previous chapter
13 Terrorism and Reaction, August 1589 to December 1591; 1592
next chapter

Terrorism and Reaction, August 1589 to December 1591; 1592

Although the antagonists in the new reign were the same—the Sixteen versus Parlement—the context in which it took place was different in several important ways. The most obvious change was the contrast between the new king and his predecessor, in the forces at his command, in his ability to act effectively and in his enthusiastic following, ever increasing, owing to his victories in the field.

By the end of the year he had gained the upper hand in such places as Vendôme and Anjou, strategic regions south of the Île de France, the classic base from which the Capetian kings had constructed the royal domain. In December 1589 L'Estoile reports that Villeroy, who had become one of Mayenne's chief advisers since his dismissal by Henri III, "advised the duke to deal with the king rather than with the Spaniards, provided the king became Catholic."[1] The greatest in the series of military successes was the Battle of Ivry, at the very gates of Paris, on March 14, 1590. Pasquier spoke for royalists and politiques everywhere in a letter to Sainte-Marthe, describing the event, blow by blow, which begins "Victoire! victoire! victoire! Why shouldn't I trumpet the king's miraculous victory throughout the entire universe?" Some historians have agreed with L'Estoile's opinion of the immediate result—though not with his explanation.

If he had followed this victory by coming at once to Paris, as he could have and should have, many think that the League, frightened and unprepared, would have opened the gates to him, and thus put an end to the miseries we have suffered since. But God's will was otherwise, because of our sins, which divide Him from us. There is no other explanation for this signal


mistake. How little even the most powerful princes can avail when God wishes to chastise them, which is plainly seen in history.[2]

Henri IV prepared to lay siege to the rebellious capital, and as the noose grew tighter the masters of the city took countermeasures: The cardinal de Bourbon had been declared king, but the duc de Mayenne remained lieutenant général of the crown of France, and therefore in command of the League armies. The royalist military offensive kept him constantly on the move, so he was rarely in Paris and his grip on the capital was slipping. The radical element took advantage of his absence to increase the pressure. As early as August 1589 the Hôtel de Ville had been the scene of struggles for control of the municipal government between the duke and the moderate ligueurs who supported him, and the Sixteen. The alliance was at best un mariage de raison , as Barnavi says, and it is not surprising that the bitter siege (May 14 to August 30, 1590) paved the way for the "divorce" that would come in 1591.[3] Inevitably it also stepped up the tempo of the war between the League, as a movement including both factions, and the royalists, further embittered by economic hardship.

Wednesday, August 8, there was a tumult at the Palais, by a whole crowd of people whom hunger drove—as the wolf drives animals from the woods—armed, and demanding peace or bread. This was undertaken by a large number of bourgeois of the city, including some of the most prominent, who would have been glad to see the king in the city as they had nothing to cook in their houses, any more than the poorest have. So great is the poverty and misery to which they are reduced that they ask nothing but a change of masters and conditions.

Monday, August 20, when the extreme poverty and misery of the people of Paris had been explained to the king, and he learned that the streets began to be paved with dead, His Majesty, preferring to break the rules of war rather than those of humanity . . . broke the military custom and treated the people as his subjects. [He] granted safe conduct to all women, children, and scholars who wished to leave [Paris]. He finally extended [this right] to everyone, including his bitterest enemies. He even enjoined the towns to which they might go to receive them well. Further, he permitted, against the rules of war, that supplies he brought in to the princes and princesses in the city. This was ungratefully accepted. Such [humanity] was one of the principal causes why the siege did not have the success it might have had.


After the lifting of the siege it was called the greatest of God's miracles since the Creation. It was said by others, "We are saved, although led by a blind man [Mendoza], governed by a child [Nemours], and advised by a priest [the Legate], none of whom knew a thing about war" (Brunet 5:43, 50-51, 49; Roelker 190-193).

In the aftermath of the siege the Sixteen took a step in the open toward their goal of purging the Parlement—again. Too many of those they had imposed on the court in January 1589 were Mayennistes, or "preferred their ties of interest and of family status to the necessity to suppress traitors among the gens de robe ." On September 18 the radicals sent a delegation to the duke with a list of demands; in addition to a more vigorous prosecution of the war and the dismissal of some of the duke's closest associates, they wished him to cooperate with them in establishing a committee to investigate the Parisian magistracy. Mayenne had to walk a fine line in his dealings with them; he needed their zeal to keep the antiroyalist flame burning, but he was apprehensive about their extreme ideas and especially anxious to divert their opposition away from the sovereign courts. His strategy was to delay responding as long as he could, to take no action whatever, and in the meanwhile, to wrest control of the Bureau de Ville from them. He accomplished the latter aim in a special election on October 17.[4] When the Sixteen realized that they could not achieve their objective through pressure on or manipulation of Mayenne, they sought a way to go over his head. This became possible because the papacy and the king of Spain had already begun to intervene in the French conflict directly—by entering into relations with the Sixteen.[5] On Saturday, January 20, 1590, Cardinal Cajetan, the papal legate, had arrived at the gates of Paris, and the next day, "after a solemn Te Deum at Notre-Dame, he was conducted to the Bishop's Palace, which had been magnificently prepared for him to live in during his stay." On February 10, the faculty of theology passed a resolution renewing its oath to the Holy Union, and also swore on the Gospel to exterminate heresy and to exclude from the throne the king of Navarre, whether or not he became a Catholic. A year later, February 12, 1591, Spanish and Neapolitan troops were brought into the city "and installed in the houses of the absent," putting "teeth" into radical policy from then on. The Sixteen thus acquired prestigious political leaders, with force to implement policy, who were independent of the Guises. For the duration


of the League—more than three years longer—the Spanish-papal intervention was a major factor, eventually it became determining, but in a way opposite to the intentions of Philip, Gregory XIV—and the Sixteen, namely by accelerating the nationalist reaction against the foreigners. Already in August 1590, at the height of the siege, months before their troops entered the city, L'Estoile reports manifestations of anti-Spanish sentiment: "These are the rewards of those who give their lives for Philip," read one sign over a butcher shop displaying "a few pieces of old asses and cats"; another proclaimed "Death to the Judaic Society [Jesuits] and the Iberian nation!"[6] Still another new element in the changed situation was the activity of the royalist Parlement in Tours. Although it had been set up by Henri III in the spring of 1589, it did not become a real force in the interplay of the factions until after his death—one more sign of the new king's vigor. What had been a trickle of officers leaving Paris (as commanded) became a flood. The royalist court was in constant turmoil because of changing numbers, changes in procedure, and contradictory orders, but it had begun to counter every action of the League, and Henri IV proclaimed it the only legal Parlement of the region. Reciprocal challenges and refutations were constantly exchanged. In January 1591 further confusion was introduced by the creation of a second royalist Parlement at Châlons, as well as the rise of a Third Party, which tried to bypass the League while maintaining a Catholic front against Henri IV. The Parlement of the League, meanwhile, had lost all its présidents except Barnabé Brisson by the opening of the fateful year, 1591.[7] Although terrorist attacks on the Parlement had began in the autumn of 1589, not until after the siege did they become the main object of attention.

Wednesday, March 13 [1591], our Master Boucher, who is preaching this Lenten season at St-Germain-l'Auxerrois, attacked the Béarnais and the politiques . . . . His sermons were even worse than the others, containing blood and murder, even against the court, whom he discounted as no good. He excited the people by his atrocious gestures and exhortations to get rid of them. One of the conseillers of the court, a friend of mine, told me the next day that if the crowd hadn't been so thick around him he would have left, for fear that in his rage [Boucher] would come down from the pulpit, jump on some politique and eat him raw with his teeth.

Sunday, March 24, the billets of the preachers instructed them to keep the people from accepting [the idea of] the king's conversion. . . . They said that an excommunicate and relapser couldn't be received no matter what


face he put upon it. The result of this was a bunch of injuries and vomit against the king. The curé of St-André called him son of a prostitute and bastard, Boucher called him the red dragon of the Apocalypse, and [said] that his mother was an old wolf. . . . Commolet said that only heretics and politiques wanted to see him go to Mass. They called him dog, tyrant, heretic, wicked. . . . Our master Ceuilly called him a stinking goat and alleged ulterior motives for his [supposed] desire to attend Mass, the said curé not having enough brains in his head to fry an egg. These were the beautiful Lenten sermons preached in Paris (Brunet 5:75-78; Roelker 198-199).

Throughout March and most of April 1591, Henri IV's troops were laying siege to the town of Chartres and the political temperature in Paris rose in explosions of anger with each rumor of the king's success and in wild rejoicing with each denial.

Indeed it can be said that there is no sort of devotion . . . which wasn't used by the people of Paris for the deliverance of Chartres. . . . Nothing was omitted, including prayers, offerings, and vows to the Virgin to keep her in the party. But whether she was indifferent, or what, it was all to no avail, because Friday, April 19 . . . Chartres was reduced to the king's obedience. . . . The news came to Paris on April 20 (Brunet 5:89; Roelker 200).

L'affaire Brisson

The predicament of early recruits to the League who found themselves out on a limb about to be cut off can be illustrated by many individuals (the lawyer Louis d'Orléans is often cited as an example because he is well known to posterity) but the key case is that of Jean Brigard, which provoked the most daring and dramatic attack yet of the Sixteen on the Parlement—Barnavi calls it le détonateur .[8] The facts are quickly summarized. Brigard had been "the courier of the Union" in the period of the buildup and was a regular bearer of messages between the duc de Guise and his Parisian partisans. As a reward, he had been elected procureur du roi at the Hôtel de Ville in the initial reshuffle of the Bureau de Ville after the Barricades. Yet in April 1591 he was arrested by Bussy-Leclerc (his cousin, who had recruited him originally), on the charge of communicating with the enemy. Six months later he was still in the Bastille and Parlement showed no signs of intending to bring him to trial. During the late summer the extremist


curés had repeatedly demanded that he be "brought to justice," but in October he was acquitted.[9]

On the first day of November, after the Sixteen had tried in vain to regain control of the municipal government, one of their leaders, Morin de Cromé,[10] declared "that the judges of Brigard must die." Premier président Barnabé Brisson had been receiving warnings that his life was in danger for a month. The radical faction then set up a secret "Committee of Ten" to plan and carry out a purge of the court. They met every day for two weeks at a different place. Bussy produced a blank paper, allegedly destined to contain a new formulation of the oath of loyalty to the union, pressuring his co-conspirators to sign, which most did, though some complained at being obliged to do so when they could not see the contents, which were described as "of utmost importance for the conservation of the faith." There are several quite detailed contemporary accounts of these meetings and the roles of particular individuals on specific days, with some slight variations. L'Estoile's is, as usual, very colorful, and agrees to a remarkable extent with some of those written by participants, although his information was entirely secondhand, of course.[11]

On Friday, November 15 (1591), Bussy and an armed troop invaded the Palais de Justice in the morning, seized Brisson and two known politiques ,[12] dragged them off to prison, where, after a summary "kangaroo" trial, they strangled and hanged them in the afternoon. Their bodies were strung up in the Place de Grève in the night, and by morning a large crowd had gathered. Bussy and his followers,

when they saw the crowd . . . began to cry "Get the traitors! Get the politiques who have sold the city to the heretic . . ." He and his friends shouted these things to move the mob to blood and pillage. Bussy shouted that if they would follow him, by evening . . . Paris would be cleansed of traitors . . . [of whom] he had a list . . . "If not," he cried, seeing that no one was showing any interest, "I warn you they will cut your throats . . . we would have all been dead if we hadn't taken their chiefs, whom you see here, and hadn't prevented them [from acting] today."


To these words the populace, instead of being moved to arm, as Bussy intended . . . said no word . . . regarding the poor bodies with pity; they pressed close together, being more filled with mercy than with sedition (Brunet 5:126-127; Roelker 210-211).

But the moderates managed to keep the upper hand in the Bureau de Ville and the Spanish and Neapolitan commanders refused to intervene, although the Sixteen had written a special plea to Philip II on November 20. In fact, there was a rapid decline in the radical following at once, which was never to be arrested, though the pace was slowed somewhat. Parlement made its contribution by refusing to convene for two weeks. The lawyer Louis d'Orléans, often called by contemporaries the "best pen of the League," said that "he found the deed so wicked and reprehensible that it could be expiated only by the death of the perpetrators." Barnavi divides the defectors into three categories, the moderate ligueurs who had never been comfortable with the Sixteen, those who felt it was "bad for business," and disillusioned idealists.[13]

While deploring the crime, our politique spokesmen thought that Brisson's "irresolution and ambition" were factors in his tragic fate. "He tried to keep in the good graces of the Sixteen on the one hand, and at the same time to work for the royalists. But he fell between the two, as usually happens to those . . . who, in great civil troubles like ours, try to be neutral or to get advantage from each side for themselves." This is L'Estoile's opinion. Du Vair's, embodied in his most famous oration a year and a half later, was "he had nourished the tigers who drank his blood. . . . He feared too much and thus suffered what he feared . . . and the worst of it is, that he had been warned loud and often." Then Du Vair draws a moral for his audience—the Parlement of Paris itself—"Messieurs, may the Grace of God, which saved you that day also open your eyes to a thousand other evils which will surely befall you if you do not act now [to preserve the constitutional succession, of Henri IV].[14] Ten days later L'Estoile reports,

Monday, November 25, [1591], I was shown the list of the politiques of our quarter, called "the red paper," in which I was much interested because my name was on it, and most of those I know. This . . . was a roll which the Sixteen had prepared for each quarter . . . of all the politiques of Paris, as


they are called, of all those held to be for the king in their hearts, adherents of his party, or who do not approve of the robbery, brigandage, and cruelty which they call the zeal of God. . . . On this list they put all those (however devout Catholics they are) who, as true Frenchmen, refuse to submit to Spanish domination.

They had resolved to hang or stab some and exile others of these . . . and it was designated which fate was in store by the letters P.D.C. [by their names], meaning pendu, dagué , or chassé . I found myself under the letter D . . . Monsieur Cotton, my father-in-law, under P . . . Monsieur le président Le Maistre likewise . . . Monsieur Désiré, my neighbor, under C . . . and so forth (Brunet 5:131-132; Roelker 206).[15]

Many Parisians were crying out for the duc de Mayenne to return to the city and restore order. Having ascertained that the Spaniards would not oppose him, he did so on November 28, and within a few days made a series of changes: he hanged four of the murderers and banished two others (Bussy was one, after the duke forced him to yield the Bastille); he arrested half a dozen others (but did not prosecute the radical curés at all); he made four appointments to the court, Matthieu Chartier as (temporary) premier président, Étienne Neuilly, André de Hacqueville, and Jean Le Maistre, as présidents, prominent ligueurs from the outset but Mayennistes, and Antoine Hotman as second avocat général (replacing Le Maistre).[16] Barnavi sees in this Thermidor mayenniste the real turning point in the League movement and the "writing on the wall" for the radicals—which is also the judgment of the mainstream magistrates and most historians throughout the centuries.[17] While their former adherents were changing sides, many of the Sixteen fled the city, fearing reprisals, though some later returned to take part in the last gamble—at the Estates of 1593.

The dilemma of Mayenne is strikingly clear: how to retain as much control as possible in Paris for the League as such, while disciplining the radicals, in Barnavi's words, casser le parti mais garder la faction , so as not to be at the mercy of the politiques . Simultaneously on the national level,


he was waging a diplomatic struggle on two separate fronts. The Third Party, which consisted principally of high-ranking ecclesiastics, wished to back any other (Catholic) candidate for king except Mayenne. The duke tried hard to change the minds of some—they were not in agreement with each other—but he never succeeded. At the same time, he was in frequent contact with the important Catholics, laymen as well as prelates, among the supporters of Henri IV. In the end it was with the king that he compromised, partly out of pique but chiefly, it would seem, because it was the only course that would enable him to keep important titles, lands, and offices. Salmon echoes the Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant when he reminds us that "Mayenne's politics were those of a pragmatist."[18]

Social analysis by the most recent historians of the movement brings out the noticeable shift in composition that had occurred among the League activists since the original conspiracy of 1585-88.

Magistrates, merchants and senior officers of justice and finance are less important; avocats and procureurs dominate the movement [in 1591]. Whereas members of the upper three categories composed 34 percent of the leadership in 1588, they were a mere 11 percent in 1591 [whereas avocats and procureurs ] who had made up 21 percent of the revolutionary elite before the Barricades, comprised 37 percent of the group that executed the coup.

In view of these changes, Salmon concedes that "frustrations . . . of the ambitious, articulate, and well-educated" in the lower ranks of the legal profession were probably operative, as Henri Drouot has maintained for the ligueurs of Dijon, though this does not exclude an element of religious sincerity, nor the role played by minor functionaries, such as sergeants, ushers, clerks.[19]

The Parlement Versus the Papacy

L'Affaire Brisson was a melodramatic episode of in-fighting in which feuds and personalities played an important part, at a moment in the course of the local Parisian movement that can be described with equal accuracy as its apogee or the beginning of its decline. It overlapped with a drama of a very different kind, involving one of the fundamental issues of French history from the fourteenth century to the Revolution. The Gallican con-


troversy of 1591 was to the conspiracy and murders of the same year as a deep groundswell at sea is to a surface chop.

During a brief pontificate (1590-91) Pope Gregory XIV tried to exploit the schism in Catholic France by excommunicating all those (but especially ecclesiastics) who were supporting Henri IV. The Bull in question, issued in March 1591, also contained warnings (monitoires ) to all French Catholics to avoid the sin—and punishments—of associating with the "heretic and apostate" king in any way. This was a radical departure from the strategy of the late Pope Sixtus V, which, we recall, was rather to encourage a reconciliation of the parties. The reactions of the two royalist parlements, of the king, of the Parlement of Paris, and of the French clergy in official convocation constitute as striking a spectrum of opinion on this basic issue as ever occurred in French history, and they highlight for us the nuances of parlementaire attitudes toward heresy, and toward the various issues with which it had become entangled in the sixty-some years since the emergence of religious dissent on the French scene.

The Bull's text arrived in Paris (it was delivered to the cathedral chapter of Notre-Dame) at the very end of May 1591. The first public reaction was that of the clergy. The Bull was read aloud in the cathedral on June 3, and posted on all four doors. Guillaume Rose, bishop of Senlis, one of the radical curés, preached a sermon "exalting papal majesty even above the ninth Heaven, while lowering and abasing that of the king to the lowest levels of Hell," L'Estoile reports (Brunet 5:101). A week later, the first salvo on the Gallican side came from the small Parlement the king had recently established at Châlons,[20] of which Augustin de Thou was premier président; that ordered the Bull to be torn in shreds in the court and burned, a procedure later followed by all the courts loyal to the king.[21]

Henri IV had matched the conciliatory diplomacy of Sixtus V by a corresponding open-mindedness and had hopes of reaching some accommodation; and he reacted strongly in opposition to the onslaught of Gregory XIV. As de Thou says, he thought the Châlons actions (and condemnations) worthy of Parlement and of French liberties and wished to confirm and support them with his own authority. To this end he made two speeches on July 4, the first a "Declaration," addressed to Rome and Catholics in general,


which began with a repetition of his statement on the day of his accession, that he wished to receive instruction in the Catholic faith, calling for a General Council to adjudicate points of dispute, promising that in the meantime he would maintain it in France and would not attempt to introduce any changes. In de Thou's opinion, "This should have satisfied those who claim to have taken arms only to defend their religion, and would have if those who wished to dismember the kingdom and divide it up among them, that is, the Spaniards and the dukes of Savoy and Lorraine, had not given them arms, while masking their criminal ambitions under the pretext of religion."[22] Sixtus V had understood this, but the new pope, it seemed, did not. In Henri's words,

Blinded by our enemies, he sent a nuncio into our kingdom with rigorous orders to detach from our service princes, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, and leading magistrates who had remained faithful to us. This nuncio entered France without our consent and without notifying us and joined forces with our rebellious subjects. . . . These actions [on the part of the papacy] infringe on our royal authority, on the laws of the kingdom and on the liberties of the Gallican church.

He concludes by saying that he is asking all the parlements "in whose competence the matter lies . . . to consider and take action."[23]

Later in the day, the king addressed his council on the subject of the Protestants of France. In this second speech he takes the councillors to task for violating the edicts granting civil rights to his subjects who held dissident views because their action makes it necessary to issue a new edict, both to ensure the rights of the reformed and so that "finally you yourselves can render us the obedience you owe and live in peace with the Protestants." He reminds them of the early civil wars, in which the Châtillons felt obliged to take arms as the "protectors" of the reformed and warns that it could happen again. He also warns that outside Protestant powers, especially the England of Queen Elizabeth, may intervene, and states forcefully that he will not permit that to happen, nor will he tolerate "several kings, which is what happens when there are parties with armed leaders."

De Thou's restrained comment on this speaks volumes.

The Assembly showed by its silence its support for the prudence and equity of the king. Only the cardinal de Bourbon, who wished to provoke the Third Party to come into the open, rose from his place and started to leave


the chamber, after stuttering a few words. But when the king noted that [other ranking prelates, suspected of belonging to the cardinal's faction] made no move to follow, he ordered him to sit down again, in a commanding tone.

Henri IV then proceeded to issue a new edict in favor of the Protestants with a proviso: "it would not take effect until peace had been restored to the kingdom and all would have returned to their obedience," with "differences in religion settled with the consent of all the orders of the kingdom."[24] It would be another eight years before these conditions would prevail.

The Parlement of Paris took its (predictably contrary) stand within a few days. Denouncing the decision of the so-called Parlement in Châlons, the Paris court ordained that the Châlons arrêt be burned on the marble table, which was done on July 18, 1591. This action stimulated a new rash of clerical rhetoric from the pulpits:

Sunday, July 21, the preachers of Paris declared unanimously against the decision of the Châlons Parlement, praising and raising to the third Heaven the present pope, consigning his predecessor to the deepest Hell . . . falling on those of Châlons . . . avoiding no sort of injury which would make them odious. Boucher, most violent and injurious of all . . . called de Thou a mad bull, Agenous an old drunken Huguenot . . . giving each member of the Châlons Parlement a soubriquet, and declared that there were seventeen heresies in their declaration.

The curé of St-André vomited his rage against the king: one should no longer call him Henri de Bourbon, as the excommunication deprived him of that name; if it was necessary to speak of him he should be called "heretic, relapser, excommunicate, villain, son of a prostitute, devil" . . . and said that the Parlements of Tours and Châlons should be burned alive with their decisions.

Rose, Commolet, Ceuilly, Guarinus, Lincestre, Martin and all the others treated the same subject, in their well-known way (Brunet 5:107-108; Roelker 203-204).

Understandably, some Catholics prominent in the king's party were sufficiently troubled by the pope's censure to waver in their allegiance, and the League exploited the opportunity to claim gains at a time when their losses were becoming conspicuous. Moreover, even as Frenchmen tended to attack "evil advisers" of a monarch when condemning royal policies, so loyal French Catholics directed their strongest invective against the papal legates, specifically against the nuncio Landriano, whom Gregory had en-


trusted with the mission of implementing the Bull. The Parlement of Tours, on August 5, denounced the Bull and monitoires as "abusive, seditious, full of impiety, contrary to the rights, immunities, and privileges of the Gallican church." An arrêt was passed, condemning all copies to be torn up and burned and enacting prohibitions to all bishops, curés, and other ecclesiastics to publish or read them; and to all persons of whatever estate and condition to possess them "or suffer the consequences of lèse-majesté ." The court further ordained that "Landriano, so-called nuncio and bearer of these seditious documents, be bodily seized, imprisoned, and interrogated by the court." It also declared "Gregory, so-called XIV pope of that name, enemy of public tranquility, of peace, of the unity of the Catholic Church, of the king and his state, fauteurs des rebelles, complice des Espagnols et du détestable parricide commis par trahison sur la personne du Roi Henri III. "[25]

When the ligueur Parlement in Paris received word of the Tours action, it held a session, on September 24, to condemn it in even more drastic terms than had been applied to the Châlons arrêt two months earlier, nullifying it as "execrable, abominable, drawn up by men with no authority, schismatics, heretics, men who had violated their oath of loyalty to God, whose cause they had betrayed and abandoned." The Paris court reaffirmed the duty of all to honor and respect the successor of Saint Peter, and to obey his Bulls, which were "inspired by piety and paternal solicitude." Public prayers and processions were ordered to be held every Thursday, "to appease God's anger" and members of the Parlement were to attend.[26]

The royalist bishops, assembled in Chartres about the same time, firmly reiterated the sentiments of the Tours and Châlons parlements and of Henri IV, appealing to "all Christians, true Catholics who care about the honor of Frenchmen, and especially the clergy, to join with us . . . to pray that divine Grace will inspire the king . . . and lead him to the bosom of the Catholic church, as he gave us to hope at his accession, promising to conserve the ecclesiastical hierarchy, with its rights, privileges, and liberties."[27] This hope was realized, as far as the official convocation of the French bishops held in November 1591 was concerned,[28] although peace, return of all to their obedience and reconciliation were, naturally, much longer in coming.


The historian of the Parlement of Paris, Édouard Maugis, gives us his opinion of these varying reactions to the papal initiative:

The Châlons judges spoke a pure legalistic language, full of subtleties, as in diplomacy; those of Paris followed the party line of Rome (doctrine stricte pontificale ) without sufficient reservations for the rights of the Crown; Henri IV [spoke] the supreme wisdom that stems from good sense and from legal justification. The Parlement of Tours takes us back to the excesses of a Pierre de Flotte and Philip the Fair. Fortunately, the clergy showed greater tact and political realism . . . as interpreter and guardian of the Gallican liberties.[29]

The Gallican crisis was not decisively settled until the summer of 1593, and it is probable that it would have dragged on longer had not Henri IV then felt obliged—finally—to fulfill his promise to "return to the bosom of the Church." Even so, he could not reenter the capital, his immediate objective, for another eight months, and it took him five more years to quell the rebellion completely.

The Tide Turns, 1592

Other items of unfinished business in 1592 include the problems of Mayenne, who continued his politique de bascule in several vain efforts to persuade the Third Party to advance him as their candidate, in attempts to manipulate the Bureau de Ville which were only partially successful, and in further disciplinary moves against the radicals. Some of these had come out of hiding in the year intervening between the duke's punishment of the November 1591 murders and the opening of the Estates of the League in January 1593.

The Sixteen's hopes of rekindling their cause were soon dashed, however, as the public response to every sign of such a revival was decidedly negative. On the contrary, factors strongly favoring the politiques had emerged. One of these was the economic plight of the city, cut off from trade with the provinces—or foreign markets—by encircling royal armies. Demands for trade were made almost daily, in manifestos and public meetings. By July, it had become the latest theme of the curés:

Friday, July 3, 1592, the people of Paris were forbidden to go to St-Denis, to trade or for any other reason, on pain of imprisonment. An injunction was also issued for all those of the opposite party to leave the city within twenty-four hours or be declared prisoners of war. All passports were re-


voked, which was a measure to raise money by the renewal of them, as was evident the next day, when one got a renewal by paying.

Sunday, July 5, the curé of St-André cried out loudly in his sermon against the peace that was being drawn up, supposedly. . . . He also said that those who were with the Béarnais were all damned, no matter how much they protested that they were Catholic; he also said that the politiques , of which Paris was full . . . were a hundred times worse than the Béarnais. . . .

The curé of St-Jacques . . . "excommunicated" all those who talked of peace, or thought trade should be resumed [with the royalist towns]. . . .

Rose, Ceuilly, Martin, Guarinus, Feuardant, and all the others preached in the same way, saying that they were of the opinion, if the Holy Father approved, of receiving the Béarnais in the Church as a Capuchin but not as a king. They attacked those who favored trade between Paris and St-Denis . . . claimed that there were more than 3,000 politiques who plotted under cover of trade. They complained that those who should have controlled these things did nothing about it. This caused M. de Belin [governor of Paris] to have a general check made at all the gates the next day . . . but no one was found who was not armed with a passport and safe-conduct, nor was anyone discovered who declared himself a politique (Brunet 5:172-174; Roelker 218-219).

Trade requires communications, and they depend on suspension of hostilities, so efforts to procure a truce proliferated and gathered support. Yet for trade to be continuous and businessmen to have confidence, a few days of truce do not suffice. Nevertheless many Parisians, even if disillusioned with the League, resisted making permanent peace with "the heretic"—denounced as sin in ever more lurid terms by the clergy—and the diehards would not hear of it. Economic hardship and the need for a resumption of commerce thus motivated Parisians increasingly to favor negotiations for peace, trade and a stepped-up campaign for the king's conversion; these were nicknamed Semonneux , the "inviters." The movement burgeoned in October 1592. After commenting on the phenomenon itself, L'Estoile recounts an experience of his own that dramatizes the situation of politiques who had remained in ligueur Paris as well as illustrating the economic motivations of the Semonneux :

Friday, the 23d, I returned . . . from St-Denis, where I did more business in one afternoon than I did on my last trip in seventeen days, because I was able, under the name of Bellemanière, to get hold of part of my revenues from Orléans. This was because M. du Four, governor of Gergeau, who can do anything, promised to back me against those who treat me as a ligueur there—as here I am treated as a politique —a fine way to get things done! (Brunet 5:182-183; Roelker 220).


Four days later, however, the Chambre des Comptes as a body strengthened the movement enormously:

Tuesday, October 27, in spite of the presence of the duke of Mayenne, the Chambre des Comptes voted unanimously for peace, and to send to the king the invitation to become Catholic. Président d'Ormesson . . . took news of this to the duke, and, as all but four had agreed [L'Huillier, Hotman, Dalesseau, and Acarie],[30] he begged him to consider it . . . in view of the necessity of the people . . . and the fact that peace was the only remedy. He spoke as the representative of the company (Brunet 5:183; Roelker 220).

The curés did not diminish their onslaught:

Sunday, November 1, our Master Boucher excommunicated the Semonneux of his parish and forbade them the Mass. . . .

The next day he said that there were asses who were of a mind to send to the Béarnais and accept him if he were a Catholic. . . . As for him, he thought that it would be all right for the Béarnais to conquer the Kingdom of Heaven, because he couldn't deceive anybody there, but the kingdom of France, no, he could deceive too many.

[When] the king . . . was told that some wanted to send from Paris to ask him to become a Catholic. "Catholic!" he said, "I'll be Catholic before the men of Paris are good men, tell them so for me in no uncertain terms" (Brunet 5:186-187; Roelker 221).

The radicals hoped to rouse the menu peuple against the Semonneux and revive the spirit of the Barricades, and just before Christmas there were rumors that the throats of the "inviters" of the heretic would be cut. Mayenne's feeble hold on the situation was eroding visibly from day to day; he had been obliged to drop his Fabian policy and set a date for the meeting of the Estates (for January 1593). At one point he said, at a session of the Bureau de Ville,

"You have asked for the resumption of trade, you shall have it, and for a session of the Estates, which will remedy your necessity and establish order," then, turning to La Chapelle-Marteau, he asked, "What more do the people want?" "Monsieur," [the latter] replied, "They want a king, and will have one" (Brunet 5:190; Roelker 222).

Henri IV, for his part, was preparing to meet them halfway. This involved sounding out leading Catholic prelates, who either had already defected


from the League or were known to be wavering, to recruit them to help in two necessary steps: he must accept instruction before he could announce a conversion, and he must procure the cooperation—in the form of absolution—from the pope.

As the year ended, all these important matters hung in the balance, in L'Estoile's words. "In this year 1592, these things tried the patience of the poor people of Paris and concerned them, in hopes that some of them might cure their troubles: peace, commerce, the trip to Rome, the conversion of the king, the Estates, and the election of a Catholic king" (Brunet 5:200; Roelker 223).


previous chapter
13 Terrorism and Reaction, August 1589 to December 1591; 1592
next chapter