Read CHAPTER VII - THE DEATH OF CHARLES IX.  AND THE ACCESSION OF HENRY III. of Henry IV‚ Makers of History, free online book, by John S. C. Abbott, on ReadCentral.com.

1576-1577

Henry, King of Poland. ­Henry’s journey through Germany. ­Enmity between the two brothers. ­Sickness of Charles IX. ­Remorse of the king. ­Death of Charles IX. ­Chateaubriand. ­Character of the king. ­Henry III. ­The stratagem. ­Flight from the crown. ­The sojourn in Italy. ­The three Henrys. ­Marriage of Henry III. ­The Duke of Alençon. ­Suspicions of poison. ­Invectives of the king. ­Recovery of the king. ­Disappointment of Francis. ­Fanaticism of the king. ­Escape of the Duke of Alençon. ­The king aroused. ­War of the public good. ­Defeat of Guise. ­Perplexity of Catharine. ­The guard of honor. ­Plan of escape. ­Successful artifice. ­The false rumor. ­Escape accomplished. ­Trouble of the Duke of Alençon. ­Terms of settlement. ­Paix de Monsieur. ­Duke of Anjou. ­Arrival at Rochelle. ­Conduct of Catharine and Henry III. ­Complexity of politics. ­Francis and Queen Elizabeth. ­New assaults on the Protestants. ­Anecdote of the Protestants. ­Gratitude of the citizens of Bayonne. ­Anecdote of Henry of Navarre. ­Another peace. ­The battle arrested. ­Pledge of peace. ­Morality in France. ­Disgraceful fête. ­Murder in the royal palace.

After the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, a large number of the Protestants threw themselves into the city of Rochelle.  For seven months they were besieged by all the power which the King of France could bring against them.  They were at length, weakened by sickness and exhausted by famine, compelled to surrender.  By their valiant resistance, however, they obtained highly honorable terms, securing for the inhabitants of Rochelle the free exercise of their religion within the walls of the city, and a general act of amnesty for all the Protestants in the realm.

Immediately after this event, Henry, the brother of Charles IX., was elected King of Poland, an honor which he attained in consequence of the military prowess he had displayed in the wars against the Protestants of France.  Accompanied by his mother, Catharine de Medici, the young monarch set out for his distant dominions.  Henry had been a very active agent in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.  At Lorraine Catharine took leave of him, and he went on his way in a very melancholy mood.  His election had been secured by the greatest efforts of intrigue and bribery on the part of his mother.  The melancholy countenances of the Protestants, driven into exile, and bewailing the murder of friends and relatives, whose assassination he had caused, met him at every turn.  His reception at the German courts was cold and repulsive.  In the palace of the Elector Palatine, Henry beheld the portrait of Coligni, who had been so treacherously slaughtered in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.  The portrait was suspended in a very conspicuous place of honor, and beneath it were inscribed the words,

     “SUCH WAS THE FORMER COUNTENANCE OF THE HERO COLIGNI, WHO      HAS BEEN RENDERED TRULY ILLUSTRIOUS BOTH BY HIS LIFE AND HIS      DEATH.”

The Protestant Elector pointed out the picture to the young king, whom he both hated and despised, and coolly asked him if he knew the man.  Henry, not a little embarrassed, replied that he did.

“He was,” rejoined the German prince, “the most honest man, and the wisest and the greatest captain of Europe, whose children I keep with me, lest the dogs of France should tear them as their father has been torn.”

Thus Henry, gloomy through the repulses which he was ever encountering, journeyed along to Poland, where he was crowned king, notwithstanding energetic remonstrances on the part of those who execrated him for his deeds.  The two brothers, Charles IX. and Henry, were bitter enemies, and Charles had declared, with many oaths, that one of the two should leave the realm.  Henry was the favorite of Catharine, and hence she made such efforts to secure his safety by placing him upon the throne of Poland.  She was aware that the feeble Charles would not live long, and when, with tears, she took leave of Henry, she assured him that he would soon return.

The outcry of indignation which the Massacre of St. Bartholomew called forth from combined Europe fell like the knell of death on the ear of the depraved and cowardly Charles.  Disease began to ravage, with new violence, his exhausted frame.  He became silent, morose, irritable, and gloomy.  He secluded himself from all society, and surrendered himself to the dominion of remorse.  He was detested by the Protestants, and utterly despised by the Catholics.  A bloody sweat, oozing from every pore, crimsoned his bed-clothes.  His occasional outcries of remorse and his aspect of misery drove all from his chamber excepting those who were compelled to render him service.  He groaned and wept incessantly, exclaiming,

“Oh, what blood! oh, what murders!  Alas! why did I follow such evil counsels?”

He saw continually the spectres of the slain, with ghastly, gory wounds, stalking about his bed; and demons of hideous aspect, and with weapons of torture in their hands, with horrid and derisive malice, were impatiently waiting to seize his soul the moment it should pass from the decaying body.

The day before his death he lay for some time upon his bed in perfect silence.  Suddenly starting up, he exclaimed,

“Call my brother.”

His mother, who was sitting by his side, directed an attendant to call his brother Francis, the Duke of Alençon.

“No, not him,” the king replied; “my brother, the King of Navarre, I mean.”

Henry of Navarre was then detained in princely imprisonment in the court of Catharine.  He had made many efforts to escape, but all had been unavailing.

Catharine directed that Henry should be called.  In order to intimidate him, and thus to prevent him from speaking with freedom and boldness to her dying son, she ordered him to be brought through the vaults of the castle, between a double line of armed guards.  Henry, as he descended into those gloomy dungeons, and saw the glittering arms of the soldiers, felt that the hour for his assassination had arrived.  He, however, passed safely through, and was ushered into the chamber of his brother-in-law and former playfellow, the dying king.  Charles IX., subdued by remorse and appalled by approaching death, received him with gentleness and affection, and weeping profusely, embraced him as he knelt by his bedside.

“My brother,” said the dying king, “you lose a good master and a good friend.  I know that you are not the cause of the troubles which have come upon me.  If I had believed all which has been told me, you would not now have been living; but I have always loved you.”  Then turning his eyes to the queen mother, he said energetically, “Do not trust to ­” Here Catharine hastily interrupted him, and prevented the finishing of the sentence with the words “my mother.”

Charles designated his brother Henry, the King of Poland, as his successor.  He expressed the earnest wish that neither his younger brother, Francis, the Duke of Alençon, nor Henry, would disturb the repose of the realm.  The next night, as the Cathedral clock was tolling the hour of twelve, the nurse, who was sitting, with two watchers, at the bedside of the dying monarch, heard him sighing and moaning, and then convulsively weeping.  Gently she approached the bed and drew aside the curtains.  Charles turned his dimmed and despairing eye upon her, and exclaimed,

“Oh, my nurse! my nurse! what blood have I shed! what murders have I committed!  Great God! pardon me ­pardon me!”

A convulsive shuddering for a moment agitated his frame, his head fell back upon his pillow, and the wretched man was dead.  He died at twenty-four years of age, expressing satisfaction that he left no heir to live and to suffer in a world so full of misery.  In reference to this guilty king, Chateaubriand says,

“Should we not have some pity for this monarch of twenty-three years, born with fine talents, a taste for literature and the arts, a character naturally generous, whom an execrable mother had tried to deprave by all the abuses of debauchery and power?”

“Yes,” warmly responds G. de Felice, “we will have compassion for him, with the Huguenots themselves, whose fathers he ordered to be slain, and who, with a merciful hand, would wipe away the blood which covers his face to find still something human.”

Henry, his brother, who was to succeed him upon the throne, was then in Poland.  Catharine was glad to have the pusillanimous Charles out of the way.  He was sufficiently depraved to commit any crime, without being sufficiently resolute to brave its penalty.  Henry III. had, in early life, displayed great vigor of character.  At the age of fifteen he had been placed in the command of armies, and in several combats had defeated the veteran generals of the Protestant forces.  His renown had extended through Europe, and had contributed much in placing him on the elective throne of Poland.  Catharine, by the will of the king, was appointed regent until the return of Henry.  She immediately dispatched messengers to recall the King of Poland.  In the mean time, she kept Henry of Navarre and her youngest son, the Duke of Alençon, in close captivity, and watched them with the greatest vigilance, that they might make no movements toward the throne.

Henry was by this time utterly weary of his Polish crown, and sighed for the voluptuous pleasures of Paris.  The Poles were not willing that their king should leave the realm, as it might lead to civil war in the choice of a successor.  Henry was compelled to resort to stratagem to effect his escape.  A large and splendid party was invited to the palace.  A wilderness of rooms, brilliantly illuminated, were thrown open to the guests.  Masked dancers walked the floor in every variety of costume.  Wine and wassail filled the halls with revelry.  When all were absorbed in music and mirth, the king, by a private passage, stole from the palace, and mounting a swift horse, which was awaiting him in the court-yard, accompanied by two or three friends, commenced his flight from his crown and his Polish throne.  Through the long hours of the night they pressed their horses to their utmost speed, and when the morning dawned, obtaining fresh steeds, they hurried on their way, tarrying not for refreshment or repose until they had passed the frontiers of the kingdom.  Henry was afraid to take the direct route through the Protestant states of Germany, for the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was still bitterly remembered.  He therefore took a circuitous route through Italy, and arrived at Venice in August.  In sunny Italy he lingered for some time, surrendering himself to every enervating indulgence, and even bartering the fortresses of France to purchase the luxuries in the midst of which he was reveling.  At last, sated with guilty pleasure, he languidly turned his steps toward Paris.

There were now three Henrys, who had been companions in childhood, who were at the head of the three rival houses of Valois, of Bourbon, and of Guise.  One of these was King of France.  One was King of Navarre.  But Henry of Guise was, in wealth and in the attachment of the Catholic population of France, superior to either.  The war which ensued is sometimes called The War of the three Henrys.

As soon as his mother learned that he was approaching France, she set out from Paris with a magnificent retinue to meet her pet child, taking with her his brother, the Duke of Alençon, and Henry of Navarre.  Dissipation had impaired the mental as well as the physical energies of the king, and a maudlin good-nature had absorbed all his faculties.  He greeted his brother 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 Lorraine, 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 contrasted strongly with the vulgarity, coarseness, and vice of her degraded husband.

The Duke of Alençon 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 brother and putting him to death.  The plot was revealed to the king.  He called his brother to his presence, reproached him with his perfidy and ingratitude, but generously forgave him.  But the heart of Alençon was impervious to any appeals of generosity or of honor.  Upon the death of Henry III., the Duke of Alençon, his only surviving brother, would ascend the throne.

The Duke of Guise hated with implacable rancor the Duke of Alençon, and even proffered his aid to place Henry of Navarre upon the throne in the event of the death of the king, that he might thus exclude his detested rival.  Francis, the Duke of Alençon, was impatient to reach the crown, and again formed a plot to poison 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 stronger of its fatal termination, Francis assumed an air of haughtiness and of authority, as if confident that the crown was already his own.  The open exultation which he manifested in view of the 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 brother Francis, urged Henry of Navarre to procure his assassination, and thus secure for himself the vacant throne.  Henry of Navarre was the next heir to the throne after the Duke of Alençon, 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 assuring 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 Henry of Navarre was desirous of securing for himself the throne of France, he was utterly incapable 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 disappointment.  There were thousands of armed insurgents ready at any moment to rally around the banner of the Duke of Alençon, for they would thus be brought into positions of emolument 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 anarchy prevailed.  Civil war, exasperated by the utmost rancor, was raging in nearly all the provinces.  Assassinations were continually occurring.  Female virtue was almost unknown, and the most shameful licentiousness filled the capital.  The treasury was so utterly exhausted that, in a journey made by the king and his retinue 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 hypocrite, exhibited himself to his subjects bareheaded, 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 despised by his subjects, and many were anxious to exchange him for the reckless and impetuous, but equally depraved Francis.

The situation of the Duke of Alençon was now not only very uncomfortable, but exceedingly 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 Louvre.  Passing through obscure streets, he arrived at the suburbs of the city, where a carriage with trusty attendants was in waiting.  Driving as rapidly as possible, he gained the open country, and then mounting a very fleet charger, which by previous appointment was provided for him, he spurred his horse at the utmost speed for many leagues, till he met an escort 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 energetic and reckless brother would join the Protestant party, carrying with him powerful influence, and thus add immeasurably to the distractions 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 concubines, and roused himself to circumvent the plans of his hated rival.  Letter after letter was sent to all the provinces, informing the governors of the flight of the prince, and commanding the most vigorous efforts to secure his arrest.  Francis issued a proclamation declaring the reasons for his escape, and calling upon the Protestants and all who loved the “public good” to rally around him.  Hence the short but merciless war which ensued was called “the war of the public good.”

The Duke of Alençon 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 his aid the fearless and energetic Duke of Guise, and gave him the command of his armies.  In the first terrible conflict which ensued Guise was defeated, and received a hideous 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, heading 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 indulgences 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 Catharine entertained designs upon his life.  Marguerite was fully satisfied that it was so, and, bad as she was, as Henry interfered not in the slightest degree with any of her practices, she felt a certain kind of regard for him.  The guards 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.  Catharine watched him with unceasing vigilance, and crowded every temptation upon him which could enervate and ruin.  Her depravity did but stimulate 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 numbers 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 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 animals.

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 obtain from the king the high office 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 expense.

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 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 treachery of a confederate.  Notwithstanding this betrayal, however, matters were so thoroughly arranged 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 Alençon, a fortified city held by the Protestants.  As soon as his escape was known, thousands of his friends flocked around him.

The Duke of Alençon was not a little troubled at the escape of the King of Navarre, for he was well aware that the authority he had acquired among the Protestants would be lost by the presence of one so much his superior in every 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 the banks of the Loire, where every day fresh parties of Protestants were joining his standard.

Henry III., with no energy of character, despised by his subjects, and without either money or armies, seemed to be now entirely at the mercy of the confederate princes.  Henry of Navarre and the Duke of Alençon sent an embassador 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 wrested from his ancestors by Ferdinand and Isabella.  While the proposed conditions of peace were under discussion, Catharine succeeded in bribing her son, the Duke of Alençon, to abandon the cause of Henry of Navarre.  A treaty of peace was then concluded with the Protestants; and by a royal edict, the full and free exercise of the Protestant religion was guaranteed in every part of France except Paris and a circle twelve miles in diameter around the capital.  As a bribe to the Duke of Alençon, he was invested with sovereign power over the three most important provinces of the realm, with an annual income of one hundred thousand crowns.  This celebrated treaty, called the Paix de Monsieur, 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 assumed the title of the Duke of Anjou, and entirely separated himself from the Protestants.  He tried to lure the Prince of Conde, the cousin and devoted friend of Henry of Navarre, to accompany him into the town of Bourges.  The prince, suspecting treachery, refused the invitation, 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 Alençon, 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 Rochelle, where he publicly renounced the Roman Catholic faith, declaring that he had assented to that faith from compulsion, 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 compelled to commit.

Catharine and Henry III., having detached Francis, who had been the Duke of Alençon, but who was now the Duke of Anjou, from the Protestants, no longer feigned any friendship or even toleration for that cause.  They acted upon the principle that no faith was to be kept with heretics.  The Protestants, notwithstanding the treaty, were exposed to every species of insult and injury.  The Catholics were determined that the Protestant religion should not be tolerated in France, and that all who did not conform to the Church of Rome should either perish or be driven from the kingdom.  Many of the Protestants were men of devoted piety, who cherished their religious convictions more tenaciously than life.  There were others, however, who joined them merely from motives of political 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 vacillating between the two parties.  The Duke of Guise was the great idol of the Catholics.  Henry 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 Francis, Duke of Anjou, would ascend the throne.  Should he die childless, Henry of Navarre would be his lawful successor.  But the Catholics would be horror-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 classmates at school.  They were now heading armies, 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 England.  Though she had no disposition to receive a husband, she was ever very happy to be surrounded by lovers.  She consequently played the coquette with Francis until he saw that there was no probability of the successful termination of his suit.  Francis returned to Paris bitterly disappointed, and with new zeal consecrated his sword to the cause of the Catholics.  Had Elizabeth accepted his suit, he would then most earnestly have espoused the cause of the Protestants.

Henry III. now determined to make a vigorous 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 fearful 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 flattering 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 Protestants, surrendered unarmed and defenseless men, and women, and children to massacre.  The Duke of Guise, who had inflicted such an ineffaceable stain upon his reputation by the foul murder of the Admiral Coligni, made some atonement for this shameful act by the chivalrous spirit with which he endeavored to mitigate 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 encountered by a body of Protestants.  A desperate battle immediately ensued.  The Protestants, 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 implored quarter.  Many of these soldiers were from the city of Dux.  The leader of the Protestant 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.

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 entire liberty.

“Go,” said he, “to your homes, and there tell the different treatment which I show to soldiers and to assassins.”

The three ladies, thus rescued from impending 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 Protestant 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 companions, accepted an invitation to a fête given by his enemies of the town of Bayonne.  He was received with the utmost courtesy.  His table was loaded with luxuries.  Voluptuous music floated upon the ear; songs and dances animated the festive hours.  Henry then returned to head his army and to meet his entertainers in the carnage of the field of battle.

There 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.  Ruin, beggary, and woe desolated thousands of once happy homes.  Still the Protestants were unsubdued.  The king’s resources at length were entirely exhausted, and he was compelled again to conclude a treaty of peace.  Both parties immediately disbanded their forces, and the blessings 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 intelligence to Languedoc, where very numerous forces of Protestants and Catholics were preparing 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.  The drums and the trumpets were just beginning to sound the dreadful charge which in a few moments would strew that plain with mangled limbs and crimson it with blood.  The artillery on the adjoining éminences was beginning to utter its voice of thunder, as balls, more destructive than the fabled bolts of Jove, were thrown into the massive columns marching to the dreadful 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 needless effusion of blood, at the imminent risk of being shot, galloped between the antagonistic armies, 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 Protestants 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 belief without persecution, but they were not permitted to meet in any worshiping assemblies.  But even these pledges, confirmed by the Edict of Poitiers on the 8th of October, 1577, 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 fête, 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 possible clothing.  Such was the corruption of the court of France, and, indeed, of nearly the whole realm in those days of darkness.  Domestic purity was a virtue unknown.  Law existed only in name.  The rich committed any crimes without fear of molestation.  In the royal palace itself, one of the favorites of the king, in a paroxysm of anger, stabbed his wife and her waiting-maid while the unfortunate lady was dressing.  No notice whatever was taken of this bloody deed.  The murderer retained all his offices and honors, and it was the general sentiment of the people of France that the assassination was committed by the order of the sovereign, because the lady refused to be entirely subservient to the wishes of the dissolute king.