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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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king. As the sole ground for the exclusion of
Henry IV. was a religious one, an unusual authority
in the assembly fell to the share of the papal legate,
Sega, bishop of Piacenza, who had been appointed
by Gregory XIV. ; a man imbued with the ecclesi-
astical spirit of that pontiff's reign. Clement deemed
it necessary to send him particular instructions, in
which he admonished him to look to it that neither
violence nor bribery influenced the votes : he con-
jured him to beware above all things of precipita-
tion in so important a matterf ; a caution w'hich

* Ibid. " Dopo aver lassato sfogar il primo moto della altera-
tion di S. Beat."

t Davila gives an extract from this instruction, xiii. p. 810.



248 ABSOLUTION [bOOK VI.

would have materially influenced the conduct of
an ambassador who thought himself bound to
obey the slightest hint of his sovereign ; but far
too general to draw a dignitary of the church,
who looked for advancement rather to Spain than
to the pope, from a party to which he had hitherto
belonged, and which he esteemed the orthodox
one. Cardinal Sega changed not his course in
the least. On the 13th of June, 1593, he pub-
lished a declaration, in which he called upon the
estates to elect a king who might be not only a
true catholic, but also disposed and determined to
defeat all the efforts of the heretics. This, he said,
was what his holiness wished more than anything
on earth*.

The character of the pope's instructions to which
we have just referred, is in conformity with all his
other proceedings. In generals he adheres to the
high orthodox party of Spain and the church. He.
does not indeed exhibit that fervour and devotion in
the cause which had distinguished other popes ; if
he feels them, it is in secret ; it is sufficient for him
to adhere quietly and blamelessly, as the order of
public business required, to that side which had
already been taken, and which had the greatest
analogy with the idea of his high and holy office.
It is however evident, that so far from wishing

* " qu'ilait le courage et les autres vertus requises pour

pouvoir heureusement reprimer et aneantir du tout les efforts et
mauvais desseins des heretiques. C'est la chose du monde que
plus S. S. presse et desire." (Cayet, 58. 351.)



§ VI.] OF HENRY IV. 249

completely to repulse the other party, he avoided
driving them to decided hostility. By means of
secret advances and vague expressions, he kept
them in hope of a reconciliation at some future
time; whilst he satisfied the Spaniards, he allowed
their adversaries to persuade themselves that his
actions were not quite free ; that in some particu-
lars he was irresistibly governed by deference to
the opinion of Spain. In Sixtus, it was a war of
contending sentiments, which hindered him from
coming to any final decision ; in Clement, it was
regard to the opinion of both sides, prudence, cir-
cumspection ; the offspring of experience of the
world, and of a desire to avoid hostilities. The ine-
vitable consequence, however, was, that he, like his
predecessor, exercised no determining influence.

Thus left to themselves, the affairs of France were
the more free to fbllow the direction given to them
by their own internal impulses.

The most important circumstance was, that the
chiefs of the League quarrelled. The sixteen at-
tached themselves closely to Spain, while Mayenne
pursued the aims of personal ambition. This only
inflamed the zeal of the sixteen ; they proceeded to
the most atrocious crimes against those whom they
imagined, or who really were, deserters from their
cause; such, for example, as the assassination of the
president Brisson, for which Mayenne thought it
necessary to chastise them, and to execute the most
fanatical of their leaders. Fostered by this division,
there arose in Paris, as early as the beginning of the
year 1592, a party distinguished by moderate politi-



250 ABSOLUTION [bOOK VI.

cal and religious opinions ; catholic indeed, but op-
posed to the measures of the League, and above all
to the sixteen and the Spaniards. A compact was
entered into, not very different from the League itself,
the foremost object of which was to place the offices
of the city in the hands of moderate, judicious men ;
an object which was nearly accomplished in the
course of that year*. A similar turn of public
opinion manifested itself throughout the kingdom,
and had a great effect on the results of the elections
for the meeting of the estates. Hence it happened
that the Spaniards, in spite of all their projects,
experienced such a pertinacious resistance in that
assembly. While fanatical preachers continued to
denounce every man as excommunicated, however
constant in his attendance at mass, who consented
so much as to talk of peace with heretics, the par-
liament insisted on the fundamental law of the
realm, by which foreign princes were excluded from
the throne ; and it was impossible not to perceive
that this whole party, which was called the political
party, only waited for the conversion of Henry IV. to
declare their submission to him. What, then, was
the difference between them and the catholic royal-
ists in Henry's camp ? It was only this ; — that the
former, before they tendered their allegiance, re-
quired to see a step actually taken, which the latter
thought themselves justified in awaiting*. For the
catholic royalists also were unanimous in thinking

* Cayet, lib. iv. (torn. 58. p. 5.), gives the propositions made in
the first assembly.



^ VI.] OF HENRY IV. 251

that the king must return to their church ; although
tliey did not make his right, or his legitimacy as
successor to the throne, depend upon it. Perhaps
also antipathy to the protestants who surrounded
the king made them insist the more earnestly on
this point ; the princes of the blood, the most emi-
nent statesmen, and the greater part of the court
united to form a tiers-parti, whose distinguishing
characteristic lay in this demand*.

As soon as matters had assumed this form, every
one perceived, and the protestants themselves did
not deny, that Henry, if he wished to be king,
must become a catholic. It is not necessary for us
to examine the claims of tliose who affirm that they
gave the last impulse in that direction. More was
effected by the grand combination of circumstances,
by the necessity of things, than by any indivi-
dual exertions f. In performing the act by which
he became a member of the catholic church, Henry
attached to himself and his cause that national
French Catholicism which was represented by the
tiers-parti and the so-called political party, and
which had now the prospect of maintaining an
ascendency in France.

This was however, in fact, only that same ca-
tholic opposition which had rallied round the ban-
ner of legitimacy and of national independence, in

* Thus it is described in Sully, v. 249.

t That Henry was resolved on this in April, 1593, is proved
by his letter to the grand duke of Tuscany on the 26th M.
Galluzzi, Storia del Granducato, s. v. p. IGO.



252 ABSOLUTION [ßOOK VI.

opposition to the schemes of the church and of
Spain. How mightily was it now increased in
power and importance ! In the general opinion
of the country it unquestionably predominated, and
throughout France people adhered to it in secret, if
not openly ; it now acquired a firm internal station
by the conversion of the sovereign — a sovereign
too, so warlike, gallant and victorious. Thus raised
in magnitude and consideration, this party once
more presented itself before the pope and implored
his recognition and his blessing. What glory was
to be acquired, what influence exercised, by a
. frank and explicit declaration in its favour ! And
so much still depended on it. Even the prelates
who had received the king into the bosom of the
church, had done so only with a reservation, that
the pope would grant him absolution*, and this the
most powerful members of the League, with whom
the king opened a negotiation, solicitedf. Al-
though promises are not always kept, it cannot be
doubted that the absolution, if granted at this mo-
ment by the pope, would have had a powerful effect
on the course of affairs. Henry IV. sent a grandee
of his kingdom, the duke de Nevers, to solicit it ;
and a truce was concluded until the answer should
arrive.

The pope was cautious and mistrustful. As vi-

* " Messieurs du clerge luy avoient donne 1 'absolution a la
charge qu'il envoyeroit vers sa S'*^' la requerir d'approuver ce
qu'ils avoient fait." (Cayet, 58, 390.)

t Villeroy, Memoircs. Coll. Univ. 62, 186.



§ VI.] OF HENRY IV. 253

sions of religious ambition had inflamed Sixtus V.,
so, on the other hand, fears of being deceived and
betrayed into difficulties, restrained Clement VIII.
He thought that Henry IV. would perhaps at last
relapse into protestantism, as he had done once
before ; he declared that he should not believe that
the king was really converted till an angel from
heaven came and told him so ; he looked around
him and saw the majority of the curia still hostile
to the French ; from time to time a pamphlet ap-
peared, repeating the assertion that Henry IV., as
a ' hsereticus relapsus,' could not be absolved even
by the pope himself; and Clement still wanted
courage to defy the Spaniards who were the leaders
and champions of these opinions*. And was not
the party which now solicited his favour really en-
gaged in opposition to the claims of the church of
Rome ? — " traitors to the throne and the church,"
as he expressed himself, " bastards, children of
the handmaid and not of the wife ; whereas the
leaguers had proved themselves true and legitimate
sonsf." Certainly it would have required some
resolution to grant their petition ; a resolution of

* Les Intimidations qui furent faites au Pape Clement VIII.
par le Due de Sessa, — not very autlientic, and which were printed
long ago in the Memoires de M"" le Due de Nevers, ii. p. 71G,
though since given as something new in Capefigue, Histoire de la
Reforme, torn. vii.

t Disp. 20 Aug. 1593. Account of Henry's conversion. " II
papa non s' era per tali avisi molto alterato e tuttavia restava con
r animo molto in vol to nelli suoi soliti dubbj e perplessita." He
said to the Venetian ambassador that Henry remained a haereti-
cus relapsus, and that no reliance was to be placed on the truth
of his conversion.



254 ABSOLUTION [bOOK VI.

which Clement was as yet incapable*. Nevers re-
paired to Rome with a double sense of his high
rank and his important mission ; he doubted not
that he should be received with joy, and this ex-
pectation he expressed ; the king's letter, of which
he was the bearer, was conceived in the same tone.
The pope remarked that it seemed as if the king
had not only been long a catholic, but that he came,
like a second Charlemagne, from achieving a vic-
tory over the enemies of the church. Nevers was
astonished at the coldness of his reception, and at
the small attention paid to his proposals. Finding
that all his 'efforts were vain, he at length asked the
pope what the king should do to deserve his holi-
ness' favour. The pope replied, that there were
divines enough in France to inform him. " But,"
said the duke, " will your holiness be content with
what the divines prescribe ? " The pope refused to
answer. He refused even to consider him as am-
bassador of Henry IV. ; he would treat him only
as Louis Gonzaga, due de Nevers ; he desired that
all that passed between them should be regarded
not as an official negotiation, but as a mere private
conversation; it was impossible to prevail on him to
give his assent to any written agreement. "Nothing
remains for me," said Nevers to cardinal Toledo, who
brought him this final answer from the pope, " but
to lament the calamity which will once more, when
war breaks out, subject France to the fury of the
soldiery." The cardinal said not a word, but smiled.

* Relatio dictorum a demente VIII. papa die 28 Dec. 1593,
in consistorio. Mem. de Nevers, ii. 638.



§ VI,] OF HENRY IV. 255

Nevers quitted Rome, and gave vent to his disgust
in bitter reports of what had passed*.

Men have, generally speaking, no feeling but for
their own situation. The Roman curia knew only
what was advantageous to itself; not a trace of
genuine sympathy in the destinies of France is dis-
coverable in its conduct.

We know, indeed, enough of Clement to believe
that he would not have utterly repulsed Henry's
adherents ; and less now than at an earlier period,
because they were so much more powerful. On
the contrary, it appears that he assured a secret
ag-ent, that the king had only to become thoroughly
catholic and that he would be sure of absolution.
Tt is very characteristic of this pope, that he, wlio
publicly showed so decided an aversion to take any
share in the king's return to the catholic faith,
nevertheless sent word privily to the grand duke of
Tuscany, that he could object to nothing the clergy
of France might think fit to do. The grand duke
was employed to communicate to the chiefs of the
catholic royalists the conciliatory expressions of the
popef. Nevertheless Clement's only anxiety was
about his own future, and hence things went in
France as they could.

* Two writings of almost exactly the same import : Discours
de ce que fit M"" de Nevers a son voyage de Rome en I'annee
1593, and Discours de la legation de M'' le Due de Nevers.
Both are contained in the second volume of the Memoirs of Ne-
vers just mentioned ; the first almost verbatim in Cayet ; ex-
tracts in Thuanus, Davila, and lately, as if borrowed from un-
known documents, in Capefigue.

t Davila, lib. xiv. p. 939.



25G ABSOLUTION [bOOK VI.

The truce had expired ; the sword was once
more unsheathed, and affairs were once more to he
decided by the fortune of war. But the superiority
of Henry IV. now manifested itself decidedly and
instantly. The commanders of the forces of the
League had no longer that firm conviction which
had formerly rendered their position so strong ; the
doctrines of the political party, the conversion of
the king, and his continued successes had shaken
the faith and courage of all. One after another
went over, without heeding that the pope still
withheld absolution. Vitri, the commander in
Meaux, who no longer received pay for his troops
from the Spaniards, set the example, which was
followed by those of Orleans, Bourges, and Rouen.
But the most important question was, the part that
Paris would take. There the political, or national
party, after many oscillations, had obtained a clear
superiority, had gained over the most distinguished
families, and had filled the most important posts
from its ranks. The armed citizens were already
officered by men of those opinions, which also
prevailed in the Hotel de Ville ; the Prevot des
Marchands and the Echevins belonged, with a
single exception, to that party. Under these cir-
cumstances, there could be no obstacle to the
king's return. Accordingly, on the 22nd March,
1594, he re-entered Paris. Henry IV. was asto-
nished to find himself greeted with such cordial
and joyous cheers by the people from whom he
had experienced such an obstinate resistance, and
thought himself justified in inferring that they had



§ VI.] OF HENRY IV. 257

lived under a tyrannical rule : this however was
not entirely true ; the sentiments of the League had
really been the predominant ones, though others
had taken their place. The king's return was
mainly a victory of political opinions. The leaguers
now underwent the same persecution which they
had so often inflicted on others. The most influ-
ential founders and chiefs of the League, such as
the formidable Boucher, quitted the city with the
Spanish troops ; more than a hundred others who
were regarded as the most dangerous were for-
mally banished. All the authorities and the whole
population took the oath of allegiance ; even the
Sorbonne, — whose most stiff'-necked and intrac-
table members, and among them the rector of
the university himself, were banished, — submitted
to the dominant opinions. Widely different were
their decisions now from those of 1589. The
Sorbonne now acknowledged that all dominion
was from God (according to the thirteenth chapter
of the epistle to the Romans) ; that every man who
set himself in opposition to the king, rebelled
against God and subjected himself to damnation.
It rejected the doctrine that it was lawful to re-
fuse obedience to the king because he was not yet
recognised by the pope, as an invention of evil-
minded and ill-advised men. The members of
the university in a body, — rector, dean, theo-
logians, decretists, doctors in medicine, artists,
monks and conventuals, scholars and officers, — now
took the oath of fidelity and allegiance to Henry
IV., and bound themselves to shed their blood for
VOL. II, S



258 ABSOLUTION [bOOK VI.

him. Nay, what is more surprising, the university
immediately opened a campaign against the Jesuits,
on the basis of this their new orthodoxy. It re-
proached them with their anarchical principles, in
which, to say truth, that body had fully partici-
pated, and with their attachment to Spain. For
a time the Jesuits defended themselves with some
success. But as in the same year, Jean Chastel*, a
man who had attended their schools, made an at-
tempt to assassinate the king, and confessed in the
course of his examination, that he had frequently
heard from the Jesuits that it was lawful to kill a
king who was not reconciled to the church, they
could no longer withstand the universal triumph
of the adverse party ; scarcely could the people
be withheld from storming their college ; and
at length all the members of the order were sen-
tenced to void the kingdom within fourteen days,
as seducers of youth, disturbers of the public
peace, enemies of the king and of the state f.
Thus did the opinions, which in small and ob-
scure beginnings had taken their stand as oppo-

* Juvencius, partis v. lib. xii. n. 13. gives the following de-
scription of this criminal : " Indoles juveni tristis ac tetrica,
mores improbi, mens anxia recordatione criminum atque unius

potissimum quod matrem aliquando verberasset Conscientia

criminum ultrix mentem efferatam diro vexare pergebat metu :
quem ut leniret, immane parricidium impos mentis an potius
erebi furiis incitatus designat, quo tanquam de religione ac regno
bene meritus peccatorum veniam facilius, ut demens reputabat,
consequeretur."

f Annuse Literse Societatis Jesu, 159fi, p. 350. " Tanta su-
perat adhuc preeteriti naufragii fluctuatio ut nondum tabulas
omnes atque armamenta disjecta collegerimus."



§ VI.] OP HENRY IV. 259

sition, now gain possession of Paris, and gradually
of the whole kingdom, and drive their antagonists
from the field. The change was universal. New
submissions to the king's authority were daily
tendered ; Henry was crowned and anointed at
Chartres ; prayers were put up for him in all
pulpits, the monastic orders acknowledged him,
and he exercised without opposition those ecclesi-
astical privileges of the crown which are of such
vast importance. He administered them like a
good catholic : wherever the rites of that church
had suffered in the recent troubles, he endeavoured
to restore them ; wherever it had maintained its
exclusive exercise, he solemnly confirmed its pos-
session of that privilege. All this he did ; yet he
was still not reconciled with the pope.

Clement, however, was now urged by absolute
necessity to consider the means of eftecting a
reconciliation*. If he had delayed longer, a schism,
a separate church of France, might have arisen.

The Spaniards indeed still opposed this mea-
sure. They maintained that Henry was not truly
converted, and that the real moment for dreading
a schism was that of his receiving absolution! ;
they even pointed out the occasions on which it
would inevitably break out. It still required some
resolution in the pope to set himself in opposition

* It is not till 5th Nov. 1594, that the Venetian ambassador
finds the pope " meglio inclinato che nel passato " with regard
to the affairs of France.

t Ossat a M. de Villeroy, Rome, G Dec. 1594. Lettres
d'Ossat, i. 53.

s2



260 ABSOLUTION [bOOK VI

to those by whose power he was surrounded, and
wlio had a large party in the curia ; to abandon
principles which had hitherto passed for ortho-
dox ; for which his predecessors had so often set
in motion their weapons, both spiritual and tem-
poral, and which he himself had for many years
sanctioned. But he clearly perceived that every
procrastination must become dangerous, and that
he had nothing to expect from the other side ; he
felt that the rising power in France, although
in spiritual affairs it might be in opposition to
the strictly orthodox doctrines, yet in temporal,
had a manifest sympathy with the interests of
Rome : it might perhaps be possible to overcome
the former, and to take advantage of the latter ; at
all events, Clement showed the greatest readiness
to listen to the first overtures that were addressed
to him. We have the accounts of his negotiations
from the pen of d'Ossat, the French minister ple-
nipotentiary ; they are agreeable, instructive, and
well worth reading, but I do not find that he had
any great difficulties to contend with. It would be
useless to follow him through all the details of the
transactions ; suffice it to say, that the conduct of
the pope was already determined by the general
posture of affairs. The only question was, whether
the king would, in return, accede to certain de-
mands made by the pope. Those who were unfa-
A^ourable to the reconciliation would fain have
raised these as high as possible, on the plea that
the church stood in need of all the securities she
could obtain in the existing state of things ; the



§ VI.] OF HENRY IV. 261

pope, however, adhered to the more moderate and
practicable conditions. He required especially the
restoration of the catholic religion in Beam ; the
introduction of the decrees of the council of Trent,
so far as they were compatible with the laws of the
land ; strict observance of the concordat, and the
education of the heir-presumptive to the throne,
the prince of Conde, in the catholic faith. The
king had still great reason to desire a reconciliation
with the see of Rome. His authority rested on
his conversion to Catholicism, and this act required
the pope's absolution to stamp it with perfect au-
thenticity : although by far the greater number
were content to waive the point, there were still
some who availed themselves of the want of this
sanction as a reason for their continued opposition*.
Henry IV. agreed to the required conditions with-
out much difficulty ; he had already prepared their
fulfilment in part, of his own accord, for he was
extremely anxious to appear a good catholic ; and
greatly as his power was increased since the mis-
sion of the duke de Nevers, the letter in which he
now craved absolution of the pope was far more
humble and submissive than that of which the

* Du Perron au Roi, 6 Nov. 1595 : " De toucher icy, combien
I'authorite et la faveur de ce siege estant entre vos mains vous
pent servir d'un utile instrument non seulement pour remettre et
conserver vos sujets en paix et en obeissance, mais aussi pour
vous preparer toutes sortes de grandeur hors de vostre royaume,
et a tout le moins pour tenir vos ennemis en quelque crainte et
devoir par I'apprehension de la meme autorite dont ils se sont
aydez pour troubler vos estats et vos peuples, ce seroit un dis-
cours superflu." (Les Ambassades du Cardinal Perron, i. 27.)



262 ABSOLUTION [bOOK VI.

duke was the bearer*. " The king," it says, '' re-
turns to the feet of your holiness, and implores in
all humility, by the bowels of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that you would grant him your holy blessing, and
your supreme absolution."

The pope was fully satisfied f. Nothing now
remained but that the College of Cardinals should
declare its assent. The pope, however, would
not allow a regular consistory to be summoned,
where a consistent adherence to the spirit of former
decrees might easily have occasioned inconvenient
results. He invited the cardinals to give him
their several opinions in private audiences ; an ex-
pedient which had often been adopted on similar
occasions. When he had consulted them all, he
declared that two- thirds were in favour of the abso-
lution.

On the 17th of December, 1595, preparations
were accordingly made for the performance of that



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