« AnteriorContinuar »
marriage and pretended war were mentioned as necessary preludes to the execution of the plot. Whatever reports might reach him from France, the Cardinal of Lorraine was desired to be in no alarm, and to rest assured that at no time were the King, Queen, and Duke of Anjou, better disposed than at present to carry into execution the resolutions of their secret council. These letters were shown to Coligny, but were disregarded by him as artifices of the Catholic party to frustrate his designs on Flanders, by inspiring him with distrust, and embroiling him with the King. * · In opposition to these proofs of a preconcerted plot, it is alleged on the other side, that when the Hugonots were invited to Paris, there was no intention of the massacre that followed ; and that they drew that calamity on themselves by the pertinacity with which they urged the King to a war with Spain, by the insidious attempts of the Admiral to prejudice Charles against his mother and brother, and by the indecent threats and insolent language of his friends after he was wounded, which left the Court no alternative but to choose between a massacre and a civil war.
Such are the attempts made in later times to excuse or palliate the massacre; but when it was still recent, a different story was told and circulated in every part of Europe. It was said in official letters from the Court, that the Admiral, and those who perished with him, had conspired to surprise the Louvre, and murder the King and all the Royal family, the Prince of Condé excepted ; that the plot was revealed to the Council, the evening before it was to have been carried into execution, by some repentant conspirators, struck with horror at the treasonable designs of their associates; that in the hurry and alarm excited by this information, orders were given to put the Admiral and his principal accomplices to death; and that the indiscriminate slaughter that followed, was the work of an infuriated mob, whose ancient hatred of the Hugonots was exasperated by this recent discovery of their perfidy. But this tale, which was not invented till two days after the St Bartholomew, carries improbability on the face of it. That some hundreds of gentlemen, with no force to support them but their own servants, should dream of such an enterprise in the heart of Paris, a city armed and devoted to their enemies, in the face of 1200 harquebile ziers, besides the King's ordinary guard, with their chief disabled by his wounds, and themselves dispersed in different quarters of the town, may be pronounced a charge utterly in
* Mem. de l'Etat. 1. 158.-Sully, 1. 13.
credible; and, if necessary, it is sufficiently refuted by the fact, that, instead of being armed and prepared for action, these pretended conspirators were mostly slaughtered in their beds.
If the Hugonots had intended to murder the King and Royal Family, what hindered them from executing their design when Charles, attended by his mother, his brothers, and some of his courtiers, visited the Admiral in the evening after the attempt on his life? The King was then unaccompanied by his guards, and more than sixty armed Hugonots were in the house. Why should they have postponed their enterprise, if they had such a design in contemplation ? What better opportunity could they expect? The King was in their hands without the means of resistance. They had been apprised of his coming, and had time for consultation. Why prefer an uncertain attempt on the Louvre to the immediate execution of their purpose ? They had not only the King and Royal family in their power, but their chief enemies among the Catholics. Tavannes, Montpensier, Nevers, de Retz and others, who, thirty-six hours later, were riding through the streets of Paris, calling out to the populace to leave no Hugonot alive, were at that moment at their mercy. What better proof can be given of their reliance on the King's protection, than their suffering such an opportunity to escape of avenging their leader, and exterminating their enemies ? The Queen-mother and the Duke of Anjou afterwards confessed to one another, that they had never passed such unpleasant moments as on that occasion, when surrounded and without defence in the midst of their enemies. But it was the consciousness of guilt that made them pale. They knew that, though the Guises were suspected of the crime, they were the persons who had employed the assassin against the Admiral, The Hugonots had no suspicion of the fact; and trusted to the justice of the King for reparation of the injury they had sustained.
But, to place in the clearest and most unexceptionable light the falsehood of this accusation, we shall briefly state the different and inconsistent accounts of the massacre put forth by authority from the Court.
After the attempt to murder the Admiral on the 22d of August, the King sent letters to all his governors and chief officers in France, and to his ambassadors in foreign courts, informing them of the event, expressing his regret at the crime, and promising bonne, brefve et rigoureuse justice de cet act perni'cieux.'*
* Mem. de l'Etat. 1. 202.-D’Aubigné, 539.-Letter to Schomberg, MSS. Bibl. du Roi, 8684. Bethune.
On the evening after the St Bartholomew, he sent other letters to the same persons, relating, and affecting to bewail the massacre that had taken place, but imputing it entirely to the private dissensions between the houses of Guise and Chatillon, rekindled, as he pretends, by the recent attempt on the Admiral's life, which his friends imputed to the Guises, and had threatened to avenge upon them, adding, falsely, that the guards he had placed for the protection of the Admiral had been forced, when, in fact, they were the persons employed in the murder; and insinuating, with equal disregard of truth, that during this sedition, as he calls it, he had been himself in danger within the Louvre. *
On the following day, he wrote to Schomberg, his agent with the Protestant Princes of Germany, that having been apprised by some of the Hugonots themselves of a conspiracy entered into by the Admiral and his friends to murder him, his mother and his brothers, he had been forced, pour se garantir d'un danger • qui lui étoit tout certain ; de lâcher la main a MM. de la • Maison de Guise, 'who had, in consequence, slain the Admiral and some other gentlemen of his party; since which, the populace, exasperated by the report of the conspiracy, and irritated to see the Royal Family constrained de se reserrer de• dans le chateau du Louvre avec leurs gardes, et de tenir les • portes fermées, pour s'assurer contre la force et violence qu'on
lui vouloit faire,' had been guilty of violent excesses, and, to his great regret, had killed all the chiefs of the Hugonots that were at Paris. +
At length, on the 26th of August, the King went in state to the Parliament of Paris, and owned himself the author of the massacre, declaring that what had taken place had been done by his express command, and at the same time accusing the Admiral and his adherents of a plot to murder all the Royal Family, the King of Navarre included. I Circulars, containing this new edition of the story, were distributed on the 28th.
Other letters had, in the mean time, been addressed to the Swiss Cantons, which, without naming the authors of the massacre, impute that crime, as it is justly called, to the persons who had some days before attempted the Admiral's life, and who, it is supposed, have had recourse to this violence, to escape the punishment due for their former misdeed. Great re
gret is expressed for this accident, as it is called; and those to whom the letter is addressed, are assured, that during the continuance of the sedition, which is said to be now happily appeased, the King had enough to do, with all his guards, to maintain himself within his palace of the Louvre. In conclusion, the Swiss are desired to believe, that this accident has arisen entirely out of a private quarrel, and not from any in-, tention to infringe the Edict of Pacification, which the King is determined on no account to violate. *
It appears, from a MS. in the Royal library at Paris, that another and a still different version of the story had been at one time in contemplation. The paper to which we allude, is entitled, Epistola Caroli IX. Galliæ regis, de Catilinaria Admiralii ac sociorum in regium sanguinem conspiratione, eoque scelere punito, scripta Galliæ regis manu, ad præcipuos quos• dam imperii principes, anno 1572. 't It professes to be a justification of the King from the calumnious reports circulated against him on account of the St Bartholomew. It makes him take God to witness, that so far from having settled the massacre before hand, he had made no preparations for it, or en. tertained thoughts of it till the day before it happened. It then gives the substance of a pretended harangue from the Admiral to his principal associates, in which he exhorts them, as they value their safety, to anticipate the designs of their enemies, by surprising the Louvre, putting to death or imprisoning the King and the Royal Family, and placing the King of Navarre on the throne of France; and it represents him, after fixing a day for the enterprise, and assigning to the different chiefs the parts they were to act, as exacting from them an oath that they would execute the design he had proposed. The King of Navarre, it is pretended, shocked at this traitorous and murderous plot, revealed it to his wife, and desired her to communicate the information to her niother. Charles, thus apprised of the conspiracy, sent for the King of Navarre and Prince of Condé, who confessed the whole, and solicited and obtained his forgiveness. It is probable that this letter was not sent to the German princes for whom it was written, as no mention is made of it by historians; and from the character of the King of Navarre, it may be conjectured, that the reason for suppressing it was the refusal of that prince to lend his name to so vile a calumny. In the subsequent editions of the story, he was in. cluded in the list of intended victims, and the Prince of Condé
* Mem. de l'Etat, 1. 230.
1 did he make why, in his cousin the forta
selected as the person for whom the crown of France was destined by the conspirators.
The contradictions and variations in these accounts, are of themselves sufficient to destroy all confidence in the allegations of the Court. If the Hugonots had conspired against the King, and if the detection of their plot had forced him to proceed to such extremities against them, why, in his letters of the 24th, did he make no allusion to the treason for which they had suffered ? Why, in his letters of the same date, did he lament the murder of his cousin the Admiral, and the excesses that followed, without saying a word of the guilt which had provoked that execution, or of the cria minal designs which it prevented ? Why did he impute to private vengeance, what he afterwards acknowledged to have been done by his own orders ? Why insinuate that his guards had made resistance, in defence of the Admiral, or assert that, during the tumult, he had been compelled, for his safety, to shut himself up within the Louvre ? The truth is, that, when the letters of the 24th were written, the Court intended to disavow the massacre, and to throw the whole blame of it on the House of Guise. But the Guises having refused to take on themselves the guilt of so exécrable an act, the King was forced to acknowledge the truth, and own it had been perpetrated by his orders. · It then becaine necessary to invent some excuse for a proceeding so sanguinary and perfidious; or, in the plain language of Tavannes, d'inventer une troisieme
mensonge;'* and none better occurred than a pretended plot of the Hugonots, revealed to the Council the day before it was to have been carried into execution.
When we look more narrowly into these letters, we find in every one of them the grossest mis-statements and perversions of truth. In that to Schomberg, for instance, of the 25th of August, we are told, that De Piles and Monneins, gentlemen attached to the King of Navarre, had secreted themselves in the Louvre on the night of the massacre, pour • aider à ceux qui devoient venir de dehors en plus grand • nombre, à forcer les portes du dit chateau, leur entreprise, ce
qui fut decouvert du grand matin, et les dits gentilshommes • dechassés du dit chateau.' The truth is, that the King of Navarre, by the particular desire of Charles, had assembled about his person some of his officers, pour se garder des des' seins du Duc de Guise, qu'il disoit (le Roi) être un mauvais
garçon;' and these gentlemen, instead of being merely turned out of the palace, were, next morning, butchered in cold
* Tavannes, 419.