Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Reformation

The enmity of the Bourbons and the Guises was much increased by the reaction against the prevalent doctrines and the corruptions of the clergy. This reaction had begun in the reign of Francis I., when the Bible had been translated into French by two students at the University of Paris, and the king's sister, Margaret, Queen of Navarre, had encouraged the Reformers.

Francis had leagued with the German Protestants because they were foes to the Emperor, while he persecuted the like opinions at home to satisfy the Pope. John Calvin, a native of Picardy, the foremost French reformer, was invited to the free city of Geneva, and there was made chief pastor, while the scheme of theology called his "Institutes" became the text-book of the Reformed in France, Scotland, and Holland. His doctrine was harsh and stern, aiming at the utmost simplicity of worship, and denouncing the existing practices so fiercely, that the people, who held themselves to have been wilfully led astray by their clergy, committed such violence in the churches that the Catholics loudly called for punishment on them.

The shameful lives of many of the clergy and the wickedness of the Court had caused a strong reaction against them, and great numbers of both nobles and burghers became Calvinists. They termed themselves Sacramentarians or Reformers, but their nickname was Huguenots; probably from the Swiss, "Eidgenossen" or oath comrades. Henry II., like his father, protected German Lutherans and persecuted French Calvinists; but the lawyers of the Parliament of Paris interposed, declaring that men ought not to be burnt for heresy until a council of the Church should have condemned their opinions, and it was in the midst of this dispute that Henry was slain.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Bourbons and Guises

Henry II. had left four sons, the eldest of whom, Francis II., was only fifteen years old; and the country was divided by two great factions—one headed by the Guise family, an offshoot of the house of Lorraine; the other by the Bourbons, who, being descended in a direct male line from a younger son of St. Louis, were the next heirs to the throne in case the house of Valois should become extinct.

Antony, the head of the Bourbon family, was called King of Navarre, because of his marriage with Jeanne d'Albrêt, the queen, in her own right, of this Pyrenean kingdom, which was in fact entirely in the hands of the Spaniards, so that her only actual possession consisted of the little French counties of Foix and Béarn. Antony himself was dull and indolent, but his wife was a woman of much ability; and his brother, Louis, Prince of Condé, was full of spirit and fire, and little inclined to brook the ascendancy which the Duke of Guise and his brothers enjoyed at court, partly in consequence of his exploit at Calais, and partly from being uncle to the young Queen Mary of Scotland, wife of Francis II.

The Bourbons likewise headed the party among the nobles who hoped to profit by the king's youth to recover the privileges of which they had been gradually deprived, while the house of Guise were ready to maintain the power of the crown, as long as that meant their own power.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Henry II

King Francis' only surviving son, Henry II., followed the same policy (see Wars of Francis and Charles). The rise of Protestantism was now dividing the Empire in Germany; and Henry took advantage of the strife which broke out between Charles and the Protestant princes to attack the Emperor, and make conquests across the German border. He called himself Protector of the Liberties of the Germans, and leagued himself with them, seizing Metz, which the Duke of Guise bravely defended when the Emperor tried to retake it.

This seizure of Metz was the first attempt of France to make conquests in Germany, and the beginning of a contest between the French and German peoples which has gone on to the present day. After the siege a five years' truce was made, during which Charles V. resigned his crowns. His brother had been already elected to the Empire, but his son Philip II. became King of Spain and Naples, and also inherited the Low Countries.

The Pope, Paul IV., who was a Neapolitan, and hated the Spanish rule, incited Henry, a vain, weak man, to break the truce and send one army to Italy, under the Duke of Guise, while another attacked the frontier of the Netherlands. Philip, assisted by the forces of his wife, Mary I. of England, met this last attack with an army commanded by the Duke of Savoy. It advanced into France, and besieged St. Quentin. The French, under the Constable of Montmorençy, came to relieve the city, and were utterly defeated, the Constable himself being made prisoner. His nephew, the Admiral de Coligny, held out St. Quentin to the last, and thus gave the country time to rally against the invader; and Guise was recalled in haste from Italy. He soon after surprised Calais, which was thus restored to the French, after having been held by the English for two hundred years. This was the only conquest the French retained when the final peace of Cateau Cambresis was made in the year 1558, for all else that had been taken on either side was then restored. Savoy was given back to its duke, together with the hand of Henry's sister, Margaret.

During a tournament held in honour of the wedding, Henry II. was mortally injured by the splinter of a lance, in 1559; and in the home troubles that followed, all pretensions to Italian power were dropped by France, after wars which had lasted sixty-four years.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wars of Francis and Charles

All the rest of the king's life was an attempt to elude or break these conditions, against which he had protested in his prison, but when there was no Spaniard present to hear him do so. The county of Burgundy refused to be transferred; and the Pope, Clement VII., hating the Spanish power in Italy, contrived a fresh league against Charles, in which Francis joined, but was justly rewarded by the miserable loss of another army.

His mother and Charles's aunt met at Cambrai, and concluded, in 1529, what was called the Ladies' Peace, which bore as hardly on France as the peace of Madrid, excepting that Charles gave up his claim to Burgundy. Still Francis's plans were not at an end. He married his second son, Henry, to Catherine, the only legitimate child of the great Florentine house of Medici, and tried to induce Charles to set up an Italian dukedom of Milan for the young pair; but when the dauphin died, and Henry became heir of France, Charles would not give him any footing in Italy.

Francis never let any occasion pass of harassing the Emperor, but was always defeated. Charles once actually invaded Provence, but was forced to retreat through the devastation of the country before him by Montmorençy, afterwards Constable of France. Francis, by loud complaints, and by talking much of his honour, contrived to make the world fancy him the injured man, while he was really breaking oaths in a shameless manner.

At last, in 1537, the king and Emperor met at Aigues Mortes, and came to terms. Francis married, as his second wife, Charles's sister Eleanor, and in 1540, when Charles was in haste to quell a revolt in the Low Countries, he asked a safe conduct through France, and was splendidly entertained at Paris. Yet so low was the honour of the French, that Francis scarcely withstood the temptation of extorting the duchy of Milan from him when in his power, and gave so many broad hints that Charles was glad to be past the frontier. The war was soon renewed.

Francis set up a claim to Savoy, as the key of Italy, allied himself with the Turks and Moors, and slaves taken by them on the coasts of Italy and Spain were actually brought into Marseilles. Nice was burnt; but the citadel held out, and as Henry VIII. had allied himself with the Emperor, and had taken Boulogne, Francis made a final peace at Crespy in 1545. He died only two years later, in 1547.