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And in they burst, and on they rushed, while, like a guiding star,
Remember St Bartholomew !' was passed from man to man;
The battle of Ivry was followed up by the siege of Paris, which was commanded by the Duke de Nemours, Mayenne having gonc to join his forces with those of the Duke of Parma, who had orders from his sovereign, the king of Spain, to co-operate with the League against Henry. The siege was conducted in the most horrible of all forms, that of blockade. Commenced in May, it lasted four months, during which the citizens endured the most dreadful sufferings from famine. Horses, dogs, asses, cats, birds, and even rats, were ravenously eaten. The Duchess of Montpensier refused gold and jewellery to the value of 2000 crowns for a favourite dog, saying she would reserve it for herself when her stores were exhausted. Upwards of 13,000 persons are calculated to have died of hunger during the blockade; and the numbers would have been greater but for the generosity of Henry, who, with a tenderness of heart unusual in great military heroes, and even hostile to his own interests at the time, permitted provisions to be smuggled into the city, and opened a free passage for such of the starving inhabitants as chose to depart. 'I am their father and their king,' he said,
and I cannot bear the thought of their sufferings.? At length, just as the garrison was on the point of surrendering, Henry was compelled to raise the siege by a clever mancuvre of the Duke of Parma, who, hearing of the distress of the Parisians, had come to their assistance. This took place in September 1590.
For three years the war continued, and France was desolated by the sword of civil and religious strife. In vain was battle after battle fought, town after town besieged, truce after truce concluded. The radical impediment to a lasting peace still remained—the king of France professed a form of faith differing from that of the great majority of his subjects. So long as this was the .case, there was no hope of a reconciliation ; Henry must either become a Catholic, or relinquish his struggle for the crown. Ever since the death of Henry III., he had been meditating on this subject ; he had listened to theological arguments and controversies, permitted himself to be instructed by Catholic priests, and weighed all that was said on
both sides ; but he had shewn a decided reluctance to come to a final declaration. At length, however, in July 1593, he announced his intention of making a public profession of the Catholic faith. Accordingly, on the 25th of that month, he entered the church of St Denis, where Renauld de Jamblançai, Archbishop of Bourges, and a number of the Catholic clergy, were assembled.
“Who are you?' asked the archbishop.
"To be received into the pale of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church.'
'Do you desire this ?' said the prelate.
'I do,' replied the king. Then kneeling down, he pronounced these words : 'I protest and swear, in the presence of Almighty God, to live and die in the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion ; to protect and defend it against all its enemies at the hazard of my blood and life, renouncing all heresies contrary to it.' He then placed a copy of the same confession in writing into the archbishop's hands, who gave him absolution, while a Te Deum was sung.
This act of Henry's life has naturally become the subject of much discussion among historians, some giving it their approval, and others their condemnation. The following are Sully's remarks on the king's abjuration : 'I should betray the cause of truth, if I suffered it even to be suspected that policy, the threats of the Catholics, the fatigue of labour, the desire of rest, and of freeing himself from the tyranny of foreigners, or even the good of the people, had entirely influenced the king's resolution. As far as I am able to judge of the heart of this prince, which I believe I know better than any other person, it was indeed these considerations which first hinted to him the necessity of his conversion ; but in the end, he became convinced in his own mind that the Catholic religion was the safest.' By whatever casuistry Henry attained this. conviction, we can have no hesitation in saying that his abjuration of Protestantism has all the appearance of having been done for the sake of being made undisputed king of France. Now, as there was no absolute necessity for his attaining this honour, as he might have enjoyed all reasonable happiness as sovereign of his small kingdom of Navarre, we can by no means approve of what was so clearly a sacrifice of conscience to worldly distinction.
The only vestige of excuse for his abjuration was the hope which he perhaps entertained of securing the Protestants generally from oppression ; and if this were the case, it must be allowed his aim was accomplished. The announcement of his change of religion almost immediately put an end to the civil war ; all parties seemed less or more pleased ; and his coronation was formally celebrated at Chartres on the 27th of February 1594. By this event, Navarre became attached to the French monarchy, from which it has never since been dissevered. The House of Valois had also terminated, and been succeeded by that of Bourbon. Before the end of 1595, Henry was acknowledged by the pope and every other power as the lawful sovereign of France. Still
, Henry's anxieties were not yet over. Since his profession of the Catholic faith, two unsuccessful attempts had been made upon his life, one by a waterman named Barriere, the other by John Chatel, a student in the college of the Jesuits; both of whom had paid the penalty of their crime. In consequence of these attempts, it was judged expedient to expel the Jesuits from the kingdom, their hostility to Henry's government being so well known that it was deemed unsafe to have them for subjects, and their number not yet being so great as to render their expulsion impossible. All that remained to be done was to inflict such chastisement upon Spain as would put a stop to her interference. Before the end of the year 1597, this also was effectually accomplished ; and the beginning of the following year witnessed the ratification of two treaties memorable in the history of France. The one was the famous Edict of Nantes, dated the 30th of April 1598, by which ample liberty of conscience, the privilege, with certain restrictions, of worship after their own forms, and perfect freedom from civil disabilities, were secured to the Protestants; the other the Peace of Vervins, dated the 2d of May 1598, by which the war with Spain was very advantageously concluded.
FRANCE UNDER HENRY IV. -HIS GREAT POLITICAL DESIGNS.
Enjoying now a profound peace both internally and externally, France called upon her sovereign to display his genius, not for war, but for the grander occupation of government. Trained from his boyhood in the camp, the hero of more than a hundred fights and two hundred sieges, how would he act in the cabinet, how would he fulfil the duties of a statesman ? As we have already said, Henry, in this new capacity, more than answered the highest expectations that could have been formed of him; and the history of the last twelve years of his life, during which he was employed almost exclusively in the affairs of government, entitles him to be regarded as one of the greatest sovereigns that ever sat upon a throne.
In the first place, Henry was possessed of that indispensable qualification of a great statesman, a generous heart-an earnest and yearning desire for the good of his species. His philanthropy was almost chivalrous; and, like his temperament, it was hopeful and sanguine. His love of France was no mere pretence or delusion; it was an intense glowing passion. Wi ess his me
orable prayer before beginning a great battle: 'O Lord ! if this day thou meanest to punish me for my sins, I bow my head to the stroke of thy justice; spare not the guilty ; but, Lord, by thy holy mercy, have pity on this poor realm, and strike not the flock for the faults of the shepherd.' Every one has heard of his famous saying, that if God granted him the ordinary term of human life, he hoped to see France in such a condition that 'every peasant in it. should be able to have a fowl in the pot upon Sundays.
These philanthropic aspirations were resolutely followed up by a course of laborious efforts to realise them. Immediately after the Peace of Vervins, Henry disbanded a great part of his forces, and strove, by introducing a strict system of economy into the administration of the revenues, as well as by setting an example of frugality to his subjects, especially the proprietors of land, to remedy the evils which war had produced, alleviate the distress of the people, and give an impulse to commerce and manufactures. Surrounding himself with the ablest men in the kingdom, both Catholics and Protestants, he was continually occupied with some scheme or other for the advantage of the country. Eventually, however, the Baron de Rosny, better known by the title of Duke of Sully, which he conferred on him, became his sole confidant; and with him all his designs were discussed and matured. Without Sully for a minister, Henry would have been a grand but visionary genius; without Henry for a master, Sully's sagacity would have never been employed on such high objects. Henry inspired Sully, and Sully instructed Henry.
The great object of Sully and Henry's joint efforts was a thorough reform in the revenue.' Henry on his accession to the throne found the finances in a deplorable state—the people groaning under a load of taxes, and yet the royal exchequer almost empty. How was he to proceed? The state debts were so large (amounting to 330 millions of livres), and there were so many demands for outlay, that it seemed necessary to impose new taxes, while at the same time the country had been so impoverished by the war, that the people were unable to pay the taxes already imposed. Sully devoted his best energies to the settlement of this question. In the first place, with a noble pity for the wretchedness of the people, he remitted above twenty millions of livres which they still owed the king: the loss was serious; but, by submitting to it, the king gave his subjects time to breathe again. After this he made a laborious and searching investigation, in order to discover where the cause of the national misery lay. The amount of revenue annually paid into the royal treasury was thirty millions; but ‘I was strongly persuaded, he says, that it could not be the raising of this sum from so rich and large a kingdom as France which reduced it to the condition I saw it in; and that the sums made up of extortions and false; expenses must certainly infinitely exceed those which were brought into his majesty's coffers. I took the pen, and resolved to make this immense calculation. I found with horror, that for these thirty millions that were given to his majesty, there were drawn from the purses of the subjects—I almost blush to say it—150 millions. After this I was no longer ignorant whence the misery of the people proceeded. I then applied my cares to the authors of this oppression, who were the governors and other officers of the army, as well as the civil magistrates and officers of the revenue; who all, even to the meanest, abused in an enormous manner the authority their employments gave them over the people; and I caused an arrêt of council to be drawn up, by which they were forbidden, under great penalties, to exact anything from the people, under any title whatever, without a warrant in form, beyond what they were obliged to on account of their share of the tallies and other subsidies settled by the king.'
This vigorous measure drew down upon Sully a storm of abuse from all those who were engaged in the collection of the revenues; but perseverance, and the co-operation of the king in his views, accomplished his object. The hungry courtiers, cut out by this and other economical reforms of Sully from their usual sources of income, fell upon methods to make up for the loss. One of these was to prevail upon the king to grant them monopolies in particular departments of trade. "When this trick was once found out,' says Sully, there was nothing that promised profit which did not get into the brain of one or other of those who thought they had a right to some favour from the king : interest gave every man invention, and the kingdom began to swarm with petty monopolies, which, though singly of little consequence, yet all together were very detrimental to the public.' Sully's earnest and frequent representations to the king put a stop to this vicious practice. The following is an account of what occurred in one instance in which the king had granted such a monopoly. The Count de Soissons petitioned the king for a grant of fifteenpence, as duty on every bale of goods exported-a toll which he assured the king would not amount to more than 30,000 livres a year. The king, in Sully's absence, granted it; but, entertaining doubts of the propriety of what he had done, wrote to ask Sully's advice. Sully, on calculating, found that the toll given to the count would amount to no less than 300,000 crowns; besides which he was convinced it would be the ruin of the hemp and linen trade in Brittany, Normandy, and Picardy. The difficulty now was, how to recall the grant; but Sully's ingenuity suggested a way to effect it without compromising the king. This gave mortal offence to De Soissons, who not only abused Sully himself
, but sent the Marchioness de Verneuil, who had also petitioned for a similar monopoly, to abuse him too."" Truly,' said the Marchioness to Sully, 'the king will be a fool to take your advice, and offend so many great people. On whom, pray, would you have the king to confer favours, if not on his cousins and his friends ?' “What you say,' replied Sully, 'would be reasonable enough if his majesty took the money all out of his own purse; but to make a