "De fait," wrote Calvin of the Augsburg Confession, "elle est si maigrement bastie,
si molle et si obscure, qu'on ne s'y sauroit arrester." Letter to Beza, Sept. 24, 1561. Bonnet,
Lettres franç., ii. 428; Baum, ii., App., 70.]
2 The account of the occasion of the mission of delegates
from Germany, given in the text, is based on Soldan, Gesch. des Prot, in
Frankreich, i. 531-537. He has, I think, sufficiently demonstrated the
inaccuracy of the ordinary story (accepted even by Prof. Baum, Theod.
Beza, ii. 370, 419, etc.), which attributes their advent chiefly, if not
wholly, to the desire of Lorraine. It is said that, after hearing Beza's
Why the colloquy proved a failure.
The Colloquy of Poissy had proved, so far as the objects contemplated by
its originators were concerned, a complete failure. Instead of drawing
the Roman Catholic and the reformed churches together, it had only
widened the breach separating them. Instead of exhibiting in a clearer
light the common ground on which a union might be practicable, it had
rendered patent to all the antagonism which could not be cloaked by
ambiguous phrases and incomplete statements of doctrine. It is certainly
worth while to inquire into some of the causes of a result so unexpected
to a great number of intelligent men, who had framed their anticipations
upon no superficial view of the subject.
Catharine's crude notion of a conference.
The crude notions of the court respecting the character which such a
conference ought to assume must be regarded as one of these causes.
Catharine, while extending the most gracious invitations to foreign
Protestants, was herself apparently undecided how to treat the Huguenots
when they should make their appearance. Even if we grant that her
explanations of the object of the projected colloquy, referred to on a
supplying her ambassador in Germany with plausible representations
wherewith to appease such irritated bigots as feared that the French
queen intended to propose a grave discussion of the religious
speech of the ninth of September, the cardinal sought to obtain, through the instrumentality of the Marshal de Vieilleville, at Metz, and his salaried spy Rascalon, at Heidelberg, some decided Lutherans, to be employed in bringing the Protestants at Poissy into contempt, through the wrangling of their theologians with those of Germany. See the Hist. Eccles. De egl. Ref., etc. Yet it is not improably, as La Place, Commentarieres, 200, seems to hint tha Navarre’s project was maliciously countenanced by the Cardinal of Lorraine. But the circumstance that, of the five German theologians, not less than two were opposed to the Augsburg Confession, proves conclusively that they could not have been despatched with the view of helping the cardinal out in his attempt. Bossuet’s admiration of the prelate’s sagacity, in thus seeking to give a brilliant demonstration of the variations of doctrine among Protestants, certainly seems to be wasted.
1 Ante, c. xi., p. 493.
question upon its own merits, yet the entire course of the conference exhibits
her inability to comprehend the nature of a fair debate of the matters
in dispute. The Huguenot ministers and delegates were obliged to
petition that the prelates should not be permitted to act as their
judges, and afterward to remind her of the promise she had given them to
this effect. Even after the point had been nominally accorded, the most
important questions respecting the conference were decided in the
council, where five cardinals and three bishops had seats.1
Under these circumstances it is not astonishing that Lorraine assumed a
tone of superiority which his relation to the debate by no means warranted.
Character of the prelates.
Besides this, the character of the assembly of prelates itself precluded
the possibility of an adjustment. With the exception of six or seven, so
insignificant were these ecclesiastical dignitaries individually, that,
as a modern historian has well remarked, not one distinguished himself
sufficiently to be named by any of the writers who treat of the
conference. They were, generally, the younger sons of the most
distinguished families in France, and had entered the church not from
devotion, but in consequence of an immemorial custom which consigned to
the episcopal dignity or to a rich abbacy the youth whom an elder
brother debarred from entertaining the hope of succeeding to his
father's dignities and possessions. Few of them had ever seen their