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

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

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been discharged, and his attendants rushed for-
ward and broke open the door. The assassin,
however, escaped through a back window, and,
mounting a fleet horse stationed there, and
which was subsequently proved to have belong-
ed to a nephew of the king, avoided arrest. It

94 King Heney IV. [1572.

Christian submission of Coligni. Arrival of Henry.

was clearly proved in tlie investigations wliich
immediately ensued that the assassin was in
connivance with some of the most prominent
Catholics of the realm. The Duke of Guise
and Catharine were clearly implicated.

Messengers were immediately dispatched to
inform the king of the crime which had been
perpetrated. Charles was still playing in the
tennis-court. Casting away his racket, he ex-
claimed, with every appearance of indignation,
" Shall I never be at peace?"

The wounded admiral was conveyed to his
lodgings. The surgeons of the court, the min-
isters of the Protestant Church, and the most
illustrious princes and nobles of the admiral's
party hastened to the couch of the suiferer.
Henry of Navarre was one of the first that ar-
rived, and he was deeply moved as he bent over
his revered and much-loved friend. The intrep-
id and noble old man seemed perfectly calm and
composed, reposing unfailing trust in God.

" My friends," said he, " why do you weep ?
For myself, I deem it an honor to have received
these wounds for the name of God. Pray him
to strengthen me."

Henry proceeded from the bedside of the ad-
miral to the Louvre. He found Charles and

1572.] Peeparations. 95

Indignation of Henry. Artifice of Catharine and Charles.

Catharine there, surrounded by many of the no-
bles of their court. In indignant terms Henry
reproached both mother and son with the atroc-
ity of the crime which had been committed, and
demanded immediate permission to retire from
Paris, asserting that neither he nor his friends
could any longer remain in the capital in safe-
ty. The king and his mother vied with each
other in noisy, voluble, and even blasphemous
declarations of their utter abhorrence of the
deed ; but all the oaths of Charles and all the
vociferations of Catharine did but strengthen
the conviction of the Protestants that they both
were implicated in this plot of assassination.
Catharine and Charles, feigning the deepest in-
terest in the fate of their wounded guest, hasten-
ed to his sick-chamber with every possible as-
surance of their distress and sympathy. Charles
expressed the utmost indignation at the mur-
derous attempt, and declared, with those oaths
which are common to vulgar minds, that he
w^ould take the most terrible vengeance upon
the perpetrators as soon as he could discover

"To discover them can not be difficult," cool-
ly replied the admiral.

Henry of JSTavarre, overwhelmed with indig-

96 King Heney IV. [1572.

Perplexity of the Protestants. Seci-et preparations.

nation and sorrow, was greatly alarmed in view
of the toils in wliicli lie found himself and his
friends hopelessly involved. The Protestants,
who had been thus lured to Paris, unarmed and
helpless, were panic-stricken by these indica-
tions of relentless perfidy. They immediately
made preparations to escape from the city. Hen-
ry, bewildered by rumors of plots and perils,
hesitated whether to retire from the capital with
his friends in a body, taking the admiral with
them, or more secretly to endeavor to effect an

But Catharine and Charles, the moment for
action having not quite arrived, were unwearied
in their exertions to allay this excitement and
soothe these alarms. They became renewedly
clamorous in their expressions of grief and in-
dignation in view of the assault upon the ad-
miral. The king placed a strong guard around
the house where the wounded nobleman lay, os-
tensibly for the purpose of protecting him from
any popular outbreak, but in reality, as it sub-
sequently appeared, to guard against his escape
through the intervention of his friends. He
also, with consummate perfidy, urged the Prot-
estants in the city to occupy quarters near to-
gether, that, in case of trouble, they might more

1572.J Preparations. 97

Feeble condition of the Protestants.

easily be protected by him, and might more ef-
fectually aid one another. His real object, how-
ever, was to assemble them in more convenient
proximity for the slaughter to which they were
doomed. The Protestants were in the deepest
perplexity. They were not sure but that all
then- apprehensions were groundless ; and yet
they knew not but that in the next hour some
fearfiil battery would be unmasked for their de-
struction. They were unarmed, unorganized,
and unable to make any preparation to meet an
unknown danger. Catharine, whose depraved
yet imperious spirit was guiding with such con-
summate duplicity all this enginery of intrigue,
hourly administered the stimulus of her own
stern will to sustain the faltering purpose of her
equally depraved but tickle-minded and imbe-
cile son.

Some circumstances seem to indicate that
Charles was not an accomplice with his mother
in the attempt upon the life of the admiral. She
said to her son, "Notwithstanding all your prot-
estations, the deed will certainly be laid to your
charge. Civil war will again be enkindled. The
chiefs of the Protestants are now all in Paris.
You had better gain the victory at once here
than incur the hazard of a new campaign."


King Heney IV. [1572.

The visit.

The secret council.

" Well, then, " said Charles, petulantly, ' ' since
you approve the murder of the admiral, I am
content. But let all the Huguenots also fall,
that there may not be one left to reproach me."

It was on Friday, the 22d of August, that the
bullets of the assassin wounded Coligni. The
next day Henry called again, with his bride, to
visit his friend, whose finger had been amputated,
and who was suffering extreme pain from the
wound in his arm. Marguerite had but few
sympathies with the scenes which are to be wit-
nessed in the chamber of sickness. She did
not conceal her impatience, but, after a few com-
monplace phrases of condolence with her hus-
band's bosom friend, she hastened away, leaving
Henry to perform alone the offices of friendly

While the young King of Navarre was thus
sitting at the bedside of the admiral, recounting
to him the assurances of faith and honor given
by Catharine and her son, the question was then
under discussion, in secret council, at the pal-
ace, by this very Catharine and Charles, wheth-
er Henry, the husband of the daughter of the
one and of the sister of the other, should be in-
cluded with the rest of the Protestants in the
massacre which they were plotting. Charles

1572.] Peepaeations. 99

Preparations to arm the citizens.

manifested some reluctance thus treaclierously
to take the life of his early playmate and friend,
his brother-in-law, and his invited guest. It
was, after much deliberation, decided to protect
him from the general slaughter to which his
friends were destined.

The king sent for some of the leading officers
of his troops, and commanded them immediate-
ly, but secretly, to send his agents through ev-
ery section of the city, to arm the Eoman Cath-
olic citizens, and assemble them, at midnight,
in front of the Hotel de Ville.

The energetic Duke of Guise, who had ac-
quired much notoriety by the sanguinary spirit
with which he had persecuted the Protestants,
was to take the lead of the carnage. To pre-
vent mistakes in the confusion of the night, he
had issued secret orders for all the Catholics
" to wear a white cross on the hat, and to bind
a piece of white cloth around the arm." In the
darkest hour of the night, when all the senti-
nels of vigilance and all the powers of resist-
ance should be most effectually disarmed by
sleep, the alarm-bell, from the tower of the Pal-
ace of Justice, was to toll the signal for the in-
discriminate massacre of the Protestants. The
bullet and the dagger were to be every where

100 King Henry IV. [1572.

Directions for the massacre. Signals.

employed, and men, women, and children were
to be cut down without mercy. With a very
few individual exceptions, none were to be left
to avenge the deed. Large bodies of troops,
who hated the Protestants with that implacable
bitterness which the most sanguinary wars of
many years had engendered, had been called
into the city, and they, familiar with deeds of
blood, were to commence the slaughter. All
good citizens w^ere enjoined, as they loved their
Savior, to aid in the extermination of the ene-
mies of the Church of Rome. Thus, it was
declared, God would be glorified and the best
interests of man promoted. The spirit of the
age was in harmony with the act, and it can
not be doubted that there were those who had
been so instructed by their spiritual guides that
they truly believed that by this sacrifice they
were doing God service.

The conspiracy extended throughout all the
provinces of France. The storm was to burst,
at the same moment, upon the unsuspecting vic-
tims in every city and village of the kingdom.
Beacon-fires, with their lurid midnight glare,
were to flash the tidings from mountain to
mountain. The peal of alarm was to ring along
from steeple to steeple, from city to hamlet, from

1572.] Peepaeations. 101

Feast at the Louvre. Emban-assment of Henry.

valley to hillside, till the whole Catholic popu-
lation should be aroused to obliterate every ves-
.tige of Protestantism from the land.

While Catharine and Charles were arranging
all the details of this deed of infamy, even to
the very last moment they maintained with the
Protestants the appearance of the most cordial
friendship. They lavished' caresses upon the
Protestant generals and nobles. The very day
preceding the night when the massacre com-
menced, the king entertained, at a sumptuous
feast in the Louvre, many of the most illustri-
ous of the doomed guests. Many of the Prot-
estant nobles were that night, by the most press-
ing invitations, detained in the palace to sleep.
Charles appeared in a glow of amiable spirits,
and amused them, till a late hour, with his pleas-

Henry of Navarre, however, had his suspi-
cions very strongly aroused. Though he did
not and could not imagine any thing so dread-
ful as a general massacre, he clearly foresaw
that preparations were making for some very
extraordinary event. The entire depravity of
both Catharine and Charles he fully understood.
But he knew not where the blow would fall, and
lie was extremely perplexed in deciding as to

102 King Henry IV. [1572.

The Duke of Lorraine. His hatred toward the Protestants.

the course lie ought to pursue. The apartments
assigned to him and his bride were in the pal-
ace of the Louvre. It would be so manifestly
for his worldly interest for him to unite with
the Catholic party, especially when he should
see the Protestant cause hopelessly ruined, that
the mother and the brother of his wife had hes-
itatingly concluded that it would be safe to spare
his life. Many of the most conspicuous mem-
bers of the court of Navarre lodged also in the
capacious palace, in chambers contiguous to
those which were occupied by their sovereign.
Marguerite's oldest sister had married the
Duke of Lorraine, and her son, the Duke of
Guise, an energetic, ambitious, unprincipled
profligate, was one of the most active agents in
this conspiracy. His illustrious rank, his near
relationship with the king — rendering it not im-
probable that he might yet inherit the throne —
his restless activity, and his implacable hatred
of the Protestants, gave him the most promi-
nent position as the leader of the Catholic par-
ty. He had often encountered the Admiral Co-
ligni upon fields of battle, where all the malig-
nity of the human heart had been aroused, and
he had often been compelled to fly before the
strong arm of his powerful adversary. He felt

1572.] Peepaeations. 103

The assassin's revenge. Anxiety of the Duchess of Lorraine.

that now the hour of revenge had come, and
with an assassin's despicable heart he thirsted
for the blood of his noble foe. It was one of
his paid agents who fired upon the admiral from
the window, and, mounted upon one of the fleet-
est chargers of the Duke of Guise, the wretch
made his escape.

The conspiracy had been kept a profound se-
cret from Marguerite, lest she should divulge it
to her husband. The Duchess of Lorraine,
however, was in all their deliberations, and, fully
aware of the dreadful carnage which the night
was to witness, she began to feel, as the hour of
midnight approached, very considerable anxiety
in reference to the safety of her sister. Con-
scious guilt magnified her fears ; and she was
apprehensive lest the Protestants, when they
should first awake to the treacliery which sur-
rounded them, would rush to the chamber of
their king to protect him, and would wreak their
vengeance upon his Catholic spouse. She did
not dare to communicate to her sister the cause
of her alarm ; and yet, when Marguerite, about
11 o'clock, arose to retire, she importuned her
sister, even with tears, not to occupy the same
apartment with her husband that night, but to
sleep in her own private chamber. Catharine

104 King Heney IY. [1572.

Scene in Henry's chamber. Eumors' of trouble.

sharply reproved the Duchess of Lorraine for
her imprudent remonstrances, and bidding the
Queen of Navarre good-night, with maternal au-
thority directed her to repair to the room of her
husband. She departed to the nuptial cham-
ber, wondering what could be the cause of such
an unwonted display of sisterly solicitude and

When she entered her room, to her great sur-
prise she found thirty or forty gentlemen as-
sembled there. They were the friends and the
supporters of Henry, who had become alarmed
by the mysterious rumors which were floating
from ear to ear, and by the signs of agitation,
and secrecy, and strange preparation which ev-
ery where met the eye. No one could imagine
what danger was impending. No one knew
from what quarter the storm would burst. But
that some very extraordinary event was about
to transpire was evident to all. It was too late
to adopt any precautions for safety. The Prot-
estants, unarmed, unorganized, and widely dis-
persed, could now only practice the virtue of
heroic fortitude in meeting their doom, whatever
that doom might be. The gentlemen in Hen-
ry's chamber did not venture to separate, and
not an eye was closed in sleep. They sat to-

1572.] Peeparations. 105

Assembling for Avork. Alarm in the meti-opolis.

gether in the deepest perplexity and consterna-
tion, as the hours of the night lingered slow-
ly along, anxiously awaiting the developments
with which the moments seemed to be fraught.
In the mean time, aided by the gloom of a
starless night, in every street of Paris prepara-
tions were going on for the enormous perpetra-
tion. Soldiers were assembling in different
places of rendezvous. Guards were stationed
at important points in the city, that their vic-
tims might not escape. Armed citizens, with
loaded muskets and sabres gleaming in the lamp-
light, began to emerge, through the darkness,
from their dwellings, and to gather, in motley
and interminable assemblage, around the Hotel
de Ville. A regiment of guards were stationed
at the gates of the royal palace to protect Charles
and Catharine from any possibility of danger.
Many of the houses were illuminated, that by
the light blazing from the windows, the bullet
might be thrown with precision, and that the
dagger might strike an unerring blow. Agita-
tion and alarm pervaded the vast metropolis.
The Catholics were rejoicing that the hour of
vengeance had arrived. The Protestants gazed
upon the portentous gatherings of this storm in
utter bewilderment.

106 KiNa Heney IY. [1572.

Inflexibility of Catharine. The faltering of Charles.

All the arrangements of the enterprise were
left to the Duke of Guise, and a more efficient
and fitting agent could not have been found.
He had ordered that the tocsin, the signal for
the massacre,, should he tolled at two o'clock in
the morning. Catharine and Charles, in one of
the apartments of the palace of the Louvre, were
impatiently awaiting the lingering flight of the
hours till the alarm-hell should toll forth the
death-warrant of their Protestant subjects.
Catharine, inured to treachery and hardened in
vice, was apparently a stranger to all compunc-
tious visitings. A life of crime had steeled her
soul against every merciful impression. But
she was very apprehensive lest her son, less ob-
durate in purpose, might relent. Though im-
potent in character, he was, at times, petulant
and self-willed, and in paroxysms of stubborn-
ness spurned his mother's counsels and exert-
ed his own despotic power.

Charles was nov/ in a state of the most fever-
ish excitement. He hastily paced the room,
peering out at the window, and almost every
moment looking at his watch, wishing that the
hour would come, and again half regretting that
the plot had been formed. The companions
and the friends of his childhood, the invited

1572.] Preparations. 107

Nerved for the -work. The knell of death.

guests who, for many weeks, liad been liis asso-
ciates in gay festivities, and in the interchange
of all kindly words and deeds, were, at his com-
mand, before the morning should dawn, to fall^
before the bullet and the poniard of the midnight
murderer. His mother witnessed with intense
anxiety this wavering of his mind. She there-
fore urged him no longer to delay, but to antic-
ipate the hour, and to send a servant immedi-
ately to sound the alarm.

Charles hesitated, while a cold sweat ran from
his forehead. " Are you a coward ?" taunting-
ly inquired the fiend-like mother. This is the
charge which will always make the poltroon
squirm. The young king nervously exclaimed,
"Well, then, begin."

There were in the chamber at the time only
the king, his mother, and his brother the Duke
of Anjou. A messenger was immediately dis-
patched to strike the bell. It was two hours
after midnight. A few moments of terrible sus-
pense ensued. There was a dead silence, nei-
ther of the three uttering a word. They all
stood at the windows looking out into the ray-
less night. Suddenly, through the still air, the
ponderous tones of the alarm-bell fell upon the
ear, and rolled, the knell of death, over the city.

108 KiNa Heney IV. [1572.

Vive Dieu et le roi !'

Its vibrations awakened the demon in ten thou-
sand hearts. It was the morning of the Sab-
bath, August 24th, 1572. It was the anniver-
sary of a festival in honor of St. Bartholomew,
which had long been celebrated. At the sound
of the tocsin, the signal for the massacre, armed
men rushed from every door into the streets,
shouting, " Vive Dieu et le roi r—Live God
and the king I

1572.] The Massacre. 109

The commencement of the massacre.

Chapter V.
Massacre of St. Bartholomew.

AS the solemn dirge from the steeple rang
out upon the night air, the king stood at
the window of the palace trembling in every
nerve. Hardly had the first tones of the alarm-
bell fallen upon his ear when the report of a
musket was heard, and the first victim fell.
The sound seemed to animate to frenzy the de-
moniac Catharine, while it almost froze the blood
in the veins of the young monarch, and he pas-
sionately called out for the massacre to be stop-
ped. It was too late. The train was fired, and
could not be extinguished. The signal passed
with the rapidity of sound from steeple to stee-
ple, till not only Paris, but entire France, was
roused. The roar of human passion, the crack-
ling fire of musketry, and the shrieks of the
wounded and the dying, rose and blended in one
fearful din throughout the whole metropolis.
Guns, pistols, daggers, were every where busy.
Old men, terrified maidens, helpless infants, ven-
erable matrons, were alike smitten, and mercy

110 King Heney IV. [1572.

The house forced. Flight of the servants.

had no appeal which, could touch the heart of
the murderers.

The wounded Admiral Coligni was lying help-
less upon his hed, surrounded by a few person-
al friends, as the uproar of the rising storm of
human violence and rage rolled in upon their
ears. The Duke of Guise, with three hundred
soldiers, hastened to the lodgings of the admiral.
The gates were immediately knocked down, and
the sentinels stabbed. A servant, greatly ter-
rified, rushed into the inner apartment where
the wounded admiral was lying, and exclaimed,

" The house is forced, and there is no means
of resisting. "

" I have long since," said the admiral, calm-
ly, "prepared myself to die. Save yourselves,
my friends, if you can, for you can not defend
my life. I commend my soul to the mercy of

The companions of the admiral, having no
possible means of protection, and perhaps add-
ing to his peril by their presence, immediately
fled to other apartments of the house. They
were pursued and stabbed. Three leaped from
the windows and were shot in the streets.

Coligni, left alone in his apartment, rose with
difficulty from his bed, and, being unable to

1572.] The Massacre. Ill

Death of Admiral Coligni.

stand, leaned for support against the -vvall. A
desperado Tby the name of Breme, a follower of
the Duke of Guise, with a congenial band of
accomplices, rushed into the room. They saw a
venerable man, pale, and with bandaged wounds,
in his night-dress, engaged in prayer.

"Art thou the admiral?" demanded the as-
sassin, with brandished sword.

"I am," replied the admiral; "and thou,
young man, shouldst respect my gray hairs.
Nevertheless, thou canst abridge my life but a

Breme plunged his sword into his bosom, and
then withdrawing it, gave him a cut upon the
head. The admiral fell, calmly saying, "If I
could but die by the hand of a gentleman in-
stead of such a knave as this !" The rest of the
assassins then rushed upon him, piercing his
body with their daggers.

The Duke of Guise, ashamed himself to meet
the eye of this noble victim to the basest treach-
ery, remained impatiently in the court -yard

"Breme!" he shouted, looking up at the win-
dow, " have you done it ?"

"Yes," Breme exclaimed from the chamber,
"he is done for."

112 King Henry IV. [1572.

Brutality. Fate of the Duke of Guise.

"Let us see, tliougli," rejoined the duke.
" Throw the body from the window."

The mangled corpse was immediately thrown
down upon the pavement of the court-yard.
The duke, with his handkerchief, wiped the
hlood and the dirt from his face, and carefully
scrutinized the features.

"Yes," said he, "I recognize him. He is
the man."

Then giving the pallid cheek a kick, he ex-
claimed, "Courage, comrades ! we have happily
begun. Let us now go for others. The king
commands it."

In sixteen years from this event the Duke of
Guise was himself assassinated, and received a
kick in the face from Henry III., brother of the
same king in whose service he had drawn the
dagger of the murderer. Thus died the Admi-
ral Coligni, one of the noblest sons of France.
Though but fifty-six years of age, he was pre-
maturely infirm from care, and toil, and suf-

For three days the body was exposed to the
insults of the populace, and finally was hung up
by the feet on a gibbet. A cousin of Coligni
secretly caused it to be taken down and buried.

The tiger, having once lapped his tongue in

1572.] The Massacre. 113

Excitement of the Parisians. Fiendish spirit of Charles.

blood, seems to be imbued with a new spirit of
ferocity. There is in man a simikr temper,
which is roused and stimulated by carnage.
The excitement of human slaughter converts
man into a demon. The riotous multitude of
Parisians was becoming each moment more and
more clamorous for blood. They broke open
the houses of the Protestants, and, rushing into
their chambers, murdered indiscriminately both
sexes and every age. The streets resounded
with the shouts of the assassins and the shrieks
of their victims. Cries of " Kill ! kill ! more
blood ! " rent the air. The bodies of the slain
were thrown out of the windows into the streets,
and the pavements of the city were clotted with
human gore.

Charles, who w^as overwhelmed with such
compunctions of conscience when he heard the
first shot, and beheld from his window the com-
mencement of the butchery, soon recovered from
his momentary wavering, and, conscious that it

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Henry the Fourth, king of France and Navarre → online text (page 5 of 16)