FRENCH HISTORY (cont.)
The Feudal Monarchy: (c) Italian Wars. Civil Wars. St Bartholemew's Day Massacre. Edict of Nantes (1598).
With the end of the English wars new life began to gleam out on France; the people grew more tranquil, finding that toil and thrift bore again their wholesome fruits; Charles VII. did not fail in his duty, and took his part in restoring quiet, order, and justice in the land. With the return of peace came also the arts of peace; the poets song is heard. Olivier Basselin, whoseverses were afterwards retouched and published by Jean de Houx, belongs to this period; now, too, comes Villon, the first of French poets, whose writings ring still with some of the misery of the past; and Alain Chartier follows a little later.
The French crown, though it had beaten back the English, was still closely girt in with rival neighbors, the great dukes on every frontier. All round the east and north lay the lands of Philip of Burgundy; to the west was the duke of Brittany, cherishing a jealous independence; the royal dukes, Berri, Bourbon, Anjou, are all so many potential sources of danger and difficulty to the crown. The conditions of the nobility are altogether changed; the old barons have sunk into insignificance; the struggle of the future will lie between the kings cousins and himself, rather than with the older lords. A few non-royal princes, such as Armagnac, or St Pol, or Brittany, remain, and will go down with the others; the "new men" of the day, the bastard Dunois or the constables Du Guesclin and Clisson, grow to greater prominence; it is clear that the old feudalism is giving place to a newer order, in which the aristocracy, from the kings brothers downwards, will group themselves around the throne, and begin the process which reaches its unhappy perfection under Louis XIV.
Directed after the expulsion of the English, troubles began between King Charles VII. and the dauphin Louis; the latter could not brook a quiet life in Dauphiny, and the king refused him that larger sphere in the government of Normandy which he coveted. Against his fathers will, Louis married Charlotte of Savoy, daughter of his strongest neighbor in Dauphiny; suspicion and bad feeling grew strong between father and son; Louis was specially afraid of his fathers counselors; the king was specially afraid of his sons craftiness and ambition. It came to an open rupture, and Louis in 1456 fled to the court of Duke Philip of Burgundy. There he lived at refuge at Geneppe, meddling a good deal in Burgundian politics, and already opposing himself to his great rival Charles of Charolais, afterwards Charles the Bold, the last duke of Burgundy. Bickerings, under his bad influence, took place between king and duke; they never burst out into flame. So things went on uncomfortably enough, till Charles VII. died in 1461, and he reign of Louis XI. began.
Between father and son what contrast could be greater? Charles VII., "the Well-served," so easy-going, so open and free from guile; Louis XI., so shy of counselors, so energetic and untiring, so close and guileful. History does but apologize for Charles, and even when she fears and dislikes Louis, she cannot forbear to wonder and admire.. and yet Louis enslaved his country, while Charles had seen it rescued from foreign rule; Charles restored something of its prosperity, while Louis spent his life in crushing its institutions and in destroying its elements of independence. A great and terrible prince, Louis XI. failed in having little or no constructive power; he was strong to throw down the older society, he built little in its room. It is the fatal evil of absolute monarchy that it is not bound to replace what it crushes; so that the old order passes away, and no new society springs up in its place. it is to this that France owes the barrenness of her constitutional history.
The reign of Louis XI. is well divided into three periods. The first six years of it represent his strife with his great lords (1461-1467); the next period, of nine years, is occupied by his rivalry with Charles the Bold (1469-1476; the third, a time of seven years, gives us the king "triumphant and miserable" (1476-1483).
We are so wont to associate the name of Louis XI. with all that is cold, measured, and crafty that we can scarcely believe we are reading his history when we hear the narrative of his first acts on coming to the throne. He appears as a young impulsive prince, whose frank imprudence calculated no cost. He offended the duke of Burgundys followers who escorted him to his consecration at Rheims, and thence into Paris by sending them away empty; he deprived the duke of Bourbon of the government of Guienne, which he held; he dismissed all his fathers ministers and friends; he set free the noble captives whom his father had been obliged to restrain; he alienated the nobles and clergy by negotiating with the pope and threatening to abolish the Pragmatic Sanction. In all this he seemed inclined to depend on the support of the good towns. Most serious of all was his action with respect to the district of the river Somme, at that time the northern frontier of France. The towns there had been handed over to Philip of Burgundy by the treaty of Arras, with a stipulation that the crown might ransom them at any time, and this Louis succeeded in doing in 1463. The act was quite blameless and patriotic in itself, yet it was exceedingly unwise, for it thoroughly alienated Charles the Bold, and led to the wars of the earlier period of the reign. Lastly, as if he had not done enough to offend the nobles, Louis in 1464 attacked their hunting rights, touching them in their tenderest part. Wonder that this year saw the formation of a great league against him, and the outbreak of a dangerous civil war. The "League of the Public Weal" was nominally headed by his own brother Charles, heir to the throne; it was joined by Charles of Charolais, who had completely taken the command of affairs in the Burgundian territories, his father the old duke being too feeble to withstand him; the dukes of Brittany, Nemours, Borubon, John of Anjou, duke of Calabria, the count of Armanac the aged Dunois, and a host of other princes and nobles flocked in; and the king had scarcely any forces at his back with which to withstand them. His plans for the campaign against the league were admirable, thought they were frustrated by the bad faith of his captains, who mostly sympathized with this outbreak of the feudal nobility. Louis himself marched southward to quell the duke of Bourbon and his friends, and returning from that task, only half done for lack of time, he found that Charles of Charolais had passed by Paris, which was faithful to the king, and was coming down southwards intending to join the dukes of Berri and Brittany, who were on their way towards the capital. The hostile armies met at Montleheri on the Orleans road; and after a strange battle minutely described by Commines a battle in which both sides ran away, and neither ventured at first to claim a victory the king withdrew to Corbeil, and then marched into Paris (1465). There the armies of the league closed in on him; and after a siege of several weeks, Louis, feeling disaffection all around him, and doubtful how long Paris herself would bear for him the burden of blockade, signed the peace of Conflans, which, to all appearances, secured the complete victory to the noblesse, "each man carrying off his piece." Instantly the contented princes broke up their half-starved armies and went home, leaving Louis behind to plot and contrive against them, a far wiser man, thanks to the lesson they had taught him. They did not let him wait long for a chance. The treaty of Conflans had given the duchy of Normandy to the kings brother Charles; he speedily quarreled with his neighbor the duke of Brittany, and Louis came down at once into Normandy, which threw itself into his arms, and the whole work of the league was broken up. The count of Charolais, occupied with revolts at Dinan and Liege, could not interfere, and presently his father the old Duke Philip died (1467), leaving to him the vast lordships of the house of Burgundy.
And now the "imperial dreamer," Charles the Bold, was brought into immediate rivalry with that royal trickster, the "universal spider," Louis XI. Charles was by far the nobler spirit of the two: his vigor and intelligence his industry and wish to raise all around him to a higher cultivation, his wise reforms at home, and attempts to render his fathers dissolute and careless rule into a well-ordered lordship all these things marked him out as the leading spirit of the time. He was completely free from those mean faults which marked his antagonist: he could not lie nor cheat; he was not cold and heartless; he despised the immoral life, the loose tales, the disorderly company of the dauphins sojourn at Geneppe. Unfortunately, in this noble and otherwise harmonious instrument there was that "one little rift," which gradually ruined al: his pride, which was high, would not have been fatal to him; it was his anger, combined with a certain strength of obstinacy, which brought him to ruin. His territories were partly held under France, partly under the empire: the Artois district, which also may be taken to include the Somme towns, the county of Rhetel, the duchy of Bar, the duchy of Burgundy, with Auxerre and Nevers, were feudally in France; the rest of his lands under the empire. He had therefore interests and means of interference on either hand; and, in fact, it is clear that Charles set before himself two quite different lines of policy, according as he looked one way or the other. He looked towards Paris, and seeing the king there growing stronger, desired to curb him by a league of princes; he looked towards the east, and saw there a splendid field for his ambition, in the scattered territories which lay on the edge of the Holy Roman Empire. At first he followed the former line, seeking to weaken his neighbors, and by coalition against the strongest of them to become undoubted master of the rest; this was in the times of his active hostility towards Louis XI.; afterwards he made truce with the king, and turned his arms against the east, attacking first Lorraine, and then Switzerland.
At the time of Duke Philips death a new league had been formed against Louis, embracing the king of England, Edward IV., the dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, and the kings of Aragon and Castile. Louis strained every nerve, he conciliated Paris, struck hard at disaffected partisans, and in 1468 convoked the States General at Tours. The three Estates were asked to give an opinion as to the power of the crown to alienate Normandy, the step insisted on by the duke of Burgundy. Their reply was to the effect that the nation forbids the crown to dismember the realm; they supported their opinion by liberal promises of help. Thus fortified by the sympathy of his people, Louis began to break up the coalition. He made terms with the duke of Bourbon and the house of Anjou; his brother Charles was a cipher; the king of England was paralysed by the antagonism of Warwick; he attacked and reduced Brittany; Burgundy, the most formidable, alone remained to be dealt with. How should he meet him? by war or by negotiation? His court was divided in opinion; the king decided for himself in favor of the way of negotiation, and came to the astonishing conclusion that he would go and meet the dukes and win him over to friendship. He miscalculated both his own powers of persuasion and the force of his antagonists temper. The interview of Peronne followed; Charles held his visitor as a captive, and in the end compelled him to sign a treaty of peace, on the basis of that of Conflans, which had closed the War of the Public Weal. And as if this were not sufficient humiliation, Charles made the king accompany him on his expedition to punish the men of Liege, who, trusting to the help of Louis, had again revolted (1469). This done, he allowed the degraded monarch to return home to Paris. An assembly of notables at Tours speedily declared the treaty of Peronne null, and the king made some small frontier war on the duke, which was ended by a truce at Amiens in 1471. The truce was spent in preparation for a fresh struggle, which Louis, to whom time was everything, succeeded in deferring from point to point, till the death of his brother Charles, now duke of Guienne, in 1472 broke up the formidable combination. Charles the Bold at once broke truce and made war on the king, marching into northern France, sacking towns and ravaging the country, till he reached Beauvais. There the despair of the citizens and the bravery of the women saved the town. Charles raised the siege and marched on Rouen, hoping to meet the duke of Brittany; but that prince had his hands full, for Louis had overrun his territories, and had reduced him to terms. The duke of Burgundy saw that the coalition had completely failed; he too made fresh truce with Louis Senlis (1472), and only deferred, he no doubt thought, the direct attack on his dangerous rival. Henceforth Charles the Bold turned his attention mainly to the east, and Louis gladly saw him go forth to spend his strength on distant ventures; saw the interview at Treves with the emperor Frederick III., at which the dukes plans were foiled by the suspicious of the Germans and the kings intrigues; saw the long siege of Neusz wearing out his power; bought off the hostility of Edward IV. of England, who had undertaken to march on Paris; saw Charles embark on his Swiss enterprises; saw the subjugation of Lorraine and capture of Nanci (1475), the battle of Granson, the still more fatal defeat of Morat (1476), and lastly the final struggle of Nanci, and the dukes death on the field (January 1477).
While Duke Charles had thus been running on his fate, Louis XI. had actively attacked the larger nobles of France, and had either reduced them to submission or had destroyed them. By the time of the fall of the house of Burgundy scarcely one great prince was left who could be formidable; even the power of the duke of Brittany was much straitened. The king had, therefore, free hand to make the best profit he could out of the disasters of his Burgundian rival, and the weakness of his heiress, the young Duchess Mary. As Duke Charles had left no male heir, the king at once resumed the duchy of Burgundy, as a male fief of the kingdom; he also took possession of Franche Comte at the same time; the kings armies recovered all Picardy, and even entered Flanders. Then Mary of Burgundy, hoping to raise up a barrier against this dangerous neighbor, offered her hand with all her great territories to young Maximilian of Asutria, and married him within six months after her fathers death. To this wedding is due the rise to real greatness of the house of Austria; it begins the era of the larger politics of modern times.
After a little hesitation Louis determined to continue the struggle against the Burgundian power. He secured Franche Comte, and on his northern frontier retook Arras, that troublesome border city, the "bonny Carlisle" of those days; and advancing to relieve Therouenne, then besieged by Maximilian, fought and lost the battle of Guinegate (1479). The war languid after this; a truce followed in 1480, and a time of quiet for France. The misconduct of the French cavalry, which had lost the battle of Guinegate, was followed by the abolition of the free- archer army; the cities were ordered to provide money in place of men, and the age of mercenary foreign armies began. In 1480 also, on the death of the old poet-king Rene, the two important districts of Anjou and Provence fell in to the crown, Margaret of Anjou, Renes daughter and heiress, having ceded them to Louis in return for help; and in the end of 1482 the third peace of arras closed awhile the rivalry between France and Burgundy. Charles the dauphin was engaged to marry the little Margaret, Maximilians daughter, and as her dower she was to bring Franche Comte and sundry places on the border line disputed between the two princess. In these last days Louis XI. shut himself up in gloomy seclusion in his castle of Plessis near Tours, and there he died in 1483. A great king and a terrible, he has left an indelible mark on the history of France, for he was the founder of France in its later form, as an absolute monarchy ruled with little regard to its own true welfare. He had crushed the older feudalism, and substituted autocracy for anarchy; in all ways he did what he could to centralize the administration; he imposed heavy taxes, and enabled his people to bear them; he employed men of middle condition, and cared for commerce and industry; he treated his towns fairly well, traveled much up and down the realm, acted judiciously retaining the local estates and parliaments. To his rule is due the rise of that official spirit, which marks the practical progress of the life of France; there is no lack of intelligence and vigor in his numerous ordinances, which show that his despotism was not unenlightened or selfish. Though not himself a man of learning, he favorable the universities, and set up a printing press in the Sorbonne. We may believe that Louis was perfectly sincere when on his deathbed he longed for a few more years to have set the state in order. He had crushed all resistance; he had enlarged the borders or France, till the kingdom took nearly its modern dimensions; he had organized its army and administration. The danger was lest in the hands of a feeble boy these great results should be squandered away, and the old anarchy once more raise its head.
For Charles VIII., who now succeeded, was but thirteen years old, a weak boy whom his father had entirely neglected, the training of his son not appearing to be an essential part of his work in life. The young prince had amused himself with romances, but had learnt nothing useful. A head, however, was found for him in the person of his elder sister Anne, whom Louis XI. had married to Peter II., lord Beaujeu and duke of Bourbon. To her the dying king entrusted the guardianship of his son; and for more than nine years Anne of France was virtual king. For those years all went. Her prudence and high intelligence overcame her brothers ill-will, and defeated the plots of the nobles, and, almost in spite of Charles, won for him a complete triumph over feudalism. She was, in truth, a very remarkable woman, and history, because she was just and true and successful, has left her on one side, neglected and forgotten. Yet France flourished greatly under her: she solaced the people according to her fathers dying wish; she also with vigorous and triumphant hand overcame, the rivalry of Maximillian of Austria, and the selfish opposition of the princes. She it was who enabled Henry of Richmond to seize the throne of England, and to give peace to that troubled realm; she it was who defeated the allies at the battle of St Aubin du Cormier (1488), thereby asserting the power of France against Brittany; she it was who compelled Maximilian, in the treaty of Sable, to close the struggle, and to leave the French monarchy in peace. Finally, it was she who out-manoeuvred Maximilian in his wooing of Anne of Brittany, and secured the great prize, the heiress and her lands, for her brother Charles. In 1491 the marriage took place which led to the eventual absorption (in 1515) of Brittany into the kingdom of France. After his "Madame la Grande," as this noble lady was rightly styled, withdrew from public, life, leaving the country in a healthier state than it had been in for ages, leaving also to the young king a splendid army and a well-filled treasury.
With the disappearance from the scene, the controlling hand is lost, and France begins the age of her Italian expeditions, which, while they introduced her into the general arena of modern politics, and formed the platform on which the rivalry between the houses of France and Austria displayed itself, also influenced the home-life of France disastrously, and exhausted resources and energies so much needed for the wholesome development of the country. The Italian wars led to the civil wars, and they, in the end, cleared the ground for the despotism of Louis XIV.
When the house of Anjou came to an end in 1481, and Anjou and Maine fell in to the crown, there fell in also a far less valuable piece of property the claim of that house, descended from Charles the youngest brother of St Louis, on the kingdom of Naples and Sicily. There was much to tempt an ambitious prince in the state of Italy. Savoy, which held the passage into the peninsula, was then thoroughly French in sympathy; Milan, under Lodovico Sforza, "il Moro," was in alliance with Cahrles; Genoa preferred the French to the Aragonese claimants for influence over Italy; the popular feeling in the cities, especially in Florence, was opposed to the despotism of the Medici, and turned to France for deliverance; the misrule of the Spanish kings of Naples had made Naples thoroughly discontented; Venice was, as of old, the friend of France. Tempted by these reasons, in 1494 Charles VIII. set forth for Italy with a splendid host. He displayed before the eyes of Europe the first example of a modern army, in its three well-balanced branches of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. There was nothing in Italy to withstand his onslaught; he swept through the land in triumph; Charles believed himself to be a great conqueror, giving law to admiring subject-lands; he entered Pisa, Florence, Rome itself. Wherever he went, his heedless ignorance, and the gross misconduct of his followers, left behind implacable, hostility, and turned all friendship into bitterness. At last he entered Naples, and seemed to have asserted to the full the French claim to be supreme in Italy, whereas at that very time his position had become completely untenable. A league of Italian states was formed behind his back; Lodovico il Moro, Ferdinand of Naples, the emperor, Pope Alexander VI., Ferdinand and Isabella, who were now welding Spain into a great and united monarchy, all combined against France; and is presence of this formidable confederacy, Charles VIII. had to cut his way home as promptly as he could. At Fornovo, noth of the Apennines, he defeated the allies in July 1495; and by November the main French army had got safely out of Italy. The forces left behind in Naples were worn out by war and pestilence, and the poor remnant of these, too, bringing with them the seeds of horrible contagious diseases, forced their way back to France in 1496. It was the last effort of the king. His health was ruined by debauchery in Italy, repeated in France; and yet towards the end of his reign he not merely introduced Italian arts, but attempted to reform the state, to rule prudently, to solace the poor; wherefore when he died in 1498 the people lamented him greatly, for he had been kindly and affable, brave also on the battle-field; and much is forgiven to a king.
His children died before him, so that Louis of Orleans, his cousin, was nearest heir to the throne, and succeeded as Louis XII. By his accession in 1498 he reunited the fief of Orleans country to the crown; by marrying Anne of Brittany, his predecessors widow, he secured also the great duchy of Brittany. The dispensation of Pope Alexander VI., which enabled him to put away his wife Jeanne, second daughter of ouis XI., was brought into France by Caesar Borgia, who gained thereby his title of duke of Valentinois, a large sum of money, a French bride, and promises of support in his great schemes in Italy.
As a younger man Louis XII. had been idle and dissipated; and to the end self-indulgence clung to him, as a Nessus-shirt, eating into his bones. Yet he was kindly and humane to his people, friendly and without revenge or malice, even in the case of those who had done him most mischief. His reign was the reversal of al the principles of Louis XI. That prince had avoided foreign complications and had sternly repressed his nobles at home: Louis XII. began at once to interfere in foreign politics, and desired to strengthen the great nobles round the throne. The days were good for France, with this cheerful "pater patriae" ruling over it. He tried to govern with economy and care, and to develop the resources of the country: it is said that one-third of the realm, was brought under cultivation in his time. His ministers were men of real ability. George of Amboise, archbishop of Rouen, the chief of them, was a prudent and sagacious ruler, who, however, unfortunately wanted to be pope, and urged the king in the direction of Italian politics, which he would have done much better to have left alone. Louis XII. was lazy and of small intelligence; George of Amboise and Caesar Borgia with their Italian ambitious easily made him take up a spirited foreign policy which was disastrous at home. Louis XII. had different aims in Italy from those of Charles VIII. His grandfather Louis had married, in 1389, Valentina Visconti, daughter of Gian Galeazzo, duke of Milan; and it had been agreed that if the duke had no male heirs, Milan should pass to the descendants of Valentina. This had now taken place; and Louis XII., as Valentinas grandson, claimed the duchy; he also asserted his rights to the Two Sicilies. Utterly as the last Italian expedition had failed, the French people were not yet weary of the adventure, and preparations for a new war began at once. In 1499 the king crossed the Alps into theMilanese, and carried all before him for a while. The duchy at first accepted him with enthusiasm; but in 1500 it had had enough of the French and recalled Lodovico, who returned in triumph to Milan. The Swiss mercenaries, however, betrayed him at Novara into the hands of Louis XII., who carried him off to France. The triumph of the French in 1500 was also the highest point of the fortunes of their ally Caesar Borgia, who seemed for a while to be completely successful. In this year Louis made a treaty at Granada, by which he and Ferdinand the Catholic agreed to despoil Frederick of Naples; and in 1501 Louis made a second expedition into Italy. Again all seemed easy at the outset, and he seized the kingdom of Naples without difficulty; falling out, however, with his partner in the bad bargain, Ferdinand the Catholic, he was speedily swept completely out of the peninsula, with terrible loss of honor, men, and wealth.
It now became necessary to arrange for the future of France. Louis XII. had only a daughter, Claude, and it was proposed that she should be affianced to Charles of Austria, the future statesmen and emperor. This scheme formed the basis of the three treaties of Blois (1504). In 1500, by the treaty of Granada, Louis had in fact handed Naples over to Spain; now by the three treaties he alienated his best friends, the Venetians and the papacy, while he in fact also handed Milan over to the Austrian house, together with territories considered to be integral parts of France. The marriage with Charles came to nothing; the good sense of some, the popular feeling in the country, the open expressions of the States-General of Tours in 1506, worked against the marriage, which had no strong advocate except Queen Anne. Claude, on intercession of the Estates, was affianced to Francis of Angouleme, her distant cousin, the heir presumptive to the throne.
In 1507 Louis made war on Venice; and in the following year the famous treaty of Cambrai was signed by George of Amboise and Margaret of Austria. It was an agreement for a partition of the Venetian territories, - one of the most shameless public deeds in history. The pope, the king of Aragon, Maximilian, Louis XII., were each to have a share. The war was pushed on with great vigor: the battle of Agnadello (14th 1509) cleared the kings way towards Venice; Louis was received with open arms by the north Italian towns, and pushed forwards to within sight of Venice. The other princes came up on every side; the proud "Queen of the Adriatic" was compelled to shrink within her walls, and wait till time dissolved the league. This was not long. The pope, Julius II., had no wish to hand northern Italy over to France; he had joined in the shameless league of Cambrai he wanted to wrest the romagna cities from Venice, and because he hoped entirely to destroy the ancient friendship between Venice and France. Successful in both aims, he now withdrew from the league, made peace with the Venetians, and stood forward as the head of a new Italian combination, with the Swiss for his fighting men. The strife was close and hot between pope and king; Louis XII. lost his chief adviser and friend George of Amboise, the splendid churchman of the age, the French Wolsey; he thought no weapon better than the dangerous one of a council, with claims opposed to those of the papacy; first a national council at Tours, then an attempted general council at Pisa, were called on to resist the papal claims. In reply Julius II. created the Holy League of 1511, with Ferdinand of Aragon, Henry VIII. of England, and the Venetians, as its chief members, against the French. Louis XII., showed vigor; he sent his nephew Gaston of Foix to subdue the Romagna and threatened the Venetian territories. At the battle of Ravenna in 1512, Gaston won a brilliant victory and lost his life. From that moment disaster dogged the footsteps of the French in Italy, and before winter they had been driven completely out of the peninsula; the succession of the Medicean pope, Leo X., to Julius II. seemed to promise the continuance of a policy hostile to France in Italy. Another attempt on northern Italy proved but another failure, although now Louis XII., taught by his mishaps, had secured the alliance of Venice; the disastrous defeat of La Tremoile near Novara (1513) compelled the French once more to withdraw beyond the alps. In this same year an army under the duke of Longueville, endeavouring to relieve Therouenne, besieged by the English and Maximilian, the emperor-elect, was caught and crushed at Guinegate. A diversion in favor of Louis XII., made by James IV. of Scotland, failed completely; the Scottish king was defeated and slain at Flodden Field. While his northern frontier was thus exposed, Louis found equal danger theeatneing him on the east; on this side, however, he managed to buy off the Swiss who had attacked the duchy of Burgundy. He was also reconciled with the papacy and the house of Austria. Early in 1514 the death of Anne of Brittany his spouse, a lady of high ambitions, strong artistic tastes, and humane feelings towards her Bretons, but a bad queen for France, cleared the way for changes. Claude, the kings eldest daughter, was now definitely married to Francis of Angouleme, and invested with the duchy of Brittany; and the king himself, still hoping for a male heir to succeed him, married again, wedding Mary Tudor, the lovely young sister of Henry VIII. This marriage was probably the chief cause of his death, which followed on New Years Day 1515. His was, in foreign policy, an inglorious and disastrous reign; at home, a time of comfort material prosperity. Agriculture flourished, the arts of Italy came in, though (save in architecture) France could claim little artistic glory of her own; the organization of justice and administration was carried out; in letters and learning France still lagged behind her neighbor.
The heir to the crown was Francis of Anguoleme, great-grandson of that Louis of Orleans who had been assassinated in the bad days of the strife between Burgundians and Armagnacs, in 1407, and great-great grandson of Charles V.of France. He was still very young, very eager to be king, very full of far-reaching schemes. Few things in history are more striking than the sudden change at this moment, from the rule of middle-aged men or (as men of fifty were then often called) old men, to the rule of youths, - from sagacious, worldly-prudent monarchs to impulsive boys, from Henry VII. to Henry VIII., from Louis XII. to Francis I., from Ferdinand to Charles. On the whole Francis I. was the least worthy of the three. He was brilliant, "the king of culture," apt scholar in Renaissance art and immorality; brave also and chivalrous, so long as the chivalry involved no self-denial, for he was also thoroughly selfish, and his personal aims and ideals were mean. His reign was to be a reaction from that of Louis XII.; Francis should set the monarchy once more upright, and secure its autocratic development. He reversed his predecessors home policy, and was hailed with wild delight by the young nobles, who had found Louis XII. too sparing of gifts. Gifts they wanted now, not power; and they preferred a prince who gave while he crushed them to one who prudently forbore to give while he allowed them to retain their strength. The reputation of Francis I. is infinitely beyond his deserts; his reign was a real misfortune for France, and led the way to the terrible waste and mismanagement which mark her history throughout the century. For Francis was an altogether shallow person: he could not read the character of his great antagonist Charles V., nor the meaning of the vast movement which was but now beginning to develop itself out of, and to take the place of, the Renaissance. He wasted all the energies of France on bootless foreign wars; never has any land been so sinned against as France; her vast wealth of resources, her intelligent and thrifty people, her commanding central position, were all as nothing to her rulers in comparison with that most wasteful and disastrous of snares, a spirited foreign policy.
From the beginning Francis chose his chief officers unwisely: in Antoine du Prat, his new chancellor, he had a violent and lawless adviser; in Charles of Bourbon, his new constable, an untrustworthy commander. Forthwith, he plunged into Italian politics, being determined to make good his claim both to Naples and to Milan; he made most friendly arrangements with the archduke Charles, his future rival, promising to help him in securing, when the time came, the vast inheritances of his two grandfathers, maximilian the emperor-elect, and Ferdinand of Aragon: never was a less wise agreement entered on. This done, the Italian war began; Francis descended into Italy, and won the brilliant battle of Marignano, in which the French chivalry crushed the Swiss burghers and peasant mercenaries. The French then overran the north of Italy, and, in conjunction with the Venetians, carried all before them. But the triumphs of the sword were speedily wrested from him by the adroitness of the politician; in an interview with leo X. at Bologna, Francis bartered the liberties of the Gallican Church for shadowy advantages in Italy; the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, which now fornearly a century had secured to the Church of France independence in the choise of herchief officers, was replaced by a concordat, whereby the king allowed the papacy once more to drain the wealth of the Church of France, while the pope allowed the king almost autocratic power over it. He was to appoint to all benefices, with exception of a few privileged offices; the pope was no longer to be threatened with general councils, while he should receive again the annates of the church.
The year which followed this brilliantly-disastrous opening brought little good to France. In 1516 the death of Ferdinand the Catholic placed Charles on the throne of Spain; in 1519 the death of Maximilian threw open to the young princes the most dazzling prize of human ambition, the headship of the Holy Roman Empire. Francis I., Charles, and Henry VIII. were all candidates for the votes of the seven electros, though the last never seriously entered the lists. The struggle lay between Francis, the brilliant young prince, who seemed to represent the new opinions in literature and art, and Charles of Austria and Spain, who was at yet unknown and despised, and, from his education under the virtuous and scholastic Adrian of Utrecht, was thought likely to represent the older and reactionary opinions of the clergy. After a long and sharp competition, the great prize fell to Charles, henceforth known to history as that great monarch and emperor Charles V.
The rivalry between the princes could not cease there. Charles, as representative of the house of Burgundy, claimed all that had been lost when Charles the Bold fell; and in 1521 was broke out between him and Francis, the first of a series of struggles between the two rivals. While the king wasted the resources of his country on these wars, his proud and unwise mother, Louise of Savoy, guided by Antoine du Prat, ruled, to the sorrow of all, at home. The war brought no glory with it: on the Flemish frontier a place or two was taken; in Biscay Fontarabia fell before the arms of France; in Italy Francis had to meet a new league of pope and emperor, and his troops were swept completely out of the Milanese. In the midst of all came the defection of that great prince the Constable Bourbon, head of the younger branch of the Bourbon house, the most powerful feudal lord in France. Louise of Savoy had enraged and offended him, or he her; the king slighted him, and in 1523 the constable made a secret treaty with Charles V. and Henry VIII, and, taking flight into Italy, joined the Spaniards under Lannoy. The French, who had again invaded the Milanese, were again driven out in 1524; on the other hand the incursions of the imperialists into Picardy, Provence, and the south-east were all complete failures. Encouraged by the repulse of Bourbon from Marseilles, Francis I.once more crossed the Alps, and overran a great part of the valley of the Po; at the siege of Pavia he was attacked by Pescara and Bourbon, utterly defeated and taken prisoner (24th February 1525); the broken remnants of the French were swept out of Italy at once, and Francis I. was carried into Spain, a captive at Madrid. His mother, best in adversity, behaved with high pride and spirit; she overawed disaffection, made preparations for resistance, looked out for friends on every side. Had Francis been in truth a hero, he might even as a prisoner have held his own; but he was unable to bear the monotony of confinement, and longed for the pleasures of France. On this mean nature Charles V. easily worked and made the captive monarch sign the treaty of Madrid (January 14, 1526), - a compact which Francis meant to break as soon as he could, for he knew neither heroism nor good faith. The treaty stipulated that Francis should give up the duchy of Burgundy to Charles, and marry Eleanor of Portugal, Charless sister; that Francis should also abandon his claims on Flanders, Milan, and Naples, and should place two sons in the emperors hands as hostages. Following the precedent of Louis XI. in the case of Normandy, he summoned an assembly of nobles and the parliament of Paris to Cognac, where they declared the cession of Burgundy to be impossible. He refused to return to Spain, and made alliances wherever he could, - with the pope, with Venice, Milan, and England. The next year saw the ruin of this league in the discomfiture of Clements VII. and the sack of Rome by the German mercenaries under Bourbon, who was killed in the assault. The war went on till 1529, when Francis having lost two armies in it, and gained nothing but loss and harm, was willing for peace; Charles V., alarmed at the progress of the Turks, was not less willing; and in August 1529 the famous Treaty of Cambrai, "the Ladies Peace, " was agreed to by Margaret of Austria and Louise of Savoy. Though Charles V. gave up all claim on the duchy of Burgundy, he had secured to himself Flanders and Artois, and had entirely cleared French influences out of Italy, which now became firmly fixed under the imperial hand, as a connecting link between his Spanish and his German possession. Francis lost ground and credit by these successive treaties, conceived in bad faith, and not honestly carried out. His whole policy, throughout, was tortuous and uncertain; he was misled by showy advantages, and not sufficiently sagacious to discern his true interests. He had in fact little grasp of the great movements of his age, and floated to and fro; neither from the enthusiasm of the reformation, nor from the instinctive loyalty of his subjects, nor even from the threatening power of Charles, could be succeed in creating for himself a consistent and honorable policy. His Italian ambitions proved a fatal hindrance to his reign; in hopes of recovering Milan, for example, he let Charles delude him, and displeased his natural allies. His foreign alliances were insecure; he would not evoke the sympathy and help of his own people.
No sooner had the treaty of Cambrai been effectual in bringing his sons back to France, than Francis began to look out for new pretexts and means for war. Affairs were not unpromising. His mothers death in 1531 left him in possession of a huge fortune, which she had wrung from defenceless France; the powers which were jealous of Austria, the Turk, the English king, the members of the Smallkald league, all looked to Francis as their leader; Clement VII., though his misfortunes had thrown him into the emperors hands, was not unwilling to treat with France; and in 1533 by the compact of Marseilles the pope broke up the friendship between Francis and Henry VIII., while he married his niece Catherine de Medici to Henry, the second son of Francis. This compact was a real certain Italian cities, - was never paid, and the death of Clement VIII. in 1534 made the political alliance with the papacy a failure. The influence of Catherine affected and corrupted French history for that a century. Preparations for war went on; Francis made a new scheme for a national army, though in practice he preferred the tyrants arm, the foreign mercenary. From his day till the Revolution the French army was largely composed of bodies of men tempted out of other countries, chiefly from Switzerland or Germany.
While the emperor strove to appease the Protestant princess of Germany by the peace of Kadan (1534), Francis strengthened himself with a definite alliance with Soliman; and when on the death of Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan, who left no heirs, Charles seized the duchy as its over-lord, Francis, after some bootless negotiation, declared war on his great rival (1536). His usual fortunes prevailed so long as he was the attacking party: his forces were soon swept out of Piedmont, and the emperor carried the war over the frontier into Provence. That also failed, and Charles was fain to withdraw after great losses into Italy. The defence of Provence a defence which took the form of a ruthless destruction of all its resources-had been entrusted to Anne of Montmorency, who henceforward became constable of France, and exerted great influence over Francis I. Though these two campaigns, the French in Italy and the imperialist in Provence, had equally failed in 1536, peace did not follow till 1538, when, after the terrible defeat of Ferdinand of Austria by the Turks, Charles was anxious to have free hand in Germany. Under the mediation of Paul III. the agreement of Nice was come to, which included a ten years truce, and the abandonment by Francis of all his foreign allies and aims. He seemed a while to have fallen completely under the influence of the sagacious emperor. He gave way entirely to the church party of the time, a party headed by gloomy Henry, now dauphin, who never lost the impress of his Spanish captivity, and by the constable Anne of Montmorency; for a time the artistic or Renaissance party, represented by Anne duchess of Etampes and Catherine de Medici, fell into disfavor. The emperor even ventured to pass through France, on his way from Spain to the Netherlands. All this friendship, however, fell to dust, when it was found that Charles refused to invest the duke of Orleans, the second son of Francis, with the duchy of Milan, and when the emperors second expedition against the sea-power of the Turks had proved a complete failure, and Charles had returned to Spain with loss of all his fleet and army. Then Francis hesitated no longer, and declared war against him (1514). The shock the emperor suffered inspirited all his foes; the sultan and the Protestant German princes were all eager for war; the influence of Anne of Montmorency had to give way before that of the house of Guise, that frontier-family, half French half German, which was destined to play a large part in the troubled history of the coming half-century. Claude, duke of Guise, a veteran of the earliest days of Francis, was vehemently opposed to Charles and the Austro-Spanish power, and ruled in the kings councils. This last war was as mischievous as its predecessors: no great battles were fought; in the frontier affairs the combatants were about equally fortunate; the battle of Cerisolles, won by the French under Enghien (1544), was the only considerable success they had, and even that was almost barren of results, for the danger to northern France was imminent; there a combined invasion had been planned and partly executed by Charles and Henry VIII.; and the country, almost undefended, was at their mercy. The two monarchs, however, distrusted one another; and Charles V., anxious about Germany, sent to Francis proposals for peace from Crespy Couvrant, near Laon, where he had halted his army; Francis, almost in despair, gladly made terms with him. The kings gave up his claims of Flanders and Artois, the emperor his on the duchy of Burgundy; the king abandoned his old Neapolitan ambition, and Charles promised one of the princesses of the house of Austria, with Milan as her dower, to the duke of Orelans, second son of Francis. The duke dying next year, this portion of the agreement was not carried out. The peace of Crespy, which ended the wars between the two great rivals, was signed in autumn, 1544, and like the wars which led to it was indecisive and lame. Charles learnt that with all his great power he could not strike a fatal blow at France; France ought to have learnt that she was very weak for foreign conquest, and that her true business was to consolidate and develop her power at home. Henry VIII. deemed himself wronged by this independent action on the part of Charles, who also had his grievances with the English monarch; he stood out till 1546, and then made peace with Francis, with the aim of forming a fresh combination against Charles. In the midst of new projects, and much activity, the marrer of mans plots came on the scene, and carried off in the same year, 1547, the English king and Francis I., leaving Charles V. undisputed arbiter of the affairs of Europe. In this same year he also crushed the Protestant princes at the battle of Muhlberg.
Francis reigned long enough to have been able to do much for France, and, following Louis XII., might have been another "father of his country," setting it in the way of true grandeur and prosperity. And something of this he seemed to see. He liked in the great movement of the age to take that middle course which commends itself to France: like France herself wished to be catholic and yet to become champion of the Reformed cause; he loved letters and art; he was brilliant and chivalrous personage, who had he French qualities strongly marked in character and action. His people felt that he, in the main, represented them; they honored and loved him as a part of themselves. They accepted their position as a united nation, - united, that is, under a master who offered them no constitutional rights or liberties; it was enough for them that their master was good-natured and kindly; his vices and weaknesses were little blamed, and much followed. History will record that he was mean and selfish, false and licentious, and that, if he knew what was the nobler path for himself and has country, he could not rise to the heroism of following it, when to do so demanded self-denial. History ought also to remember that he was pitted against the ablest statesmen of his age, and that he was called on, with insufficient knowledge and strength, to defined the libert6ies of Europe against an overwhelming power. That he failed to choose the right weapons, that he failed to make the best use of the weapons he did take up, - this was the real weakness of his life. His reign filled those years in which Renaissance passed into Reformation, - in which the new enthusiasm for art and letters made the way ready for amore grave and solemn enthusiasm in religion, an enthusiasm which in its simpler side aimed at storing purity of faith and manners, while in its more extreme development it mixed itself up with bold political theories, or with a condemnation of all that learning and culture could do for human life. Under the direct kingship of God, men believed that all the older usages, restrictions, and political principles of life were out of place. The Anabaptists carried out, in harsh developments, many of the ideas proclaimed half a century before by Savonarola at Florence. Now, in the history of France no principle appears to well established as this, that she ever "subordinated her religious feelings to her political interests." It is almost as generally true that her political interest were ever subordinated to the personal interests of her leaders. Consequently we shall always expect to find very little movement of public opinion in France, and only a weak influence of religious sentiment on the general current of affairs; we shall also find her appreciation of political interests weak and ill-informed, her desire for self-government at home as dimly felt as her desire for a right policy abroad; and lastly, we shall see that for ages her history is the history of men not of institutions, and that her worst struggles are caused by personal not national questions. It is one of the grand results of the Revolution that it raised France from this vicious moral and mental state, introducing the rule of ideas and opinions, and the general participation of citizens in their own affairs.
In the reign of Francis I. the court looked not unkindly on the Reformers, more particularly in the earlier years, while the new opinions were mostly those of Luther. Margaret, the kings sister, the duchess of Etampes, his mistress, Renee of France, the daughter of Louis XII., who took Clement Marot as her secretary, and was a declared Protestant, - all these ladies patronized and protected the Reformers. The king himself, regarding them as a people having ideas and some education and enlightenment, was well inclined towards them for a time. Later on, the excesses of the image-breakers, and the tendency of some of them to depreciate carnal learning, entirely alienated him from them. He never had any religious sympathy with them; and though both he and his mother sided in the beginning with the learned world against the monks and "hypocrites," as Louise of Savoy calls them, they never were interested in those theological question which, though they might seem to them often to degenerate into unmeaning substleties, still in reality gave to the reforming movement its true strength. The nobles went with the court, and beyond it. About half the great families with more or less earnestness adopted the Reformed opinions, and that more specially in their second or Calvinistic development. With them went a not inconsiderable body of the upper clergy. With these strong elements in its favor, how did the Reformation come to fail in France? It failed, first because the general body of the people took absolutely no interest in the matter; no popular feeling and been aroused; no discontent with either the clergy or the monasteries existed; and the people, uneducated and unused to political controversy or expression, were in fact never called on to form a judgment in the matter. Personal religion, or personal judgment as to theological questions, even in their more practical bearings, was but little known or cared for in France. And this was true not only of the people, but of the nobles and the court. There was, too, a want of that wholesome cathartic effect which the Reformation worked elsewhere; mens lives became no purer, the family relation was not strengthened, and from the moral side the movement was a failure also. Lastly, France has few great cities though many small ones, and her cities had little or no use of independence of thought and opinion. The towns were much divided; the capital, with its preponderating influence, was distinctly hostile to the Reformers. The Champagne towns, specially Meaux, showed themselves favorable to the new opinions; in the rest of France they had little sway; the persistent piety of the hill country of the south-east and south was an entirely independent phenomenon, which seemed to exert very little influence on the rest of France. In the later days of Francis I., the politico-religious movement connected with the name of Calvin, religious movement connected with the name of Calvin, the series of ideas which formed the basis of Latin Protestantism, as distinct from the Germanic movement of the north, spread over a great part of the south and west of France. It was warmly welcomed by the dissidents of Dauphiny, the Cevennes, the Garonne valley; the nobles also adopted it with enthusiasm. It became a disruptive force in France. While Paris and northern France cling to the old opinions, round which a good number of the great families group themselves, Poitou and the western provinces are the home of the new ideas in church and state. They utter opinions which combine reform in religion with aristocratic and republican views in politics. France thus divided falls a prey to civil war.
Henry II., who succeeded in 1547, "had all the faults of his father, with a weaker mind"; and as strength of mind was not one of the characteristic of Francis I., we may imagine how little firmness there was in the gloomy king who now reigned. Party spirit ruled at court. Henry II., with his ancient mistress Diana of Poitiers, was at the head of one party, that of the strict Catholics, and were supported by old Anne of Montmorency, most unlucky of soldiers, most fanatical of Catholics, and by the Guises, who chafed a good deal under the stern rule of the constable. This party had almost extinguished its antagonists; in the struggle of the mistresses, the pious and learned Anne of Etampes had to give place to imperious Diana. Catherine, the queen, was content to bide her time, watching with Italian coolness the game as it went on; of no account beside her rival, and yet quite sure to have her day, and ready to play parties against one another. Meanwhile, she brought to her royal husband ten sickly children, most of whom died young, and three wore the crown. Of the many bad things she did for France, that was perhaps along the worst.
On the accession of Henry II. the duchy of Brittany finally lost even nominal independence; he next got the hand of Mary queen of Scots, then but five years old, for the dauphin Francis; she was carried over to France, and being by birth half a Guise, by education and interests of her married life she became entirely French. It was a great triumph for Henry, for the protector Somerset had laid his plans to secure her for young Edward VI.; it was even more a triumph for the Guises, who saw opened out a broad and clear field for their ambition.
At first Henry II. showed no desire for war, and seemed to shrink from rivalry or collision with Charles V. He would not listen to Paul III., who, in his anxiety after the fall of the Protestant power in Germanys in 1547, urged him to resist the emperors triumphant advance; he seemed to show a dread of war, even among his neighbors. After he ha won his advantage over Edward VI., he escaped the war which seemed almost inevitable, recovered Boulogne from the English by a money-payment, and smoothed the way for peace between England and Scotland. He took much interest in the religious question, and treated the Calvinists with great severity; he was also occupied by troubles in the south and west of France. Meanwhile a new pope, Julius III., was the weak dependant of the emperor, and there seemed to be no head left for any movement against the universal domination of Charles V. His career from 1547 to 1552 was, to all appearance, a triumphal march of unbroken success. Yet Germany was far from acquiescence; the princes were still discontented and watchful; even Ferdinand of Austria, his brother, was offended by the emperors anxiety to secure everything, even the imperial crown, for his son Philip; Maurice of Saxony, that great problem of the age, was preparing for a second treachery, or, it may be, for a patriotic effort. These German malcontents now appealed to Henry for help; and at last Henry seemed inclined to come. He had lately made alliance with England, and in 1552 formed a league at Chambord with the German princes; the old connection with the Turk was also talked of. The Germans agreed to allow him to hold (as imperial vicar, not as king of France), the "three bishoprics: Metz, Verdun, and Toul; he also assumed a protectorate over the spiritual princes, those great bishops and electors of the Rhine, whose stake in the empire was so important. The general lines of French foreign politics are all here clearly marked; in this Henry II. is he forerunner of Henry IV. and of Louis XIV; the imperial politics of Napoleon start from much the same lines; the proclamations of Napoleon III. before the Franco-German war seemed like thin echoes of the same.
Early in 1552 Maurice of Saxony struck his great blow at his master in the Tyrol, destroying in an instant all the emperors plans for the suppression of Lutheran opinions, and the reunion of Germany in a Catholic empire; and while Charles V. fled for his life, Henry II. with a splendid army crossed the frontiers of Lorraine. Anne of Montmorency, whose opposition to the war had been overborne by the Guises, who warmly desired to see a French predominance in Lorraine, was sent forward to reduce Metz. And quickly got that important city into his hands; Toul and Verdun soon opened their gates, and were secured, in reality if not in name, to France. Eager to undertake a protectorate of the Rhine, Henry II. tried also to lay hands on Strasburg; the citizens, however, resisted, and he had to withdraw; the same fate befell his troops in an attempt on Spires. Still Metz and the line of the Vosges mountains formed a splendid acquisition for France. The French army, leaving strong garrisons in Lorraine, withdrew though Luxermburg and the northern frontier; its remaining exploits were few and mean, for the one gleam of good fortune enjoyed by Anne of Montmorency, who was unwise and arrogant, and a most inefficient commander, soon deserted him. Charles V., as soon as he could gather forces, laid siege to Metz, but, after nearly three months of late autumnal operations, was fain to break up and withdraw, baffled and with loss of half his army, across the Rhine. Though some success attended his arms on the northern frontier, it was of no permanent value; the loss of Metz, and the failure in the attempt to take it, proved to the worn-out emperor that the day of his power and opportunity was past. The conclusion of the diet of Augsburg in 1555 settled for half a century the struggle between Lutheran and Catholic, but settled it in a way not all to his mind; for it was the safeguard or princely interests against his plans for an imperial unity. Weary of the losing strife, yearning for ease, ordered by his physicians to withdraw from active life, Charles in the course of 1555 and 1556 resigned all his great lordship and titles, leaving Philip his son to succeed him in Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, and his brother Ferdinand of Austria to wear in his stead the imperial diadem. These great changes sundered a while the interests of Austria from those of Spain.
Henry endeavored to take advantage of the check in the fortunes of his antagonists; he sent Anne of Montmorency to support Gaspard Coligny, the admiral of France, in Picardy, and in harmony with Paul IV., instructed Francis, duke of Guise, to enter Italy to oppose the duke of Alva. As of old, the French arms at first carried all before them, and Guise deeming himself heir to the crown of Naples (for he was the eldest great-grandson of Rene II., titular king of Naples) pushed eagerly forward as far as the Abruzzi. There he was met and outgeneraled by Alva, who drove him back to Rome, whence he was now recalled by urgent summons to France; for the great disaster of St Quentin had laid Paris itself open to the assault of an enterprising enemy. With the departure of Guise from Italy the age of the Italian expeditions comes to an end. On the northern side of the realm things had gone just as badly. Philibert of Savoy, commanding for Philip with Spanish and English troops, marched into France as far as to the Somme, and laid siege to St Quentin, which was bravely defended by Admiral Coligny. Anne of Montmorency, coming up to relieve the place, managed his movements so clumsily that he was caught by Count Egmont and the Flemish horse, and with incredibly small loss to the conquerors, was utterly routed (1557). Montmorency himself and a crowd of nobles and soldiers were taken; the slaughter was great. Coligny made gallant and tenacious stand in the town itself, but at last was overwhelmed, and the place fell. Terrible as these mishaps were to France, Philip II. was not of a temper to push an advantage vigorously; and while his army lingered, Francis of Guise came swiftly back from Italy; and instead of wasting strength in a doubtful attack on the allies in Picardy, by a sudden stroke of genius he assaulted and took Calais (January 1558), and swept the English finally off the soil of France. This unexpected and brilliant blow cheered and solaced the afflicted country, while it finally secured the ascendancy of the house of Guise. The dukes brother, the cardinal of Lorraine, carried all before him in the kings councils; the dauphin, betrothed long before, was now married to Mary of Scots; a secret treaty bound the young queen to bring her kingdom over with her; it was thought that France with Scotland would be at least a match for England joined with Spain. In the same year 1558 the French advance along the coast, after they had taken Dunkirk and Nieuport, was finally checked by the brilliant genius of Count Egmont, who defeated them at Gravelines. All now began to wish for peace, especially Montmorency, weary of being a prisoner, and anxious to get back to court, that he might check the fortunes of the Guises; Philip desired it, that he might have free hand against heresy. And so at Cateau Cambresis a peace was made in April 1559, by which France retained the three bishoprics and Calais, surrendering Thionville, Montmedy, and one or two other frontier towns, while the recovered Ham and St Quentin; the house of Savoy was reinstated by Philip, as a reward to Philibert for his services, and formed a solid barrier for a time between France and Italy; cross marriages between Spain, France, and Savoy were arranged; and finally the treaty contained secret articles by which the Guises for France and Granvella for the Netherlands agreed to crush heresy with the strong hand. As a sequel to this peace, Henry II. held a great tournament at Paris, at which he was accidentally slain by a Scottish knight in the lists.
The Guises now shot up into unbounded power. The new king, Francis II., was devoted to his young wife, and she was entirely led by her uncles the Guises; so strong they seemed that Philip of Spain was alarmed lest Mary Steward should also win the English crown, and he allowed the accession of Queen Elizabeth, in consequence of his fears, to pass unchallenged. As yet, parties at court were not marked simply by their theological views; that would follow in time. on the Guise side the cardinal of Lorraine was the cleverest man, the true head, while Francis the duke was the arm; he showed leanings towards the Lutherans. On the other side the head was the dull and obstinate Anne of Montmorency, the constable an unwavering Catholic, supported by the three Coligny brothers, who all were or became Huguenots. The queen mother, Catherine, fluctuated uneasily between the parties, and though Catholic herself, or rather not a Protestant, did not hesitate to befriend the Huguenots, if the political arena seemed to need their gallant swords. Their noblest leader was Coligny the admiral; their recognized head was Antony king of Navarre, a man as foolish as fearless. He was heir presumptive to the throne after the Valois boys, and claimed ot have charge of the young king. Though the Guises had the lead at first, the Huguenots seemed, from their strong aristocratic connection , to have the fairer prospects before them.
Thirty years of desolate the civil strife are before us, and we must set it all down briefly and drily. The prelude to the troubles was played by the Huguenots, who in 1560, guided by La Renaudie, a Perigord gentleman, formed a plot to carry off the young king; for Francis II. had already treated them with considerable severity, and had dismissed from his councils both the princes of the blood royal and the Constable Motmorency. The plot failed miserably, and La Renaudie lost his life; it only secured more firmly the authority of the Guises. As a counterpoise to their influence, the queen-mother now conferred the vacant chancellorship on one of the wisest men France has ever seen, her Lord Bacon, Michel LHopital, a man of the utmost prudence and moderation, who, had, the times been better, might have won constitutional liberties for his country, and appeased her civil strife. As it was, he saved her from the Inquisition; his hand drew the edicts which aimed at enforcing toleration on France; he guided the assembly of notables which gathered at Fontainebleau, and induced them to attempt a compromiser which moderate Catholics and Calvinists might accept, and which might lessen the power of the Guises. This assembly was followed by a meeting of the States-General at Orleans, at which the prince of Conde and the king of Navarre were seized by the Guises on a charge of having had to do with La Renaudies plot. It would have gone hard with them had not the sickly king at this very time fallen ill and died (1560).
This was a grievous blow to the Guises; they had their hands on their rivals, and would have got rid of them in a few days; they had laid their plans to crush the south, and put down the Huguenots by martial law; the queen mother was powerless, the middle party behind her was as nothing. Now, as in a moment, all was shattered; Catherine de Medici rose at once to the command of affairs; the new king, Charles IX., was only ten years old, and her position as regent was assured. The Guises would gladly have ruled with her; but she had no fancy for that; she and Chancellor LHopital were not likely to ally themselves with all that was severe and repressive. Still, parties made a kind of armistice for a while; the queen-mother drew towards easy-tempered Antony of Navarre; the Guises retained much of their power; Conde was set free; the extremer measures proposed by the Huguenots, who wished the king of Navarre to seize the regency for himself, were not regarded with any favor. While the Guises had been omnipotent, the discontented parties excluded by them from power and office were held together by the bonds of a common adversity; the change of affairs loosened their friendship. They fell into three groups: - the princes of the blood, with the queen-mother; the constable Anne of Montmorency and his Catholic friends; and thirdly, the Huguenot nobles and cities of the south and west. The princes of the blood, through Antony of Navarre, had close connections with the Huguenots; and when the queen-mother had secured him, she doubtless deemed that she would at least be able to neutralize their influence on affairs. She therefore set herself to secure also the constable and his party, and created a kind of triumvirate (composed of herself, Antony of Navarre, and Anne of Montmorency), with which she hoped to rule the country,and to keep the Guises in check. Here was a splendid field for those intrigues in which she had her being; yet the queens ultimate aim was a good one, for she really desired the tranquility of France, and hoped to see Catholics and Huguenots dwelling like brethren side by side. It must be forgotten that the best part of her policy was inspired by the Chancellor LHopital.
Now it was that Mary Stewart, the queen-dowager, was compelled to leave France for Scotland; her departure clearly marks the fall of the Guises, and it also showed Philip of Spain that it was no longer necessary for him to refuse aid and counsel to the Guises; their claims were not longer formidable to him on the larger sphere of European politics; no longer could Mary Steward dream of wearing the triple crown of Scotland, France, and England.
The tolerant language of LHopital at the States-General of Orleans in 1561 satisfied neither side. The Huguenots were restless; the Bourbon princess tried to crush the Guises, in return for their own imprisonment the year before; the constable was offended by the encouragement shown to the Huguenots; it was plain that new changes impended. Montmorency began them by going over to the Guises; and the fatal triumvirate of Francis, duke of Guise, Montmorency, and St Andre, the marshal, was formed. We find the kind of Spain forthwith entering the field of French intrigues and politics, as the support and stay of this triumvirate. Parties take a simpler form at once, - one party of Catholics, and another of Huguenots, with the queen-mother and the moderates left powerless between them. These last, guided still by LHopital, once more convoked the States-General at Pontoise: the nobles and the third estate seemed to side completely with the queen and the moderates; a controversy between Huguenots and Jesuits at Poissy only added to the discontent of the Catholics, who were now joined by foolish Antony king of Navarre. The edict of January 1562 is the most remark able of the attempts made by the queen-mother to satisfy the Huguenots; but party-passion was already too strong for it to succeed; civil war had become inevitable. The recall of the duke of Guise from Lorraine by his party made an outbreak certain. The Guises themselves were not without Lutheran sympathies; their border-position between France and Germany, their literary tastes, and relations with German princes, made this natural enough. Still they were Catholics, and Lutheran sympathies were very different from Huguenot politics. The sudden outbreak at Vassy on the borders of Champagne, which marked the entry of the Guises into France proper, and the murder of Huguenots in the granary in which they were holding service, - a massacre condemned by Francis of Guise himself, - mark the opening of the civil wars (1st March 1562). The period may be divided into four parts: - (1) the wars before the establishment of the League (1562-1570); (2) the period of the St Bartholomew (1570-1573); (3) the struggle of the new Politque party against the leagues (1573-1589); (4) the efforts of Henry IV. to crush the League and reduce the country to peace (1589- 1598). The period can also be divided by that series of agreements, or peaces, which break it up into eight wars.
1.The war of 1562, on the skirts of which Philip of Spain interfered on the one side, and Queen Elizabeth with the Calvinistic German princes on the other, showed at once that the Huguenots were by far the weaker party. The English troops at Havre enabled them at first to command the lower Seine up to Rouen; but the other party, after a long siege which cost poor Antony of Navarre his life, took that place, and relieved Paris of anxiety. The Huguenots had also spread far and wide over the south and west, occupying Orleans; the bridge of Orleans was their point of junction between Poitou and Germany. While the strength of the Catholics lay to the east, in Picardy, and at Paris, the Huguenot powers was mostly concentrated in the south and west of France. Conde, who commanded at Orleans, supported by German allies, made an attempt on Paris, but finding the capital too strong for him, turned to the west, intending to join the English troops from Havre. Montmorency, however, caught him at Dreux; and in the battle that ensued the marshal of France, St Andre, perished; Conde was captured by the catholics, Montmorency by the Huguenots. Coligny, the admiral, drew off his defeated troops with great skill, and fell back to beyond the Loire; the duke of Guise remained as sole head of the Catholics. Pushing on his advantage, the duke immediately laid siege too Orleans, and there he fell by the hand of a Huguenot assassin. Both parties had suffered so much that the queen-mother though she might interpose with terms of peace; the edict of Amboise (March 1563) closed the war, allowing the Calvinists freedom of worship in the towns they held, and some other scanty privileges. A three years quiet followed, though all men suspected their neighbors, and the high Catholic party tried hard to make Catherine sacrifice LHopital and take sharp measures with the Huguenots. They on their side were restless and suspicious, and it was felt that another war could not be far off. Intrigues were incessant, all men thinking to make their profit out of the weakness of France. The struggle between Calvinists and Catholics in the Netherlands, roused much feeling, though Catherine refused to favor either party. She collected an army of her own; it was rumored that she intended to take the Huguenots by surprise, and annihilate them. in autumn 1567 their patience gave way, and they raised the standard of revolt, in harmony with the heroic Netherlanders. Conde and the Chatilons beleaguered Paris from the north, and fought the battle of St Denis, in which the old constable Anne of Montmorency was killed. The Huguenots, however, were defeated and forced to withdraw, Conde marching eastwards to join the German troops now coming up to his aid. no more serious fighting followed; the peace of Longjumeau (March 1568) closed the second war, leaving matters much as they were. The aristocratic resistance against the Catholic sovereign, against what is often called "the Catholic Reaction," had proved itself hollow; in Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in France; the Protestant cause seemed to fail; to was not until the religious question became mixed up with questions as to political rights and freedom, as in the Low Countries, that a new spirit of hope began to spring up.
The peace of Longjumeau gave no security to the Huguenot nobles; they left that the assassin might catch them any day. an attempt to seize Conde and Coligny failed, and served only to irritate their party; Cardinal Chatillon escaped to England; Jeanne of Navarre and her young son Henry took refuge at La Rochelle; LHopital was dismissed the court. The queen-mother seemed to have thrown off her cloak of moderation, and to be ready to relieve herself of the Huguenots by any means, in fair or foul. War accordingly could not fail to break out again before the end of the year. Conde had never been so strong; with his friends in England and the Low Countries, and the enthusiastic support of a great party of nobles and religious adherents at home, his hopes rose; he eve talked of deposing the Valois and reigning in their stead. He lost his life, however, early in 1569, at the battle of Jarnac. Coligny once more with difficutly, as at Dreux, saved the broken remnants of the defeated Huguenots. Condes death, regarded at the time by the Huguenots as an irreparable calamity, proved in the end to be no serious loss; for it made room for the true head of the party, Henry of Navarre. No sooner had Jeanne of Navarre heard of the mishap of Jarnac than she came into the Huguenot camp, and presented to the soldiers her young son Henry and the young prince of Conde, a mere child. Her gallant bearing and the true soldier-spirit of Coligny, who shone most brightly in adversity, restored their temper; they even won some small advantages. Before long, however, the duke of Anjou, the kings youngest brother, caught and punished them severely at Moncontour. Both parties thenceforward wore themselves out with desultory warfare. In August 1570 the peace of St Germain-en-Laye closed the third war, and ended the first period.
2.It was the most favorable peacer He Huguenots had won as yet; it secured them, beside previous rights, four strongholds. The Catholics were dissatisfied; they could not sympathize with the queen-mother in her alarm at the growing strength of Philip II., head of the Catholics in Europe; they dreaded the existence and growing influence of a party now beginning to receive a definite name, an honorable nickname, the Politiques. These were that large body of French gentlemen who loved the honor of their country rather than their religious party, and who, though Catholics, were yet moderate and tolerant. The day will come when they will assert themselves as the true patriot-party, and supporting Henry IV., will find out a solution for the vexed questions and the troubles of their times. On the other hand, the Huguenots were frightened by the peace, and regarded its favorable terms as baits and snares. They withdrew sullenly to La Rochelle; the friendly attitude of Charles XI. alarmed them still more: they were scarcely reassured by seeing him ally himself with the house of Austria, then not friendly with Spain. A pair of marriages now proposed by the court amazed them still more. It was suggested that the duke of Anjou should marry Queen Elizabeth of England, and Henry of Navarre Margaret of Valois, the kings sister. Charles IX. hoped thus to be rid of his brother whom he disliked, and to win powerful support against Spain, by the one match, and by the other to bring the civil wars to a close. The sketch of a far-reaching resistance to Philip II. was drawn out; so convinced of his good faith was the prudent and sagacious William of Orange, that on the strength of these plans he refused good terms now offered him by Spain. There seems no doubt that whatever the subtle Catherine may have thought and meant, Charles IX. was sincere. Catherine cared more for her favorite son Henry of Anjou than for the king, whom she despised; she took no pleasure in those schemes for helping the Netherlanders in their revolt, by which Charles hoped to occupy his Huguenot subjects, while he preserved peace at home. She seems all this while to have wished to see some half dozen Huguenot leaders assassinated; thereby the thought the party would be neutralized. She was far from pleased at the ascendancy which Coligny, from the moment the king saw him, exercised in the royal councils. The duke of Alencon, the remaining son of Catherine, the brother who did not come to the throne, was deeply interested in the plans for a war in the Netherlands; Anjou, who had withdrawn from the scheme of marriage with Queen Elizabeth, was at this moment a candidate for the throne of Poland; while negotiations respecting it were going on, Margaret of Valois was married to henry of Navarre, - the worst of wives to a husband none too good. Coligny, who had strongly opposed the candidature of Anjou for the throne of Poland, was set on by an assassin, employed by the queen-mother and her favorite son, and badly wounded; the Huguenots were in utmost alarm, filing the air with cries and menaces. Charles showed great concern for his friends recovery, and threatened vengeance on the assassins. What was his astonishment to learn that those assassins were his mother and brother! Catherine worked on his fears, and the plot for the great massacre was combined in an instant. The very next day after the kings consent was wrung from him, 24th August 1572, the massacre of St Bartholomews day took place. The murder of Coligny was completed; his son-in-law Teligny perished; all the chief Huguenots were slain; the slaughter spread to country towns; the church and the civil power were at one, and the victims, taken at unawares, could make no resistance. The two Bourbons, Henry and the prince of Conde, were spared; they bought their lives by a sudden conversion to Catholicism. The chief guilt of this great crime lies with Catherine de Medici; for though it is certain that she did not plan it long before assassination was a recognized part of her way of dealing with Huguenots; only she was too fine to do it in the coarse and wholesale way of the St Bartholomew. It is from her that the taste for murder in France chiefly sprang. The Guises may well share with her; they planned and executed the hasty act; they too had long dabbled in murder. The kings share in it was, like himself, weak and impulse; he was the last to come in, the first to repent. The evil deed was highly applauded as a master-stroke by pope and Spanish king. Yet is soon became clear that the crime was a blunder also. The effects of it, startling for the moment, enabled the middle party to take the lead. The duke of Alencon never approved of the massacre; the moderates throughout France were shocked and outraged; the Huguenots weakened for a while, were content to unite with the Politiques, and place themselves under their leading; Catherine lost her power of balancing between the parties, for they are now but two, - that of the League, and that of the rest of France. A short war followed, - a revolt of the southern cities rather than a war. They made tenacious and heroic resistance; a large part of the royal forces sympathized rather with them than with the League; and in July 1573, the edict of Boulogne granted them even more than they had been promised by the peace of St Germains.
3.We have reached the period of the "Wars of the League," as the four later civil wars are often called. The last of the four is alone of any real importance.
Just as the peace of La Rochelle was concluded, the duke of Anjou, having been elected king of Poland, left France; it was not long before troubles began again. The duke of Alencon was vexed by his mothers neglect; as heir presumptive to the crown he thought he deserved better treatment, and sought to give himself consideration by drawing towards the middle party; Catherine seemed to be intriguing for the ruin of that party; nothing was safe while she was moving. The king had never held up his head since the St Bartholomew; it was seen that he now was dying, and the queen-mother took the opportunity of laying hands on the middle party. She arrested Alencon, Montmorency, and Henry of Navarre, together with some lesser chiefs, in the midst of it all Charles IX. died (1574) in misery, leaving the ill-omened crown to Henry of Anjou, king of Poland, his next brother, his mothers favorite, he worst of a bad breed. At the same time the fifth civil war broke out, interesting chiefly because it was during its continuance that the famous League was actually formed.
Henry III., when he heard of his brothers death, was only too eager to slip away like a culprit from Poland, though he showed no alacrity in returning to France, and dallied with the pleasures of Italy for months. An attempt to draw him over to the side of the Politiques failed completely; he attached himself on the contrary to the Guises, and plunged into the grossest dissipation, while he posed himself before men as a good and zealous Catholic. The Politiques and Huguenots therefore made a compact in 1575, at Milhaud on the tarn, and chose the prince of conde as their head; Henry of Navarre escaped from Paris, threw off his forced Catholicism and joined them. Against them the strict Catholics seemed powerless; the queen-mother closed this war with the peace of Chastenoy (May 1576), with terms unusually favorable for both Politiques and Huguenots: - for the latter free worship throughout France, except at Paris; for the chiefs of the former great governments, - for Alencon a large central district, for Conde Picardy, for Henry of Navarre Guyenne.
To resign all this the high Catholic party framed the League they had long been meditating; it is said that the cardinal of Lorraine had sketched it years before, at the time of the later sitting of the council of Trent. Lesser compacts had already been made from time to time; now it was proposed to form one great league, towards which all should gravitate. The head of the League was Henry, duke of Guise, the second "Balafre," who had won that title in fighting against the German reiters the year before, when they entered France under Conde. He certainly hoped at this time to succeed to the throne of France, either by deposing the corrupt and feeble Henry III., "as Pippin dealt with Hilderik," or by seizing the throne, when the kings debaucheries should have brought him to the grave. The Catholics of the more advanced type, and specially the Jesuits, now in the first flush of credit and success, supported him warmly. The headquarters of the movement were in Picardy, its first object opposition to the establishment of Conde as governor of that province. The League was also very popular with the common folk, especially in the towns of the north. It soon found that Paris was its natural center; thence it spread swiftly across the whole of France; it was warmly supported by Philip of Spain. The States-General, convoked at Blois in 1576, could bring no rest to France; opinion was just as much divided there as in the country; and the year 1577 saw another petty war, counted as the sixth, which was closed by the peace of Bergerac, another ineffectual truce, which settled nothing. It was a peace made with the Politiques and Huguenots by the court; it is significant of the new state of affairs that the League openly refused to be bound by it, and continued a harassing, objectless warfare. The duke of Anjou (he had taken that title on his brother Henrys accession to the throne) in 1578 deserted the court party, towards which his mother had drawn him, and made friends with the Calvinists in the Netherlands. The southern provinces named him "Defender of their liberties"; they had hopes he might wed Elizabeth of England; they quite mistook their man. In 1579 "the Gallants War" broke out; the Leagues had it all their own way; but Henry III., not too friendly to them, and, urged by his brother Anjou, to whom had been offered sovereignty over the seven United Provinces in 1580, offered the insurgents easy terms, and the treaty of Fleix closed the seventh war. Anjou in the Netherlands could but show his weakness; nothing went well with him; and at last, having utterly wearied out his friends, he fled, after the failure of his attempt to secure Antwerp, into France. There he fell ill of consumption, and died in 1584.
This changed at once the complexion of the succession question. Hitherto, though no children seemed likely to be born to him, Henry III. was young and might live long, and his brother was there as his heir. Now, Henry III. was the last prince of the Valois, and Henry of Navarre in hereditary succession was heir presumptive to the throne, unless the Salic law were to be set aside. The fourth son of St Louis, Robert, count of Clermont, who married Beatrix, heiress of Bourbon, was the founder of the house of Bourbon. Of this family the two elder branches had died out; - John, who had been a central figure in the war of the Public Weal, in 1488; Peter, husband of Anne of France, in 1503; neither of them leaving heirs male. Of the younger branch Francis died in 1525, and the famous Constable Bourbon in 1527. This left as the only representatives of the family the counts of La Marche; of these the elder had died out in 1438, and the junior alone survived in the counts of Vendome. The head of this branch, Charles, was made duke of Vendome by Francis I. in 1515; he was father of Antony, duke of Vendome, who, by marrying the heroic Jeanne of Albret, became king of Navarre, and of Louis, who founded the house of Conde; lastly, Antony was the father of Henry IV. He was therefore a very distant cousin to Henry III.; the houses of Capet, of Alencon, of Orleans, of Angoleme, of Maine, and of Burgundy, as well as the elder Buurbons, had to fall extinct before Henry of Navarre could become heir to the crown. All this, however, had now happened; and the Huguenots greatly rejoiced in the prospect to a Calvinist king. The Politique party showed no ill-will towards him; both they and the court party declared that if he would become once more a Catholic they would rally to him; the Guises and the League were naturally all the more firmly set against him; and Henry of Navarre saw that he could not as yet safely endanger his influence with the Huguenots, while his conversion would not disarm the hostility of the League. They had before this put forward as heir to the throne Henrys uncle, the wretched old Cardinal Bourbon, who had all the faults and none of the good qualities of his brother Antony. Under cover of his name the duke of Guise hoped to secure the succession for himself; he also sold himself and his party to Philip of Spain, who was now in fullest expectation of a final triumph over his foes. He had assassinated William the Silent; any day Elizabeth or Henry of Navarre might be found murdered; the domination of Spain over Europe seemed almost secured. The pact of Joinville, signed between Philip, Guise, and Mayenne, gives us the measure of the aims of the high Catholic party. Paris warmly sided with them; the new development of the League, the "Sixteen of Paris," one representative for each of the districts of the capital, formed a vigorous organization and called for the kings deposition; they invited Henry, duke of Guise, to Paris. Soon after this Henry III. humbled himself, and singed the treaty of Nemours (1585) with the Leagues. He hereby became nominal head of the League, and its real slave.
The eight war, the "War of the Three Henries," that is, of Henry III. and Henry of Guise against Henry of Navarre, now broke out. The pope made his voice heard; Sixtus excommunicated the Borubons, Henry and Conde, and blessed the leaguers. For the first time there was some real life in one of these civil wars; for Henry of Navarre rose nobly to the level of his troubles. At first the balance of successes was somewhat in favor of the Leaguers; the political atmosphere grew even more threatening, and terrible things, like lightning-flashes, gleamed out now and again. Such, for example, was the execution of Mary Stewart, queen of Scots, in 1586. It was known that Philip II. was preparing to crush England. Elizabeth did what she could to support Henry of Navarre; he had the good fortune to win the battle of Coutras, in which the duke of Joyeuse, one of the favorites of Henry III., was defeated and killed. The duke of Guise, on the other hand, was too strong for the Germans, who had marched in triumphs to Paris, inspite of the orders and opposition of the king, who, finding himself powerless, withdrew to Chartres. Once more Henry III. was obliged to accept such terms as the Leaguers chose to impose; and with rage in his heart he signed the "Edict of Union" (1588), in which he named the duke of Guise lieutenant-general of the kingdom, and declared that no heretic could succeed to the throne. Unable to endure the humiliation, Henry III. that same winter assassinated the duke and the cardinal of Guide, and seized many leaders of the League, though he missed the duke of Mayenne. This scandalous murder of the "King of Paris," as the capital fondly called the duke, brought the wretched king no solace nor power. His mother did not live to see the end of her son; she died in this the darkest period of his career, and must have been aware that her cunning and her immoral life had brought nothing but misery to herself and all her race. The power of the League party seemed as great as ever; the duke of Mayenne entered Paris, and declared open war on Henry III., who, after some hesitation, threw himself into the hands of his cousin Henry of Navarre in the spring of 1589. The old Politque party now rallied to the king; the Huguenots were staunch for their old leader; things looked less dark for them since the destruction of the Spanish Armada in the previous summer. the Swiss, aroused by the threats of the duke of Savoy at Geneva, joined the Germans, who once more entered north-eastern France; the Leaguers were unable to make head either against them or against the armies of the two kings; they fell back on Paris, and the allies hemmed them in. The defence of the capital was but languid; the populace missed their idol, the duke of Guise, and the moderate party, never extinguished recovered strength. All looked as if the royalists would soon reduce the last stronghold of the League, when Henry III. was suddenly slain by the dagger of a fanatical half-witted priest. The king had only time to commend Henry of Navarre to his courtiers as his heir, and to exhort him to become a Catholic, before he closed his eyes, and ended the long roll of his vices and crimes. And thus in crime and shame the house of Valois went down. For a few years the throne remained practically vacant; the heroism of Henry of Navarre, the loss of strength in the Catholic powers, the want of a vigorous head to the League, - these things all sustained the Bourbon in his arduous struggle; the middle party grew in strength daily, and when once Henry had allowed himself to be converted, he became the national sovereign, the national favorite, and the high Catholics fell to the fatal position of an unpatriotic faction depending on the arm of the foreigner.
4.The civil wars were not over, for the heat of party raged as yet unslaked; the Politiques could not all at once adopt a Huguenot king, the League party had pledged itself to resist the heretic, and Henry at first had little more than the Huguenots at his back. There were also formidable claimants for the throne. Charles II., duke of Lorraine, who had married Claude, younger daughter of Henry II., and who was therefore-in-law to Henry IV., set up a vague claim; the king of Spain, Philip II., thought that the Salic law had prevailed long enough in France, and that his own wife, the elder daughter of Henry II., had the best claim to the throne; the Guises, though their head was gone, still hoping for the crown, proclaimed their sham-king the cardinal of Bourbon as Charles X., and intrigued behind the shadow of his name. The duke of Mayenne, their present chief, was the most formidable of Henrys opponents; his party called for a convocation of States-General, which should choose a king to succeed, or to replace, their feeble Charles X. During this struggle the high Catholic party, inspired by Jesuit advice, stood forward as the admirers of constitutional principles; they called on the nation to decide the question as to the succession; their Jesuit friends wrote books on the sovereignty of the people. They summoned up troops from very side; the duke of Lorraine sent his son to resist Henry and support his own claim; the king of Spain sent a body of men; the League-princes brought what force they could. Henry of Navarre at the same moment found himself weakened by the silent withdrawal from his camp of the army of Henry III.; the Politque nobles did not care at first to throw in their lot with the Huguenot chieftain; they offered to confer on Henry the post of commander-in-chief, and to reserve the question as to the succession; they let him know that they recognized his hereditary rights, and were hindered only by his heretical opinions; if he would but be converted, they were his. Henry temporized; his true strength, for the time, lay in his Huguenot followers, rugged and faithful fighting-men, whose belief was the motive-power of their allegiance and of their courage. If he joined the Politiques at their price, the price of declaring himself Catholic, the Huguenots would be offended if not alienated. So he neither absolutely refused nor said yes; and the chief Catholic nobles, in the main, stood aloof, watching the struggle between Huguenot and Leaguer, as it worked out its course.
Henry, thus weakened, abandoned the siege of Paris, and fell back; with the bulk of his forces he marched into Normandy, so as to be within reach of English succour; a considerable army went into Champagne, to be ready to join any Swiss or German help that might come. These were the great days of the life of the Henry of Navarre. After the rough training of his boyhood, when his noble mother was no more, and he had become entangled with the dissolute Valois court, he had taken willing share in their debaucheries, and seemed to better than the rest; after he has secured his throne, he relapsed again into a scandalous life, which dimmed the luster of his vigorous government. But now he was at his best; in the life of camps, the excitements of the battlefield, in the flashes of genius with which he fought successfully against heavy odds, Henry showed himself a hero, who strove for a great cause the cause of European freedom as well as for his own crown.
The duke of Mayenne followed the Huguenots down into the west, and found Henry awaiting him in a strong position at Arques, near Dieppe; here at bay the "Bearnais" inflicted a heavy blow on his assailants; Mayenne fell back into Picardy; the prince of Lorraine drew off altogether; and Henry marched back triumphantly to Paris, ravaged the suburbs, and then withdrew to Tours, where he was recognized as king by the parliament. His campaign of 1589 had been most successful; he had defeated the League in a great battle, thanks to his skillful use of his position at Arques, and the gallantry of his troops, which moiré than counterbalanced the great disparity in numbers. He had seen dissension break out among his enemies; even the pope, Sixtus V., had shown him some favor, and the Politique nobles were certainly not going against him. Early in 1590 Henry had secured Anjou, Maine, and Normandy, and in March defeated Mayenne in a great pitched battle at Ivry, not far from Freux. The Leageurs fell back in consternation to Paris. Henry reduced all the country round the capital, and sat down before it for a stubborn siege. The duke of Parma had at that time his hands full in the Low Countries; young prince Maurice was beginning to show his great abilities as a soldier, and had got possession of Breda; all, however, had to suspended by the Spaniards on that side, rather than let Henry of Navarre take Paris. Parma with great skill relieved the capital without striking a blow, and the campaign of 1590 ended in a failure for Henry. The success of Parma, however, made Frenchmen feel that Henrys was the national cause, and that the League flourished only by interference of the foreigner. Were the king of Navarre but a Catholic, he should be a king of France of whom they might all be proud. This feeling was strengthened by the death of the old Cardinal Bourbon, which re-opened at once the succession question, and compelled Philip of Spain to show his hand. He now claimed the throne for his daughter Elizabeth, as eldest daughter of the eldest daughter of Henry II. All the neighbors of France claimed something; Frenchmen felt that it was either Henry IV. or dismemberment. The "Bearnais" grew in mens minds to be the champion of the Salic law, of the hereditary principle of royalty against feudal weakness, of unity against dismemberment, of the nation against the foreigner.
The middle party, the Politiques of Europe, - the English, that is, and the Germans sent help to Henry, by means of which he was able to hold his own in the north-west and south-west throughout 1591. late in the year the violence of the Sixteen of Paris drew on them severe punishment from the duke of Mayenne; and consequently the duke ceased to be the recognized head of the League which now looked entirely to Philip II. and Parma, while Paris ceased to be its headquarters; and more moderate counsels having taken the place of its fierce fanaticism, the capital came under the authority of the lawyers and citizens, instead of the priesthood and the bloodthirsty mob. Henry meanwhile, who was closely beleaguering Rouen, was again outgeneraled by Parma, and had to raise the siege. Parma, following him westwards, was wounded at Caudebec; and though he carried his army triumphantly back to the Netherlands, his career was ended by this trifling wound. He did no more, and died in 1592.
In 1593, Mayenne having sold his own claims to Philip of Spain, the opposition to Henry looked more solid and dangerous than ever; he therefore thought the time was come for the great step which should rally to him all the moderate Catholics. After a decent period of negotiation and conferences, he declared himself convinced, and heard mass at St Denis. The conversion had immediate effect; it took the heart out of the opposition; city after city came in; the longing for peace was strong in every breast, and the conversion seemed to remove the last obstacle. The Huguenots, little as they liked it, could not oppose the step, and hoped to profit by their champions improved position. Their ablest man, Sully, had even advised Henry to make the plunge. In 1594 Paris opened her gates to Henry, who had been solemnly crowned, just before, at Chartres. He was welcomed with immense enthusiasm, and from that day onwards has ever been the favorite hero of the capital. By 1595 only one foe remained, - the Spanish court. The League was now completely broken up; the parliament of Paris gladly aided the king to expel the Jesuits from France. In November 1595 Henry declared war against Spain, for anything was better than the existing state of things, in which Philips hand secretly supported all opposition. The war in 1596 was far from being successful for Henry; he was comforted, however, by receiving at last the papal absolution, which swept away the last scruples of France.
By rewards and kindliness, - for Henry was always willing to give and had a pleasant word for all, - most of the reluctant nobles, headed by the duke of Mayenne himself, came in the course of 1596. Still the war pressed very heavily, and early in 1597 the capture of Amiens by the Spaniards alarmed Paris, and roused the king fresh energies. With help of Sully (who had not yet received the title by which he is known to history) Henry recovered Amiens, and checked the Spanish advance. It was noticed that while the old Leaguers came very heartily to the kings help, the Huguenots hung back in a discontented and suspicious spirit. After the fall of Amiens the war languished; the pope offered to mediate, and Henry had time to breathe. He felt that his old comrades the offended Huguenots had good cause for complaint; and in April 1598 he issued the famous Edict of Nantes, which secured their position for nearly a century. They got toleration for the opinions; might worship openly in all places, with the exception of a few towns in which the League had been strong; were qualified to hold office in financial posts and in the law; had a Protestant chamber in the parliaments. The number of Huguenots is said to have been at this time rather over a million in all, though little trust can be put in figures; they were strong in Burgundy, Poitou, Saintonge, Provence, Guyenne, and Dauphiny; in the rest of France there were but few of them.
Immediately after the publication of the Edict of Nantes the Treaty of Vervins was signed. Though Henry by it broke faith with Queen Elizabeth, he secured an honorable peace for his country, and undisputed kingship for himself. It was the last act of Philip II., the confession that his great schemes were unfulfilled, his policy a failure.
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