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

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children, who were left behind, were pursued
with merciless cruelty.

The Protestants, with boldness which relig-
ious faith alone could inspire, braved all these
perils. They resolutely declared that the Bible
taught their faith, and their faith only, and that
no earthly power could compel them to swerve
from the truth. Notwithstanding the perils of
exile, torture, and death, they persisted in preach-
ing what they considered the pure Gospel of
Christ. In 1533 Calvin was driven from Paris.
When one said to him, " Mass must be true,
since it is celebrated in all Christendom ;" he
replied, pointing to the Bible,

" There is my mass." Then raising his eyes
to heaven, he solemnly said, " O Lord, if in

1535.] Childhood and Youth. 33

Calvin and his writings.

the day of judgment thou chargest me with not
having been at mass, I will say to thee with
truth, ' Lord, thou hast not commanded it. Be-
hold thy law. In it I have not found any other
sacrifice than that which was immolated on the
altar of the cross.' "

In 1535 Calvin's celebrated "Institutes of
the Christian Religion" were published, the great
reformer then residing in the city of Basle.
This great work became the banner of the Prot-
estants of France. It Avas read with avidity in
the cottage of the peasant, in the work-shop of
the artisan, and in the chateau of the noble. In
reference to this extraordinary man, of whom it
has been said,

*' On Calvin some think Heaven's own mantle fell,
While others deem him instrument of hell,"

Theodore Beza writes, " I do not believe that
his equal can be found. Besides preaching ev-
ery day from week to week, very often, and as
much as he was able, he preached twice every
Sunday. He lectured on theology three times
a week. He delivered addresses to the Consist-
ory, and also instructed at length every Friday
before the Bible Conference, which we call the
congregation. He continued this course so con-
stantly that he never failed a single time except

34 KiNa Henky IY. [1564.

Calvin's physical debility. Continued labors.

in extreme illness. Moreover, who could re-
count his other common or extraordinary la-
bors ? I know of no man of our age who has
had more to hear, to answer, to write, nor things
of greater importance. The number and qual-
ity of his writings alone is enough to astonish
any man who sees them, and still more those
who read them. And what renders his labors
still more astonishing is, that he had a body so
feeble by nature, so debilitated by night labors
and too great abstemiousness, and, what is more,
subject to so many maladies, that no man who
saw him could understand how he had lived so
long. And yet, for all that, he never ceased to
labor night and day in the work of the Lord.
We entreated him to have more regard for him-
self; but his ordinary reply was that he was do-
ing nothing, and that we should allow God to
find him always watching, and working as he
could to his latest breath."

Calvin died in 1564, eleven years after the
birth of Henry of Navarre, at the age of fifty-
five. For several years he was so abstemious
that he had eaten but one meal a day.*

* In reference to the execution of Servetus for heresy, an
event which, in the estimation of many, has seriously tar-
nished the reputation of Calvin, the celebrated Trench his-

1560.] Childhood and Youth. 35

Inhabitants of France. Execution of Servetus.

At this time the overwhelming majority of
the inhabitants of France were Catholics — it has
generally been estimated a hundred to one ; but
the doctrines of the reformers gained ground un-
til, toward the close of the century, about the
time of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, the
Protestants composed about one sixth of the

The storm of persecution which fell upon
them was so terrible that they were compelled
to protect themselves by force of arms. Grad-
ually they gained the ascendency in several cit-
ies, which they fortified, and where they pro-

torian, M. Mignet, in a very able dissertation, establishes the
following points :

1. Servetus was not an ordinary heretic ; he was a bold
pantheist, and outraged the dogma of all Christian commun-
ions by saying that God, in three persons, was a Cerberus,
a monster with three heads. 2. He had already been con-
demned to death by the Catholic doctors at Vienne in Dau-
phiny. 3. The affair was judged, not by Calvin, but by the
magistrates of Geneva ; and if it is objected that his advice
must have influenced their decision, it is necessary to recol-
lect that the councils of the other reformed cantons of Switz-
erland approved the sentence with a unanimous voice. 4.
It was of the utmost importance for the Keformation to sep-
arate distinctly its cause from that of such an unbeliever as
Servetus. The Catholic Church, which in our day accuses
Calvin of having participated in his condemnation, much
more would have accused him, in the sixteenth century,
with having solicited his acquittal.

36 King Heney IV. [1560.

Antony of Bourbon. Jeanne d'Albret.

tected refugees from the persecution which had
driven them from the cities where the Catholics
predominated. Such was the deplorable con-
dition of France at the time of which we write.

In the little kingdom of Navarre, which was
but about one third as large as the State"^of
Massachusetts, and which, since its dismember-
ment, contained less than three hundred thou-
sand inhabitants, nearly every individual was a
Protestant. Antony of Bourbon, who Iiad mar-
ried the queen, was a Frenchman. Witli him,
as with many others in that day, religion was
merely a badge of party politics. Antony spent
much of his time in the voluptuous court of
France, and as he was, of course, solicitous for
popularity there, he espoused the Catholic side
of the controversy.

Jeanne d'Albret was energetically a Protest-
ant. Apparently, her faith was founded in deep
religious conviction. When Catharine of Med-
ici advised her to follow her husband into the
Catholic Church, she replied with firmness,

" Madam, sooner than ever go to mass, if I
had my kingdom and my son both in my hands,
I would hurl them to the bottom of the sea be-
fore they should change my purpose."

Jeanne had been married to Antony merely

1560.] Childhood and Youth. 37

The separation. Different life.

as a matter of state policy. There was noth-
ing in his character to win a noble woman's
love. With no social or religious sympathies,
they lived together for a time in a state of re-
spectful indifference ; but the court of Navarre
was too quiet and religious to satisfy the taste
of the voluptuous Parisian. He consequently
spent most of his time enjoying the gayeties of
the metropolis of France. A separation, mutu-
ally and amicably agreed upon, was the result.

Antony conveyed with him to Paris his son
Henry, and there took up his residence. Amidst
the changes and the fluctuations of the ever-
agitated metropolis, he eagerly watched for op-
portunities to advance his own fame and for-
tune. As Jeanne took leave of her beloved
child, she embraced him tenderly, and with tears
entreated him never to abandon the faith in
which he had been educated.

Jeanne dAlbret, with her little daughter, re-
mained in the less splendid but more moral and
refined metropolis of her paternal domain. A
mother's solicitude and prayers, however, follow-
ed her son. Antony consented to retain as a
tutor for Henry the wise and learned La Gau-
cherie, who was himself strongly attached to the
reformed religion.

38 King Heney IY. [1560.

Rage of the Pope. Growth of Protestantism.

The inflexibility of Jeanne d'Albret, and the
refuge she ever cheerfully afforded to the perse-
cuted Protestants, quite enraged the Pope. As
a measure of intimidation, he at one time sum-
moned her as a heretic to appear before the In-
quisition within six months, under penalty of
losing her crown and her possessions. Jeanne,
unawed by the threat, appealed to the monarchs
of Europe for protection. None were disposed
in that age to encourage such arrogant claims,
and Pope Pius YI. was compelled to moderate
his haughty tone. A plot, however, was then
formed to seize her and her children, and hand
them over to the "tender mercies" of the Span-
ish Inquisition. But this plot also failed.

In Paris itself there were many bold Protest-
ant nobles who, with arms at their side, and stout
retainers around them, kept personal persecu-
tion at bay. They were generally men of com-
manding character, of intelligence and integri-
ty. The new religion, throughout the country,
was manifestly growing fast in strength, and at
times, even in the saloons of the palace, the rival
parties were pretty nearly balanced. Although,
throughout the kingdom of France, the Catho-
lics were vastly more numerous than the Prot-
estants, yet as England and much of Germany

1560.] Childhood and Youth. 39

Catharine's blandishments. Undecided action.

had warmly espoused the cause of the reform-
ers, it was perhaps difficult to decide which par-
ty, on the whole, in Europe, was the strongest.
I^ohles and princes of the highest rank were, in
all parts of Europe, ranged under either banner.
In the two factions thus contending for domin-
ion, there were, of course, some who were not
much influenced by conscientious considera-
tions, but who were merely struggling for polit-
ical power.

When Henry first arrived in Paris, Catharine
kept a constant watch over his words and liis
actions. She spared no possible efforts to bring
him under her entire control. Efforts were
made to lead his teacher to check his enthusi-
asm for lofty exploits, and to surrender him to
the claims of frivolous amusement. This de-
testable queen presented before the impassion-
ed young man all the blandishments of female
beauty, that she might betray him to licentious
indulgence. In some of these infamous arts
she was but too successful.

Catharine, in her ambitious projects, was oft-
en undecided as to which cause she should es-
pouse and which party she should call to her
aid. At one time she would favor the Protest-
ants, and again the Catholics. At about this

40 King Henry IY. [1562.

Seizure of the queen. Civil war.

time she suddenly turned to the Protestants,
and courted them so decidedly as greatly to
alarm and exasperate the Catholics. Some of
the Catholic nobles formed a conspiracy, and
seized Catharine and her son at the palace of
Fontainebleau, and held them both as captives.
The proud queen was almost frantic with indig-
nation at the insult.

The Protestants, conscious that the conspir-
acy was aimed against them, rallied for the de-
fense of the queen. The Catholics all over the
kingdom sprang to arms. A bloody civil war
ensued. Nearly all Europe was drawn into the
conflict. Germany and England came with ea-
ger armies to the aid of the Protestants. Cath-
arine hated the proud and haughty Elizabeth,
England's domineering queen, and was very
jealous of her fame and power. She resolved
that she would not be indebted to her ambitious
rival for aid. She therefore, most strangely,
threw herself into the arms of the Catholics^
and ardently espoused their cause. The Prot-
estants soon found her, with all the energy of
her powerful mind, heading their foes. France
was deluged in blood.

A large number of Protestants threw them-
selves into Eouen. Antony of Bourbon headed

1562.] Childhood and Youth. 41

Death of Antony of Bourbon. Effects of the war.

an army of the Catholics to besiege the city.
A ball struck him, and he fell senseless to the
ground. His attendants placed him, covered
with blood, in a carriage, to convey him to a
hospital. While in the carriage and jostling
over the rough ground, and as the thunders of
the cannonade were pealing in his ears, the spir-
it of the blood-stained soldier ascended to the
tribunal of the God of Peace. Plenry Avas now
left fatherless, and subject entirely to the con-
trol of his mother, whom he most tenderly loved,
and whose views, as one of the most prominent
leaders of the Protestant party, he was strong-
ly inclined to espouse.

The sanguinary conflict still raged with un-
abated violence throughout the whole kingdom,
arming brother against brother, friend against
friend. Churches were sacked and destroyed ;
vast extents of country were almost depopu-
lated ; cities were surrendered to pillage, and
atrocities innumerable perpetrated, from which
it would seem that even fiends would revolt.
France was filled with smouldering ruins ; and
the wailing cry of widows and of orphans, thus
made by the wrath of man, ascended from every
plain and every hill-side to the ear of that God
who has said, " Thou shalt love thy neighbor
as thyself."

42 KiNa Heney IV. [1562.

Liberty of •worship. Indignation and animosity.

At last both parties were weary of the hor-
rid strife. The Catholics were struggling to
extirpate what they deemed ruinous heresy from
the kingdom. The Protestants were repelling
the assault, and contending, not for general lib-
erty of conscience, but that their doctrines were
true, and therefore should be sustained. Terms
of accommodation were proposed, and the Cath-
olics made the great concession, as they regard-
ed it, of allowing the Protestants to conduct
public worship outside of the walls of towns.
The Protestants accepted these terms, and
sheathed the sword ; but many of the more fa-
natic Catholics were greatly enraged at this tol-
eration. The Guises, the most arrogant family
of nobles the world has ever known, retired from
Paris in indignation, declaring that they would
not witness such a triumph of heresy. The
decree which granted this poor boon was the fa-
mous edict of January, 1562, issued from St.
Germain. But such a peace as this could only
be a truce caused by exhaustion. Deep-seated
animosity still rankled in the bosom of both
parties ; and, notwithstanding all the woes which
desolating wars had engendered, the spirit of
religious intolerance was eager again to grasp
the weapons of deadly strife.

1562.] Childhood and Youth. 43

Religious toleration. Belief of the Romanists.

During the sixteenth century the doctrine of
religious toleration was recognized by no one.
Tliat great truth had not then even dawned
upon the world. The noble toleration so earn-
estly advocated by Bayle and Locke a century
later, was almost a new revelation to the human
mind ; but in the sixteenth century it would
have been regarded as impious, and rebellion
against God to have affirmed that error was
not to be pursued and punished. The reform-
ers did not advocate the view that a man had a
right to believe what he pleased, and to dissem-
inate that belief. They only declared that they
were bound, at all hazards, to believe the truth;
that the views which they cherished were true,
and that therefore they should be protected in
them. They appealed to the Bible, and chal-
lenged their adversaries to meet them there.
Our fathers must not be condemned for not be-
ing in advance of the age in which they lived.
That toleration which allows a man to adopt,
without any civil disabilities, any mode of wor-
ship that does not disturb the peace of society,
exists, as we believe, only in the United States.
Even in England Dissenters are excluded from
many privileges. Throughout the whole of
Catholic Europe no religious toleration is rec-

44 King Henry IY. [1562.

Establishment of freedom of conscience.

ognized. The Emperor Napoleon, during his
reign, established the most perfect freedom of
conscience in every government his influence
could control. His downfall re-established
through Europe the dominion of intolerance.

The .Reformation, in contending for the right
of private judgment in contradiction to the
claims of councils, maintained a principle which
necessarily involved the freedom of conscience.
This was not then perceived ; but time devel-
oped the truth. The Reformation became, in
reality, the mother of all religious liberty.

Civil AVar. 45

Henry but little acquainted with his parents. Indecision of Henry.

Chapter II.
Civil War.

WHILE France was thus deluged with the
blood of a civil war, young Hemy was
busily pursuing his studies in college. He
could have had but little affection for his father,
for the stern soldier had passed most of his
days in the tented field, and his son had hardly
known him. From his mother he had long been
separated ; but he cherished her memory with
affectionate regard, and his predilections strong-
ly inclined him toward the faith which he knew
that she had so warmly espoused. It was, how-
ever, in its political aspects that Henry mainly
contemplated the question. He regarded the
two sects merely as two political parties strug-
gling for power. For some time he did not ven-
ture to commit himself openly, but, availing him-
self of the privilege of his youth, carefully stud-
ied the principles and the prospects of the con-
tending factions, patiently waiting for the time
to come in which he should introduce his strong
arm into the conflict. Each party, aware that

46 KiNa Heney IV.

Hypocrisy of Catharine. She desires to save Henry.

his parents had espoused opposite sides, and re-
garding him as an invaluable accession to either
cause, adopted all possible allurements to win
his favor.

Catharine, as unprincipled as she was ambi-
tious, invited him to her court, lavished upon
him, with queenly profusion, caresses and flat-
ter j, and enticed him with all those blandish-
ments which might most effectually enthrall the
impassioned spirit of youth. Voluptuousness,
gilded with its most dazzling and deceitful en-
chantments, was studiously presented to his
eye. The queen was all love and complaisance.
She received him to her cabinet council. She
affected to regard him as her chief confidant.
She had already formed the design of perfidi-
ously throwing the Protestants off their guard
by professions of friendship, and then, by indis-
criminate massacre, of obliterating from the
kingdom every vestige of the reformed faith.
The great mass of the people being Catholics,
she thought that, by a simultaneous uprising all
over the kingdom, the Protestants might be so
generally destroyed that not enough would be
left to cause her any serious embarrassments.

For many reasons Catharine wished to save
Henry from the doom impending over his friends,

Civil Wae. 47

A significant reply. Indications of future greatness.

if she could, by any means, win him to her side.
She held many interviews with the highest ec-
clesiastics upon the subject of the contemplated
massacre. At one time, when she was urging
the expediency of sparing some few Protestant
nobles who had been her personal friends, Hen-
ry overheard the significant reply from the Duke
of Alva, "The head of a salmon is worth a hund-
red frogs." The young prince meditated deep-
ly upon the import of those words. Surmising
their significance, and alarmed for the safety of
his mother, he dispatched a trusty messenger to
communicate to her his suspicions.

His mind was now thoroughly aroused to
vigilance, to careful and hourly scrutiny of the
plots and counterplots which were ever forming
around him. While others of his age were ab-
sorbed in the pleasures of licentiousness and
gaming, to which that corrupt court was aban-
doned, Henry, though he had not escaped un-
spotted from the contamination which surround-
ed him, displayed, by the dignity of his demean-
or and the elevation of his character, those ex-
traordinary qualities which so remarkably dis-
tinguished him in future life, and which indi-
cated, even then, that he was born to command.
One of the grandees of the Spanish court, the

48 King Heney IY. [1565.

The prophecy. Visit of Catharine.

Duke of Medina, after meeting liim incidental-
ly but for a few moments, remarked,

" It appears to me that this young prince is
either an emperor, or is destined soon to become

Henry ^vas very punctilious in regard to eti-
quette, and would allow no one to treat him
without due respect, or to deprive him of the
position to which he was entitled by his rank.

Jeanne d'Albret, the Queen of Navarre, was
now considered the most illustrious leader of
the Protestant party. Catharine, the better to
disguise her infamous designs, went with Henry,
in great splendor, to make a friendly visit to his
mother in the little Protestant court of Beam.
Catharine insidiously lavished upon Jeanne
d'Albret the warmest congratulations and the
most winning smiles, and omitted no courtly
blandishments which could disarm the suspi-
cions and win the confidence of the Protestant
queen. The situation of Jeanne in her feeble
dominion w^as extremely embarrassing. The
Pope, in consequence of her alleged heresy, had
issued against her the bull of excommunication,
declaring her incapable of reigning, forbidding
all good Catholics, by the peril of their own sal-
vation, from obeying any of her commands. As

1567.] Civil War. 49

Endeavors of Catharine to influence the young prince.

her own subjects were almost all Protestants,
she was in no danger of any insurrection on
their part ; but this decree, in that age of su-
perstition and of profligacy, invited each neigh-
boring power to seize upon her territory. The
only safety of the queen consisted in the mutu-
al jealousies of the rival kingdoms of France and
Spain, neither of them being willing that the
other should receive such an accession to its po-
litical importance.

The Queen of J^Tavarre was not at all shaken
in her faith, or influenced to change her meas-
ures by the visit of the French court to her cap-
ital. She regarded, however, with much solic-
itude, the ascendency which, it appeared to her,
Catharine was obtaining over the mind of her
son. Catharine caressed and flattered the young
Prince of Navarre in every possible way. All
her blandishments were exerted to obtain a
commanding influence over his mind. She en-
deavored unceasingly to lure him to indulgence
in all forbidden pleasure, and especially to crowd
upon his youthful and ardent passions all the
temptations which yielding female beauty could
present. After the visit of a few weeks, during
which the little court of Navarre had witnessed
an importation of profligacy unknown before,

50 Kino Henry IV. [1567.

The return visit. Obstacles to tlie departni'e.

the Queen of France, with Henry and with her
voluptuous train, returned again to Paris.

Jeanne d'Albret had seen enough of the bland-
ishments of vice to excite her deepest maternal
solicitude in view of the peril of her son. She
earnestly urged his return to Navarre; but Cath-
arine continually threw such chains of influence
around him that he could not escape. At last
Jeanne resolved, nnder the pretense of returning
the visit of Catharine, to go herself to the court
of France and try to recover Henry. With a
small but illustrious retinue, embellished with
great elegance of manners and purity of life, she
arrived in Paris. The Queen of France received
her with every possible mark of respect and af-
fection, and lavished upon her entertainments,
and fetes, and gorgeous spectacles until the
Queen of Navarre was almost bewildered.

Whenever Jeanne proposed to return to her
kingdom there was some very special celebra-
tion appointed, from which Jeanne could not,
without extreme rudeness, break away. Thus
again and again was Jeanne frustrated in her
endeavors to leave Paris, until she found, to her
surprise and chagrin, that both she and her son
iwere prisoners, detained in captivity by bonds
'of the most provoking politeness. Catharine

1567.] Civil War. 53

The stratagem. Its siicces;!.

managed so adroitly that Jeanne could not en-
ter any complaints, for the shackles which were
thrown around her were those of ostensibly tlie
most excessive kindness and the most unbound-
ed love. It was of no avail to provoke a quar-
rel, for the Queen of Navarre was powerless in
the heart of France.

At last she resolved to effect by stratagem
that which she could not accomplish openly.
One day a large party had gone out upon a hunt-
ing excursion. The Queen of Navarre made
arrangements with her son, and a few of the
most energetic and trustworthy gentlemen of
her court, to separate themselves, as it were ac-
cidentally, when in the eagerness of the chase,
from the rest of the company, and to meet at an
appointed place of rendezvous. The little band,
thus assembled, turned the heads of their horses

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre → online text (page 2 of 16)