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12 The Rebellion against the Crown in the Reign of Henri III, May 1588 to August 1, 1589
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The Rebellion against the Crown in the Reign of Henri III, May 1588 to August 1, 1589

The arrival of the duc de Guise had been well prepared, and we know about it in detail thanks to the testimony of a participant. Nicolas Poulain's procèsverbal —a full and precise account of the personnel, objectives, and organization of the Sixteen in the clandestine phase—is the most comprehensive of our primary sources.[1] In addition, he recounts every move of the conspirators from the day of his recruitment by lieutenant procureur Jean Leclerc to Saturday, May 14, 1588, when he left Paris to join the king in Chartres. The plan unfolded was, at a signal from the duc de Guise, to take over the city by barricading the streets so that neither the king's guards nor the nobility could protect the Louvre; to cut the throats of "those of the Religion" and politiques ; to seize the person of the king and oblige him to dismiss his counselors and substitute members of their own party; to incite "all good Catholics" to take arms by sending criers through the streets shouting Vive la Messe! When the expected Spanish army arrived, it was to be sent against the king of Navarre and his forces, "to fight until they are wiped out." "In short, each [ligueur ] planned to murder and loot . . . at the expense of his neighbor. The chiefs promised themselves the highest offices and dignities of the Republic, through confiscations that would follow the massacre of the king's highest officers."


Poulain's conscience began to trouble him when he realized that "it was a straight case of robbery, and that les grands were manipulating the little people to dispossess the king of his crown, and give it to ceux de la Ligue after massacring its true heirs and principal officers." He came to the conclusions that not only "would it be a good deed to prevent such a carnage of good men" but that "the great profits promised me by these thieves and rebels would do me little good if I were to die, and in that case I'd go straight to Hell (the true path of the League). I remembered that I was a born Frenchman, native of the greatest city of the realm . . . and had taken an oath of loyalty to . . . my sovereign . . . and was thus obliged to alert him to any danger to the state under pain of lèse-majesté." Poulain had leaked a plan of the Guises to seize Boulogne the previous year, and this was his only claim to access to the king and to have his story believed. Although he does not give the precise date, Poulain became a double agent before the Day of St-Séverin (September 2, 1587) of which he says that it was planned as part of the campaign to denigrate the king in the people's eyes by provoking him to make an arrest, in the name of defending the true faith against heresy,

which they accomplished through the seditious preacher of St-Séverin, whom they instructed to vomit from the pulpit such outrageous villainies against the king that His Majesty was obliged to send for him. . . . Whereupon, they started the rumor that all the good preachers would be seized . . . and murdered. Then Bussy and his troop took arms and set up an ambush near St-Séverin . . . to prevent his being escorted to the king.

Poulain states that his Parisian "followers" pressured the duc de Guise to come into the city against the king's orders, "whether or not he was ready, étants extrémement ennoyez de sa longueur. " In mid-April the organization of the conspiracy at the quartier level was virtually complete and Leclerc assured Poulain that the duke had already sent a number of experienced men of war and placed them in strategically located (and politically safe) houses throughout the city, that more were arriving, and that the king and his officials knew nothing.

Poulain's experiences in the final days before the uprising would seem exaggerated in a fictional twentieth-century spy story. Every hour threatened exposure, as the conspirators found their moves anticipated, and royal officials protected Poulain by stripping him of his office, confiscating some of his property, arresting him, and accusing him of treason. They made a point of treating him with contempt except in the king's private apartments.


His "cover" was preserved—just barely—and the rebellion exploded on Thursday, May 12, five days after the duke's arrival.

Henri III could not act decisively even when he knew the blow was about to fall. He ordered several regiments, including some of his special Swiss guards, into the city on the morning of the 12th, "but this plan did not succeed, because the people . . . began to be stirred up and feared the worst, saying that no one had ever seen a foreign garrison in Paris."

The Day of the Barricades

Immediately all took arms, went into the streets, took the chains and barricaded the corners and intersections. The artisan left his tools, the merchant his deals, the university its books, the procureurs their brief cases, the lawyers their hats, even présidents and conseillers putting their hand to the sword. Everywhere were frightful cries and seditious words to arouse the people to white heat. And as secrets, love, and wine are no good when they are aired, so the duc de Guise having discovered the king's secret (as conversely the king had discovered his), fearing to be taken, sent various of his partisans sub rosa to each quarter, to encourage the people who were rebellious but disorganized . . . to barricade and defend themselves well. The archbishop had assured the duke, on the part of the king, that the presence of the troops was not directed against him, if he would confine himself to his own sword.

On the contrary, the king, who up to noon was the stronger, having the means to interrupt the communications and break the barricades of Guise, turned the tables by instructing his men to pull their swords only halfway, on pain of death. He hoped that temporizing, gentleness, and kind words would lessen the fury of the mutineers, and that gradually the people might disarm. But the exact opposite happened. . . . [The people] . . . after dinner, assembled and barricaded even more than before, and feeling themselves strong, began to look at the Swiss and French soldiers threateningly and to bait them with words, and [said] that if they did not withdraw they would cut them in pieces. . . . [Guise] went himself to conduct them to safety. Without him they would all be dead . . . as they have since admitted, and claimed that they owe their lives to this prince who begged the people to spare them, which they did at once, the fury of the stupid populace being instantly calmed at the mere sound of Guise's voice, so poisoned were they with love of him.

All that night the people were in a state of alarm, and twice during the night Brissac went the rounds to encourage and further animate them, organizing the students . . . to march when it was necessary. Because all the gates except that of St-Honoré had been dosed the Day of the Barricades, the next day, Friday, the 13th of May, the gates of St-Jacques, St-Marceau, and St-Antoine were opened and guarded by the League . . . so that the poor king had only the false gate of the Louvre by which to escape his plight, as he did.


As the tumult grew, the queen mother, who had done nothing but cry all during her dinner, went to the Hôtel de Guise to try to pacify the excitement. She could barely get through the streets, so blocked by barricades, and those who guarded them made an opening just big enough for her litter to get through. When she got there she begged the duke to put out the fires, to go to the king, from whom he would have as much satisfaction as he could hope for, and to show him, at such a critical moment, that he cared rather to serve than to destroy the Crown. But the duke replied coldly that he was very much put out, and that the people was a bull which it was hard to hold back when it became excited. As for going to the king, he said that he did not trust the Louvre and that it would show weakness of spirit for him to go there, things being in too deplorable a state to throw himself on the mercy of his enemies. Then the queen, seeing the stubbornness and resolution of the duke's intentions, sent word to that effect to the king by Pinart.

The king, seeing the people grow more bold from hour to hour, and the Hôtel de Ville and the Arsenal taken by Guise partisans, and that they were even beginning to raise barricades near the Louvre . . . and further informed that at the university Brissac and the preachers were marching at the head of mutineers like colonels and talking of taking brother Henry in his Louvre (having armed 800 students and 300 monks), with those around him saying that he had better leave at once, or be lost . . . left on foot, a cane in his hand, as if to walk as usual in the Tuileries.

Having arrived at his stables . . . [and having] mounted, he turned toward the city and cursed it, reproaching it for perfidy and ingratitude for many favors received at his hands, and swore that he would not reenter except by the breach. He took the road to St-Cloud, accompanied by the duke of Montpensier, Marshal Biron, the seigneur D'O, the Chancellor Villeroy, and Brulart, secretaries of state, Bellièvre, the cardinal of Lenoncourt, Maistre Jacques Faye, his lawyer in the Parlement, and various others, with his 4,000 French and Swiss guards . . . who escorted him to St-Cloud. . . . He spent the night, still booted, at Trappes, and the next day-dined in Chartres, where he was well received by the inhabitants and where he stayed until the last day of May.

This Thursday, the 12th of May, called the Day of the Barricades, was the beginning of the great troubles we have seen since, praised and magnified greatly only by the League and the asses of Paris.

On this subject, a quidam spoke well who said that both Henrys made asses of themselves, one for not having courage to carry out what he had undertaken (having the leisure and means to do it until after eleven o'clock), and the other for letting the beast escape the next day when he had already caught him in the net. And the truth is that he who wants to drink the wine of the gods once should never admit he is a man again, for one must be Caesar or nothing at all, which the duc de Guise finally learned, but too late.

Saturday, the 14th of May, the fortress of the Bastille was surrendered to the duc de Guise, who removed the king's captain and put in Master Jean


Leclerc, procureur in the Parlement, captain of his dixaine in the rue des Juifs, who was thought to be a brave soldier for a procureur , and very zealous in the League cause . . . and established him governor with the consent of the Parisians, that is, the mutinous zelés of the League.[2]

De Thou's account in the Histoire universelle follows Poulain and cites him, adding a historian's analysis. He attributes the rumors that "all good Catholics would be massacred as soon as the king had control of the city, as vengeance for St. Bartholomew," to Madame de Montpensier, "who had an admirable talent for inventing false rumors." A good example of his treatment is the following criticism of failure to place royal forces in the Place Maubert, known as a hotbed of League activities:

It is certain that a grave mistake was made [when bringing troops into Paris]. Since the king had decided to seize all the main squares . . . the Place Maubert was certainly one of the most important—which must be controlled at no matter what price—because it was in a section where sedition was strong, far from the Louvre and inhabited only by ordinary people. Therefore, in abandoning this square thoughtlessly . . . [the royal authorities] allowed the rebels the advantage to fan out through the other parts of the city, encouraging by their successful example the bourgeois, who had already been thrown into consternation by the unaccustomed appearance of armed men, to meet force with force. And that was just what happened. . . . This quarter gave the signal for revolt, which then spread through all Paris. The king's troops found themselves obliged to retire in a disorganized way, because of the very orders they had received.

De Thou's historian's judgment on the significance of the Day of the Barricades, written some years later, is,

This was the final blow that brought down royal authority. Henri III later made futile efforts to regain the sovereign authority he had lost. After that day the majesty of the crown remained, so to speak forgotten and wrapped in a funeral shroud until the reign of Henri IV. Then by the victorious arms of this great prince, born to crush the revolt and wipe out all parties, the whole nation was reunited in the same obedience, and one saw royal authority resume its initial strength and ancient luster.[3]

The judgment in de Thou's Mémoires concerns the mistakes made at the time, as an introduction to his own observations:


While the king was casually deliberating how to deal with the sedition, taking always the most timid and worst advice, he gave time to the rebels to take action. As they were bold . . . through repeated importuning they obliged the duc de Guise . . . to come to the city against the king's orders. Then, instead of punishing this act of disobedience, as he should have, and as he could have [with the military forces available], the prince committed a greater fault through his indecisiveness, which gave [Guise and his followers] time to take the initiative.

On the Day of the Barricades, de Thou went first to the Louvre and then to the Hôtel de Guise, through the tumultuous streets. He was struck by the contrast in the two residences; in the royal one "the silence was frightful, and the astonishment at what was happening penetrated into the king's private rooms, which made for constant changes of plan, with the result that none was effective," while the ducal one was "thronged with people applauding the duke enthusiastically and well guarded by two lines of soldiers." De Thou thought he detected some embarrassment in Guise's countenance, but "more confidence . . . in the expectation that this day would enable him to triumph." He expressed surprise at finding some of the most prominent Parisians mingling with the ligueur crowds (though he tactfully does not name them, to the regret of later historians). Two whom he does name, were known ligueurs: one of the Sixteen, La Rue, tailleur d'habits , says de Thou, snobbishly, and Barnabé Brisson, président in the Parlement, a controversial figure about whom almost everybody had mixed feelings. In his exchange with La Rue, the ligueur's retort to the news that the king had ordered the troops withdrawn was that they left from fear of being torn apart by the people and not from obedience to the king's commands. De Thou does not include the substance of his exchange with Brisson but comments with great restraint, "This magistrate's conversation showed that he shared the sentiments of the populace and was accommodating himself to the times, which was in the end to be a tragedy for him."

After "a night of fear and tumult," on Friday, May 13, Parlement offered to mediate, de Thou claims—but with no details and this is not mentioned elsewhere—but the League leaders would not cooperate and accused the king, and the court, of conniving with the Huguenots. They then "stirred up the students in the neighborhood of the university, and provided them with arms to attack the Louvre." In this desperate situation the king, "deprived of his faithful and trustworthy counselors (the duc d'Épernon being in Normandy) on the advice of those around him who secretly favored the rebellion , took the shameful course of leaving the city."[4]


In the second of two letters on the subject to Sainte-Marthe, Pasquier makes a similar judgment. In such matters it is better not to hesitate and keep changing course: Guise should not have had any time to maneuver and give orders. "If the sovereign courts and the military had acted decisively in the morning, the people would not have had time to take arms." Pasquier thinks Guise also made a serious error, in letting the king escape. He could have obliged the king to give him the authority he wished and there would have been no need for the people to rebel, in his opinion.[5]

The striking consensus of these three observers gives us a vivid sense of politique opinion; the variations reflect individual experiences and modes of expression. With Du Vair's discours des barricades we enter a different mental climate; although he too draws up a balance sheet, it is from a different point of view. L'Estoile, de Thou, and Pasquier stand clearly in one camp; Du Vair's position is between the two, "tilting" toward the League, in that he makes several "demands" on the king, in a list that resembles (or echoes?) that of the cardinal de Bourbon, one of the League leaders: dismissal of the favorites; an end to the imposition of new taxes, new offices, new edicts without Parlement's approval; acceptance of the control of royal finances by the Estates General; and, most important, total amnesty for everyone involved in the uprising. The only "demand" made on the League is that they "renounce all union apart from the king." Radouant believes that Du Vair wished to act as mediator. In May 1588 this was not possible for Du Vair—or anybody. He would try again a few months later, when he had the opportunity but not the luck, or the circumstances, to succeed. Not until 1593 could Guillaume Du Vair play a leading role at center stage, and by then he had become a politique .[6]

While speculating on Du Vair's motives, we must remember the 1586 speech of the man responsible for speaking in Parlement's name, premier président Achille de Harlay. He too was seriously opposed to the crown's


recent policies, but he never made even the slightest accommodation to the League and would repeatedly pay the price of his uncompromising loyalty to the monarchy and to the Gallican church. Parlement's direct involvement in the rebellion was yet to come, however, and Harlay was not the man to hasten the day when he would be obliged to sharpen existing divisions, as any initiative of his would be sure to do. At the same time, he was not afraid to express his opinions when called upon. Historian de Thou reports that Guise made a point of calling on the premier président on the day the king left the city,

and gave him to understand without stating it in so many words, that he would do well to adapt himself to the times. But this magistrate, so well known for his firmness and upright character, said only that he would do his duty. When the duke pressed him further, hinting at danger to which he might thus expose himself . . . he said crisply that he would die rather than do anything unworthy of his office, that is, anything contrary to the attachment and obedience he owed to His Majesty.[7]

Predictably, the initial triumph of the League—driving the king from his capital—rapidly produced a series of lesser victories. On May 14, the Bastille was removed from the king's authority to that of the duc de Guise, who placed Bussy-Leclerc in charge. The next day began the takeover of the Bureau de Ville, with the arrest of the prévôt des marchands, Perreuse, followed two days later by the election of new officers, all prominent ligueurs . Perreuse had been accused of being a Huguenot-politique (for which read "good servant of the king," comments L'Estoile), and when Catherine de Médicis interceded for him with Guise, she was told, "If you want him out, I'll bring him to you myself, Madame, but he is better off where he is and safer [in the Bastille] than anywhere you could put him" (Brunet 3:149-150; Roelker 152).

The Fruits of Victory

Defiance of the king's officers and even of his personal commands became routine with the rebellious Parisians, who did not even reply to his protest of the changes in the Bureau de Ville and a "request" to send him a list of candidates from which to choose new municipal officers, delivered by a royal messenger the first week in June.[8]


The first week in July it was Parlement's turn to protest the removal of gens de bien, bons catholiques as captains in the city militia, and their replacement by new men, most of them drawn from la lie du peuple et plusieurs . . . mal famés . Harlay argued "at length, frankly and freely," for the retention of the old captains and was supported by many in the court, but cardinal de Bourbon and the duc de Guise replied that time should be given to the public to judge (for which read "for their own interests and ambition," according to L'Estoile), and they prevailed.

Under the heading "Insolence des ligueux à l'endroit de la Justice," L'Estoile reports that a number of bourgeois of the League, representing no authority, burst into the Palais de Justice at 6 A.M. on Saturday, July 9, bearing an ultimatum addressed to the premier président, demanding that "justice be done to" a Huguenot named de Belloy, who had been imprisoned for some time in the Conciergerie—"or else the people will do [him justice]." L'Estoile's comment on the failure of the court as a body to assert its authority and punish such behavior is revealing: "It was found that les grands were involved in the matter and it was wiser to let it drop." And a few days later, following another such episode, "seeing the forces arrayed against them, they were constrained to submit, for fear of worse" (Brunet 3:168-170). The fears of some and the hesitations of other members of Parlement in these early days were largely responsible for the erosion of the court's power and its precipitous fall in prestige. From admiration and respect, even awe, the attitude of the public turned to contempt.

But not all representatives of the sovereign courts took this cautious—or cowardly—approach. Pasquier, like Harlay, stood up to be counted. A special meeting was held at the Hôtel de Ville because of protests against the removal of the old captains, and members of the sovereign courts had been assigned to attend, to represent their quartier, "but none of them came, annoyed at what was happening but not daring to oppose it, so that I [Pasquier] was the only one." He continues his narration: "I lost patience, and raised my voice, in the midst of this rabble, at the risk of my life." He tells how, pleading to be heard on the basis of his thirty years' residence in the quartier and frequent attendance at meetings dealing with public affairs, he rehearsed the traditional procedures for choosing the captains and noted how these procedures were changed in 1585, when the king named new captains and lieutenants, designating whomever he wished, in disregard of custom. He acknowledges his listeners' feeling that in doing so the king had infringed on the ancient liberties of the citizens of this city. But he warns them, in trying to regain their liberties, not to give themselves up to new masters and make the election process a mere charade. "If you really desire


the welfare of the city," he concludes, "I beg you to reinstate the old officers, and to follow the old ways, by which every head of household followed his conscience.

Pasquier had the fleeting satisfaction of carrying the vote that was immediately taken and the next day was elaborately congratulated by Brisson. But he was not deceived or surprised when, that same day, the decision was reversed, and the League's line followed. He was not reconciled, and he asks, rhetorically, "We are supposed to be reestablishing unity [this was the announced objective of the League at this time] but how can we do so by thus offending His Majesty?" And he ends this missive, on a note unusual for him, of resigned defiance:

As for me, I'll tell you frankly, in the public calamity in which we are plunged, I have no more faith in documents that are not backed up by force than in the new rulers of our city, who know no law but their own temerity. For that reason I have decided to leave home and go wherever my king is, to follow his fortune wherever it may turn.[9]

The final humiliation of this first phase of the rebellion came with the registration of the Edict of Union in Parlement, July 21. This declared Henri de Navarre incapable of the succession and any religion except the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic unacceptable in France. Henri III wept when he signed it, says L'Estoile, "this good prince lamenting the unhappy fate which forced him to risk his state in order to save himself" (Brunet 3:172; Roelker 156).

If the summer of 1588 was the lowest point (so far) for the royalist cause, it was not an easy time for the few moderates who were trying to mediate and bring about some compromise. J.-A. de Thou had some success in his missions from the king to various powerful individuals in the provinces;[10] but he also met with a number of rebuffs, as did Villeroy. People in less exalted positions, who thought the true course contained some elements of each party's claims, like Du Vair, could not get a hearing. Even the papacy could not accomplish an accommodation of the two warring French Catholic parties.

Consistent with his desire to maintain France as a counterweight to Spain and as a Catholic power, in 1588 Pope Sixtus V hoped to heal the breach between Henri III and the League through the legatine mission of Francesco


Morosini, an accomplished diplomat from a leading Venetian family. In the months following the Barricades, when all parties were maneuvering to improve their position while the situation remained fluid, and especially during the Estates General that met in Blois (October 1588-January 1589), Morosini was actively negotiating with both the king and leaders of the League, using now flattery, now pressure, to bring the two sides together as Catholics , specifically by working out a compromise formula for French acceptance of the Trent decrees. His reward was to be savagely attacked as pro-Gallican in Rome, and by the Sixteen; he failed—as usual with papal drives toward this goal. Significantly, his efforts were applauded, and he himself admired, by the most sophisticated politiques . De Thou, in his Mémoires , calls him

a fair-minded prelate, very well disposed toward the king . . . he left no stone unturned to arrange an accommodation. . . . Since he could not make any headway, he reluctantly withdrew . . . to Italy, leaving the kingdom [of France] in great disorder. . . .

It is certain that the tragic divisions that have devastated this formerly flourishing kingdom for ten years, reducing it to the greatest extremity, could have been ended by the course advised by this cardinal—because of his affection for France and the weight of his influence with both parties—if only they had been capable of recognizing their true interest . . . but God did not permit so easy a remedy for our ills. Opinion was so inflamed, both within and outside the kingdom, that when he returned to Rome he was blamed for not rather urging open warfare. Gentleness, prudence, moderation, good sense were then out of fashion and those who, because of these precious qualities, might have brought about unity and peace were thought worthy of public contempt and hatred.[11]

The pressures on the beleaguered king were greatest of all. Although he had never been decisive, the wild shifts of mood separated by intervals of total inability to act testified to the deterioration of the last Valois king under the strains of recent months. Then suddenly, just as he was coerced into naming Guise lieutenant-general of the kingdom ("in brief, he gives him the rays of his splendor, an arm of his power, a live reproduction of his majesty," says L'Estoile) something occurred to give this king, in exile in his own kingdom, hope that he might still prevail. L'Estoile's "headlines" illustrate royalist reaction to the Armada's defeat.



This army was called the Invincible, the Pride of the World, and the Terror of the isles . . . which the Holy Father of Rome has blessed. But all these great and proud designs were only stuff for the glory of God, and the wind of their vain attempts . . . dissipated in three days by the God of sea and earth.


It is said that the Pope called this army his daughter . . . because he had a great hope of accomplishing by it his long-time desire to reestablish his dominion over England. . . . And in truth this army was magnificently outfitted, the result of seven years' preparation, which could well frighten a stronger country than England.

Also the displeasure of the Pope at this defeat was so great that a pasquil about it appeared in Rome:

If there is anyone who has news of the Spanish army, lost at sea about three weeks ago, who can tell anything about what has become of it, let him go to the Palace of St. Peter, where the Holy Father will give him some wine (Brunet 3:177-178).

Valois Revenge

The League had won the first round, but the long-range outcome was far from certain. Much depended on the alliance between the Guises and Spain. The League needed Spanish force if the gains of May and July were to endure, and Philip, in turn, chose a moment when France was paralyzed by internal troubles to strike at England. If he had won his great gamble, England would have been regained for the faith, and at the same time the only possible support for either the Dutch rebels or the anti-League party in France would be knocked out. The isolated Low Countries could then be subdued, and France controlled through Philip's clients in the house of Guise-Lorraine.[12] Henri III well understood that this alliance could seal his doom, so the Armada's failure seemed to offer a miraculous opportunity.

On September 1 Henri III dismissed his principal advisers, Cheverny, the chancellor, three secretaries of state, Villeroy, Brulart, and Pinart, and Pomponne de Bellièvre, all of whom were tainted with the failure of his policies and thus partially responsible for his current predicament.[13] He


gave the seals, though only with the title garde des sceaux , to François de Monthelon, who had never held high office. L'Estoile calls him "a simple lawyer in the Parlement, but one of the oldest, most learned, most honest and wholehearted Catholics of the Palais, though little versed in affairs of state and still less in those of finance" (Brunet 3:186; Roelker 159). De Thou says that he was like his father (we noted that the elder Monthelon was strong in parlementaire virtues), who had been "used by François I after the disgrace of Poyet . . . an eventuality which was very lucky for him, enabling him to pass for a very honest man who had absolutely no talent for public affairs. . . . Similarly with the son, who accepted the office at the urging of his friends . . . and showed great docility in obeying the king's orders and mighty little aptitude for a task of such importance."[14]

Pasquier's opinion is identical. In the letter previously cited to Sainte-Marthe assessing Henri III at the Barricades, he includes a fairly lengthy passage about the duties of advisers to a prince. Warning against the temptations (and evils) of flattery, he says,

For my part, I shall never agree with the opinion . . . that he who would live with princes should never tell the truth. . . . I prefer that of Solon, that, on the contrary, . . . we owe everything to the prince, who is given us by God, but above all, the truth. . . . It avails little to be morally upright if this virtue is not accompanied by force . . . a good man will, in all modesty, maintain what he thinks is right and condemn the contrary. . . . I know that following this advice one might not last long, but which is better, to bow to the corruptions of the court, or to take the consequences [of speaking out] and take an honest retirement in your own home, as did Chancellor L'Hôpital?[15]

Henri III's speech at the opening of the Estates on October 16 displayed his unappeased anger at the humiliation suffered at the hands of the duc de Guise. L'Estoile, de Thou, and Pasquier all refer to his remark that "some nobles of my kingdom formed leagues and associations that prevented me from stamping out heresy in the kingdom." The duke changed color and his brother, the cardinal, "so menaced His Majesty, that he allowed him to change the speech and have it printed quite otherwise." "The cardinal was


even presumptuous enough to scold his brother, saying that he [himself] never did things by halves, and that if [the duke] had taken his advice he would not be in the present fix" (Brunet 3:189; Roelker 159).

As all three orders were dominated by the League, the speeches of their orators did not lessen the antagonism between the king and the duke. Then, the seizure of the marquisate of Saluces by the duke of Savoy, allied to the Guises, exacerbated it still more. "While delighting the Barricaders, it marvelously embittered the king against the duke, knowing well that his ambition was behind this enterprise too. . . . This was the final straw," says L'Estoile, "in determining him to get rid of the duke and the domination of all these mayors of the palace" (Brunet 3:192-193; Roelker 161). Henri III's response to each new thrust of League pressure was to yield in fact, while asserting his authority verbally, so it is not surprising that a new League thrust always followed. A clear example occurred in the first week in December, when he was coerced into dismissing several of his personal officers, including his personal physician, François de Miron, because "they were devoted to the king." The next day there was a public "reconciliation" between the two men, but each was planning the next move. There were rumors that the duke planned to force the king back to Paris, as a captive, and the duke began to receive warnings of impending assassination (Brunet 3:194; Roelker 161).

In the meanwhile, there were two matters of the highest importance that lay, like unsheathed knives, between them. One was the ongoing problem of the Trent decrees, which were on the agenda of the Estates, and the other, more recent but even more sensitive, the proposed condemnation of Navarre. Both were taken up at the insistence of Guise and his close collaborators, with the rationale that if they passed, they would add to his power and influence, and if they failed, the blame could be laid on the king. A special commission was established to consider the Trent decrees; it heard testimony from a large number of clergy—all favoring in one degree or another the incorporation of the Trent decrees in a royal edict. Only two people, both laymen and gens du roi appeared for the other side. They were two mainstream spokesmen, Jacques Faye d'Espesses, avocat du roi, and Jacques de La Guesle, procureur général du roi. Faye was the one who took the floor. He based his opposition to the proposal on a succinct and accurate summary of exactly what the Gallican liberties were and why they would be annulled by the Trent decrees. He was interrupted, rudely, by the cardinal-archbishop of Lyon, Pierre d'Épinac, a fanatical ligueur , who insinuated that Faye's own religious beliefs were of questionable orthodoxy. Faye, angry, proclaimed his consistent loyalty to the Roman faith and said


that nobody could accuse him of deserting to heresy and then changing his mind when he found he would lose out in material ways. The details he gave in this hypothetical case were unmistakable references to a youthful Huguenot period in the archbishop's career, when the reform movement was at its height. In de Thou's words, "this effectively shut the archbishop's mouth." Then Louis de Saint-Gelais, sieur de Lansac, who had been a member of the French delegation to the third session of the Council, testified in glowing terms to the virtues of the decrees (de Thou calls it un magnifique éloge , with evident pleasure in his mockery). Faye then asked him, in the best cross-examining style, whether his opinion of the Council was still what it was in 1563? Lansac having affirmed that it was, in a very positive manner, Faye then "closed his mouth" by reading aloud Lansac's own written report at the time, in which he mocked the pretensions of the prelates to be instructed by the Holy Ghost, remarking that the latter seemed to live in Rome. Once more the Trent issue was won by the Gallicans, and de Thou reports that the meeting "broke up in general confusion, some full of indignation and others joking and enjoying the discomfort of the League."[16]

The proposal to bar Navarre from the succession, which L'Estoile entitles "The Vain project of the condemnation of the King of Navarre and the true execution of the condemner instead, work of God, not man," was opposed by Henri III, who declared that Navarre should be given another chance to convert and sign the articles of union, and that "it was wrong to condemn him without a hearing. . . . But the League, which could not accomplish its aims unless the line of Saint Louis was first degraded, decided that the king of Navarre was incapable of all succession, crowns, and royal dignity, as the chief of heretics and personally apostate" (Brunet 3:194-195; Roelker 161-162).

De Thou, in his Mémoires , cites an opinion expressed at this time by Montaigne, that only the death of either Guise or Navarre would resolve the problem, that "neither the duke nor any of his house would feel safe as long as the king of Navarre lived; and that the latter, for his part, was convinced that he could not make good his claim to the throne while Guise lived. Personally," he told de Thou,

They both make a show of religion, it is a good way to hold the loyalty of their followers, but religion does not concern either of them seriously. Only the fear of losing Huguenot support keeps Navarre from reentering


the church of his fathers, and the duke would not be averse to the Confession of Augsburg, which he tasted under the influence of his uncle, the cardinal of Lorraine, if he could do so without compromising his interests. [Montaigne] added that these were the sentiments of princes concerning religion, that he had observed whenever he had any dealings with them.[17]

There is food for thought in this comment, for those concerned with the Wars of Religion in France, and/or with the mentalité of Michel de Montaigne. One thing is certain: fear of and opposition to heresy was a bond strong enough to hold Catholics of very different views together against it—as had been evident since the 1520s—but sharing the "one true faith" was not a strong enough bond to bring about French Catholic unity or to prevail against Gallican national feeling. Afterwards, Pasquier wrote a long letter to Harlay—imprisoned in the Bastille—commenting at length on the Estates. He expresses satisfaction with Faye's performance ("he defended our rights virtuously"), sees through the stratagems of the League, is irritated at the lack of common sense and logic shown by the deputies, pushed around by the League leaders ("to demand the continuing prosecution of a war to the death against the Huguenots and at the same time a reduction of taxes—these things are simply incompatible"), and shows his despair of finding any solutions under Henri III, "if the kingdom has been stricken by the faults of the past, the future remedies bid fair to be worse," and he tells a bitter joke going the rounds in Blois, "the late King Charles was declared to have attained his majority at the age of ten and four, that is, 14; and some desire to make our present [king] a minor at four times ten, that is at the age of forty."[18]

L'Estoile summarizes the king's new resolve. "This prince, filled with a just wrath, determined to kill the duc de Guise, but the great God, lighted the king's heart (which he holds in His hand) with a new force, and armed him with a new courage, to attack Guise, believing that [the duke's] longer life would mean his own death" (Brunet 3:196; Roelker 162). The melodramatic, but absolutely true, story of the murder, first of the duc de Guise, and then of the cardinal, by the king's orders, and the subsequent arrest of other members of the house of Lorraine as well as leaders of the ligueur estates, including La Chapelle-Marteau, prévôt des marchands of Paris, and Compans and Cotteblanche, two other "founders" of the Sixteen who had been elected échevins after the Barricades, has been told many times. What


concerns us here is the judgment that parlementaire spokesmen held of the two Henris.[19]

There is no doubt that the resort to murder by their king in order to execute "justice" posed a dilemma for our royalist parlementaires, who were also self-proclaimed believers in Christianity. They could not really approve it, yet there seemed to be "extenuating circumstances" and we find de Thou and Pasquier going to considerable lengths to formulate a kind of apologia, but not so far as to give clear-cut approval. De Thou's opinion does not occur in the chronological sequence; his narrative account of the events of December 1588 omits the actual murders and concentrates on the arrests, the comings and goings, placed in time by phrases such as, "on the day before the duke died." He includes the question, but only indirectly, in his overall assessment of Henri III after the king's assassination, eight months later. Apropos of the king's violent changes of mood, Chancellor Cheverny (de Thou's brother-in-law) told him:

In winter he was prey to a black bilious humor, perceived only by officers under the same roof. Although he was an easy master at other times, he then became impossible. One could not mention any amusements; he hardly slept . . . exhausted the chancellor and secretaries of state by driving them hard in overlong hours of work. In this mood he expressed a zeal for discipline and issued severe edicts. . . . Shortly before the death of the duc de Guise, [Cheverny] told me about these royal humors and predicted that if the duke continued to press him, he was capable of having him assassinated in his chamber with no fuss (sans bruit ), because it was the season when he was easily aroused and when his anger became fury.[20]

Pasquier's apologia is much more explicit. He follows a letter of December 27, to Pierre Ayrault (lieutenant criminel in Angers) merely giving him the news, with a second, much longer one, with his reflections and interpretations. There is a metaphor in the earlier letter suggesting that the king believed every outrage to his authority, from whatever apparent source, stemmed from the Guise princes, "and the more flexibly he responded, the more they stiffened in their attacks, so that [the League] was really a hydra, if one head was cut off, seven new ones were born." In the longer letter he lists and analyzes, in chronological order, all the actions of the duke from the Day of the Barricades to the days just before the end that explained the


king's decision to get rid of him, filling eight pages. Then he says, "Therefore, to sum up this long discourse, I do not doubt that the king had several major reasons for anger at the duke, and especially what has happened in Paris . . . otherwise he would not be human."

Pasquier then expresses the belief that notwithstanding, the king had no intention of having the duke executed as recently as the opening of the Estates, and that the duke's ambitions were also not so démesurées until the deputies kept urging him to "finish what he had begun." "There is nothing more worthy of a great soul than moderate ambition, nor more detestable than ambition that passes reasonable bounds. Thus it is these deputies that are responsible for the duke's death; he based his greatness on them and they were the unique cause of his misfortune. " Pasquier manages to exculpate the king and the duke, laying the blame on the "hydra" of the League as manifested in the Estates, whose leaders, of course, included the spokesmen of the Paris Sixteen.

The remaining six pages of this letter contain Pasquier's interesting historical observations on morts d'état . "I have never found that the success of such a coup advanced the solution of the troubles of the state."

There follows a list of important morts d'état , Caesar's, Florentine history, English history, and past events in French history, such as the assassination of Louis d'Orléans by the duke of Burgundy, with astute analysis of the causes and results of each. "As for the present case, the king had two or three days of happy relief, having removed the thorn from his foot, but we have had no news from Paris, which makes me fear that our [allies] there are the weaker side. . . . Some thought that with the beast dead the poison would drain away, but I fear that the tail will be long."[21]

Pierre de L'Estoile, while an astute observer and a serious man and citizen, was far from the equal of Étienne Pasquier in historical interpretation or philosophical vision. He is content to lay the responsibility on God, whose ways are not our ways:

The news of these murders and imprisonments arrived in Paris, Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve, and "disturbed the feast day," as it was said. The people were strangely moved; they seized arms at once and began to keep a stringent guard night and day. The Sixteen unfurled their flags and began to shout, "Murder! Fire! Blood! Vengeance!" as usually happens in revolts and seditions—the most wicked make the most of the mutiny. . . . Everyone said that for vengeance on the tyrant—for thus was Paris beginning to describe the king—the last bit of money and the last drop of blood


ought to be spent. Although many good men were of the opposite opinion . . . even including those of the courts, who still had force on their side if they had cared to use it, [but] they were seized with apprehension and fear, their hearts failing them in their need, as the saying goes, and they allowed themselves to be carried along with the mutinous and wicked . These latter, seeing that the others were afraid, jumped at their throats, having seized arms while the others were debating . . . took the advantage and so the victory, which in all revolts and seditions goes to those who act first (Brunet 3:202-203; Roelker 164-165 [my italics]).

At one point near the end of Pasquier's long letter cited above, he remarks, "I cannot conceive that the people of Paris, who idolized the deceased, would easily forget him." Indeed, the news of the Guise murders, especially that of the cardinal, raised the tempo of the rebellion and the oratory of the prédicateurs to new heights. The murder of the cardinal made it possible to declare Henri III a tyrant, who had attacked the sacred person of a ranking prelate and thus forfeited all claims to loyalty, to the title of the king, and, even, his right to live. Parisians would be preoccupied with revenge until it was accomplished, eight months later.

The king was out of reach, but the Parlement of Paris, which traditionally claimed to be pars corporis regis , was a vulnerable target. For the first time the rebels went beyond rhetorical attack to use physical force against the court, whose great ordeal began in January 1589.

The first day of the year 1589, at the end of his sermon at St-Barthélemy, Lincestre extracted from all of his listeners (making them raise their hand as a sign of consent) an oath that they would employ all means to avenge the two Catholic princes, even to the last sou in their purses and their last drop of blood. . . . And he extracted a particular oath from premier président de Harlay, seated right in front of him . . . interpolating at various times, "Raise your hand, M. le président, raise it good and high, still higher, if you please, so that the people can see it." [Harlay] was forced to do it, but not without some scandalized murmurs from the people, who had been given to understand that [he] had . . . given his consent to the death of the two Lorraine princes whom Paris adored like tutelary gods (Brunet 3:230-231; Roelker 167).

This episode presaged the planned attack to take prisoner the leaders, who were all known politiques , and substitute members of the court who were somewhat in sympathy with the League—or at least, not conspicuously opposed to it. It took place on the same day that the unlamented Estates of Blois came to an end.


Monday, the 16th of January, Master Jean Leclerc, formerly procureur , now captain of his quarter and governor of the Bastille, accompanied by twenty-five or thirty scoundrels like himself, armed with cuirasses and pistols in their hands . . . went to the Palais, and into the Grand' Chambre with a list, and said loudly (the chambers being assembled), "You, so and so" (he named them), "we have something to say to you." And to the question of the premier président . . . as to by what authority he was acting, he replied "that they should hurry up and follow him, and that if they forced him to use his authority it might be too bad for them." So the premier président and présidents Potier and de Thou got ready to follow him. After them went voluntarily fifty or sixty conseillers . . . many who were not on the list . . . saying that they could not do less than to follow their leaders. Walking ahead [Bussy] led them, at six in the morning, as if in triumph, to the Place de Grève via the Pont-au-Change . . . to the Bastille . . . with the streets full of people with drawn arms (their shops closed) to watch them pass and cover them with a thousand taunts and villainies (Brunet 3:235; Roelker 169).

De Thou's account is similar, but as a close relative of one of the victims his version has a special interest.

Monday, January 16, when all chambers were assembled, the Parlement was attacked by the ligueurs , who guarded all the doors, so that nobody could leave. Then Bussy-Leclerc, in armor, escorted by Jean-Baptiste Machault, Michel de Marillac, and de Baston, entered the Grand' Chambre [which] after deliberation of several days, was about to name deputies to be sent to the king. Addressing those present, Bussy, in an insulting, mocking manner, said that he was much mortified to be obliged to imprison so many respectable persons. Thereupon he began to read aloud the list of those he was ordered to arrest, starting with the premier président Achille de Harlay and président Augustin de Thou. Président Barnabé Brisson, who is believed to have been informed in advance, had not gone to the Palais that day, nor had président Nicolas Potier, while président Pierre Séguier, sensing what was afoot, had left Paris the day before, with his brother, avocat général with [the help of a tavernkeeper]. Leclerc was continuing to read the list when président de Thou rose and said that it was not necessary to continue because there was nobody in the company who was not ready to follow him. All the others cried out that they would follow their leaders, regardless of the consequences, and, rising in a body, they abandoned the sanctuary of Justice.

It was a spectacle truly deserving of pity, to see so many persons, respected for their authority, their knowledge and their honorable behavior, arrested like criminals by a man of no worth (homme de néant ), led past the tribunal where they had so often performed their rightful functions, and triumphantly conducted through the streets of the city. It was notable, however, that traditional behavior was not yet suppressed, when the major-


ity of townsmen, although already infected with the poison of rebellion, could not contain their tears at this sight.[22]

There follows in the Histoire universelle a summary of the League's charges against Parlement. The Sixteen claimed that members had "plotted with the enemies of God" to turn over the city to the troops of Navarre, who had resolved to put Paris "to fire and sword." De Thou comments, "in thus trampling on the magistracy itself and holding good men in captivity, they were declaring themselves above the law."[23]

The court continued to meet, "notwithstanding the absence of the best and sanest part," says L'Estoile, adding that Brisson was presiding in the Grand' Chambre, "by some ruse and promise of the Sixteen." On January 21, the gens du roi were replaced. Édouard Molé was obliged to accept the office of procureur général, which he had tried hard to refuse, "overcome by the excited cries of 'Molé! Molé!' and also because he feared death otherwise, or at least to be rearrested and sent to the Bastille, from which he had just emerged." Jean Le Maistre and Louis d'Orléans became avocats du roi. It is worth noting in passing that all these men, headed by Brisson, were later to be found among those condemned as politiques by the Sixteen, after the extremists gained the upper hand, in 1591. Brisson tried to prepare for the day when the entire movement would be over and discredited by composing a disavowal, which he had notarized, but as L'Estoile—and others-do not fail to point out, in the end this forethought did him no good (Brunet 3:239-241; Roelker 170).

The other matter needing immediate attention was how to persuade the king to release the prisoners in Blois, especially those of the Third Estate. A plan was suggested to offer in exchange the members of Parlement in the Bastille, because they were as important to the king as the ligueurs of the Bureau de Ville were to the Paris League. Nothing came of this at the time, and the actual release of Harlay and some of the others did not come about until mid-March, when the duc de Mayenne—brother of the murdered princes and heir to the League leadership—had arrived in the capital and achieved some degree of authority.

The plan was nevertheless pursued, by Guillaume Du Vair, who hoped that this occasion would enable him to play a prominent mediating role in contrast to his attempts after the Barricades and the flight of the king. Once


more we have a "speech" that was never delivered, but only written; once more we do not know the exact date of composition. The supplication au roi , moreover, enlarges the subject beyond the question of the prisoners; it is an appeal to the king to "crack down" on the illegal actions and assemblies, so that even if the kingdom is still torn by civil war, the capital can be safe and orderly. Radouant believes that it was composed after the arrival of Mayenne in mid-February and that it reflects an agreement between the duke and Du Vair. He feels compelled to admire the feat by which Du Vair manages to make an apology for the League in a declaration ostensibly on behalf of the king's officers, by suggesting that since the king had the greatest responsibilities, he had committed the greatest wrongs in the events of recent months, so he should be the first to pardon—and release—his prisoners. As the biographer notes, it is remarkable that Du Vair was still trying to hold a neutral stance, but the increasing polarization of opinion would soon make it untenable.[24]

The mystique of the Guises as martyrs was being carried to its greatest extremes in these weeks after the Blois murders.

In the following days and months, solemn and devout services . . . were held in all the churches and monasteries of Paris, with great lamentations of the people who attended. And it can be said that since France was France, no kings nor princes, however great and powerful they were, have ever been so honored, mourned and cried over after their death as these two Lorraine princes. The son of the murdered duke was baptized as the Dauphin.

He was held at the font by the governor of the city of Paris, who christened him François, for his grandfather. . . . There was magnificent ceremony in this baptism, most of the captains of the dixaines marching in pairs carrying white, lighted candles, followed by archers. . . . A great banquet was given in the Hôtel de Ville following the ceremony . . . and the artillery was fired as a sign of joy. The people of Paris gathered in great numbers in the streets, blessing the child and mourning the father with great sorrow and lamentations. . . .

On Mardi gras, all day long fine devout processions were held in Paris, in one about 600 scholars of all the colleges of the university (most of them ten to twelve years old) marched naked or in shirts, with bare feet, carrying lighted candles, and singing devoutly, though sometimes discordantly, in the streets as well as in the churches (Brunet 3:247; Roelker 172-174).

The duc de Mayenne, meanwhile, was attempting to gather the various elements of the League under his control. A General Council of the Union was established, and he took an oath as lieutenant général of the Royal State


and Crown of France, a title on which L'Estoile pours scorn. "Monday, March 13, the duc de Mayenne took the oath, in court, as Lieutenant-General of the Royal State and Crown of France. This ambitious and ridiculous title was accorded him by fifteen or sixteen good-for-nothings, and confirmed by this imaginary Parlement, the real Parlement being miserable in the various prisons of the city" (Brunet 3:258; Roelker 175). The duke's power, even at this early date, was more apparent than real. The Sixteen often defied him; especially was this true of Pierre Senault, acknowledged by ligueurs themselves to be among the toughest of the "hard-liners" (Brunet 3:257; Roelker 174-175).[25]

Royalist Counteroffensive

The League held the initiative, indisputably, but a royalist counteroffensive was gradually gathering strength in the early months of 1589. Président Jean de La Guesle and ten conseillers had left to join the king immediately after learning of the Guise murders; in mid-February La Guesle proclaimed publicly that Navarre was the only true and legal heir to the crown of France.[26] In response to the king's call, a stream of officers left Paris and joined their master, who had moved from Blois to Tours, where he established a loyal, royalist Parlement, disowning the "rump," that is, the ligueur court in Paris.[27]

The goal of all these activities was reached in April. At the beginning of the month, Henri III announced that Navarre was his true and only successor, and a treaty was drawn up whereby they made an alliance, each declaring that the other's enemies were also his own. Navarre was very suspicious of a trap and hesitated for some weeks. Many influential politiques , including de Thou, were doing everything possible to overcome his hesitation. "Finally . . . deciding that the war [against the League] was really his own," Navarre agreed to go to the side of Henri III.

Having taken this resolution, he crossed the river [Loire] Sunday, the last day of April, and went to His Majesty at Plessis-les-Tours. It was incredible with what joy this interview was received. . . . The press was so great and the voices of the people resounding exultantly, Vive le Roi! Vive le Roi de Navarre! Vivent les Rois! Finally meeting, they embraced very


affectionately with tears, especially the king of Navarre, from whose eyes they fell as big as peas from the great joy he had in seeing the king. He said that evening, "I'll die content with today, whatever death I die, because God has granted me to see the face of my king" (Brunet 3:277-278).

L'Estoile drew the moral in one of his most eloquent passages.

It came about that the king, who had fought him for so long, and even furnished the League the means to do so, was the one who took him by the hand to install him, so that he would get his great heritage, promised him by God . . . so also it was the Pope, it was the Spaniard, it was the Lorrainer, it was the Savoyard, it was the League, it was the Sixteen—in brief it was by his greatest enemies that he was carried, on their shoulders, to the royal throne. Miracle of miracles in truth, which we have seen with our own eyes (Brunet 3:278; Roelker 176-177).

Pasquier shared the joyous relief with his friend Nicolas de Harlay, sieur de Sancy, and pointed out how different the atmosphere was from the artificial, insincere "reconciliations" of Henri de Valois with Henri de Guise: "[Navarre] came to greet the king with so open and frank an expression, that there was not one among us witnesses to this meeting whose soul was not filled with incredible joy. We looked upon him, and even though he does not share our religion, we forgot all the prejudice we formerly had against him."[28]

But the end of the struggle was still a long way off, and ligueur Paris greeted the news in a paroxysm of fury and invective.

The preachers of Madame de Montpensier preached that the mask was now off, the tyrant had lifted the veil of hypocrisy and openly declared himself the partisan of the heretic. . . . There was no doubt that by this war he hoped to exterminate and banish the Catholic religion from France. . . . No other gospel was preached in Paris at this time . . . and it was better received than the true Gospel of peace. . . . The preachers called the king a dog, tiger, heretic, tyrant . . . and wouldn't allow him to be spoken of otherwise. There was no little preacher who couldn't find a place in his sermon for a list of injuries against the king, no pedant so obscure that he didn't write a couple of sonnets on the subject, no minor printer who couldn't find a way to roll some new libelous and defamatory discourse off the press every day. . . . I was curious enough about these to acquire about 300 different ones, all published in Paris and peddled in the streets; they fill four large volumes . . . besides a great folio of pictures and placards . . . which I should have thrown in the fire, as they deserved, except that they may serve in some way to show and expose the abuses, impostures, vanities, and


furies of this great monster of the League (Brunet 3:177-180; Roelker 177).[29]

The League retained control of the city and would for nearly five more years, but on the fighting fronts the tide had turned. Senlis fell to royalist troops in mid-May, Pontoise in late July. A factor that was to become increasingly influential in the (eventual) shift of opinion was already evident. Navarre's negotiated treaty with Pontoise

left gentlemen mounted on their horses, soldiers with their swords, bourgeois houses not looted . . . and [people were saying] as much good of this Prince as formerly of bad, even the Sixteen of Paris and Boucher, who said aloud that if it were ever necessary to make a deal, he would always recommend treating with the king of Navarre, because he would do what he said he would do, unlike the tyrant (Brunet 3:301-302; Roelker 176-180).

These sentiments and the victories that inspired them had the effect of rendering the masters of Paris desperate. When the joint armies of the king and Navarre were camped near the capital, they feared a move by Parisian politiques that would prove the League's downfall. Under the heading "Politiques imprisoned as the wages of a Jacobin," L'Estoile describes the precautions taken even as preparations had been completed to remove the "tyrant" from the scene once and for all.

[July 31] The Sixteen had about 300 bourgeois locked up in the various prisons, including the most notable and prominent, whom they suspected of favoring the king in their hearts. They called them Huguenots and politiques . . . . They did this, they said, so that when the armies of the two kings tried to come into the city these alleged royalists would find themselves unable to move, (and so [the royalist party] would find itself blocked within and without) (Brunet 3:303; Roelker 180).

Henri III was assassinated the next day by Jacques Clement, a Dominican monk who had been incited or hired (or both) to do the deed. The event is graphically described by L'Estoile and in many politique tracts, in terms similar to those of the League about the Guise brothers. There was now a royal martyr as well as Catholic martyrs. But our politique spokesmen, while expressing pious regrets, have their eyes turned to the future, with hope and expectation.

De Thou received the news in Venice on August 14. When the courier


reported that "the armies of France and all the nobility had recognized the king of Navarre, the general consternation was converted to unexpected joy," he says in his Mémoires . (The event was to show that this was a considerable exaggeration, however.) De Thou goes on to give a full account of the arguments for recognizing the new king of France presented to the Venetian Senate by Marc'Antonio Barbaro, whose family had produced distinguished politicians and diplomats, including ambassadors to the French court.[30]

Pasquier wrote another of his detailed analyses, this time in a letter to Jean Tamboneau, sieur de Bouchet, président in the Chambre des Comptes and conseiller d'état, a friend and colleague of many years. For fourteen pages he set forth the balance sheet of virtues and defects of the late king (in which the latter far outweigh the former) and then concludes,

I have witnessed all these events with my own eyes, and they forecast nothing pleasant to come, nevertheless, in spite of all, it has never entered my head to abandon the obedience I owed him, and to follow another party, because it pleased God to make him my king. Therefore I have resolved to live and die under the one who will now rule over us, without undertaking any examination of his conscience; for whatever God has given us, we must accept . God knows better what we need than we ourselves.[31]

No period in the century was more highly charged than this late summer of 1589, when the "heretic" had just actually become king. We hazard only speculation about the distribution of high-ranking robins along a spectrum of attitudes toward religious dissent comparable to those of earlier decades, because those who remained in Paris were keeping a very low profile if they were in the royalist-politique camp. L'Estoile is a paradigm of this group, and the evidence of 1592-94 would suggest that it was sizable, probably a plurality of the population, and almost certainly a majority in the sovereign courts. And yet a great many things occurred in the five years between the accession of Henri IV and the "reduction of Paris to its obedience," which changed many minds—Du Vair being a paradigm here—so we shall never really know. What we do know is significant, however, although it does not form a complete pattern. Magistrates who were frankly politiques , like de Thou, Pasquier, Harlay, La Guesle, and all those who obeyed the king's command to leave the city by April 15, were willing to give wholehearted support to Navarre in spite of his "heresy"; Pasquier's formulation is clear


and convincing. But this did not imply that they had changed their lifelong opposition to division of religion in the state,[32] as we know from their unremitting efforts to bring about the king's abjuration and their constant emphasis on the expectation that he would convert when "recruiting" for the royalist cause, as they were obliged to do until July 1593, when they finally won the day. In addition to this expectation, we find two other motives for their making an exception for the king: the first is precisely because he was king. One could argue that the legal fact outweighed the religious factor—this is the essence of the politique position in 1589-91[33] —or, that since God had willed it, a good Christian should accept it (Pasquier), and/or that it was part of God's punishment for the sins of France, like the civil wars themselves (L'Estoile). The other motive is strictly pragmatic, Henri IV was better than the alternative, which meant the Lorraine princes nationally and the Sixteen in the capital. Religion, in other words, had truly been subordinated to political (eventually, also national) considerations. This position is at the extreme opposite pole to that of the League, whose leaders both moderate and radical had, on the contrary, declared that religion was the only cement of the state and that the defense of religious uniformity must have top priority. The work of Barnavi and Descimon has provided us with a deeper and more complete understanding of this than was previously the case. Between the two poles was a fluid, ill-defined, uncomfortable position, which we assume was that of members of the sovereign courts who stayed in Paris, unless they were secret politiques .

As usual (before 1593), Du Vair does not conform to the politique model. Another of his undelivered discours , but this one dated, was forthcoming upon the accession of Henri IV, known simply as le discours du 5 août . He was appalled at the violence that broke out in the city—even greater than after the Guise assassinations—and called upon the Parlement to intervene on behalf of order and security. He urged the court to declare a general amnesty, in order to cool the atmosphere and mitigate the hostility of the populace toward the court. (Radouant comments on how revealing this is of the court's vulnerability.)[34] He makes a strong plea for the maintenance of legal procedures and duly constituted officers—as in the supplication au


roi , only more so. He also strongly disapproves of the admission of armed forces into the capital, even those of Mayenne, with whom he was still collaborating. It is noteworthy that religion is not mentioned.

Of particular relevance for our study are passages in some of Du Vair's writings, other than orations, in the next two years, when he was withdrawn from public view, among them La Constance and Anecdotes , where he presents forceful arguments for remaining in Paris when to do so was to disobey an explicit royal command and, to the extent that one collaborated with the League, could be considered lesè-majesté. In ascending order of importance, he mentions protection of one's property, a legitimate concern, and of elderly parents, even more justifiable, but puts forth what Radouant calls "la véritable raison" almost between the lines: "Celuy qui par necessité, ou par un honneste dessein de secourir son pays, se sera laissé enveloper dans un party illegitime, tout ce qu'il peut faire, c'est d'observer toutes les occasions qui se presentent de flechir doucement les volontez de ses concitoyens à recognoistre leur bien et à le desirer."[35]

Furthermore, in his philosophical works he emphasizes prudence, "le commencement de toutes les vertus." Heroism that proves futile is "maladroit et coupable," because no matter how low the condition of our country has fallen, she will always need good men, who will be respected and trusted. In politics, the wise man will use means appropriate to the desired end. And because one has more often to choose between two evils than between good and evil, the good citizen will not be "too scrupulous," and if "the conventional way" will not lead to the desired goal, one may take "the most useful." Most striking of all—in ligueur Paris—is the condemnation of the error of those who, "starting from a fixed principle, are determined to deduce from it a mode of action applicable in all circumstances ." Radouant thinks that here Du Vair has in mind "those who repeat at every instant, 'This serves the preservation of the faith, therefore one must do it.'" This is responsible for "the blind confidence of fanatics."[36] Politics is "the application of what is appropriate to the desired goal, and this depends upon the circumstances, the person exercising the means, and those with whom he must deal; it excludes all considerations except utility, immediate or distant; it is the domain of the relative, not the absolute; it has only one criterion, success."[37]


Even if some other members of the court reasoned in the same way, they neither knew of Du Vair's arguments (published long afterward) nor drew much comfort from them in 1589, or for nearly five years thereafter. Indeed, the ordeal endured in 1589 would be surpassed by the one that lay ahead, in 1591.


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