Изображения страниц

famine to open their gates to Henry, had not Philip II. sent the duke of Parma with a powerful army to their relief. This event deprived him of the fruit of his victories; but he took such wellconcerted steps, that his enemies were able to gain no considerable advantages. The nation, aware of the ambitious views of Philip, began to be afraid of falling under a foreign yoke. Henry was made to understand, that the greatest obstacle to the success of his wishes was his religion. His councillor Rosni, the celebrated duke of Sully, told him in plain terms, that it was necessary for the salvation of France that he should embrace the catholic faith. The disorders of the kingdom could not otherwise have been composed, nor the schemes of the Spanish monarch defeated. Henry yielded to the necessity of circumstances: he made a formal abjuration at St. Denis, and was crowned king, at Chartres, in the year 1594. The city of Paris was chiefly garrisoned by the Spaniards, but the marshal de Brisac, with infinite address, formed an association of the magistrates and principal citizens, and opened to Henry the gates of the town. He made his public entry into the capital of his kingdom almost without the effusion of blood, and he gave a free pardon to all the partisans of the league; ordering, at the same time, the whole foreign troops instantly to evacuate his dominions. Yet Henry was far from being in possession of the whole of the kingdom of France; and he was obliged to have recourse to as many intrigues as battles, in order to recover it by degrees. Almost his whole life was spent in fighting against one chief or another, in negociating,

and even in purchasing, the submission of his enemies; and at length, in what situation was this kingdom when he recovered it? The revenues of the state were exhausted, the provinces ruined by neglect and by the ravages of the armies, and the country depopulated. France stood in need of a prince like Henry IV., a genius who understood the arts of peace as well as of war, who was capable of searching into the wounds of the state, and knew how to apply the most effectual remedies.

The ambitious Philip had been far from laying aside his views upon the accession of Henry. His armies continued to ravage the provinces. It was, therefore, necessary for Henry to bend his attention in the first place to the extirpation of these invaders. By the indefatigable industry of his councillor, Sully, and by loans from his subjects, he found means to raise those supplies which were necessary for the support of a regular army. He was successful against the Spaniards, who were forced to conclude with him the peace of Vervins, the only advantageous treaty that France had made since the reign of Philip Augustus.

From that time forward he devoted his whole attention to the improvement of his kingdom, and the advancement of the happiness of his subjects. He disbanded all his superfluous troops; he introduced order and economy into the administration of the finances; he reformed the laws, repressed every species of persecution, and brought about the most difficult of all coalitions--a perfect harmony and good understanding between the

protestants and catholics. A spirit of commerce and manufactures, the certain proofs of a wise and equitable government, began to diffuse itself through all the provinces of the kingdom. The cities were enlarged and embellished; the capital decorated withmagnificent buildings; and the fine arts encouraged by the munificent patronage of a prince whose taste was equal to hisliberality.

Henry, whom the pope in the beginning of his career had anathematised, as a heretic and usurper, was now the darling son of the church, and the highest favourite of the see of Rome. Such was his credit with pope Paul V., that the pontiff chose him as his mediator with the state of Venice, and at the request of one who had been formerly excommunicated himself, took off a sentence of excommunication which he had denounced against that republic.

His great political talents were equalled by his private virtues. He was the kindest master, the most affectionate parent, and the warmest friend. His manners were noble without the smallest tincture of severity, and he possessed that engaging affability of behaviour, which in him, deriving its origin from a native goodness of heart, was very different from that affected complaisance, the usual courtly engine of acquiring popularity. There was a greatness of soul in this prince which manifested itself in the whole of his character. That generosity in the forgiveness of injuries, which is ever the attendant of a noble mind, was in him most remarkable. Many of those who, in the earlier period of his life, had taken the most violent part against him, and who, according to the com

mon rules of human conduct, had nothing to expect after he had attained the throne but punishment, or at least disgrace, were astonished to meet not only with entire forgiveness, but even with marks of favour and confidence. He knew how much even the best natures may be perverted by the spirit of faction. He could not harbour resentment against a humbled adversary, and his own good heart informed him, that an enemy forgiven might become the most valuable of friends. It was thus that he won to himself the affections of those nobles, the chief supporters of the League, who so violently opposed his succession to the crown. Of all his enemies, the marshal Biron was the only one who suffered a capital punishment; and to him he had three times offered mercy, on the condition of his making a confession of his crimes *.

To form a proper judgment of this most estimable man, it is necessary to read the Memoirs of the duc de Sully, where we see the picture of the greatest and the most amiable of princes delineated by the hand of a faithful servant, a counsellor, and a companion; a friend who was no less acquainted with the public schemes and the motives of his political conduct than with all the circumstances of

* Perefixe relates a little anecdote, which shows that this beautiful feature of Henry's character, the forgiveness of injuries, extended itself to the meanest ranks of his subjects. Being one day in his coach with the marshal d'Estrées, he desired that nobleman to observe one of the life-guards who walked at the coach-door. 66 That," said he, "is a brave fellow; it was he who wounded me at the battle of Aumâle."

his private life *. "Should a faithful picture of this illustrious character," says Voltaire, "he drawn in the hearing of a judicious foreigner who had never before been acquainted with his name; and should the narrator conclude that this very man was at length assassinated in the midst of his people, after repeated attempts against his life by persons to whom he had never done the smallest injury, it would be impossible for him to believe it." Whether this atrocious deed arose from the designs of a party, or was the mere suggestion of a distempered brain in the wretch who perpetrated it, is to this day a matter of doubt and uncertainty. The regicide Ravaillac himself protested that he had no accomplices. On the 14th of May, 1610, as Henry, together with the duke d'Epernon, were on their way to the house of Sully, the prime minister, and while the coach was stopped by some embarrassment in the street, the king, suddenly turning towards one of the windows, was struck twice into the heart with a knife, and instantly expired. The affliction felt by his

* Who is there that can read without emotion the conversation that passed between this great man and his confidant Sully at Monceaux, when Henry, attacked with a dangerous illness, thought himself dying. "Mon amy, je n'apprehende nullement la mort, comme vous le sçavez mieux que personne, m'ayant vû en tant de périls dont je me fusse bien pu exempter; mais je ne nieray point que je n'aye regret de partir de cette vie sans eslever ce royaume en la splendeur que je m'estois proposée, et avoir tésmoigné a mes peuples, en les soulageant et deschargeant de tant de subsides, et les gouvernant amiablement que je les aimois comme s'ils estoient mes enfans."-Sully, Economies Royales, tom. i. ch. 85.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »