Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Henry IV's Plans

Just as the reign of Louis XI. had been a period of rest and recovery from the English wars, so that of Henry IV. was one of restoration from the ravages of thirty years of intermittent civil war. The king himself not only had bright and engaging manners, but was a man of large heart and mind; and Sully did much for the welfare of the country. Roads, canals, bridges, postal communications, manufactures, extended commerce, all owed their promotion to him, and brought prosperity to the burgher class; and the king was especially endeared to the peasantry by his saying that he hoped for the time when no cottage would be without a good fowl in its pot.

The great silk manufactories of southern France chiefly arose under his encouragement, and there was prosperity of every kind. The Church itself was in a far better state than before. Some of the best men of any time were then living—in especial Vincent de Paul, who did much to improve the training of the parochial clergy, and who founded the order of Sisters of Charity, who prevented the misery of the streets of Paris from ever being so frightful as in those days when deserted children became the prey of wolves, dogs, and pigs.

The nobles, who had grown into insolence during the wars, either as favourites of Henry III. or as zealous supporters of the Huguenot cause, were subdued and tamed. The most noted of these were the Duke of Bouillon, the owner of the small principality of Sedan, who was reduced to obedience by the sight of Sully's formidable train of artillery; and the Marshal Duke of Biron, who, thinking that Henry had not sufficiently rewarded his services, intrigued with Spain and Savoy, and was beheaded for his treason. Hatred to the house of Austria in Spain and Germany was as keen as ever in France; and in 1610 Henry IV. was prepared for another war on the plea of a disputed succession to the duchy of Cleves.

The old fanaticism still lingered in Paris, and Henry had been advised to beware of pageants there; but it was necessary that his second wife, Mary de' Medici, should be crowned before he went to the war, as she was to be left regent. Two days after the coronation, as Henry was going to the arsenal to visit his old friend Sully, he was stabbed to the heart in his coach, in the streets of Paris, by a fanatic named Ravaillac. The French call him Le Grand Monarque; and he was one of the most attractive and benevolent of men, winning the hearts of all who approached him, but the immorality of his life did much to confirm the already low standard that prevailed among princes and nobles in France.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Edict of Nantes

In 1598 King Henry IV put forth what was called the Edict of Nantes, because first registered in that parliament. It secured to the Huguenots equal civil rights with those of the Catholics, accepted their marriages, gave them, under restrictions, permission to meet for worship and for consultations, and granted them cities for the security of their rights, of which La Rochelle was the chief. The Calvinists had been nearly exterminated in the north, but there were still a large number in the south of France, and the burghers of the chief southern cities were mostly Huguenot.

The war had been from the first a very horrible one; there had been savage slaughter, and still more savage reprisals on each side. The young nobles had been trained into making a fashion of ferocity, and practising graceful ways of striking death-blows. Whole districts had been laid waste, churches and abbeys destroyed, tombs rifled, and the whole population accustomed to every sort of horror and suffering; while nobody but Henry IV. himself, and the Duke of Sully, had any notion either of statesmanship or of religious toleration.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Henry IV

The Leaguers proclaimed as king an old uncle of the King of Navarre, the Cardinal of Bourbon, but all the more moderate Catholics rallied round Henry of Navarre, who took the title of Henry IV.

At Ivry, in Normandy, Henry met the force of Leaguers, and defeated them by his brilliant courage. "Follow my white plume," his last order to his troops, became one of the sayings the French love to remember. But his cause was still not won—Paris held out against him, animated by almost fanatical fury, and while he was besieging it France was invaded from the Netherlands. The old Cardinal of Bourbon was now dead, and Philip II. considered his daughter Isabel, whose mother was the eldest daughter of Henry II., to be rightful Queen of France. He sent therefore his ablest general, the Duke of Parma, to co-operate with the Leaguers and place her on the throne.

A war of strategy was carried on, during which Henry kept the enemy at bay, but could do no more, since the larger number of his people, though intending to have no king but himself, did not wish him to gain too easy a victory, lest in that case he should remain a Calvinist. However, he was only waiting to recant till he could do so with a good grace. He really preferred Catholicism, and had only been a political Huguenot; and his best and most faithful adviser, the Baron of Rosny, better known as Duke of Sully, though a staunch Calvinist himself, recommended the change as the only means of restoring peace to the kingdom.

There was little more resistance to Henry after he had again been received by the Church in 1592. Paris, weary of the long war, opened its gates in 1593, and the inhabitants crowded round him with ecstasy, so that he said, "Poor people, they are hungry for the sight of a king!" The Leaguers made their peace, and when Philip of Spain again attacked Henry, the young Duke of Guise was one of the first to hasten to the defence. Philip saw that there were no further hopes for his daughter, and peace was made in 1596.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The League

Charles IX's brother, Henry III., who had been elected King of Poland, threw up that crown in favour of that of France. He was of a vain, false, weak character, superstitiously devout, and at the same time ferocious, so as to alienate every one.

All were ashamed of a man who dressed in the extreme of foppery, with a rosary of death's heads at his girdle, and passed from wild dissipation to abject penance. He was called "the Paris Church-warden and the Queen's Hairdresser," for he passed from her toilette to the decoration of the walls of churches with illuminations cut out of old service-books. Sometimes he went about surrounded with little dogs, sometimes flogged himself walking barefoot in a procession, and his mignons, or favourites, were the scandal of the country by their pride, license, and savage deeds.

The war broke out again, and his only remaining brother, Francis, Duke of Alençon, an equally hateful and contemptible being, fled from court to the Huguenot army, hoping to force his brother into buying his submission; but when the King of Navarre had followed him and begun the struggle in earnest, he accepted the duchy of Anjou, and returned to his allegiance. Francis was invited by the insurgent Dutch to become their chief, and spent some time in Holland, but returned, unsuccessful and dying.

As the king was childless, the next male heir was Henry of Bourbon, King of Navarre, who had fled from court soon after Alençon returned to the Huguenot faith, and was reigning in his two counties of Béarn and Foix, the head of the Huguenots. In the resolve never to permit a heretic to wear the French crown, Guise and his party formed a Catholic league, to force Henry III. to choose another successor. Paris was devoted to Guise, and the king, finding himself almost a prisoner there, left the city, but was again mastered by the duke at Blois, and could so ill brook his arrogance, as to have recourse to assassination. He caused him to be slain at the palace at Blois in 1588. The fury of the League was so great that Henry III. was driven to take refuge with the King of Navarre, and they were together besieging Paris, when Henry III. was in his turn murdered by a monk, named Clement, in 1589.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew (1572)

Jeanne's son Henry was immediately summoned to conclude the marriage, and came attended by all the most distinguished Huguenots, though the more wary of them remained at home, and the Baron of Rosny said, "If that wedding takes place the favours will be crimson." The Duke of Guise seems to have resolved on taking this opportunity of revenging himself for his father's murder, but the queen-mother was undecided until she found that her son Charles, who had been bidden to cajole and talk over the Huguenot chiefs, had been attracted by their honesty and uprightness, and was ready to throw himself into their hands, and escape from hers.

An abortive attempt on Guise's part to murder the Admiral Coligny led to all the Huguenots going about armed, and making demonstrations which alarmed both the queen and the people of Paris. Guise and the Duke of Anjou were, therefore, allowed to work their will, and to rouse the bloodthirstiness of the Paris mob. At midnight of the 24th of August, 1572, St. Bartholomew's night, the bell of the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois began to ring, and the slaughter was begun by men distinguished by a white sleeve.

The king sheltered his Huguenot surgeon and nurse in his room. The young King of Navarre and Prince of Condé were threatened into conforming to the Church, but every other Huguenot who could be found was massacred, from Coligny, who was slain kneeling in his bedroom by the followers of Guise, down to the poorest and youngest, and the streets resounded with the cry, "Kill! kill!" In every city where royal troops and Guisard partisans had been living among Huguenots, the same hideous work took place for three days, sparing neither age nor sex. How many thousands died, it is impossible to reckon, but the work was so wholesale that none were left except those in the southern cities, where the Huguenots had been too strong to be attacked, and in those castles where the seigneur was of "the religion."

The Catholic party thought the destruction complete, the court went in state to return thanks for deliverance from a supposed plot, while Coligny's body was hung on a gibbet. The Pope ordered public thanksgivings, while Queen Elizabeth put on mourning, and the Emperor Maximilian II., alone among Catholic princes, showed any horror or indignation. But the heart of the unhappy young king was broken by the guilt he had incurred. Charles IX. sank into a decline, and died in 1574, finding no comfort save in the surgeon and nurse he had saved.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Catherine's Policy

Catherine de' Medici made use of the suspension of arms to try to detach the Huguenot leaders, by entangling them in the pleasures of the court and lowering their sense of duty. The court was studiously brilliant. Catherine surrounded herself with a bevy of ladies, called the Queen-Mother's Squadron, whose amusements were found for the whole day. The ladies sat at their tapestry frames, while Italian poetry and romance was read or love-songs sung by the gentlemen; they had garden games and hunting-parties, with every opening for the ladies to act as sirens to any whom the queen wished to detach from the principles of honour and virtue, and bind to her service. Balls, pageants, and theatricals followed in the evening, and there was hardly a prince or noble in France who was not carried away by these seductions into darker habits of profligacy.

Jeanne of Navarre dreaded them for her son Henry, whom she kept as long as possible under training in religion, learning, and hardy habits, in the mountains of Béarn; and when Catherine tried to draw him to court by proposing a marriage between him and her youngest daughter Margaret, Jeanne left him at home, and went herself to court. Catherine tried in vain to bend her will or discover her secrets, and her death, early in 1572, while still at court, was attributed to the queen-mother.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Religious War

To trace each stage of the war would be impossible within these limits. It was a war often lulled for a short time, and often breaking out again, and in which the actors grew more and more cruel. The Reformed influence was in the south, the Catholic in the east. Most of the provincial cities at first held with the Bourbons, for the sake of civil and religious freedom; though the Guise family succeeded to the popularity of the Burgundian dukes in Paris.

Still Catherine persuaded Antony of Bourbon to return to court just as his wife, Queen Jeanne of Navarre, had become a staunch Calvinist, and while dreaming of exchanging his claim on Navarre for the kingdom of Sardinia, he was killed on the Catholic side while besieging Rouen. At the first outbreak the Huguenots seemed to have by far the greatest influence. An endeavour was made to seize the king's person, and this led to a battle at Dreux. While it was doubtful Catherine actually declared, "We shall have to say our prayers in French." Guise, however, retrieved the day, and though Montmorençy was made prisoner on the one side, Condé was taken on the other. Orleans was the Huguenot rallying-place, and while besieging it Guise himself was assassinated. His death was believed by his family to be due to the Admiral de Coligny.

The city of Rochelle, fortified by Jeanne of Navarre, became the stronghold of the Huguenots. Leader after leader fell—Montmorençy, on the one hand, was killed at Montcontour; Condé, on the other, was shot in cold blood after the fight of Jarnac. A truce followed, but was soon broken again, and in 1571 Coligny was the only man of age and standing at the head of the Huguenot party; while the Catholics had as leaders Henry, Duke of Anjou, the king's brother, and Henry, Duke of Guise, both young men of little more than twenty. The Huguenots had been beaten at all points, but were still strong enough to have wrung from their enemies permission to hold meetings for public worship within unwalled towns and on the estates of such nobles as held with them.