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

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

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the gate of St. Denis, the king stood by a win-



300 King Heney IV.

Justice of Henry IV. Joy in Paris.

dow, and, lifting his hat, respectfully saluted
the officers. They immediately approached the
magnanimous monarch, and, bending the knee,
thanked him feelingly for his great clemency.
The king courteously replied,

"Adieu, gentlemen, adieu! Commend me
to your master, and go in peace, but do not
come back again."

La Noue, one of Henry's chief supporters, as
he was entering the city, had his baggage at-
tached for an old debt. Indignantly he hasten-
ed to the king to complain of the outrage. The
just monarch promptly but pleasantly replied,

*' We must pay our debts. La Noue. I pay
mine." Then drawing his faithful servant aside,
he gave him his jewels to pledge for the deliv-
erance of his baggage. The king was so im-
poverished that he had not money sufficient to
pay the debt.

These principles of justice and magnanimity,
which were instinctive with the king, and which
were daily manifested in multiplied ways, soon
won to him nearly all hearts. All France had
writhed in anguish through years of war and
misery. Peace, the greatest of all earthly bless-
ings, was now beginning to diffuse its joys. The
happiness of the Parisians amounted almost to



1595.] Conversion of the King. 301

Reconci.iation Avitli the Pope. Henry chastised by proxj*.

transport. It was difficult for the king to pass
through the streets, the crowd so thronged him
with their acclamations. Many other import-
ant towns soon surrendered. But the hauglity
Duke of Mayenne refused to accept the proffer-
ed clemency, and, strengthened by the tremen-
dous spiritual power of the head of the Church,
still endeavored to arouse the energies of Papal
fanaticism in Flanders and in Spain.

Soon, however, the Pope Ibecame convinced
that all further resistance would be in vain. It
was but compromising his dignity to be van-
quished, and he accordingly decided to accept
reconciliation. In yielding to this, the Pope
stooped to the following silly farce, quite char-
acteristic of those days of darkness and delu-
sion. It was deemed necessary that the king
should do penance for his sins before he could
be received to the bosom of holy mother Church.
It was proper that the severe mother should
chastise her wayw^ard child. " Whom the Lord
loveth he chasteneth."

It was the sixteenth of September, 1595.
The two embassadors of Henry IV. kneeled,
upon the vestibule of one of the churches in
Rome as unw^orthy to enter. In strains of af-
fected penitence, they chanted the Miserere —



302 KiNa Heney IV.

The farce. Cause of the war.

"Have mercy, Lord." At the close of every
verse they received, in tlie name of their mas-
ter, the blows of a little switch on their slioul-
ders. The king, having thus made expiation
for liis sins, through the reception of this chas-
tisement by proxy, and having thus emphatic-
ally acknowledged the authority of the sacred
mother, received tlie absolution of the vicar of
Christ, and was declared to be worthy of the
loyalty of the faithful.

We have called this 2^ farce. And yet can
it be justly called so ? The proud spirit of the
king must indeed have been Immiliated ere he
could have consented to sucli a degradation.
The spirit ennobled can bid defiance to any
amount of corporeal pain. It is ignominy alone
which can punish the soul. The Pope triumph-
ed; the monarch was flogged. It is but just
to remark that the friends of Henry deny that
he was accessory to this act of humiliation.

The atrocious civil war, thus virtually, for a
time, terminated, was caused by the Leaguers,
who had bound themselves togetlier in a secret
^society for the persecution of tlie Protestants.
Their demand was inexorable that the Protest-
ants throughout France should be proscribed and
exterminated. The Protestants were compel-



Conversion of the King. 303

The Protestants still persecuted. Scene of massacre.

led to unite in self-defense. Tliey only asked
for liberty to worship God according to their
understanding of the teachings of the Bible.
Henry, to conciliate the Catholics, was now
compelled to yield to many of their claims which
were exceedingly intolerant. He did this very
unwillingly, for it was his desire to do every
thing in his power to meliorate the condition
of his Protestant friends. But, notwithstand-
ing all the kind wishes of the king, the condi-
tion of the Protestants was still very deplora-
ble. Public opinion was vehemently against
them. The magistrates were every where their
foes, and the courts of justice were closed against
all their appeals. Petty persecution and tu-
multuary violence in a thousand forms annoyed
them. During the year of Henry's coronation,
a Protestant congregation in Chalaigneraie was
assailed by a Catholic mob instigated by the
Leaguers, and two hundred men, women, and
cliildren were massacred. A little boy eight
years old, in tlie simplicity of his heart, oifer-
ed eight coppers which he had in liis pocket
to ransom his life ; but the merciless fanatics
struck him down. Most of these outrages were
committed with entire impunity. The king
had even felt himself forced to take the oath,



304 King Heney IY.

Dissatisfaction of both Catholics and Protestants.

"I will endeavor with all my power, in good
faith, to drive from my jurisdiction and estates
all the heretics denounced by the Church."

The Protestants, finding themselves thus de-
nounced as enemies, and being cut off from all
ordinary privileges and from all common jus-
tice, decided, for mutual protection, vigorously
to maintain their political organization. The
king, though he feigned to be displeased, still
encouraged them to do so. Though the Prot-
estants were few in numbers, they were power-
ful in intelligence, rank, and energy; and in
their emergencies, the strong arm of England
was ever generously extended for their aid.
The king was glad to avail himself of their
strength to moderate the intolerant demands of
the Leaguers. Many of the Protestants com-
plained bitterly that the king had abandoned
them. On the other hand, the haughty leaders
of the League clamored loudly that the king
was not a true son of the Church, and, in mul-
tiform conspiracies, they sought his death by
assassination.

The Protestants held several large assemblies
in which they discussed their affairs. They
drew up an important document — an address to
the king, entitled, " Complaints of the Eeform-



Conversion of the King. 305

Complaints of the Reformed Churches of France.

ed Churclies of France." Many pages were
filled with a narrative of the intolerable griev-
ances they endured. This paper contained, in
conclusion, the following noble words :

" And yet, sire, we have among us no Jaco-
bins or Jesuits who wish for your life, or
Leaguers who aspire to your crown. We have
never presented, instead of petitions, the points
of our swords. We are rewarded with consid-
erations of state. It is not yet time, they say,
to grant us an edict. And yet, after thirty-five
years of persecution, ten years of banishment
by the edicts of the League, eight years of the
king's reign, four years of proscription, we are
still under the necessity of imploring from your
majesty an edict which shall allow us to enjoy
what is common to all your subjects. The sole
glory of God, the liberty of our consciences, the
repose of the state, the security of our property
and our lives — this is the summit of our wishes,
and the end of our requests."
U



306- King Heney IY.

Mayenne professes reconciliation. Terms exacted by the duke.



Chaptee XII.
Keign and Death of Heney IV.

THE reconciliation of the king with the Pope
presented a favorable opportunity for the
Duke of Mayenne, consistently with his pride,
to abandon the hopeless conflict. He declared
that, as the Pope had accepted the conversion
of the king, all his scruples were removed, and
that he could now conscientiously accept him as
the sovereign of France. But the power of the
haughty duke may be seen in the terms he ex-
acted.

The king was compelled to declare, though
he knew to the contrary, that, all things con-
sidered, it was evident that neither the princes
nor the princesses of the League were at all im-
plicated in the assassination of Henry III., and
to stop all proceedings in Parliament in refer-
ence to that atrocious murder. Three fortified
cities were surrendered to the duke, to be held
by him and his partisans for six years, in pledge
for the faithful observance of the terms of the
capitulation. The king also assumed all the



Eeign of Heney IV. 307

Interview bet-vveen Henry and the duke.

debts which Mayenne had contracted during the
war, and granted a term of six weeks to all the
Leaguers who were still in arms to give in their
adhesion and to accept his clemency.

The king was at this time at Monceaux.
The Duke of Mayenne hastened to meet him.
He found Henry riding on horseback in the
beautiful park of that place with the fair Ga-
brielle, and accompanied by the Duke of Sully.
Mayenne, in compliance with the obsequious
etiquette of those days, kneeled humbly before
the king, embraced his knees, and, assuring him
of his entire devotion for the future, thanked
the monarch for having delivered him "from
the arrogance of the Spaniards and from the
cunning of the Italians."

Henry, who had a vein of w^aggery about him,
immediately raised the duke, embraced him with
the utmost cordiality, and, taking his arm, with-
out any allusion whatever to their past difficul-
ties, led him through the park, pointing out to
him, with great volubility and cheerfulness, the
improvements he was contemplating.

Henry was a well-built, vigorous man, and
walked with great rapidity. Mayenne was ex-
cessively corpulent, and lame with the gout.
With the utmost difficulty he kept up with the



308 Kino Heney IV.

Henry's revenge. Hostility of Spain and Flanders.

king, panting, limping, and his face blazing with
the heat. Hemy, with slj malice, for some time
appeared not to notice the sufferings of his vic-
tim ; then, with a concealed smile, he whispered
to Sullj,

" If I walk this great fat body much long-
er, I shall avenge myself without any further
trouble." Then turning to Mayenne, he added,
" Tell me the truth, cousin, do I not walk a lit-
tle too fast for you ?"

" Sire," exclaimed the puffing duke, " I am
almost dead with fatigue."

" There's my hand," exclaimed the kind-
hearted king, again cordially embracing the
duke. " Take it, for, on my life, this is all the
vengeance I shall ever seek."

There were still parts of the kingdom which
held out against Henry, and Spain and Flan-
ders freely supplied men and ammunition to
the fragments of the League. Calais was in
the hands of the enemy. Queen Elizabetli of
Enp'land had ceased to take much interest in
the conflict since the king had gone over to the
Catholics. When Calais was besieged by the
foe, before its surrender she offered to send her
fleet for its protection if Henry would give the
city to her. Henry tartly replied, " I had rath-



Keign of Henry IV. 311

Calais taken by the Leaguers.

er be plundered by my enemies than by my
friends."

The queen was offended, sent no succor, and
Calais passed into the hands of the Leaguers.
The king was exceedingly distressed at the loss
of this important town. It indicated new and
rising energy on the part of his foes. The more
fanatical Catholics all over the kingdom, who
had never been more than half reconciled to
Henry, were encouraged to think that, after aU
their defeats, resistance might still be success-
ful. The heroic energies of the king were, how-
ever, not depressed by this great disaster. When
its surrender was announced, turning to the
gentlemen of his court, he calmly said,

" My friends, there is no remedy. Calais is
taken, but we must not lose our courage. It
is in the midst of disasters that bold men grow
bolder. Our enemies have had their turn.
With God's blessing, who has never abandoned
me when I have prayed to him with my whole
heart, we shall yet have ours. At any event, I
am greatly comforted by the conviction that I
have omitted nothing that was possible to save
the city. All of its defenders have acquitted
themselves loyally and nobly. Let us not re-
proach them. On the contrary, let us do hon-



312 King Henry IV.

Movement of the nobles.

or to their generous defense. And now let ns
rouse our energies to retake the citj, that it
may remain in the hands of the Spaniards not
so many days as our ancestors left it years in
the hands of the English."

A large body of the nobles now combined to
extort from the king some of the despotic feu-
dal privileges which existed in the twelfth cen-
tury. They thought that in this hour of re-
verse Henry would be glad to purchase their
powerful support by surrendering many of the
prerogatives of the crown. After holding a
meeting, they appointed the Duke of Montpen-
sier, who was very young and self-sufficient, to
present their demands to the king. Their plan
was this, that the king should consent to the
division of France into several large depart-
ments, over each of which, as a vassal prince,
some distinguished nobleman should reign, col-
lecting his own revenues and maintaining his
own army. Each of these vassal nobles was
to be bound, when required, to furnish a mihta-
ry contingent to their liege lord the king.

Montpensier entered the presence of the mon-
arch, and in a long discourse urged the insult-
ing proposal. The king listened calmly, and
without interrupting him, to the end. Then, in



1796.] Reign of Henry IV. 313

Energetic reply of the king. Dark days.

tones iinimpassioned, but firm and deliberate,
lie replied,

"My cousin, you must be insane. Such
language coming from yoit^ and addressed to
■me^ leads me to think that I am in a dream.
Views so full of insult to the sovereign, and
ruin to the state, can not have originated in
your benevolent and upright mind. Think you
that the people, having stripped me of the au-
gust prerogatives of royalty, would respect in
you the rights of a prince of the blood ? Did
I believe that you, in heart, desired to see me
thus humiliated, I would teach you that such
an offense is not to be committed with impuni-
ty. My cousin, abandon these follies. Eeveal
not your accomplices, but reply to them that
you yourself have such a horror of these propo-
sitions that you will hold him as a deadly ene-
my who shall ever speak to you of them again."

This firmness crushed the conspiracy; but
still darkness and gloom seemed to rest upon
unhappy France. The year 1796 was one of
famine and of pestilence. "We had," says a
writer of the times, "summer in April, autumn
in May, and winter in June." In the city and
in the country, thousands perished of starva-
tion. Famishing multitudes crowded to the



314 King Heney IV. [1796.

Singular accident. Deplorable state of France.

gates of the city in search of food, but in the
city the plague had broken forth. The author-
ities drove the mendicants back into the coun«
try. They carried with them the awful pesti-
lence in every direction. At the same time, sev-
eral attempts were made to assassinate the king.
Though he escaped the knife of the assassin, he
came near losing his life by a singular accident.

The Princess of Navarre, sister of the king,
had accompanied him, with the rest of the court,
into Picardy. She was taken suddenly ill. The
king called to see her, carrying in his arms his
infant son, the idolized child of the fair Gabri-
elle. While standing by the bedside of his sis-
ter, from some unexplained cause, the flooring
gave way beneath them. Henry instinctively
sprang upon the bed with his child. Providen-
tially, that portion of the floor remained firm,
while all the rest was precipitated with a crash
into the rooms below. Neither Henry, his sis-
ter, or his child sustained any injury.

The financial condition of the empire was in
a state of utter ruin — a ruin so hopeless that the
almost inconceivable story is told that the king
actually suffered both for food and raiment. He
at times made himself merry with his own rag-
ged appearance. At one time he said gayly,



1796.] Keign of Henry IV. 315

Poverty of the king. Depression of the king.

when the Parliament sent the president, Se-
guier, to remonstrate against a fiscal edict,

" I only ask to be treated as they treat the
monks, with food and clothing. Now, Mr. Pres-
ident, I often liave not enough to eat. As for
my habiliments, look and see how I am accou-
tred," and he pointed to his faded and thread-
bare doublet.

Le Grain, a contemporary, writes, "I have
seen the king with a plain doublet of white stuff,
all soiled by his cuirass and torn at the sleeve,
and with well-worn breeches, unsewn on the
side of the sword-belt."

While the king was thus destitute, the mem-
bers of the council of finance were practicing
gross extortion, and living in extravagance.
The king was naturally light-hearted and gay,
but the deplorable condition of the kingdom oc-
casionally plunged him into the deepest of mel-
ancholy. A lady of the court one day remark-
ed to him that he looked sad.

"Indeed," he replied, "how can I be other-
wise, to see a people so ungrateful toward their
king ? Though I have done and still do all I
can for them, and though for their welfare I
would willingly sacrifice a thousand lives had
God given me so many, as I have often proved,
vet they daily attempt my life."



316 KiNa Heney IV. [1596.

The Duke of Sully. Siege of Amiens.

Tlie council insisted that it was not safe for
the king to leave so many of the Leaguers in
the city, and urged their banishment. The
king refused, saying,

" They are all my subjects, and I wish to love
them equally."

The king now resolved, notwithstanding
strong opposition from the Catholics, to place
his illustrious Protestant friend, Sully, at the
head of the ministry of finance. Sully entered
upon his Herculean task with, shrewdness which
no cunning could baffle, and with integrity
which no threat or bribe could bias. All the
energies of calumny, malice, and violence were
exhausted upon him, but this majestic man
moved straight on, heedless of the storm, till he
caused order to emerge from apparently inex-
tricable confusion, and, by just and healthy
measures, replenished the bankrupt treasury of
the state.

The king was now pushing the siege of Ami-
ens, which had for some time been in the hands
of his enemies. During this time he wrote to
his devoted friend and faithful minister of
finance,

"I am very near the enemy, yet I have scarce-
ly a horse upon which I can fight, or a suit of



1597^8.] Eeign op Heney IV. 317

Its capitulation. The Edict of Nantes.

armor to put on. My doublet is in holes at the
elbows. My kettle is often empty. For these
two last days I have dined with one and an-
'Other as I could. My purveyors inform me that
they have no longer the means of supplying my
table."

On the twenty-fifth of June, 1597, Amiens
capitulated.

One of the kings of England is said to have
remarked to his son, who was eager to ascend
the throne, " Thou little knowest, my child,
what a heap of cares and sorrows thou graspest
at." History does, indeed, prove that "uneasy
Kes the head that wears a crown." New per-
plexities now burst upon the king. The Prot-
estants, many of them irritated by his conver-
sion, and by the tardy and insufficient conces-
sions they received, violently demanded entire
equality w^ith the Catholics. This demand led
to the famous Edict of Nantes. This ordi-
nance, which receives its name from the place
vfhere it was published, was issued in the month
of April, 1598. It granted to the Protestants
full private liberty of conscience. It also per-
mitted them to enjoy public worship in all
places where the right was already established.
Protestant lords of the highest rank could cele-



318 King Heney IV. [1598.

Trovisions of the edict. Clamors of the Catholics.

brate divine service in their castles with any
nnmlber of their retainers. Nobles of the second
rank might maintain private worship in their
mansions, to which thirty persons could be ad-
mitted. Protestants were pronounced to be eli-
gible to public office. Their children were to
be admitted to the schools, their sick to the
hospitals, and their poor to a share of the pub-
lic charities. In a few specified places they
were permitted to print books. Such, in the
main, was the celebrated "Edict of Nantes."

The Catholics considered this an enormous
and atrocious concession to deadly heresy. New
clamors blazed forth against Henry, as in heart
false to the Church. The Catholic clergy, in
one combined voice, protested against it, and
Pope Clement YIII. declared the Edict of
Nantes, which permitted liberty of conscience
to every one, the most execrable that was ever
made.

It has required centuries of blood and woe
to teach even a few individuals the true princi-
ples of religious liberty. Even in Protestant
lands, the masses of the people have not yet
fully learned that lesson. All over Catholic
Europe, and all through the realms of pagan-
ism, intolerance stiU sways her cruel and bloody



1598.] Eeign of Heney IY. 319

Toleration slowly learned. Dissatisfaction of both parties.

sceptre. These miserable religious wars in
France, the birth of ignorance, fanaticism, and
depravity, for seventy years polluted the state
with gory scaffolds and blazing stakes. Three
thousand millions of dollars were expended in
the senseless strife, and two millions of lives
were thrown away. At the close of the war,
one half of the towns and the majestic castles
of beautiful France were but heaps of smould-
ering ruins. All industry was paralyzed. The
fields were abandoned to weeds and barrenness.
The heart and the mind of the whole nation
was thoroughly demoralized. Poverty, emacia-
tion, and a semi-barbarism deformed the whole
kingdom.

Neither the Catholics nor Protestants were
satisfied with the Edict of Nantes. The Par-
liament of Paris, composed almost entirely of
Catholics, for a long time refused its ratifica-
tion. Henry called the courts before him, and
insisted with kindness, but with firmness, that
the edict should be verified.

"Gentlemen," said he, in the long speech
which he made upon the occasion, "there must
be no more distinction between Catholics and
Protestants. All must be good Frenchmen.
Let the Catholics convert the Protestants by



320 KiNa Heney IV. [1598.

Progress of affairs. Prosperity in the kingdom.

the example of a good life. I am a shepherd-
king, who will not shed the blood of his sheep,
"but who will seek to bring them all Avith kind-
ness into the same fold."

The Catholic Parliament, thus constrained,
fiirally adopted the edict. The Protestants also,
perceiving clearly that this was the best that
the king could do for them, after long discus-
sion in their Consistory, which was, in reality,
their Parliament, finally gave in their adhesion.
The adjoining hostile powers, having no longer
a party in France to join them, were thus dis-
armed. They sent embassadors to promote
peace. Friendly treaties were speedily formed,
and Plenry was the undisputed monarch of a
kingdom in repose.

Henry now commenced, with great energy,
the promotion of the prosperity of his exhaust-
ed kingdom. To check the warlike spirit which
had so long been dominant, he forbade any of
his subjects, except his guards, to carry arms.
The army was immediately greatly reduced, and
public expenditures so diminished as material-
ly to lighten the weight of taxation. Many of
the nobles claimed exemption from the tax, but
Henry was inflexible that the public burden
should be borne equally by all. The people,



1598.] Eeign of Heney IV. 321

Henry's illness. Devotion of his subjects.

enjoying the long unknown blessings of peace,
became enthusiastically grateful to their illus-
trious benefactor.

In the montli of October, 1598, the king was
taken dangerously ill. The whole nation was
in a panic. The touching demonstrations which
Henry then received of the universal love and
homage of his subjects affected him deeply.
But few men find enough happiness in tliis
world to lead them to cling very tenaciously to
life when apparently on a dying bed. Henry
at this time said to his attendants,

" I have no fear of death. I do not shrink
at all from the great journey to the spirit land.


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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre → online text (page 15 of 16)