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.

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