History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume II Part 39

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[Sidenote: Charles and Catharine at Montpipeau.]

This advice, promptly and faithfully reported to Catharine by the spies she kept around the king's person,[913] was the last drop in the cup of Coligny's offences. Charles, at the time of her discovery of this fact, was absent from court, seeking a few days' recreation at Montpipeau.

Thither his mother, now really alarmed for the continuance of her influence, pursued him in precipitate haste.[914] Shutting herself up with him apart from his followers, she burst into tears and plied Charles with an artful harangue. For this woman, who had a masculine will and a heart as cold and devoid of pity as the most utter scepticism could make it, had the ability to counterfeit the feminine tenderness which she did not possess. "I had not thought it possible," she said amid her sobs to her son, who trembled like a culprit detected in his crime, "I had not thought it possible that, in return for my pains in rearing you--in return for my preservation of your crown, of which both Huguenots and Catholics were desirous of robbing you, and after having sacrificed myself and incurred such risks in your behalf, you would have been willing to make me so miserable a requital. You hide yourself from me, your mother, and take counsel of your enemies. You snatch yourself from my arms that saved you, in order to rest in the arms of those who wished to murder you. I know that you hold secret deliberations with the admiral. You desire inconsiderately to plunge into a war with Spain, and so to expose your kingdom, as well as yourself and us, a prey to 'those of the religion.'

If I am so miserable, before compelling me to witness such a sight, give me permission to withdraw to my birthplace,[915] and send away your brother, who may well style himself unfortunate in having employed his life for the preservation of yours. Give him at least time to get out of danger and from the presence of enemies made in your service--the Huguenots, who do not wish for a war with Spain, but for a French war and a subversion of all estates, which will enable them to gain a secure footing."[916]

[Sidenote: Rumors of Elizabeth's desertion of her allies.]

Such was a portion of the queen mother's crafty speech. But there was another point upon which she doubtless touched, and which she used to no little purpose. A report had reached her from England to the effect that Queen Elizabeth had decided to issue a proclamation recalling the English who had gone to Flushing to assist the patriots. The story was false; so the secretary, Sir Thomas Smith, subsequently assured Walsingham.

Elizabeth neither had done so, nor intended anything of the kind.[917] But it was wonderfully like the usual practice of Henry the Eighth's daughter, and Catharine believed it, and looked with horror at the precipice before which she stood. Deserted by her faithless ally, France was entering single-handed a contest of life or death with the world-empire of Spain.

In fact, the English ambassador ascribed to the receipt of this intelligence alone both the queen mother's tears and entreaties at Montpipeau and the king's altered policy. "Touching Flemish matters," he wrote to Lord Burleigh, "the king had proceeded to an open dealing, had he not received advertisement out of England, that her Majesty meant to revoke such of her subjects as are presently in Flanders; whereupon such of his council here as incline to Spain, have put the queen mother in such a fear, that the enterprise cannot but miscarry without the assistance of England, as she with tears had dissuaded the king for the time, who otherwise was very resolute."[918]

Catharine had not mistaken her power over the feeble intellect and the inconstant will of her son. Terrified less by the prospect of a Huguenot supremacy which she held forth, than by the menace of her withdrawal and that of Anjou, Charles, who was but too well acquainted with their cunning and ambition, admitted his fault in concealing his plans, and promised obedience for the future.[919]

[Sidenote: Charles thoroughly cast down.]

It was a sore disappointment to Admiral Coligny. The young king had, until this time, shown himself so favorable, that "commissions were granted, ready to have been sealed, for the levying of men in sundry provinces."

But he had now lost all his enthusiasm, and spoke coldly of the enterprise.[920] Gaspard de Coligny did not, however, even now lose courage or forsake the post of duty to which God and his country evidently called him. In truth, the superiority of his mental and moral constitution, less evident in prosperity, now became resplendent, and chained the attention of every beholder. "How perplexed the admiral is, who foreseeth the mischief that is like to follow, if assistance come not from above," wrote Walsingham, full of admiration, to the Earl of Leicester, "your lordship may easily guess. And surely to say truth, he never showed greater magnanimity, nor never was better followed nor more honored of those of the religion than now he is, which doth not a little appal the enemies. In this storm he doth not give over the helm. He layeth before the king and his council the peril and danger of his estate, and though he cannot obtain what he would, yet doth he obtain somewhat from him."[921]

[Sidenote: Coligny partially succeeds in reassuring him.]

So wrote that shrewd observer, Sir Francis Walsingham, just two weeks before the bloody Sunday of the massacre, and eight days before the marriage of Navarre, little suspecting, in spite of his anxiety, the flood of misery which was so soon to burst upon that devoted land. To all human foresight there was still hope that Charles, weak, nerveless, addicted to pleasure, but not yet quite lost to a sense of honor, might yet be induced to adopt a policy which would place France among the foremost champions of intellectual and civil liberty, and transfer to the north of the Pyrenees the prosperity which the Spanish monarchs had misused and had employed only as an instrument of oppression and degradation. And, indeed, Coligny was partially successful; for the impression made upon Charles by his mother's complaints and menaces at Montpipeau gradually wore away, and again he listened with apparent interest to the manly arguments of the great Huguenot leader.

[Sidenote: Elizabeth toys with dishonorable proposals from Netherlands.]

[Sidenote: Fatal results.]

Could Elizabeth at this moment have brought herself to a more noble course, could she for once have forgotten to "deal under hand," and help secretly while in public she disavowed--could she, in short, have realized for a single instant her responsibility as a great Protestant princess, and been willing to expose even her own life to peril in order to secure to the Reformation a chance of fair play, it might not even now have been too late. But what was she doing at this very moment? According to the admission of her own secretary, she was engaged in detaining volunteers from the Netherlands, on the pretext of "fearing too much disorder there through lack of some good head;" and "gently answering with a dilatory and doubtful answer" the Duke of Alva, when he demanded the revocation of the queen's subjects in Netherlands.[922] Was she projecting anything still more dishonorable? The Spanish envoy in England, Anton de Guaras, affirms it, in a letter of the thirtieth of June to the Duke of Alva; and we have no means of disproving his assertions. In his account of a private audience granted him by Queen Elizabeth, the ambassador writes: "She told me that emissaries were coming every day from Flushing to her, proposing to place the town in her hands. If it was for the service of his Majesty, and if his Majesty approved, she said that she would accept their offer.

With the English who were already there, and with others whom she would send over for the purpose, it would be easy for her to take entire possession of the place, and she would then make it over to the Duke of Alva or to any one whom the duke would appoint to receive it."[923] Guaras can scarcely be suspected of misrepresenting the conversation upon so important a topic and in a confidential communication to the Spanish Governor of the Netherlands. The most charitable construction of Elizabeth's words seems to be that they were a clumsy attempt to propitiate the duke "with a dilatory answer," as Sir Thomas Smith somewhat euphemistically expresses it, and that she had no intention of making good her engagements. But it was a sad blunder on her part, and likely to be ruinous to her friends, the French Protestants. Alva was not slow in concluding that Elizabeth's offer was of greater value as documentary proof of her untrustworthy character, than as a means of recovering Flushing. "There is no positive proof," remarks the historian to whom we are indebted for an acquaintance with the letter of Guaras, "that Alva communicated Elizabeth's offers to the queen mother and the King of France, but he was more foolish than he gave the world reason to believe him to be if he let such a weapon lie idle in his writing-desk."[924] And so that inconstant, unprincipled Italian woman, on whose fickle purpose the fate of thousands was more completely dependent than even her contemporaries as yet knew, at last reached the definite persuasion that Elizabeth was preparing to play her false, at the very moment when Coligny was hurrying her son into war with Spain. Even if France should prove victorious, Catharine's own influence would be thrown into perpetual eclipse by that of the admiral and his associates. This result the queen mother resolved promptly to forestall, and for that purpose fell back upon a scheme which had probably been long floating dimly in her mind.

[Sidenote: Memoires de Michel de la Huguerye.]

The _Memoires inedits de Michel de la Huguerye_, of which the first volume was recently published (Paris, 1877), under the auspices of the National Historical Society, present some interesting points, and deserve a special reference. At first sight, the disclosures, with which the author tells us he was favored, would seem to establish the bad faith of the court in entering upon the peace of St. Germain, and the long premeditation of the succeeding massacre. A closer examination of the facts, assuming La Huguerye's thorough veracity, shows that this is a mistake. La Huguerye may, indeed, have been informed by companions on the way to Italy, who supposed him to be a partisan of the Guises, that a great blow would be struck at the Huguenots when the proper time arrived; and La Huguerye may have been confident that he was telling the truth, when, about Martinmas (November 11th), 1570, he stated to De Briquemault, that "the king, seeing that he could not attain his object by way of arms without greatly weakening--nay, endangering his kingdom, had resolved upon taking another road, by which, in a single day, he would cleanse his whole state." He may have been assured, on what he deemed good authority, that the Pope was in the plot, and would keep the King of Spain from doing anything that might interfere with the execution, and have inferred that, the peace being a treacherous one, the only hope of the Huguenots lay in skilfully enlisting Charles in its maintenance, contrary to his original purpose. So he was confirmed in his belief by the contents of the despatches of the Spanish ambassador at the French court, treacherously submitted to the Huguenots by an unfaithful agent of the envoy. But the former statements were, at most, little better than rumors, to which the circumstances of the hour gave color. The air was full of dark hints; but, apparently, they had no more solid foundation than the fact that, in an age abounding in perfidious schemes, the Protestants had already placed themselves partially in the power of their great enemies, and were likely soon to be more completely in their hands. The information received by La Huguerye was a very different thing from an authoritative avowal of a concealed purpose made by Catharine or by Charles himself. On the other hand, the assurances in the Spanish despatches were just of the same general nature as others with which the French government endeavored to quiet Philip, Alva, and the Roman pontiff himself.

The only other peculiarity of La Huguerye to which I shall allude is his studied misrepresentation of the character of Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre. Contrary to the uniform portraiture given by contemporaries of both religious parties, she here appears as "an inconsiderate woman (femme legere), with little forethought," "known to be jealous of the authority of the admiral," "whom she thwarted by her authority as much as was possible, at whatever cost or danger it might be." She had "intermeddled with affairs in the last war, unsolicited and of her own accord, not so much for conscience'

sake, as because of the hatred her house bore to the popes, sole cause of the loss of the kingdom of Navarre, and especially through jealousy of the late Prince of Conde, whom she saw to be in the enjoyment of such credit, and to be so well followed, that she suspected great injury might result to her son in the event of his succession to the throne." She was, consequently, "not very sorry" to hear of Conde's death at Jarnac. Having been disappointed in securing for her son the sole (nominal) command of the Huguenots, she vented her vengeance upon Coligny, whom she held responsible for the association of the young Conde in the leadership with his cousin. From that time forward she took every opportunity to cross the admiral, with the view of compelling him to retire in disgust from the management of affairs. In one of the speeches--Sallustian, I suspect--in which the Memoires abound, Count Louis of Nassau is represented as lamenting: "It is a great pity to have to do with a woman who has no other counsel than her own head, which is too little and light (legere) to contain so many reasons and precautions, and who is of such weight in matters of so great consequence. And the mischief is that she has such an aversion to the admiral through foolish jealousy," etc. At last the admiral is goaded on to unpardonable imprudence. In the spring of 1572 he yields to the importunities of Marshal Cosse, and goes from La Rochelle to the royal court at Blois: "weary of being near this princess, he exposed himself to the evident peril, of which he had had advices and arguments enough."

To all this misrepresentation, the remarks of La Huguerye's editor, the Baron de Ruble, are a sufficient answer: "No other historian of the period, Catholic or Huguenot, has accused the Queen of Navarre of so much jealousy, frivolity, and spite. To the calumnies of La Huguerye we should oppose the verdict which every impartial judge can pronounce respecting this princess, in accordance with the letters published by the Marquis de Rochambeau and the testimony of contemporaries."


[792] "La Royne et mons de Morvillier trettent eus deus seulz avecques eus, _ce sont aujourdhuy les grans cous_." See two important letters of Lorraine to his sister-in-law, the Duchess of Nemours, April 24th and May 1, 1570, in Soldan, Geschichte d. Prot. in Frank., ii. Appendix, 593, 594, from MSS. of the Bibliotheque nationale.

[793] "Though of late the Cardinal of Lorrain hath had access to the king's presence, yet is he not repaired in credit, neither dealeth he in government." Walsingham to Leicester, Aug. 29, 1570, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, p. 8.

[794] Ibid., _ubi supra_. Yet it is but fair to add that Walsingham notes that "the great conference that is between the queen mother and the cardinal breedeth some doubt of some practise to impeach the same."

[795] Letter of April 23, 1570, Pii Quinti Epistolae, 272.

[796] Relations des Amb. Ven. (Tommaseo), ii. 110. Correro's relation is of 1569.

[797] Baschet, La diplomatie venitienne, p. 518.

[798] The only account of this striking occurrence which I have seen is given by Jehan de la Fosse, p. 122.

[799] Walsingham and Norris to Elizabeth, Jan. 29, 1571, Digges, 24.

[800] "The best ground of continuance," he writes to Leicester, "that I can learn, by those that can best judge, is the king's own inclination, which is thought sincerely to be bent that way." Jan. 28, 1571, Digges, 28.

[801] "Thus, sir, you see, for that he is not settled in religion, how he is carried away with worldly respects, a common misery to those of his calling." Ibid., 30.

[802] Walsingham to Leicester, Aug. 29, 1570, Digges, 8.

[803] De Thou, iv. 330-333. See Digges, 30.

[804] Letter of the Queen of Navarre to the queen mother, Dec. 17, 1570, Rochambeau, Lettres d'Antoine de Bourbon et de Jehanne d'Albret (Paris, 1877), 306. A few lines of this admirable paper (which is, however, much mutilated) may be quoted as having an almost prophetic significance: "Et vous diray, Madame, les larmes aus yeulx, avecq une afection pure et entiere que, s'il ne plaist au Roy et a vous nous aseureur nos tristes demandes, que je ne puis esperer qu'une treve ... en ce royaulme par ceste guerre siville, car nous y mourrons tous plustost que quiter nostre Dieu et nostre religion, laquelle nous ne pouvons tenir sans exersise, non plus qu'un corps ne saure vivre sans boire et manger.... Je vous en ay dit le seul moyen; ayes pitie de tant de sang repandu, de tant d'impietes commises en la ... de ceste guerre et _que vous ne pourrez bien d'un seul mot faire cesser_." "Et sur cella, Madame, je supliray Dieu qui tient les cueurs des Roys en sa main disposer celui du Roi et le vostre a mectre le repos en ce royaulme a sa gloire et contentement de Vos Majestes, _maugre le complot de M. le Cardinal de Lorrayne_, dont il a descouvert la trame a Villequagnon," etc.

[805] Discours du massacre fait a Orange, from the Mem. de l'etat de France sous Charles IX., Archives curieuses, vi. 459-470; De Thou, iv.


[806] Floquet, Histoire du Parlement du Normandie, iii. 87-112, whose account is in great part derived from the registers of the parliament and the archives of the Hotel de Ville of Rouen. De Thou, iv. (liv. l.) 483, certainly greatly underestimates the number of Protestants killed, when he limits it to _five_.

[807] See _ante_, chapter xvi.

[808] Jehan de la Fosse (Sept., 1571), 132.

[809] Ibid. (Nov., 1571), 133.

[810] Jehan de la Fosse (Dec., 1571), 134.

[811] Agrippa d'Aubigne, ii. 4 (liv. i., c. 1); De Thou, iv. (liv. l.) 487-489; Discours de ce qui avint touchant la Croix de Gastines (from Mem.

de l'etat de Charles IX.), in Cimber et Danjou, Arch. cur., vi. 475, 476; Jehan de la Fosse, _ubi supra_. According to the recently published journal of La Fosse, Charles the Ninth expressed himself to the preachers of Paris, who had come to remonstrate with him in language which may at first sight appear somewhat suspicious: "attestant ledict roy vouloir vivre et mourir en la religion de ses predecesseurs roys, religion catholique et romaine, toutefois qu'il avoit fait abattre la croix pour certaine cause laquelle il vouloit taire et avoir faict plusieurs choses contre sa conscience, toutefois par contrainte a cause du temps, et supplioit les predicateurs n'avoir mauvaise opinion de luy" (pp. 138, 139). There is good reason, however, to believe that the secret reason which the king was unwilling to name was not a contemplated massacre of the Protestants, but rather the Navarrese and English marriages, and the war with Spain in the Netherlands.

[812] Walsingham to Burleigh, Dec. 7, 1571, Digges, p. 151. "Marshal Montmorency repaired to this town the third of this moneth accompanied with 300 horse. The next day after his arrival he and the Marshal de Coss conferred with the chief of this town about the plucking down of the cross, which was resolved on, and the same put in execution, the masons employed in that behalf being guarded by certain harquebusiers."

[813] Queen Elizabeth was born September 7, 1533; Henry was born in September, 1551 (the day is variously given as the 18th, 19th, and 21st), and was just nineteen.

[814] Letter of Catharine to La Mothe Fenelon, Oct. 20, 1570, Correspondance diplomatique, vii. 143-146.

[815] Despatch of La Mothe Fenelon, Dec. 29, 1570. Ibid., vol. iii. 418, 419.

[816] And with a freedom which might be mistaken for Arcadian simplicity, did we not know that innocence was no characteristic of either court in that age. "J'en cognoissoys ung," he told her, "qui estoit nay a tant de sortes de vertu, qu'il ne failloit doubter qu'elle n'en fut fort honnoree et singulierement bien aymee, et dont j'espererois qu'au bout de neuf mois apres, elle se trouveroit mere d'ung beau filz," etc. La Mothe Fenelon, iii. 439, 454, 455.

[817] Despatch to Cecil, Jan. 28, 1571, Digges, 26.

[818] Ibid., 27.

History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume II Part 39

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