1902 Encyclopedia > House of Guise

House of Guise
French ducal family involved in the French wars of religion in the 17th century




HOUSE OF GUISE. The House of Guise, which in the 16th century suddenly rose to an eminence unrivalled in Europe, takes title from the place noticed above. The countship of Guise, a fief under the French crown, was carried in 1333 by its holder, Marie of Blois, as her dower to Rodolf, duke of Lorraine. In 1508 René IL, the con-queror of Charles the Bold, divided his territories between his sons Antony, who became duke of Lorraine, and re-ceived the Germanic part, and Claude, who had the French fief, including Guise.

Claude of Lorraine thus became founder of a great and well-marked family, which occupied the place that had in the fifteenth century been held by the princes of the lilies. Generation after generation we have a duke and a cardinal side by side : they illustrate with singular fidelity the movements of the period from its Catholic side: the first duke and cardinal belonged to the Re-naissance ; the second pair threw themselves into the Catholic reaction, and led the resistance to the Refor-mation in France ; the third pair showed the decay of the religious movement, and its transit into political activities, being among the most ambitious statesmen of the later years of the century ; while the fourth and last pair feel the breath of Richelieu's absolutism. The family has throughout characteristic qualities,—bravery, ambition, a certain nobleness of sentiment, an imposing presence, and winning manners ; they stand between nobility and royalty,—always greater than the one, sometimes even overtopping the other. They seem never to forget that in their veins runs the blood of those who wore or claimed the crowns of Jerusalem and Naples, of Sicily and Hun-gary. Claude of Lorraine, born in 1496, succeeded in 1508 to a group of lordships, which by their names testify to the high fortunes of the house : besides Guise itself, he had Elbeuf, Aumale, Mayenne, Join ville, Harcourt, Longju-meau, Boves, Sable, Lambesc, and others. In addition to these, the family gathered to itself relations with Eu, Sully, Ventadour, Aiguillon, Mercosur, Joyeuse, and Nevers; a cardinal's hat, together with a group of splendid church dignities, also went with the house of Guise ; the arch-bishopric of Rheims, the bishopric of Metz, and several other bishoprics were family benefices, which enabled younger members to take an important share in the fortunes of the family. The shield of Claude expresses the pride of the race : we find there not only the Lorraine spread-eagle, the German bird, but also the quarterings of eight sovereign houses, those of the kings of Hungary, Naples, Jerusalem, and Aragon, and of the sovereign lords of Anjou, Guelderland, Flanders, and Bar. This young prince, who claimed so much, and did so much, who both exercised his rights as a foreign prince and took pre-cedence of the proudest in France, attached himself closely to Francis I. He was the most brilliant among the " young men " who displaced the older wisdom of the court of Louis XII. In 1513 he married Antoinette of Bourbon, the duke of Vendóme's daughter and great-aunt of Henry IV. ; in 1515 he accompanied Francis to Italy, and showed the mettle of his race at Marignano, where his brother Ferry was killed. From that time he sagaciously avoided the Italian expeditions, and stayed in France, winning popu-larity as protector of the realm. Thus in 1521 he was on the Spanish frontier, and helped to take Fuenterrabia ; in 1522 he opposed the English in the north, covering Paris; next, he defended Champagne from the Germans, clearing that rich district with equal glory and gain. In 1525 he avoided the expedition which ended in the disaster of Pavia, wherein another of his brothers, Francis, was slain ; and during the captivity of Francis I. at Madrid, he became virtual head of the regency under the queen, Louise of Savoy. In these dark days he crushed the rising of the peasants of Lorraine and Swabia, which threatened all the east of France. After the king's return, Claude was made (in 1527) duke of Guise, and peer, and governor of Champagne ; fresh territory and wealth were added to these honours. He had now reached his highest point ; henceforth it is clear that Francis I. regarded him with more jealousy than favour : his ambitious views as to the crown of the " good king René," and hopes of a revived Angevin dynasty, offended the French king, though they were only dreams of the past ; for the new spirit of monarchy and national life in the 16th century made any creation of lesser kingdoms on the borderlands of France and Germany impossible. Claude was a man of harsh and narrow character : cautious and persistent, he saw his way, and walked carefully along it all his days. In an age in which wealth was becoming the most effective of all means of power, he gathered riches in all ways, fair or foul; and though willing to spend for his own advancement, he won and deserved the character of a grasping and greedy prince. His brother John, first cardinal of Lorraine, seconded him in every way; he was as greedy as the duke, though much more open-handed. Accepting the new ideas of the time, he became a splendid Renaissance prelate, the friend of Erasmus and Rabelais, and even of Marot, while, at the same time, he only too faithfully reflected the worst vices of the movement. His church preferment was enormous; he shamelessly took all he could get. He and his brother have the distinction of giving a bad name to a whole country; for, thanks to their rapacity, the Lorrainers got that reputation for avarice and greediness which has un-justly clung to them even to our days. After 1527 the cleverness of the cardinal rather than the prudence of the duke advanced the family. Claude had twelve children, a splendid group of princely youths, who inherited the hand-some features and figure of their father, with even greater abilities and a more effective ambition. Francis, the eldest of those who grew up, was born in 1519, and became the second duke; Charles, born in 1524, was the second car-dinal of Lorraine, a man as intelligent and depraved as his uncle, and more vigorous and ambitious; Claude, the next, was created duke of Aumale; Louis, archbishop of Sens and cardinal of Guise; Ren6, marquis of Elbeuf. The daughters made brilliant matches: above all, the eldest, Marie, widow of the duke of Longueville, was married in 1538 to James V. of Scotland, and had a stormy career as regent to her daughter, Mary Stuart, queen of Scots.





In his later days Claude of Guise withdrew somewhat from public life; he stood aloof from the intrigues of the reign, while the cardinal attached himself to the " black court," the court of Diana of Poitiers, and promoted the interests of his nephews without stint. From this time all leanings towards either Renaissance or reform were at an end: henceforth the Guises became the heads of the opposition to the Huguenots, the strength and support of the new Jesuit movement, and, later, the leaders of the League. Claude of Guise died in 1550, leaving his digni-ties to his son Francis, " le grand Guise," who had already won great credit for bravery, and had shown that dashing contempt for all rules of military prudence which gives a captain undying popularity. The ghastly wound in the face, which his rashness won for him in 1545 at the hands of the English near Boulogne, got him the name of the first " Balafr6;" it was the outward symbol of his devotion to his country, and greatly raised his repute among the people. He had too the essential qualities of popularity, a majestic presence, and friendly manners in camp; he was chivalrous, liberal, humane, discerning. In 1552, as lieutenant-general in the three bishoprics, he withstood at the siege of Metz the last efforts of Charles V., and saved France from a terrible invasion. Thanks to the jealousy of the Montmorencies, he was sent in 1557 to conquer Naples, and would have added another to the long roll of reputa-tions ruined by Italy, had he not been suddenly recalled to protect his country after the disaster of St Quentin. With happy boldness, instead of watching the victorious allies, he suddenly attacked and took Calais, ending the English occupation of French soil, and raising his own renown to the highest point. Then, with his brother Charles, second cardinal of Lorraine, he wielded unlimited power through-out the reign of Francis II. Under Charles IX. his influ-ence abated, and he withdrew into Alsace. On his return thence in 1562, he was, however unwillingly, for he was not inhumane, the cause of the massacre of Vassy, which began the civil wars. In the first war he won the battle of Dreux (1562), and thence passing southward besieged -the Huguenots in Orleans. There, early in 1563, he was assassinated. If he was the noblest of the Guises, his brother Charles, second cardinal of Lorraine, was the ablest. In his earlier days the cardinal had shown some sympathy with the Reformers ; in later life he vigorously repressed them, and took a leading part in the council of Trent, where _he is said to have sketched the first lines of the famous League. Like all early friends of the Jesuits, he did his best for education, and patronized men of letters, while he coerced independence of thought and aimed at introducing the Inquisition. He died in 1574. His younger brother Louis, first cardinal of Guise, " le cardinal des bouteilles," was a grand pluralist, an easy-going personage, whose quiet life was in striking contrast to the feverish energy of his brothers. René, marquis of Elbeuf, another brother, is the stem of the great houses of Elbeuf, Harcourt, and Lislebonne.
Henry of Guise, eldest son of Duke Francis, born in 1550, was with his father at Orleans, and saw his death. "The boy therefore began his public life with an inextin-guishable hatred against Huguenots, eager to distinguish himself in civil war. With his brother Louis, second cardinal of Guise, he entered into all the intrigues of the succession question, and bitterly opposed Henry of Navarre. He was at Jarnac. and, in the victoryof Dormans (1575) over the German invaders, he too won the title of "le Balafré." He soon became the idol of Paris : maidy, handsome, and decided, he won all hearts, and was at once a popular hero. Fortune too favoured him by bringing him into contrast with the wretched Henry III., and with his portly cautious brother the duke of Mayenne. In 1576 he was recognized as head of the League, supported by Philip II. and the papacy. Ambitious of the crown of France, he worked subtly for it behind the screen of old Cardinal Bourbon's name. In the war of the three Henries (Henry III., Henry of Navarre, Henry of Guise) he again drove the Germans out of France ; and, when invited to the capital by the " Sixteen," ruled there unopposed, the "King of Paris." Henry III., whom he had compelled to sign the Edict of Union, found his supremacy intolerable ; and just before Christmas (1588), the duke and the cardinal his brother were assassinated by the royal orders.





His eldest son Charles, born in 1571, was arrested at the -time of the double murder, but escaped in 1591, and was welcomed with enthusiasm by the Paris mob, which hoped he would wed the infanta of Spain, and with the help of Philip II. secure for himself the throne of France. But the opposition of his uncle Mayenne proved fatal to the scheme. At the end of the struggle, both he and Mayenne submitted to Henry IV., helped him to reduce the nobles in Languedoc, and received the government of Provence. In Richelieu's days he sided with the queen mother, and was compelled to withdraw in 1631 to Italy, where he died in 1640. By his side also was a cardinal brother, the third of Guise, who ended by abandoning the ecclesiastical state, and marrying one of the mistresses of Henry IV.

Henry, fourth son of Charles, born in 1614, had already succeeded to that family benefice, the archbishopric of Rheims, when the death of his elder brother made him head of the family, and in 1640 fifth duke. He too went against the absolutism of the age, and joined the count of Soissons. Condemned to lose his head he fled to Brussels, and took command of the Austrian troops against France,— noble traitors to their country being then not uncommon. In 1643, however, after Richelieu's death, he returned to France ; but being chosen their chief by the Neapolitans, at the time of Masaniello's revolt, and dazzled by this opening for his ambition, he betook himself to Naples. There his failure was complete ; he was defeated and carried prisoner to Madrid. Delivered thence by the inter-cession of the Great Condé, he again attempted Naples, and failed again. After this he spent the rest of his romantic ill-ordered life at the French court, and died in 1664 leaving no issue; his sisters never married, and of all his brothers, one only, Louis, duke of Joyeuse, left a son, born in 1650, who became sixth duke of Guise. He died of small-pox in 1671, leaving an infant son, Francis Joseph, seventh duke, a sickly babe, with whom, four years later, the direct line of the house of Guise expired. The other branches had early died out, saving the family of the seventh son of Claude first duke, René, marquis of Elbeuf ; the marquis of Lambesc, who died in 1826, was the last descendant of this branch, and with him the family finally became extinct.

The authorities for the house of Guise are René de Bouillé, His-toire des Dues de Guise, 4 vols., 1853, the most complete account of the family ; Valincour, Vie de Francois de Lorraine, Due de Guise, 1664 ; Guillemin, Histoire du Cardinal de Lorraine ; the Bio-graphic Universale, art. "Guise;" and Forneron's Dues de Guise et leur epoque, 2 vols._

Genealogical Table of the House of Guise. René II. (who united the two branches of the house of Lorraine), duke of Lorraine, and Philippa of Guelders, had (besides two older boys who died in childhood, and four unmarried daughters)—

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