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demeanour of the young king. He employed his influence to induce other Protestant chiefs to follow his example, and, though repeatedly warned of his danger, his confidence was unshaken. In this deceitful calm, he exclaimed, “ Rather than renew the horrors of civil war, I would be dragged a corpse through the streets of Paris.”
The court resided then at Blois; but the marriage of Henry, king of Navarre, with Margaret, the sister of Charles, drew it to Paris on the 18th of August, 1572. Coligni, the Prince of Condé, and the most considerable men of the Protestant party, attended without suspicion, and entertained a hope that the marriage of a Protestant king with the king's sister would appease the religious animosities. But at this moment a most diabolical plot was in existence for the total extirpation of the Huguenots by massacre.
Condé and the king of Navarre only were to be spared, on condition of changing their religion. Volumes have been written upon the disputed points, of the original projectors of the plot, and the precise share which the king bore in it; but this is not the place for such topics. We can only state the general and well authenticated facts.
The marriage was celebrated with great pomp. Four days were passed in all sorts of festivities. On the fifth, as Coligni was walking home, reading a paper, he was shot by an arquebuse from the upper window of a house occupied by the Duke of Guise. One ball shattered his hand, and another lodged in
The wounds were declared to be not dangerous; but, on the news of the occurrence, the
Huguenots repaired in crowds to the Admiral's residence, and offered him their services, with menacing language against the Guises, the suspected assassins. The real authors of this deed, however, were the Queen Mother, the Duke of Anjou, and the Duke of Nemours. The attempt having failed, the conspirators met secretly the next morning. After dinner, the Queen Mother was seen to enter the king's chamber; Anjou and some other Catholic lords presently joined her. According to Charles's account of this meeting, as reported by his sister, Margaret, he was there suddenly informed of a treasonable conspiracy of the Huguenots against himself and family ; was told that the Admiral and his friends were at that moment plotting his destruction, and that, if he did not promptly anticipate the designs of his enemies, he and his family might be sacrificed. Under this impression, he states that he gave a reluctant and hurried consent to the proposition of his counsellors, exclaiming, as he left the room, that he hoped not a single Huguenot would be left alive to reproach him with the deed. The plan of the massacre had been previously arranged, and the signal was to be given in two hours.
All Paris was tranquil at this moment. Charles, his mother, and Anjou repaired to an open balcony of the Louvre, and awaited the result in breathless silence. This awful suspense was broken by the report of a pistol. Charles shook with horror ; his frame trembled ; his resolution failed him, and cold drops stood upon his brow.
But it was too late to recede ; the bell of the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois tolled, and the horrible massacre commenced at two
o'clock in the morning of the 24th of August, 1572, the day of St. Bartholomew. Coligni and his friends were immediately murdered in cold blood, and their remains were treated with brutal indignity. The populace were then called upon to join in the carnage, and protect their religion and their king against Huguenot treason. The leaders galloped through the streets shouting, “Kill! kill ! — kill the Huguenots! kill every man of them !- It is the king's orders !” The wretched Protestants were murdered in their beds, or cut down in attempting to escape.
The streets and houses streamed with blood. The rage of the murderers spared neither age, sex, nor condition. The king was said to have encouraged the massacre, by firing from the windows of his palace upon the miserable fugitives as they ran along the streets. The affair now took a turn which was not anticipated. Secret revenge and personal hatred embraced that favorable opportunity for gratification, and many Catholics fell by the hands of Catholic assassins. Towards evening, the excesses of the populace became so alarming, that the king, by sound of trumpet, commanded every man to return to his house, under penalty of death, except the officers of the guard and the civil authorities. The next day, he issued another proclamation, declaring that no person, under pain of death, should kill or pillage another, unless duly authorized. It is evident that the massacre was more extensive and indiscriminate than its projectors had anticipated, and that it was necessary to check the disorderly fury of the populace. Yet it was not till the end of the third day that the slaughter ceased. But, in the mean time, orders
had been sent for the perpetration of the same butchery in the provinces, and one hundred thousand victims are computed to have fallen in this diabolical
On the 26th of August, Charles went in state to the parliament of Paris, and avowed himself the author of the whole proceeding, claiming to himself the merit of having thereby given peace to his kingdom. A medal was struck in commemoration of the event, with the inscription, “Piety put the sword into the hand of Justice."
Yet the conduct of Charles is not easily understood. Sully informs us, that, while the massacre was going on, he behaved like one possessed. A few days after, he said to the celebrated Ambrose Paré, his surgeon, and a Huguenot, “I know not how it is, but for the last few days I have felt like one in a fever; my mind and body are both disturbed. Every moment, whether I am asleep or awake, visions of murdered corpses, covered with blood, and hideous to the sight, haunt me. Oh! I wish they had spared the innocent and feeble !”
He died in less than two years after the massacre, in an agony of mental and bodily suffering.
The massacre of St. Bartholomew produced effects entirely the reverse of what had been expected by the Catholics, but exactly such as a knowledge of human nature, and of the principles of religious zeal and enthusiasm, would have anticipated. The Huguenots, instead of being crushed into submission, became more formidable from despair. A thirst for revenge, and an ardent spirit of civil and religious liberty, were kindled all over the country. Civil war burst out again in all its fury. The Protestants assembled in large bodies,
and took refuge in strong places. The king of Na. varre and the prince of Condé placed themselves at their head. With the most heroic valor they combated for their religion ; and, in these dreadful com. motions, such deeds were committed as cannot be remembered without horror. The king of Navarre, by his fortitude, prudence, and policy, at length calmed these agitations. By embracing the Catholic religion, he made his way to the throne of France; and this monarch, Henry the Fourth, secured to his Protestant subjects, by the famous Edict of Nantes, in 1598, a full enjoyment of their civil rights and privileges, without persecution or molestation from any quarter.
But the sufferings of the Huguenots were afterwards renewed under Louis the Fourteenth, when the bishops and Jesuits, who influenced that weak prince, formed a plan to extirpate them by fire and sword, and to ruin, by one mortal blow, the cause of the Reformation in France. The Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 ; liberty of conscience was abolished ; all the Protestant churches were destroyed; and orders were issued to take their children from them, and place them in the hands of Catholics. The ministers were banished, and all the terrors of military execution were employed to force the others to profess the Catholic religion. Such of these compulsory converts as relapsed were exposed to the most dreadful punishments. Great num. bers were put to death, and a price was set on the heads of the rest, who were hunted like wild beasts. By this atrocious persecution, more than half a million of the most useful and industrious inhabitants of France were driven into exile ; and the bigoted cruelty and in