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

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

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toward Navarre. They drove with the utmost
speed day and night, furnishing themselves with
fresh relays of horses, and rested not till the
clatter of the iron hoofs of the steeds were heard
among the mountains of Navarre. Jeanne left
a very polite note upon her table in the palace
of St. Cloud, thanking Queen Catharine for all
her kindness, and praying her to excuse the
liberty she had taken in avoiding the pain of



54 King Henry IV. [1567.

Home again. Description of the prince.

words of adieu. Catharine was exceedingly an-
noyed at their escape, but, perceiving that it was
not in her power to overtake the^ fugitives, she
submitted with as good a grace as possible.

Henry found himself thus again among his
native hills. He was placed under the tuition
of a gentleman who had a high appreciation of
all that was poetic and beautiful. Henry, un-
der his guidance, devoted himself with great de-
light to the study of polite literature, and gave
free wing to an ennobled imagination as he
clambered up the cliffs, and wandered over the
ravines familiar to the days of his childhood.
His personal appearance in 1567, when he was
thirteen years of age, is thus described by a
Roman Catholic gentleman who was accustom-
ed to meet him daily in the court of Catharine.

"We have here the young Prince of Beam.
One can not help acknowledging that he is a
beautiful creature. At the age of thirteen he
displays all the qualities of a person of eighteen
or nineteen. He is agreeable, he is civil, he is
obliging. Others might say that as yet he does
not know what he is ; but, for my part, I, who
study him very often, can assure you that he
does know perfectly well. He demeans him-
self toward all the world with so easy a carriage,



1567.] Civil Wae. 55



Evil effects of dissolute society.



that people crowd round wlierever he is ; and
he acts so noblj in every thing, that one sees
clearly that he is a great prince. He enters into
conversation as a highlj-polished man. He
speaks always to the purpose, and it is remark-
ed that he is very well informed. I shall hate
the reformed religion all my life for having car-
ried off from us so worthy a person. Without
this original sin, he would be the first after the
king, and we should see him, in a short time, at
the head of the armies. He gains new friends
every day. He insinuates himself into all
hearts with inconceivable skill. He is highly
honored by the men, and no less beloved by the
ladies. His face is very Avell formed, the nose
neither too large nor too small. His eyes are
very soft ; his skin brown, but very smooth ;
and his whole features animated with such un-
common vivacity, that, if he does not make prog-
ress with the fair, it will be very extraordinary."
Henry had not escaped the natural influence
of the dissolute society in the midst of which he
had been educated, and manifested, on his first
return to his mother, a strong passion for balls
and masquerades, and all the enervating pleas-
ures of fashionable life. His courtly and per-
suasive manners were so insinuating, that, with-



56 King Henry IV. [1567.

Influence of Jeanne d'Albret. Catharine's deity.

out difficulty, he borrowed any sums of money
he pleased, and with these borrowed treasures
he fed his passion for excitement at the gaming-
table.

The firm principles and high intellectual ele-
vation of his mother roused her to the immedi-
ate and vigorous endeavor to correct all these
radical defects in his character and education.
She kept him, as much as possible, under her
own eye. She appointed teachers of the high-
est mental and moral attainments to instruct
him. By her conversation and example she im-
pressed upon his mind the sentiment that it was
the most distinguished honor of one born to
command others to be their superior in intelli-
gence, judgment, and self-control. The Prince
of Navarre, in his mother's court at Beam, found
himself surrounded by Protestant friends and
influences, and he could not but feel and admit
the superior dignity and purity of these his new
friends.

Catharine worshiped no deity but ambition.
She was ready to adopt any measures and to
plunge into any crimes which would give sta-
bility and lustre to her power. She had no re-
ligious opinions or even preferences. She es-
poused the cause of the Catholics because, on



1567.] Civil Wae. 57



Principle of Jeanne d'Albret.



the whole, she deemed that party the more pow-
erful ; and then she sought the entire destruc-
tion of the Protestants, that none might be left
to dispute her sway. Had the Protestants been
in the majority, she would, with equal zeal, have
given them the aid of her strong arm, and unre-
lentingly would have striven to crush the whole
papal power.

Jeanne d'Albret, on the contrary, was in prin-
ciple a Protestant. She was a woman of re-
flection, of feeling, of highly-cultivated intellect,
and probably of sincere piety. She had read,
with deep interest, the religious controversies of
the day. She had prayed for light and guid-
ance. She had finally and cordially adopted
the Protestant faith as the truth of God. Thus
guided by her sense of duty, she was exceed-
ingly anxious that her son should be a Protest-
ant — a Protestant Christian. In most solemn
prayer she dedicated him to God's service, to
defend the faith of the Eeformers. In the dark-
ness of that day, the bloody and cruel sword
was almost universally recognized as the great
champion of truth. Both parties appeared to
think that the thunders of artillery and musket-
ry must accompany the persuasive influence of
eloquence. If it were deemed important that



58 King Henry IV. [1567.

The cannon the missionary. Devastation.

one hand should guide the pen of controversy,
to establisli the truth, it was considered no
less important that the other should wield the
sword to extirpate heresy. Military heroism
was thought as essential as scholarship for the
defense of the faith.

A truly liberal mind will find its indignation,
in view of the atrocities of these religious wars,
mitigated by comparison in view of the igno-
rance and the frailty of man. The Protestants
often needlessly exasperated the Catholics by
demolishing, in the hour of victory, their church-
es, their paintings, and their statues, and by
pouring contempt upon all that was most hal-
lowed in the Catholic heart. There was, how-
ever, this marked difference between the two
parties : the leaders of the Protestants, as a
general rule, did every thing in their power to
check the fury of their less enlightened follow-
ers. The leaders of the Catholics, as a general
rule, did every thing in their power to stimulate
the fanaticism of the frenzied populace. In the
first religious war the Protestant soldiers broke
open and plundered the great church of Orleans.
The Prince of Conde and Admiral Coligni has-
tened to repress the disorder. The prince point-
ed a musket at a soldier who had ascended a



1568.] Civil Wae. 59

Indecision of the prince. Arguments pro and con.

ladder to break an image, threatening to shoot
him if he did not immediately desist.

"My lord" exclaimed the fanatic Protestant,
"wait till I have thrown down this idol, and
then, if it please you, I will die."

It is well for man that Omniscience presides
at the day of judgment. " The Lord knoweth
our frame ; he remembereth that we are dust."

Europe Avas manifestly preparing for anoth-
er dreadful religious conflict. The foreboding
cloud blackened the skies. The young Prince
of Navarre had not yet taken his side. Both
Catholics and Protestants left no exertions un-
tried to win to their cause so important an aux-
iliary. Henry had warm friends in the court
of Navarre and in the court of St. Cloud. He
was bound by many ties to both Catholics and
Protestants. Love of pleasure, of self-indul-
gence, of power, urged him to cast in his lot
with the Catholics. Reverence for his mother
inclined him to adopt the weaker party, who
were struggling for purity of morals and of faith.
To be popular with his subjects in his own king-
dom of Navarre, he must be a Protestant. To
be popular in France, to whose throne he was
already casting a wistful eye, it was necessary
for him to be a Catholic. He vacillated between



60 KiNGt Heney IV. [1568.

Chances- of a crovra. War again.

these views of self-interest. His conscience and
his heart were untouched. Both parties were
aware of the magnitude of the weight he could
place in either scale, while each deemed it quite
uncertain which cause he would espouse. His
father had died contending for the Catholic faith,
and all knew that the throne of Catholic France
was one of the prizes which the young Prince
of Navarre had a fair chance of obtaining. His
mother was the most illustrious leader of the
Protestant forces on the Continent, and the
crown of Henry's hereditary domain could not
repose quietly upon any brow but that of a Prot-
estant.

Such w^as the state of affairs when the clangor
of arms again burst upon the ear of Europe.
France was the arena of woe upon which the
Catholics and the Protestants of England and
of the Continent hurled themselves against each
other. Catharine, breathing vengeance, headed
the Catholic armies. Jeanne, calm yet inflex-
ible, was recognized as at the head of the Prot-
estant leaders, and was alike the idol of the
common soldiers and of their generals. The
two contending armies, after various marchings
and countermarchings, met at Rochelle. The
whole country around, for many leagues, was ii'



1568.] Civil Wak. 61



Arrival of the Queen of Navarre.



luminated at night by the camp-fires of the hos-
tile hosts. The Protestants, inferior in num-
bers, with hymns and prayers calmly awaited
an attack. The Catholics, divided in council,
were fearful of hazarding a decisive engagement.
Day after day thus passed, with occasional skir-
mishes, when, one sunny morning, the sound of
trumpets was heard, and the gleam of the spears
and banners of an approaching host was seen
on the distant hills. The joyful tidings spread
through the ranks of the Protestants that the
Queen of Navarre, with her son and four thou-
sand troops, had arrived. At the head of her
firm and almost invincible band she rode, calm
and serene, magnificently mounted, with her
proud boy by her side. As the queen and her
son entered the plain, an exultant shout from
the whole Protestant host seemed to rend the
skies. These enthusiastic plaudits, loud, long,
reiterated, sent dismay to the hearts of the Cath-
olics.

Jeanne presented her son to the Protestant
army, and solemnly dedicated him to the de-
fense of the Protestant faith. At the same time
she published a declaration to the world that
she deplored the horrors of war ; that she was
not contending for the oppression of others, but



62 Kino Henrt IV. [1568.

Lducation of the prince. The Prince of Conde.

to secure for herself and her friends the right to
worship God according to the teachings of the
Bible. The young prince was placed under the
charge of the most-experienced generals, to guard
his person from danger and to instruct him in
military science. The Prince of Conde was his
teacher in that terrible accontplishment in which
both master and pupil have obtained such world-
wide renown.

Long files of English troops, with trumpet
tones, and waving banners, and heavy artillery,
were seen winding their way along the streams
of France, hastening to the scene of conflict.
The heavy battalions of the Pope were mar-«
shaling upon all the sunny plains of Italy, and
the banners of the rushing squadrons glittered
from the pinnacles of the Alps, as Europe rose
in arms, desolating ten thousand homes with
conflagrations, and blood, and woe. Could the
pen record the smouldering ruins, the desolate
hearthstones, the shrieks of mortal agony, the
wailings of the widow, the cry of the orphan,
which thus resulted from man's inhumanity to
man, the heart would sicken at the recital. The
summer passed away in marches and counter-
marches, in assassinations, and skirmishes, and
battles. The fields of the husbandmen were



1568.J Civil War. 63

Slaughter of the Protestants. The battle.

trampled under the lioofs of horses. Villages
were burned to the ground, and their wretched
inhabitants driven out in nakedness and starv-
ation to meet the storms of merciless winter.
Noble ladies and refined and beautiful maidens
fled shrieking from the pursuit of brutal and li'
centious soldiers, ^till neither party gained
any decisive victory. The storms of winter
came, and beat heavily, with frost and drifting
snow, upon the worn and weary hosts.

In three months ten thousand Protestants had
perished. At Orleans two hundred Protestants
Avere thrown into prison. The populace set the
prison on fire, and they w^ere all consumed.

At length the Catholic armies, having become
far more numerous than the Protestant, ven-
tured upon a general engagement. They met
upon the field of Jarnac. The battle was con-
ducted by the Reformers with a degi'ee of fear-
lessness bordering on desperation. The Prince
of Conde plunged into the thickest ranks of the
enemy with his unfurled banner bearing the
motto, "Danger is sweet for Christ and my
country." Just as he commenced his desperate
charge, a kick from a wounded horse fractured
his leg so severely that the fragments of the
bone protruded through his boot. Pointing to



64 King Heney IV. [1568.

Courage of the Prince of Conde. The defeat.

tlie mangled and lielpless limb, he said to those
around him, " Eem ember the state in which
Louis of Bourbon enters the fight for Christ
and his country." Immediately sounding the
charge, like a whirlwind his little band plunged
into the midst of their foes. For a moment the
shock was irresistible, and the assailed fell like
grass before the scythe of the mower. Soon,
however, the undaunted band was entirely sur-
rounded by their powerful adversaries. The
Prince of Conde, with but about two hundred
and fifty men, with indomitable determination
sustained himself against the serried ranks of
five thousand men closing up around him on
every side. This was the last earthly conflict
of the Prince of Conde. With his leg broken
and his arm nearly severed from his body, his
horse fell dead beneath him, and the prince, del-
uged with blood, was precipitated into the dust
under the trampling hoofs of wounded and fran-
tic chargers. His men still fought with des-
peration around their wounded chieftain. Of
twenty-five nephews who accompanied him, fif-
teen were slain by his side. Soon all his de-
fenders were cut down or dispersed. The
wounded prince, an invaluable prize, was taken
prisoner. Montesquieu, captain of the guards



1568.] Civil War. 65

Death of the Prince of Conde. Retreat of the Protestants.

of the Duke of Anjou, came driving up, and as
Le saw tlie prisoner attracting much attention,
besmeared with blood and dirt,

" Whom have we here ?" he inquired.

" The Prince of Conde," was the exultant re-

"Kill him! kill him!" exclaimed the cap-
tain, and he discharged a pistol at his head.

The ball passed through his brain, and the
prince fell lifeless upon the ground. The corpse
was left where it fell, and the Catholic troops
pursued their foes, now flying in every direc-
tion. The Protestants retreated across a river,
blew up the bridge, and protected themselves
from farther assault. The next day the Duke
of Anjou, the younger brother of Charles IX.,
and who afterward became Henry III., who was
one of the leaders of the Catholic army, rode
over the field of battle, to find, if possible, the
body of his illustrious enemy.

" We had not rode far," says one who accom-
panied him, " when we perceived a great num-
ber of the dead bodies piled up in a heap, which
led us to judge that this was the spot where the
body of the prince was to be found : in fact, we
found it there. Baron de Magnac took the
corpse by the hair to lift up the face, which was
E



m King Heney IY. [1568.

Fiendish barbarity. Advice ef the Pope.

turned toward the ground, and asked me if I
recognized him ; Ibut, as one eye was torn out,
and his face was covered with Wood and dirt, I
could only reply that it was certainly his height
and his complexion, but farther I could not say."

They washed the bloody and mangled face,
and found that it was indeed the prince. His
body was carried, with infamous ribaldry, on an
ass to the castle of Jarnac, and thrown contempt-
uously upon the ground. Several illustrious
prisoners were brought to the spot and butcher-
ed in cold blood, and their corpses thrown upon
that of the prince, while the soldiers passed a
night of drunkenness and revelry, exulting over
the remains of their dead enemies.

Such was the terrible battle of Jarnac, the
first conflict which Henry witnessed. The tid-
ings of this great victory and of the death of
the illustrious Conde excited transports of joy
among the Catholics. Charles IX. sent to Pope
Pius Y. the standards taken from the Protest-
ants. The Pope, who affirmed that Luther was
a ravenous beast, and that his doctrines were
the sum of all crimes, wrote to the king a letter
of congratulation. He urged him to extirpate
every fibre of heresy, regardless of all entreaty,
and of every tie of blood and affection. To en-



1568.] Civil War. e'T

Incitement to massacre. The protectorate.

courage him, he cited the example of Saul ex-
terminating the Amalekites, and assured him
that all tendency to clemency was a snare of
the devil.

The Catholics now considered the condition
of the Protestants as desperate. The pulpits
resounded with imprecations and anathemas.
The Catholic priests earnestly advocated the
sentiment that no faith was to he kept with her-
etics ; that to massacre them was an action es-
sential to the safety of the state, and which would
secure the approbation of God.

But the Protestants, though defeated, were
still unsubdued. The noble Admiral Coligni
still remained to them ; and after the disaster,
Jeanne d'Albret presented herself before the
troops, holding her son Henry, then fourteen
years of age, by one hand, and Henry, son of
the Prince de Conde, by the other, and devoted
them both to the cause. The young Henry of
Navarre was then proclaimed genei^alisshno of
the army and protector of the churches. He
took the following oath : "I swear to defend
the Protestant religion, and to persevere in the
common cause, till death or till victory has se-
cured for all the liberty which we desire."



68 KiNa Heney IV. [1568.

Emotions of Henry. His military sagacity.



Chaptee III.
The Maeeiage.

YOUNG Henry of Navarre was but about
fourteen years of age when, from one of the
hills in the vicinity, he looked upon the terrible
battle of Jarnac. It is reported that, young as
he was, he pointed out the fatal errors which
were committed by the Protestants in all the
arrangements which preceded the battle.

"It is folly," he said, "to think of fighting,
with forces so divided, a united army making
an attack at one point."

For the security of his person, deemed so pre-
cious to the Protestants, his friends, notwith-
standing his entreaties and even tears, would
not allow him to expose himself to any of the
perils of the conflict. As he stood upon an em-
inence which overlooked the field of battle, sur-
rounded by a few faithful guards, he gazed with
intense anguish upon the sanguinary scene
spread out before him. He saw his friends ut-
terly defeated, and their squadrons trampled in
the dust beneath the hoofs of the Catholic cav-
alry.



1568.] The MARRiAaE. 69

Enthusiasm inspired by Jeanne.

The Protestants, without loss of tmie, rallied
anew their forces. The Queen of Navarre soon
saw thousands of strong arms and brave hearts
collecting again around her banner. Accompa-
nied by her son, she rode through their ranks,
and addressed them in words of feminine yet
heroic eloquence, which roused their utmost en-
thusiasm. But few instances have been record-
ed in which human hearts have been more deep-
ly moved than were these martial hosts by the
brief sentences which dropped from the lips of
this extraordinary woman. Henry, in the most
solemn manner, pledged himself to consecrate
all his energies to the defense of the Protestant
religion. To each of the chiefs of the army the
queen also presented a gold medal, suspended
from a golden chain, with her own name and
that of her son impressed upon one side, and on
the other the words " Certain peace, complete
victory, or honorable death." The enthusiasm
of the army was raised to the highest pitch, and
the heroic queen became the object almost of
the adoration of her soldiers.

Catharine, seeing the wonderful enthusiasm
with which the Protestant troops were inspired
by the presence of the Queen of Navarre, visit-
ed the head-quarters of her own army, hoping



70 King Henry IV. [1569.

The failure of Catharine. The second defeat.

that she might also enkindle similar ardor. Ac-
companied by a magnificent retinue of her "brill-
iantly-accoutred generals, she swept, like a gor-
geous vision, before her troops. She lavished
presents upon her officers, and in high-sounding
phrase harangued the soldiers ; but there was
not a private in the ranks who did not know
that she was a wicked and a polluted woman.
She had talent, but no soul. All her efforts
were unavailing to evoke one single electric
spark of emotion. She had sense enough to
perceive her signal failure and to feel its morti-
fication. No one either loved or respected Cath-
arine. Thousands hated her, yet, conscious of
her power, either courting her smiles or dread-
ing her frown, they often bowed before her in
adulation.

The two armies were soon facing each other
upon the field of battle. It was the third of
October, 1569. More than fifty thousand com-
batants met upon the plains of Moncontour.
All generalship seemed to be ignored as the ex-
asperated adversaries rushed upon each other in
a headlong fight. The Protestants, outnum-
bered, were awfully defeated. Out of twenty-
five thousand combatants whom they led into
the field, but eight thousand could be rallied



1569.] The Mareiage. 71

The wounded friends. The reserve force.

around their retreating banner after a fight of
but three quarters of an hour. All their can-
non, baggage, and munitions of war were lost.
No mercy was granted to the vanquished.

Coligni, at the very commencement of the
battle, was struck by a bullet which shattered
his jaw. The gushing blood under his helmet
choked him, and they bore him upon a litter
from the field. As they were carrying the
wounded admiral along, they overtook another
litter upon which was stretched L'Estrange, the
bosom friend of the admiral, also desperately
wounded. L'Estrange, forgetting himself, gazed
for a moment with tearful eyes upon the noble
Coligni, and then gently said, "It is sweet to
trust in God." Coligni, unable to speak, could
only look a reply. Thus the two wounded
friends parted. Coligni afterward remarked
that these few words were a cordial to his spir-
it, inspiring him with resolution and hope.

Henry of Navarre, and his cousin, Henry of
Conde, son of the prince who fell at the battle
of Jarnac, from a neighboring eminence witness-
ed this scene of defeat and of awful carnage.
The admiral, unwilling to expose to danger lives
so precious to their cause, had stationed them
there with a reserve of four thousand men un-



72


King Heney IV.


[1569.


Misfortt


mes of Coligni.


His letter.



der the command of Louis of Nassau. When
Henry saw the Protestants giving waj, he im-
plored Louis that they should hasten with the
reserve to the protection of their friends ; but
Louis, with military rigor, awaited the com-
mands of the admiral. " We lose our advant-
age, then," exclaimed the prince, "and conse-
quently the battle."

The most awful of earthly calamities seemed
now to fall like an avalanche upon Coligni, the
noble Huguenot chieftain. His beloved broth-
er was slain. Bands of wretches had burned
down his castle and laid waste his estates. The
Parliament of Paris, composed of zealous Cath-
olics, had declared him guilty of high treason,
and oifered fifty thousand crowns to whoever
would deliver him up, dead or alive. The Pope
declared to all Europe that he was a " detesta-
ble, infamous, execrable man, if, indeed, he even
merited the name of man." His army was de-
feated, his friends cut to pieces, and he himself


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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre → online text (page 3 of 16)