« ForrigeFortsæt »
St Bartholomew, and with the earliest dawn of that day was to be commenced a general massacre of the Protestants, with the exception of the king of Navarre, the Prince of Condé, and one or two others; the first victim to be Admiral de Coligny. The signal was to be the ringing of the great bell of St Germain l'Auxerrois. No sooner was the massacre resolved upon, than all the necessary arrangements were made for carrying it into effect.
On Sunday morning, as early as two o'clock, the appointed signal was made, and the massacre commenced. As had been agreed on, Admiral de Coligny, already wounded, was the first person attacked. The Duke of Guise, with a number of attendants, rushed to his house; the doors were broken open, and two men entering the chamber of the admiral, who had been awakened by the noise, despatched him with many wounds. His body was thrown out at the window, that Guise and his companions might be convinced that the work was done. The duke wiped the blood from the dead man's face, the better to recognise him, and then ordered his head to be cut off. Meanwhile, in all parts of the city the work of blood was proceeding. The bells of all the churches were ringing in answer to that of St Germain l'Auxerrois, and the whole population was aroused. Musket and pistol shots were heard in every direction; sometimes in continuous discharges, as if companies of soldiers were firing upon a crowd. Lights were placed in the windows of the houses in which Catholics resided ; and these so illumined the streets, that the fugitive Huguenots had no chance of escaping. Bands of murderers paraded the streets, with their right sleeves tucked up, and white crosses in their hats, butchering such Huguenots as they met, and breaking into every house in which a Huguenot was known or suspected to lodge. Priests carrying crucifixes were seen among the assassins, urging them on with fanatical exclamations, while Guise and other leaders rode along the streets, superintending the massacre, and ordering the mob not to spare their blows. The city resounded with howlings and cries, heard through the rattle of the firearms and the yellings of the populace, now drunk with blood. When daylight came, awful sights presented themselves—streets strewed with corpses, which men were busy dragging away to the river, walls and doors all besprent with blood, headless bodies hanging out at windows, and crowds of wretches swaggering along the streets on the hunt for Huguenots.
For a whole week the massacre was continued, slackening, however, after the first three days partly because most of the Huguenots had by that time been killed, partly because an order was then issued to desist. By the most moderate computation, upwards of sixty thousand persons were butchered, including those who were put to death in the provinces to which the massacre extended; and among those sixty thousand were upwards of seven hundred escapes were made during the massacre; and one of these we must relate, for the purpose of introducing to our readers a man whose name it is impossible to separate from that of Henry IV. One of the Protestant lords who had looked with most suspicion on the pretended reconciliation of the king and his mother with the Huguenot party, after the peace of St Germain-en-Laye, was Francis de Bethune, Baron de Rosny, a man of sagacity and influence. When the queen of Navarre, the admiral, and the rest of the Huguenots went to court at the solicitations of the king, the Baron de Rosny, although disapproving of the step, accompanied them, and took with him his second son, Maximilian, for the purpose of presenting him to Henry of Navarre, in whose service, as the chief of the Reformed party, he wished him to spend his life. The boy was about eleven years of age, having been born on the 13th of December 1560, exactly seven years after the prince whose friend and counsellor he was to be. While the preparations for Henry's marriage were in progress, young Maximilian de Bethune was employed in prosecuting his studies under the best masters in Paris, occasionally mingling in the society of the court, where, as an intelligent boy, he was taken favourable notice of by the warm-hearted prince. His father, in the meantime, was becoming more and more dissatisfied with the aspect of affairs; he frequently said, that if the nuptials of the prince were celebrated in Paris, 'the bridal favours would be crimson. His warnings were disregarded; and, unwilling to seem more timid than the rest, he remained in Paris until the attempt was made to assassinate the admiral, when, with several others, he retired to the country. His son Maximilian was left in town, lodging with his tutor and a valet-de-chambre in a quarter remote from the court, and near the colleges. He thus describes what happened to him on the night of St Bartholomew : 'I was in bed, and awakened from sleep three hours after midnight by the sound of all the bells, and the confused cries of the populace. My tutor, St Julian, with my valet-de-chambre, went hastily out to know the cause; and I never afterwards heard of these two men, who without doubt were amongst the first that were sacrificed to the public fury. I continued alone in my chamber, dressing myself, when in a few moments I saw my landlord enter pale, and in the utmost agitation : he was of the Reformed religion, and having learned what the matter was, had consented to go to mass, to save his life, and preserve his house from being pillaged. He came to persuade me to do the same, and to take me with him. I did not think proper to follow him, but resolved to try if I could gain the college of Burgundy, where I had studied, though the great distance between the house where I then was and the college made the attempt very dangerous. Having disguised myself in a scholar's gown, I put a large prayer-book under my arm, and went into the street. I was seized with horror inexpressible at the sight of the furious murderers, who, running from all parts, forced open the houses, and cried aloud : “ Kill, kill; massacre the Huguenots!” The blood which I saw shed before my eyes doubled my terror. I fell into the midst of a body of guards; they stopped me, interrogated me, and were beginning to use me ill, when, happily for me, the book which I carried was perceived, and served me for a passport. Twice after this I fell into the same danger, from which I extricated myself with the same good-fortune. At length I arrived at the college of Burgundy, where a still greater danger awaited me. The porter twice refused me admission, and I continued standing in the middle of the street, at the mercy of the furious murderers, whose numbers increased every moment, when it came into my head to ask for La Faye, the principal of the college, a good man, by whom I was tenderly beloved. The porter, prevailed upon by some small pieces of money which I put into his hand, admitted me; and my friend carried me to his apartment, where two inhuman priests, whom I heard talk of the Sicilian vespers, wanted to force me from him, that they might cut me in pieces, saying the order was not to spare even infants at the breast. All the good man could do was to conduct me privately to a distant chamber, where he locked me up. Here I was confined three days, uncertain of my destiny, and saw no one but a servant of my friend's, who came from time to time and brought me food. At the end of three days, the poor boy, known afterwards as the famous Duke of Sully, minister and bosom-friend of Henry IV., was released.
Henry of Navarre and his cousin, the Prince of Condé, were sleeping at the Louvre on the night of the massacre. They were awakened by a number of soldiers about two hours before day, and conveyed into the king's presence, passing over the dead bodies of many of their friends. The king,' says Sully, “received them with a countenance and eyes in which fury was visibly painted; he ordered them with oaths and blasphemies, which were familiar to him, to quit a religion which had been only taken up, he said, to serve as a cloak to their rebellion. He told them, in a fierce and angry tone, “ that he would no longer be contradicted in his opinions by his subjects ; that they, by their example, should teach others to revere hiin as the image of God, and cease to be enemies to the image of his mother.” He ended by declaring that if they did not go to mass, he would treat them as criminals guilty of treason against divine and human majesty. The manner in which these words were pronounced not suffering the princes to doubt their sincerity, they yielded to necessity, and performed what was required of them. Henry was even obliged to send an edict into his dominions, by which the exercise of any religion except that of Rome was forbidden.'
Such was the massacre of St Bartholomew, a deed which has been execrated, we believe, by every historian, whether Catholic or Protestant, and which men of all religious persuasions cannot fail to look back upon with loathing and detestation.
REIGN OF HENRY III.-CIVIL WARS IN FRANCE-ACCESSION
OF HENRY IV. After the massacre of St Bartholomew, our hero was detained a prisoner at the court of France, along with his cousin, the Prince of Condé. The French court was at this period the most profligate in Europe ; all kinds of criminality were openly practised, under the name of pleasure ; and it was part of the horrible policy of the queenmother to maintain her power by surrounding those whose rivalry she feared by temptations likely to enervate and demoralise them. From this ordeal our hero did not escape altogether uninjured ; many of the blemishes and calamities of his after-life are to be traced to faults contracted at this period; but, upon the whole, he passed the trial with honour, for his mind was too noble and masculine to be affected otherwise than with disgust by the fetid atmosphere which it breathed.
In the meantime, the court was following up the massacre of St Bartholomew by laying siege to such towns as were still in the hands of the Huguenots, and repressing every Huguenot symptom in the rest of the kingdom. These measures were interrupted by the death of Charles IX. on the 30th of May 1574, in the twenty-fifth year of his age. He was succeeded by his brother Henry, Duke of Anjou, who had gone to Poland several months before to assume the crown of that country, which had been voted him by the Diet ; but on receiving the news of his brother's death, he hastened to France, and was proclaimed king, with the title of Henry III. One of his first acts was to set the king of Navarre and the Prince of Condé at liberty. The latter immediately placed himself at the head of an army raised in Germany for the Huguenots, and which acted in co-operation with a force under Marshal Damville, second son of the late Constable, who had assumed arms not on account of religion, for he was a Catholic, but for political purposes. The king of Navarre still remained at court, but watching for a fit opportunity to make his escape, and begin the career to which duty called him.
The court of Henry III. was a scene of perpetual strife and discord. In the king himself, now become a luxurious and effeminate weakling, no one could recognise the once promising Duke of Anjou, the leader of the Catholic armies, and the conqueror of the Huguenots. Between him and his brother, the Duke of Alençon, now known by the title of Monsieur, there existed a profound antipathy, fostered by their mother Catharine for reasons of her own. This antipathy afforded to our hero an opportunity of shewing the generosity of his character. The king falling ill, and conceiving that he was poisoned by his brother, gave orders to the king of Navarre to procure his assassination ; but although the death of Monsieur would have made him next heir to the crown, Henry exhibited the utmost horror at the proposal, and prevailed on the king to abandon it. The mutual jealousy of the two brothers, however, still continued, and, afraid of the king's vengeance, the Duke of Alençon made his escape from court, and joined the mixed party of the Huguenots and Catholics, who had taken arms against the government. Extraordinary precautions were now used by the court for securing the king of Navarre ; but at length, early in the year 1576, he contrived to elude the vigilance of the spies who surrounded him, and proceeding to Tours, he publicly renounced the Catholic religion, declared his adherence to it during the last four years to have been compulsory, and announced himself once more the lawful chief of the Huguenots. The opposition to the court having now become formidable, and the king finding himself unable to carry on the war, a treaty was concluded in May 1576, containing numerous concessions to the Reformed party.
Thus ended the fifth of the civil wars in which religious differences had involved France. Every one foresaw that the peace would be transient; the spirit of contention was too bitter to allow its long continuance. Scarcely was the treaty concluded, when the Protestants had reason to complain of the violation of its provisions. The Catholics, on their side, were eager for a renewal of the war ; and it was about this time that the famous Catholic association, known in history by the name of the League, took its rise. The idea of a general association among the Catholic nobles for the thorough extirpation of the Protestants, had been several times entertained already; but the present seemed a more fit occasion than any that had yet occurred. The king, dividing his time between devotion and sensuality, half-priest and half-coquette in his manners, sleeping, as we are told, with gloves made of a peculiar kind of skin on his hands, to keep them white, and wearing cosmetic paste on his face, was not a man to put down such an association, although, with the instinct of a monarch, he might dislike it. Accordingly, the League was formed ; its original members being the Duke of Guise; his brothers, the Duke of Mayenne and the Cardinal of Guise; and his cousins, the Duc d'Aumale and the Marquis d'Elbeuf. They were soon joined by other Catholics of influence, and the party became powerful. The objects they had in view, and the manner in which they hoped to accomplish them, are thus stated in a paper which was to be submitted to the pope for his approbation. 'The Protestants having demanded the assembling of the states, let them be convoked at Blois, a town quite open. The chief of our party will take care to effect the election of deputies inviolably attached to the ancient religion and to the sovereign pontiff. Should any one oppose the resolutions which we shall cause to be taken in the states, if a