John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

History of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre online

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Wi\ 3lltistratinm

L Pj




Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and fifty-six, by

Haeper & Brothers,

in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District of
New York.

Copyright, 1884, by Susan Abbot Mead.


History is our Heaven-appointed instructor.
It is the guide for the future. The calamities
of yesterday are the protectors of to-day.

The sea of time, we navigate is full of perils.
But it is not an unknown sea. It has been
traversed for ages, and tliere is not a sunken
rock or a treacherous sand-bar which is not
marked by the wreck of those who have pre-
ceded us.

There is no portion of history fraught with
more valuable instruction tlian tlie period of
those terrible i:]igio;-s wars which desolated the
sixteenth century. There is no romance so
wild as tlie veritable history of those times.
The majestic outgoings of the Almighty, as de-
veloped in the onward progress of our race, in-
finitely transcend, in all the elements of pro-
foundness, mystery, and grandeur, all that man's
fancy can create.

viii Peeface.

The cartoons of Eaphael are beautiful, but
what are they when compared with tlie heav-
ing ocean, the clouds of sunset, and the pinna-
cles of the Alps ? The dome of St. Peter's is
man's noblest architecture, but what is it when
compared with the magnificent rotunda of the
skies ?

John S. C Abbott.

Brunswick, Maine, 1856.


Chapter Page


























Chapter I.
Childhood and Youth.


ABOUT four hundred years ago there was
a small kingdom, spreading over the cliffs
and ravines of the eastern extremity of the Pyr-
enees, called Navarre. Its population, of about
five hundred thousand, consisted of a very sim-
ple, frugal, and industrious people. Those who
lived upon the shore washed by the stormy
waves of the Bay of Biscay gratified their love
of excitement and of adventure by braving the
perils of the sea. Those who lived in the sol-
itude of the interior, on the sunny slopes of the
mountains, or by the streams which meandered
through the verdant valleys, fed their flocks,
and harvested their grain, and pressed rich wine
from the grapes of their vineyards, in the en-
joyment of the most pleasant duties of rural
life. Proud of their independence, they were

14 King Heney IV. [1475.

Catharine de Foix. Ferdinand and Isabella.

ever readj to grasp arms to repel foreign ag-
gression. The throne of this kingdom was, at
the time of which we speak, occupied by Cath-
arine de Foix. She was a widow, and all her
liopes and affections were centred in her son
Henry, an ardent and impetuous boy six or
seven years of age, who was to receive the
crown when it should fall from her brow, and
transmit to posterity their ancestral honors.

Ferdinand of Aragon had just married Isa-
bella of Castile, and had thus united those two
populous and wealthy kingdoms ; and now, in
the arrogance of power, seized with the pride of
annexation, he began to look with a wistful eye
upon the picturesque kingdom of Navarre. Its
comparative feebleness, under the reign of a be-
reaved woman weary of the world, invited to
the enterprise. Should he grasp at the whole
territory 'of the little realm, France might inter-
pose her powerful remonstrance. Should he
take but the half which was spread out upon
the southern declivity of the Pyrenees, it would
be virtually saying to the French monarch,
*• The rest I courteously leave for you." The
armies of Spain were soon sweeping resistlessly
through these sunny valleys, and one half of
her empire was ruthlessly torn from the Queen

1475.] Childhood and Youth. 15

Dismemberment of Navarre. Plans for revenge.

of Navarre, and transferred to the dominion of
imperious Castile and Aragon.

Catharine retired with her child to the colder
and more uncongenial regions of the northern
declivity of the mountains. Her bosom glow-
ed with mortification and rage in view of her
hopeless defeat. As she sat down gloomily in
the small portion which remained to her of her
dismembered empire, she endeavored to foster
in the heart of her son the spirit of revenge,
and to inspire him with the resolution to regain
those lost leagues of temtory which had been
wrested from the inheritance of liis fathers.
Henry imbibed his mother's spirit, and chafed
and fretted under wrongs for which he could ob-
tain no redress. Ferdinand and Isabella could
not be annoyed even by any force Vv^hich feeble
Navarre could raise. Queen Catharine, howev-
er, brooded deeply over her wrongs, and laid
plans for retributions of revenge, the execution
of which she knew must be deferred till long
after her body should have mouldered to dust
in the grave. She courted the most intimate
alliance with Francis I., King of France. She
contemplated the merging of her own little king-
dom into that powerful monarchy, that the in-
fant Navarre, having grown into the giant

16 Kino Heney IV. [1553.

Death of Catharine. Marriage of Henry and Margaret.

France, might crush the Spanish tyrants into
humiliation. Nerved by this determined spirit
of revenge, and inspired by a mother's ambi-
tion, she intrigued to wed her son to the heir-
ess of the French throne, that even in the world
of spirits she might be cheered by seeing Hen-
ry heading the armies of France, the terrible
avenger of her wrongs. These hopes invigor-
ated her until the fitful dream of her joyless
life was terminated, and her restless spirit sank
into the repose of the grave. She lived, how-
ever, to see her plans apparently in progress to-
ward their most successful fulfillment.

Henry, her son, was married to Margaret, the
favorite sister of the King of France. Their
nuptials were blessed with but one child, Jeanne
d'Albret. This child, in whose destiny such
ambitious hopes were centred, bloomed into most
marvelous beauty, and became also as conspic-
uous for her mental endowments as for her per-
sonal charms. She had hardly emerged from
the period of childhood when she was married
to Antony of Bourbon, a near relative of the
royal family of France. Immediately after her
marriage she left Navarre with her husband, to
take up her residence in the French metropolis.

One hope still lived, with undying vigor, in

1553.] Childhood and Youth. 17

Lingering hoije"- r.f Henry. Jeanne returns to Navarre.

tlie bosom of Heniy. It was the hope, the in-
tense passion, with which his departed mother
had inspired him, that a grandson would arise
from this union, who would, with the spirit of
Hannibal, avenge the family wrongs upon Spain.
Twice Henry took a grandson into his arms
with the feeling that the great desire of his life
was about to be realized ; and twice, with almost
a broken heart, he saw these hopes blighted as
he committed tlie little ones to the grave.

Summers and winters had now lingered wea-
rily away, and Henry had become an old man.
Disappointment and care had worn down his
frame. World-weary and joyless, he still clung
to hope. The tidings that Jeanne was again to
become a mother rekindled the lustre of his fad-
ing eye. The aged king sent importunately for
his daughter to return without delay to the pa-
ternal castle, that the child might be born in the
kingdom of Navarre, whose wrongs it was to be
his peculiar destiny to avenge. It was mid-
winter. The journey was long and the roads
rough. But the dutiful and energetic Jeanne
promptly obeyed the wishes of her father, and
hastened to his court.

Henry could hardly restrain his impatience as
he waited, week after week, for the advent of the

18 King Heney IV. [1553.

Birth of Henry IV. The royal nurde.

long-looked-for avenger. With the characteris-
tic superstition of the times, he constrained his
daughter to promise that, at the period of birth,
during the most painful moments of her trial,
she would sing a mirthful and triumphant song,
that Iier child might possess a sanguine, joyous,
and energetic spirit.

Hemy entertained not a doubt that the child
would prove a boy, commissioned by Providence
as the avenger of Navarre. The old king re-
ceived the child, at the moment of its birth, into
his own arms, totally regardless of a mother's
rights, and exultingly enveloping it in soft folds,
bore it off, as his own property, to his private
apartment. He rubbed the lips of the plump
little boy with garlic, and then taking a golden
goblet of generous wine, the rough and royal
nurse forced the beverage he loved so well down
the untainted throat of his new-born heir.

" A little good old wine," said the doting
grandfather, "will make the boy vigorous and

We may remark, in passing, that it was wine.^
rich and pure ; not that mixture of all abomina-
tions, whose only vintage is in cellars, sunless,
damp, and fetid, where guilty men fabricate poi-
son for a nation.


_ :




=^-^ -^





1553.] Childhood and Youth. 21

Name chosen for the young prince.

This little stranger received the ancestral
name of Henry. By his subsequent exploits
he filled the world with his renown. He was
the first of the Bourbon line who ascended the
throne of France, and he swayed the sceptre of
energetic rule over that wide-spread realm with
a degree of power and grandeur which none of
his descendants have ever rivaled. The name
of Henry IV. is one of the most illustrious in
the annals of France. The story of his strug-
gles for the attainment of the throne of Charle-
magne is full of interest. His birth, to which
we have just alluded, occurred at Parr, in the
kingdom of NavaiTC, in the year 1553.

His grandfather immediately assumed the di-
rection of every thing relating to the child, ap-
parently without the slightest consciousness
that either the father or the mother of Henry liad
any prior claims. The king possessed, among
the wild and romantic fastnesses of the mount-
ains, a strong old castle, as rugged and frown-
ing as the eternal granite upon which its foun-
dations were laid. Gloomy evergi-eens clung to
the hill-sides. A mountain stream, often swollen
to an impetuous torrent by the autumnal rains
and the spring thaws, swept through the little
verdant lawn, which smiled amid the stern sub-

22 King Henry IV. [1560.

The castle of Courasse.

limities surrounding this venerable and moss-
covered fortress. Around the solitary towers
the eagles wheeled and screamed in harmony
with the gales and storms which often swept
through these wild regions. The expanse around
was sparsely settled by a few hardy peasants,
who, by feeding their herds, and cultivating lit-
tle patches of soil among the crags, obtained a
humble living, and by exercise and the pure
mountain air acquired a vigor and an atliletic
hardihood of frame which had given them much

To the storm-battered castle of Courasse, thus
lowering in congenial gloom among these rocks,
the old king sent the infant Henry to be nur-
tured as a peasant-boy, that, by frugal fare and
exposure to hardship, he might acquire a peas-
ant's robust frame. He resolved that no French
delicacies should enfeeble the constitution of
this noble child. Bareheaded and barefooted,
the young prince, as yet hardly emerging froms
infancy, rolled upon the grass, played with the
poultry, and the dogs, and the sturdy young
mountaineers, and plunged into the brook or
paddled in the pools of water with which the
mountain showers often filled the court-yard.
His hair was bleached and his cheeks bronzed

1562.] Childhood and Youth. 23

Education of Henry. Death of the King of Navarre.

by the sun and the wind. Few would have im-
agined that the unattractive child, with his un-
shorn locks and in his studiously neglected garb,
was the descendant of a long line of kings, and
was destined to eclipse them all by the grand-
eur of his name.

As years glided along he advanced to ener-
getic boyhood, the constant companion, and, in
all his sports and modes of life, tlie equal of
the peasant -boys by whom he was surround-
ed. He hardly wore a better dress than they ;
he was nourished with the same coarse fare.
With them he climbed the mountains, and leap-
ed the streams, and swung upon the trees. He
struggled with his youthful competitors in all
their athletic games, running, wrestling, pitch-
ing the quoit, and tossing the bar. This active
out-door exercise gave a relish to the coarse food
of the peasants, consisting of brown bread, beef,
cheese, and garlic. His grandfather had decided
that this regimen was essential for the educa-
tion of a prince who was to humble the proud
monarchy of Spain, and regain the territory
which had been so unjustly wrested from his

When Henry was about six years of age, his
grandfather, by gradual decay, sank sorrowing-

24 King Heney IV. [1558.

Jeanne d'Albret ascends the throne. Residence in Beam.

ly into his grave. Consequently, his mother,
Jeanne d'Albret, ascended the throne of Navarre.
Her husband, Antony of Bourbon, was a rough,
fearless old soldier, with nothing to distinguish
him from the multitude who do but live, fight,
and die. Jeanne and her husband were in Par-
is at the time of the death of her father. They
immediately hastened to Beam, the capital of
Navarre, to take possession of the dominions
which had thus descended to them. The little
Henry was then brought from his wild mount-
ain home to reside with his mother in the royal
palace. Though Navarre was but a feeble king-
dom, the grandeur of its court was said to have
been unsurpassed, at that time, by that of any
other in- Europe. The intellectual education of
Henry had been almost entirely neglected ; but
the hardihood of his body had given such vigor
and energy to his mind, that he was now pre-
pared to distance in intellectual pursuits, with
perfect ease, those whose infantile brains had
been overtasked with study.

Henry remained in Beam with his parents
two years, and in that time ingrafted many
courtly graces upon the free and fetterless car-
riage he had acquired among the mountains.
His mind expanded with remarkable rapidity,

1558.] Childhood and Youth. 25

Marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots. Betrothal of Henry.

and lie became one of the most Ibeautiful and
engaging of cliildren.

About this time Mary, Queen of Scots, was
to be married to the Dauphin Francis, son of
the King of France. Their nuptials were to be
celebrated with great magnificence. The King
and Queen of JSTavarre returned to the court of
France to attend the marriage. They took with
them their son. His beauty and vivacity ex-
cited much admiration in the French metropolis.
One day the young prince, tlien but six or sev-
en years of age, came running into the room
where his father and Henry II. of France were
conversing, and, by his artlessness and grace,
strongly attracted the attention of the French
monarch. The king fondly took the playful
child in his arms, and said affectionately,

" Will you be my son ?"

"No, sire, no! that is my father," replied
the ardent boy, pointing to the King of Na-

"Well, then, will you be my son-in-law?" de-
manded Henry.

" Oh yes, most willingly," the prince replied.

Henry II. had a daughter Marguerite, a year
or two younger than the Prince of Navarre, and
it was immediately resolved between the two

26 KiNa Heney IV. [1558.

Henry's tutor. Remark of Dr. Johnson.

parents that the young princes should be con-
sidered as betrothed.

Soon after this the King and Queen of Na-
varre, with their son, returned to the mountain-
ous domain which Jeanne so ardently loved.
The queen devoted herself assiduously to the
education of the young prince, providing for him
the ablest teachers whom that age could afford.
A gentleman of very distinguished attainments,
named La Gaucherie, undertook the general su-
perintendence of his studies. The young prince
was at this time an exceedingly energetic, active,
ambitious boy, very inquisitive respecting all
matters of information, and passionately fond
of study.

Dr. Johnson, with his rough and impetuous
severity, has said,

" It is impossible to get Latin into a boy un-
less you flog it into him."

The experience of La Gaucherie, however, did
not confirm this sentiment. Henry always went
with alacrity to his Latin and his Greek. His
judicious teacher did not disgust his mind with
long and laborious rules, but introduced him at
once to words and phrases, while gradually he
developed the grammatical structure of the lan-
guage. The vigorous mind of Henry, grasping

1560.] Childhood and Youth. 27

Henry's motto. La Gauchcrie's method of instruction.

eagerly at intellectual culture, made rapid prog-
ress, and lie was soon able to read and ^yrite
both Latin and Greek with fluency, and ever re-
tained the power of quoting, with great facility
and appositeness, from the classical writers of
Athens and of Rome. Even in these early days
he seized upon the Greek phrase "?) vcKav rj
dnodavelv,^^ to conquer or to die, and adopted it
for his motto.

La Gaucherie was warmly attached to the
principles of the Protestant faith. He made a
companion of his noble pupil, and taught him
by conversation in pleasant walks and rides as
well as by books. It was his practice to have
him commit to memory any fine passage in
prose or verse which inculcated generous and
lofty ideas. The mind of Henry thus became
filled with beautiful images and noble senti-
ments from the classic writers of France. These
gems of literature exerted a powerful influence
in moulding his character, and he Avas fond of
quoting them as the guide of his life. Such
passages as the following were frequently on
the lips of the young prince :

" Over their subjects princes bear the rule,
But God, more mighty, governs kings themselves."

Soon after the return of the King and Queen

28 King Heney IV. [1560.

Death of Henry II. Catharine de Medicis regent.

of Navarre to their own kingdom, Henry II.
of France died, leaving the crown to his son
Charles, a feeble boy both in body and in mind.
As Charles was but ten or twelve years of age,
his mother, Catharine de Medicis, was appoint-
ed regent during his minority. Catharine was
a woman of great strength of mind, but of the
utmost depravity of heart. There was no crime
ambition could instigate her to commit from
which, in the slightest degree, she would recoil.
Perhaps the history of the world retains not an-
other instance in which a mother could so far
forget the yearnings of nature as to endeavor,
studiously and perseveringly, to deprave the
morals, and by vice to enfeeble the constitu-
tion of her son, that she might retain the power
which belonged to him. This proud and dis-
solute woman looked with great solicitude upon
the enterprising and energetic spirits of the
young Prince of Navarre. There were many
providential indications that ere long Henry
would be a prominent candidate for the throne
of France.

Plutarch's Lives of Ancient Heroes has per-
haps been more influential than any other un-
inspired book in invigorating genius and in en-
kindling a passion for great achievements. Na-

1560.] Childhood and Youth. 29

Influence of Plutarch.

Religious agitation.

poleon was a careful student and a great ad-
mirer of Plutarch. His spirit was entranced
with the grandeur of the Greek and Eoman Iie-
roes, and they were ever to him as companions
and bosom friends. During the whole of his
stormy career, their examples animated him, and
his addresses and proclamations were often in-
vigorated by happy quotations from classic sto-
ry. Henry, with similar exaltation of genius,
read and re-read the pages of Plutarch with the
most absorbing delight. Catharine, with an
eagle eye, watched these indications of a lofty
mind. Her solicitude was roused lest the young-
Prince of Navarre should, with his commanding
genius, supplant her degenerate house.

At the close of the sixteenth century, the pe-
riod of which we write, all Europe was agitated
by the great controversy between the Catholics
and the Protestants. The writings of Luther,
Calvin, and other reformers had aroused the at-
tention of the whole Christian world. In En-
gland and Scotland the ancient faith had been
overthrown, and the doctrines of the Eeforma-
tion were, in those kingdoms, established. In
France, where the writings of Calvin had been
extensively circulated, the Protestants had also
become quite numerous, embracing generally

3t King Henry IV. [1560.

The Huguenots. The present controversy.

the most intelligent portion of the populace.
The Protestants were in France called Hugue-
nots, but for what reason is not now known.
They were sustained by many noble families,
and had for their leaders the Prince of Conde,
Admiral Coligni, and the liouse of Navarre.
There were arrayed against them the power of
the crown, many of the most powerful nobles,
and conspicuously the almost regal house of

It is perhaps difficult for a Protestant to write
upon this subject with perfect impartiality, how-
ever earnestly he may desire to do so. Tlie
lapse of two hundred years has not terminated
the great conflict. The surging strife has swept
across the ocean, and even now, with more or
less of vehemence, rages in all the states of this
new world. Though the weapons of blood are
laid aside, the mighty controversy is still unde-

The advocates of the old faith were determ-
ined to maintain their creed, and to force all to
its adoption, at whatever price. They deemed
heresy the greatest of all crimes, and thought —
and doubtless many conscientiously thought —
that it should be exterminated even by the pains
of torture and death. The French Parliament

1560.] Childhood and Youth. 31

The Sorbonne. Purging the empire.

adopted for its motto, '-^One religion^ one law^
one hing.'" They declared that two religions
could no more be endured in a kingdom than
two governments.

At Paris there was a celebrated theological
school called the Sorbonne. It included in its
faculty the most distinguished doctors of the
Catholic Church. The decisions and the de-
crees of the Sorbonne were esteemed highly au-
thoritative. The views of the Sorbonne were al-
most invariably asked in reference to any meas-
ures affecting the Church.

In J 525 the court presented the following
question to the Sorbonne : '•'-How can ice sup-
press and extirpate the damnahle doctrine of
Luther from this very Christian kingdom, and
purge it from it entirely T''

The prompt reply was, '-^The heresy has al-
ready been endured too long. It must he pur-
sued with the extremest rigor., or it will over-
throw the throne.''''

Two years after this, Pope Clement VII. sent
a communication to the Parliament of Paris,

"It is necessary, in this great and astound-
ing disorder, which arises from the rage of Sa-
tan, and from the fury and impiety of his instru-

32 King Henry IV. [1533.

The burning chamber. Persecution of the Protestants.

merits, that every body exert himself to guard
the common safety, seeing that this madness
would not only embroil and destroy religion,
but also all principality, nobility, laws, orders,
and ranks."

The Protestants were pursued by the most
unrelenting persecution. The Parliament estab-
lished a court called the hurning chamber^ be-
cause all who were convicted of heresy were
burned. The estates of those who, to save their
lives, fled from the kingdom, were sold, and their

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre → online text (page 1 of 16)