François Pierre Guillaume Guizot.

A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 5 online

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what he regarded as the divine right of the Catholic church and of his
own kingship, the patron of absolute power in Europe. Earnest and
sincere in his faith, licentious without open scandal in his private
life, unscrupulous and pitiless in the service of the religious and
political cause he had embraced, he was capable of any lie, one might
almost say of any crime, without having his conscience troubled by it.
A wicked man and a frightful example of what a naturally cold and hard
spirit may become when it is a prey to all the temptations of despotism
and to two sole passions, egotism and fanaticism.

After the death of Philip II. and during the first years of the reign of
his son Philip III., war continued between Spain on one side, and
England, the United Provinces, and the German Protestants on the other,
but languidly and without any results to signify. Henry IV. held aloof
from the strife, all the while permitting his Huguenot subjects to take
part in it freely and at their own risks. On the 3d of April, 1603,
a second great royal personage, Queen Elizabeth, disappeared from the
scene. She had been, as regards the Protestantism of Europe, what Philip
II. had been, as regards Catholicism, a powerful and able patron; but,
what Philip II. did from fanatical conviction, Elizabeth did from
patriotic feeling; she had small faith in Calvinistic doctrines, and no
liking for Puritanic sects; the Catholic church, the power of the pope
excepted, was more to her mind than the Anglican church, and her private
preferences differed greatly from her public practices. Besides, she
combined with the exigencies of a king's position the instincts of a
woman; she had the vanities rather than the weaknesses of one; she would
fain have inspired and responded to the passions natural to one; but
policy always had the dominion over her sentiments without extinguishing
them, and the proud sovereign sent to the block the overweening and
almost rebel subject whom she afterwards grievously regretted. These
inconsistent resolutions and emotions caused Elizabeth's life to be one
of agitation, though without warmth, and devoid of serenity as of
sweetness. And so, when she grew old, she was disgusted with it and
weary of it; she took no pleasure any more in thing or person; she could
no longer bear herself, either in her court or in her bed or elsewhere;
she decked herself out to lie stretched upon cushions and there remain
motionless, casting about her vague glances which seemed to seek after
that for which she did not ask. She ended by repelling her physicians
and even refusing nourishment. When her ministers saw her thus, almost
insensible and dying, they were emboldened to remind her of what she had
said to them one day at White-Hall, "My throne must be a king's throne."
At this reminder she seemed to rouse herself, and repeated the same
words, adding, "I will not have a rascal (vaurien) to succeed me." Sir
Robert Cecil asked her what she meant by that expression. "I tell you
that I must have a king to succeed me; who can that be but my cousin of
Scotland?" After having indicated the King of Scotland, James Stuart,
son of the fair rival whom she had sent to the block, Elizabeth remained
speechless. The Archbishop of Canterbury commenced praying, breaking off
at intervals; twice the queen signed to him to go on. Her advisers
returned in the evening, and begged her to indicate to them by signs if
she were still of the same mind; she raised her arms and crossed them
above her head. Then she seemed to fall into a dreamy state. At three
o'clock, during the night, she quietly passed away. Some few hours
afterwards, her counsellors in assembly resolved to proclaim James
Stuart, King of Scotland, King of England, as the nearest of kin to the
late queen, and indicated by her on her death-bed.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century Henry IV. was the only one
remaining of the three great sovereigns who, during the sixteenth, had
disputed, as regarded religion and politics, the preponderance in Europe.
He had succeeded in all his kingly enterprises; he had become a Catholic
in France without ceasing to be the prop of the Protestants in Europe;
he had made peace with Spain without embroiling himself with England,
Holland, and Lutheran Germany. He had shot up, as regarded ability and
influence, in the eyes of all Europe. It was just then that he gave the
strongest proof of his great judgment and political sagacity; he was not
intoxicated with success; he did not abuse his power; he did not aspire
to distant conquests or brilliant achievements; he concerned himself
chiefly with the establishment of public order in his kingdom and with
his people's prosperity. His well-known saying, "I want all my peasantry
to have a fowl in the pot every Sunday," was a desire worthy of Louis
XII. Henry IV. had a sympathetic nature; his grandeur did not lead him
to forget the nameless multitudes whose fate depended upon his

He had, besides, the rich, productive, varied, inquiring mind of one who
took an interest not only in the welfare of the French peasantry, but in
the progress of the whole French community, progress agricultural,
industrial, commercial, scientific, and literary. The conversation of an
independent thinker like Montaigne had, at the least, as much attraction
for him as that of his comrades in arms. Long before Henry IV. was King
of France, on the 19th of December, 1584, Montaigne, wrote, "The King of
Navarre came to see me at Montaigne where he had never been before, and
was there two days, attended by my people without any of his own
officers; he permitted neither tasting (essai) nor state-banquet
(couvert), and slept in my bed." On the 24th of October, 1587, after
winning the battle of Contras, Henry stopped to dine at Montaigne's
house, though its possessor had remained faithful to Henry III., whose
troops had just lost the battle; and on the 18th of January, 1590, when
the King of Navarre, now become King of France, besieged and took the
town of Lisieux, Montaigne wrote to him, "All the time through, sir, I
have observed in you this same fortune that is now yours; and you may
remember that even when I had to make confession thereof to my
parish-priest I did not omit to regard your successes with a kindly eye.
Now, with more reason and freedom, I hug them to my heart. Yonder they
do you service by effects; but they do you no less service here by
reputation. The report goes as far as the shot. We could not derive
from the justice of your cause arguments so powerful in sustaining or
reducing your subjects as we do from the news of the prosperity of your

Abroad the policy of Henry IV. was as judicious and far sighted as it was
just and sympathetic at home. There has been much writing and
dissertation about what has been called his grand design. This name has
been given to a plan for the religious and political organization of
Christendom, consisting in the division of Europe amongst three
religions, the Catholic, the Calvinistic, and the Lutheran, and into
fifteen states, great and small, monarchical or republican, with equal
rights, alone recognized as members of the Christian confederation,
regulating in concert their common affairs, and pacifically making up
their differences, whilst all the while preserving their national
existence. This plan is lengthily and approvingly set forth, several
times over, in the _OEconomies royales,_ which Sully's secretaries wrote
at his suggestion, and probably sometimes at his dictation. Henry IV.
was a prince as expansive in ideas as he was inventive, who was a master
of the art of pleasing, and himself took great pleasure in the freedom
and unconstraint of conversation. No doubt the notions of the grand
design often came into his head, and he often talked about them to Sully,
his confidant in what he thought as well as in what he did. Sully, for
his part was a methodical spirit, a regular downright putter in practice,
evidently struck and charmed by the richness and grandeur of the
prospects placed before his eyes by his king, and feeling pleasure in
shedding light upon them whilst giving them a more positive and more
complete shape than belonged to their first and original appearance.
And thus came down to us the grand design, which, so far as Henry IV. was
concerned, was never a definite project. His true external policy was
much more real and practical. He had seen and experienced the evils of
religious hatred and persecution. He had been a great sufferer from the
supremacy of the house of Austria in Europe, and he had for a long while
opposed it. When he became the most puissant and most regarded of
European kings, he set his heart very strongly on two things - toleration
for the three religions which had succeeded in establishing themselves in
Europe and showing themselves capable of contending one against another,
and the abasement of the house of Austria, which, even after the death of
Charles V. and of Philip II., remained the real and the formidable rival
of France. The external policy of Henry from the treaty of Vervins to
his death, was religious peace in Europe and the alliance of Catholic
France with Protestant England and Germany against Spain and Austria. He
showed constant respect and deference towards the papacy, a power highly
regarded in both the rival camps, though much fallen from the substantial
importance it had possessed in Europe during the middle ages. French
policy striving against Spanish policy, such was the true and the only
serious characteristic of the grand design.

Four men, very unequal in influence as well as merit, Sully, Villeroi,
Du Plessis-Mornay, and D'Aubigne, did Henry IV. effective service, by
very different processes and in very different degrees, towards
establishing and rendering successful this internal and external policy.
Three were Protestants; Villeroi alone was a Catholic. Sully is beyond
comparison with the other three. He is the only one whom Henry IV.
called my friend; the only one who had participated in all the life and
all the government of Henry IV., his evil as well as his exalted
fortunes, his most painful embarrassments at home as well as his greatest
political acts; the only one whose name has remained inseparably
connected with that of a master whom he served without servility as well
as without any attempt to domineer. There is no idea of entering here
upon his personal history; we would only indicate his place in that of
his king. Maximilian de Bethune-Rosny, born in 1559, and six years
younger than Henry of Navarre, was barely seventeen when in 1576 he
attended Henry on his flight from the court of France to go and recover
in Navarre his independence of position and character. Rosny was content
at first to serve him as a volunteer, "in order," he said, "to learn the
profession of arms from its first rudiments." He speedily did himself
honor in several actions. In 1580 the King of Navarre took him as
chamberlain and counsellor. On becoming King of France, Henry IV., in
1594, made him secretary of state; in 1596, put him on the council of
finance; in 1597, appointed him grand surveyor of France, and, in 1599,
superintendent-general of finance and master of the ordnance. In 1602 he
was made Marquis de Rosny and councillor of honor in the Parliament; then
governor of the Bastille, superintendent of fortifications, and surveyor
of Paris; in 1603, governor of Poitou. Lastly, in 1606, his estate of
Sully-sur-Loire was raised to a duchy-peerage, and he was living under
this name, which has become his historical name, when, in 1610, the
assassination of Henry IV. sent into retirement, for thirty-one years,
the confidant of all his thoughts and the principal minister of a reign
which, independently of the sums usefully expended for the service of the
state and the advancement of public prosperity, had extinguished,
according to the most trustworthy evidence, two hundred and thirty-five
millions of debts, and which left in the coffers of the state, in ready
money or in safe securities, forty-three million, one hundred and
thirty-eight thousand, four hundred and ninety livres.

Nicholas de Neufville, Lord of Villeroi, who was born in 1543, and whose
grandfather had been secretary of state under Francis I., was, whilst
Henry III. was still reigning, member of a small secret council at which
all questions relating to Protestants were treated of. Though a strict
Catholic, and convinced that the King of France ought to be openly in the
ranks of the Catholics, and to govern with their support, he sometimes
gave Henry III. some free-spoken and wise counsels. When he saw him
spending his time with the brotherhoods of penitents whose head he had
declared himself, "Sir," said he, "debts and obligations are considered
according to dates, and therefore old debts ought to be paid before new
ones. You were King of France before you were head of the brotherhoods;
your conscience binds you to render to the kingship that which you owe it
rather than to the fraternity that which you have promised it. You can
excuse yourself from one, but not from the other. You only wear the
sackcloth when you please, but you have the crown always on your head."
When the wars of religion broke out, when the League took form and Henry
de Guise had been assassinated at Blois, Villeroi, naturally a Leaguer
and a moderate Leaguer, became the immediate adviser of the Duke of
Mayenne. After Henry III.'s death, as soon as he heard that Henry IV.
promised to have himself instructed in the Catholic religion, he
announced his intention of recognizing him if he held to this engagement;
and he held to his own, for he was during five years the intermediary
between Henry IV. and Mayenne, incessantly laboring to reconcile them,
and to prevent the estates of the League from giving the crown of France
to a Spanish princess. Villeroi was a Leaguer of the patriotically
French type. And so Henry IV., as soon as he was firm upon his throne,
summoned him to his councils, and confided to him the direction of
foreign affairs. The late Leaguer sat beside Sully, and exerted himself
to give the prevalence, in Henry IV.'s external policy, to Catholic
maxims and alliances, whilst Sully, remaining firmly Protestant in the
service of his king turned Catholic, continued to be in foreign matters
the champion of Protestant policy and alliances. There was thus seen,
during the sixteenth century, in the French monarchy, a phenomenon which
was to repeat itself during the eighteenth in the republic of the United
States of America, when, in 1789, its president, Washington, summoned to
his cabinet Hamilton and Jefferson together, one the stanchest of the
aristocratic federalists and the other the warm defender of democratic
principles and tendencies. Washington, in his lofty and calm
impartiality, considered that, to govern the nascent republic, he had
need of both; and he found a way, in fact, to make both of service to
him. Henry IV. had perceived himself to be in an analogous position with
France and Europe divided between Catholics and Protestants, whom he
aspired to pacificate.

He likewise succeeded. An incomplete success, however, as generally.
happens when the point attained is an adjournment of knotty questions
which war has vainly attempted to cut, and the course of ideas and events
has not yet had time to unravel.

Henry IV. made so great a case of Villeroi's co-operation and influence,
that, without loving him as he loved Sully, he upheld him and kept him as
secretary of state for foreign affairs to the end of his reign. He
precisely defined his peculiar merit when he said, "Princes have servants
of all values and all sorts; some do their own business before that of
their master; others do their master's and do not forget their own; but
Villeroi believes that his master's business is his own, and he bestows
thereon the same zeal that another does in pushing his own suit or
laboring at his own vine." Though short and frigidly written, the
Memoires of Villeroi give, in fact, the idea of a man absorbed in his
commission and regarding it as his own business as well as that of his
king and country.

Philip du Plessis-Mornay occupied a smaller place than Sully and Villeroi
in the government of Henry IV.; but he held and deserves to keep a great
one in the history of his times. He was the most eminent and also the
most moderate of the men of profound piety and conviction of whom the
Reformation had made a complete conquest, soul and body, and who placed
their public fidelity to their religious creed above every other interest
and every other affair in this world. He openly blamed and bitterly
deplored Henry IV.'s conversion to Catholicism, but he did not ignore the
weighty motives for it; his disapproval and his vexation did not make him
forget the great qualities of his king or the services he was rendering
France, or his own duty and his earlier feelings towards him. This
unbending Protestant, who had contributed as much as anybody to put
Henry IV. on the throne, who had been admitted further than anybody,
except Sully, to his intimacy, who ever regretted that his king had
abandoned his faith, who braved all perils and all disgraces to keep and
maintain his own, this Mornay, malcontent, saddened, all but banished
from court, assailed by his friends' irritation and touched by their
sufferings, never took part against the king whom he blamed, and of whom
he thought he had to complain, in any faction or any intrigue; on the
contrary, he remained unshakably faithful to him, incessantly striving to
maintain or re-establish in the Protestant church in France some little
order and peace, and between the Protestants and Henry IV. some little
mutual confidence and friendliness. Mornay had made up his mind to serve
forever a king who had saved his country. He remained steadfast and
active in his creed, but without falling beneath the yoke of any
narrow-minded idea, preserving his patriotic good sense in the midst of
his fervent piety, and bearing with sorrowful constancy his friends'
bursts of anger and his king's exhibitions of ingratitude. Between 1597
and 1605 three incidents supervened which put to the proof Henry IV.'s
feelings towards his old and faithful servant. In October, 1597, Mornay,
still governor of Saumur, had gone to Angers to concert plans with
Marshal de Brissac for an expedition which, by order of the king, they
were to make into Brittany against the Duke of Mercoeur, not yet reduced
to submission. As he was passing along the street with only three or
four of his men, he was unexpectedly attacked by one Sieur de Saint-Phal,
who, after calling upon him to give some explanation as to a disagreement
that had taken place between them five months before, brutally struck him
a blow on the head with a stick, knocked him down, immediately mounted a
horse that was held all ready on the spot, and fled in haste, leaving
Mornay in the hands of ten or a dozen accomplices, who dealt him several
sword-thrusts as he was rising to defend himself, and who, in their turn,
fled. Some passers-by hurried up; Mornay's wounds were found to be
slight; but the affair, which nobody hesitated to call murder, made a
great noise; there was general indignation; the king was at once informed
of it; and whilst the question was being discussed at Saumur whether
Mornay ought to seek reparation by way of arms or by that of law, Henry
IV. wrote to him in his own hand on the 8th of November, 1597: -

"M. du Plessis: I am extremely displeased at the outrage you have met
with, wherein I participate both as king and as your friend. As the
former I will do you justice and myself too. If I bore only the second
title, you have none whose sword would be more ready to leap from its
scabbard than mine, or who would put his life at your service more
cheerfully than I. Take this for granted, that, in effect, I will render
you the offices of king, master, and friend. And on this truthful
assurance, I conclude, praying God to have you in His holy keeping."

Saint-Phal remained for a long while concealed in the very district,
amongst his relatives; but on the 12th of January, 1599, he was arrested
and put in the Bastille; and, according to the desire of Mornay himself,
the king decided that he should be brought before him, unarmed, should
place one knee on the ground, should ask his pardon, and then, assuming
his arms, should accordingly receive that pardon, first of all from
Mornay, whom the king had not permitted to exact in another way the
reparation due to him, and afterwards from the mouth of the king himself,
together with a severe admonition to take heed to himself for the future.
The affair having thus terminated, there was no more heard of Saint-Phal,
and Mornay returned to Saumur with a striking mark of the king's
sympathy, who, in his own words, had felt pleasure "in avenging him as
king and as friend."

The second incident was of more political consequence, and neither the
king nor Mornay conducted themselves with sufficient discretion and
dignity. In July, 1598, Mornay published a treatise on the institution
of the eucharist in the Christian church, how and by what degrees the
mass was introduced in its place. It was not only an attack upon the
fundamental dogma and cult of the Catholic church; the pope was expressly
styled Antichrist in it. Clement VIII. wrote several times about it to
Henry IV., complaining that a man of such high standing in the government
and in the king's regard should treat so insultingly a sovereign in
alliance with the king, and head of the church to which the king
belonged. The pope's complaint came opportunely. Henry IV. was at this
time desirous of obtaining from the court of Rome annulment of his
marriage with Marguerite de Valois, that he might be enabled to contract
another; he did not as yet say with whom. Mornay's book was vigorously
attacked, not only in point of doctrine, but in point of fact; he was
charged with having built his foundation upon a large number of
misquotations; and the Bishop of Evreux, M. du Perron, a great friend of
the king's, whom he had always supported and served, said that he was
prepared to point out as such nearly five hundred. The dispute grew warm
between the two theologians; Mornay demanded leave to prove the falsehood
of the accusation; the bishop accepted the challenge. For all his
defence of his book and his erudition, Mornay did not show any great
hurry to enter upon the contest; and, on the other hand, the bishop
reduced the number of the quotations against which he objected. The sum
total of the quotations found fault with was fixed at sixty. A
conference was summoned to look into them, and six commissioners, three
Catholic and three Protestant, were appointed to give judgment; De Thou
and Pithou amongst the former, Dufresne la Canaye and Casaubon amongst
the latter. Erudition was worthily represented there, and there was
every probability of justice. The conference met on the 4th of May,
1600, at Fontainebleau, in presence of the king and many great lords,
magistrates, ecclesiastics, and distinguished spectators.

[Illustration: The Castle of Fontainbleau - - 124]

Mornay began by owning that "out of four thousand quotations made by him
it was unlikely that some would not be found wherein he might have erred,
as he was human, but he was quite sure that it was never in bad faith."
He then said that, being pressed for time, he had not yet been able to
collate more than nineteen out of the sixty quotations specially
attacked. Of these nineteen nine only were examined at this first
conference, and nearly all were found to be incorrect. Next day, Mornay
was taken "with a violent seizure and repeated attacks of vomiting, which
M. de la Riviere, the king's premier physician, came and deposed to."
The conference was broken off, and not resumed afterwards. The king
congratulated himself beyond measure at the result, and even on the part
which he had taken. "Tell the truth," said he to the Bishop of Evreux,
"the good right had good need of aid;" and he wrote, on the 6th of May to
the Duke of Epernon, "The diocese of Evreux has beaten that of Saumur.
The bearer was present, and will tell you that I did wonders. Assuredly
it is one of the greatest hits for the church of God that have been made
for some time." He evidently had it very much at heart that the pope
should be well informed of what had taken place, and feel obliged to him

Online LibraryFrançois Pierre Guillaume GuizotA Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 5 → online text (page 10 of 57)