Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Regency of Catherine de' Medici

The Guise family were strong Catholics; the Bourbons were the heads of the Huguenot party, chiefly from policy; but Admiral Coligny and his brother, the Sieur D'Andelot, were sincere and earnest Reformers. A third party, headed by the old Constable De Montmorençy, was Catholic in faith, but not unwilling to join with the Huguenots in pulling down the Guises, and asserting the power of the nobility.

A conspiracy for seizing the person of the king and destroying the Guises at the castle of Amboise was detected in time to make it fruitless. The two Bourbon princes kept in the background, though Condé was universally known to have been the true head and mover in it, and he was actually brought to trial. The discovery only strengthened the hands of Guise.

Even then, however, Francis II. was dying, and his brother, Charles IX., who succeeded him in 1560, was but ten years old. The regency passed to his mother, the Florentine Catherine, a wily, cat-like woman, who had always hitherto been kept in the background, and whose chief desire was to keep things quiet by playing off one party against the other. She at once released Condé, and favoured the Bourbons and the Huguenots to keep down the Guises, even permitting conferences to see whether the French Church could be reformed so as to satisfy the Calvinists. Proposals were sent by Guise's brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, to the council then sitting at Trent, for vernacular services, the marriage of the clergy, and other alterations which might win back the Reformers. But an attack by the followers of Guise on a meeting of Calvinists at Vassy, of whose ringing of bells his mother had complained, led to the first bloodshed and the outbreak of a civil war.

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