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

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

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ations verj characteristic of the corrupt man-
ners of the times.

Marguerite devoted herself most energetical-
ly to the promotion of the success of Henry's
plans. Catharine found herself, notwithstand-
ing all her artifice, and all the peculiar seduc-
tions of her female associates, completely foiled
by the sagacity and the firmness of Henry. She
had brought with her Monsieur de Pibrac, a man
very celebrated for his glowing eloquence and
for his powers of persuasion. The oratory of
Pibrac, combined with the blandishments of the
ladies, were those co-operative influences which
the queen imagined none would be able to re-
sist. Marguerite, however, instructed in the
school of Catharine, succeeded in obtaining en-
tire control over the mind of Pibrac himself, and
he became a perfect tool in her hands. Catha-
rine, thus foiled, was compelled to grant far more
favorable terms to the Protestants than she had

La Eeole was one of the towns of security
surrendered to the Protestants. There was,
however, so little of good faith in that day, that,
notwithstanding the pledge of honor, possession
of the place could only be retained by vigilance.

216 King Heney IV.

Treachery of Ussac. News of the loss of La Keole.

The government of the town had been conferred
upon a veteran Protestant general Iby the name
of Ussac. His days, from early youth, had been
passed on fields of battle. He was* now far ad-
vanced in years, in feeble health, and dreadful-
ly disfigured by wounds received in the face.
One of the most fascinating of the ladies of the
queen-mother lavished such endearments upon
the old man, already in his dotage, that he lost
his principles and all self-control, and made
himself very ridiculous by assuming the airs of
a young lover. Henry had the imprudence to
join in the mockery with which the court re-
garded his tenderness. This was an indignity
which an old man could never forget. Insti-
gated by his beautiful seducer, he became en-
tirely unmindful of those principles of honor
which had embellished his life, and in revenge
invited a Koman Catholic general to come and
take possession of the town.

Henry was informed of this act of treachery
while dancing at a very brilliant entertainment
given in his palace. He quietly whispered to
Tiirenne, Sully, and a few others of his most
intimate friends, requesting them to escape from
the room, gather around them such armed men
as they could, and join him at a rendezvous in

The League. 217

The recapture. Precarious peace.

the country. They all stole unperceived from
the mirthful party, concealed their swords be-
neath their cloaks, traveled all night, and ar-
rived, just as the day began to dawn, before the
gates of the city. They found the place, as
they had expected, entirely unprepared for such
a sudden attack, and, rushing in, regained it
without difficulty. The Catliolic soldiers re-
treated to the castle, where they held out a few
days, and many of them perished in the assault
by which it was soon taken.

Such was the character of the nominal peace
which now existed. A partisan warfare was
still continued throughout France. Catharine
and her maids did every thing in their power to
excite dissensions between the Protestant lead-
ers. In this they succeeded so well that the
Prince of Conde became so exasperated against
Turenne as to challenge him to single combat.

Such a peace as we have above described
could not, of course, be lasting. Both parties
were soon again gathering all their forces for
war. There is a tedious monotony in the re-
cital of the horrors of battle. Cities bombard-
ed, and sacked, and burned; shells exploding
in the cradle of infancy and in the chambers of
mothers and maidens ; mutilated bodies tram-

218 King Henry IV.

Attempt to assassinate Henry.

pled beneath the hoofs of horses ; the cry of
the maddened onset, the shrieks of the wound-
ed, and the groans of the dying ; the despair of
the widow and the orphan ; smouldering ruins
of once happy homes ; the fruits of the hus-
bandman's toils trodden into the mire ; starva-
tion, misery, and death — these are ever the fruits
of war.

During the short interval of peace, many at-
tempts had been made to assassinate Henry of
Navarre by the partisans of the Duke of Guise.
Henry was, one fine morning, setting out with a
few friends for a ride of pleasure. Just as the
party were leaving the court-yard, he was in-
formed that an assassin, very powerfully mount-
ed, was prepared to meet him on the way and
to take his life. Henry apparently paid no
heed to the warning, but rode along conversing
gayly with his friends. They soon met, in a
retired part of the way, a stranger, armed ac-
cording to the custom of the times, and mount-
ed upon a very magnificent steed, which had
been prepared for him to facilitate his escape
after the accomplishment of the fell deed. Hen-
ry immediately rode up to the assassin, address-
ed him in terms of great familiarity and cordi-
ality, and, professing to admire the beautiful

The League. 219

The assassin humiliated.

charger upon which he was mounted, requested
him to dismount, that he might try the splendid
animal. The man, bewildered, obeyed the wish-
es of the king, when Henry leaped into the sad-
dle, and, seizing the two loaded pistols at the
saddle-bow, looked the man sternly in the eye,
and said,

" I am told that you seek to kill me. You
are now in my power, and I could easily put
you to death ; but I will not harm you."

He then discharged the two pistols in the
air, and permitted the humiliated man to mount
his horse and ride away unharmed.

220 King Heney IV.

Imbecility of the king. Haughtiness of the Duke of Guise.

Chaptee IX.

The Assassination of the Duke
OF Guise and of Heney III.

^T^HE war, again resumed, was fiercely prose-
-^ cuted. Henry III. remained most of the
time in the gilded saloons of the Louvre, irrita-
ble and wretched, and yet incapable of any con-
tinued efficient exertion. Many of the zealous
Leaguers, indignant at the pusillanimity he dis-
played, urged the Duke of Guise to dethrone
Henry III. by violence, and openly to declare
himself King of France. They assured liim
that the nation would sustain him by their arms.
But the duke was not prepared to enter upon so
bold a measure, as he hoped that the death of
the king would soon present to him a far more
favorable opportunity for the assumption of the
throne. Henry III. was in constant fear that
the duke, whose popularity in France was almost
boundless, might supplant him, and he therefore
forbade him to approach the metropolis.

Notwithstanding this proliibition,the haughty
duke, accompanied by a small party of his in-

The Assassination. 221

The duke goes to Paris.

trepid followers, as if to pay court to liis sover-
eign, boldly entered the city. The populace of
the capital, ever ripe for excitement and insur-
rection, greeted him with boundless enthusiasm.
Thousands thronged the broad streets through
which he passed with a small but brilliant ret-
inue. Ladies crowded the windows, waving
scarfs, cheering him with smiles, and showering
flowers at his feet. The cry resounded along
the streets, penetrating even the apartments of
the Louvre, and falling appallingly upon the ear
of the king :

"Welcome — welcome, great duke. Now you
are come, we are safe."

Henry III. was amazed and terrified by this
insolence of his defiant subject. In bewilder-
ment, he asked those about him what he should

" Give me the word," said a colonel of his
guard, "and I will plunge my sword through
his body."

" Smite the shepherd," added one of the
king's spiritual counselors, "and the sheep will

But Henry feared to exasperate the populace
of Paris by the assassination of a noble so pow-
erful and so popular. In the midst of this con-

222 Kino Henry IV.

Interview with the king.

sultation, the Duke of Guise, accompanied by
tlie queen-mother Catharine, whom he had first
called upon, entered the Louvre, and, passing
through the numerous body-guard of the king,
whom he saluted with much affability, present-
ed himself before the feeble monarch. The
king looked sternly upon him, and, without any
word of greeting, exclaimed angrily,

" Did I not forbid you to enter Paris ?"

" Sire," the duke replied, firmly, but with af-
fected humility, "I came to demand justice,
and to reply to the accusations of my enemies."

The interview was short and unrelenting.
The king, exasperated almost beyond endur-
ance, very evidently hesitated whether to give
the signal for the immediate execution of his
dreaded foe. There were those at his side, with
arms in their hands, who were eager instantly
to obey his bidding. The Duke of Guise per-
ceived the imminence of his danger, and, feigning
sudden indisposition, immediately retired. In
his own almost regal mansion he gathered
around him his followers and his friends, and
thus placed himself in a position where even
the arm of the sovereign could not venture to
touch him.

There were now in Paris, as it were, two ri-

The Assassination. 223

Two rival courts. The Swiss guard defeated.

val courts, emulating each other in splendor and
power. The one was that of the king at the
Louvre the other was that of the duke in his
palace. It was rumored that the duke was or-
ganizing a conspiracy to arrest the king and
hold him a captive. Henry III., to strengthen
his body-guard, called a strong force of Swiss
mercenaries into the city. The retainers of the
duke, acting under the secret instigation of their
chieftain, roused the populace of Paris to resist
the Swiss. Barricades were immediately con-
structed by filling barrels with stones and earth ;
chains were stretched across the streets from
house to house ; and organized bands, armed
with pikes and muskets, threatened even the
gates of the Louvre.

A conflict soon ensued, and the Swiss guard
were defeated by the mob at every point. The
Duke of Guise, though he secretly guided all
these movements, remained in his palace, affect-
ing to have no share in the occurrences. Night
came. Confusion and tumult rioted in the city.
The insurgent populace, intoxicated and mad-
dened, swarmed around the walls of the palace,
and the king was besieged. The spiritless and
terrified monarch, disguising himself in humble
garb, crept to his stables, mounted a fleet horse,

224 King Henry IV.

Tumult in the city. Dignity of Achille de Harlai.

and fled from the city. Eiding at fall speed,
he sought refuge in Chartres, a walled town for-
ty miles southeast of Paris.

The flight of the king before an insurgent
populace was a great victory to the duke. He
was thus left in possession of the metropolis
without any apparent act of rehellion on his
own part, and it became manifestly his duty to
do all in his power to preserve order in the cap-
ital thus surrendered to anarchy. The duke
had ever been the idol of the populace, but now
nearly the whole population of Paris, and es-
pecially the influential citizens, looked to him
as their only protector.

Some, however, with great heroism, still ad-
hered to the cause of the king. The Duke of
Guise sent for Achille de Harlai, President of
the Council, and endeavored to win him over to
his cause, that he might thus sanction his usur-
pation by legal forms ; but De Harlai, fixing his
eyes steadfastly upon the duke, fearlessly said,

" 'Tis indeed pitiable when the valet expels
his master. As for me, my soul belongs to my
Maker, and my fidelity belongs to the king.
My body alone is in the hands of the wicked.
You talk of assembling the Parliament. When
the majesty of the prince is violated, the magis-

The Assassination. 225

Measures adopted by the duke.

trate is without authority." The intrepid pres-
ident was seized and imprisoned.

The followers of Henry III. soon gathered
around him at Chartres, and he fortified him-
self strongly there. The Duke of Guise, though
still protesting great loyalty, immediately as-
sumed at Paris the authority of a sovereign.
He assembled around him strong military forces,
professedly to protect the capital from disturb-
ance. For a month or two negotiations were
conducted between the two parties for a com-
promise, each fearing the other too much to ap-
peal to the decisions of the sword. At last
Henry III. agreed to appoint the Duke of Guise
lieutenant general of France and high consta-
ble of the kingdom. He also, while pledging
himself anew to wage a war of extermination
against the -Protestants, promised to bind the
people of France, by an oath, to exclude from
the succession to the throne all persons suspect-
ed even of Protestantism. This would effect-
ually cut off the hopes of Henry of Navarre,
and secure the crown to the Duke of Guise upon
the death of the king.

Both of the antagonists now pretended to a
sincere reconciliation, and Henry, having re-
ceived Guise at Chartres with open arms, re-

226 King Heney IV.

Endeavors to obtain an assassin. The king at Blois.

turned to Paris, meditating how he might secure
the death of his dreaded and powerful rival.
Imprisonment was not to be thought of, for no
fortress in France could long hold one so idol-
ized loj the populace. The king applied in per-
son to one of his friends, a brave and honest sol-
dier by the name of Crillon, to assassinate the

" I am not an executioner," the soldier proud-
ly replied, "and the function does not become
my rank. But I will challenge the duke to
open combat, and will cheerfully sacrifice my
life that I may take his."

This plan not meeting with the views of the
king, he applied to one of the commanders of
his guard named Lorgnac. This man had no
scruples, and with alacrity undertook to perform
the deed. Henry, having retired to the castle
of Blois, about one hundred miles south of Par-
is, arranged all the details, while he was daily,
with the most consummate hypocrisy, receiv-
ing his victim with courteous words and smiles.
The king summoned a council to attend him in
his cabinet at Blois on the 23d of December.
It was appointed at an early hour, and the Duke
of Guise attended without his usual retinue. He
had been repeatedly warned to guard against the
treacherv of Henry, but liis reply was,

The Assassination. 229

Assassination of the Duke of Guise.

" I do not know that man on earth who,
hand to hand with me, would not have his full
share of fear. Besides, I am always so well
attended that it would not be easy to find me
off my guard."

Th« duke arrived at the door of the cabinet
after passing through long files of the king's
body-guard. Just as he was raising the tapes-
try which veiled the entrance, Lorgnac sprang
upon him and plunged a dagger into his throat.
Others immediately joined in the assault, and
the duke dropped, pierced with innumerable
wounds, dead upon the floor.

Henry, hearing the noise and knowing well
what it signified, very coolly stepped from his
cabinet into the ante -chamber, and, looking
calmly upon the bloody corpse, said,

"Do you think he is dead, Lorgnac?"

"Yes, sire," Lorgnac replied, "he looks like

"Good God, how tall he is !" said the king.
"He seems taller dead than when he was liv-
ing." Then giving the gory body a kick, he
exclaimed, "Venomous beast, thou shalt cast
forth no more venom."

In the same manner the duke had treated the
remains of the noble Admiral Coligni, a solemn

230 King Heney IV.

Interview between the king and Catharine.

comment upon the declaration, "With what
measure ye mete it shall be measured to you

Cardinal Guise, the brother of the duke, was
immediately arrested by order of the king, and
sent to prison, where he was assassinated. Hen-
ry III. soon after repaired to the bedside of
Catharine his mother, who was lying sick in
one of the chambers of the castle. Nothing can
show more clearly the character of the times
and of the personages than the following la-
conic dialogue which ensued :

"How do you do,, mother, this morning?"
inquired the king.

" I am better than I have been," she replied.

"So am I," Henry rejoined, gayly, "for I
have made myself this morning King of France
by putting to death the King of Paris."

" Take care," this hardened woman exclaim-
ed, " that you do not soon find yourself hing
of nothing. Diligence and resolution are now
absolutely necessary for you."

She then turned upon her pillow without the
slightest apparent emotion. In twelve days from
this time, this wretched queen, deformed by ev-
ery vice, without one single redeeming virtue,
breathed her last, seventy years of age. She

The Assassination. 231

Indignation of the League. Anathemas against the king.

was despised by the Catholics, and hated by
the Protestants.

These acts of violence and crime roused the
League to the most intense energy. The mur-
der of the Duke of Guise, and especially the
murder of his brother, a cardinal in the Church,
were acts of impiety which no atonement could
expiate. Though Henry was a Catholic, and
all his agents in these atrocious murders were
Catholics, the death of the Duke of Guise in-
creased vastly the probability that Protestant
influences might become dominant at court.
The Pope issued a bull of excommunication
against all who should advocate the cause of
Henry III. The Sorbonne published a decree
declaring that the king had forfeited all right to
the obedience of his subjects, and justifying
them in taking up arms against him. The cler-
gy, from the pulpit, refused communion, abso-
lution, and burial in holy ground to every one
who yielded obedience to " the perfidious apos-
tate and tyrant, Henry of Yalois."

The League immediately chose the Duke of
Mayenne, a surviving brother of the Duke of
Guise, as its head. The Pope issued his anath-
emas against Henry HI., and Spain sent her
armies to unite with the League. Henry now

232 King Heney IV.

The king seeks aid from the Protestants.

•found it necessary to court the assistance of the
Protestants. He dreaded to take this step, for
he was superstitious in the extreme, and he
could not endure the thought of any alliance
with heretics. He had still quite a formidable
force which adhered to him, for many of the
highest nobles were disgusted with the arro-
gance of the Guises, and were well aware that
the enthronement of the house of Guise would
secure their own banishment from court.

The triumph of the League would be total
discomfiture to the Protestants. No freedom
of worship or of conscience whatever would be
allowed them. It was therefore for the interest
of the Protestants to sustain the more moderate
party hostile to the League. It was estimated
that about one sixth of the inhabitants of France
were at that time Protestants.

Wretched, war-scathed France was now dis-
tracted by three parties. First, there w^ere the
Protestants, contending only in self-defense
against persecution, and yet earnestly praying
that, upon the death of the king, Henry of Na-
varre, the legitimate successor, might ascend the
throne. Next came those Catholics who were
friendly to the claims of Henry from their re-
spect for the ancient law of succession. Then

The Assassination. 233

Desolations of war. Compact with Henry of Navarre.

came, combined in the League, the bigoted par-
tisans of the Church, resolved to exterminate
from Europe, with fire and sword, the detested
heresy of Protestantism.

Henry III. was now at the castle of Blois.
Paris was hostile to him. The Duke of Maj-
enne, younger brother of the Duke of Guise, at
the head of five thousand soldiers of the League,
marched to the metropolis, where he was re-
ceived by the Parisians with unbounded joy.
He was urged by the populace and the Parlia-
ment in Paris to proclaim himself king. But
he was not yet prepared for so decisive a step.

No tongue can tell the misery which now per-
vaded ill-fated France. Some cities were Prot-
estant, some were Catholic ; division, and war,
and blood were every where. Armed bands
swept to and fro, and conflagration and slaugh-
ter deluged the kingdom.

The king immediately sent to Henry of Na-
varre, promising to confer many political privi-
leges upon the Protestants, and to maintain
Henry's right to the throne, if he would aid him
in the conflict against the League. The terms
of reconciliation were soon efi'ected. Henry of
Navarre, then leaving his army to advance by
rapid marches, rode forward with his retinue to

234 King Heney IV.

Interview at Plessis les Tours.

meet his brother-in-law, Henry of Valois. He
found him at one of the ancient palaces of
France, Plessis les Tours. The two monarchs
had been friends in childhood, but they had not
met for many years. The King of Navarre was
urged by his friends not to trust himself in the
power of Henry III. " For," said they, " the
King of France desires nothing so much as to
obtain reconciliation with the Pope, and no of-
fering can be so acceptable to the Pope as the
death of a heretic prince."

Henry hesitated a moment when he arrived
upon an eminence which commanded a distant
view of the palace. Then exclaiming, " God
guides me, and He will go with me," he plunged
his spurs into his horse's side, and galloped for-

The two monarchs met, each surrounded with
a gorgeous retinue, in one of the magnificent
avenues which conducted to the castle. For-
getting the animosities of years, and remember-
ing only the friendships of childhood, they cast
themselves cordially into each other's arms.
The multitude around rent the air with their

Henry of Navarre now addressed a manifesto
to all the inhabitants of France in behalf of their

The Assassination. 235

The manifesto. Renewed war.

woe -stricken country. "I conjure you all,"
said he, " Catholics as well as Protestants, to
have pity on the state and on yourselves. We
have all done and suffered evil enough. We
have been four years intoxicate, insensate, and
furious. Is not this sufficient ? Has not God
smitten us all enough to allay our fury, and to
make us wise at last ?"

But passion was too much aroused to allow
such appeals to be heeded. Battle after battle,
with ever-varying success, ensued between the
combined forces of the king and Henry of Na-
varre on one side, and of the League, aided by
many of the princes of Catholic Europe, on the
other. The storms of winter swept over the
freezing armies and the smouldering towns, and
the wail of the victims of horrid war blended
with the moanings of the gale. Spring came,
but it brought no joy to desolate, distracted,
wretched France. Summer came, and the bright
sun looked down upon barren fields, and upon
a bleeding, starving, fighting nation. Henry of
JN'avarre, in command of the royal forces, at the
head of thirty thousand troops, was besieging
Paris, which was held by the Duke of Mayenne,
and boldly and skillfully was conducting his
approaches to a successful termination. The

236 King Heney IV.

Duchess of Montpensier. The flag of truce.

cause of the League began to wane. Henry III.
had taken possession of the castle of St. Cloud,
and from its elevated windows looked out with
joy upon the bold assaults and the advancing

The leaders of the League now resolved to
resort again to the old weapon of assassination.
Henry III. was to be killed. But no man could
kill him unless he was also willing to sacrifice
his own life. The Duchess of Montpensier, sis-
ter of the Duke of Guise, for the accomplish-
ment of this purpose, won the love, by caress-
ings and endearments, of Jaques Clement, an
ardent, enthusiastic monk of wild and roman-
tic imaginings, and of the most intense fanati-
cism. The beautiful duchess surrendered her-
self without any reserve whatever to the para-
mour she had enticed to her arms, that she might
obtain the entire supremacy over his mind. Cle-
ment concealed a dagger in his bosom, and then
went out from the gates of the city accompani-
ed by two soldiers and with a flag of truce, os-
tensibly to take a message to the king. He
refused to communicate his message to any one
but the monarch himself. Henry III., suppos-
ing it to be a communication of importance, per-
haps a proposition to surrender, ordered him to

The Assassination. 239

Assassination of Henry III. Arrival of Henry of Navarre.

be admitted immediately to his cabinet. Two
persons only were present with the king. The
monk entered, and, kneeling, drew a letter from
the sleeve of his gown, presented it to the king,

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre → online text (page 11 of 16)