Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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her duchy to Francis as soon as Anne was dead. _Francis I._ was one of
the vainest, falsest, and most dashing of Frenchmen. In fact, he was an
exaggeration in every way of the national character, and thus became a
national hero, much overpraised. He at once resolved to recover
Lombardy; and after crossing the Alps encountered an army of Swiss
troops, who had been hired to defend the Milanese duchy, on the field of
Marignano. Francis had to fight a desperate battle with them; after
which he caused Bayard to dub him knight, though French kings were said
to be born knights. In gaining the victory over these mercenaries, who
had been hitherto deemed invincible, he opened for himself a way into
Italy, and had all Lombardy at his feet. The Pope, Leo X., met him at
Bologna, and a concordat took place, by which the French Church became
more entirely subject to the Pope, while in return all patronage was
given up to the crown. The effects were soon seen in the increased
corruption of the clergy and people. Francis brought home from this
expedition much taste for Italian art and literature, and all matters of
elegance and ornament made great progress from this time. The great
Italian masters worked for him; Raphael painted some of his most
beautiful pictures for him, and Leonardo da Vinci came to his court, and
there died in his arms. His palaces, especially that of Blois, were
exceedingly beautiful, in the new classic style, called the Renaissance.
Great richness and splendour reigned at court, and set off his
pretensions to romance and chivalry. Learning and scholarship,
especially classical, increased much; and the king's sister, Margaret,
Queen of Navarre, was an excellent and highly cultivated woman, but even
her writings prove that the whole tone of feeling was terribly coarse,
when not vicious.

5. Charles V. - The conquest of Lombardy made France the greatest power
in Christendom; but its king was soon to find a mighty and active rival.
The old hatred between France and Burgundy again awoke. Mary of
Burgundy, the daughter of Charles the Bold, had married Maximilian,
Archduke of Austria and King of the Romans, though never actually
crowned Emperor. Their son, Philip, married Juana, the daughter of
Ferdinand, and heiress of Spain, who lost her senses from grief on
Philip's untimely death; and thus the direct heir to Spain, Austria, and
the Netherlands, was Charles, her eldest son. On the death of Maximilian
in 1518, Francis proposed himself to the electors as Emperor, but
failed, in spite of bribery. Charles was chosen, and from that time
Francis pursued him with unceasing hatred. The claims to Milan and
Naples were renewed. Francis sent troops to occupy Milan, and was
following them himself; but the most powerful of all his nobles, the
Duke of Bourbon, Constable of France, had been alienated by an injustice
perpetrated on him in favour of the king's mother, and deserted to the
Spaniards, offering to assist them and the English in dividing France,
while he reserved for himself Provence. His desertion hindered Francis
from sending support to the troops in Milan, who were forced to retreat.
Bayard was shot in the spine while defending the rear-guard, and was
left to die under a tree. The utmost honour was shown him by the
Spaniards; but when Bourbon came near him, he bade him take pity, not on
one who was dying as a true soldier, but on himself as a traitor to king
and country. When the French, in 1525, invaded Lombardy, Francis
suffered a terrible defeat at Pavia, and was carried a prisoner to
Madrid, where he remained for a year, and was only set free on making a
treaty by which he was to give up all claims in Italy both to Naples and
Milan, also the county of Burgundy and the suzerainty of those Flemish
counties which had been fiefs of the French crown, as well as to
surrender his two sons as hostages for the performance of the

6. Wars of Francis and Charles. - All the rest of the king's life was
an attempt to elude or break these conditions, against which he had
protested in his prison, but when there was no Spaniard present to hear
him do so. The county of Burgundy refused to be transferred; and the
Pope, Clement VII., hating the Spanish power in Italy, contrived a fresh
league against Charles, in which Francis joined, but was justly rewarded
by the miserable loss of another army. His mother and Charles's aunt met
at Cambrai, and concluded, in 1529, what was called the Ladies' Peace,
which bore as hardly on France as the peace of Madrid, excepting that
Charles gave up his claim to Burgundy. Still Francis's plans were not at
an end. He married his second son, Henry, to Catherine, the only
legitimate child of the great Florentine house of Medici, and tried to
induce Charles to set up an Italian dukedom of Milan for the young pair;
but when the dauphin died, and Henry became heir of France, Charles
would not give him any footing in Italy. Francis never let any occasion
pass of harassing the Emperor, but was always defeated. Charles once
actually invaded Provence, but was forced to retreat through the
devastation of the country before him by Montmorençy, afterwards
Constable of France. Francis, by loud complaints, and by talking much of
his honour, contrived to make the world fancy him the injured man, while
he was really breaking oaths in a shameless manner. At last, in 1537,
the king and Emperor met at Aigues Mortes, and came to terms. Francis
married, as his second wife, Charles's sister Eleanor, and in 1540, when
Charles was in haste to quell a revolt in the Low Countries, he asked a
safe conduct through France, and was splendidly entertained at Paris.
Yet so low was the honour of the French, that Francis scarcely withstood
the temptation of extorting the duchy of Milan from him when in his
power, and gave so many broad hints that Charles was glad to be past the
frontier. The war was soon renewed. Francis set up a claim to Savoy, as
the key of Italy, allied himself with the Turks and Moors, and slaves
taken by them on the coasts of Italy and Spain were actually brought
into Marseilles. Nice was burnt; but the citadel held out, and as Henry
VIII. had allied himself with the Emperor, and had taken Boulogne,
Francis made a final peace at Crespy in 1545. He died only two years
later, in 1547.

7. Henry II. - His only surviving son, _Henry II._, followed the same
policy. The rise of Protestantism was now dividing the Empire in
Germany; and Henry took advantage of the strife which broke out between
Charles and the Protestant princes to attack the Emperor, and make
conquests across the German border. He called himself Protector of the
Liberties of the Germans, and leagued himself with them, seizing Metz,
which the Duke of Guise bravely defended when the Emperor tried to
retake it. This seizure of Metz was the first attempt of France to make
conquests in Germany, and the beginning of a contest between the French
and German peoples which has gone on to the present day. After the siege
a five years' truce was made, during which Charles V. resigned his
crowns. His brother had been already elected to the Empire, but his son
Philip II. became King of Spain and Naples, and also inherited the Low
Countries. The Pope, Paul IV., who was a Neapolitan, and hated the
Spanish rule, incited Henry, a vain, weak man, to break the truce and
send one army to Italy, under the Duke of Guise, while another attacked
the frontier of the Netherlands. Philip, assisted by the forces of his
wife, Mary I. of England, met this last attack with an army commanded by
the Duke of Savoy. It advanced into France, and besieged St. Quentin.
The French, under the Constable of Montmorençy, came to relieve the
city, and were utterly defeated, the Constable himself being made
prisoner. His nephew, the Admiral de Coligny, held out St. Quentin to
the last, and thus gave the country time to rally against the invader;
and Guise was recalled in haste from Italy. He soon after surprised
Calais, which was thus restored to the French, after having been held
by the English for two hundred years. This was the only conquest the
French retained when the final peace of Cateau Cambresis was made in the
year 1558, for all else that had been taken on either side was then
restored. Savoy was given back to its duke, together with the hand of
Henry's sister, Margaret. During a tournament held in honour of the
wedding, Henry II. was mortally injured by the splinter of a lance, in
1559; and in the home troubles that followed, all pretensions to Italian
power were dropped by France, after wars which had lasted sixty-four



1. The Bourbons and Guises. - Henry II. had left four sons, the eldest
of whom, _Francis II._, was only fifteen years old; and the country was
divided by two great factions - one headed by the Guise family, an
offshoot of the house of Lorraine; the other by the Bourbons, who, being
descended in a direct male line from a younger son of St. Louis, were
the next heirs to the throne in case the house of Valois should become
extinct. Antony, the head of the Bourbon family, was called King of
Navarre, because of his marriage with Jeanne d'Albrêt, the queen, in her
own right, of this Pyrenean kingdom, which was in fact entirely in the
hands of the Spaniards, so that her only actual possession consisted of
the little French counties of Foix and Béarn. Antony himself was dull
and indolent, but his wife was a woman of much ability; and his brother,
Louis, Prince of Condé, was full of spirit and fire, and little
inclined to brook the ascendancy which the Duke of Guise and his
brothers enjoyed at court, partly in consequence of his exploit at
Calais, and partly from being uncle to the young Queen Mary of Scotland,
wife of Francis II. The Bourbons likewise headed the party among the
nobles who hoped to profit by the king's youth to recover the privileges
of which they had been gradually deprived, while the house of Guise were
ready to maintain the power of the crown, as long as that meant their
own power.

2. The Reformation. - The enmity of these two parties was much
increased by the reaction against the prevalent doctrines and the
corruptions of the clergy. This reaction had begun in the reign of
Francis I., when the Bible had been translated into French by two
students at the University of Paris, and the king's sister, Margaret,
Queen of Navarre, had encouraged the Reformers. Francis had leagued with
the German Protestants because they were foes to the Emperor, while he
persecuted the like opinions at home to satisfy the Pope. John Calvin, a
native of Picardy, the foremost French reformer, was invited to the free
city of Geneva, and there was made chief pastor, while the scheme of
theology called his "Institutes" became the text-book of the Reformed in
France, Scotland, and Holland. His doctrine was harsh and stern, aiming
at the utmost simplicity of worship, and denouncing the existing
practices so fiercely, that the people, who held themselves to have been
wilfully led astray by their clergy, committed such violence in the
churches that the Catholics loudly called for punishment on them. The
shameful lives of many of the clergy and the wickedness of the Court had
caused a strong reaction against them, and great numbers of both nobles
and burghers became Calvinists. They termed themselves Sacramentarians
or Reformers, but their nickname was Huguenots; probably from the Swiss,
"_Eidgenossen_" or oath comrades. Henry II., like his father, protected
German Lutherans and persecuted French Calvinists; but the lawyers of
the Parliament of Paris interposed, declaring that men ought not to be
burnt for heresy until a council of the Church should have condemned
their opinions, and it was in the midst of this dispute that Henry was

3. The Conspiracy of Amboise. - The Guise family were strong Catholics;
the Bourbons were the heads of the Huguenot party, chiefly from policy;
but Admiral Coligny and his brother, the Sieur D'Andelot, were sincere
and earnest Reformers. A third party, headed by the old Constable De
Montmorençy, was Catholic in faith, but not unwilling to join with the
Huguenots in pulling down the Guises, and asserting the power of the
nobility. A conspiracy for seizing the person of the king and
destroying the Guises at the castle of Amboise was detected in time to
make it fruitless. The two Bourbon princes kept in the background,
though Condé was universally known to have been the true head and mover
in it, and he was actually brought to trial. The discovery only
strengthened the hands of Guise.

4. Regency of Catherine de' Medici. - Even then, however, Francis II.
was dying, and his brother, _Charles IX._, who succeeded him in 1560,
was but ten years old. The regency passed to his mother, the Florentine
Catherine, a wily, cat-like woman, who had always hitherto been kept in
the background, and whose chief desire was to keep things quiet by
playing off one party against the other. She at once released Condé, and
favoured the Bourbons and the Huguenots to keep down the Guises, even
permitting conferences to see whether the French Church could be
reformed so as to satisfy the Calvinists. Proposals were sent by Guise's
brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, to the council then sitting at Trent,
for vernacular services, the marriage of the clergy, and other
alterations which might win back the Reformers. But an attack by the
followers of Guise on a meeting of Calvinists at Vassy, of whose ringing
of bells his mother had complained, led to the first bloodshed and the
outbreak of a civil war.

5. The Religious War. - To trace each stage of the war would be
impossible within these limits. It was a war often lulled for a short
time, and often breaking out again, and in which the actors grew more
and more cruel. The Reformed influence was in the south, the Catholic in
the east. Most of the provincial cities at first held with the Bourbons,
for the sake of civil and religious freedom; though the Guise family
succeeded to the popularity of the Burgundian dukes in Paris. Still
Catherine persuaded Antony of Bourbon to return to court just as his
wife, Queen Jeanne of Navarre, had become a staunch Calvinist, and while
dreaming of exchanging his claim on Navarre for the kingdom of Sardinia,
he was killed on the Catholic side while besieging Rouen. At the first
outbreak the Huguenots seemed to have by far the greatest influence. An
endeavour was made to seize the king's person, and this led to a battle
at Dreux. While it was doubtful Catherine actually declared, "We shall
have to say our prayers in French." Guise, however, retrieved the day,
and though Montmorençy was made prisoner on the one side, Condé was
taken on the other. Orleans was the Huguenot rallying-place, and while
besieging it Guise himself was assassinated. His death was believed by
his family to be due to the Admiral de Coligny. The city of Rochelle,
fortified by Jeanne of Navarre, became the stronghold of the Huguenots.
Leader after leader fell - Montmorençy, on the one hand, was killed at
Montcontour; Condé, on the other, was shot in cold blood after the fight
of Jarnac. A truce followed, but was soon broken again, and in 1571
Coligny was the only man of age and standing at the head of the Huguenot
party; while the Catholics had as leaders Henry, Duke of Anjou, the
king's brother, and Henry, Duke of Guise, both young men of little more
than twenty. The Huguenots had been beaten at all points, but were still
strong enough to have wrung from their enemies permission to hold
meetings for public worship within unwalled towns and on the estates of
such nobles as held with them.

6. Catherine's Policy. - Catherine made use of the suspension of arms
to try to detach the Huguenot leaders, by entangling them in the
pleasures of the court and lowering their sense of duty. The court was
studiously brilliant. Catherine surrounded herself with a bevy of
ladies, called the Queen-Mother's Squadron, whose amusements were found
for the whole day. The ladies sat at their tapestry frames, while
Italian poetry and romance was read or love-songs sung by the gentlemen;
they had garden games and hunting-parties, with every opening for the
ladies to act as sirens to any whom the queen wished to detach from the
principles of honour and virtue, and bind to her service. Balls,
pageants, and theatricals followed in the evening, and there was hardly
a prince or noble in France who was not carried away by these seductions
into darker habits of profligacy. Jeanne of Navarre dreaded them for her
son Henry, whom she kept as long as possible under training in religion,
learning, and hardy habits, in the mountains of Béarn; and when
Catherine tried to draw him to court by proposing a marriage between him
and her youngest daughter Margaret, Jeanne left him at home, and went
herself to court. Catherine tried in vain to bend her will or discover
her secrets, and her death, early in 1572, while still at court, was
attributed to the queen-mother.

7. Massacre of St. Bartholomew (1572). - Jeanne's son Henry was
immediately summoned to conclude the marriage, and came attended by all
the most distinguished Huguenots, though the more wary of them remained
at home, and the Baron of Rosny said, "If that wedding takes place the
favours will be crimson." The Duke of Guise seems to have resolved on
taking this opportunity of revenging himself for his father's murder,
but the queen-mother was undecided until she found that her son Charles,
who had been bidden to cajole and talk over the Huguenot chiefs, had
been attracted by their honesty and uprightness, and was ready to throw
himself into their hands, and escape from hers. An abortive attempt on
Guise's part to murder the Admiral Coligny led to all the Huguenots
going about armed, and making demonstrations which alarmed both the
queen and the people of Paris. Guise and the Duke of Anjou were,
therefore, allowed to work their will, and to rouse the bloodthirstiness
of the Paris mob. At midnight of the 24th of August, 1572, St.
Bartholomew's night, the bell of the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois
began to ring, and the slaughter was begun by men distinguished by a
white sleeve. The king sheltered his Huguenot surgeon and nurse in his
room. The young King of Navarre and Prince of Condé were threatened into
conforming to the Church, but every other Huguenot who could be found
was massacred, from Coligny, who was slain kneeling in his bedroom by
the followers of Guise, down to the poorest and youngest, and the
streets resounded with the cry, "Kill! kill!" In every city where royal
troops and Guisard partisans had been living among Huguenots, the same
hideous work took place for three days, sparing neither age nor sex. How
many thousands died, it is impossible to reckon, but the work was so
wholesale that none were left except those in the southern cities, where
the Huguenots had been too strong to be attacked, and in those castles
where the seigneur was of "the religion." The Catholic party thought the
destruction complete, the court went in state to return thanks for
deliverance from a supposed plot, while Coligny's body was hung on a
gibbet. The Pope ordered public thanksgivings, while Queen Elizabeth put
on mourning, and the Emperor Maximilian II., alone among Catholic
princes, showed any horror or indignation. But the heart of the unhappy
young king was broken by the guilt he had incurred. Charles IX. sank
into a decline, and died in 1574, finding no comfort save in the surgeon
and nurse he had saved.

8. The League. - His brother, _Henry III._, who had been elected King
of Poland, threw up that crown in favour of that of France. He was of a
vain, false, weak character, superstitiously devout, and at the same
time ferocious, so as to alienate every one. All were ashamed of a man
who dressed in the extreme of foppery, with a rosary of death's heads at
his girdle, and passed from wild dissipation to abject penance. He was
called "the Paris Church-warden and the Queen's Hairdresser," for he
passed from her toilette to the decoration of the walls of churches with
illuminations cut out of old service-books. Sometimes he went about
surrounded with little dogs, sometimes flogged himself walking barefoot
in a procession, and his _mignons_, or favourites, were the scandal of
the country by their pride, license, and savage deeds. The war broke out
again, and his only remaining brother, Francis, Duke of Alençon, an
equally hateful and contemptible being, fled from court to the Huguenot
army, hoping to force his brother into buying his submission; but when
the King of Navarre had followed him and begun the struggle in earnest,
he accepted the duchy of Anjou, and returned to his allegiance. Francis
was invited by the insurgent Dutch to become their chief, and spent some
time in Holland, but returned, unsuccessful and dying. As the king was
childless, the next male heir was Henry of Bourbon, King of Navarre, who
had fled from court soon after Alençon returned to the Huguenot faith,
and was reigning in his two counties of Béarn and Foix, the head of the
Huguenots. In the resolve never to permit a heretic to wear the French
crown, Guise and his party formed a Catholic league, to force Henry III.
to choose another successor. Paris was devoted to Guise, and the king,
finding himself almost a prisoner there, left the city, but was again
mastered by the duke at Blois, and could so ill brook his arrogance, as
to have recourse to assassination. He caused him to be slain at the
palace at Blois in 1588. The fury of the League was so great that Henry
III. was driven to take refuge with the King of Navarre, and they were
together besieging Paris, when Henry III. was in his turn murdered by a
monk, named Clement, in 1589.

9. Henry IV. - The Leaguers proclaimed as king an old uncle of the
King of Navarre, the Cardinal of Bourbon, but all the more moderate
Catholics rallied round Henry of Navarre, who took the title of _Henry
IV._ At Ivry, in Normandy, Henry met the force of Leaguers, and defeated
them by his brilliant courage. "Follow my white plume," his last order
to his troops, became one of the sayings the French love to remember.
But his cause was still not won - Paris held out against him, animated by
almost fanatical fury, and while he was besieging it France was invaded
from the Netherlands. The old Cardinal of Bourbon was now dead, and
Philip II. considered his daughter Isabel, whose mother was the eldest
daughter of Henry II., to be rightful Queen of France. He sent therefore
his ablest general, the Duke of Parma, to co-operate with the Leaguers
and place her on the throne. A war of strategy was carried on, during
which Henry kept the enemy at bay, but could do no more, since the
larger number of his people, though intending to have no king but
himself, did not wish him to gain too easy a victory, lest in that case
he should remain a Calvinist. However, he was only waiting to recant
till he could do so with a good grace. He really preferred Catholicism,
and had only been a political Huguenot; and his best and most faithful
adviser, the Baron of Rosny, better known as Duke of Sully, though a
staunch Calvinist himself, recommended the change as the only means of
restoring peace to the kingdom. There was little more resistance to
Henry after he had again been received by the Church in 1592. Paris,
weary of the long war, opened its gates in 1593, and the inhabitants
crowded round him with ecstasy, so that he said, "Poor people, they are
hungry for the sight of a king!" The Leaguers made their peace, and when
Philip of Spain again attacked Henry, the young Duke of Guise was one of
the first to hasten to the defence. Philip saw that there were no
further hopes for his daughter, and peace was made in 1596.

10. The Edict of Nantes. - Two years later, in 1598, Henry put forth
what was called the Edict of Nantes, because first registered in that
parliament. It secured to the Huguenots equal civil rights with those of
the Catholics, accepted their marriages, gave them, under restrictions,
permission to meet for worship and for consultations, and granted them
cities for the security of their rights, of which La Rochelle was the
chief. The Calvinists had been nearly exterminated in the north, but
there were still a large number in the south of France, and the burghers
of the chief southern cities were mostly Huguenot. The war had been from
the first a very horrible one; there had been savage slaughter, and

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeHistory of France → online text (page 4 of 8)