François Pierre Guillaume Guizot.

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talking may be harmful to your wounds, I am off again to Mantes. Adieu,
my friend; fare you well, and be assured that you have a good master."

Henry IV. had not only a warm but an expansive heart; he could not help
expressing and pouring forth his feelings. That was one of his charms,
and also one of his sources of power.

The victory of Ivry had a great effect in France and in Europe. But not
immediately and as regarded the actual campaign of 1590. The victorious
king moved on Paris, and made himself master of the little towns in the
neighborhood with a view of investing the capital. When he took
possession of St. Denis [on the 9th of July, 1590], he had the relics and
all the jewelry of the church shown to him. When he saw the royal crown,
from which the principal stones had been detached, he asked what had
become of them. He was told that M. de Mayehne had caused them to-be
removed. "He has the stones, then," said the king; "and I have the
soil." He visited the royal tombs, and when he was shown that of
Catherine de' Medici, " Ah!" said he smiling, "how well it suits her!"
And, as he stood before Henry III.'s he said, "Ventre-saint-gris! There
is my good brother; I desire that I be laid beside him." As he thus went
on visiting and establishing all his posts around Paris, the investment
became more strict; it was kept up for more than three months, from the
end of May to the beginning of September, 1590; and the city was reduced
to a severe state of famine, which would have been still more severe if
Henry IV. had not several times over permitted the entry of some convoys
of provisions and the exit of the old men, the women, the children, in
fact, the poorest and weakest part of the population. "Paris must not be
a cemetery," be said; "I do not wish to reign over the dead." "A true
king," says De Thou, "more anxious for the preservation of his kingdom
than greedy of conquest, and making no distinction between his own
interests and the interests of his people." Two famous Protestants,
Ambrose Pare and Bernard Palissy, preserved, one by his surgical and the
other by his artistic genius, from the popular fury, were still living at
that time in Paris, both eighty years of age, and both pleading for the
liberty of their creed and for peace. "Monseigneur," said Ambrose Pare
one day to the Archbishop of Lyons, whom he met at one end of the bridge
of St. Michael, "this poor people that you see here around you is dying
of sheer hunger-madness, and demands your compassion. For God's sake
show them some, as you would have God's shown to you. Think a little on
the office to which God hath called you. Give us peace or give us
wherewithal to live, for the poor folks can hold out no more." The
Italian Danigarola himself, Bishop of Asti and attache to the embassy of
Cardinal Gaetani, having publicly said that peace was necessary, was
threatened by the Sixteen with being sewn up in a sack and thrown into
the river if he did not alter his tone. Not peace, but a cessation of
the investment of Paris, was brought about, on the 23d of August, 1590,
by Duke Alexander of Parma, who, in accordance with express orders from
Philip II., went from the Low Countries, with his army, to join Mayenne
at Meaux and threaten Henry IV. with their united forces if he did not
retire from the walls of the capital.

[Illustration: Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma - - 32]

Henry IV. offered the two dukes battle, if they really wished to put a
stop to the investment; but "I am not come so far," answered the Duke of
Parma, "to take counsel of my enemy; if my manner of warfare does not
please the King of Navarre, let him force me to change it, instead of
giving me advice that nobody asks him for." Henry in vain attempted to
make the Duke of Parma accept battle. The able Italian established
himself in a strongly intrenched camp, surprised Lagny, and opened to
Paris the navigation of the Marne, by which provisions were speedily
brought up. Henry decided upon retreating; he dispersed the different
divisions of his army into Touraine, Normandy, Picardy, Champagne,
Burgundy, and himself took up his quarters at Senlis, at Compiegne, in
the towns on the banks of the Oise. The Duke of Mayenne arrived on the
18th of September at Paris; the Duke of Parma entered it himself with a
few officers, and left it on the 13th of November with his army on his
way back to the Low Countries, being a little harassed in his retreat by
the royal cavalry, but easy, for the moment, as to the fate of Paris and
the issue of the war, which continued during the first six months of the
year 1591, but languidly and disconnectedly, with successes and reverses
see-sawing between the two parties and without any important results.

Then began to appear the consequences of the victory of Ivry and the
progress made by Henry IV., in spite of the check he received before
Paris and at some other points in the kingdom. Not only did many
moderate Catholics make advances to him, struck with his sympathetic
ability and his valor, and hoping that he would end by becoming a
Catholic, but patriotic wrath was kindling in France against Philip II.
and the Spaniards, those fomenters of civil war in the mere interest of
foreign ambition. We quoted but lately the words used by the governor of
Dieppe, Aymar de Chastes, when he said to Villars, governor of Rouen, who
pressed him to enter the League, "You will yourself find out that the
Spaniard is the real head of this League." On the 5th of August, 1590,
during the investment of Paris, a placard was pasted all over the city.
"Poor Parisians," it said, "I deplore your misery, and I feel even
greater pity towards you for being still such simpletons. See you not
that this son of perdition of a Spanish ambassador [Bernard de Mendoza],
who had our good king murdered, is making game of you, cramming you so
with pap that he would fain have had you burst before now in order to lay
hands on your goods and on France if he could? He alone prevents peace
and the repose of desolated France, as well as the reconciliation of the
king and the princes in real amity. Why are ye so tardy to cast him in a
sack down stream, that he may return the sooner to Spain?" On the 6th of
August, there was found written with charcoal, on the gate of St.
Anthony, the following eight lines: -

"Some folks, for Holy League bear more
Than the prodigal son in the Bible bore;
For he, together with his swine,
On bean, and root, and husk would dine;
Whilst they, unable to procure
Such dainty morsels, must endure
Between their skinny lips to pass
Offal and tripe of horse or ass."

"These," said a Latin inscription on the awnings of the butchers' shops,
"are the rewards of those who expose their lives for Philip" [_Haec sunt
munera pro iis qui vitam pro Philippo proferunt: Memoires de L'Estoile,_
t. ii. pp. 73, 74]. In 1591 these public sentiments, reproduced and
dilated upon in numerous pamphlets, imported dissension into the heart of
the League itself, which split up into two parties, the Spanish League
and the French League. The Committee of Sixteen labored incessantly for
the formation and triumph of the Spanish League; and its principal
leaders wrote, on the 2d of September, 1591, a letter to Philip II.,
offering him the crown of France, and pledging their allegiance to him as
his subjects. "We can positively assure your Majesty," they said, "that
the wishes of all Catholics are to see your Catholic Majesty holding the
sceptre of this kingdom and reigning over us, even as we do throw
ourselves right willingly into your arms as into those of our father, or
at any rate establishing one of your posterity upon the throne." These
ringleaders of the Spanish League had for their army the blindly
fanatical and demagogic populace of Paris, and were, further, supported
by four thousand Spanish troops whom Philip II. had succeeded in getting
almost surreptitiously into Paris. They created a council of ten, the
sixteenth century's committee of public safety; they proscribed the
policists; they, on the 15th of November, had the president, Brisson, and
two councillors of the Leaguer Parliament arrested, hanged them to a beam
and dragged the corpses to the Place de Grove, where they strung them up
to a gibbet with inscriptions setting forth that they were heretics,
traitors to the city and enemies of the Catholic princes. Whilst the
Spanish League was thus reigning at Paris, the Duke of Mayenne was at
Laon, preparing to lead his army, consisting partly of Spaniards, to the
relief of Rouen, the siege of which Henry IV. was commencing. Being
summoned to Paris by messengers who succeeded one another every hour, he
arrived there on the 28th of November, 1591, with two thousand French
troops; he armed the guard of Burgesses, seized and hanged, in a
ground-floor room of the Louvre, four of the chief leaders of the Sixteen,
suppressed their committee, re-established the Parliament in full
authority, and, finally, restored the security and preponderance of the
French League, whilst taking the reins once more into his own hands. But
the French League before long found itself, in its turn, placed in a
situation quite as embarrassing, if not so provocative of odium, as that
in which the Spanish League had lately been; for it had become itself the
tool of personal and unlawful ambition. The Lorraine princes, it is
true, were less foreign to France than the King of Spain was; they had
even rendered her eminent service; but they had no right to the crown.
Mayenne had opposed to him the native and lawful heir to the throne,
already recognized and invested with the kingly power by a large portion
of France, and quite capable of disputing his kingship with the ablest
competitors. By himself and with his own party alone, Mayenne was not in
a position to maintain such a struggle; in order to have any chance he
must have recourse to the prince whose partisans he had just overthrown
and chastised.

[Illustration: Charles de Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne - - 35]

On the 11th of November, 1591, Henry IV. had laid siege to Rouen with a
strong force, and was pushing the operations on vigorously. In order to
obtain the troops and money without which he could not relieve this
important place, the leader of the French League treated humbly with the
patron of the Spanish League. "In the conferences held at La Fere and at
Lihom-Saintot, between the 10th and the 18th of January, 1592," says M.
Poirson, "the Duke of Parma, acting for the King of Spain, and Mayenne
drew up conventions which only awaited. the ratification of Philip II.
to be converted into a treaty. Mayenne was to receive four millions of
crowns a year and a Spanish army, which together would enable him to
oppose Henry IV. He had, besides, a promise of a large establishment for
himself, his relatives, and the chiefs of his party. In exchange, he
promised, in his own name and that of the princes of his house and the
great lords of the League, that Philip II.'s daughter, the Infanta
Isabella (Clara Eugenia), should be recognized as sovereign and
proprietress of the throne of France, and that the states-general,
convoked for that purpose, should proclaim her right and confer upon her
the throne. It is true," adds M. Poirson, "that Mayenne stipulated that
the Infanta should take a husband, within the year, at the suggestion of
the councillors and great officers of the crown, that the kingdom should
be preserved in its entirety, and that its laws and customs should be
maintained. . . . It even appears certain that Mayenne purposed not
to keep any of these promises, and to emend his infamy by a breach of
faith. . . . But a conviction generally prevailed that he recognized
the rights of the Infanta, and that he would labor to place her on the
throne. The lords of his own party believed it; the legate reported it
everywhere; the royal party regarded it as certain. During the whole
course of the year 1592, this opinion gave the most disastrous assistance
to the intrigues and ascendency of Philip II., and added immeasurably to
the public dangers." [Poirson, _Histoire du Regne d'Henri IV.,_ t. i.
pp. 304-306.]

Whilst these two Leagues, one Spanish and the other French, were
conspiring thus persistently, sometimes together and sometimes one
against the other, to promote personal ambition and interests, at the
same time national instinct, respect for traditional rights, weariness of
civil war, and the good sense which is born of long experience, were
bringing France more and more over to the cause and name of Henry IV.
In all the provinces, throughout all ranks of society, the population
non-enrolled amongst the factions were turning their eyes towards him as
the only means of putting an end to war at home and abroad, the only
pledge of national unity, public prosperity, and even freedom of trade, a
hazy idea as yet, but even now prevalent in the great ports of France and
in Paris. Would Henry turn Catholic? That was the question asked
everywhere, amongst Protestants with anxiety, but with keen desire, and
not without hope, amongst the mass of the population. The rumor ran
that, on this point, negotiations were half opened even in the midst of
the League itself, even at the court of Spain, even at Rome, where Pope
Clement VIII., a more moderate man than his predecessor, Gregory XIV.,
"had no desire," says Sully, "to foment the troubles of France, and still
less that the King of Spain should possibly become its undisputed king,
rightly judging that this would be laying open to him the road to the
monarchy of Christendom, and, consequently, reducing the Roman pontiffs
to the position, if it were his good pleasure, of his mere chaplains."
[_OEconomies royales,_ t. ii. p. 106.] Such being the existing state of
facts and minds, it was impossible that Henry IV. should not ask himself
roundly the same question, and feel that he had no time to lose in
answering it.

At the beginning of February, 1593, he sent for Rosny, one evening very
late. "And so," says Rosny, "I found his Majesty in bed, having already
wished every one a good night; who, as soon as he saw me come in, ordered
a hassock to be brought and me to kneel thereon against his bed, and said
to me, 'My friend, I have sent for you so late for to speak with you
about the things that are going on, and to hear your opinions thereon; I
confess that I have often found them better than those of many others who
make great show of being clever. If you continue to leave me the care of
that which concerns you, and yourself to take continual care of my
affairs, we shall both of us find it to our welfare. I do not wish to
hide any longer that for a long time past I have had my eye upon you in
order to employ you personally in my most important affairs, especially
in those of my finances, for I hold you to be honest and painstaking.
For the present, I wish to speak with you about that large number of
persons of all parties, all ranks, and different tempers, who would be
delighted to exert themselves for the pacification of the kingdom,
especially if I can resolve to make some arrangement as regards religion.
I am quite resolved not to hear of any negotiation or treaty, save on
these two conditions, that some result may be looked for tending both
to the advantage of the people of my kingdom and to the real
re-establishment of the kingly authority. I know that it is your custom,
whenever I put anything before you, to ask me for time to think well
thereon before you are disposed to tell me your opinion; in three or four
days I shall send for you to tell me what has occurred to you touching
all these fine hopes that many would have me anticipate from their
interventions; all of them persons very diverse in temper, purposes,
interests, functions, and religion."

"Whereupon," says Rosny, "the king having dismissed me with a good
evening, he did not fail to send for me again three days afterwards, in
order that I should go and see him again in bed, near the which having
made me kneel as before, he said, 'Come, now, tell me this moment, and
quite at leisurely length, all your foolish fancies, for so you have
always called the best counsels you have ever given me, touching the
questions I put to you the other evening. I am ready to listen to you
right on to the end, without interrupting you.'"

"Sir," said Rosny, "I have reflected not only on what your Majesty was
pleased to tell me three days ago, but also on what I have been able to
learn, as to the same affairs, from divers persons of all qualities and
religions, and even women who have talked to me in order to make me talk,
and to see if I knew any particulars of your private intentions. . . .
As it seems to me, sir, all these goings, comings, writings, letters,
journeys, interventions, parleys, and conferences cannot be better
compared than to that swarming of attorneys at the courts, who take a
thousand turns and walks about the great hall, under pretence of settling
cases, and all the while it is they who give them birth, and would be
very sorry for a single one to die off. In the next place, not a single
one of them troubles himself about right or wrong, provided that the
crowns are forthcoming, and that, by dint of lustily shouting, they are
reputed eloquent, learned, and well stocked with inventions and
subtleties. Consequently, sir, without troubling yourself further with
these treaty-mongers and negotiators, who do nothing but lure you, bore
you, perplex your mind, and fill with doubts and scruples the minds of
your subjects, I opine, in a few words, that you must still for some time
exercise great address, patience, and prudence, in order that there may
be engendered amongst all this mass of confusion, anarchy, and chimera,
that they call the holy catholic union, so many and such opposite
desires, jealousies, pretensions, hatreds, longings, and designs, that,
at last, all the French there are amongst them must come and throw
themselves into your arms, bit by bit, recognize your kingship alone as
possible, and look to nothing but it for protection, prop, or stay.
Nevertheless, sir, that your Majesty may not regard me as a spirit of
contradiction for having found nothing good in all these proposals made
to you by these great negotiators, I will add to my suggestions just one
thing; if a bit of Catholicism were quite agreeable to you, if it were
properly embraced and accepted accordingly, in honorable and suitable
form, it would be of great service, might serve as cement between you and
all your Catholic subjects; and it would even facilitate your other great
and magnificent designs whereof you have sometimes spoken to me.
Touching this, I would say more to you about it if I were of such
profession as permitted me to do so with a good conscience; I content
myself, as it is, with leaving yours to do its work within you on so
ticklish and so delicate a subject."

"I quite understand your opinions," said the king; "they resolve
themselves almost into one single point: I must not allow the
establishment of any association or show of government having the least
appearance of being able to subsist, by itself or by its members, in any
part of my kingdom, or suffer dismemberment in respect of any one of the
royal prerogatives, as regards things spiritual as well as temporal.
Such is my full determination."

"I answered the king," continues Rosny, "that I was rejoiced to see him
taking so intelligent a view of his affairs, and that, for the present, I
had no advice to give him but to seek repose of body and mind, and to
permit me likewise to seek the same for myself, for I was dead sleepy,
not having slept for two nights; and so, without a word more, the king
gave me good night, and, as for me, I went back to my quarters."

A few days before this conversation between the king and his friend
Rosny, on the 26th of January, 1593, the states-general of the League
had met in the great hall of the Louvre, present the Duke of Mayenne,
surrounded by all the pomp of royalty, but so nervous that his speech in
opening the session was hardly audible, and that he frequently changed
color during its delivery. On leaving, his wife told him that she was
afraid he was not well, as she had seen him turn pale three or four
times. A hundred and twenty-eight deputies had been elected; only fifty
were present at this first meeting. They adjourned to the 4th of
February. In the interval, on the 28th of January, there had arrived,
also, a royalist trumpeter, bringing, "on behalf of the princes,
prelates, officers of the crown, and principal lords of the Catholic
faith, who were with the King of Navarre, an offer of a conference
between the two parties, for to lay down the basis of a peace eagerly
desired." On hearing this message, Cardinal Pelleve, Archbishop of Sens,
one of the most fiery prelates of the League, said, "that he was of
opinion that the trumpeter should be whipped, to teach him not to
undertake such silly errands for the future;" "an opinion," said
somebody, "quite worthy of a thick head like his, wherein there is but
little sense."

The states-general of the League were of a different opinion. After long
and lively discussion, the three orders decided, each separately, on the
25th of February, to consent to the conference demanded by the friends of
the King of Navarre. On the 4th of February, when they resumed session,
Cardinal Philip de Sega, Bishop of Placencia (in Spain) and legate of
Pope Clement VIII., had requested to be present at the deliberation of
the assembly, but his request was refused; the states confined themselves
to receiving his benediction and hearing him deliver an address.

The different fate of these two proposals was a clear indication of the
feelings of the assembly; they were very diverse in the three orders
which constituted it; almost all the clergy, prelates, and popular
preachers were devoted to the Spanish League; the noblesse were not at
all numerous at these states. "The most brilliant and most active
members of it," says M. Picot correctly, "had ranged themselves behind
Henry IV.; and it covered itself with eternal honor by having been the
first to discern where to look for the hopes and the salvation of
France." The third estate was very much divided; it contained the
fanatical Leaguers, at the service of Philip II. and the court of Rome,
the partisans, much more numerous, of the French League, who desired
peace, and were ready to accept Henry IV., provided that he turned
Catholic, and a small band of political spirits, more powerful in talent
than number.

Regularly as the deputies arrived, Mayenne went to each of them, saying
privately, "Gentlemen, you see what the question is; it is the very
chiefest of all matters (_res maxima rerum agitur_). I beg you to give
your best attention to it, and to so act that the adversaries steal no
march on us and get no advantage over us. Nevertheless, I mean to abide
by what I have promised them." Mayenne was quite right: it was certainly
the chiefest of all matters. The head of the Protestants of France, the
ally of all the Protestants in Europe - should he become a Catholic and
King of France? The temporal head of Catholic Europe, the King of Spain
- should he abolish the Salic law in France, by placing upon it his
daughter as queen, and dismember France to his own profit and that of the
leaders of the League, his hirelings rather than his allies? Or,
peradventure, should one of these Leaguer-chiefs be he who should take
the crown of France, and found a new dynasty there? And which of these
Leaguer-chiefs should attain this good fortune? A half-German or a true
Frenchman? A Lorraine prince or a Bourbon? And, if a Lorraine prince,
which? The Duke of Mayenne, military head of the League, or his uterine
brother, the Duke of Nemours, or his nephew the young Duke of Guise, son
of the Balafrc? All these questions were mooted, all these pretensions
were on the cards, all these combinations had their special intrigue.
And in the competition upon which they entered with one another, at the
same time that they were incessantly laying traps for one another, they
kept up towards one another, because of the uncertainty of their chances,
a deceptive course of conduct often amounting to acts of downright
treachery committed without scruple, in order to preserve for themselves
a place and share in the unknown future towards which they were moving.



Online LibraryFrançois Pierre Guillaume GuizotA Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 5 → online text (page 3 of 57)