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Fr-Relig-Wars-art - 4/22/02


"You Guess that Death, a History of the Wars of Religion in France" by Lord Anton de Stoc, mka Ian Whitchurch.


NOTE: See also the files: religion-msg, heretics-msg, popes-msg, crusades-msg, p-relig-tol-msg, Puritans-msg, indulgences-msg.





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                                    Mark S. Harris

                                    AKA:  Stefan li Rous

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"You Guess that Death, a History of the Wars of Religion in France"

By Lord Anton de Stoc



I'll open this with a couple of words.


It's designed as a quiz show, but if you want to play it as a drinking game, you can. Every time someone switches factions, take a drink. If they used to head their old faction, drink the whole drink.


Can everyone who is doing this please have a designated walker, because once the Antoine de Bourbon and the Duke of Alecon start whoring their asses around, you'll probably need some help getting back to your tent.


For you quizmeisters, at the end, there will be a small and appropriate award for the person with the highest score.


It has also been broken up into a number of episodes, because I need to splain no let me sum up no, it's because it's too damn long otherwise.


Finally, this contains sex, violence, religion, more sex, and more violence, and is therefore not recommended for people of sensitive disposition. On the plus side, it has occasional poetry.


And now, we begin


The court of Henri II was led by 'The Menage a quatre' ; the cook, the thief, his wife and her lover. Sorry, the constable, the king, his wife and his lover


King Henri usually slept in his lover's bed. Her name was Dianne de Poitiers - she was called Madame la Seneschal, and she collected titles like other women collected Spanish gloves. She was not young, but she was beautiful, and it was in her honour, not the Queen's, that the prince of poets Ronsard wrote verses. The bad news for Catherine is that King Henri did likewise. This is some of Henri's work


"Alas, my God, how deeply I regret

The time I have wasted in my youth,

For now how many times have I been spurred on

In having Dianne for my only mistress"


Catherine was a foriegner, from a little town called Florence, and was part of a family most of you have probably heard of the Medicis.


Queen Catherine was married young, at the age of fourteen in 1533, and did not fall pregnant for many years. No-one ever called her beautiful, but her uncle Clement was Pope at the time and at the time Henri was merely the second son of King Francios.


In her time at Francios' court, Ronsard, prince of poets, wrote of her


"What princess as achieved so well

The skill of mathematics;

What princess understands so well

The great world of painting

The ways of nature

And the music of the heavens ?"


Because the world needs more people who like Ronsard, here a couple of his other works


When you are very old, spinning or skeining wool

At evening by the fire, pale in the candle's flames

You will recite my poems in wonder, and exclaim,

"Thus Ronsard honoured me when I was beautiful"


And another one


Marie, arise Arise my young, my lazy love ;

Already in the sky the lark begins to sing,

And from the pine the nightingale's soft jargoning

Has long been sent abroad from the high branch above.

Get up! So we can walk out into dewy land

To see your rosebush crowned with buds about to flower,

And small carnations, which at evening's twilight hour,

You watered with such care, a pitcher in your hand.

Last night, when at the edge of sleep, your eyes expressed

A pledge to be awake before me,

But like so many young, you linger at your rest,

Your eyes still sealed, while I regard you peacefully.

Well, now. I'll have to kiss your breasts, to kiss your eyes

A hundred time - thus I will teach you to arise.


It looked like she was sterile for a while, and that has to be bad news for a royal bride, but in 1543, ten years after her marriage, she was able to write to her friend the Constable "I want very much to write to tell you that there is hope that I am pregnant, for I know there is no one who will be happier than you".


She was pregnant and her son Francios was born in 1544. By 1550, there were four children in the royal nursery, two boys - Francios and Charles, and two girls, Elizabeth and Claude. By 1553 there were three more, Henri, Marguriete and Hercule.


Dianne helped a lot in the nursery, by the way. And when Catherine came down with scarlet fever Dianne never left her side.


Of Catherine, I will close with the observation of the Venetian ambassador "Although she is not beautiful, she has a certain wisdom and an extraordinary prudence; there is no doubt that she would be very capable of governing".


Anne de Montmorency was the Constable of France, and although he was Constable and therefore in charge of the armies of France, his power at court was disputed by the powerful House of Guise.


The Guise were led by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, and his brother Francios, Duke of Guise, also called La Balafre - Scarface.


In 1557, the French were at war with Spain and England, and the Constable was badly defeated at St Quentin. The damage to his position was all the worse with the fact that the army that saved Paris was led by Scarface, called back from Italy.


In 1559 the peace treaty of Cateau-Cambresis was signed, and King Henri called a great tournament to take people's minds off the way it screwed France, and to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to King Phillip of Spain.


Everyone turned up to that tournament, even those who had turned their back on Rome to follow the Reformed Religion. Hugenots they were called, and they had the ear of the Princes of Conde, especially Antoine de Bourbon, and most especially his wife Jeanne d'Albret, and they had many followers of what they called the Religion , especially among the rural nobility and in the South and West of France.


The Coligny's, close relatives of the Constable, were also of the Reformed, especially Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France.


The Guises hated the Reformed. A lot.


Well, there was a tournament, and Henri loved tournaments. He fought a bit, then he fought a bit more, then he kept on fighting. I'm sure you all know the type.


Late on the third day, Henri was still  at the lists. His opponent was a young member of the Reformed, the Comte de Montgomery.


The first time, they circled, charged, and both hit.


The second time, they circled, charged and both missed.


The third time, they circled, charged, and a piece of Montgomery's lance went through Henri's visor, through his eye, and into his brain.


Henri II, King of France, took ten days to die.


It was the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Guise, not the Constable, who took Francios to the Louvre, not the Constable of France.


Now, the death of Henri II suicide, natural causes, or just plain unlucky ?




End of part one


You Guess That Death, part deux


To recap, there were three factions, and one independant player.


The Guises were the strong right arm of the Catholic church in France. Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, and Francious, Duke of Guise, led that faction. They dislike Montmorencies, and they hate the Reformed.


The Montmorencies were split between the Catholics and the Reformed. The Constable of France, Anne de Montmorncy was a staunch Catholic, but his nephews the Colignys were prominent in the leadership of the Reformed.


The Bourbons were closely aligned with the Reformed. They held Navarre as a semi-independant kingdom, and the Princes de Conde were blood relatives of the King. Antoine was First Prince of the Blood, and by that he should have automatically been granted the position of Regent.


Then we had a single independant player, a woman from a foriegn land with a dead husband and a gaggle of young, sick children. Catherine de Medici. Queen of France.


Yeah. Those Medicis.


She was in a position where it is a choice between death, exile, or playing hardball politics as hard and well as it can be played.


Just as well she had the bloodlines for it.


OK, so we have the young Francios II as King of France, but no-one is going to pretend that he ran the place, at least not when Scarface and the Cardinal are around.


They kept Antoine de Bourbon, First Prince of the Blood and leader of the Reformed, off balance, and well away from court.


By 1560 Royal policy was not going well for the Reformed, because while if the Guises disliked the Montmorencies, they hated the Reformed.


Therefore, the solution was to make sure Cardinal and Scarface stop being at Court. Permanently. No Guises, no problem.


The plan was for a Protestant adventurer known as La Renaudie, real name Godefroy de Barry, to kidnap the Guises, then have a quiet chat with the King.


Michel de Castlnau said  "The Protestants planned it in January, to jump off on 10 March ... even foriegn nations knew the exact dates a month ahead."


Like everybody else, the Guises got advanced warning, and laid out conspirators like cordwood.


Not being totally stupid, Antoine and the other Bourbon Princes of Conde managed to maintain - whats that phrase - oh yeah ... plausible deniability ... about the whole affair.


Renaudie and his mates ... natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky ?


Yep, I thought that a conspiracy that badly planned is suicide too.


Things kept getting worse. In the summer of 1560, Antoine de Bourbon and Louis de Conde, had another try, this time with a military solution - get together an army, sieze Lyons, then march north to Paris.


Well, one out of three aint bad.


The Guises paid their spies well, and unfortunately, this time the plausible deniability just wasn't there and the Princes of Conde were tried for treason, found guilty and imprisoned for later execution.


Fate then took a hand - the young King Francios was never a well boy, and despite the attentions of his wife, Mary Queen of Scots (yeah, that Mary Queen of Scots), he died of a tumour of the brain on the 5th of December 1560.


Foul play was, of course, suspected, but, unusually, no-one died from from it.


King Francios II suicide, natural causes or just plain unlucky.


Yup, I vote for unlucky too.


Catherine's second son, Charles, then became king at the age of ten. In the words of the ever-observant Venetian ambassador, he was 'not very robust', and that's always got to be bad news.


After what happened last time, Catherine wasn't going to let the Guises get away with another squeeze play. In a series of moves reminiscent of Il Magnifico himself, she called the Constable back from retirement, had the Princes of Conde released from prison, and had herself appointed First Regent.


Considering all this was a fait accompli by 9th December, I'd have to describe all that as 'Not a bad week's work'.


Charles IX might be king, but right now it was Mother who was calling the shots.


Antoine de Bourbon, First Prince of the Blood, King of Navarre, wasn't exactly happy about not being regent, but in those first few weeks he realised that it was better than being dead.


In 1561 Catherine tried to get everyone to sit down, and talk, in the hope they would all just get along - the Assembly of Poissy.


To quote her son's words to the Assembly 'What I would like, and the reason I have decided to bring you all here, is that you should reach some conclusion so that my subjects can live in peace and union with each other. This is what I hope you will do '.


What they did was to exchange accusations of blasphemy and heresy, but there was enough goodwill around to allow the Edict of St Germain, that allowed a measure of freedom of concience and some public worship for the Reformed.


The Edict of St Germain got a mixed reception from Catholics. The Papal Nuncio called it 'reasonable', while the Constable violently denounced it, and Phillip of Spain made not-quite-secret promises of troops and money to any Catholic faction prepared to take on the Hugenots. Needless to say, the Guises hated it.


At around this time, the Cardinal of Guise starts to work on Antoine de Bourbon, pointing out that if he leaves the Reformed party to join the Catholics, then Phillip of Spain may grant him as King of Navarre certain lands in Spain.


In 1562 the Duke of Guise is going back home, as you do, after talking about religion with the Duke of Wurtumburg in Saverne, as you do.


While there, he decided to stop off for dinner at a little town called Vassy, as you do.


As it's a Sunday, he went to Church, as you do, if you are a Good Catholic like the Duke of Guise was.


Well, while you are in church solely to hear Mass, as you do,  you hear about a Reformed church thats about 500 yards away.


Well, you go to admonish them graciously and honestly, as you do.


As you do, you send several of your gentlemen out in front, so you are well and truly ready when a fight breaks out. As it does. With them using pistols and arquebuses, even.


As you do, you win the fight, and twenty-five, maybe thirty of them get killed, and none of your people get killed.


As you do, you express shock and regret afterwards, that you get people attending Calvinist churches carrying pistols and arquebuses.


As you do, you claim that you just had your swords and that they started all the shooting.


As they do, they claim you showed up heavily armed, with swords, pistols, arquebuses and followed by soldiers and armed servants, and looking for a fight, and that the people in the church werent armed at all.


And my view ? I reckon that most churches are pretty defensible, and if the people inside really did have arquebuses and such, then the Duke of Guise would probably have left there in a box. As you do.


On the other hand, if you got into your armour first, as you do, and you were prepared for a fight and they werent, then you probably wouldnt lose anyone. As he didnt.


OK, for our next question ... the worshippers at Vassy ... natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky ???


Yep, I'd go for natural causes as well.


By this point, the Constable had closed ranks with the Guises, and Antoine de Bourbon, the senior prince of Conde, had been completely detatched from the Reformed cause by the honeyed promises of the Cardinal of Guise. His wife, Jeanne d'Albret, being a leading member of The Religion and all wasn't at all happy with this, of course.


Catherine no longer had the numbers, and the Catholic party did.


End of part deux



You Guess that Death, part trois


April 1562 saw the Reformed nobility, now led by Antoine de Bourbon's younger brother Louis prince of Conde and Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France, sign a Treaty of Association, which was bad, and August saw the temporarily secret Treaty of Hampton Court, which was worse - it promised Le Harve to the English in exchange for men and money for the cause of the Reformed.


The first major fighting was the assault in October on the city of Rouen, in Normandy, which the Reformed held.


In that battle, Antoine de Bourbon stopped a bullet with his shoulder. It infected, and it took him a month to die. The King of Navarre, who had oscillated between Catholicism and the Reformed, was dead. Narbonne said that his Hugenot physician read the Gospels to him while a Catholic priest performed the Last Rites, and that each prayed louder than the other while Antoine's restless spirit turned first one way then the other.


Antoine de Bourbon, King of Navarre natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky ?


I'll pay suicide, because I dislike the treacherous, indecisive prick, and he shouldn't have been standing that close to the walls.


At this point, the responsibilities of the First Prince of the Blood fell on Louis de Conde, a rebel and declared member of the Religion.


December 19 1562 saw the first great battle of the wars of Religion, at a little town in Normandy called Dreaux.


The battle was a Catholic victory, but the price was the capture of the Constable by the Reformed, and the loss of most of the Royalist heavy cavalry. The Duke of Guise won it by keeping his company of horse out of the fray until the Reformed cavalry were busy with the pursuit of the broken Royalist cavalry. He then massacred the infantry, French as well as German, of the Reformed, and managed to capture Loius de Conde.


At this innocent stage of the wars, no-one expected Loius de Conde or Anne de Montmorency to suffer fatal accidents during their respective imprisonments, and neither of them did.


After defeating the field army of the Reformed, Scarface left for Orleans, to lay siege to the greatest town held by the Reformed.


On February 18 1563, Henri Duke of Guise, was leaving the siege of Orleans, to have dinner with his wife at a nearby chateaux. He was accompanied only by an aide, and just after  dusk, he was met by a man in a tawny cloak, mounted on a good horse.


The stranger saluted him, waited for the salute to be returned, and then drew a pistol and shot him through the shoulder at the range of ten yards.


The man fled at some speed, but lost his way in the forest and was caught and questioned. He said his name was Poltrot de Mere, and that he was a former servant of Gaspard de Coligny.


On the 24th of February 1563 the Duke of Guise finally died, felled by an assassin bullet - an assassin who claimed an association with the leader of the Reformed, the Admiral de Coligny.


Henri, Duke of Guise natural causes, suicide, or just plain unlucky ?


Yep, if an assasination isnt natural causes in this time, I'm not sure what is.


If the Duke of Guise's death achieved anything, it was to make an end to the fighting  possible.


The Reformed lay under the stigma of the murder, while the Catholics under the Constable and Catherine were less obdurate than they were under the Guises.


The Peace of Amboise was therefore signed in March 1563. It involved a general pardon, liberty of concience, some liberty of worship and for all foriegners were to leave France - the Reformed had hired Germans retier cavalry and Englishmen, while Swiss and Spaniards were the foreign troops of choice for the Royal Army.


With a peace of sorts signed, it was time to do something all good Frenchmen agreed on in principle - to throw the English out of France, for they still held Le Harve, which had been treasonously conceded to the English by the Reformed, in exchange for English troops and money.


The French were led by the Catholic Constable and the Reformed Loius de Conde, and the English surrendered Le Harve in July of that year.


Catherine took her young son, King Charles IX, on a Royal Progress through the kingdom, and  peace of some sort held.


A high point of this progress was the meeting in June 1565 at Bayonne, on the Spanish border, between Catherine, her daughter Elizabeth - the wife of Phillip of Spain - and her daughter's husband's right hand man, the Duke of Alva.


Alva and the Queen of Spain - Elizabeth, Catherine's daughter - hammered on the position of the Reformed in France, and Alva found a ready audience for his attacks on her toleration of the Reformed in private meetings with many of the great Catholic lords - men who were already quite convinced at the hand of the Reformed, and especially of Gaspard de Coligny, in the murder of the Duke of Guise.


To put it bluntly, Turenne summed up the thinking of the Reformed when he wrote that "There was a resolution taken at Bayone to destroy those of the Religion in both France and the Low Countries".


In late 1565 the King of Spain ordered the Duke of Alva to raise a great army, and to crush the Protestant rebels in Flanders. Charles IX, to the surprise of the Reformed, was adamant that this army was not to pass through France. After all, everyone knows that Paris is in Flanders.


Alva then led his army of 10 000 men through Italy, past Switzerland, and through Germany to Flanders.


Coligny, and the rest of the Reformed at court, wished to aid their co-religionists in Flanders, and some of them did so secretly.


Tension mounted, at court and outside it, and in September 1567 the Reformed held a synod at Coligny's chateaux at Valery.  They decided to sieze the person of the King, and thereby save him from the machinations of the King of Spain and his allies.


It was Amboise all over again, but this time the Reformed were not lead by idiots.


The Court was reinforced by Swiss guards, and it fled from Meaux to Paris, and Charles IX rode at the head of his men, brandishing his arquebus at the Reformed cavalry.


Although they failed to capture the king, the Reformed did take Orleans and Soissons, and they prepared to take Paris. The Second War of Religion had begun. And the King was not happy with those of The Religion.


On November 10 1567, the Royalist forces under the Constable met the Reformed at St Denis, near Paris. As a battles go, it wasn't much. For the Constable of France, at the age of seventy-two years, it was proof of the old saying 'A bullet in the chest is Nature's way of telling you to slow down'.


It took him two days to die.


Anne de Montmorency, Constable of France natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky.


For a Constable of France, a bullet in battle is natural causes.


Catherine's third son, Henri Duke d'Anjou led the army, at least until the money ran out in about January, and no money, no war.


It took about three months to negotiate the Peace of Longjumeau, but it was the kind of peace that breaks out when two sides need time to rearm.


King Charles summed up his feelings early on, when he had a go at Catherine's proposals for peace


"You want to force me to make peace. But I will not keep it, because I want to punish my enemies ; and I will remember those who are now trying to persuade me."


Sure enough, by August it was on again, and in March 1569 the Royal Army caught the Reformed under Loius d'Conde at Jarnac, in Poitou, and the rebel army was smashed.


Loius d'Conde was badly wounded, captured by the Royalists and immediately shot. After his death, his body was disfigured and left on a stone slab, like a common criminal.


So died Loius d'Conde, First Prince of the Blood, murdered after capture. I ask you, natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky.


Yep, at this stage of the wars, murder after capture is natural causes.


At this point, nominal leadership of the Reformed belonged to the late Antoine de Bourbon's young son, Henri of Navarre, but Admiral Coligny led the faction by dint of his age and experience.


The Third War spluttered along, with the Royal Army unable to ever completely destroy the Reformed field army, and the Reformed too weak after Jarnac to defeat the forces of King Charles IX.


The Peace of St Germain was therefore concluded in August 1570. This peace, as well as containing the conventional terms of freedom of concience, general pardon, and limited freedom of worship, also offered the Reformed four towns as 'places of surety', including the great and well fortified port of La Rochelle in the south-west of France.


OK, so we're at peace, so it's time for a faction check.


Charles IX is King, and therefore leads the Royalists. The job of Constable has gone to the late Constable's son, Francios de Montmorency.


The Cardinal of Guise leads the Catholics, and counts Henri Duc d'Anjou - the heir presumptive to the throne - as part of his faction.


The Reformed were led by Admiral Coligny, with the young Henri of Navarre - who at the age of fifteen had already gone from Reformed, to Catholic and back again - providing titular leadership.


The first three wars had seen a pretty much straight split between the Reformed rebels and the Catholic Royalists, so why do we now have the split between Royalists and Catholics ?


Basically, King Charles started realising that the interests of the Pope and the King of Spain were not the interests of the King of France. He called Coligny back to Court, gave him back his old job of Admiral, refused to join the Holy League against the Turks, and signed off on a peace treaty that gave the Reformed four fortresses.


Oh yeah, and he was also trying - with the help of his mother, of course - to get his younger brother married off the the Protestant Queen of England, Elizabeth.


These are not the actions of a good Catholic boy. It didn't help as well that the young Charles had started treating the old greybeard Coligny as a father-figure, to the extent of actually calling him 'father'.


Needless to say, Coligny was trying hard to drag France into the Dutch revolt against the Spanish.


Having a known heretic and rebel at court and with the ear of the King did not please the Guises, and the Cardinal of Guise left the court in late '71.


On the other hand, Henri of Guise - the late Scarface's son - stayed at court, mostly because he was almost certainly bonking the King's beautiful younger sister, Margot.


This was unfortunate, because heavy duty negotiations were going on between the Queen Mother Catherine about having her married to the young Henri of Navarre, the nominal leader of the Reformed.


This had two main problems - the Pope and Navarre's mother, the redoubtable Jeanne d'Albret.


Catherine played hardball with both. The Pope, unhappy with a Catholic princess of France being married to a known heretic, was reminded that


"England is now seperated from the Holy See because of a refusal of such a dispensation However, there is nothing of this kind to fear in France, for the king and my other sons are all very good Catholics".


The Reformed Queen of Navarre was very quietly reminded that if the Pope was to reverse his position on the illegality of her first marriage, then Henry of Navarre would become illegitimate, and thereby lose his position as inheritor of Navarre and First Prince of the Blood.


It was a contest of wills between Catherine and Jeanne, and Jeanne cracked.


Jeanne died before her son's marriage, with poison suspected but old age was the real culprit.


Wait a second old age ??? I don't have a catgory for that. It certainly isnt natural causes suicide is inappropriate, and it sure as heck isnt just plain unlucky.


As it was, the Pope would not grant a dispensation, and the groom stayed true to his late mothers Religion, so on the 18th day of August 1572 Henri of Navarre and Margot were married outside Notre Dame.


It was a wedding that saw Margot blaze in diamonds, but the intensely Catholic city of Paris did not celebrate. At least not until four days later.


End of part trois


You Guess that Death, part quatre


In the city of Paris, on the 22nd of August 1572, Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France, the leader of the Reformed, the man the young King Charles called 'Father', was shot twice from the second-story window of a house belonging to Canon Villemeur, a man formerly in the employ of the house of Guise.


To this day, no-one knows who the triggerman was, or who ordered the hit. The Guises were the obvious suspects, of course. Suspicion also fell on the head of the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici.


It took more than two bullets to kill the tough old soldier, and the King's old doctor was sent to the Admiral's rooms, his people having refused a royal offer to move him to the King's chambers in the Louvre.


The next 48 hours saw Paris descend into madness.


The Reformed were rumoured to be planning reprisals, and a record exist of a secret meeting on the night of the 23rd of August "Royal order taken in secret council attended by the Queen Mother, the two brothers of the king, and several other private councils which ordered the massacre of St Bartholemew".


The King was not at this secret meeting, and he intially refused to believe the "Hugenot plot", until he cracked, crying out "God's death, kill them. Kill them all, so none may come back to blame me".


The mayor was then sent for, and given Charles' orders to secure the city. The gates and bridges of the city were closed and the municipal guard alerted. The signal for the attack on the Reformed was to be the tolling of the bell of the church of St German l'Auxerrois, and the killing began before Sunday dawned.


The job of murdering the Admiral went to the Henri, Duke of Guise, son of the murdered Scarface. Coligny's guard was cut down, then the old man was run through six times, then thrown out a window to where the Duke waited.


In the Louvre, Conde and Navarre were disarmed, imprisoned in the King's own chambers and their companions taken into a courtyard in the Louvre, and systematically murdered by the Swiss Guard.


Ten, maybe twelve thousand of the Reformed were killed in Paris on that bloody Sunday, with no regard to age, sex or station.


On St Bartholomew's day, the Seine ran red with blood.


Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France, and ten thousand of his co-religionists natural causes, suicide, or just plain unlucky ?


Natural causes. After all, if you can't trust your King, who can you trust ?


International opinion was shocked, and massacres spread throughout France. Maximilian, the German Emperor, when told that the massacre was a response to a Hugenot plot, replied that "When one wants to accomplish something, one can always find pretexts".


Conde and Navarre were given the options of conversion or death, and converted to Catholicism at swordpoint.


Practice of the Reformed religion was banned, and the Fourth War of Religion began.


After Jarnac and St Bartholomew, the Reformed no longer had a field army, but they still had La Rochelle. And after St Bartholemew, surrender was not a viable option for those of The Religion.


Seven months siege and nine assaults later, La Rochelle held, with the besiegers in such a state that starving men were defecting from the besiegers to the besieged city.


Events far away then took a hand. Henri, Duc d'Anjou, the younger brother of the King, who led the besieging army was elected King of Poland. With La Rochelle being reupplied by sea, and the Royal Army's suppy contractors wanting cash to extend their contracts, a peace was signed in July 1573.


A concequence of St Bartholemew was the emergence of a new faction, the politiques. These men were led by Montmorency-Damville, the second son of the old Constable, and although Catholics, they were unwilling to sacrifice France to destroy the Reformed. They offered the leadership of their faction to the King's youngest brother, Hercule, the Duke d'Alecon.


During this period, life continues as normal at court and in France, which is to say the endemic guerilla warfare continues in the south and the west of France, with the Monluc suppressing the Reformed in the south-west in a way that reinforces his reputation as a brutal son of a bitch in an era known for it's brutal sons of bitches. The Politique, Montmorency-Damville, is meanwhile busy making himself effective ruler of the Midi - Languedoc and Provence - in southern France, drawing his support from moderates of both faiths.


Alecon having attended one too many meetings with dodgy people, he joins Conde and Navarre under the guard of men who take orders from others. Francios de Montmorency, the ex-Constable of France - son of the previous constable Anne de Montmorency, older brother to Monmorency-Damville - was at the meetings too, so he gets a new set of rooms in the Bastille.


There are several attempts to crack Navarre, Conde and Alecon out of their confinement at the Louvre, by trickery and by violence ; various conspirators are discovered, condemned, tried and executed. Boniface la Molle, participant in the Conspiracy of St Germain, Death by natural causes yadda yadda yadda.


Charles' physical and mental state continues to deteriorate - perhaps he is pursued by the ghosts of St Bartholemew's Day.


Attempts are continued to marry a French prince to Elizabeth of England - with the duke d'Anjou gone to Poland, perhaps Madame would more enjoy the Duke d'Alecon ? Madame, however, prefers to run the risk of the War of the English Succession after her death, and declines to carry out her royal duty to beget an heir and a spare.


Mind you, while courtship is ongoing, the English look the other way while the Comte d'Montgomery - remember him ? Jousting accident, Henri II yeah, him - invades Normandy at the head of a small army of French protestants. Including some who only speak English. He makes the mistake of losing a battle at Domfront, getting himself captured and you can guess the rest.


Comte d'Montgomery - Natural causes, suicide, or just plain unlucky. Natural causes.


Charles keeps getting sicker and sicker, until on May 1574 he died of a combination of subcutaceous haemorraging and a bad concience "Kill them all, so none may come back to blame me"


Charles IX, King of France, the man who made blood red The Colour for those of The Religion natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky ?


I'd say that such a violent painful death is just karma. Natural causes.


OK, so it's time for Mother to take over once again, at least until Henri of Anjou can get his ass back from Poland. Technically, it should have been Navarre as the regent, with him being First Prince of the Blood and all, but Cathrine de Medici has them under armed guard, so getting him and Alecon to sign a letter 'requesting' that Catherine, with her "prudence, wide experience and devotion to this crown" exercise the powers of regent wasn't difficult.


Anjou killed several horses leaving Poland but he stopped off in Venice to do a little shopping - purple is the colour, and satin is the fabric, don't you think - but he eventually gets into France, to accept the crown in September, and then marry Loiuse d'Vaudemont, a cousin to the Guises.


Another war had broken out in November, and January 1575 saw a formal alliance between Montmorency-Damville and the Reformed.


Meanwhile, Henri was enjoying himself at the court with his mignons pretty young boys with nice legs, who stank of perfume and spent fortunes on jewels and clothes. Henri scattered gifts around the court, spending tens of thousands that he just didn't have.


Things also werent helped by Alecon - now heir to the throne - successfully escaping, by the novel method of having an affair with a young lady, then escaping his watchers by leaving via the back door, rather than by the conventional window.


After, Alecon got away, he did what all ambitious younger sons do - he raised a private army, reinforced by Conde bringing German retier cavalry from over the Rhine. The Army of Monsieur became a problem that Henri III couldn't easily solve, mostly because any spare cash that could have got the Royal Army moving had been spent on jewels, purple satin, and presents to pretty young things of both genders.


Things continued to deteriorate for Henri, and in February of '76, Navarre finally managed to join Conde and Alecon at liberty. He managed this by the time honoured way - hang out with Guises, and make em think that you are an airhead only interested in chasing tail, in his case the blond and beautiful Charlotte de Sauves. Then, when their backs are turned, change clothes with a servant and go.


It took Henri maybe thirty seconds of freedom to abjure Catholicism for The Religion, and within three weeks Henri of Navarre had an army of three thousand horse and nine thousnd foot, and grim memories of surviving St Bartholomew's day by being in the bed of the King.


With two armies to deal with, and no cash or credit to move his own, Henri was eventually forced to make peace, and the Peace of Beaulieu was much like the others - freedom of concience, general pardon, limited freedom of worship, places of security etc etc etc.


The peace saw both Alecon and Montmorency-Damville dissolved their previous relationship with the Reformed, and the Guises form the Catholic League  - formalising their faction that had in fact existed for many years.


In fact, Alecon's relationship with the Reformed had dissolved so badly that when the next war started - an inevitability after Henri declared 'One king, one faith' - he was leading the Army of the East against La Charitie, a 'place of security' for those of The Religion.


La Charitie fell in May 1577, and Alecon orderd 'no quarter' and had it turned into a charnel house.


The dead at La Charitie - natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky ? Natural causes, naturally.


This victory had to be celebrated, of course, so Henri blew a hundred thousand or so on a party. He dressed as a woman in pink and silver damask, covered in diamonds and pearls. Escorting him were the ladies in waiting, dressed in transparent veils. Catherine was also there, dressed in sobe black, and so was Margot - Navarre's wife - dressed with her neck open to the wind.


September saw yet another peace, and both sides fell back for a breather.


Alecon began negotiating with Protestants again, this time with the Dutch, with the aim of becoming Protector of the Netherlands. He sent his sister Margot to spy for him - they were close, so close in fact that rumours of incest have been denied by reliable sources. All I'll say is that with the morals of that court, all things are possible.


Margot proved to be a better bon vivant than spy, but she displayed her husband's coolness while evading various plots by Spaniards and Hugenot rebels to capture her on her way back from negotiating with both sides in Flanders.


In the Spring of 1578, Margot lowered a rope down the windows of her apartment in the Louvre, and Alecon escaped down it, heading for glory in Flanders.


He raised an army of sorts - 8000 infantry and 800 cavalry - assumed the title of Defender of the Netherlands. He managed to take a couple of towns, but as he was short of cash, had to disband his army at the start of winter.


To sum up a couple of years, Alecon managed to get himself engaged to, and then dumped by Elizabeth of England, manages to get an army into Antwerp, has it massacred by the locals after it starts sacking the place, scrapes up another army, takes Cambrai, loses Cambrai and eventually returns to Paris in 1584, deathly sick, with no money, no army, and no dukedom in the Netherlands.


He died on 10 June 1584, bleeding from the nose and mouth, being the only one of Catherine's sons not to become King of France.


Henri, Duke of Alecon, a man whose ass couldn't sign the drafts that his ambition wrote natural causes, suicide or just plain unlucky ? Unlucky.


End of part quatre


You Guess that Death, part cinq


Going back to Margot, she was still at court in Paris, enjoying her new toy, a Harley. To be specific, Jacques de Harley, Sieur de Champvallon, and, if a public tongue-lashing by her brother Henri III can be believed, several other gentlemen. But not, as far as is known, simultaneously. She left Paris for Navarre's lands in the south-west in August 1583, Champvallon having earlier left for Germany, the cad.


With Alecon dead, this left Henri III with no heir, so he sent his favorte La Valette, the Duc d'Epernon to make Henri of Navarre an offer he couldn't refuse - convert to Catholicism, and become the heir to France.


Navarre refused, if not for reasons of concience than for the reasons that conversion may win him some supprt from some Catholics, it would definitely lose him his powerbase of those of The Religion.


Rumour of this offer had stirred the Guise-led Catholic League into treason. They began to conspire with the King of Spain, signing the temporarily secret Treaty of Joinville in November 1584. Like the treasonous Treaty of Hampton Court, it promised French lands to a foreign power, in exchange for the troops and money needed by a faction to fight a civil war.


Henri had neither the troops, nor the money, nor the popular support to take on the Guises, the Catholic League, or their backer Phillip II. Navarre offered him the support of the Reformed, but to accept that was to risk pushing more Catholics into the League.


Henri therefore threw himself at the feet of the Guises with the Edict of Namours, making Henri Duke of Guise the Constable of France, the Cardinal de Bourbon (Navarre's uncle) the heir presumptive, and the Catholic religion the only one permitted in France. This was followed by the excommunication of Navarre and Conde by Pope Sixtus V.


This last act - seen by all as Papal interference in French affairs - resulted in Montmorency-Damville switching back from the Catholic to the Poitique cause, and thereby allying with Navarre and the Reformed against the Catholic League.


Finished that drink ? Good.


Take another. In March 1585 Margot rats on her husband to join the Henri of Guise and the Catholic League.


At this point, war is inevitable, but the 'War of the Three Henris' does not break out until September 1587.


The two sides trade victories - Navarre's little army was victorious over Joyeuse at Namours, while Guise defeated the German mercenaries at Beauce, and the war grinds on.


It was in Paris that the decisive stroke took place. On May 12, Henri, Duke of Guise, went to Paris for a conference with the King. Fearing revolt, three thousand Swiss Guards began to patrol the city.


Paris responded with barricades, and the Swiss were mauled by angry mobs. Henri responded to this by begging Guise to restore order. This he did, by riding the streets alone, armed with only a riding crop, and armoured in a white satin shirt. Guise then demanded the Lieutenant-Generalcy of the kingdom, and a free hand on policy.


King Henri of France responded to this almost-bloodless coup by fleeing Paris with a handful of companions on 17 May.


For the next 8 months, the Guises were the masters of Catholic France, and Henri - who had returned to court - was king only in name. This was an insult that could not be borne.


On December 10, the Duke of Guise wrote 'You would not believe all the warnings I have received'. He was also given an anonymous note cautioning him to beware his reply to that was 'They wouldn't dare".


On December 23, Henri invited Henri, Duke of Guise, the Cardinal de Guise, and others of their party to an early-morning conference in his rooms, in the city of Blois.


The Duke was informed that the King would see him alone in another room.


The Duke went to the other room, and was met by the King, and a dozen of the King's household guards. He managed to drag them the length of the chamber, and died in front of the king.


The last wordsthe Duke heard were the King's 'I did not know he was so tall'.


And the King's words on the affair to his Mother "Good morning. Madame, please excuse me. M de Guise is dead and will no longer be mentioned. I had him killed, only anticipating the same plan he had against me. I could no longer tolerate his insolence."


Henri, Duke of Guise natural causes, suicide, or just plain unlucky.


I'm saying suicide. If cripple a king and make yourself master in his house, you must ensure his bodyguard is made of your men . Alternativly Guise could, and should, have siezed the crown himself. By leaving Henri with his guards, and ignoring the warnings, Henri, Duke of Guise made his own death possible.


Needless to say, the Cardinal of Guise and numerous other Guisards died soon afterwards.


The city of Paris responded to this by repudiating the King, and most other towns in Catholic France joined the Leaguers, who had appointed Henri of Guise's younger brother, Charles of Mayenne, Lieutenant General of the Kingdom. The League's paymaster, on the other hand, was Phillip II, King of Spain.


King Henri, by grace of his Mother, uncertain King of France, had gained his freedom, but the price was Paris. He therefore - eventually - resolved the confused, three-sided war and threw his lot in with Henri of Navarre and those of the Religion, in an alliance of convenience aginst the Liguers.


In 1589, the combined armies of the Royalists and the Reformed then marched on Paris, and laid siege to it.


At this point, a monk - Jacques Clement - came to see Henri, with important news from Paris. He did indeed have a message, and he mumbled it. The King had him come closer, so he could hear better. He even leaned over so he could hear him.


At that point, Jacques Clement drew a dagger, and slit open the guts of King Henri III, King of France.


Henri of Anjou, King of France Natural Causes, Suicide or just plain unlucky ?


Suicide, of course.


Navarre was now the heir to the throne, but as one of the Religion, most of the Catholic Royalists melted away, refusing to work for a Protestant.


These including the surviving Mignons, men who could break seven of the Ten Commandments before breakfast, pretty boys with sharp swords, a thing for purple satin and personal morals that would make even Caligula want to party down.


To this, I have to say you can keep your Duke of Alva, and you can keep your Don Jon of Austria, and you can keep the Tercio of the Saraband, and you can keep the Tercio of the Sextons. For me, Henri of Anjou's minions were indeed the baddest Catholic boys in all Europe.


OK, so Henri of Navarre is now a king without a kingdom, a husband without a wife and a captain without money. His army is down to 3000 men, and after a fighting retreat into Normandy Mayenne faced him at Arqes with ten times that.


Well, there were a series of desperate engagements against horrible odds, and Henri's 600 cavalry reinforced the Turkish ambassador opinion after St Denis 'Give my master 1000 of those men for each of his armies, and he will rule the world', and Henri's Swiss showed they really never did get the hang of that running away shit, and  Henri's artillery showed that four guns can stop an army, if they are handled well enough.


With his army checked, and hearing of English reinforcements for Navarre, Charles of Mayenne retreated from an army one-tenth his size.


The road to Paris was once again open, but the Ligeurs had to be smashed again at Ivry, and on the eleventh of May, 1590, Henri IV, King of France, laid siege to Paris.


As sieges go, it was the usual. The price of bread was measured in pounds rather than pennies, cats and dogs went into the soup-pot, and the poor died in droves, perhaps as many as 50 000 - or five times the number that were killed on St Bartholemew's Day.


On Monday, August 20, 1590, the king, having been informed of the extreme misery and poverty of his people of Paris, where one began to see the streets and the entrances to houses strewn with dead - His Magesty, preferring to forget the laws of war than those of nature, especially of his own nature that has always been full of clemency, broke the barrier of military customs, and, considering that all the poor people were Christian and that all were his subjects, granted, first of all, passports for all the women, girls and children who wished to leave. He later extended this to anyone else, even his bitterest enemies; and these were humanely received in all the towns where they wished to take refuge.


Those were the words of L'Estoile, who was there.


I know a lot of history, and I know of no other case where the head of a besieging army has allowed such a thing. I give you Henri of Navarre, the Most Christian King of France.


Ten days after this, Henri of Navarre had to lift the siege, and bring his army together to counter the movement towards Paris of a Spanish army under the Duke of Parma.


The next three years saw a dance between the Politques and Navarre, as the fundamental question of the faith of the King of France had not been addressed.


Of course, while the dance goes on, the war continues in it's usually fashion - indecisive battles, with Navarre giving better than he gets, actual and suspected Politiques being hung in Paris by enthusiastic Ligeurs and the Spanish heavying the Ligeurs to call a Parlement to crown the daughter of the Spanish Queen as Queen of France.


On Sunday, the 25th of July, 1593, Henri of Navarre, King of France, abjured the Reformed Religion for the third and last time. He went to confession - once - and he went to Mass - once - and at that point was accepted as a Catholic by the majority of Frenchmen.


By the way, that definitely counts as a defection while leading a faction.


On March 22, 1594, Henri of Navarre, King of France, entered Paris with no more bloodshed than a single brawl between soldiers and citizenry, and gave the Spanish troops garrisoning Paris four hours to get out of the city. L'Estoille says that a Spanish woman with those troops asked someone to point out the King, for she wished to see so great a king, so good, so kind, and so merciful as to pardon everything and that if they had him in the position that he had them, they would never have done the same.


The Wars of Religion were over, except for the shouting. The Duke of Mayenne and the other Ligeurs were detatched from the Spanish, usually with large bags of cash, and the Reformed were given the Edict of Nantes, which was much like the others, except that as well as fifty Places of Security, the Reformed also had a king that was prepared to cut off his right arm to keep the peace in his kingdom.


At long last, France was once more at peace. Or at least only at war with the Spanish, and occasionally with the English


2002 Ian Whitchurch. This work is licenced under the GPL and may be freely used or redistributed under the provisions of that licence - see www.gnu.org  



Bibliography (Mostly in DC111 in Chifley)


Wood, 'The Kings Army' (great book on 16th C French military organisation)


Potter(ed) _The French Wars of Religion_ (a book of translated primary sources)


Roelker 'Queen of Navarre'


Coudy(ed) _The Hugenot Wars_ (source of Le'Estoile quotes ; a book of translated primary sources)


Mahoney 'Madame Catherine' (souce of most of the stuff up to Navarre. Well written and readable, even for non-history junkies)


Carper 'Translating Alexandrines : Sonnets of Ronsard and Baudelaire' (in "Versification : An interdisciplanary journal of literary prosody", Vol 2 no 1, May 1998 - source of most of the Ronsard)


ANU library also has Sully and a number of other primary sources but I don't read French well enough to use them.



Copyright 2002, Ian Whitchurch, 27 Atherton St Downer ACT 2602 Australia <Ian.Whitchurch at dewrsb.gov.au>. Permission granted to reproduce for not-for-Profit purposes, provided that the work is properly attributed.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org