Billeder på siden

south of the Pyrenees, and which alone at the present day retains the name of Navarre, he annexed to Spain, leaving the smaller portion lying north of the Pyrenees to the legitimate sovereign, Catharine de Foix, the wife of Jean d'Albret, a French noble. The kingdom of Navarre thus reduced, was inherited by her son, Henry d'Albret, who formed a matrimonial alliance with Margaret, the favourite sister of Francis I. king of France. The only issue of this marriage was a daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, a lady of great beauty, and possessed of extraordinary spirit and strength of character. When of age, the heiress of Navarre married Antony de Bourbon, a relation of the royal family of France, a frank and courageous soldier, but not distinguished by any uncommon abilities. The old king of Navarre, Henry d'Albret, looked anxiously for the fruit of this union, praying that God would send him a grandson to inherit his honours, and to avenge the family wrongs upon Spain. It appeared as if he would be disappointed, for two sons, to whom his daughter gave birth successively, died in infancy. At length, however, the long-desired grandson came into the world in our hero, Henry IV.

Some curious particulars are related respecting Henry's birth, The old king being desirous that the heir of Navarre should be born within the dominions to which he was to succeed, his daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, in compliance with his wishes, traversed the whole of France, and arrived at Pau only a few days before her son was born. As the time approached, her father made her promise that, in the hour of trial, she would sing him a song, in order, as he said, that the child she was to bring him might neither weep nor make

wry faces. The princess had fortitude enough, in the midst of her pains, to keep her word, and sang a song in Bearnois, her own country language. As soon as Henry entered the chamber, the child came into the world without crying; and his grandfather immediately carried him to his own apartment, and there rubbed his little lips with a clove of garlic, and made him suck some wine out of a gold cup, with the notion that it would make his constitution strong and vigorous.

By his grandfather's directions, the young prince was removed to the castle of Coarraze, situated among rocks and mountains, that he might be brought up in the same hardy manner as the children of the peasants of Béarn. He was accustomed to run bare-headed and bare-footed among the hills, to climb up and down the rocks, to wrestle and run with the boys of his own age, and to live on the common fare of the peasants-brown bread, beef, cheese, and garlic—such being his grandfather's notion of the proper physical education for a prince who had to reconquer the kingdom of his ancestors. Before Henry was two years old, however, his grandfather died, and Antony de Bourbon, in the right of his wife, Jeanne d'Albret, succeeded to the title of king of Navarre.

While Henry was still a boy, acquiring a robust constitution among the mountains of Béarn, some important movements took place in France, which greatly affected his future life. At this period—the latter part of the sixteenth century-almost every country in Europe was less or more agitated by religious distractions. The doctrines of the Reformation propagated by Luther, Calvin, and others, between the years 1520 and 1530, had already overthrown the ancient religious institutions of England and Scotland, and things seemed to have a similar tendency in France. In this latter country, the Protestants, locally known by the name of Huguenots, were very numerous ; they had at their head many noble families, including the Prince of Condé, Admiral de Coligny, and the House of Navarre ; and aspired to effect changes in the religion of the state similar to those which had been successfully achieved in the British Islands. Against this reforming party, the influence of the church, the royal family, and the most powerful nobles, among whom the House of Guise stood conspicuous, was brought to bear. It is exceedingly difficult for us, in the present age of mutual forbearance and toleration, to estimate the precise temper and tendencies of the parties to which we refer. On the one side, there seems to have been a disposition to maintain and enforce the continuance of the ancient form of faith, to the extent of a universal uniformity, at whatever sacrifice of life. On the other, there appears to have been an equally resolute determination not only to hold by the modes of faith newly adopted, but to propagate them unreservedly, although perishing in the struggle. As calm reason was not a feature of the age, and as mutual concessions would have been considered temporising and sinful, the whole question resolved itself into one of force—the law of the strongest over the weakest -a curious and melancholy instance of the manner in which the religion of peace and good-will may be perverted to purposes of aggression and bloodshed.

The mutual animosity of the contending parties was precipitated into an open war by the death of Francis II. (husband of Mary Queen of Scots) in December 1560. The crown was now assumed by Charles IX., the brother of Francis; but as Charles was only a boy of twelve years of age, the government was in reality conducted by his mother, Catharine de Medici, a crafty and unscrupulous bigot. Aided and counselled by the Duke of Guise, Marshal Saint André, and, strange to say, the king of Navarre, who deserted his cause on the occasion, Catharine now commenced a war of extermination of the Protestants. Battles were fought, towns besieged, and scenes of cruelty and bloodshed occurred such as are never heard of except in those wars in which religious bigotry plays a principal part. One of the towns possessed by the Huguenots was Rouen, in Normandy. It was besieged by a Catholic army commanded by the king of Navarre : the town was taken, but at the expense of the king of Navarre's life. Having received a musketball in the shoulder, he desired to be removed to St Maur, near Paris ; but died on the way, on the 17th of November 1562. His death was speedily followed by that of Marshal Saint André, who was killed at the battle of Dreux, on the 19th of December 1562 ; and the Duke of Guise, who was shot by an assassin while commanding at the siege of Orleans in February 1563. The loss of these three leaders, the last in particular, was a heavy blow to the Catholic party; and the queen-regent was glad to come to terms with the Huguenots. The result was the edict of Amboise, dated 19th March 1563, by which, with certain restrictions, which gave great dissatisfaction to Calvin, Beza, and other eminent Reformed ministers, the free exercise of their religion was secured to the Protestants. Thus, for a time at least, peace was restored to the country.

Meanwhile, the young Prince of Navarre and his mother, Jeanne d'Albret, were residing in Béarn, where the latter fully carried out the intentions of her deceased father with regard to the education of his grandson. Delighting to see him excel the young Basque peasants in their exercises of strength and agility, she employed herself in adding to those bodily accomplishments such mental training as his years fitted him to receive. Professing her attachment to Protestantism even more openly now in her widowhood, than when her husband was alive, she endeavoured to fill the mind of the young prince with her own religious ideas and feelings. She had secured as his preceptor La Gaucherie, a learned man, and a strict Protestant. This judicious person made it his aim to instruct his pupil not so much by the ordinary methods of grammar, as by hints and conversations. It was his practice also to make the boy commit to memory any fine passage which inculcated a noble or kingly sentiment ; such, for instance, as the following:

Over their subjects princes bear the rule ;

But God, more mighty, governs kings themselves. After a few years' attendance on the young prince, La Gaucherie died, and was succeeded as tutor by Florent Chretien, a man of distinguished abilities, and as zealous a Protestant as his predecessor. Henry's studies under this master were of a kind suitable to his years and prospects. He wrote a translation, we are told, of the Commentaries of Cæsar, and read with avidity the Lives of Plutarch, a book which is celebrated as having kindled the enthusiasm of many heroic minds.

As was foreseen, the war between the Catholics and the Huguenots again broke out. It began in September 1567, and continued till March 1568, when a treaty was agreed to, somewhat favourable to the Protestants. Again cause for dissension was unhappily found, and a still more fierce war broke out in the winter of 1568-69. The town of Rochelle, on the west coast of France, was chosen as the head-quarters of the Protestants. Hither most of the leading Huguenots came, bringing supplies of men and money; among others the queen of Navarre, who offered her son, now arrived at an age when he was capable of bearing arms, as a gift to the Protestant cause. Condé and Coligny immediately acknowledged the prince as the natural chief of the Huguenots; but as he was too young to assume the command, they continued to act as generalsin-chief.

In this horrible civil war, the Prince of Condé was killed in a desperate battle, in which the Protestants were defeated. Coligny, with the remains of the army, retreated to Cognac. In order to prevent the murmurs which might arise among the Huguenot chiefs if he assumed the place of commander-in-chief, he resolved that the Prince of Navarre should be formally proclaimed leader of the Protestants. By his desire, the queen of Navarre left Rochelle, and appearing before the assembled army, accompanied by her son, then in his sixteenth year, and his cousin Henry, son of the deceased Condé, she delivered a touching address to the soldiers, and concluded by asking them to accept as their future leaders the two young princes. Amid the acclamations of the whole army, the officers, with Coligny at their head, swore to be faithful to the Prince of Béarn, who, on the other hand, took an oath of fidelity to the Protestant cause. In the meantime, however, the real direction of affairs remained in the hands of the great Coligny, whose responsibilities were increased by the death of his brother and adviser, D'Andelot.

A second battle which Coligny hazarded at Moncontour, in Poitou, was as unfortunate for the Protestants as that already fought. During this battle, Henry of Navarre and his cousin, the young Prince of Condé, were stationed on an eminence, under the protection of Louis of Nassau, with four thousand men, the admiral being fearful of exposing them to the enemy. At one point of the battle, when the Protestants were giving way, the prince, whose impetuosity could hardly be restrained, was eager that they should leave their post, and advance to assist their friends. The movement would probably have saved the day; but Louis of Nassau would not disobey the orders which he had received froin the admiral. “We lose our advantage, then,' said the prince, and the battle in consequence.'

The fortunes of the Protestants were now at their lowest ebb; and had the Catholic generaļs vigorously pursued their advantage, their triumph might have been complete. As it was, nothing effectual was done on either side, and on the 15th of August 1570, a peace was concluded at St Germain-en-Laye, the terms of which were, amnesty to the Protestants for past offences, liberty of worship in two towns of every province in France, the restoration of all confiscated property, and admissibility to the principal offices of state.

The long-harassed Huguenots were now, to all appearance, in a

position which promised undisturbed tranquillity. Appearances, however, were deceitful; and from the dreadful event which ensued, there is every reason to believe that the peace of St Germain-en-Laye was concluded with the treacherous purpose of throwing the Protestants off their guard, in order to procure their extermination by a way much shorter and more effectual than that of open battle. At all events, it was not long after the peace was concluded, before the diabolical scheme of exterminating the Protestants of France by a general massacre was agreed upon between the king, the queenmother, the Duke of Anjou, and a few of the more bigoted Catholics about the court. . With whom this horrible plot originated, cannot now be ascertained, but it appears probable that it was with Catharine de' Medici.

The confederates in this dreadful scheme 'kept it a profound secret, doing their best to ripen matters for its full execution. For this purpose, the king and queen-mother behaved with the utmost appearance of cordiality to the Protestant leaders, as if differences of religion were completely forgotten ; and in order, as it were, to betoken the friendly union of the two parties, a matrimonial alliance was proposed between Henry of Navarre and the king's sister Margaret. Deceived by the duplicity of the queen-mother, the Protestant leaders consented to the marriage, and flocked to Paris from all parts of the country to witness its celebration. The marriage was delayed by the death of Jeanne d'Albret, the bridegroom's mother, but took place on the 18th of August 1572—the ceremony being performed publicly in front of the cathedral of Notre-Dame.

For four days after the marriage, all Paris was occupied with festivities and amusements; and it appears to have been during these that the precise method of putting the long-projected massacre in execution was resolved upon. The plan was as follows: The Admiral de Coligny was to be first assassinated—the assassination being so conducted that the Guises should appear to be the guilty parties; in this case, the Huguenots would seek to take revenge, the city would be in an uproar, the Parisians would take part with the Guises, and, with the help of troops, it would be easy to manage the turmoil so as to secure the deaths of all such persons as it was desirable should not survive. 'I consent,' said the king, 'to the admiral's death ; but let there not remain one Huguenot to reproach me with it afterwards.'

On Friday the 22d of August 1572, the Admiral de Coligny, returning from the Louvre, was attacked and wounded, but not mortally. No time was now to be lost, as the alarmed Protestants were beginning to quit Paris. Accordingly, while pretending the utmost horror at the crime which had been committed, and their resolution to punish it, the king and the queen-mother were consulting what ought to be done. The following was the plan resolved upon on Saturday evening : To-morrow, Sunday, the 24th of August, was the feast of

« ForrigeFortsæt »