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9 The Road to Civil War (2): 1561-1562
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The Road to Civil War (2):

The Failure of Toleration

If religious policy was the most important single problem facing Catherine de Médicis in December 1560 when the wheel of fortune finally put the reins of government in her hands, entangling it were several others; any measure regarding one could not fail to affect the others. The prince de Condé's life could now be spared, but the sentence hanging over his head would have to be legally revoked by Parlement before he could be fully reinstated in all his offices and titles. The Estates General were demanding that the princes of the blood be entrusted with the regency, and so were the Protestants. Antoine de Bourbon's religious position was so ambiguous that neither party could count on him. He was supposedly the chief protector of the reformed (Calvin kept urging him to assert leadership and his wife, Jeanne d'Albret, announced her conversion on Christmas Day 1560) yet he continued to attend mass, alternately with the reformed culte , and the Catholic party used all its ingenuity to keep him in the fold. A year later it would succeed and the reformed would turn to Condé, because only a prince of the blood had the political stature required for their purposes.

As traditionalists, magistrates shared the preference for the princes of the blood but were disturbed by their heretical leanings, while Catherine, although she welcomed the pressures in behalf of the Bourbons in opposition to the Guise party, was obliged to move cautiously because of their growing association with the Protestants. Conflicts, fears, and uncertainties thus made impossible a clear-cut correlation of political with religious position, except for the two extremes, the Huguenots on the one hand and the ultras on the other. Catherine could not risk increasing Parlement's opposition to her religious policy because she needed its cooperation in the


rehabilitation of Condé, and she tried to use that leverage to minimize the risk of a head-on collision by modifying royal religious policy.

Hemmed in as she was, the queen nevertheless held the initiative, and she quickly took small steps to reduce the religious pressures, paving the way for greater ones to follow. Avoiding the leaders of both factions, she depended chiefly on the advice of cardinal de Tournon and Chancellor L'Hôpital. Royal orders issued in January and February 1561 modified the Edict of Romorantin, suspending prosecution against suspects, except those who had conspired against the king. Heretics who had been freed were allowed a period of time within which to leave the country. A letter from Catherine to procureur général Gilles Bourdin interprets the royal intentions clearly, by saying that the authorities should not be "too curious" about what went on in private houses. This would indicate a sort of unacknowledged toleration, analogous to that of Queen Elizabeth toward English Roman Catholics at the same period.[1] Parlement made its own modification, allowing appeal from ecclesiastical to lay judges, and the schism in the court was to some extent bridged by the readmission of Paul de Foix and the assignment of Du Ferrier as ambassador to Rome. Catherine's policy of reconciliation brought Condé into the Conseil Privé after his release, along with Coligny, and made Antoine lieutenant général of the kingdom, successfully circumventing a move by his Huguenot followers to "purge" the council and, in Lucien Romier's phrase, "send [Catherine] back to the nursery."[2]

The regent did not gain a breathing spell by these moves, however, because aggressive new thrusts from both sides overpowered "raison, douceur et moderation," as Catherine described the desirable method. During the Lenten season, dubbed by Parisians la carême huguenotte , some adherents of the reform mistook the amnesty of the new edicts as preparation for true toleration, an interpretation encouraged by the first visible steps toward conversion to Protestantism by Coligny and Odet, cardinal de Châtillon: the admiral had his son baptized according to the Reformed rite; the cardinal met with known Protestants and permitted them to hold services


in his diocese of Beauvais.[3] At the same time, several very large Huguenot assemblies in Paris fueled the invective of the Lenten preachers. One particularly inflammatory sermon specifically incited the populace to violence against the persons of the Châtillons.[4]

Les grands in the Catholic party were also alarmed by the religious activities of the royal family, which seemed similarly to presage convergence with the Huguenots. Jean de Monluc, bishop of Valence, was the Lenten preacher in the royal chapel; Charles IX's tutors were of the same liberal stripe, and subsequently the young king and his companions were rumored to have been heard singing the psalms of Marot and mocking the Mass.[5] On Easter Sunday the chief Catholics at court expressed their protest by absenting themselves from the royal chapel and attending mass with the palace servants. This was the origin of the Triumvirate, comprising Constable Montmorency, the duc de Guise, and Marshal Saint-André. Montmorency's separation from his Châtillon nephews created a new political configuration, with important long-range consequences in the following decades. Philip of Spain began openly voicing his threats to "exterminate heresy in France" in these same weeks of the Easter season. Catholic and Protestant parties had crystallized since the start of the new reign and faced each other across a widening abyss.[6]

The polarization of les grands was matched by the rising tempo of disorder in the streets of the capital. In mid-April Parlement deputed président de Thou and procureur général Bourdin to request the king to restore order.[7] Catherine was thus obliged to take further steps on religious policy. L'Hôpital's speech of April 18 introduced a new edict with an earnest plea


for its main point: the elimination of the epithets "papiste" and "huguenot," and of all reciprocal recrimination du faict de la religion .

The edict's second and third points were designed to reduce the incidence of intrusion into private houses on pretext of religion by guaranteeing the inviolability of one's person and property and limiting the right to search for illicit assemblies to authorized officials. The release of prisoners, proclaimed in January, was reaffirmed. In the broadest provision, heretics in exile were offered the option of returning to France and retaining the full possession of their property on condition of living as Catholics, or of selling their goods and going into permanent exile. Parlement's opposition was certain, and it was not lessened when the edict was sent directly to royal administrators (baillis and sénéschaux ) so as to bypass the sovereign courts.[8]

Parlement's remonstrances were drawn up in early May by three prominent representatives of the moderate-conservative mainstream: président René Baillet and conseillers Eustache Chambon and Bartholomé Faye. They merit our detailed analysis because they constitute a valuable revelation of parlementaire mentalité at this crucial juncture, the spring of 1561.[9]

Predictably, violation of the court's own prerogatives takes first place. Six paragraphs are devoted to spelling out—several times—that it was unconstitutional to send to administrators royal orders that had not been registered by Parlement. When this has been done in the past "such orders have not been regarded as laws" and any subsequent action such as appeals, based on the judgment of baillis or sénéschaux , "would be of doubtful legality" because "[they] had not been read, published, and registered [by Parlement] according to usage, [of which] the memory of man knoweth not the contrary (de tout temps gardée )."

Turning from form to substance, the remonstrances restate the opening clause of the edict: "By these presents we again forbid all our subjects of whatever station, to insult or provoke one another on the subject of religion (de s'entr'injurier n'y provoquer pour le faict de la religion ), and to do, procure, encourage or speak in such a way, in public or in private, as to invite blame or fault in regard to religion." The court's objection is boldly stated: "These words seem to approve diversity of religion in this kingdom, which has never been the case from King Clovis I to this day." Here the Parlement sees through the indirect, allusive language to the ultimate intent


and future impact of the edict. There is no mention of two religious establishments, merely of arguments and hostility concerning religion, but the words seem to approve of the existence of more than one religion.

The third point spells out the historical argument. While kings and even popes have been declared heretics in the course of the centuries, "by the grace of God no king of France has fallen into this misfortune, and when error surfaced in any part of the kingdom, as in the time of the Albigensians, it was resisted in such a way as to be totally exterminated and the kings of France have continued to hold the title 'Most Christian,' by which all Christendom honors them."

The next two points make the contrast between the historic situation and the new edict, "which provides an excuse to adopt new religions and to separate oneself from the unity of the old religion . . . something condemned (damnée et reprouvée ) by all the ancient laws . . . and which has been the cause of the subversion of kingdoms and empires." Thus, although the intention is laudable, that is, an end to sedition, it is to be feared that, on the contrary, "instead of putting out the fire greater ones would be lighted, because people would follow whatever religion they chose without fear of penalty." The only way to calm sedition is "for the king to declare that he will live and die in the faith in which he was baptized . . . in which his predecessors lived . . . and [to declare] that he understands that his subjects will make similar profession, on pain of punishment. "

In point six the document then addresses the specific epithets, papiste and huguenot . Parlement finds it strange that the latter word, "an invention unused (inusite ) in France," should be used in an official document and that "the word papiste should be used as a term of opprobrium, when it has always described those who live as Catholics, that is, according to the church of which the pope has always been held to be the Head and Vicar of God on earth, in spiritual matters. "

Moving on to the "police" aspects of point seven on the inviolability of private houses, Parlement finds that they contradict all the former edicts, "which forbid all assemblies or conventicles, by day or by night, in any places not approved by the diocesan authorities." The court believes the old rules should prevail and that its duty is to enforce them.

Point eight takes up the new options for heretics. The court foresees "scandals and other difficulties" if ex-religious who fled to Geneva and are now married return to France with spouses and children and make claims on property against their relatives. If they do not wish to live as Catholics (vivre catholiquement ), the new edict says they may take their goods with them or sell them and take the profit: yet according to the law, it is forbidden


to transport money out of France for the purpose of aiding the king's enemies. Moreover, the phrase vivre catholiquement itself creates difficulties: those who follow the new religion claim to do so, though this is denied by those who follow the old. The king should declare that he understands it as "those who obey the unique Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church in which [the king] intends to live, as did his predecessors." Point nine is a corollary: earlier edicts specified that prisoners for religion be released on condition of leaving the country within a certain period of time, but some are still resident in the kingdom. The court begs the king to enforce the earlier laws.

The tenth and final point constitutes a reprise of the song parlementaires never tired of singing:

Furthermore, to put an end to all seditions and troubles . . . may it please the king to bring about a reformation of the ministers [sic ] of the church, to [assure] the provision of benefices to worthy and capable persons, because, since publication of the Concordat and suspension of elections, the disorder and diminution of the ecclesiastical estate has steadily increased.

In January 1562 L'Hôpital would bring to Parlement a carefully worded edict, hammered out in long negotiations by which religious coexistence was to be explicitly established. Parlement's forced acceptance (de expresso mandato regis ) should not have come as a surprise, since the principle had been rejected a year in advance.

In the circumstances of the spring of 1561, however, Catherine and her chancellor either overlooked or pretended not to read the omens, and the tensions continued to mount. The Protestant flood tide, which would reach its height between October and Christmas, was the most conspicuous phenomenon of the year. In Paris, even as Parlement was responding to the Edict of April 19, public opinion was scandalized by Protestant services at the residence of Michel Gaillard, seigneur de Longjumeau, in the Pré-aux-Clercs. Gaillard was the son of one of the noblewomen arrested in l'affaire de la rue St-Jacques three and one-half years earlier, and he was also distantly related to the royal family. Others who attended regularly included the duc de Longueville, affianced to a daughter of the duc de Guise, Filippo Strozzi, a cousin of Catherine de Médicis, and Pierre Ruzé, a prominent lawyer well connected in parlementaire circles. It was natural for enemies of the Huguenots to interpret the April edict as favorable to heretics under the circumstances: on April 22, Philip's ambassador Perrenot de Chantonnay described the Catholic faction as "thrown into despair."[10]


Yet the authorities took actions that were not reassuring to the Huguenots. When students attacked Longjumeau's house, some of the Protestant seigneurs sprang to the defense, resulting in two days of riot and a number of casualties. On April 28, all chambers assembled, Parlement ordered Gail-lard to leave the Paris region on pain of being declared a rebel and forfeiting all his property. Linda Taber points out that the two members sent to notify him (Jean Burdelot and Étienne Charlet) figured among the suspects themselves a year later. One cannot help wondering if they were already under suspicion and assigned the task in order to embarrass them (and Gaillard) or, whether the episode was a factor in their attraction to the reform (these are both only speculations, of course).[11]

At the coronation of Charles IX on May 15, further gossip was stimulated by the presence of Élisabeth de Hauteville, whom the cardinal-bishop of Beauvais, Odet de Châtillon, called his wife, and Condé's release encouraged the Huguenots, who counted strongly on an opportunity to defend their faith in public. Catherine had decided to hold a "national council" without waiting for Trent to resume. A petition from deputies of all the reformed churches in France (June 11) went so far as to ask for temples to be granted where their services could be held openly. They believed that all the libelous accusations against them would disappear if royal officials witnessed the actuality of their culte .[12]

Under intense pressure from both sides, Catherine decided to hold at once the so-called pourparlers de Paris , a special assembly including all the grands seigneurs of the royal council, and leaders of the Parlement, between 120 and 140 persons in all. The purpose was explicitly stated by Chancellor L'Hôpital: to advise the king, not on religion, but on "means of pacifying troubles arising from divisions in religion." We are fortunate to have Étienne Pasquier's interpretation of this assembly, to which Catherine submitted the petition for temples.

Opinions were freely expressed on both sides . . . the [conservative] Catholics carried the day by three votes. The decision was that one must either adhere to the Roman church, like our ancestors, or leave the kingdom, with permission to sell one's goods. When the vote count was known there was considerable muttering, because the others claimed that in so important a


matter it was not reasonable that all France should be thrown into uproar by only three votes, and because such banishment would be impossible to carry out.

There were sharp exchanges between Coligny (advocating suspension of all persecution) and Guise (advocating the death penalty for heresy) and the differences of opinion were such that les choses se sont passées sans conclusion . Pasquier then pays tribute to Catherine's statesmanship, comparing it to Constantine's after the Council of Nicaea:

The action of the queen mother is greatly to be praised; she had the ballots brought to her and burned in her presence, not wishing to know who had voted for which solution, so that the liberty with which some had expressed themselves could not be prejudicial to them in another reign.[13]

Twenty-three sessions of confused deliberations (June 23-July 11) produced the Edict of July, a tissue of compromises. Concessions to the moderates caused the overall results to be generally regarded as favorable to the reformers and a setback for the ultras.[14] The most militant Protestants were disgruntled because all their meetings, public or private, were prohibited, and they placed their hopes in the approaching colloquy; but others were confident that the restrictions against their assemblies would not be enforced.

How little the Edict of July held back the rising tide of Calvinism is illustrated by the triumphal progress of Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre, from her domains in the Pyrenees to court. Chantonnay wrote to Philip in mid-August, "Everywhere the heretics await her coming as if she were the Messiah, because they are certain that she will perform miracles in their behalf," and Throckmorton, commenting on the outbreaks of unrest in her wake, wrote to Cecil, after she had passed through the Orléanais, "At the convent of Ste. Madeleine, twenty-five religious ladies, the fairest of sixty, threw aside their habits and scaled the walls . . . such was their abhorrence


of the superstitions of the cloister, or rather, so much did they prefer profane company."[15]

Parlement had registered the Edict of July provisionally, reserving the right to remonstrate later, but a few days afterward the court stubbornly refused to be pressured into registering the Ordinances of Orléans, embodying the conclusions of the Estates General of the past winter. In addition to the constitutional grounds—challenging the crown's argument that they did not need to scrutinize and deliberate since Parlement was a subordinate part of the Estates General—they refused on procedural grounds. The ordinances had been sent just before the summer vacation and the time left was inadequate for serious consideration. Parlement also objected to the fact that the assembly of bishops was simultaneously deliberating on the question of church reform, which was one topic of the ordinances. Parlement contended that it was indécente for two assemblies to debate the same issue at the same time. A consequence was that at the opening of the new parlementaire season in November Chancellor L'Hôpital reproved the court for these actions as illegal usurpations of legislative power. He elaborated in some detail the "proper place" of Parlement, as the crown saw it. These constitutional issues (mentioned in chapter 2, elaborated in chapter 5) added to the tension between the crown and the court as the confrontation over religious policy entered its final phase.[16]

The "national council," in which Protestant ministers disputed with Catholic prelates in the presence of the king and leaders of the court, took place in Poissy in September 1561. Parlementaires had no occasion to address this event officially, but we are not in doubt about their attitude, expressed in the remonstrances of the past April and again in those of February and March 1562 against the Edict of January. Although a failure in terms of the stated objectives, the Colloquy of Poissy acknowledged by its mere existence that there were in fact two religions, or, more accurately, two different Christian sects, in France and this was an affront to the tradition of un roi, une foi that could not be accepted or overlooked. The intervention of non-French Counter-Reformation leaders only made parlementaires more frustrated and uncomfortable; before long they would conclude that the Roman medicine was worse than the Genevan disease.[17]


The Decisive Struggle

It is not surprising that the hardiesse protestante became ever more conspicuous in the weeks following the Colloquy of Poissy. Pasquier describes one of its sensational manifestations at court in a letter to his friend Christophe de Fonsomme. It was the marriage of a son of the Rohan family to a daughter of the Barbançon family, under the sponsorship of Jeanne d'Albret. The ceremony, à la mode de Genève , was performed by Theodore de Bèze himself. Attention was naturally drawn to nuptials in such prominent families; the Rohans held the highest position in the Breton nobility and the bride was the niece of Madame d'Étampes, formerly maîtresse-en-tête of François I. All the ranking Protestant nobles were in attendance, and there was no censure of any kind by the royal authorities, as Throckmorton reported to Queen Elizabeth.[18]

With Huguenot nobles enjoying such favor while violating the edicts against Protestant assemblies, Catherine's government could hardly apply the letter of the law to their humbler coreligionists in the city. These were now meeting just outside the city limits, near the Porte St-Antoine and near the Porte St-Marceau, next to the church of St-Médard. Curiosity-seekers and enemies of the reformed helped to swell the crowds beyond anything that had been seen before. "Il serait incroyable de dire quelle affluence se trouve à ces nouvelles dévotions," remarked Pasquier. Bèze estimated that six thousand attended a service he conducted in mid-December, and the Spanish ambassador, to whom it was very bad news, concurred.[19]

It would be easy to draw the wrong conclusion about the religious climate of Paris from these episodes, as indeed some contemporaries did. In fact, Protestants were a small minority; the fear and apprehension they aroused was way out of proportion to their numbers. The resulting tensions exceeded even those of the Advent season of 1559, when Minard was assassinated and Du Bourg executed. Ordinances forbidding possession of firearms had not reduced them, as Protestants feared for their safety and Catholics for their property. The royal governor (a Bourbon prince, La Roche-sur-Yon), no doubt on orders from Catherine, turned a deaf ear to pleas, including those of the Parlement, to end the prêches , widely perceived as the cause of the mounting violence. In her anxiety to keep the peace, Catherine permitted the municipal police to escort Protestants coming and


going to services avec main forte pour empêcher les troubles , a decision that would boomerang fatally.[20]

Reference has repeatedly been made to the role of inflammatory preaching in Parisian pulpits. In the 1561 Advent season a young Minim friar named Jean de Han had the reputation of being le plus hardy precheur qui fust en France . His particular target was the Huguenot influence at court, especially the liberal tutors of Charles IX, on whom he blamed the present evils, predicting worse to come. He had a tremendous following so there was a general outcry when he was arrested by royal authorities on December 10. Under pressure from numerous influential Parisians he was released three days later—a victory for the ultra-Catholics and a defeat for the queen's policy, and for law and order as well. An episode known as the tumult of St-Médard might have been just one more in the endless series of riots had it not been for the fever pitch of religious antagonism caused by the discrepancies between official royal policy and the current practice of royal officials, with the police protecting the lawbreakers, as Linda Taber points out in her illuminating analysis of these events.[21]

On December 26 there was a clash between Protestants attending service at "the house of the Patriarch" and Catholics in the church of St-Médard next door. Opinions differ as to which group first resorted to the violence that resulted in two deaths and many wounded, but it is clear that the arresting officers imputed the responsibility to the Catholics, who were led off in chains, under armed guard. One of the officers was Lieutenant Criminel Desjardins, whom the crown had kept in office over parlementaire objections (already noted, in September 1560) qu'il lust convaincu Luthérien . Canon Brulart, spokesman for the Parisian in the street, describes the populace as fort esmeu that the authorities should perpetrate such an injustice—he had no doubt that the Protestants were the real disturbers of the peace. The politique historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou, in one of his admirably low-key judgments, later wrote, "The spectacle aroused the indignation even of those who were least unsympathetic to the new doctrines." The next day the gens du roi and the Bureau de Ville complained, and Desjardins and the other officers were arrested, while Catherine replaced La Roche-sur-Yon with François de Montmorency as governor of Paris. Unlike his Châtillon nephews, the constable's sons did not embrace


the reform; the Montmorencys were Catholic leaders of a group of (chiefly) nobles unaligned with either religious faction, often considered the nucleus of an emerging "politique party," discussed in chapter 10.[22]

Parlement conducted its own investigation of the episode concurrently with its resistance to the new Edict of Toleration in the opening weeks of the new year. Two conseillers, each well known as an activist in his own faction, were appointed to take the testimony of witnesses, "chacun de leur côté," in de Thou's words: Louis Gayant, of the Chambre Ardente and Antoine Fumée of the June 1559 suspects. (They were later replaced by others, first by two virtual unknowns and eventually by two mainstream representatives of high repute.)

Protestant and politique historians are unanimous in the opinion that collusion of the authorities with the Catholic ultras ruled out the possibility of a fair trial, although proof is lacking. In any case, the authorities probably felt it expedient to appease public hostility (by a sacrifice). The unlucky victims were Nez d'Argent (hanged on May 23) and Jean de Gabaston, chevalier du guet , the commander of the guard that had led off the parishioners of St-Médard "in chains, as if they were criminals condemned to the galleys." Both were eventually beheaded by arrêt of Parlement in 1562.[23] Desjardins escaped punishment, almost certainly thanks to the influence of Catherine de Médicis, after a complicated trial in which he lodged récusations against all the présidents, a majority of the conseillers, and even the gens du roi . Avocat du roi Du Mesnil, in refuting Desjardins's claims, made a point significant for the future of French religious policy. If Desjardins's récusations had been allowed, he said, there would have to be a new Parlement to judge those of the new [religious] opinion, as well as new laws.[24]


The Protestant community of Paris owed its prominence in the public eye almost equally to proximity to the royal court and regular contacts with the noble party leaders resident there, and to the disorders, "scandals," and outrages caused by the continuous attacks of Parisian Catholic extremists. Conspicuous as it was, the capital was a relatively small part of the problem faced by the royal government. Some regions of France were honeycombed by heresy and there were instances of whole towns being taken over. Increasingly, lower-rank officials, local and national, tended to ignore the laws against heresy, even to challenge them openly. The reasons for this are complex and difficult to disentangle. In addition to the growing appeal of the reform there was also the opportunity to assert local and regional autonomy against a weakened central government. (In the domains of the queen of Navarre where the laws, the sovereign, and the highest echelons of the government were strongly Calvinist, disobedience under the banner of Catholicism was widespread.) The nature of the Protestant problem, in terms of law and order, had changed drastically in recent months. Small isolated groups, clandestine and vulnerable, had been replaced by politico-military Calvinist enclaves, whose disciplined forces were strong enough to defy royal administrators, sometimes to the point of armed rebellion.

The numbers of lower-level royal officers and robins drawn to the reform are striking, far greater than the proportion of Protestants in the general population, and the same is true of municipal officers. In the ressorts of the parlements of Bordeaux and Toulouse, Protestant robins accounted for between 7 and 8 percent, according to careful quantitative studies summarized by Janine Garrisson-Estèbe. She explains the well known reciprocal antagonism between the capitouls of the city and the Parlement in Toulouse more completely than earlier scholars. The aggressive actions of the former—voting to establish the reform, writing to Geneva for pastors, for example—made the devoutly Catholic parlementaires feel that they were obliged to "make the city a fortress, in a region that had become three-quarters Huguenot," a justification also for the reputation of the Toulouse court as the most severe on heresy in France. Reformed lower-level practitioners of the law in the Midi represent an even greater proportion—10 percent: "[the reform] was a magnet pour tout un petit monde de clercs, basochiens ,


procureurs, greffiers " as well as for sergeants and officers in the municipal militia.[25]

The most important Catholic military commander in the Midi, Blaise de Monluc, was struck by this phenomenon and his Commentaires provide one of its major sources. His editor notes that this sympathy of the gens de robe for the reform was displayed "by total inertia with regard to the violators of the law, organizers of disorder, and image-breakers . . . who assembled under the mantle of religion, especially in the small towns, and committed excesses that worried the chiefs of the reform." For the most part these persons were educated, and prosperous above the average, but left out of the power structure; if it was a "class struggle" the stakes were political and professional rather than economic.[26]

In addition to refusing to prosecute heretics, the reformed robins took the lead in violating the law, offering their own houses for illicit assemblies, attending prêches in a body (Castres), turning over Catholic churches to the Calvinists (Nîmes), providing armed protection to Protestants (Agen). In Montpellier the reformer Pierre Viret was escorted to the pulpit by the First Consul wearing his red robes; in Pamiers (as early as 1556) the municipal officers refused to admit the Society of Jesus "because there are already too many religious, and they will dominate the town if we permit this importunate and annoying anthill to increase" (fourmillière importune et fascheuse ).[27] Where the Parisian ultras opposed royal policy as "soft" on heresy, many provincials found it too harsh.

Catherine de Médicis was aware that each successive edict had provoked hostility in two radically different groups of Frenchmen, and she declared her intentions to formulate a new one—a compromise that would conciliate both parties—as early as November 1561. If a document could be so drawn that both sides would be willing to accept it as a matter of civil administrative policy (pour adviser la police pour faire cesser les troubles procédant de la religion ) pending resolution of the religious issue by the ecclesiastical authorities, perhaps further escalation of conflict could be avoided. It had at least to be tried, unless one was resigned to civil war.

To advise her in the preparation of the new edict, the queen convoked another special assembly, at St-Germain. It met during the first two weeks of January 1562, in the aftermath of the tumult of St-Médard. Opponents


were convinced that she stacked the membership so as to obtain a favorable outcome, as soon as possible. Members of the Conseil Privé and of the Order of St. Michael were naturally included, as well as two judges from each parlement. Paris was represented by président de Thou and Guillaume Viole, the eldest clerical conseiller. Neither the Guises nor the constable attended; Marshal Saint-André was the only ultra of the court Catholic party, cardinals Charles de Bourbon and Tournon being traditionalists by comparison, as was Marshal Montmorency.[28]

By contrast with earlier assemblies, this time the chancellor faced the religious division head on and took pains to emphasize the distinction between the religious issue as such and the maintenance of peace.

Il ne s'agit pas d'établir la foi, mais de règler l'État . One could be a citizen without being a Christian [sic ], and one did not cease to be the king's subject by separating from the church. We can live in peace with those who do not observe the same ceremonies . . . and apply what is said about the defects of wives . . . they must either be corrected or tolerated.

In addition, the chancellor pointed out, pragmatically, that since the Edict of July had not succeeded, it was necessary to have a new one, for laws should be fitted to circumstances "as shoes to feet."[29]

Upon first reading the text of the Edict of January, we might find it hard to believe that through all the succeeding decades of the century the constant cry of the French Huguenots would be "Give us the Edict of January!" because most of its provisions were directed against the reformed: they were obliged to restore all church property, from buildings to relics; forbidden to interfere with any activities of the ecclesiastical authorities (such as officiating on saints' days, collecting tithes); forbidden to build churches anywhere or to hold assemblies either by day or by night inside the limits of any town; forbidden to harbor criminals or to raise money or troops. Iconoclasm and sedition would be punished by the death penalty, as would a second offense of printing or distributing prohibited books. To balance these negatives there were some concessions: services inside private houses, for the household only, could be held inside town limits; public assemblies, by day, would be tolerated outside them (provided that the local seigneur gave his permission and that nothing contrary to scripture or to the Nicene Creed was said); royal officers might attend these assemblies and indeed were


almost obliged to do so, because their permission was required for consistories to be held and because their presence was safeguard against harassment of the participants. Catholics as well as Protestants were forbidden to hold armed assemblies and priests were forbidden to incite violence in their sermons—a belated recognition of the pulpits' role in civil conflict. That this edict should be acclaimed by the Protestants shows how precious was mere recognition of their existence and official permission to hold services, no matter how hedged about with restrictions.[30]

The opposition of the Parlement was inevitable. Such recognition and concessions were exactly what the court found unacceptable. The moderate leaders who had participated in the discussions at St-Germain undertook, without much enthusiasm, to pilot the edict through the deliberations of the court. Chances for parlementaire support were always slight (as were those of success in the ultimate objective, the avoidance of civil war) but a major turn in the power struggle of les grands just as the court was being pressured to register the edict, virtually eliminated them. This was the "capture" of Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre and first prince of the blood, by the ultra leaders. They had worked hard for this victory, as we know from the letters of the Spanish ambassador to his king. Antoine's religious ondoyance —his shiftiness and resulting unreliability—had withstood every argument; the capitulation was brought about by Spanish exploitation of his well-known vanity and obsessive desire for a kingdom of his own. The "king of Navarre" was only "the consort of the sovereign" in the eyes of Jeanne's Béarnais subjects, and since her conversion the marriage had been deteriorating. In the first week of January, Philip II sent a special envoy to Antoine with the message that he would provide him with another kingdom after he had procured the abolition of Calvinist services, even in the private quarters of the Huguenot nobles, expulsion of all ministers from France; restoration of all church property; and in addition, repudiation of his wife and the transfer of Henri de Navarre to his father's custody and to orthodox Catholic tutors. Antoine took the bait and began furiously to carry out his side of the bargain. "The King of Navarre was never so earnest on the Protestant side as now zealous on the other," Throckmorton wrote to Cecil. Catherine's fragile balance of the factions was destroyed. "After the


king's volte-face the superiority of the Catholic faction was overwhelming," Romier concludes.[31]

Even so, the ultras did not triumph easily. The edict was delivered to the court on January 23 but not registered until March 6. Long-standing bones of contention between the crown and the court provided the latter with some leverage for resistance: their wages had been in arrears for months, delaying compliance with the edict might speed up settlement. Also, the credentials of Hippolyte d'Este, cardinal of Ferrara, as papal legate were awaiting court action. Since he was an important ally of the ultras, the moderates were holding back and capitalizing on the basic Gallican conviction that was the strongest bond between them and that would eventually reunite the court. Meanwhile, the St-Médard investigation was dragging along and was a source of continuing embarrassment.

On Saturday, January 24, the edict was read in Parlement in the presence of Marshal Montmorency and the king of Navarre, who transmitted a royal command that it be registered immediately sans y user de restrictions, limitations, ou remonstrances . The court did not dignify this bluff by calling it, and it is doubtful that anybody really expected it to succeed. Members of the court, including (ultra) premier président Le Maistre and (moderate) Christophe de Harlay, demanded copies so that they might give it serious consideration. Over the weekend, Marshal Montmorency had some printed and by Monday they were in the hands of several parlementaires (we know of Dormans, Longueil, and Le Maistre). The court was indignant that this should be done prior to deliberation and without its authorization, and also that the phrase avec privilège du roi was included, which had not been authorized. Conseillers Jacquelot and Eustache Chambon, accompanied by two ushers, were sent to the marshal to demand that the entire output be handed over. The sources conflict as to the number of copies made, the marshal claiming there were only twelve, for specific important persons, others saying there were twelve hundred . The latter number sounds high, but the supply was sufficient for copies to circulate in the other parlements before action by the Parlement of Paris, whose displeasure is reflected in amended remonstrances to the edict itself in late February.[32]

Prestigious royal emissaries were sent from St-Germain to the Palais de Justice nearly every day to keep up the pressure. On January 30, the court expressed its irritation to one of them, Tristan de Rostaing, sieur de Thieux,


saying that it was impossible to hurry any more because the decision would be made by vote, and every member had to be free to change his mind after hearing the opinions of others. "Your court cannot do its duty without hearing all the opinions." It seems likely that both moderates and ultras hoped to benefit from delay.[33]

On February 7, that is, two weeks after receiving it, the court declared for the first time that it could not, en conscience , verify, publish, and register the edict but would send remonstrances, deputing de Thou and Guillaume Viole to explain their position.[34]

The remonstrances were drawn up on February 12 and signed by premier président Le Maistre and Louis Gayant, who had the greatest experience of any conseiller in dealing with heresy. Parlement took the offensive on the identical grounds as had the chancellor—law and order, but from its own point of view: the spread of heresy, which was responsible for the disorders, was a direct result of royal policy since the start of the new reign (that is, Catherine's policy of de facto toleration) allowing Protestant assemblies, contrary to the law. Disorders would cease if Protestant pastors were exiled. The argument that leniency was required for the peace of the city was ridiculous since there were only two hundred Protestant households out of a total of thirteen thousand. Most important, the prohibition of appeals to Parlement from lower courts was a denial of the king's justice, and this was particularly dangerous because many lesser officials were themselves heretics and their failure to execute the laws was one of the chief causes of the troubles.[35]

Two clays later in St-Germain, the parlementaire representatives were severely reprimanded. The king said to de Thou, "Nous avons grande occasion de nous malcontenter de vous," and L'Hôpital said that the court's remonstrances did not help the situation and showed that its members did not understand it as did the queen and her council. When the magistrates asked for clarification of the clause about the attendance of royal officers at Protestant services, a loophole opened up for acceptance of the edict by the moderates of the court: the crown's intention was that officers of the police only , and only to maintain order, would attend, not officers of the sovereign courts. When de Thou reported this to Parlement on February 16, he said that this declaration, together with the king's stated intention to live and die in the religion of his ancestors and his understanding that the royal


judiciary would do likewise, had brought the court's deputies to the conclusion that Parlement "would not find it difficult to proceed to publication of the edict, which was, after all, only provisional."[36] This opinion was seconded by René Baillet and Christophe de Harlay, who had also been at St-Germain, but the moderates as a group could still not carry the court, which voted down the edict for the second time on February 18: "Ladicte court . . . ne peult et ne doit pas en conscience procéder à la vérification."[37]

Several days of confusion followed. When Catherine was in Paris on February 20, accompanied by the queen of Navarre,[38] she sent for Guillaume Viole and told him she had heard that some members of the court had drawn up preliminary suggestions (ouvertures ) for calming the disorders and she wished the court to hear them, pour appaiser les séditions . Both Le Maistre and Saint-André (next in line for the chair) were absent, alleging illness (thought by some contemporaries to be "diplomatic") and Saint-André with a "monstrous nosebleed," so the session requested did not take place until February 23. It was decided that only those who had taken part in the February 18 session (the second rejection) would be included—despite Catherine's understandable wish for a full complement. Linda Taber's detailed analysis of the eleven-member commission chosen to prepare the ouvertures points to the significant correlation of those in attendance on February 23 with those in attendance on June 9, when the court made the "profession of faith" which was the heart of the ultra program. Sixty-nine members were present, noticeably fewer than for recent sessions. "Nearly three-fourths (twenty-one out of twenty-nine) of those who would refuse [the oath] were also absent on the previous 23 February when the court was preparing its counter proposals, striking evidence that, for all practical purposes, the conservatives already controlled the court and that . . . the ouvertures would represent their program and not that of the court as a whole." This conclusion is undoubtedly correct, although the designation of all eleven commissioners as "conservatives" without further differentiation, blurs distinctions necessary to the present study.[39]


The ouvertures constitute a condensed and sharpened revision of the February 22 remonstrances: all Protestant services would be prohibited and the pastors exiled; consequently non-Catholic baptisms and marriages would cease to take place and non-Catholic transactions concerning property would be illegal. The new element is the requirement for all royal officers from the lowest to the highest to make profession of faith according to the Sorbonne's twenty-five articles. The precedent for this had been set for their own chapter by the canons of Notre-Dame two months earlier (November 1561), with only two negative votes, by Adrien de Thou and Jacques Rouillard. Had the result been the same in the Parlement, Taber points out, French Protestantism would have been "choked off at its roots, since the economic and legal consequences, especially for affluent and high-ranking families, would have forced them into either abjuration or exile."[40]

The court's proposals were delivered to Catherine on February 25. The response, presented by La Roche-sur-Yon on March 3, stated that members of the royal council would agree with the court if it were possible to carry out Parlement's advice, but they were constrained to insist on the edict drawn up at St-Germain "by the necessity of the times," and if the edict was not a good solution, "it was the least bad they had been able to find." Moving to the offensive, the prince said that Parlement had made the situation worse by obliging Protestants to arm themselves in self-defense because they lacked legal standing. He needled the court by announcing that other parlements had already registered the edict and that disorders had diminished as a result, which stung the premier président to object again to the violation of constitutional precedent.[41]

Reference to Protestants resorting to arms was not mere rhetoric. The tempo of "disorder" had risen sharply in recent days, especially in the vicinity of the university. The previous week eighteen collège principals had complained to Parlement of armed groups gathering for prêches , claiming that they were nonstudents who were interfering with the functioning of the university. On March 4, as the final, and crucial, deliberation on the edict was taking place in Parlement, a large band of armed "students" (so called in the Journal de 1562 ) rioted in the courtyard of the Palais de Justice itself, demanding publication of the edict and shouting that if they were not given temples they would seize them. Marshal Montmorency reported


that five thousand or six thousand armed men were approaching Paris; sedition and looting were to be feared, but if Parlement would register the edict the danger would be averted. Throckmorton's dispatch of March 6 said that Paris was "more like a place besieged than . . . a merchant city."[42]

Such was the atmosphere of the city as Parlement began its final debate, in which all members were allowed to speak and vote, although the ultras had tried to exclude those who had participated in the assembly at St-Germain. The capitulation was led by the gens du roi , ironically, since they, especially procureur général Gilles Bourdin had led the opposition in previous sessions. But now avocat général Du Mesnil announced that the gens du roi were of the opinion that "verification of the edict was the most opportune means presently available to appease sedition," that refusal might make things worse, that it was only provisional and could be changed later. The clinching argument was that since the safety of the kingdom seemed to depend on publication, it was expedient to obey the king's command, especially in view of his assurance that he would not change his religion.[43] On March 5, it was decided that the edict would be registered the next day. Five members absented themselves, three of the commissioners (Brulart, Regnard, and Prévost), as did the two ultra présidents, Le Maistre and Saint-André, again on grounds of ill health. Canon Brulart calls them "gens de bien, voiants la force qu'on faisait à la justice . . . ne voulant consentir à un si meschant édit, contre leurs consciences."[44]

The Edict of January was registered "because of the necessity of the times, at the express command of the king (de expresso mandato regis ), without approval of the new religion and only until the king shall order otherwise"—and was then immediately disclaimed in the secret register.[45] The results were diametrically opposed to the hopes of its supporters and bore out the worst fears of its opponents. Étienne Pasquier's epitaph cannot be surpassed: "[The edict] was no sooner born than it died; thus it was, so to speak, an abortion suffered by France . . . [like a dead child] that will cause many tears in the entrails of the mother who produced it." Events in the following days and weeks show up the real failure of the edict rather


than its pretended success. Within forty-eight hours Paris learned of the massacre of a Huguenot congregation by armed retainers of the duc de Guise at Vassy, and on March 16 Guise entered Paris by the Porte St-Denis (site of royal entries), where "there was an infinite crowd of people. Many called out that he was welcome and that he had come just in time to chase out the Huguenots."[46]

On March 20, both Guise and Condé were attracting crowds of their partisans and "everybody feared some great riot because there was freedom for everyone to bear arms . . . shouts were heard everywhere, as if Paris were a town in the front line." Cardinal de Bourbon's efforts to persuade both Guise and Condé to withdraw from the city failed ("je ne scay par quel empechement," says the author of the Journal de 1562 ). but the prince did leave on the 23d, leaving the field to Guise. All during Holy Week rival processions and services were marked by violence. Huguenots mocked Catholics carrying palms on Palm Sunday and following the stations of the cross on Good Friday. On Easter Monday, March 31, when armed men, rumored to be supporters of Condé, appeared in Chaillot, the principal streets of the city were barricaded by chains.[47] The following weekend Constable Montmorency led an armed troop to the house called "Jerusalem" in the Faubourg St-Jacques, where Protestant services were held, broke in, and seized a cache of arms before turning it over to sack by the soldiers. "The pulpit from which the ministers preached, the congregation's benches, and everything made of wood was burned." From there they went to Popincourt to do the same, and one of the best-known ministers, La Rivière, was taken prisoner, along with the lawyer Jean Ruzé. The constable's example was not lost on a Parisian crowd, which looted the Popincourt house the following day, and "made a great bonfire in front of the Hôtel de Ville, dancing and shouting, 'God has not forgotten the people of Paris!' And if anyone demurred," adds the journaliste , "he was severely beaten or killed on the spot." Ambassador Chantonnay's report to Philip reflects the same


sentiment. "It would seem that God is kindling a spirit to remedy matters in this kingdom."[48]

Condé's forces had seized the town of Orléans on April 2, and civil war was erupting in other parts of the country, including major cities like Lyon and Toulouse. Catherine and her moderate advisers, especially Jean de Monluc, were trying to negotiate with Condé, as were members of the moderate parlementaire leadership like René Baillet, a matter to be discussed in the next chapter.

In the capital, the ultras were enjoying triumph upon triumph. Shortly after Montmorency's violence, Parlement exempted the city of Paris from application of the Edict of January, which meant that Parisian Protestants had lost all their rights. While the king, the queen, the king of Navarre, the constable, and the duc de Guise, with other grands , attended mass at Notre-Dame and heard a sermon by the cardinal de Lorraine, in the presence of the exposed Host, "an infinity of the people praised God for conserving their king in the true and pure religion of Jesus Christ." The anti-Huguenot frenzy continued to mount during May. Processions celebrating the fête of the Holy Sacrament, May 28, were the most elaborate ever seen, with the papal nuncio Prospero di Santa Croce, other ambassadors, and all the Catholic seigneurs taking part (the royal family had left Paris on May 14), "flanked by large numbers of gentlemen, each carrying a lighted candle." Most houses were elaborately decorated, according to Catholic custom, and those that were not, were sacked. "One poor man said aloud, 'If I had six men with courage equal to my own, I would put all these idolaters to flight.' No sooner had the words left his mouth than he was killed by those who overheard him."

Mobilization plans were set up for the defense of each quartier against the enemy, as Antoine de Bourbon prepared to assume the command of the royal armies. Before leaving, he issued instructions that all Protestants were to be treated as traitors, that is, with death. Nicolas Luillier, lieutenant général of the Prévôté of Paris, in conveying Antoine's instructions to the Parlement, remarked that "the people" were saying that the members of Parlement should also be on the proscribed list and were threatening to attack them, along with the Huguenots, if they did not leave the city. Also threatened were parlementaires who had not attended mass for years but


suddenly took an ostentatious part in the pentecostal processions and ceremonies.[49]

Nor did the ultras confine themselves to indirect measures. In the first week in June an anonymous libel, addressed to présidents Le Maistre, Saint-André, Baillet, and de Thou, accused présidents Séguier and Harlay, along with several conseillers, of heresy. The court then assigned two canons of Notre-Dame, well-known ultras (Jacques Verjus and Jean Picot), to inquire into the authorship of the libel as well as récusations against magistrates involved in the investigations of the tumult of St-Médard. All the charges were declared false and scandalous, but Le Maistre found it expedient for the court to make obvious gestures of orthodoxy in order to alter its image as a refuge of sympathizers with heretics and associates of rebels: the requirement of a profession of faith, and an expiatory procession and rededication of the church of St-Médard.[50] Even in the face of such pressure, 31 parlementaires failed to take the oath on June 9 and only 83 (out of 143) took part in the procession, on June 14.[51]

In the summer of 1562 tension within the court dropped somewhat, because members who had been under attack for years were now absent, and the moderates, relieved of the awkward choice between attempting to persuade suspects to change their views and defending them against the ultras, could turn their efforts in another direction: to bring about a cessation of hostilities and a reconciliation of Condé with the crown. These objectives would stimulate new conflicts with the ultras. Consequently, there was no real decompression, but rather a new period of tension and a renewed struggle between those who were assigned to implementing the edict and those who were determined to render it a dead letter.


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