History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume I Part 16
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More than twenty thousand persons--so intense a hatred had been stirred up against the reformers--assembled to witness the execution of a sentence malignantly cruel. But, for that day, their expectation was disappointed. Louis de Berquin gave notice that he appealed to the absent king and to the Pope himself. It was no part of the programme, however, that the thrice-convicted heresiarch should gain a fresh respite and enlist powerful friends in effecting his release. No sooner were the judges satisfied that he persisted in his appeal, in spite of the secret and urgent advice of Bude and others, than they rendered a new and more severe sentence (on the seventeenth of April): he must pay the forfeit of his obstinacy with his life, and that, too, within a few hours.
The cause of this intemperate haste is clearly set forth by a contemporary--doubtless an eye-witness of the execution--all whose sympathies were on the side of the prosecution. It was "lest recourse be had to the king, or to the regent then at Blois;" for the delay of even a few days might have brought from the banks of the Loire another order removing De Berquin's case from the commission to the royal council.
The historian must leave to the professed martyrologist the details of the constant death of Louis de Berquin, as of the deaths of many other less distinguished victims of the intolerant zeal of the Sorbonne.
Suffice it to say that although, when he undertook to address the people, his voice was purposely drowned by the din of the attendants, though the very children filled the air with shouts that De Berquin was a heretic, though not a person was found in the vast concourse to encourage him by the name of "Jesus"--an accustomed cry even at the execution of parricides--the brave nobleman of Artois met his fate with such composure as to be likened by a by-stander to a student immersed in his favorite occupations, or a worshipper whose devout mind was engrossed by the contemplation of heavenly things. There were indeed blind rumors, as usual in such cases; to the effect that De Berquin recanted at the last moment; and Merlin, the Penitentiary of Notre Dame, who attended him, is reported to have exclaimed that "perhaps no one for a hundred years had died a better Christian."
But the "Lutherans" of Paris had good reason to deny the truth of the former statement, and to interpret the latter to the advantage of De Berquin's consistent faith--so great was the rejoicing over the final success attained in crushing the most distinguished, in silencing the boldest and most outspoken advocate of the reformation of the church.
For, in the eyes of the theological faculty and of the clergy of France, Louis de Berquin merited to be styled, by way of pre-eminence, a _heresiarch_.
[Sidenote: Francis treats with the Germans.]
Three years had not elapsed since the blow struck at the "Lutheran"
doctrines in France, in the execution of their most promising and intrepid representative, before the hopes of the friends of the Reformation again revived from a consideration of the king's political relations. Disappointed at the contemptuous reception of their confession of faith by the Emperor at Augsburg, the Protestant princes of Germany had formed a defensive league. Francis, having basely abandoned his former allies, was left alone to combat the gigantic power of a rival between two portions of whose dominions his own kingdom lay exposed. Every consideration of prudence dictated the policy of lending to the German Protestants, in their endeavor to humble the pride of their common antagonist, the most efficient support of his arms. Under these circumstances religious differences were impotent to prevent the union. Accordingly, in May, 1532, through his ambassador, the sagacious Du Bellay, Francis promised the discontented Elector of Saxony and his associates the contribution of a large sum to enable them to make a sturdy resistance. But the peace shortly concluded with Charles rendered the proffered aid for a time unnecessary.
[Sidenote: and with Henry VIII. of England.]
Equally unproductive of advantage to the professors of the reformed faith was the alliance for mutual defence between Francis and Henry the Eighth of England. Both monarchs were inspired with the same hatred of the emperor, and each had equal reason to complain of the insatiable rapacity of the Roman court. But neither at the pompous interview of the two kings at Boulogne, nor afterward, could Henry prevail upon Francis to take any decided measures against the Pope such as the former, weary of the obstacles thrown in the way of his divorce from Catharine of Aragon, was ready to venture. In his intercourse with the English king, Francis is said to have adopted for his guiding principle the motto, "_Ami jusqu'a l'autel_," and declined to sacrifice his orthodoxy to his interests. But the truth was that, in the view of Francis, his interests and his orthodoxy were coincident; and the difficulty experienced by the two kings in coming to a common understanding lay in the fact that, as has been well remarked, while in the enmity of Francis it was not the Pope but the emperor that occupied the foremost place, it was just the reverse with Henry.
[Sidenote: Meeting of Francis I. and Clement, at Marseilles.]
[Sidenote: Marriage of Henry of Orleans to Catharine de' Medici.]
Francis had no thought of throwing away so valuable an auxiliary in his Italian projects, or of permanently attaching to Charles so dangerous an opponent as the papal power. And thus it happened that, a year from the time of his consultation with Henry, Francis proceeded to Marseilles to extend a still more cordial welcome to Clement himself. The wily pontiff had so dazzled the eyes of the king, that the latter had consented to, if he had not actually proposed, a marriage between Henry, Duke of Orleans, his second son, and Catharine de' Medici, the Pope's niece. The match was not flattering to Francis's pride; but there were great prospective advantages, and the bride was less objectionable because the bridegroom, as a younger son, was not likely to ascend the throne. But here again the king was destined to be disappointed.
Clement's death, soon after, destroyed all hope of Medicean support in Italy; and the death of Francis, the dauphin, made Henry of Orleans heir apparent to the throne. It was not long before the French people, with the soundness of judgment generally characterizing the deliberate conclusions reached by the masses, came to the opinion, expressed by one of the Venetian ambassadors two years after the wedding: "Monseigneur of Orleans is married to Madam Catharine de' Medici, to the dissatisfaction of all France; for it seems to everybody that the most Christian king was cheated by Pope Clement." Such were the evil auspices under which the Italian girl, only fourteen years of age, entered a country over whose destinies she was to exert a pernicious influence.
[Sidenote: Francis refuses to join in a crusade against heresy.]
There was another part of the Pope's designs in the execution of which he was less successful. He could not persuade Francis to join in a general scheme for the extermination of heresy. In the very first interview, Clement had sounded his host's disposition respecting the propriety of a new crusade. He had bluntly submitted for consideration the question, "Ought not Francis and the pious princes of Germany, with the emperor at their head, to gather up their forces, enlist troops, and make all needful preparations, to overwhelm the followers of Zwingle and Luther; in order that, affrighted by the terrible retribution visited upon their fellows, the remaining heretics should hasten to make their submission to the Roman Church?" At the same time he threw out hints of his ability to assist in the good work if only the French monarch would not refuse his co-operation. But Francis was not ready for so sanguinary an undertaking. Unmoved by the Pope's repeated solicitations, he replied that it seemed to him that "neither piety nor concord would be promoted by substituting an appeal to arms for the appeal to the Holy Scriptures, to whose ultimate decision both Zwinglians and Lutherans professed themselves at all times anxious to submit their doctrines and practice."
He added the unpalatable advice that the matters in dispute be considered by a free and impartial council, and declared that, when the council had rendered its verdict, he would spare no pains to sustain it.
All the usual pontifical artifices proved abortive. Francis, while valuing highly the friendship of Rome, was not willing to forego the advantages of alliance with the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse.
While the fickle monarch was thus drawn in opposite directions by conflicting political considerations--at one time strengthening the hands of the Protestant princes of Germany, at another, making common cause with the Pope--the same diversity characterized the internal condition of France.
[Sidenote: Execution of Jean de Caturce at Toulouse.]
At Toulouse, the seat of one of most noted parliaments, Jean de Caturce, a lawyer of ability, was put to death by slow fire in the summer of 1532. His unpardonable offence was that he had once made a "Lutheran"
exhortation, and that, in the merry-making on the _Fete des Rois_--Epiphany--he had recommended that the prayer, "May Christ reign in our hearts!" be substituted for the senseless cry, "The king drinks!"
No more ample ground of accusation was needed in a city where the luckless wight who failed to take off his cap before an image, or fall on his knees when the bell rang out at "Ave Maria," was sure to be set upon as a heretic.
[Sidenote: Le Coq's evangelical sermon.]
In striking contrast with the tragedy enacted in the chief city of the south was the favor openly showed to the reformers by the Queen of Navarre, not only in her own city of Bourges, but in Paris itself. The intercessions she had addressed to her brother for the victims of priestly persecution had long since betrayed her secret leaning; and the translation of her "Hours" into French by the Bishop of Senlis, who, by her direction, suppressed all that most directly countenanced superstitious beliefs, was naturally taken as strong confirmation of the prevalent suspicion. But, when she introduced Berthault, Courault, and her own almoner, Roussel, to the pulpits of the capital, and protected them in their evangelical labors, the case ceased to admit of doubt. She even persuaded the king to listen to a sermon in which Le Coq, curate of St. Eustache, argued with force against the bodily presence of Christ in the eucharist, and maintained that the very words, "_Sursum corda_" in the church service, pointed Him out as to be found at the right hand of God in heaven. Indeed, the eloquent preacher had nearly convinced his royal listener, when the Cardinals of Tournon and Lorraine, by a skilful stratagem, succeeded in destroying the impression he had received, and, it is said, in inducing Le Coq to make a retraction. But the opposition to the public proclamation of the reformed doctrines was too formidable for their advocates to stem. Beda and his colleagues in the Sorbonne left no device untried to silence the preachers; and, although the restless syndic was in the end forced to expiate his seditious words and writings by an _amende honorable_ in front of the church of Notre Dame, and died in prison, Roussel and his fellow-preachers had long before been compelled to exchange their public discourses for private exhortations, and finally to discontinue even these and retreat from Paris.
[Sidenote: Margaret attacked in the College of Navarre.]
Even so, however, the theologians could not contain their indignation at the insult they had received. In the excess of their zeal they went so far as to hold up the king's sister to condemnation and derision, in one of those plays which the students of the College de Navarre were accustomed annually to perform, as a scholastic exercise in public oratory (on the first of October, 1533). A gentle queen was here represented as throwing aside needle and distaff, at the crafty suggestion of a tempting fury, and as receiving in lieu of those feminine implements a copy of the Gospels--when, lo! she was suddenly transformed into a cruel tyrant. It was perhaps hard to detect the exact connection between the acceptance of the holy book and so disastrous a change of character--neither the students of the College de Navarre nor their teachers thought it worth while to trouble themselves about such trifles--but there was no difficulty in recognizing Margaret in the principal actor of the play, or in deciphering the name of Master Gerard Roussel--Magister Gerardus--in _Megaera_, the fury with the flaming torch, that seduced her. On complaint of his sister, Francis, in some indignation, ordered the arrest of the author of the insipid drama, as well as of the youthful performers. The former could not be found, and the latter, thanks to the queen's clemency, escaped with a less rigorous punishment than the insult deserved.
[Sidenote: Her Miroir de l'ame pecheresse.]
An equally audacious act was the insertion of a work published by Margaret, under the title of _Le miroir de l'ame pecheresse_, in a list of prohibited books. When the university, to whom the censorship of the press was entrusted, was called to account by the king, all the faculties promptly repudiated any intention to cast doubt upon the orthodoxy of his sister, and even the originator of the offensive prohibition was forced to plead ignorance of the authorship of the volume in question. The rector of the university terminated the long series of disclaimers by rendering thanks to Francis for his fatherly patience.
[Sidenote: Rector Cop's address to the university.]
Just a month after the unlucky dramatic representation of the College de Navarre, the city was furnished with fresh food for scandal. On All Saints' day (the first of November, 1533), the university assembled according to custom in the church of the Mathurins, to listen to an address delivered by the rector. But Nicholas Cop's discourse was not of the usual type. Under guise of a disquisition on "Christian Philosophy,"
the orator preached an evangelical sermon, with the First Beatitude for his text, and propounded the view that the forgiveness of sin and eternal life are simple gifts of God's grace that cannot be earned by man's good works.
[Sidenote: Its extraordinary character.]
Never had academic harangue contained sentiments savoring so strongly of the tenets of the persecuted reformers. True, the rector had not omitted the ordinary invitation to his hearers to join him in the salutation of the Virgin. But even this mark of orthodox Catholicity could not remove the taint of heresy from an address the whole drift of which was to establish the cardinal doctrine of the theology of Luther and Zwingle. It was a bold step. The doctors of the Sorbonne could not suppress their indignation, and Franciscan monks denounced the rector to the Parliament of Paris. When summoned to appear before the court to answer the charges brought against him, Cop at first endeavored to arouse in the university the traditional jealousy of this invasion of scholastic privileges, claiming that these were violated by his being cited to parliament before he had been in the first instance tried by his peers. And, indeed, after a tumultuous meeting of the university, called at the Mathurins a fortnight after the delivery of Cop's address (the nineteenth of November), the Faculty of Arts came to the same conclusion. But, although the "Four Nations," and apparently the Faculty of Medicine also, promised their support, the Faculties of Theology and Law refused, and Cop did not venture to press his point.
Warned of his danger by a friendly tongue, when already on his way to the _Palais de Justice_, in full official costume and accompanied by his beadles, he consulted his safety by a precipitate flight from the city and from the kingdom.
[Sidenote: Calvin the real author.]
The incidents just narrated derive their chief interest from the circumstance that they bring to our notice for the first time a young man, Jean Cauvin, or Calvin, of Noyon, soon to figure among the most important actors in the intellectual and religious history of the modern world; for it was not many days before the authorship of the startling theological doctrines enunciated by the rector was directly traced to his friend and bosom companion, the future reformer of Geneva. In fact, Calvin seems to have supplied Cop with the entire address--a production not altogether unworthy of that clear and vigorous intellect which, within less than two years, conceived the plan of and matured the most orderly and perfect theological treatise of the Reformation--the "Institution Chretienne." Between the sketch of Christian Philosophy in the discourse written for the rector, and the Christian Institutes, there is, nevertheless, a contrast too striking to be overlooked. And if the salutation to the Virgin, in the exordium, was actually penned by Calvin, as is not improbable, the change in his religious convictions would appear to have been as marked and rapid as the development of his intellectual faculties. At any rate, the recent discovery of the complete manuscript of Nicholas Cop's oration ranks among the most opportune and welcome of antiquarian successes in our times.
[Sidenote: He seeks safety in flight.]
Calvin was soon reduced to the necessity of following the rector's example in fleeing from Paris; for the part he had had in preparing the address had become the public talk. The young scholar--he was only in his twenty-fifth year--sought for by the sanguinary _lieutenant-criminel_, Jean Morin, barely made good his escape.
Proceeding to Angouleme, he enjoyed, under the friendly roof of Louis de Tillet, a short period of quiet and an opportunity to pursue his favorite studies.
[Sidenote: Francis rejects roughly the intercession of the Bernese.]
The incessant representations made to the king respecting the rapid progress of "Lutheran" doctrines in France, and perhaps also the occurrence of such incidents as that just mentioned, seem to have been the cause of the adoption of new measures against the Reformation and its professors. Already, in October, Francis had written a rough answer to the Council of the Canton of Berne, expressing extreme surprise that they had ventured to intercede for the relatives of Guillaume Farel, accused of heresy, and to beg him to give no credit in this matter either to the royal officers or to the inquisitors of the faith.
And he had used these significant words: "Desiring the preservation of the name of _very Christian king_, acquired for us by our predecessors, _we have nothing in the world more at heart than the entire extirpation of heresies, and nothing could induce us to suffer them to take root in our kingdom_. Of this you may rest well assured, and leave us to proceed against them, without your giving yourselves any solicitude. _For neither your prayers, nor those of any one else whomsoever, could be of any avail in this matter with us._"
[Sidenote: Royal letter to the Bishop of Paris.]
On his return from the marriage of his son Henry to Catharine de'
Medici, celebrated only four days before Cop's university harangue, Francis was induced to make new provisions for the detection and punishment of dissent. Alarmed by the progress of "Lutheran" sentiments in his very capital, as reported to him by parliament, he not only urged that body to renewed diligence, but directed the Bishop of Paris, the tolerant Jean du Bellay, who may have been suspected of too much supineness in the matter, to confer upon two counsellors of parliament all the authority necessary to act for him, without prejudice to his jurisdiction in other cases. Both parliament and bishop were at the same time notified of the receipt of two fresh bulls, kindly furnished by Pope Clement, at Francis's request, to help in the good work of extirpating "that accursed Lutheran sect."
[Sidenote: Elegies on Louis de Berquin.]
The number of extant poems on the death of Louis de Berquin attests very clearly the estimate placed upon him by the Roman Catholics as the most dangerous heretic--in fact, the _heresiarch_ of the day. A stanza of eight lines, which seems to have been popular (for it has been discovered in MS. both in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Genin, i. 219, and in the library of Soissons, Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franc., xi. 131), represents the four elements as conspiring, at God's bidding, to take vengeance upon him:
"Du faux Berquin et de ses documens Dieu s'est venge par les quatre elemens: _Terre_ luy a desnie sepulture; _Feu_ l'a destruit et sa fausse escripture; Tisons par _eau_ pluviale arrosez Se sont plus fort esmeus et embrasez.
Dont (pour la fin du malheureux comprendre) L'_air_ par les vents en a receu la cendre."
I have been so fortunate as to discover two other poems on the same subject, in a little collection in my possession entitled _Martini Theodorici Bellovaci Epigrammata_ (Parisiis, 1539), which seems to be of such rarity that these pieces may almost be viewed in the light of inedited documents. They are of special interest because of the singular circumstance that this collection of extremely "Catholic" effusions is dedicated to _Odet de Coligny_, Cardinal of Chatillon, Archbishop of Toulouse, Bishop and Count of Beauvais, elder brother of the more famous _Admiral_ massacred on St.
Bartholomew's day. Cardinal Chatillon, created such when only thirteen years old, was, at the time of the publication of this book, a youth of scarcely more than twenty-two, and a devout Roman Catholic, but subsequently, as elsewhere stated, became an avowed Protestant and a prominent Huguenot leader.
In the first of these poems, under the heading of _Elegia Ludovici Berquuyni_, the writer would almost seem to have had in mind the description by the ancient dramatists of the impious warfare of Capaneus breathing out boastful threats against Jove himself (Septem con. Theb., 416, etc.), or the Titans in conflict with the Gods.
"Occultum patuit quod non celarier ultra Debuit. Excellens Jupiter egit opus.
Sublimi elatum dejecit sede potentem, Qui modo regnabat, qui modo jura dabat, Quique superbifico regalia limina gressu Tantum incedebat, pastus honore levi, Et cedrina petens famae monimenta perennis.
Insigni optabat sanctior esse Numa.
Lector, Ave, et causam properes dignoscere: casus Haereseos fda labe volutus erat.
Hoc impune nefas solida an ratione stetisset, Et Petri hausissent aequora vasta ratim, Inviolata fides aeterno permanet aevo.
Percutit injustos ira molesta Dei; Quem neque praemeditans latuit Nero, funera cujus Distulit adversa in tempora longa vice.
History of the Rise of the Huguenots Volume I Part 16
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