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1574. THE KING OF NAVARRE. 255
Catherine, in the mean time, had the address to procure the crown of Poland for the son of her predilection, Henry duke of Anjou. She had lavished her wealth upon the electors for this purpose. No sooner was the point gained than she regretted it. The health of Charles was now manifestly on the decline, and Catherine would fain have retained Henry; but the jealousy of the king forbade. After conducting the duke on his way to Poland, the court returned to St. Germain, and Charles sunk, without hope or consolation, on his couch of sickness. Even here he was not allowed to repose. The young king of Navarre formed a project of escape with the prince of Conde. The due d'Alencon, youngest brother of the king, joined in it. A body of horse was to wait in the forest of St. Germain for the princes, and protect them in their flight. The vigilance of the queen-mother discovered the enterprise, which, for her own purposes, she magnified into a serious plot. Charles was informed that a Huguenot army was coming to surprise him, and he was obliged to be removed into a litter, in order to escape. "This is too much," said he: "could they not have let me die in peace V'
Conde was the only prince that succeeded in making his escape. The king of Navarre and the due d'Alencon were imprisoned. The former, accused of conspiring against the king's life, defended himself with magnanimity, and asked, was it a crime, if he, a king, sought to free himself from durance] This young prince, or monarch, had already succeeded, by his address, his frankness, and high character, in rallying to his interests the most honorable of the noblesse, who dreaded at once the perfidious Catherine and her children; who had renounced their g*ood opinion of young Guise after the day of St. Bartholomew; and who, at the same time professing Catholicism, were averse to Huguenot principles and zeal. This party, called the Politiques, professed to follow the middle or neutral course, which at one time had been that of Catherine of Medicis; but she had long since deserted it, and had joined in all the sanguinary and extreme measures of her son and of the Guises. Hence she was especially odious to the new and moderate party of the Politiques among whom the family of Montmorency held the lead Catherine feared their interference at the moment of the king's death, whilst his successor was absent in a remote kingdom; and she swelled the project of the princes' escape into a serious conspiracy, in order to be mistress of those whom she feared. Lamole and Coconas, both confidants of the princes, were executed for favoring their escape. The marshals of Cosse and Montmorency were sent to the Bastiie
In this state of the court Charles IX. expired on the 30th en May, 1574, after having nominated the queen-mother to bfe regent during his successor's absence.
The character of Charles is graven in the events of his reign. He was a cruel and perfidious monster, and although a great portion of the burden of his crimes must fall on the religion which prompted and absolved, nay, nominally halowed them, yet to have been instrumental in perpetrating such atrocities is sufficient to damn him. One would think there was no need for this severity of language; one might suppose that the mere facts, the massacres of the time, would sufficiently provoke the judgment of every reader. But the memory of Charles IX. has never wanted defenders. Brantome describes him as a pattern of amiability and virtue. Catholic writers have not ceased to vaunt and to excuse him; and even a modern historian, Anquetil, begs us "to excuse his extreme vivacity," and informs us that i' his good qualities were far more in number than his bad ones."
HENRY THE f*HIRD.
The career of the new king, while duke of Anjou, had been glorious. Raised to the command of armies at the age of fifteen, he displayed extreme courage as well as generalship. He had defeated the veteran leader of the Protestants at Jarnac and at Montcontour; and the fame of his exploitshad contributed to place him on the elective throne of Poland, which he now occupied. Auguring from his past life, a brilliant epoch might be anticipated; and yet we enter upon -the most contemptible reign, perhaps, in the annals of France. Notwithstanding the valor of Henry, occasionally directed by a mind sagacious enough when awakened, there was a weakness, a fatuity about him, that looked like a curse, for it was unaccountable. He seemed to have faculties, but no spirit to direct them. Pleasure was with him the sole end of existence. He inherited from his mother a complete indifference to any principle or party. But this want of motive, which she amply supplied by profound and active selfishness, in him became apathy, combined with a distaste for aught save sensual and frivolous enjoyment. The maternal feelinsf that led the astute Catherine to centre hei
1574. FIFTH CIVIL WAR. 257
affection in this weak and infatuated son, must have wrought for her much of the pain and mortification that her perfidy deserved.
Henry was obliged to run away by stealth from his Polish subjects. When overtaken by one of the nobles of that kingdom, the monarch, instead of pleading his natural anxiety to visit France and secure his inheritance, excused himself by drawing forth the portrait of his mistress, the princess of Conde, and declared that it was love which hastened his return. At Vienna, however, Henry forgot both crown and mistress amidst the feasts that were given him; and he turned aside to Venice, to enjoy a similar reception from that rich republic. In these pleasures he lingered, lavishing money, and even giving away the fortresses of his kingdom in liberality to his hosts.
The hostile parties were in the mean time arming. The Politiques, or neutral Catholics, for the first time, showed tnemselves in the field. They demanded the freedom of Cosse and of Montmorency, and at length formed a treaty of alliance with the Huguenots. Henry, after indulging in the ceremony of being crowned, was obliged to lead an army into the field. Sieges were undertaken on both sides, and what is called the fifth civil war raged openly. It became more serious when the king's brother joined it. This wTas the duke of Alencon, a vain and fickle personage, of whom it pleased the king to become jealous. Alencon fled, and joined the malcontents. The reformers, however, warred but languidly. Both parties were without active and zealous leaders; and the only notable event of this war was a skirmish in Champagne, where the duke of Guise received a slight wound in the cheek. From hence came his surname of Le Balafre.
Since the massacre of St. Bartholomew's eve, at least since his frustrated attempt to escape, the young king of Navarre had remained a captive at court, under the watchful and envious eye of Catherine. Forgetful of his high destinies, Bourbon gave himself up to pleasure; some of his admirers assert that he affected to be dead to ambition, in order to lull the suspicions of the queen-mother, thus acting the part of Brutus at the court of Tarquin. His desire to escape could not have slept. To support the presence of his wife must alone have been bitter humiliation to him: Margaret was at once as debauched and as cruel as her royal brothers; and about this very time Bnguast, one of the king's infamous favorites, fell under the dagger of a person hired by her to avenge an insult. Still Bourbon endured all with his chaiuJteristic gaiety. "I must abandon the mass and my wife**' said he, "but, with the help of friends, I hope to be able te do without either." When the duke of Alencon escaped, he pressed the king of Navarre to accompany him; but the latter would not trust himself again to one who had before betrayed him; and it was not until some time after the duke's flight, that Bourbon succeeded in leaving the court. He bent his course towards Guienne, and at Niort publicly avowed his adherence to the reformed religion, declaring that force alone had made him conform to the mass.
It was about this time that the king, in lieu of leading an army against the malcontents, dispatched the queen-mother;, with her gay and licentious court, to win back his brother. She succeeded, though not without making large concessions. The duke of Alencon obtained Anjou, and other provinces in appanage, and henceforth was styled duke of Anjou. More favorable terms were granted to the Huguenots: they were allowed ten towns of surety in lieu of six, and the appointment of a certain number of judges in the parliament.
Such weakness in Henry disgusted the body of the Catholics; and the private habits of his life contributed still more, if possible, than his public measures, to render him contemptible. He was continually surrounded by a set of young and idle favorites, whose affectation it was to unite ferocity with frivolity. The king showed them such tender affection as he might evince towards woman: they even had the unblushing impudence to adopt feminine habits of dress; and the monarch passed his time in adorning them and himself with robes and ear-rings. The licentiousness of the court, and the demoralization arising from the total absence of female virtue, which, since the reign of Francis I., had been notorious, were carried to such extent under Charles IX., that the higher ranks of the sex ceased to have charms, and •became objects of disgust, even to the licentious. Hence came the indescribable tastes and amusements of Henry and his mignons, as his favorites were called, which raised up throughout the nation one universal cry of abhorrence and contempt.
The populace of Paris had from the first declared against the Huguenots: the blood they had spilled on St. Bartholomew's eve was enough to fix them in their opinions. They cordially sympathized with the Catholic chiefs, and with young' Guise, who lived in a kind of exile in his government of Champagne, resentful on account of the lenity and concessions of the king in the late treaty. Their religion was menaced, and an association was formed to support it, which afterwards grew into the famous League. The idea might have been taken from the Protestants, who at this timo 1576. MEETING OF THE STATES-C'ENERAL. 259
formed a closely united body. But many trace the origin of the league to a date some years anterior, and attribute it to the cardinal of Lorraine and his brother, the first du.ke of Guise. In my own view, if the league had any model, it was the institution of the Jesuits, of which, about this period, it adopted the leading principle, viz. the necessity of an absolute chief. The first document of the union that was signed in Picardy lays stress on this as the chief point. It is curious to mark the different tendencies of the two religions. Rochelle at the same time refused to receive the prince of Conde as king of Navarre, otherwise than with only a few followers, stipulating that their leader should have no more authority over them than the judges in Israel. The Catholics, however, at once looked to Guise as their chief. And when Henry, by his conduct, rendered himself utterly contemptible, when his brother showed a character equally null, and when, in fact, the race of Valois seemed likely soon to become extinct, the Catholics began to look to the duke of Guise, not merely as a party leader, but as their future monarch. The Bourbons, the natural heirs to the crown, were set aside as heretica The genealogy of the Guises was blazoned forth, as showing their descent from Charlemagne. It was argued that they were the true inheritors of the crown, the race of Capet being declared usurpers from the commencement. Such were the general reasonings of the leaguers. Their immediate plan was to force the king to summon the states-general, to employ their utmost efforts to secure the election of Catholic members, and, by means of this majority, to revoke the privileges granted to the Huguenots. Some also proposed to shut up the king and his brother in a convent, and offer the crown to the duke of Guise. The more experienced members of the party were, however, wTell aware that the time was not yet arrived for such extreme measures.
The states-general met at Blois in December, 1576. The Huguenots themselves were eager for their meeting, from a recollection of the sentiments favorable to moderation and to tolerance, evinced by the last states, summoned at Orleans. They forgot the "nfluence exercised at that period by the chancellor de THopital, as well as by Coligny. Now the league had spread its ramifications throughout the kingdom: the provincial assemblies and elections were completely influenced by them. The states were in the interest of Guise, as appeared from the nature of their first demands: these were the repeal of tlie edicts, and a declaration of war against the heretics. They sought to obtain the force of law for their decrees, and conducted themselves in every way as'an artfu1 and factious assembly. Henry was roused from his apathv