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

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

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176 King Heney IV.

Marriage of Henry III. The Duke of Aleng on.

gies of the king, and a maudlin good-nature had
absorbed all his faculties. He greeted his broth-
er and his brother-in-law with much kindness,
and upon receiving their oaths of obedience,
withdrew much of the restraint to which they
previously had been subjected. Henry was
now known as Henry III. of France. Soon
after his coronation he married Louisa of Lor-
raine, a daughter of one of the sons of the Duke
of Guise. She was a pure-minded and lovely
woman, and her mild and gentle virtues con-
trasted strongly with the vulgarity, coarseness,
and vice of her degraded husband.

The Duke of Alen9on was, however, by no
means appeased by the kindness with which he
had been received by his brother the king. He
called him the robber of his crown, and formed
a conspiracy for attacking the carriage of his
brotlier and putting him to death. The plot
was revealed to the king. He called his brother
to his presence, reproached him with his perfi-
dy and ingratitude, but generously forgave him.
But the heart of Alen9on was impervious to any
appeals of generosity or of honor. Upon the
death of Henry III., the Duke of Alen9on, his
only surviving brother, would ascend the throne.

The Duke of Guise hated with implacable

Death of Charles IX. 177

Suspicions of poison. Invectives of the king.

rancor the Duke of Alen9on, and even proffered
his aid to place Henry of Navarre upon the
throne in the event of the death of the king,
that he miffht thus exclude his detested rival.
Francis, the Duke of Alen^on, was impatient to
reach the crown, and again formed a plot to poi-
son his brother. The king was suddenly taken
very ill. He declared his brother had poisoned
him. As each succeeding day his illness grew
more severe, and the probabilities became stron-
ger of its fatal termination, Francis assumed an
air of haughtiness and of authority, as if confi-
dent that the crown was already his own. The
open exultation which he manifested in view of
tlie apparently dying condition of his brother
Henry confirmed all in the suspicion that he
had caused poison to be administered.

Henry III., believing his death inevitable,
called Henry of Navarre to his bedside, and
heaping the bitterest invectives upon his broth-
er Francis, urged Henry of Navarre to procure
liis assassination, and thus secure for himself
the vacant throne. Henry of Navarre was the
next heir to the throne after the Duke of Alen-
9on, and the dying king most earnestly urged
Henry to put the duke to death, showing him
the ease with which it could be done, and assur-

178 King Henry IV.

Recovery of the king. Disappointment of Francis.

ing him that he would be abundantly supported
by all the leading nobles of the kingdom. While
this scene was taking place at the sick-bed of the
monarch, Francis passed through the chamber
of his brother without deigning to notice either
him or the King of Navarre. Strongly as Hen-
ry of Navarre was desirous of securing for him-
self the throne of France, he was utterly incapa-
ble of meditating even upon such a crime, and
he refused to give it a second thought.

To the surprise of all, the king recovered, and
Francis made no efforts to conceal his disap-
pointment. There were thousands of armed in-
surgents ready at any moment to rally around
the banner of the Duke of Alen9on, for they
would thus be brought into positions of emolu-
ment and power. The king, who was ready
himself to act the assassin, treated his assassin-
brother with the most profound contempt. No
description can convey an adequate idea of the
state of France at this time. Universal anar-
chy prevailed. Civil war, exasperated by the
utmost rancor, was raging in nearly all the prov-
inces. Assassinations were continually occur-
ring. Female virtue was almost unknown, and
the most shameful licentiousness filled the cap-
ital. The treasury was so utterly exhausted

Death of Charles IX. 179

Fanaticism of the king. Escape of the Duke of Alengon.

that, in a journey made by the king and his reti-
nue in mid-winter, the pages were obliged to sell
their cloaks to obtain a bare subsistence. The
king, steeped in pollution, a fanatic and a hypo-
crite, exhibited himself to his subjects bare-
headed, barefooted, and half naked, scourging
himself with a whip, reciting his prayers, and
preparing the way, by the most ostentatious
penances, to plunge anew into every degrading
sensual indulgence. He was thoroughly de-
spised by his subjects, and many were anxious
to exchange him for the reckless and impetu-
ous, but equally depraved Francis.

The situation of tlie Duke of x\len9on was
now not only very uncomfortable, but exceed-
ingly perilous. The king did every thing in his
power to expose him to humiliations, and was
evidently watching for an opportunity to put
him to death, either by the dagger or by a cup
of poison. The duke, aided by his profligate
sister Marguerite, wife of Henry of Navarre,
formed a plan for escape.

One dark evening he wrapped himself in a
large cloak, and issued forth alone from the Lou-
vre. Passing through obscure streets, he ar-
rived at the suburbs of the city, where a car-
riage with trusty attendants was in waiting.

180 King Heney IY.

The king aroused. War of the public good.

Driving as rapidly as possible, lie gained the
open country, and then mounting a very fleet
charger, which by previous appointment was pro-
vided for him, he spurred his horse at the ut-
most speed for many leagues, till he met an es-
cort of three hundred men, with whom he took
refuge in a fortified town. His escape was not
known in the palace until nine o'clock the next
morning. Henry was exceedingly agitated when
he received the tidings, for he knew that his en-
ergetic and reckless brother would join the Prot-
estant party, carrying with him powerful influ-
ence, and thus add immeasurably to the distrac-
tions which now crowded upon the king.

For once, imminent peril roused Henry III.
to vigorous action. He forgot his spaniels, his
parrots, his monkeys, and even his painted con-
cubines, and roused himself to circumvent the
plans of his hated rival. Letter after letter was
sent to all the provinces, informing the govern-
ors of the flight of the prince, and commanding
the most vigorous efforts to secure his arrest.
Francis issued a proclamation declaring the rea-
sons for his escape, and calling upon the Prot-
estants and all who loved the " public good" to
rally around him. Hence the short but merci-
less war which ensued was called "the war of
the public good."

Death of Charles IX. 181

Defeat of Guise. Perplexity of Catharine.

The Duke of Alen^on was now at the head
of a powerful party, for he had thrown himself
into the arms of the Protestants, and many of
his Catholic partisans followed him. Henry
III. called to liis aid the fearless and energetic
Duke of Guise, and gave him the command of
his armies. In the hrst terrible conflict which
ensued Guise was defeated, and received a hid-
eous gash upon his face, which left a scar of
which he was very proud as a signet of valor.

Catharine was now in deep trouble. Her two
sons were in open arms against each other, head-
ing powerful forces, and sweeping France with
whirlwinds of destruction. Henry of Navarre
was still detained a prisoner in the French court,
though surrounded by all the luxuries and in^
dulgences of the capital. The dignity of his
character, and his great popularity, alarmed
Catharine, lest, in the turmoil of the times, he
should thrust both of her sons from the throne,
and grasp the crown himself. Henry and his
friends all became fully convinced that Catha-
rine entertained designs upon his life. Margue-
rite was fully satisfied that it was so, and, bad
as she was, as Henry interfered not in the slight-
est degree with any of her practices, she felt a
certain kind of regard for him. The guards

182 KiNa Henry IV.

The guard of honor. Plan of escape.

who had been assigned to Henry professedly as
a mark of honor, and to add to the splendor of
his establishment, were in reality his jailers,
who watched him with an eagle eye. They
were all zealous Papists, and most of them, in
the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, had dipped
their hands deep in Protestant blood. Catha-
rine watched him with unceasing vigilance, and
crowded every temptation upon him which could
enervate and ruin. Her depravity did but stim-
ulate her woman's shrewdness and tact.

Henry of Navarre sighed for liberty. He was,
however, so closely guarded that escape seemed
impossible. At last the following plan was
formed for flight. A hunting-party was got up.
Henry was to invite persons to attend the chase
in whose fidelity he could repose confidence,
while one only was to be intrusted with the
secret. Others of his friends were secretly to
resort to an appointed rendezvous with fresh
horses, and all well armed and in sufficient num-
bers to overpower the guard placed about his
person. Henry was to press on in the chase
with the utmost eagerness until the horses of
the guard were completely exhausted, when his
friends with the fresh steeds were to appear,
rescue him from the guards, and accompany him

Death of Charles IX. 183

Successful artifice. The false rumor.

in his flight. The guards, being drawn far from
the palace, could not speedily obtain fresh horses,
neither could they pursue him with their jaded

The Duke of Guise was now in great favor
with Henry III. Henry of Navarre, during the
few days in which he was making preparation
for his flight, blinded the eagle eyes of the duke
by affecting great confidence that he should ob-
tain from the king the high ofiice of Lieutenant
General of France. The duke and Henry III.
made themselves very merry over this supposed
simplicity of Henry of Navarre, little aware that
he was making himself equally merry at their

Two days before the execution of the scheme,
a rumor spread through the court that Henry
had escaped. For a short time great anxiety
and confusion ensued. Henry, being informed
of the report and of the agitation which filled
the palace, hastened to the apartments where
Catharine and the king were in deliberation, and
laughingly told them that he had arrested the
King of Navarre, and that he now surrendered
him to them for safe keeping.

In the morning of the day fixed for his flight,
the King of Navarre held a long and familiar

184 King Henry IV.

Escape accomplished. Trouble of the Duke of Alengon.

conversation with the Duke of Guise, and urged
him to accompany him to the hunt. Just as
the moment arrived for the execution of the
plot, it was betrayed to the king by the treach-
ery of a confederate. Notwithstanding this be-
trayal, however, matters were so thoroughly ar-
ranged that Henry, after several hair-breadth
escapes from arrest, accomplished his flight.
His apprehension was so great that for sixty
miles he rode as rapidly as possible, without
speaking a word or stopping for one moment
except to mount a fresh horse. He rode over
a hundred miles on horseback that day, and took
refuge in Alen9on, a fortified city held by the
Protestants. As soon as his escape was known,
thousands of his friends flocked around him.

The Duke of Alen9on was not a little troub-
led at the escape of the King of Navarre, for he
was well aware that the authority he had ac-
quired among the Protestants would be lost by
the presence of one so much his superior in ev-
ery respect, and so much more entitled to the
confidence of the Protestants. Thus the two
princes remained separate, but ready, in case of
emergence, to unite their forces, which now
amounted to fifty thousand men. Henry of
Navarre soon established his head-quarters on

Death of Chaeles IX. 185

Terms of settlement. Paix de Monsieur,

the banks of tlie Loire, where every day fresh
parties of Protestants were joining his standard.
Henry III., with no energy of character, de-
spised by his subjects, and without either money
or armies, seemed to be now entirely at the mer-
cy of the confederate princes. Henry of ISTa-
varre and the Duke of Alen9on sent an embas-
sador to the French court to propose terms to
Henry III. The King of Navarre required,
among other conditions, that France should unite
with him in recovering from Spain that portion
of the territory of Navarre which had been wrest-
ed from his ancestors by Ferdinand and Isabel-
la. While the proposed conditions of peace
were under discussion, Catharine succeeded in
bribing her son, the Duke of Alen9on, to aban-
don the cause of Henry of Navarre. A treaty
of peace was then concluded with the Protest-
ants ; and by a royal edict, the full and free ex-
ercise of the Protestant religion was guaranteed
in every part of France except Paris and a cir-
cle twelve miles in diameter around the capital.
As a bribe to the Duke of Alen^on, he was in-
vested with sovereign power over the three most
important provinces of the realm, with an an-
nual income of one hundred thousand crowns.
This celebrated treaty, called the Paix de Mon-

186 King Heney IV. [1576.

Duke of Anjou. Arrival at Kochelle.

sieiir, because concluded under the auspices of
Francis, the brother of the king, was signed at
Chastenoy the sixth of May, 1576.

The ambitious and perfidious duke now as-
sumed the title of the Duke of Anjou, and en-
tirely separated himself from the Protestants.
He tried to lure the Prince of Conde, the cousin
and devoted friend of Henry of J^avarre, to ac-
company him into the town of Bourges. The
prince, suspecting treachery, refused the invita-
tion, saying that some rogue would probably
be found in the city who would send a bullet
through his head.

" The rogue would be hanged, I know," he
added, "but the Prince of Conde would be dead.
I will not give you occasion, my lord, to hang
rogues for love of me."

He accordingly took his leave of the Duke
of Alen9on, and, putting spurs to his horse, with
fifty followers joined the King of Navarre.

Henry was received with royal honors in the
Protestant town of Kochelle, where he publicly
renounced the Roman Catholic faith, declaring
that he had assented to that faith from compul-
sion, and as the only means of saving his life.
He also publicly performed penance for the sin
which he declared that he had thus been com-
pelled to commit.

Death of Chaeles IX. 187

Conduct of Catharine and Henry III.

Catharine and Henry III., having detached
Francis, who had been the Duke of Alen^on, but
who was now the Duke of Anjou,from the Prot-
estants, no longer feigned any friendship or even
toleration for that cause. They acted upon the
principle that no faith was to be kept with her-
etics. The Protestants, notwithstanding the
treaty, were exposed to every sj^ecies of insult
and injury. The Catholics were determined
that the Protestant religion should not be tol-
erated in France, and that all who did not con-
form to the Church of Rome should either per-
ish or be driven from the kingdom. Many of
the Protestants were men of devoted piety, who
cherished their religious convictions more tena-
ciously than life. There were others, however,
who joined them merely from motives of polit-
ical ambition. Though the Protestant party,
in France itself, was comparatively small, the
great mass of the population being Catholics,
yet the party was extremely influential from the
intelligence and the rank of its leaders, and from
the unconquerable energy with which all of its
members were animated.

The weak and irresolute king was ever vacil-
lating between the two parties. The Duke of
Guise was the great idol of the Catholics. Hen-

188 King Heney IV.

Complexity of politics. Francis and Queen Elizabeth.

rj of Navarre was the acknowledged leader of
the Protestants. The king feared them both.
It was very apparent that Henry III. could
not live long. At his death his brother Fran-
cis, Duke of Anjou, would ascend the throne.
Should he die childless, Henry of Navarre would
be his lawful successor. But the Catholics
would be liorror-stricken at the idea of seeing a
heretic on the throne. The Duke of Guise was
laying his plans deep and broad to array all the
Catholic population of France in his own favor,
and thus to rob the Protestant prince of his
rights. Henry III., Henry of Navarre, Henry,
Duke of Guise, and Francis, Duke of Anjou,
had all been playmates in childhood and class-
mates at school. They were now heading ar-
mies, and struggling for the prize of the richest
crown in Europe.

Francis was weary of waiting for his brother
to die. To strengthen himself, he sought in
marriage the hand of Queen Elizabeth of En-
gland. Though she had no disposition to re-
ceive a husband, she was ever very happy to be
surrounded by lovers. She consequently play-
ed the coquette with Francis until he saw that
there was no probability of the successful term-
ination of his suit. Francis returned to Paris

Death of Chaeles IX. 189

New assaults on the Protestants.

bitterly disappointed, and with new zeal conse-
crated his sword to the cause of the Catholics.
Had Elizabeth accepted his suit, he would then
most earnestly have espoused the cause of the

Henry III. now determined to make a vigor-
ous effort to crush the Protestant religion. He
raised large armies, and gave the command to
the Duke of Anjou, the Duke of Guise, and to
the brother of the Duke of Guise, the Duke of
Mayenne. Henry of Navarre, encountering fear-
ful odds, was welcomed by acclamation to head
the small but indomitable band of Protestants,
now struggling, not for liberty only, but for life.
The king was very anxious to get Henry of
Navarre again in his power, and sent most flat-
tering messages and most pressing invitations
to lure him again to his court ; but years of
captivity had taught a lesson of caution not
soon to be forgotten.

Again hideous war ravaged France. The
Duke of Anjou, exasperated by disappointed
love, disgraced himself by the most atrocious
cruelties. He burned the dwellings of the Prot-
estants, surrendered unarmed and defenseless
men, and women, and children to massacre.
The Duke of Guise, who had inflicted such an

190 King Henry IV.

Anecdote of the Protestants.

ineffaceable stain upon liis reputation by the
foul murder of the Admiral Coligni, made some
atonement for this shameful act by the chival-
rous spirit with which he endeavored to miti-
gate the horrors of civil war.

One day, in the vicinity of Bayonne, a party
of Catholics, consisting of a few hundred horse
and foot, were conducting to their execution
three Protestant young ladies, who, for their
faith, were infamously condemned to death. As
they were passing over a wide plain, covered
with broken woods and heath, they were en-
countered by a body of Protestants. A desper-
ate battle immediately ensued." The Protest-
ants, impelled by a noble chivalry as well as by
religious fervor, rushed upon their foes with such
impetuosity that resistance was unavailing, and
the Catholics threw down their arms and im-
plored quarter. Many of these soldiers were
from the city of Dux. The leader of the Prot-
estant band remembered that at the Massacre
of St. Bartholomew all the Protestants in that
city had been slain without mercy. With a
most deplorable want of magnanimity, he caused
all the prisoners who belonged to that place to
be separated from the rest, and in cold blood
they were slaughtered.

Death op Charles IX. 191

Gratitude of the citizens of Bayonne.

The remainder of the prisoners were from
the city of Bayonne, whose inhabitants, though
Catholics, had nobly refused to imbrue their
hands in the blood of that horrible massacre
which Charles IX. had enjoined. To them,
after they had seen their comrades surrendered
to butchery before their eyes, he restored their
horses and their arms, and gave them their en-
tire liberty.

"Go," said he, "to your homes, and tliere
tell the different treatment which I show to sol-
diers and to assassins."

The three ladies, thus rescued from impend-
ing death, were borne back in triumph to their
friends. Eight days after this, a trumpet was
sounded and a flag of truce appeared emerging
from the gates of Bayonne. The friends of the
Catholic soldiers who had been thus generously
restored sent a beautifully embroidered scarf
and a handkerchief to each one of the Protests
ant soldiers.

It is a singular illustration of the blending of
the horrors of war and the courtesies of peace,
that in the midst of this sanguinary conflict,
Henry of Navarre, accompanied by only six com-
panions, accepted an invitation to a fete given
by his enemies of the town of Bayonne. He

192 King Heney IV. [1577.

Anecdote of Henry of Navarre. Another peace.

was received with the utmost courtesy. His
table was loaded witli luxuries. Voluptuous
music floated upon the ear ; songs and dances
animated the festive hours. Henry then return-
ed to head his army and to meet his entertain-
ers in the carnage of the field of battle.

Tliere was but little repose in France during
the year 1577. Skirmish succeeded skirmish,
and battle was followed by battle ; cities were
bombarded, villages burned, fields ravaged. All
the pursuits of industry were arrested. Euin,
beggary, and woe desolated thousands of once
happy homes. Still the Protestants were un-
subdued. The king's resources at length were
entirely exhausted, and he was compelled again
to conclude a treaty of peace. Both parties im-
mediately disbanded their forces, and the bless-
ings of repose followed the discords of war.

One of the Protestant generals, immediately
upon receiving the tidings of peace, set out at
the utmost speed of his horse to convey the in-
telligence to Languedoc, where very numerous
forces of Protestants and Catholics were prepar-
ing for conflict. He spurred his steed over hills
and plains till he saw, gleaming in the rays of
the morning sun, the banners of the embattled
hosts arrayed against each other on a vast plain.

Death of Chaeles IX. 193

The battle arrested. Pledge of peace.

The drums and the trampets were just beginning
to sound the dreadful charge which in a few
moments would strew that plain with mangled
limbs and crimson it witli blood. Tlie artillery
on the adjoining eminences was beginning to
utter its voice of thunder, as balls, more destruct-
ive than the fabled bolts of Jove, were thrown
into the massive columns marching to the dread-
ful onset. A few moments later, and the cry,
the uproar, and the confusion of the battle would
blind every eye and deafen every ear. La Noue,
almost frantic with the desire to stop the need-
less effusion of blood, at the imminent risk of
being shot, galloped between the antagonistic ar-
mies, waving energetically the white banner of
peace, and succeeded in arresting the battle.
His generous effort saved the lives of thousands.
Henry III. was required, as a pledge of his
sincerity, to place in the hands of the Protest-
ants eight fortified cities. The Reformers were
permitted to conduct public worship unmolested
in those places only where it was practiced at
the time of signing the treaty. In other parts
of France they were allowed to retain their be-
lief without persecution, but they were not per-
mitted to meet in any worshiping assemblies.
But even these pledges, confirmed by the Edict


194 King Heney IV. [1597.

Morality in France. Disgraceful fete.

of Poitiers on the 8th of October, 1597, were
speedily broken, like all the rest.

But in the midst of all these conflicts, while
every province in France was convulsed with
civil war, the king, reckless of the woes of his
subjects, rioted in all voluptuous dissipation.
He was accustomed to exhibit himself to his
court in those effeminate pageants in which he
found his only joy, dressed in the flaunting robes
of a gay woman, with his bosom open and a
string of pearls encircling his neck. On one
occasion he gave a fete, when, for the excitement
of novelty, the gentlemen, in female robes, were
waited upon by the ladies of the court, who were
dressed in male attire, or rather undressed, for
their persons were veiled by the slightest pos-
sible clothing. Such was the corruption of the
court of France, and, indeed, of nearly the whole
realm in those days of darkness. Domestic pu-
rity was a virtue unknown. Law existed only
in name. The rich committed any crimes with-
out fear of molestation. In the royal palace

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