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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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revenues of the church. He loved religious cere-
monies and processions, and spared himself no pe-
nance or mortification ; but this did not prevent
him from leading the most scandalous life, and per-
mitting it to be led by others. The most abandoned
debauchery was the order of the day at court. Tlie
excesses of the carnival aroused the indignation of
the preachers ; in some cases they refused burial to
the courtiers on account of their manner of life, and
the expressions of their dying moments ; — and this
to the very favourites of the king. Hence it hap-
pened, that although the strict catholic impulse was
openly favoured by the court, it was, in spirit, pro-
foundly opposed to the manners which prevailed

But besides, the king would not abandon the old
line of policy, which consisted chiefly in hostility to
Spain. At any other time this would have signi-
fied nothing ; but now the religious element was,
even in France, more powerful than the feeling for
national interests. In the same manner as the hu-
guenots felt themselves bound by a natural alhance
to the Netherland protestants, so did the catholics
to PhiUp n. and Farnese; and the Jesuits, who did
such good service to Spain in the Netherlands, could
not see without alarm, that the enemies whom they
vanquished there found favour and help in France.
In addition to this, came the death of the duke of
Alencon in the year 1584; and as the king had no
heirs, nor even a hope of issue, Henry king of Na-
varre became presumptive heir to the throne.

§ X.] THE LEAGUE. 155

Apprehension of future evil has perhaps more
power over the human mind than present calamity.
Tiiis prospect caused the greatest agitation amongst
all the catholics in France* ; above all in the
Guises, the old opponents and enemies of Navarre,
who dreaded the influence he must acquire as heir-
apparent, — how much more the power he would
possess whenever he ascended the throne !

No wonder therefore that they sought support
from king Philip ; to that prince nothing could be
more welcome than such an application ; nor had
he any scruple in concluding a formal treaty with
the subjects of a foreign power.

The only question now was, whether the revolt
of powerful vassals against their king would be
sanctioned at Rome, where so much had been said
about the union of the monarchical and the eccle-
siastical powers.

That it was sanctioned there cannot be denied.
There were among the Guise party some whose
consciences were troubled at the step which they
were about to take, and in order to quiet their
scruples, the Jesuit Matthieu went to Rome, to bring
back with him a declaration of the pope's opinion.
After hearing Matthieu's representations, Gregory
XIII. declared that he fully sanctioned the inten-
tions of the French princes, of taking arms against

* A letter was just at that time published in Rome, on the
desirableness of seeing a Guise succeed to the throne : " della
inclinatione de cattolici verso la casa di Ghisa e del servitio che
ricevera la christianita et il re cattolico della successione di uno
di quel principi." It was eent to Spain, and ascribed to the car-
dinal d'Este. Dispaccio Veneto, 1584. 1™°. Dec'^'"^


the heretics ; that he removed all scruples on the
subject which might be entertained ; the king him-
self would assuredly favour their project ; but even
should this not be the case, they should neverthe-
less pursue their plan for the accomplishment of
the all-important object, the extermination of the
heretics*. The proceedings against Henry of Na-
varre had already commenced ; before their termi-
nation, Sixtus V. had ascended the papal chair, and
he proclaimed the excommunication of Navarre and
Conde. The support which he thus gave to the
plans of the League was more powerful than he could
have aflforded by any other sort of co-operationf.

The Guises had already taken arms, and endea-
voured to get as many provinces and strong places
as they could absolutely into their own power.

At the first movement they took the important
towns of Verdun, Toul, Lyons, Bourges, Orleans,
and Mezieres, without striking a blow. The king,
in order to avoid an open admission of their supe-
riority, took a course he had already once resorted
to, — namely, to declare their cause his own. But
before he could be admitted to their alliance, he
was compelled to sanction and extend their con-
quests by formal treaty, by w^hich he surrendered
to them Burgundy, Champagne, a large portion of

* Claude Matthieu au due de Nevers, Fevr. 1585; perhaps
the most important piece of information contained in the whole
fourth volume of Capefigue, Reforme, etc., p. 173.

t Mallei, Historiarum ab excessu Gregorii XIII., lib. i. p. 10.
" Infimis fcEderatorum precibus et regis Philijipi supplicatione
hortatuque baud a!gre se adduci est passus ut Hugonotas eorum-
que duces coelestibus armis insectaretur."

§ X.] THE LEAGUE. 157

Picardy, and many strong places in different parts
of the kingdom*.

They now undertook the war against the protest-
ants conjointly, — but how differently ! The king
took only half- measures which led to no results ; the
catholics even thought that he wished success to
the Protestant arms, in order that, yielding to the
apparent pressure of a resistless force, he might
conclude a peace disadvantageous to Catholicism.
Guise, on the contrary, swore that, should God
grant him the victory, he would not dismount from
his horse until he had firmly established the catho-
lic religion in France for ever. With his own troops,
and not the king's, he surprised the Germans who
came to the assistance of the huguenots, and upon
whom all their hopes rested, and completely anni-
hilated them at Auneau.

- The pope compared him to Judas Maccabseus.
There was a grandeur and nobleness in his nature
which captivated the devoted reverence of the
people, and he became the idol of all catholics.

The king, on the contrary, found himself in a
completely false position ; he knew not what to do,
nor even what to wish. The j^apal minister Moro-
sini remarks, that he consisted, as it were, of two
persons ; he wished for the overthrow of the hu-
guenots, and feared it no less ; he dreaded the de-
feat of the catholics, and yet he desired it : such was
the internal discord of his mind, that he had ceased
to follow his own inclinations, or to have faith in his

* Considerations of the cardinal Ossat on the effects of the
League in France ; Life of Cardinal Ossat, i. 44,


own thoughts* ; — a state of mind which of necessity
destroys all confidence, and leads straight to ruin.

The catholics were persuaded that the very
person who was at their head, was secretly against
them ; every transient intercourse with the follow-
ers of Navarre, the smallest favour to any protestant,
was noted with watchful suspicion ; they thought
that it was the most christian king himself who
hindered the perfect re-estahlishment of Catholi-
cism ; they regarded his favourites, hut above all
Epernon, with a hatred the more intense, because
the king placed him in opposition to the Guises,
and entrusted to him the most important govern-

Under these circumstances, an union of the citi-
zens for the support of the catliolic cause arose by the
side of the alliance of the princes. In every town the
people were stirred up by preachers, who combined
a fierce opposition to the government with a fiery re-
ligious zeal. In Paris more active steps were taken.
Three preachers and a respectable citizen were the
first who conceived the project of establishing a
popular union for the defence of catliolicismf. They

* Dispacciö Morosini in Tempesti, Vitadi Sisto V. p. 346. " II
re, tutto che sia monarca si grande, & altrettanto povero : e quanto
^ povero, e altrettanto prodigo : dimostra insigne pieta, e nel
stesso tempo aborrisce la sagra lega : e in campo contra gli liere-
tici, e pure e geloso de' progressi catolici.

f The Anonymo Capitolino on the Life of Sixlus V. contains
peculiar notices of this matter. He gives the name of Carlo Ot-
tomani to the founder, " cittadino onorato," who was the first to
have any communication with the preachers. From their veiy
first meeting, Ottoman! made the i)roposal of a union with the

§ X.] THE LEAGUE. 159

swore, ill the first place, to devote themselves to
this cause to the last drop of their blood ; each then
named two or three trusty friends, the first meeting
with whom w^as held in a monk's cell in the Sor-
bonne. They soon saw the possibility of em-
bracing the whole city in their union. A smaller
number w^ere then chosen to constitute a committee,
which was to lead the movement, and in case of
necessity to collect money. A director was ap-
pointed for each of the sixteen quarters of the city.
The enrolling of members proceeded with the ut-
most rapidity and secrecy ; the committee first con-
sulted upon the fitness of the candidates, and to
those who were not admitted, nothing further was
revealed. They had agents in all the colleges ; one
in the Chambre des Comptes, one for the Procureurs
de la Cour, one for the Clerks, one for the Gref-
fiers, and soforth. The wiiole city, which had pre-
viously received a catholic military organization,
was comprehended in this secret and active league.
Nor were they satisfied with Paris alone ; they in-
cluded Orleans, Lyons, Thoulouse, Bordeaux and
Kouen in their union, and delegates from these
confederates appeared in Paris ; they all solemnly

princes; at the second, 25th Jan. 1587, it was resolved to no-
minate sixteen men, one for each quarter, " a cui si riferisse da
persone fidate quanto vi si facesse e dicesse appartenente a fatti
publici ;" at a third, hekl on Candlemas- day, a council was named,
consisting of ten persons, with the right of levying contributions,
and an embassy to the duke de Guise was immediately agreed
upon. This account gives some additional weight to all we find
in Cayet, taken from Manaut and Maheutre, in Poulain, de Thou,
and Davila.


bound themselves not to tolerate a single huguenot
in France, and to remove the abuses of the govern-

This is called the league of the sixteen. As soon


as they found themselves sufficiently strong, they
informed the Guises of its existence ; upon which,
Mayenne, the brother of the duke, came with the
profoundest secrecy to Paris, and the princes and
the citizens signed their treaty of alliance*.

The king already felt the ground tremble under
his feet. Reports were brought him every day of
the movements of his enemies. So daring were the
conspirators grown, that they had already proposed
the question in the Sorbonne, whether it was lawful
to withdraw obedience from a prince who did not
do his duty ; and an answer in the affirmative was
given in a council of from thirty to forty doctors.
The king was exasperated, and threatened to act
as pope Sixtus had done, and to chain the rebel-
lious priests to the galleys. But he had not the
energy of that pope ; he did nothing, except to
march the Swiss who were in his service into the
neighbourhood of the capital.

The citizens, alarmed at the threat implied in
this movement, sent to Guise begging him to come
and protect them : the king caused it to be notified
to him that his compUance would displease him ;
nevertheless Guise came.

Every thing now seemed ripe for a general ex-

* Nel palazzo di Rens dietro alia cliiesa di S. Agostlno

giurarono tutti una scambievol lega nou sola dcfensiva ma asso-
luta. (Anon. Capit.)


plosion, and on the king ordering his Swiss troops
to enter Paris, it broke forth. In a moment the
town was barricaded, the Swiss were driven back,
and the Louvre threatened ; the king was compelled
to take to flight*.

Guise had before got possession of a large por-
tion of France ; he was now master of Paris. The
Bastile, the Arsenal, the Hotel de Ville, and all the
surrounding places fell into his hands. The king
was completely overpowered ; in a short time he
was forced to interdict the protestant religion, and
give up to the Guises some additional strong places ;
the duke of Guise might now be regarded as master
of the half of France ; and the dignity of lieutenant-
general of the kingdom, with which he was invested
by Henry HI., gave him lawful authority over the
-ether half. The estates were summoned; and as
there was no doubt that the catholics would have
the majority in this meeting, the most decisive
measures for the destruction of the huguenots and
the advantage of the catholic party might confi-
dently be expected.


It is evident that the predominance of Catho-
licism in so mighty a kingdom as France must

* MaflFei reproaches the duke of Guise for having borne this :
" Inanis popularis aurse et infaustse potentiae ostentatioae con-
tentus, Henricum incolumem abire permittit." (1. 1.38.)



necessarily produce corresponding effects on the
neighbouring countries.

The cathoUc cantons of Switzerland in particular,
attached themselves more and more closely to the
ecclesiastical principle represented by the Spanish

It is remarkable what vast effects resulted from
the establishment of a permanent nuntiatura in
Switzerland as well as in Germany. Immediately
after this had taken place, in the year 1586, the ca-
tholic cantons united to form the golden or Borro-
mean league, by which they bound themselves
and their posterity for ever, " to live and die in the
true, undoubted, ancient, apostolical, roman ca-
tholic faith;" after which they received the sacra-
ment from the hand of the nuncio*.

Had the party who took possession of the powers
of government at Mühlhausen in the year 1587,
passed over in reality, and at the right time, to the
catholic faith, as they seemed inclined to do, they
would infallibly have received the support of the
catholics ; indeed conferences on the subject were
immediately held in the house of the nuncio at
Lucern. But they deliberated too long ; while on
the other hand the protestants carried their expe-
dition into effect with the greatest promptitude,
and thus restored the old form of government,
which was essentially favourable to themf .

* " Ihre ewigen Nachkommen," (their eternal posterit}',) the
expression in the documents relating to the alliance, in Lauffer,
Beschreibung helvetischer Geschichte, vol. x. p. 331.

t The importance of the Mühlhausen affair in a religious point


At this moment however, the three forest cantons,
in conjunction with Zug, Lucern, and Freiburg,
made a new and important step. After a long nego-
tiation, they signed a treaty with Spain on the 12th
of May, 1 587, in which they promised to maintain
perpetual amity with the king, and granted him
the privilege of raising recruits in their provinces,
and of marching his troops through their territory ;
while Phihp, on his part, made them answerable
concessions. Above all, they bound themselves
reciprocally by oath, to assist each other with all
their might, should either of them be involved in a
war for the sake of the holy apostolical religion*.
In this treaty the five cantons made no exceptions,
not even in favour of the other members of the
confederation ; on the contrary, it was unquestion-
ably framed with especial reference to them ; since
there was no other state with whom the contracting
parties could be in any danger of a war on account
of religion.

How far more powerful there, as well as in France,
was the influence of religious, than of national feel-
ing ! A community of faith now united the old
Schwytzers and the house of Austria ! The con-
federation was for the present superseded.

It was an exceedingly fortunate circumstance
that no incident occurred to give rise to immediate

of view, is peculiarly evident in the naiTative founded on the re-
lations of the nuncio, in the Anonymo Capitol, to which we shall
return in noticing Tempesti.

* Traite d 'alliance fait entre Philipp II., etc. Dumont, Corps
diplomatique, V. i. p. 459.



dissension, so that the influence of this alliance was
at first felt only at Geneva.

Charles Emanuel, duke of Savoy, a prince ac-
tuated all his life by restless ambition, had already
often betrayed a desire to repossess himself of Ge-
neva on the first favourable opportunity, as he
considered himself its rightful master ; but his de-
signs had till now been promptly defeated by the
resistance of the Swiss and the French, and the
protection afforded by those powers to the Gene-

The relations, however, of the parties were now
altered; in the summer of the year 1588, Henry
III., influenced by Guise, promised to throw no
more impediments in the way of any enterprise
against Geneva ; and, at all events, the catholic
cantons of Switzerland had now nothing to object
to his plans. So far as I can find, they only stipu-
lated that Geneva, when taken, should not subsist
as a fortress.

The duke, upon this understanding, armed him-
self for the attack ; the Genevese did not lose their
courage, but in conjunction with their allies of
Berne, made an inroad into his territories ; the
duke however very soon had the advantage, and
the invaders were driven back. Charles Emanuel,
who held the countships bordering on Switzerland
under very strict limitations, imposed upon him by
former treaties of peace with Berne, seized the op-
portunity immediately to make himself more com-
pletely master there. He drove out the protestants,
whom, till now, he had been compelled to tolerate,


and made the whole country exclusively catholic.
Until this time he had been expressly prohibited
from erecting fortresses in this part of his domi-
nions ; he now began to build them in places which
might be made available not only for defence, but
for annoying Geneva.

But before these affairs were further developed,
other enterprises were in agitation, which threat-
ened to produce far more weighty consequences,
and to effect a total change in all the political rela-
tions of Europe.


The greater part of the Netherlands was con-
quered, and a negociation was already on foot for
the voluntary submission of the remaining portion.
In Germany the catholic movement had been
triumphant in a great many of the states, and a
plan was laid for subjugating those which yet re-
sisted. The champion of French Catholicism, by
the concurrent influence of victories, investment
of the strongholds, attachment of the people, and
legitimate authority, advanced in a course which
appeared inevitably to lead him to the possession
of autocratic power. The old metropolis of the
Protestant doctrines, the city of Geneva, was no
longer protected by her former allies. At this mo-


ment a plan was conceived and adopted, for laying
the axe to the root of the tree, by an attack upon

England was doubtless the central point of Pro-
testant power and policy ; and in queen EUzabeth
the still unconquered Netherland provinces, as well
as the French huguenots, beheld their most illus-
trious protector.

But even in England an internal struggle had, as
we have already seen, commenced. There was a
constant succession of pupils from the seminaries,
and of Jesuits coming over, impelled at once by reli-
gious enthusiasm industriously fostered with that
view, and by a longing to revisit their native coun-
try. Their efforts were encountered by queen Ehza-
beth with severe laws. In the year 1 582, it was de-
clared high treason to attempt to pervert any of her
subjects from the religion established in the realm, to
that of Rome*. In the year 1 585 she commanded all
Jesuits and priests belonging to seminaries to quit
England within forty days, under pain of being
dealt with as traitors ; in the same manner as the
Protestant preachers had been driven out of the do-
minions of so many catholic princes f. With this
view she brought into active operation the court of
high commission, specially established to inquire
into violations of the acts of supremacy and of uni-
formity, not only according to the usual forms of
law, but by whatever means and ways they could

* Camdeii, Rerum Angiicarum Anuales regnante Elizabetha, i.
p. 349.

t Ibid. p. 396.


devise, even corporal oath ; in short, it was a species
of Protestant inquisition '*^.

Notwithstanding these acts of despotism, EUza-
beth wished to avoid the appearance of offending
against freedom of conscience. She declared that it
was not the re-establishment of their religion which
the Jesuits had at heart, but that their object was
only to seduce the country to revolt from the go-
vernment, and thus prepare the way for the entrance
of foreign foes. The missionaries on their side,
protested, " before God and the saints," " before
heaven and earth," (to use their expressions) that
their views were purely religious, and in no way
affected the queen's majestyf; but what under-
standing could discriminate between these two sets
of motives ? The queen's inquisitors were not to be
-put off by a simple assertion, but required a decla-
ration, whether the anathema which Pius V. had
fulminated against the queen were lawful and bind-
ing upon an Englishman ; the prisoners were called
upon to say, if the pope were to absolve them from
their oath of allegiance, and to attack England, what
they should do, and which side they should support.
The miserable frightened men knew not how to ex-

* " As well by the oaths of twelve good and lawful men, as
also by witnesses and all other means and ways you can devise."
It should at least have been, " lawful means and ways." Neal,
History of the Puritans, vol. i. p. 414.

t Campiani Vita et Martyrium, p. 159. " Coram Deo pro-
fiteor et angelis ejus, coram coelo terraque, coram mundo et
hoc cui adsto tribunali, — me nee criminis laesae majestatis nee
perduellionis nee ullius in patriam conjurationis esse reum,"


tricate themselves from this dilemma ; they an-
swered, that they would render unto God what was
God's, and unto Cresar what was Caesar's ; hut this
evasion was itself interpreted into a confession by
their judges. Thus the prisons were filled, execu-
tion followed upon execution, and Catholicism in its
turn had its martyrs. Their number has been esti-
mated at two hundred during the reign of Eliza-
beth. It may readily be concluded that the zeal
of the missionaries was not subdued by these perse-
cutions ; the number and exasperation of the con-
tumacious (the recusants, as they were called) in-
creased with the increasing severity of the laws.
Pamphlets found their way even into the court, in
which the assassination of Holofernes by Judith
was held up as an example of fear of God and he-
roic courage, worthy of imitation ; the eyes of the
many were still constantly turned towards the impri-
soned queen of Scotland, who, according to the de-
clarations of the pope, was the lawful sovereign of
England ; they were still in constant hope of a gene-
ral revolution, to be produced by an attack of the
catholic powers. The most dreadful descriptions
of the cruelties to which the true believers were
subjected in England, were circulated throughout
Italy and Spain, and excited the sympathy and in-
dignation of all catholics*.

* Theatrum crudelitatum hsereticorum nostri temporis. It
begins with a " peculiaris descriptio crudelitatum ct immanita-
tum schismaticorum Angliae regnante Henrico "\'in.", and ends
with " Inquisitionis Anglicanee et facinorum crudelium Machia-
vellanorum in Anglia et Hibernia a Calvinistis protestantibus


But the man in whom this sentiment was the
most powerful was pope Sixtus. It is unquestion-
ably true that he felt a sort of reverence for the
personal qualities, the lofty and dauntless spirit, of
Elizabeth, and that he actually invited her to return
to the bosom of the cathoUc church. Strange pro-
position ! as if she had it in her power to choose ;
as if her past life, the w^hole import of her being,
her political position and attitude, did not, even
supposing her conviction not to be sincere, enchain
her to the protestant cause ! Ehzabeth returned no

Online LibraryLeopold von RankeThe ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 39)