475. A BRIEF NOTE CONCERNING THE HORRIBLE MASSACRE IN FRANCE, ANNO 1572.
Illustration -- The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve
Here, before the closing up of this book, in no case would be unremembered the tragical and furious massacre in France, wherein were murdered so many hundreds and thousands of God's good martyrs. But because the true narration of this lamentable story is set forth in English at large, in a book by itself, and extant in print already, it shall the less need now to discourse that matter with any new repetition; only a brief touch of summary notes for remembrance may suffice. And first, for brevity' sake to overpass the bloody butchery of the Romish catholics in Orange against the protestants, most fiercely and unawares breaking into their houses, and there, without mercy, killing man, woman, and child; of whom some being spoiled and naked, they threw out of their lofts info the streets, some they smothered in their houses with smoke, with sword and weapon sparing none, the carcasses of some they threw to dogs; which was anno 1570, in the reign of Charles the Ninth. Likewise to pass over the cruel slaughter at Rouen, where the protestants being at a sermon without the city-walls, upon the king's edict, the catholics in fury ran upon them coming home, and slew of them above forty at least; many more they wounded. This example at Rouen stirred up the papists in Dieppe to practise the like rage also against the Christians there returning from the sermon; whose slaughter had been the greater, had they not more wisely before been provided of weapons for their own defence at need: all which happened about the same year aforesaid, anno 1570. But these with such like I briefly overslip, to enter now into the matter above promised, that is, briefly to entreat of the horrible and most barbarous massacre wrought in Paris, such as I suppose was never heard of before, in any civil dissension amongst the very heathen. In few words to touch the substance of the matter:
After long troubles in France, the catholic side, foreseeing no good to be done against the protestants by open force, began to devise how by crafty means to entrap them, and that by two manner of ways: the one by pretending a power to be sent into the lower country, whereof the admiral to be the captain; not that the king so meant indeed, but only to understand thereby what power and force the admiral had under him, who they were, and what were their names. The second was by a certain marriage suborned, between the prince of Navarre and the king's sister. To this pretended marriage, it was devised that all the chiefest protestants of France should be invited, and meet in Paris. Among whom first they began with the queen of Navarre, mother to the prince that should marry the king's sister, attempting by all means possible to obtain her consent thereunto. She, being then at Rochelle, and allured by many fair words to repair unto the king, consented at length to come, and was received at Paris; where she, after much ado, at length being won to the king's mind, and providing for the marriage, shortly upon the same fell sick, and within five days departed, not without suspicion, as some said, of poison. But her body being opened, no sign of poison could there be found, save only that a certain apothecary made his brag, that he had killed the queen by certain venomous odours and smells by him confected.
After this, notwithstanding, the marriage still going forward, the admiral, the prince of Navarre, Conde, with divers other chief states of the protestants, induced by the king's letters and many fair promises, at last were brought to Paris; where with great solemnity they were received, but especially the admiral. To make the matter short, the day of the marriage came, which was the eighteenth of August, anno 1572. Which marriage being celebrated and solemnized by the cardinal of Bourbon upon a high stage set up of purpose without the church walls, the prince of Navarre and Conde came down, waiting for the king's sister being then at mass. This done, they resorted all together to the bishop's palace to dinner. At evening they were had to a palace in the middle of Paris to supper. Not long after this, being the twenty-second of August, the admiral, coming from the council-table, by the way, was struck with a pistolet, charged with three pellets, in both his arms. He being thus wounded, and yet still remaining in Paris, although the vidame gave him counsel to flee away, it so fell out that certain soldiers were appointed in divers places of the city to be ready at a watchword at the commandment of the prince; upon which watchword given, they burst out to the slaughter of the protestants, flrst beginning with the admiral himself, who, being wounded with many sore wounds, was cast out of the window into the street, where, his head being first struck off, and embalmed with spices to be sent to the pope, the savage people raging against him, cut off his arms and privy members. And so, drawing him three days through the streets of Paris, they dragged him unto the place of execution out of the city, and there hanged him up by his heels, to the greater show and scorn of him.
After the martyrdom of this good man, the armed soldiers with rage and violence ran upon all other of the same profession, slaying and killing all the protestants they knew or could find within the city gates enclosed. This bloody slaughter continued the space of many days, but especially the greatest slaughter was in the three first days, in which were numbered to be slain, as the story writeth, above ten thousand men, women, old and young, of all sorts and conditions. The bodies of the dead were carried in carts to be thrown in the river: so that not only the river was all stained therewith, but also whole streams, in certain places of the city, did run with gore blood of the slain bodies. So great was the outrage of that heathenish persecution, that not only the protestants, but also certain, whom they thought indifferent papists, they put to the sword instead of protestants. In the number of them that were slain of the more learned sort, was Petrus Ramus, also Lambinus, another notorious learned man; Plateanus, Lomenius, Chapusius, with others.
And not only within the walls of Paris this uproar was contained, but it extended further into other cities and quarters of the realm, especially Lyons, Orleans, Toulouse, and Rouen: in which cities it is almost incredible, nor scarce ever heard of in any nation, what cruelty was showed, what numbers of good men were destroyed; insomuch that within the space of one month thirty thousand, at least, of religious protestants are numbered to be slain, as is credibly reported and storied in the commentaries of them which testify purposely of the matter.
Furthermore here is to be noted, that when the pope first heard of this bloody stir, he, with his cardinals made such joy at Rome, with their procession, with their gunshot, and singing of Te Deum, that in honour of that festival act, a jubilee was commanded by the pope with great indulgence, and much solemnity. Whereby thou hast here to discern and judge, with what spirit and charity these catholics are moved to maintain their religion, which otherwise would fall to the ground without all hope of recovery. Likewise in France, no less rejoicing there was upon the twenty-eighth day of the said month, the king commanding public processions through the whole city to be made, with bonfires, ringing, and singing; where the king himself, with the queen his mother, and his whole court resorting together to the church, gave thanks and laud to God, for that so worthy a victory achieved upon St. Bartholomew's day against the protestants, whom they thought to be utterly overthrown and vanquished in all the realm for ever.
And in very deed, to man's thinking it might appear no less after such a great destruction of the protestants, having lost so many worthy and noble captains as then were cut off, whereupon many, for fear revoking their religion, returned to the pope, divers fled out of the realm, such as would not turn, keeping themselves secret, durst not be known nor seen, so that it was past all hope of man, that the gospel should ever have any more place in France. But such is the admirable working of the Lord, where man's help and hope most fail, there he most showeth his strength and helpeth, as here is to be seen and noted. For whereas the little small remnant of the gospel side, being now brought to utter desperation, were now ready to give over unto the king, and many were gone already against conscience, yielding to time, yet the Lord of his goodness so wrought, that many were stayed and reclaimed again through the occasion, first, of them in Rochelle; who, hearing of the cruel massacre in Paris, and slaughter at Toulouse, most constantly, with valiant hearts, (the Lord so working,) thought to stand to their defence against the king's power; by whose example certain other cities, hearing thereof, took no little courage to do the like: as namely Montalban, the city called Nismes, Sancerre in Occitania, Millaud, Mirebeau, Foix, with other towns and cities more: who being confederate together, exhorted one another to be circumspect, and take good heed of the false dissembling practices not to be trusted of the merciless papists, intending nothing but blood and destruction.
These things thus passing at Rochelle, the king hearing thereof, giveth in commandment to Captain Strozzi and Guarde to see to Rochelle. After this he sendeth a nobleman, one Biron, requiring of the Rochelle men to receive him for their governor under the king. Of this great consultation being had, at length the Rochelle men began to condescend upon certain conditions; which being not easily granted unto, and especially they hearing, in the mean time, what was done to other of their fellows, which had submitted themselves, thought it so better to stand to the defence of their lives and consciences, and to adventure the worst. Whereupon began great siege and battery to be laid against Rochelle both by land and sea, which was anno 1572, about the fourth day of December.
It would require another volume to describe all things, during the time of this siege, that passed on either side, between the king's part, and the town of Rochelle. Briefly to run over some parts of the matter: 1n the beginning of the next year following, which was in 1573, in the month of January, commandment was given out by the king to all and sundry nobles and peers of France, upon great punishment, to address themselves in most forcible wise to the assaulting of Rochelle. Whereupon a great concourse of all the nobility, with the whole power of France, was there assembled, amongst whom was also the prince of Anjou, the king's brother, (who there not long after was proclaimed king of Poland,) accompanied with his other brother the duke of Alençon, Navarre, Conde, and other a great number of states besides. Thus, the whole power of France being gathered against one poor town, had not the mighty hand of the Lord stood on their side, it had been impossible for them to escape.
During the time of this siege, which lasted about seven months, what skirmishes and conflicts were on both sides, it would require a long tractation.
To make short, seven principal assaults were given to the poor town of Rochelle, with all the power that France could make: in all which assaults ever the pope's catholic side had the worst. Concerning the first assault thus I find written, that within the space of twenty-six days were charged against the walls and houses of Rochelle, to the number of thirty thousand shot of iron bullets and globes, whereby a great breach was made for the adversary to invade the city: but such was the courage of them within, (not men only, but also of women, matrons, and maidens, with spits, fire, and such other weapon as came to hand,) that the adversary was driven back, with no small slaughter of their soldiers: only of the townsmen were slain and wounded to the number of sixty persons. Likewise in the second assault two thousand great field-pieces were laid against the town; whereupon the adversary attempted the next day to invade the town, but through the industry of the soldiers and citizens, and also of the women and maids, the invaders were forced at length to fly away faster than they came. No better success had all the assaults that followed: whereby consider, gentle reader, with thyself, in what great distress these good men were, not of Rochelle only, but of other cities also, during these seven months above mentioned, had not the mighty hand of the Lord Almighty sustained them: concerning whose wondrous operation for his servants in these hard distresses, three memorable things I find in history to be noted.
The one concerning the siege of Sancerre; which city being terribly battered and razed with gunshot of great cannons and field-pieces (having at one siege no less than three thousand bullets and gun-stones flying upon them, wherewith the crests of their helmets were pierced, their sleeves, their hose, their hats pierced, their weapons in their hands broken, their walls shaken, their houses rent down); yet not one person slain or wounded with all this, save only at the first a certain maiden, with the blast of the shot flying by her, was struck down, and died.
The second thing to be noted is this, that in the same city of Sancerre, during all the time of the siege, which lasted seven months and a half, for all the ordnance and battering-pieces discharged against them, which are numbered to six thousand, not so much as twenty-five persons, in all, were slain!
The third example, no less memorable, was at Rochelle: whereas the poorer sort began to lack corn and victual, there was sent to them every day in the river (by the hand of the Lord no doubt) a great multitude of fish, called surdones, which the poorer people did use instead of bread; which fish, the same day as the siege brake up, departed and came no more.-- Testified by them which were present there in Rochelle all the time.
What number was lost on both sides during all this seven months' war, it is not certainly known. Of the king's camp what number was slain, by this it may be conjectured, that one hundred and thirty-two of their captains were killed and slain, of whom the chiefest was duke D'Aumale.
To close up this tragical story, concerning the breaking up of this seven months' siege, thus it fell out: that shortly after the seventh assault given against Rochelle, which was anno 1573, about the month of June, word came to the camp, that the duke of Anjou, the king's brother, was proclaimed king of Poland: whereat great joy was in the camp. By occasion whereof the new king, more willing to have peace, entered talk with them of Rochelle; who, as he showed himself to them not ungentle, so found he them again to him not unconformable. Whereupon a certain agreement pacificatory was concluded between them upon conditions: which agreement the new Polish king eftsoons preferred to the French king his brother, not without some suit and intercession to have it ratified. The king also himself, partly being weary of these chargeable wars, was the more willing to assent thereunto. And thus at length, through the Lord's great work, the king's royal consent under form of an edict was set down in writing, and confirmed by the king, containing twenty-five articles: in which also were included certain other cities of the protestants, granting to them benefit of peace and liberty of religion. This edict or mandate, sent down from the king by his herald-at-arms, Biron, in the king's name, caused to be solemnly proclaimed at Rochelle, in the year 1573, the tenth day of June.
The next year following, 1574, for two things seemeth fatal and famous; for the death first of Charles the Ninth, the French king, also most of all for the death of Charles, cardinal of Lorrain, brother to Guise. Of the manner of the cardinal's death, I find little mention in stories. Touching the king's death, although Richard Dinothus saith -- nothing, for fear belike, because he being a Frenchman, his name is expressed and known: but another story, (whom the said Dinothus doth follow,) bearing no name, saith thus: that he died the twenty-fifth day of May, upon Whitsun-even, being of the age of twenty-five years; and addeth more: "Certain it is, that his sickness came of bleeding." And saith further: "The constant report so goeth, that his blood gushing out by divers parts of his body, he, tossing in his bed, and casting out many horrible blasphemies, laid upon pillows with his heels upward and head downward, voided so much blood at his mouth, that in few hours he died:" which story, if it be true, as is recorded and testified, may be a spectacle and example to all persecuting kings and princes polluted with the blood of Christian martyrs. And thus much briefly touching the late terrible persecution in France.