History of the rise of the huguenots

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Era of the Renaissance.

The most enviable distinction of the reign of Francis the First

consisted in the fact that it was the era of that extraordinary

development of the fine arts and of literature known as the

Renaissance. Illustrious during the Middle Ages, and foremost in the

pursuit of scholastic learning, France had unfortunately lost that proud

eminence when the revival of letters enkindled elsewhere a new passion

for discovery. Her adventurous sons had taken the lead in the crusades

of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but three hundred years later no

expeditions were fitted out in her ports to explore and appropriate the

virgin territories beyond the western sea. The art of printing and the

impulse given to astronomical research originated abroad. The famous

1 I have made considerable use of the very clear

dissertation on the Pragmatic Sanction and the concordat, republished in

Leber, Collection de pièces relatives à l'hist. de France, tome 3. The

commotion in Paris at the introduction of the concordat is described in

a lively manner by the unknown author of the "Journal d'un bourgeois de

Paris sous le règne de François I^er," 39, 70, etc.

2 Almanach royal pour l'an 1724 (Paris), 34.

3 Leo X. also obtained from Francis, as an equivalent for

the concessions embodied in the concordat, the sum of 100,000 livres,

as the dower of Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, a princess of royal

blood, married in 1518 to Lorenzo de' Medici, Count of Urbino, the

Pope's nephew. The money was to be levied upon the next tithe taken from

the revenues of the French clergy, which Leo thus authorized. Catharine

de' Medici sprang from this marriage. See the receipt of Lorenzo for the

instalment of a quarter of the dower, in the Bulletin de la Soc. de

l'hist. du prot. français, ix. (1860), 122.

mediæval seat of learning seemed to have been suddenly visited with a

premature decay. Even the exiled scholars of the East, fleeing before

Turkish barbarism, disdained to settle in a country where the treasures

of ancient science which they had brought with them from Mount Athos and

Constantinople were so inadequately appreciated.1

Francis's attainments overrated. A munificent patron of art.

The reign of Francis the First, however, was destined to remove much of

the reproach which had been incurred by reason of this singular

tardiness in entering the path of improvement. Born of parents possessed

of unusual intelligence and yet rarer education, and stimulated by the

companionship of an elder sister whose extensive acquirements furnished

the theme of countless panegyrics, Francis early conceived the design of

making his court illustrious for the generous patronage extended to the

disciples of the liberal arts. His own attainments have been overrated,

and posterity has too credulously believed all that admiring and

interested courtiers chose to invent in his praise. But, if he was

himself ignorant of anything beyond the mere rudiments even of Latin,

the universal language of science, he possessed at least one signal

merit: he was a munificent friend of those whom poverty would otherwise

have precluded from cultivating their resplendent abilities. I shall not

repeat the familiar names of the eminent painters and sculptors whom he

encouraged and enriched, nor give a list of the skilful architects

employed in the construction of his magnificent palaces of St. Germain

and Fontainebleau, of Chambord and Chenonceaux. Poetry, not less than

painting and architecture, witnessed his liberality. Clément Marot,

whose name has been regarded as marking the first truly remarkable epoch

in the history of this

1 Mignet, Établissement de la Réforme à Genève, Mémoires,

ii. 243. Étienne Pasquier draws a dark picture of the barbarism reigning

at Paris at the accession of Francis. More highly honored than any other

university of Europe, that of Paris had fallen so low that the Hebrew

tongue was known only by name, and as for Greek, the attention given to

it was more apparent than real. "Car mesmes lors qu'il estoit question

de l'expliquer, ceste parole couroit en la bouche de plusieurs ignorans,

Græcum est, non legitur." The very Latin, which was the language in

ordinary use, was rude and clumsy. Recherches de la France, 831.

department of French art,1 was a favorite at the court of Francis and Margaret

of Angoulême, and repaid their gifts with unbounded eulogy. The
more solid studies of the philosopher and the linguist were fostered
with equal care. Vatable, Melchior Wolmar, and other scholars of
note were invited to France, to give instruction in Greek and Hebrew.
Erasmus himself might have been induced to yield to the king's
importunate messages, could he have been able to divest himself
of the apprehension of annoyance from the bigoted "Sorbonnists;"

while even Melanchthon was, at a later period, on the point of accepting

a pressing summons to visit the French court on a mission of reconciliation.

Foundation of the Collége Royal.

Among the most notable achievements of this prince was the foundation of

a school of learning intended to supply the deficiencies of the

instruction given by the university. In the "Collége Royal" Francis

desired to leave a lasting token of his devotion to letters. Here he

founded chairs of three languages--of Greek and Hebrew at first, and

afterward of Latin--whence was derived the name of Trilingue, under

which the college was celebrated in the writings of the day. The

monarch's plan encountered the obstacles which prejudice always knows

how to set in the way of improvement. The university doctors, fearing

that their own prelections would be forsaken for the more brilliant lectures of the salaried professors of the royal school, demanded that the latter should submit
to an examination before the more ancient body of instructors; but parliament
wisely rejected their pretensions. Liberal men throughout the world rejoiced at
the defeat of the Sorbonne and its representative, Beda,2 while

1 La Harpe, Cours de litérature, vi. 405.

2 Gaillard, Histoire de François premier (Paris ed., 1769),

vii. 282-300. Félibien, among the many interesting documents he has

preserved, reproduces one of the first programmes of the professors of

the Collége Royal, preserved from destruction, doubtless, simply from

the circumstance that it formed the ground of a citation of the

professors by the syndic of the university (Beda), January, 1534,

wherein he alleges that "some simple grammarians or rhetoricians, who

had not studied with the faculty, had undertaken to read in public and

to interpret the Holy Scriptures, as appears from certain bills posted

in the streets and squares of Paris." In the programme, Agathius

Guidacerius, Francis Vatable, P. Arnesius (Danesius), and Paul Paradisus

figure as lecturing--the first two upon the Psalms, the third on

Aristotle, and the last on Hebrew grammar and the book of Proverbs.

Michel Félibien, Histoire de la ville de Paris (Paris, 1725), iv. 682.

Marot, alluding to the quarrel

in a poetical epistle to the king, poured out in verse his contempt for

the "Theologasters" of Paris:
"L'ignorante Sorbonne;

Bien ignorante elle est d'estre ennemie

De la Trilingue et noble Academie

Qu'as érigée....

O povres gens de savoir tout éthiques!

Bien faites vray ce proverbe courant:

'Science n'ha hayneux que l'ignorant!'"
It would be unfair to French scholarship to omit all notice of the fact

that there were not wanting natives of France itself whose sound

learning entitled them to rank with the most conscientious of German

humanists; such men as Lefèvre d'Étaples, a prodigy of almost universal

acquirements; or Louis de Berquin, who furnishes a signal instance of a

nobleman of high position that did not shun the toil and danger of a

more than ordinarily profound investigation of theological truth. Both

will claim our attention again.

An age of blood.

Yet, by the side or these manifestations of a growing appreciation of

art, science, and letters, it must be confessed that there were

indications, no less distinct, of a lamentable neglect of moral

training, and of a state of manners scarcely raised above that of

uncivilized communities of men. It was still an age of blood. The pages

of chronicles, both public and private, teem with proofs of the

insignificant value set upon human life and happiness. In many parts of

France the peasant rarely enjoyed quiet for even a few consecutive

months. Organized bands of robbers, familiarly known as "Mauvais

Garçons," infested whole provinces, and laid towns and villages under

contribution. Not unfrequently two or three hundred men were to be found

in a single band, and the robberies, outrages, and murders they committed
defy recital. Often the miscreants were aventuriers, or volunteers whose

employers had failed to furnish them their stipulated

pay, and who avenged their losses by exactions levied upon the

unfortunate peasantry. Indeed, if we may believe the almost incredible

statements of one of the laws enacted for their suppression, they had

been known to carry by assault even walled cities, and to exercise against the

miserable inhabitants cruelty such as disgraces the very name of man.1
Barbarous punishments.

The character or the punishments inflicted for the commission of crime

furnishes a convenient test of national civilization. If France in the

sixteenth century be tried by this criterion, the conclusion is

inevitable that for her the age of barbarism had not yet completely

passed away. The catalogue of crimes to which death was affixed as the

penalty is frightfully long; some of them were almost trivial offences.

A boy less than sixteen years of age was hung for stealing jewelry from

his master.2 On the other hand, with flagrant inconsistency, a

nobleman, René de Bonneville, superintendent of the royal mint, for the

murder of his brother-in-law, was dragged to the place of execution on a

hurdle, but suffered the less ignominious fate of decapitation. A part

of his property was given to his sister, and the rest confiscated to the crown,
with the exception of four hundred livres, reserved for the purchase of masses
to be said for the benefit of the soul of his murdered victim.3
Especially for heresy.

For other culprits extraordinary refinements of cruelty were reserved.

The aventuriers, when so ill-starred as to fall into the hands of

justice, were customarily burned alive at the stake.3

1 The law of 1523 thus sets forth some of their exploits:

"Outre mesure multiplient leurs pilleries, cruautez et meschancetez,

jusques à vouloir assaillir les villes closes: les aucunes desquelles

ils out prinses d'assaut, saccagées, robées et pillées, forcé filles et

femmes, tué les habitans inhumainement, et cruellement traitté les

aucuns en leur crevant les yeux, et coupant les membres les uns après

les autres, sans en avoir pitié, faisant ce que cruelles bestes ne

feroient," etc. Isambert, Recueil des lois anc., xii. 216. See also

Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris (1516), 36; and Lettres de Marguerite

d'Angoulême, Nouvelle Coll., lettre 7.

2 Journal d'un bourgeois (1516), 37.

3 Ibid, (anno 1527), 328.

4 Ibid., 36. It would appear that even this penalty did not deter them from the commission
of their infamous crimes, for a fresh edict, in 1523 (Isambert, xii., 216), prescribes that
for exemplary punishment "lesdicts blasphemateurs exécrables avant que souffrir mort,

ayent la gorge ouverte avec un fer chaud et la langue tirée ou coupée

par les dessouz; et ce faict penduz et attachez au gibet ou potence, et

estranglez, selon leurs desmerites!"

The same fate overtook those who were detected in frauds against the public
treasury. More frightful than all the rest was the vengeance taken by the law
upon the counterfeiter of the king's coin. The legal penalty, which is said

to have become a dead letter on the pages of the statute-book long

before the French revolution, was in the sixteenth century rigidly

enforced: on the 9th of November, 1527, a rich merchant of Paris, having

been found guilty of the crime in question, was boiled alive before the

assembled multitude in the Marché-aux-pourceaux.1 Heresy and

blasphemy were treated with no greater degree of leniency than the most

infamous of crimes. Even before the reformation a lingering death in the

flames had been the doom pronounced upon the person who dared to accept

or promulgate doctrines condemned by the church. But when the bitterness

of strife had awakened the desire to enhance the punishment of dissent,

new or extraordinary tortures were resorted to, of the application of

which this history will furnish only too many examples. The forehead was

branded, the tongue torn out, the hand cut off at the wrist, or the

agonies of death prolonged by alternately dropping the wretched victim

into the fire and drawing him out again, until exhausted nature found

tardy release in death.

But if we can to some extent account for the excess of cruelty which

blind frenzy inflicted on the inflexible martyr to his faith, it is

certainly more difficult to explain the severity exercised upon the more

pliable, whom the arguments of ghostly advisers, or the terrors of the

Place de Grève, had induced to recant. Generally the judge did nothing

more in their behalf than commute their punishment by ordering them to

be strangled before

1 Journal d'un bourgeois, 327. The Marché-aux-pourceaux, or

swine market, was a little west of the present Palais Royal, just

outside of the walls of Paris, as they existed in the time of Francis I.

See the atlas accompanying Dulaure, Histoire de Paris. In December,

1581, the Parliament of Rouen sentenced one Salcède to this horrible

death. Bastard d'Estang, Les parlements de France, i. 428.

their bodies were consigned to the flames.1 Yet in one exceptional
case--that of a servant whose master, a gentleman and one of
the men-at-arms of the Regent of Scotland, was burned alive--the

court went to such a length of leniency as to let the repentant heretic

off with the sentence that he first be beaten with rods at the cart's

end, and afterwards have his tongue cut out.[79] Even the clearest

evidence of insanity did not suffice to remove or even mitigate the

penalties of impiety. A poor, crazy woman, who had broken the

consecrated wafer when administered to her in her illness, and had

applied to it some offensive but absurd epithet, was unhesitatingly

condemned to the stake. An appeal to a superior court procuring no

reversal of her sentence, she was burned at Tours in the year 1533.2

Belief in astrology. Predictions of Nostradamus.

Other marks of a low stage of civilization were not wanting. The belief

in judicial astrology was almost universal.[81] Pretenders like

Nostradamus obtained respect and wealth at the hands of their dupes. All

France trembled with Catharine de' Medici, when the astrologer gave out

that the queen would see all her sons kings, and every one foreboded the

speedy extinction of the royal line. The "prophecy," as it was gravely

styled, obtained public recognition, and was discussed in diplomatic

papers. When two of the queen's sons had in fact become kings of France,

and a third had been elected to the throne of Poland, while the marriage

of the fourth with Queen Elizabeth was under consideration, Catharine's

allies saw grounds to congratulate her that the prediction which had so

disquieted her was likely to obtain a more pleasing fulfilment than in

the successive deaths of her male descendants.3

A still more pernicious form of superstition was noticeable in

1 Journal d'un bourgeois, 326.

2 Ibid., 251.

3 Ibid., 434. A somewhat similar instance is mentioned by the continuator of the
Chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet (anno 1503), l. iii. c. 220.

4 See the vigorous treatise it called forth from the pen of

the great Reformer of Geneva in 1549, under the title of "Advertissement

contre l'Astrologie qu'on appelle judiciaire, et autres curiositez qui

règnent aujourd'huy dans le monde." Paul L. Jacob, Œuvres françoises

de Calvin, 107, etc.

5 Despatch of La Mothe Fénélon, June 3, 1573, Corr. dipl.,

v. 345, 346.

the credit enjoyed by charms and incantations, not merely among illiterate

rustics, but even with persons of high social station. No phase of the

magic art led to the commission of more terrible crimes or revealed a

worse side of human character than that which pretended to secure the

happiness or accomplish the ruin, to prolong the life or hasten the

death, of the objects of private love or hatred. While systematically

practising upon the credulity of his dupes, the professed master of this

ill-omened art frequently resorted to assassination by poison or dagger

in the accomplishment of his schemes. Sorcery by means of waxen images

was particularly in vogue. Thus, the Queen of Navarre, the sister of

Francis the First, in her singular collection of tales, the

"Heptameron," gives a circumstantial account of the mode in which her

own life was sought by this species of witchcraft.1 Five puppets had

been provided: three, representing enemies (the queen being one of the

number), had their arms hanging down; the other two, representing

persons whose favor was desired, had them raised aloft. With certain

cabalistic words and occult rites the puppets were next secretly hidden

beneath an altar whereon the mass was celebrated, and the mysterious "sacrifice"

was believed to complete the efficacy of the charm. It was no new superstition
imported from abroad, but one that had existed in France for centuries.2
Reverence for relics.

The French were behind no other nation in reverence for relics of saints

and for pictures and images representing them. In the partial list,

compiled by a contemporary, of the curiosities

1 L'Heptaméron dea Nouvelles de très haute et très illustre

princesse Marguerite d'Angoulême, Reine de Navarre. Publié sur les MSS.

par la Soc. des Bibliophiles français. Première Journée, Première Nouvelle.

2 The practice of magic with small waxen images into which

pins were thrust, impious words being uttered at the same time, was at

least as old in France as the beginning of the fourteenth century. In

1330 Robert of Artois employed it to compass the death of Philip of

Valois and his queen; just as two centuries and a half later the

adherents of the League resorted to the same device to destroy Henry

III. and Henry of Navarre. See note L to the Heptameron (edit. cit.), i.

170. Jean de Marcouville (Recueil mémor. Paris, 1564, Cimber et Danjou,

iii. 415) alludes to similar sorcery just after the death of Philip the

Fair, in 1314. It was therefore no "Italian sorcery" introduced into

France by Catharine de' Medici, as M. De Félice seems to suppose (Hist.

des prot. de France, liv. ii. c. 17).

of this nature scattered through Christendom,1 the majority of the relics
mentioned are selected from the immense treasures laid up in the thousands of

cathedrals, parish churches, and abbeys within the domains of the "Very

Christian King." In one place the hair of the blessed Virgin was

carefully preserved; in another the sword of the archangel Michael, or

the entire body of St. Dionysius. It was true that the Pope had by

solemn bull, about a century before, declared, in the presence of the

French ambassador, that the entire body of this last-named saint was in

the possession of the inhabitants of Ratisbon; but, had any one been so

rash as to affirm at Saint Denis, near Paris, that the veritable remains

were not there, he would certainly have been stoned.2 At Notre-Dame

de l'Ile, above Lyons, no little account was made of the twelve combs

of the apostles!3

The reflecting man who found, by a comparison of the treasures of

different churches within his own personal observation, that some of the

pretended relics were frivolous or impossible, and that the same members

of some favorite saint were reproduced at points widely distant, might

well speculate upon the probable benefits to Christendom from a complete

inventory of the contents of the churches of two or three thousand

bishoprics, of twenty or thirty thousand abbeys, and of more than forty

thousand convents.5 He might find difficulty in believing that our

Lord was crucified with fourteen nails; that "an entire hedge" should

have been requisite to plait the crown of thorns; that a single spear

should have begotten three others; or that from a solitary napkin there

should have issued a whole brood of the same kind.6 He would be

scandalized on learning that each apostle had more than four bodies, and

the saints at least two or three apiece.7 And his faith in the genuineness of

the objects of popular adoration would be still further shaken, if, on

1 "Advertissement très-utile du grand profit qui reviendroit

à la Chrétienté, s'il se faisoit inventaire de tous les corps saints et

réliques," etc., 1543 (Œuvres françoises de Calvin). A racy treatise,

which well exhibits the service done by the author to the French


2 Ibid., 171.

3 Ibid., 169.

4 Ibid., 139.

5 Ibid., 155.

6 Ibid., 139.

subjecting them to a closer examination, he discovered

that, as was the case at Geneva, he had been worshipping a bone of a

deer as the arm of Saint Anthony, or a piece of pumice for the brain of

the apostle Peter.1

But, whatever sceptical conclusions might be reached by the learned and

discerning, the devotion of the common people showed no signs of

flagging. In the parish church of St. Stephen at Noyon, it was not the

Christian proto-martyr alone that was decorated with a cap and other

gewgaws, when his yearly festival came around, but likewise the

"tyrants," as they were styled by the people, who stoned him. And the

poor women, seeing them thus adorned, took them to be companions of the

saint, and each one had his candle. The devil with whom St. Michael

contended fared equally well.2 The very stones that were the

instruments of St. Stephen's death were adored at Arles and

elsewhere.3 It was, however, to the Parisians that the palm in this

species of superstition rightfully belonged. The knife wherewith an

impious Jew had stabbed a consecrated wafer was held in higher esteem

than the wafer itself! And so marked was the preference that it aroused

the displeasure of one of the most bigoted doctors of the Sorbonne, De

Quercu, who reproached the Parisians for being worse than the Jews

themselves, "inasmuch as they adored the knife that had served to rend

the precious body of Jesus Christ."4

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