History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume II Part 44
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One of Coligny's Swiss guards had been shot at the foot of the stairs.
When Cosseins had removed the barricade of boxes that had been erected farther up, the Swiss in his own company, whose uniform of green, white, and black, showed them to belong to the Duke of Anjou, found their countrymen on the other side, but did them no harm. Cosseins following them, however, no sooner saw these armed men, than he ordered his arquebusiers to shoot, and one of them fell dead. It was a German follower of Guise, named Besme, who first reached and entered Coligny's chamber, and who for the exploit was subsequently rewarded with the hand of a natural daughter of the Cardinal of Lorraine. Cosseins, Attin, Sarlaboux, and others, were behind him. "Is not this the admiral?" said Besme of the wounded man, whom he found quietly seated and awaiting his coming. "I am he," Coligny calmly replied. "Young man, thou oughtest to have respect for my old age and my feebleness; but thou shalt not, nevertheless, shorten my life." There were those who asserted that he added: "At least, would that some man, and not this blackguard, put me to death." But most of the murderers--and among them Attin, who confessed that never had he seen any one more assured in the presence of death--affirmed that Coligny said nothing beyond the words first mentioned. No sooner had Besme heard the admiral's reply, than, with a curse, he struck him with his sword, first in the breast, and then on the head. The rest took part, and quickly despatched him.
In the court below, Guise was impatiently waiting to hear that his mortal enemy was dead. "Besme," he cried out at last, "have you finished?" "It is done," the assassin replied. "Monsieur le Chevalier (the Bastard of Angouleme) will not believe it," again said Guise, "unless he sees him with his own eyes. Throw him out of the window!" Besme and Sarlaboux promptly obeyed the command. When the lifeless remains lay upon the pavement of the court, Henry of Guise stooped down and with his handkerchief wiped away the blood from the admiral's face. "I recognize him," he said; "it is he himself!" Then, after ignobly kicking the face of his fallen antagonist, he went out gayly encouraging his followers: "Come, soldiers, take courage; we have begun well. Let us go on to the others, for so the king commands!" And often through the day Guise repeated the words, "The king commands; it is the king's pleasure; it is his express command!" Just then a bell was heard, and the cry was raised that the Huguenots were in arms to kill the king.
As for Admiral Coligny's body, after the head had been cut off by an Italian of the guard of the Duke de Nevers, the trunk was treated with every indignity. The hands were cut off, and it was otherwise mutilated in a shameless manner. Three days was it dragged about the streets by a band of inhuman boys. Meantime the head had been carried to the Louvre, where, after Catharine and Charles had sufficiently feasted their eyes on the spectacle, it was embalmed and sent to Rome, a grateful present to the Cardinal of Lorraine and Pope Gregory the Thirteenth. It has been questioned whether the ghastly trophy ever reached its destination.
Indeed, the French court seems to have become ashamed of its inhumanity, and to have regretted that so startling a token of its barbarous hatred had been allowed to go abroad. Accordingly, soon after the departure of the courier, a second courier was despatched in great haste to Mandelot, governor of Lyons, bidding him stop the first and take away from him the admiral's head. He arrived too late, however; four hours before Mandelot received the king's letter, "a squire of the Duke of Guise, named Pauli,"
had passed through the city, doubtless carrying the precious relic.
That it was actually placed in the hands of the Cardinal of Lorraine at Rome, need not be doubted.
[Sidenote: Coligny's character and work.]
Gaspard de Coligny was in his fifty-sixth year at the time of his death.
For twelve years he had been the most prominent man in the Huguenot party, occupying a position secured to him not more by his resplendent abilities as a general than by the respect exacted by high moral principles. With the light and frivolous side of French character he had little in common.
It was to a sterner and more severe class that he belonged--a class of which Michel de l'Hospital might be regarded as the type. Men who had little affinity with them, and bore them still less resemblance, but who could not fail to admire their excellence, were wont to liken both the great Huguenot warrior and the chancellor to that Cato whose grave demeanor and imposing dignity were a perpetual censure upon the flippancy and lax morality of his countrymen. Although not above the ordinary height of men, his appearance was dignified and commanding. In speech he was slow and deliberate. His prudence, never carried to the extreme of over-caution, was signalized on many occasions. Success did not elate him; reverses did not dishearten him. The siege of the city of St. Quentin, into which he threw himself with a handful of troops, and which he long defended against the best soldiers of Spain, displayed on a conspicuous stage his military sagacity, his indomitable determination, and the marvellous control he maintained over his followers. It did much to prevent Philip from reaping more substantial fruits from the brilliant victory gained by Count Egmont on the feast-day of St. Lawrence. It was, however, above all in the civil wars that his abilities shone forth resplendent. Equally averse to beginning war without absolute necessity, and to ending it without securing the objects for which it had been undertaken, he was the good genius whose wholesome advice was frequently disregarded, but never without subsequent regret on the part of those who had slighted it. We have seen, in a former chapter, the touching account given by Agrippa d'Aubigne of the appeal of the admiral's wife, which alone was successful in moving him to overcome his almost invincible repugnance to taking up arms, even in behalf of a cause which he knew to be most holy. I find a striking confirmation of the accuracy of the report in a passage of his will, wherein he defends himself from the calumnies of his enemies. "And forasmuch as I have learned that the attempt has been made to impute to me a purpose to attack the persons of the king, the queen, and the king's brothers, I protest before God that I never had any such will or desire, and that I never was present at any place where such plans were ever proposed or discussed. And as I have also been accused of ambition in taking up arms with those of the reformed religion, I make the same protestation, that only zeal for religion, together with fear for my own life, compelled me to assume them. And, indeed, I must confess my weakness, and that the greatest fault which I have always committed in this respect has been that I have not been sufficiently alive to the acts of injustice and the slaughter to which my brethren were subjected, and that the dangers and the traps that were laid for myself were necessary to move me to do what I have done. But I also declare before God, that I tried every means in my power, in order so long as possible to maintain peace, fearing nothing so much as civil disturbances and wars, and clearly foreseeing that these would bring after them the ruin of this kingdom, whose preservation I have always desired and labored for to the utmost of my ability."
To Coligny's strategy too much praise could scarcely be accorded. The Venetian ambassador, Contarini, in the report of his mission to the senate, in the early part of the year 1572, expressed his amazement that the admiral, a simple gentleman with slender resources, had waged war against his own powerful sovereign, who was assisted by the King of Spain and by a few German and several Italian princes; and that, in spite of many battles lost, he preserved so great a reputation that the reiters and lansquenets never rebelled, although their wages were much in arrears, and their booty was often lost in adverse combats. He was, in fact, said the enthusiastic Italian, entitled to be held in higher esteem than Hannibal, inasmuch as the Carthaginian general retained the respect of foreign nations by being uniformly victorious; but the admiral retained it, although his cause was almost always unsuccessful.
But all Coligny's military achievements pale in the light of his manly and unaffected piety. It is as a type of the best class among the Huguenot nobility that he deserves everlasting remembrance. From his youth he had been plunged in the engrossing pursuits of a soldier's life; but he was not ashamed, so soon as he embraced the views of the reformers, to acknowledge the superior claims of religion upon his time and his allegiance. He gloried in being a Christian. The influence of his faith was felt in every action of his life. In the busiest part of an active life, he yet found time for the recognition of God; and, whether in the camp or in his castle of Chatillon-sur-Loing, he consecrated no insignificant portion of the day to devotion. Of the ordinary life of Admiral Coligny, the anonymous author of his Life, who had himself been an inmate in his house, has left an interesting description, derived from what he himself saw and heard:
"As soon as he had risen from bed, which was always at an early hour, putting on his morning-gown, and kneeling, as did those who were with him, he himself prayed in the form which is customary with the churches of France. After this, while waiting for the commencement of the sermon, which was delivered on alternate days, accompanied with psalmody, he gave audience to the deputies of the churches who were sent to him, or devoted the time to public business. This he resumed for a while after the service was over, until the hour for dinner. When that was come, such of his domestic servants as were not prevented by necessary engagements elsewhere, met in the hall where the table was spread, standing by which, with his wife at his side, if there had been no preaching service, he engaged with them in singing a psalm, and then the ordinary blessing was said.
"On the removal of the cloth, rising and standing with his wife and the rest of the company, he either returned thanks himself or called on his minister to do so. Such, also, was his practice at supper, and, finding that the members of his household could not, without much discomfort, attend prayers so late as at bedtime--an hour, besides, which the diversity of his occupations prevented from being regularly fixed--his orders were that, so soon as supper was over, a psalm should be sung and prayer offered. It cannot be told how many of the French nobility began to establish this religious order in their own families, after the example of the admiral, who used often to exhort them to the practice of true piety, and to warn them that it was not enough for the father of a family to live a holy and religious life, if he did not by his example bring all his people to the same rule.
"On the approach of the time for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, calling together all the members of his household, he told them that he had to render an account to God, not only of his own life, but also of their behavior, and reconciled such of them as might have had differences.... Moreover, he regarded the institution of colleges for youth, and of schools for the instruction of children, a singular benefit from God, and called the school a seminary of the church and an apprenticeship of piety; holding that ignorance of letters had introduced into both church and state that thick darkness in which the tyranny of the Pope had had its birth and increase.... This conviction led him to lay out a large sum in building a college at Chatillon, and there he maintained three very learned professors of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, respectively, and a number of students.
"There could not be a stronger proof of his integrity, and of the moderation of his desires with respect to the possession of property, than that, notwithstanding the high offices he held, and the opportunities they afforded, as is usual with courtiers, of attending to his own interests and acquiring great wealth, he did not increase his patrimonial estates by a single acre; and, although he was an excellent economist, yet the number of persons of high rank, and, indeed, of all conditions, that came to consult him on public affairs from all parts of France, obliged him to draw largely on the savings effected by his good management; so that he left to his heirs not less than forty thousand livres of debts, besides six thousand livres of interest which he paid annually to his creditors."
Such was the Christian hero whom his enemies represented as breathing out menaces upon the bed on which Maurevel's arquebuse had laid him, and as exclaiming: "If my arm is wounded, my head is not. If I have to lose my arm, I shall get the head of those who are the cause of it. They intended to kill me; I shall anticipate them." Such was the disinterested patriot whom, in the infatuation of their lying fabrications, the murderers of Paris, their hands still reeking with the blood of thousands of women and children incontestably innocent of any crime laid to the charge of their husbands or fathers, pictured as plotting the wholesale assassination of the royal family--even to the very Henry of Navarre whose wedding he had come to honor by his presence--that he might place upon the throne of France that stubborn heretic, the Prince of Conde!
[Sidenote: Murder of Huguenot nobles in the Louvre.]
While the murder of Coligny was in course of execution, or but shortly after, a tragedy not less atrocious was enacted in the royal palace itself. A number of Huguenot gentlemen of the highest distinction were lodged in the Louvre. Charles, after the admiral's wound, had suggested to the King of Navarre that he would do well to invite some of his friends to act as a guard against any attack that might be made upon him by the Duke of Guise, whom he characterized as a "mauvois garcon." Late on Saturday night, as Margaret of Valois informs us in her Memoirs, and long after she and her husband had retired, these Huguenot lords, gathered around Henry of Navarre's bed to the number of thirty, had discussed the occurrences of the last two eventful days, and declared their purpose to go to the king on the morrow and demand the punishment of the Guises.
Margaret herself had been purposely kept in ignorance of the plan for the extirpation of the Protestants. For, if the Huguenots suspected her, because she was a Roman Catholic, the papists suspected her equally because she had married a Protestant. On parting with her mother for the night, her elder sister Claude, Duchess of Lorraine, who happened to be on a visit to the French court, had vainly attempted to detain Margaret, expressing with tears the apprehension that some evil would befall her.
But Catharine had peremptorily sent her to bed, assuring her with words which, seen in the light of subsequent revelations, approach the climax of profanity: "That, if God pleased, she would receive no injury." So deep was the impression of impending danger made upon Margaret's mind, that she remained awake, she tells us, until morning, when her husband arose, saying that he would go and divert himself with a game of tennis until Charles should awake. After his departure, the Queen of Navarre, relieved of her misgivings, as the night was now spent, ordered her maid to lock her door, and composed herself to sleep.
Meantime the Protestant gentlemen who accompanied Navarre, and all the others who lodged in the Louvre, had been disarmed by Nancay, captain of the guard. In this defenceless condition ten or twelve of their number were conducted, one by one, to the gate of the building. Here soldiers stood in readiness, and despatched them with their halberds as they successively made their appearance. Such was the fate of the brave Pardaillan, of St. Martin, of Boursis, of Beauvais, former tutor of Henry of Navarre, and of others; some of whom in a loud voice called upon Charles, whom they saw at a window, an approving spectator of the butchery, to remember the solemn pledges he had given them. M. de Piles--that brave Huguenot captain, whose valor, if it did not save St.
Jean d'Angely in the third civil war, had at least detained the entire Roman Catholic army for seven weeks before fortifications that were none of the best, and rendered Moncontour a field barren of substantial fruits--was the object of special hatred, and his conduct was particularly remarked for its magnanimity. Observing among the bystanders a Roman Catholic acquaintance in whose honor he might perhaps confide, he stripped himself of his cloak, and would have handed it to him, with the words: "De Piles makes you a present of this; remember hereafter the death of him who is now so unjustly put to death!" "Mon capitaine," answered the other, fearful of incurring the enmity of Catharine and Charles, "I am not of the company of these persons. I thank you for your cloak; but I cannot take it upon such conditions." The next moment M. de Piles fell, pierced by the halberd of one of the archers of the guard. "These are the men,"
cried the murderers at their bloody work, "who resorted to violence, in order to kill the king afterward." One of the victims marked out for the slaughter escaped the death of his fellows. Margaret of Valois had not been long asleep, when her slumbers were rudely disturbed by loud blows struck upon the door, and shouts of "Navarre! Navarre!" Her attendant, supposing it to be Henry himself, hastily opened the door; when there rushed in instead, a Huguenot nobleman, the Viscount de Leran,
wounded in the arm by sword and halberd, and pursued by four archers. In his terror he threw himself on Margaret's bed, and when she jumped up, in doubt of what could be the meaning of this strange incident, he clung to her night-dress which was drenched with his blood. Nancay angrily reproved the indiscretion of his soldiers, and Margaret, leaving the Huguenot in her room to have his wounds dressed, suffered herself to be conducted to the chamber of her sister, the Duchess of Lorraine. It was but a few steps; but, on the way, a Huguenot was killed at three paces'
distance from her, and two others--the first gentleman of the King of Navarre, and his first valet-de-chambre--ran to her imploring her to save their lives. She sought and obtained the favor on her knees before Catharine and Charles. A few other Huguenots who were in the Louvre were ready to purchase their lives at any price, even to that of abjuring their faith. They obtained pardon on promising the king to comply with all his commands; and this, we are told, "the more easily, as Charles very well knew that they had little or no religion."
[Sidenote: Navarre and Conde spared.]
The King of Navarre and the Prince of Conde were spared, although there were not wanting those who would gladly have seen the ruin of the family of Bourbon. Navarre was brother-in-law of Charles, and Conde of the Duke of Nevers; this may have guaranteed their safety. Both of the young princes, however, were summoned into the king's presence, where Charles, acknowledging the murder of Coligny, the great cause of disturbances, and the similar acts then perpetrated throughout the city, as sanctioned by his authority, sternly told the two youths that he intended no longer to tolerate two religions in his dominions. He desired them, therefore, to conform to that creed which had been professed by all his predecessors, and which he intended to uphold. They must renounce the profane doctrines they had embraced, and return to the Catholic and Roman religion. If they refused, they must expect to suffer the treatment which had just been experienced by so many others.
The replies of the two princes were singularly unlike. Henry of Navarre, bold enough where only physical bravery was demanded, exhibited for the first time that lamentable absence of moral courage which was to render his life, in its highest relations, a splendid failure. His countenance betrayed agitation and faint-heartedness. With great "humility"--almost whining, it would appear--he begged that his own life and the life of Conde might be spared, and reminded Charles of his promised protection. "He would act," he said, "so as to satisfy his Majesty; yet he besought him to remember that conscience was a great thing, and that it was hard to renounce the religion in which one had been brought up from infancy." On the other hand, Henry of Conde, in no way abashed, declared "that he could not believe that his royal cousin intended to violate a promise confirmed by so solemn an oath. As to fealty, he had always been an obedient subject of the king, and would ever be. Touching his religion, if the king had given him the exercise of its worship, God had given him the knowledge of it; and to Him he must needs give up an account. So far as his body and his possessions were concerned, they were in the king's hands to dispose of as he might choose. Yet it was his own determination to remain constant in his religion, which he would always maintain to be the true religion, even should he be compelled to lay down his life for it." So stout an answer kindled the anger of Charles, who was in no mood to meet with opposition. He called Conde "a rebel," "a seditious man," and "the son of a seditious father," and warned him that he would lose his head, if, within three days, he should not think better of the matter.
[Sidenote: The massacre becomes general.]
And now the great bell of the "Palais de Justice" pealed forth the tocsin.
About the Louvre the work of blood had begun when Catharine, impatient, and fearful lest Charles's resolution should again waver at the last moment, gave orders to anticipate the appointed time by ringing the bell of the neighboring church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois. But now the loud and unusual clangor from the tower of the parliament house carried the warning far and wide. All Paris awoke. The conspirators everywhere recognized the stipulated signal, and spread among the excited townsmen the wildest and most extravagant reports. A foul plot, formed by the Huguenots, against the king, his mother, and his brothers, had come to light. They had killed more than fifteen of the royal guards. The king, therefore, commanded that quarter should not be given to a single Huguenot.
Nothing more was needed to inflame the popular hatred of the Huguenots, nor to prepare the rabble for an indiscriminate slaughter of the Protestants.
[Sidenote: La Rochefoucauld and Teligny fall.]
Among the earliest victims of this day of carnage was Count de la Rochefoucauld. This witty and lively young noble had been in the Louvre until a late hour on Saturday night, diverting himself with the king, with whom he was a great favorite. Apparently in his anxiety to save La Rochefoucauld's life, Charles invited, and even urged him, to spend the night in the royal "garde-robe;" but the count, suspecting no danger, insisted on returning to his lodgings, while the king reluctantly abandoned his boon companion to his fate, rather than betray his secret.
Early awakened from his sleep at his lodgings by loud knocking at the door and by demands for admission in the king's name, and seeing a band of masked men enter, he recalled Charles's threat at parting, that he would come and administer to him a whipping. The practical joke would not have been unlike many of the mad antics of the royal jester, and La Rochefoucauld, addressing himself to the person whom he supposed to be his Majesty in disguise, begged him to treat him with humanity. His deception was not long continued; for the maskers, after rifling his trunks, drew him from his place of concealment and murdered him. His lifeless body was dragged through the streets of Paris.
Teligny was, perhaps, even more unfortunate than the rest, because he awoke too late to the fact that his own blind confidance in the word of a faithless prince had been a chief instrument of involving his father-in-law and his friends in destruction. He was among the first to pay the penalty of his credulity. More than one of the parties sent to destroy him, it is said, overcome by compassion for his youth and manly beauty, or by respect for his graceful manners and extraordinary learning, left their commission unexecuted. To avoid further peril, he ascended to the roof, from which he made his way to an adjoining house; but he had not gone far before he was seen and shot with an arquebuse by one of the Duke of Anjou's guards.
[Sidenote: Self-defense of a few nobles.]
The Huguenots, attacked in the midst of their slumbers by the courtiers and the soldiers of the royal guard, among whom were prominent the Swiss of Charles or his brother, or by the people of Paris, who every moment swelled the ranks of the assassins, were too much taken by surprise to offer even the slightest resistance. Guerchy, the same gentleman who had offered his services to Coligny the night before, is almost the only man reported to have fought for his life. With his sword in his right hand, and winding his cloak around his left arm, he defended himself for a long time, though the breastplates of his enemies were proof against his blows. At last, he fell, overborne by numbers. The Lieutenant de la Mareschaussee, if not more determined, was better prepared for the combat. All day long, with a single soldier as his comrade, he defended his house against the assailants, expecting at every moment to be relieved from his perilous situation by the king. But, far from meriting such confidence on the part of his subjects, Charles was indignant at his prolonged resistance, and sent a powerful detachment of guards, with orders to bring him the lieutenant's head. The brave Huguenot, however, still maintained the unequal siege, and fought till his last breath. The soldiers had only the poor satisfaction of pillaging his house, of dragging his sick daughter naked through the streets until she died of maltreatment, and of wounding and imprisoning his wife.
[Sidenote: Victims of personal hatred.]
Personal hatred, jealousy, cupidity, mingled with religious and political zeal, and private ends were attained in fulfilling the king's murderous commands. Bussy d'Amboise, meeting his Protestant cousin, the Marquis de Renel (half-brother of the late Prince of Porcien), by a well-directed blow with his poniard rid himself of an unpleasant suit at law which Renel had come to Paris to prosecute.
[Sidenote: Adventure of young La Force.]
The case of Caumont de la Force was still more revolting. His daughter, Madame de la Chataigneraie, in accordance with the shameless code of morals in vogue at the French court, had taken for her lover Archan, captain of the guard of Henry of Anjou; and it was to gratify her covetousness that Archan obtained from the Duke the order to despatch La Force and his two sons. The plan was successfully executed so far as the father and his elder son were concerned. The second, a boy of twelve, escaped by his remarkable presence of mind and self-control. Certain that his youth would excite no pity in the breast of his inhuman assailants, when his father and his brother fell at his side and he perceived himself covered with their blood, he dropped down with the exclamation that he was dead. So perfectly did he counterfeit death, all that long day, that, although his body was examined by successive bands of plunderers, and deprived not only of every valuable, but even of its clothing, he did not by a motion betray that he was alive. Most of these persons applauded the crime. It was well, they said, to kill the little wolves with the greater.
But, toward evening, a more humane person came, who, while engaged in drawing off a stocking which had been left on the boy's foot, gave expression to his abhorrence of the bloody deed. To his astonishment the boy raised his head, and whispered, "I am not dead." The compassionate man at once commanded him not to stir, and went home; but as soon as it was dark he returned with a cloak, which he threw about young La Force's shoulders, and bade him follow. It was no easy matter to thread the streets unmolested; but his guide dispelled the suspicions of those who questioned him respecting the boy by declaring that it was his nephew whom he had found drunk, and was going to whip soundly for it. In the end the young nobleman reached the arsenal, where his relative, Marshal Biron, was in command. Even there, however, the avarice of his unnatural sister pursued him. Vexed that, on account of his preservation, she must fail to secure the entire inheritance of the family, Madame de la Chataigneraie tried to effect herself what she had not been able to do by means of another; she visited the marshal in the arsenal, and, after expressing great joy that her brother had been saved, begged to be permitted to see and care for him. Biron thought it necessary, in order to preserve the boy's life, to deny her request.
[Sidenote: Pitiless butchery.]
The frenzy that had fallen upon Paris affected all classes alike. Every feeling of pity seemed to have been blotted out. Natural affection disappeared. A man's foes were those of his own household. On the plea of religious zeal the most barbarous acts were committed. Spire Niquet, a poor bookbinder, whose scanty earnings barely sufficed to support the wants of his seven children, was half-roasted in a bonfire made of his own books, and then dragged to the river and drowned. The weaker sex was not spared in the universal carnage, and, as in a town taken by assault, suffered outrages that were worse than death. Matron and maiden alike welcomed as merciful the blow that liberated them from an existence now rendered insupportable. Women approaching maternity were selected for more excruciating torments, and savage delight was exhibited in destroying the unborn fruit of the womb. Nor was any rank respected. Madame d'Yverny, the niece of Cardinal Briconnet, was recognized, as she fled, by the costly underclothing that appeared from beneath the shabby habit of a nun which she had assumed; and, after suffering every indignity, upon her refusal to go to mass, was thrown from a bridge into the Seine and drowned.
Occasionally the women rivalled the cruelty of the men. A poor carpenter, of advanced age, with whom the author of the "Tocsain contre les massacreurs" was personally acquainted, had been taken by night and cast into the river. He swam, however, to a bridge, and succeeded in climbing up by its timbers, and so fled naked to the house of a relative near the "Cousture Sainte Catherine," where his wife had taken refuge. But, instead of welcoming him, his wife drove him away, and he was soon recaptured and killed. It is related that the daughter of one Jean de Coulogne, a mercer of the "Palais," betrayed her own mother to death, and subsequently married one of the murderers. The very innocence of childhood furnished no sufficient protection--so literally did the pious Catholics of Paris interpret the oft-repeated exhortations of their holy father to exterminate not only the roots of heresy, but the very fibres of the roots. Two infants, whose parents had just been murdered, were carried in a hod and cast into the Seine. A little girl was plunged naked in the blood of her father and mother, with horrible oaths and threats that, if she should become a Huguenot, the like fate would befall her. And a crowd of boys, between nine and ten years of age, was seen dragging through the streets the body of a babe yet in its swaddling-clothes, which they had fastened to a rope by means of a belt tied about its neck.
[Sidenote: Shamelessness of the court ladies.]
[Sidenote: Anjou encourages the assassins.]
The bodies of the more inconspicuous victims lay for hours in whatever spot they happened to be killed; but the court required ocular demonstration that the leaders of the Huguenots who had been most prominent in the late wars were really dead. Accordingly the naked corpses of Soubise, of Guerchy, of Beaudine, d'Acier's brother, and of others, were dragged from all quarters to the square in front of the Louvre.
There, as an indignant contemporary writes, extended in a long row, they lay exposed to the view of the varlets, of whom when alive they had been the terror. Cruelty and lust are twin sisters: when the one is at hand, the other is generally not far distant. The court of Catharine de'
Medici was noted for its impurity, as it was infamous for its recklessness of human life. It was not out of keeping with its general reputation that toward evening a bevy of ladies--among them the queen mother--tripped down the palace stairs to feast their eyes upon the sight of the uncovered dead. Indeed, the king, the queen mother, and their intimate friends seemed to be in an ecstasy of joy. They indulged in boisterous laughter as the successive reports of the municipal authorities, from hour to hour, brought in tidings of the extent of the massacre.
"The war is now ended in reality," they were heard to say, "and we shall henceforth live in peace." The Duke of Anjou took a more active part. In the street and on the Pont de Notre Dame he was to be seen encouraging the assassins. The Duke of Montpensier was surpassed by no one in his zealous advocacy of the murderous work. "Let every man exert himself to the utmost," he cried, as he rode through the streets, "if he wishes to prove himself a good servant to the king." Tavannes, if we may believe Brantome's account, endeavored to rival him, and, all day long, as he rode about amid the carnage, amused himself by facetiously crying to the people: "Bleed! Bleed! The doctors say that bleeding is as good in the month of August as in May."
Of the Duke of Alencon it was noticed that, alone of Catharine's sons, he took no part in the massacre. The Protestants even regarded him as their friend, and the rumor was current that the pity he exhibited excited the indignation of his mother and brothers. Indeed, Catharine, it was said, openly told him that, if he ventured to meddle with her plans, she would put him in a sack and throw him into the river.
[Sidenote: Wonderful escapes.]
Of the pastors of the Church of Paris, it was noticed as a remarkable circumstance that but two--Buirette and Desgorris--were killed; for it was certain that no lives were more eagerly sought than theirs. But several Protestant pastors had wonderful escapes. The celebrated D'Espine--the converted monk who took part in the Colloquy of Poissy--was in company with Madame d'Yverny when her disguise was discovered, but he was not recognized. In the case of Merlin, chaplain of Admiral Coligny, the divine interposition seemed almost as distinct as in that of the prophet Elijah. After reluctantly leaving Coligny, at his earnest request, and clambering over the roof of a neighboring house, he fell through an opening into a garret full of hay. Not daring to show himself, since he knew not whether he would encounter friends or foes, he remained for three days in this retreat, his sole food an egg which a hen daily laid within his reach.
The future minister of Henry the Fourth, Maximilien de Bethune, Duke of Sully, at this time a boy of twelve and a student in the college of Burgundy in Paris, has left us in his "Economies royales" a thrilling account of his escape. Awakened, about three o'clock in the morning, by the uproar in the streets, his tutor and his valet-de-chambre went out to learn the occasion of it, and never returned. They were doubtless among the first victims. Sully's trembling host--a Protestant who consented through fear to abjure his faith--now came in, and advised the youth to save his life by going to mass. Sully was not prepared to take this counsel, and, so putting on his scholar's gown, he ventured upon the desperate step of trying to reach the college. A horrible scene presented itself to view. Everywhere men were breaking into houses, or slaughtering their captives in the public streets, while the cry of "Kill the Huguenots" was heard on all sides. Sully himself owed his preservation to two thick volumes of "Heures"--Romish books of devotion--which he had the presence of mind to take under his arm, and which effectually disarmed the suspicions of the three successive bands of soldiers that stopped him. At the college, after with difficulty gaining admission, he incurred still greater danger. Happily the principal, M. Du Faye, was a kind-hearted man.
In vain was he urged, by two priests who were his guests, to surrender the Huguenot boy to death, saying that the order was to massacre even the very babes at the breast. Du Faye would not consent; and after having secretly kept Sully locked up for three days in a closet, he found means to restore him to his friends.
[Sidenote: Death of the philosopher Ramus.]
History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume II Part 44
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History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume II Part 44 summary
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