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

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

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre → online text (page 16 of 16)
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But I greatly regret being removed from my
beloved country before I have restored it to
complete prosperity."

Happily, the fever was subdued, and he again,
with indefatigable diligence, resumed his labors.
To discourage the extravagance of the nobles,
he set the example of extreme economy in all
his personal expenses. He indulged in no gaudy
equipage, his table was very frugally served, and
his dress was simple in the extreme. No man
in the kingdom devoted more hours to labor.
He met his council daily, and in all their confer-
ences exhibited a degree of information, shrewd-

322 XiNO Henry IY.

Hostility of the nobles. The Marchioness of Verneuil.

ness, and of comprehensive statesmanship which
astonished the most experienced politicians who
surrounded him.

It was a fierce battle which the king and his
minister were compelled to fight for many years
against the haughty nobles, who had ever re-
garded the mass of the people but as beasts of
burden, made to contribute to their pleasure.
The demands of these proud aristocrats were
incessant and inexorable. It is a singular fact
that, among them all, there was not a more thor-
ough-going aristocrat than Sully himseK He
had a perfect contempt for the people as to any
power of self-government. They were, in his
view, but sheep, to be carefully protected by a
kind shepherd. It w^as as absurd, he thought,
to consult them, as it would be for a shepherd
to ask the advice of his flock. But Sully wish-
ed to take good care of the people, to shield them
from all unequal burdens, from all aristocratic
usurpations, and to protect them with inflexible
justice in person and in property. His gov-
ernment was absolute in the extreme.

The Marchioness of Verneuil, in a towering
rage, bitterly reproached the duke for prevent-
ing her from receiving a monopoly from the
king, which would have secured to her an in-

Keign of Henry IV. 323

Integrity of Sully. The slave of love.

come of some five liundred thousand dollars a

"Truly the king will be a great fool," ex-
claimed the enraged marchioness, "if he contin-
ues to follow your advice, and thus alienates so
many distinguished families. On whom, pray,
should the king confer favors, if not on his rel-
atives and his influential friends ?"

" What you say," replied the unbending min-
ister, "would be reasonable enough if his maj-
esty took the money all out of his own purse.
But to assess a new tax upon the merchants,
artisans, laborers, and country people will nev-
er do. It is by them that the king and all of
us are supported, and it is enough that they
provide for a master, without having to main-
tain his cousins and friends."

For twelve years Henry, with his illustrious
minister, labored with unintermitted zeal for
the good of France. His love of France was
an ever-glowing and growing passion for which
every thing was to be surrendered. Henry was
great in all respects but one. He was a slave
to the passion of love. "And no one," says
Napoleon, " can surrender himself to the pas-
sion of love without forfeiting some palms of
glory." This great frailty has left a stain upon

324 King Heney IV.

The king's greatness,

his reputation which truth must not conceal,
which the genius of history with sorrow re-
gards, and which can never be effaced. He was
a great statesman. His heart Avas warm and
generous. His philanthropy was noble and all-
embracing, and liis devotion to tlie best wel-
fare of France was sincere and intense. Wit-
ness the following memorable prayer as he was
just entering upon a great battle :

" O Lord, if thou meanest this day to punish
me for my sins, I bow my head to the stroke
of thy justice. Spare not the guilty. But, Lord,
by thy holy mercy, have pity on tliis poor realm,
and strike not the flock for the fault of the shep-

" If God," said he at another time, " shall
grant me the ordinary term of human life, I
hope to see France in such a condition that ev-
ery peasant shall be able to have a fowl in the
pot on Sunday."

This memorable saying shows both the be-
nevolence of the king and the exceeding pover-
ty, at that time, of the peasantry of France.
Sully, in speaking of the corruption which had
prevailed and of the measures of reform intro-
duced, says,

" The revenue annually paid into the royal

Reign of Heney iV. 325

Financial skill of Sully. Co-operation of Henry.

treasury was thirty millions. It could not be,
I thought, that such a sum could reduce the
kingdom of France so low. I resolved to en-
ter upon the immense investigation. To my
horror, I found that for these thirty millions
given to his majesty there were extorted from
the purses of his subjects, I almost blush to say,
one hundred and fifty millions. After this I
was no longer ignorant whence the misery of
the people proceeded. I applied my cares to
the authors of this oppression, who were the
governors and other officers of the army, who
all, even to the meanest, abused, in an enormous
manner, their authority over the people. I im-
mediately caused a decree to be issued, by which
they were prohibited, under great penalties, to
exact any thing from the people, under any ti-
tle whatever, without a warrant in form."

The king co-operated cordially with his min-
ister in these rigorous acts of reform, and shield-
ed him with all the power of the monarchy from
the storm of obloquy which these measures drew
down upon him. The proud Duke of Epernon,
exasperated beyond control, grossly insulted
Sully. Henry immediately wrote to his min-
ister, "If Epernon challenges you, T will be
your second."

326 King Heney IV.

Solicitations of Gabrielle. Her death.

The amiable, but sinning and consequently
wretched Gabrielle was now importunate for
the divorce, that she might be lawfully married
to the king. But the children already born
could not be legitimated, and Sully so clearly
unfolded to the king the confusion which would
thus be introduced, and the certainty that, in
consequence of it, a disputed succession would
deluge France in blood, that the king, ardently
as he loved Gabrielle, was compelled to aban-
don the plan. Gabrielle was inconsolable, and
inveighed bitterly against Sully. The king
for a moment forgot himself, and cruelly retort-

"Know, woman, that a minister like Sully
must be dearer to me than even such a friend
as you."

This harshness broke the heart of the unhap-
py Gabrielle. She immediately left Fontaine-
bleau, where she was at that time with the king,
and retired to Paris, saying, as she bade Hen-
ry adieu, "We shall never meet again." Her
words proved true. On reaching Paris she was
seized with convulsions, gave birth to a lifeless
child, and died. Poor Gabrielle! Let com-
passion drop a tear over her grave ! She was
by nature one of the most lovely and noble of

Eeign of Henry IV. 327

Grief of the king. The divorce.

women. She lived in a day of darkness and
of almost universal corruption. Yielding to the
temptation of a heroic monarch's love, she fell,
and a subsequent life of sorrow was terminated
by an awful death, probably caused by poison.

Henry, as soon as informed of her sickness,
mounted his horse to gallop to Paris. He had
proceeded but half way when he was met by a
courier who informed him that Gabrielle was
dead. The dreadful blow staggered the king,
and he would have fallen from his horse had he
not been supported by his attendants. He re-
tired to Fontainebleau, shut himself up from all
society, and surrendered himself to the most
bitter grief. Sully in vain endeavored to con-
sole him. It was long before he could turn his
mind to any business. But there is no pain
whose anguish time will not diminish. New
cares and new loves at length engrossed the
heart where Gabrielle had for a few brief years
so supremely reigned.

The utterly profligate Marguerite, now that
Gabrielle was dead, whom she of course hated,
was perfectly willing to assent to a divorce.
While arrangements were making to accomplish
this end, the king chanced to meet a fascinat-
ing, yet pert and heartless coquette, Henriette

328 King Henry IV.

Henriette d'Entragiies. Bold fidelity of Sully,

d'Entragues, daughter of Francis Balzac, Lord
of Entragues. Though exceedingly beautiful,
she was a calculating, soulless girl, who was
glad of a chance to sell herself for rank and
money. She thus readily bartered her beauty
to the king, exacting, with the most cool finan-
ciering, as the price, a written promise that he
would marry her as soon as he should obtain a
divorce from Marguerite of Valois, upon condi-
tion that she, within the year, should bear him
a son.

The king, having written the promise, placed
it in the hands of Sully. The bold minister
read it, then tore it into fragments. The king,
amazed at such boldness, exclaimed in a pas-
sion, " Sir, I believe that you are mad."

"True, sire, I am," replied Sully; "but
would to God that I were the only madman in

But Henry, notwithstanding his anger, could
not part from a minister whose services were so
invaluable. He immediately drew up another
promise, which he placed in the hands of the
despicable beauty. This rash and guilty pledge
was subsequently the cause of great trouble to
the king.

Henry having obtained a divorce, the nation

1600.] Eeign of Henry IV. 329

Marriage to Maria of Medici. Anecdote.

demanded that lie should form a connection
which should produce a suitable heir to inherit
the throne. Thus urged, and as Henrietta did
not give birth to the wished-for son, Henrj re-
luctantly married, in the year 1600, Maria of
Medici, niece of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Maria was a domineering, crafty, ambitious
woman, who embittered the life of the king.
She was very jealous, and with reason enough,
of the continued influence of Henrietta ; and the
palace was the scene of disgraceful domestic
broils. Henry, in one of his letters to Sully,
describes the queen as "terribly robust and
healthy. But when she gave birth to a son
who was undeniably heir to the throne, thus al-
laying the fears of a disputed succession, the
whole nation rejoiced, and Henry became some-
what reconciled to his unattractive spouse. The
king was exceedingly fond of this child. One
day the Spanish embassador, a dignified Cas-
tilian, was rather suddenly ushered into ' the
royal presence at Fontainebleau. The monarch
was on all fours on the floor, running about the
room with the little dauphin on his back. Eais-
ing his eyes, he said to the embassador,

"Are you a father?"

" Yes, sire," was the reply. -

330 King Heney IV.

Grand political scheme.

" Then I may finish my play," said Henry,
and he took another trot around the room.

Henrietta and her relatives were greatly ex-
asperated that the king did not falfill his prom-
ise of marriage. The father and daughter, join-
ed by the Count d'Auvergne, plotted against
the king's life. They were arrested and con-
demned to death. The king, however, trans-
muted their punishment to exile.

One of the grandest schemes of Henry de-
serves particular mention. Reflecting deeply
upon the wars with which Europe had ever Ibeen
desolated, and seeing the occasion for this in
the innumerable states and nations into which
Europe was divided, of various degrees of pow-
er, and each struggling for its own selfish inter-
est, he proposed to unite all the states of Eu-
rope in one vast Christian Republic. The whole
continent was to be divided into fifteen states,
as uniform in size and power as possible. These
states were to be, according to their choice, mo-
narchical or republican. They were to be asso-
ciated on a plan somewhat resembling that of
the United States of America.

Nothing can more conclusively show the en-
tire absence of correct notions of religious toler-
ation prevailing at that day than the plan pro-

1610.] Reign of Heney IV. 331

Mode of preventing religious quarrels.

posed to prevent religious quarrels. Wherever
an J one form of faith predominated, that was to
be maintained as the national faith. In Cath^
olio states, there were to be no Protestants ; in
Protestant states, no Catholics. The minority,
however, were not to be exterminated ; they
were only to be compelled to emigrate to the
countries where their own form of faith prevail-
ed. All pagans and Mohammedans were to be
driven out of Europe into Asia. To enforce
this change, an army of two hundred and sev-
enty thousand infantry, fifty thousand cavalry,
two hundred cannon, and one hundred and twen-
ty ships of war, was deemed amply sufficient.

The first step was to secure the co-operation
of two or three of the most powerful kings of
Europe. This would render success almost cer-
tain. Sully examined the plan with the utmost
care in all its details. Henry wished first to
secure the approval of England, Sweden, and

But, in the midst of these schemes of gi-and-
eur, Henry was struck down by the hand of
an assassin. On the fourteenth of May, 1610,
the king left the Louvre at four o'clock in the
afternoon to visit Sully, who was sick. Prep-
arations were making for the public entry of

332 King Heney ly. [1610.

Assassination of the king.

the queen, who, after a long delay, had just been
crowned. The city was thronged ; the day was
fine, and the curtains of the coach were drawn
up» Several nobles were in the spacious car-
riage with the king. As the coach was turn-
ing out of the street Honore into the narrow
street Ferronnerie, it w^as stopped by two carts,
which blocked up the way. Just at that in-
stant a man from the crowd sprang upon a
spoke of the wheel, and struck a dagger into the
king just above the heart. Instantly repeating
the blow, the heart was pierced. Blood gush-
ed from the wound and from the mouth of the
king, and, without uttering a word, he sank dead
in the arms of his friends.

The wretched assassin, a fanatic monk, was
immediately siezed by the guard. With diffi-
culty they protected him from being torn to
pieces by the infuriated people. His name w^as
Francis Kavaillac. According to the savage
custom of the times, he was subsequently put
to death with the most frightful tortures.

The lifeless body of the king was immedi-
ately taken to the Tuileries and placed upon a
bed. Surgeons and physicians hurried to the
room only to gaze upon his corpse. No lan-
guage can depict the grief and despair of France

1610.] Eeign of Henry IV. 333

Character of Henry IV. The truth to he enforced.

at his death. He had won the love of the whole
nation, and, to the present day, no one hears
the name of Henry the Fourth mentioned in
France but with affection. He was truly the
father of his people. All conditions, employ-
ments, and professions were embraced in his
comprehensive regard. He spared no toil to
make France a happy land. He w^as a man of
genius and of instinctive magnanimity. In con-
versation lie had no rival. His profound and
witty sayings w^iicli have been transmitted to
us are sufficient to form a volume. His one
great and almost only fault sadly tarnishes his
otherwise fair and honorable fame.

In Henry commenced the reign of the house
of Bourbon. For nearly two hundred years the
family retained the crown. It is now expelled,
and the members are wandering in exile through
foreign lands.

There is one great truth which this narrative
enforces : it is the doctrine oi freedom of con-
science. It was the denial of this simple truth
which deluged France in blood and woe. The
recognition of this one sentiment w^ould have
saved for France hundreds of thousands of lives,
and millions of treasure. Let us take warn-
ing. We need it.

334 King Heney IV.

Free speech. Free press. Free men.

Let us emblazon upon our 'banner the noble
words, ''^Toleration — jperfect civil and relig-
ious toleration.'^ But Toleration is not a slave.
It is a spirit of light and of liberty. It has
much to give, but it has just as much to de-
mand. It bears the olive-branch in one hand,
and the gleaming sword in the other. I grant
to you, it says, perfect liberty of opinion and of
expression, and I demand of you the same.

Let us then inscribe upon the arch which
spans our glorious Union, making us one in its
celestial embrace, '•^Freedom of speech, freedom
of the press, and free men."

Then shall that arch beam upon us like God's
bow of promise in the cloud, proclaiming that
this land shall never be deluged by the surges
of civil war — that it never shall be inundated by
flames and blood.

The human mind is now so roused that it
will have this liberty ; and if there are any in-
stitutions of religion or of civil law which can
not stand this scrutiny, they are doomed to die.
The human mind will move with untrammeled
sweep through the whole range of religious doc-
trine, and around the whole circumference and
into the very centre of all political assumptions.

If the Catholic bishop have a word to say, let

Eeign of Heney IV. 335

Practical application of the moral.

liim say it. If some one, rising in the spirit
and power of Martin Lutlier, lias a reply to
make, let liim make it. Those who wish to
listen to the one or the other, let them do so.
Those who wish to close their ears, let them
have their way.

Our country is one. Our liberty is nation-
al. Let us then grant toleration every where
throughout our wide domain, in Maine and in
Georgia, amid the forests of the Aroostook and
upon the plains of Kansas.


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