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

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mies of the Church. A gold medal was struck
off to commemorate the event ; and Charles IX.
and Catharine were pronounced, by the infalli-

1572.] The Massacre. 135

Eejoicings at Rome. Atrocity of the deed.

ble word of his holiness, to be the especial fa-
vorites of God. Spain and the Netherlands
united with Rome in these infamous exulta-
tions. Philip II. wrote from Madrid to Cath-

" These tidings are the greatest and the most
glorious I could have received."

Such was the awfal massacre of St. Barthol-
omew. When contemplated in all its aspects
of perfidy, cruelty, and cowardice, it must be
pronounced the greatest crime recorded in his-
tory. The victims were invited under the guise
of friendship to Paris. They were received with
solemn oaths of peace and protection. The
leading men in the nation placed the dagger in
the hands of an ignorant and degraded people.
The priests, professed ministers of Jesus Christ,
stimulated the benighted multitude by all the
appeals of fanaticism to exterminate those whom
they denounced as the enemies of God and man.
After the great atrocity was perpetrated, princes
and priests, with bloodstained hands, flocked to
the altars of God, our common Father, to thank
him that the massacre had been accomplished.

The annals of the world are filled with narra-
tives of crime and woe, but the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew stands perhaps without a parallel.

136 Kino Heney IV. [1572.

Results of the massacre. Retribution.

It has been said, " The blood of the martyrs
is the seed of the Church." This is only true
with exceptions. Protestantism in France has
never recovered from this blow. But for this
massacre, one half of the nobles of France would
have continued Protestant. The Reformers
would have constituted so large a portion of the
population that mutual toleration would have
been necessary. Henry IV. would not have ab-
jured the Protestant faith. Intelligence would
have been diffused ; religion would have been
respected ; and, in all probability, the horrors of
the French Revolution would have been averted.

God is an avenger. In the mysterious gov-
ernment which he wields, mysterious only to our
feeble vision, he "visits the iniquities of the fa-
thers upon the children, even unto the third and
fourth generation." As we see the priests of
Paris and of France, during the awful tragedy
of the Revolution, massacred in the prisons, shot
in the streets, hung upon the lamp-posts, and
driven in starvation and v/oe from the kingdom,
we can not but remember the day of St. Bar-
tholomew. The 24th of August, 1572, and the
2d of September, 1792, though far apart in the
records of time, are consecutive days in the gov-
ernment of God.

Valois — Guise — Bouebon. 137

Illustrious French families. The house of Valois.

Chaptee VI.

The Houses of- Yalois, of Guise,
AND OF Bouebon.

AT this time, in France, there were three illus-
trious and rival families, prominent above
all others. Their origin was lost in the remote-
ness of antiquity. Their renown had been ac-
cumulating for many generations, through rank,
and wealth, and power, and deeds of heroic and
semi-barbarian daring. As these three families
are so blended in all the struggles of this most
warlike period, it is important to give a brief
history of their origin and condition.

1. The House of Yalois. More than a thou-
sand years before the birth of Christ, we get dim
glimpses of France, or, as it was then called,
Gaul. It was peopled by a barbarian race, di-
vided into petty tribes or clans, each with its
chieftain, and each possessing undefined and
sometimes almost unlimited power. Age after
age rolled on, during wliich generations came
and went like ocean billows, and all Gaul was
but a continued battle-field. The history of

138 King Heney IV.

Larly condition of France. Clovis.

each individual of its countless millions seems
to have been, that he was born, killed as many
of his fellow-creatures as he could, and then,
having acquired thus much of glor j, died.

About fifty years before the birth of Christ,
Ca3sar, with his conquering hosts, swept through
the whole country, causing its rivers to run red
with blood, until the subjugated Gauls submit-
ted to Roman sway. In the decay of the Roman
empire, about four hundred years after Christ,
the Franks, from Germany, a barbarian horde as
ferocious as wolves, penetrated the northern por-
tion of Gaul, and, obtaining permanent settle-
ment there, gave the whole country the name
of France. Clovis was the chieftain of this war-
like tribe. In the course of a few years, France
was threatened with another invasion by com-
bined hordes of barbarians from the north. The
chiefs of the several independent tribes in France
found it necessary to unite to repel the foe.
They chose Clovis as their leader. This was
the origin of the French monarchy. He was
but little elevated above the surrounding chief-
tains, but by intrigue and power perpetuated his
supremacy. For about three hundred years the
family of Clovis retained its precarious and oft-
contested elevation. At last, this line, enervated

Valois — Guise — Bouebon. 139

The Carlovingian dynasty. Capet and Philip.

by luxury, became extinct, and another family
obtained the throne. This new dynasty, under
Pepin, was called the Carlovingian. The crown
descended generally from father to son for about
two hundred years, when the last of the race was
poisoned by his wife. This family has been
rendered very illustrious, both by Pepin and by
his son, the still more widely renowned Charle-

Hugh Capet then succeeded in grasping the
sceptre, and for tln-ee hundred years the Capets
held at bay the powerful chieftains who alter-
nately assailed and defended the throne. Thir-
teen hundred years after Christ, the last of the
Capets was borne to his tomb, and the feudal
lords gave the pre-eminence to Philip of Yalois.
For about two hundred years the house of Ya-
lois had reigned. At the period of which we treat
in this history, luxury and vice had brought the
family near to extinction.

Charles IX., who now occupied the throne
under the rigorous rule of his infamous mother,
was feeble in body and still more feeble in mind.
He had no child, and there was no probability
that he would ever be blessed with an heir.
His exhausted constitution indicated that a pre-
mature death was his inevitable destiny. His

140 KiNGt Henry IV. [1592.

Decay of the house of Valois. House of Guise.

"brother Henry, who had been elected King of
Poland, would then succeed to the throne ; but
he had still less of manly character than Charles.
An early death was his unquestioned doom. At
his death, if childless, the house of Valois would
become extinct. Who then should grasp the
rich prize of the sceptre of France? The house
of Guise and the house of Bourbon were rivals
for this honor, and were mustering their strength
and arraying their forces for the anticipated con-
flict. Each family could bring such vast influ-
ences into the struggle that no one could imag-
ine in whose favor victory would decide. Such
was the condition of the house of Valois in
France in the year 1592.

2. Let us now turn to the house of Guise.
No tale of fiction can present a more fascinat-
ing collection of romantic enterprises and of wild
adventures than must be recorded by the truth-
ful historian of the house of Guise. On the
western banks of the Rhine, between that river
and the Meuse, there was the dukedom of Lor-
raine. It was a state of no inconsiderable wealth
and power, extending over a territory of about
ten thousand square miles, and containing a
million and a half of inhabitants. Rene II.,
Duke of Lorraine, was a man of great renown,

Valois — Guise — Bourbon. 141

The dukedom of Lorraine. Claude of Lorraine.

and in all the pride and pomp of feudal power
he energetically governed his little realm. His
body was scarred with the wounds he had re-
ceived in innumerable battles, and he was ever
ready to head his army of fifty thousand men,
to punish any of the feudal lords around him
who trespassed upon his rights.

The wealthy old duke owned large posses-
sions in Normandy, Picardy, and various other
of the French provinces. He had a large fam-
ily. His fifth son, Claude, was a proud-spirit-
ed boy of sixteen. Eene sent this lad to France,
and endowed him with all the fertile acres, and
the castles, and the feudal rights which, in
France, pertained to the noble house of Lor-
raine. Young Claude of Lorraine was present-
ed at the court of St. Cloud as the Count of
Guise, a title derived from one of his domains.
His illustrious rank, his manly beauty, his
princely bearing, his energetic mind, and brill-
iant talents, immediately gave him great promi-
nence among the glittering throng of courtiers.
Louis XII. was much delighted with the young
count, and wished to attach the powerful and
attractive stranger to his own house by an al-
liance with his daughter. The heart of the
proud boy was, however, captivated by another

142 Kino Henry IV.

Marriage of the Count of Guise. Francis I.

Ibeauty who embellished the court of the mon-
arch, and, turning from the princess royal, he
sought the hand of Antoinette, an exceedingly
beautiful maiden of about his own age, a daugh-
ter of the house of Bourbon. The wedding of
this young pair was celebrated with great mag-
nificence in Paris, in the presence of the whole
French court. Claude was then but sixteen
years of age.

A few days after this event the infirm old
king espoused the young and beautiful sister of
Henry YIII. of England. The Count of Guise
was honored with the commission of proceeding
to Boulogne with several princes of the blood
to receive the royal bride. Louis soon died,
and his son, Francis I., ascended the throne.
Claude was, by marriage, his cousin. He could
bring all the influence of the proud house of
Bourbon and the powerful house of Lorraine in
support of the king. His own energetic, fear-
less, war-loving spirit invested liira with great
power in those barbarous days of violence and
blood. Francis received his young cousin into
high favor. Claude was, indeed, a young man
of very rare accomplishments. His prowess in
the jousts and tournaments, then so common,
and his grace and magnificence in the drawing-

Valois — Guise — Bourbon. 143

The suggestion and its results.

room, rendered him an object of universal ad-

One night Claude accompanied Francis I. to
the queen's circle. She had gathered around
her the most brilHant beauty of her realm. In
those days woman occupied a very inferior po-
sition in society, and seldom made her appear-
ance in the general assemblages of men. The
gallant young count was fascinated with the
amiability and charms of those distinguished la-
dies, and suggested to the king the expediency
of breaking over the restraints which long usage
had imposed, and embellishing his court with
the attractions of female society and conversa-
tion. The king immediately adopted the wel-
come suggestion, and decided that, throughout
the whole realm, women should be freed from
the unjust restraint to which they had so long
been subject. Guise had already gained the
good- will of the nobility and of the army, and
he now became a universal favorite with the
ladies, and was thus the most popular man in
France. Francis I. was at this time making
preparations for the invasion of Italy, and the
Count of Guise, though but eighteen years of
age, was appointed commander-in-chief of a di-
vision of the army consisting of twenty thou-
sand men.

144 KiNGi Heney IY.

Bravery of the duke. His prominence.

In all the perils of the "bloody battles which
soon ensued, he displayed that utter reckless-
ness of danger which had been the distinguish-
ing trait of his ancestors. In the first battle,
when discomfiture and flight were spreading
through his ranks, the proud count refused to
retire one step before his foes. He was sur-
rounded, overmatched, his horse killed from un-
der him, and he fell, covered with twenty-two
wounds, in the midst of the piles of mangled
bodies which strewed the ground. He was aft-
erward dragged from among the dead, insensi-
ble and apparently lifeless, and conveyed to his
tent, where his vigorous constitution, and that
energetic vitality which seemed to characterize
his race, triumphed over wounds whose severity
rendered their cure almost miraculous.

Francis I., in his report of the battle, extolled
in the most glowing terms the prodigies of valor
which Guise had displayed. War, desolating
war, still ravaged wretched Europe, and Guise,
with his untiring energy, became so prominent
in the court and the camp that he was regarded
rather as an ally of the King of France than as
his subject. His enormous fortune, his ances-
tral renown, the vast political and military in-
fluences which were at his command, made him

Valois — Guise — Bourbon. 145

Days of war. The bloody rout.

almost equal to the monarch whom he served.
Francis lavished honors upon him, converted
one of his counties into a dukedom, and, as duhe
of Guise, young Claude of Lorraine had now
attained the highest position which a subject
could occupy.

Years of conflagration, carnage, and woe roll-
ed over war-deluged Europe, during which all
the energies of the human race seemed to be
expended in destruction ; and in almost every
scene of smouldering cities, of ravaged valleys,
of battle-fields rendered hideous with the shouts
of onset and shrieks of despair, we see the ap-
parition of the stalwart frame of Guise, scarred,
and war-worn, and blackened with the smoke
and dust of the fray, riding upon his proud
charger, wherever peril was most imminent, as
if his body were made of iron.

At one time he drove before him, in most
bloody rout, a numerous army of Germans.
The fugitives, spreading over leagues of coun-
try, fled by his own strong castle of Neufcha-
teau. Antoinette and the ladies of her court
stood upon the battlements of the castle, gazing
upon the scene, to them so new and to them so
pleasantly exciting. As they saw the charges
of the cavalry trampling the dead and the dy-

146 King Henry IY.

Scene from the castle. Claude the Butcher.

ing beneath their feet, as they witnessed all the
horrors of that most horrible scene which earth
can present — a victorious army cutting to pieces
its flying foes, with shouts of applause they an-
imated the ardor of the victors. The once fair-
faced boy had now become a veteran. His
bronzed cheek and sinewy frame attested his
life of hardship and toil. TJie nobles were jeal-
ous of his power. The king was annoyed by
his haughty bearing ; but he was the idol of the
people. In one campaign he caused the death
of forty thousand Protestants, for lie was the
devoted servant of mother Church. Claude
the Butcher was the not inappropriate name by
which the Protestants designated him. His
brother John attained the dignity of Cardinal
of Lorraine. Claude with his keen sword, and
John with pomp, and pride, and spiritual power,
became the most relentless foes of the Refor-
mation, and the most valiant defenders of the
Catholic faith.

The kind-heartedness of the wealthy but dis-
solute cardinal, and the prodigality of his char-
ity, rendered him almost as popular as his war-
like brother. When he went abroad, his valet
de chambre invariably prepared him a bag fill-
ed with gold, from which he gave to the poor

Valois — Guise — Bourbon. 147

The Cardinal of Lorraine. The reprimand.

most freely. His reputation for charity was so
exalted that a poor blind mendicant, to whom
he gave gold in the streets of Rome, overjoyed
at the acquisition of such a treasure, exclaim-
ed, " Surely thou art either Christ or the Car-
dinal of Lorraine."

The Duke of Guise, in his advancing years,
was accompanied to the iield of battle by his
son Francis, who inherited all of his father's
courtly bearing, energy, talent, and headlong
valor. At the siege of Luxemburg a musket
ball shattered the ankle of young Francis, then
Count of Aumale, and about eighteen years of
age. As the surgeon was operating upon the
splintered bones and quivering nerves, the suf-
ferer gave some slight indication of his sense of
pain. His iron father severely reprimanded
him, saying,

"Persons of your rank should not feel their
wounds, but, on the contrary, should take pleas-
ure in building up their reputation upon the ruin
of their bodies."

Others of the sons of Claude also signalized
themselves in the wars which then desolated
Europe, and they received wealth and honors.
The king erected certain lands and lordships be-
longing to the Duke of Guise into a marquisate,

148 King Heney IV.

Duke of Mayence. The family of Guise.

and then immediately elevated the marquisate
into a duchy, and the youngest son of the Duke
of Guise, inheriting the property, was ennobled
with the title of the Duke of Mayence. Thus
there were two rich dukedoms in the same

Claude had six sons, all young men of impe-
rious spirit and magnificent bearing. They
were allied by marriage with the most illustri-
ous families in France, several of them being-
connected with princes of the blood royal. The
war-worn duke, covered with wounds which he
deemed his most glorious ornaments, often ap-
peared at court accompanied by his sons. They
occupied the following posts of rank and power :
Francis, the eldest, Count of Aumale, was the heir
of the titles and the estates of the noble house.
Claude was Marquis of Mayence ; Charles was
Archbishop of Eheims, the richest benefice in
France, and he soon attained one of the highest
dignities of the Church by the reception of a
cardinal's hat ; Louis w^as Bishop of Troyes,
and Francis, the youngest, Chevalier of Lor-
raine and Duke of Mayence, was general of the
galleys of France. One of the daughters was
married to the King of Scotland, and the others
had formed most illustrious connections. Thus

1550.] Yalois — Guise — Bouebon. 149

Heni-y the Eighth. Death of Claude.

the house of Guise towered proudly and sublime-
ly from among the noble families in the midst
of whom it had so recently been implanted.

Henry VIII. of England, inflamed by the re-
port of the exceeding beauty of Mary, daughter
of the Duke of Guise, had solicited her hand ;
but Claude was unwilling to surrender his
daughter to England's burly and brutal old ty-
rant, and declined the regal alliance. The ex-
asperated monarch, in revenge, declared war
against France. Years of violence and blood
lingered away. At last Claude, aged and in-
firm, surrendered to that king of terrors before
whom all must bow. In his strong castle of
Joinville, on the twelfth of April, 1550, the il-
lustrious, magnanimous, blood-stained duke,
after a wliole lifetime spent in slaughter, breath-
ed his last. His children and his grandchil-
dren were gathered around the bed of the dy-
ing chieftain. In the darkness of that age, he
felt that he had been contending, with divine ap-
proval, for Christ and his Church. With pray-
ers and thanksgivings, and language expressive
of meekness and humility before God, he as-
cended to that tribunal of final judgment where
there is no difference between the peasant and
the prince.

150 King Henry IV.

Francis, Duke of Guise. The dreadful wound.

The chivalrous and warlike Francis inlierit-
ed his father's titles, wealth, and power ; and
now the house of Guise was so influential that
the king trembled in view of its rivalry. It
was but the kingly office alone which rendered
the house of Valois superior to the house of
Guise. In illustration of the character of those
times, and the hardihood and sufferings through
which the renown of these chieftains was ob-
tained, the following anecdote may be narrated.

Francis, Duke of Guise, in one of the skir-
mishes with the English invaders, received a
wound which is described as the most severe
from which any one ever recovered. The lance
of an English officer " entered above the right
eye, declining toward the nose, and piercing
through on the other side, between the nape and
the ear." The weapon, having thus penetrated
the head more than half a foot, was broken off
by the violence of the blow, the lance-iron and
two fingers' breadth of the staff remaining in the
dreadful wound. The surgeons of the army,
stupefied by the magnitude of the injury, de-
clined to attempt the extraction of the splinter,
saying that it would only expose him to dread-
ful and unavailing suffering, as he must inevi-
tably die. The king immediately sent his sur-

Yalois — Guise — Bouebon, 151

. Le Balafre. IntervieAv with the king.

geon, with orders to spare no possible efforts to
save the life of the hero. The lance-head was
broken off so short that it was impossible to
grasp it with the hand. The surgeon took the
heavy pincers of a blacksmith, and asked the
sufferer if he would allow him to make use of
so rude an instrument, and would also permit
him to place his foot upon his face.

"You may do any thing you consider nec-
essary," said the duke.

The officers standing around looked on with
horror as the king's surgeon, aided by an expe-
rienced practitioner, tore out thus violently the
barbed iron, fracturing the bones, and tearing
nerves, veins, and arteries. The hardy soldier
bore the anguish without the contraction of a
muscle, and was only heard gently to exclaim
to himself, "Oh my God!" The sufferer re-
covered, and ever after regarded the frightful
scar which was left as a signal badge of honor.
He hence bore the common name of Le Bala-
fre, or The Scarred,

As the duke returned to court, the king hur-
ried forth from his chamber to meet him, em-
braced him warmly, and said,

"It is fair that I should come out to meet
my old friend, who, on his part, is ever so ready
to meet my enemies,"

152 King Henry IV.

Jealousy of the king. Arrogance of the Guises.

Gradually, however, Francis, the king, be-
came very jealous of the boundless popularity
and enormous power acquired by this ambitious
house. Upon his dying bed he warned his son
of the dangerous rivalry to which the Guises
had attained, and enjoined it upon him to curb
their ambition by admitting none of the princes
of that house to a share in the government ; but
as soon as King Francis was consigned to his
tomb, Henry II., his son and successor, rallied
the members of this family around him, and
made the duke almost the partner of his throne.
He needed the support of the strong arm and
of the inexhaustible purse of the princes of Lor-

The arrogance of the Guises, or the princes
of Lorraine, as they were frequently called, in
consequence of their descent from Claude of
Lorraine, reached such a pitch that on the oc-
casion of a proud pageant, when Henry 11. was
on a visit of inspection to one of his frontier
fortresses, the Duke of Guise claimed equal rank
with Henry of Navarre, who was not only King
of Navarre, but, as the Duke of Vendome, was
also first prince of the blood in France. An an-
gry dispute immediately arose. The king set-
tled it in favor of the audacious Guise, for he

Valois — Guise— Bourbon. 153

PoAver of the house of Guise. Appointment of Francis.

was intimidated by the power of that arrogant
house. He thus exasperated Henry of Navarre,
and also nurtured the pride of a dangerous rival.

All classes were now courting the Duke of
Guise. The first nobles of the land sought his
protection and support by flattering letters and
costly presents. " From all quarters," says an
ancient manuscript, "he received offerings of
wine, fruit, confections, ortolans, horses, dogs,
hawks, and gerfalcons. The letters accompa-
nying these often contained a second paragraph
petitioning for pensions or grants from the king,
or for places, even down to that of apothecary
or of barber to the Dauphin." The monarchs
of foreign countries often wrote to him soliciting
his aid. The duke, in the enjoyment of this
immense wealth, influence, and power, assumed
the splendors of royalty, and his court was
hardly inferior to that of the monarch. The
King of Poland and the Duke of Guise were ri-
vals for the hand of Anne, the beautiful daugh-
ter of the Duke of Ferrara, and Guise was the
successful suitor.

Francis of Lorraine was now appointed lieu-
tenant general of the French armies, and the
king addressed to all the provincial authorities
special injunction to render as prompt and ab-

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