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which embroiled France for above thirty years, and brought that kingdom to the brink of ruin. The princes of Lorraine, or the family of the Guises, had established themselves in high credit during the two preceding reigns, at the court of France. In the reign of Henry II., they had brought about the marriage of the Dauphin, now Francis II., with their niece Mary queen of Scots, whose mother was a daughter of the duke of Guise. This match gave them such an ascendancy over the young Francis, that, in fact, they ruled the kingdom. In this character it may be supposed they had powerful enemies. The two first princes of the blood, Antony of Bourbon, king of Navarre, and his brother Louis, prince of Condé, together with the constable Montmorency, were possessed of a similar ambition to that of the Guises; they were mortified by their arrogance, and were, therefore, their determined enemies. The Guises were zealots in point of religion, and intolerant catholics: the opposite party favoured the doctrines of the Reformation, which had now made considerable progress among the French. Ambition, therefore, and religion co-operating together, set the whole kingdom in a flame. A conspiracy was formed by the Hugonots, at the head of whom was the prince of Condé, with the determined purpose of wresting the government out of the hands of the duke of Guise and his family. The Hugonot conspirators agreed to meet upon a certain day at the town of Amboise, and to open the enterprise by the massacre of the Guises, and by seizing the person of the king. It was discovered by one of the conspirators, almost at the
moment of its execution. Fifteen thousand troops, which the duke of Guise found means to assemble, cut to pieces the forces of the conspirators as they came in detached parties to the place of rendezvous: many of them sacrificed their lives with the most desperate courage; the rest were taken and executed on scaffolds and gibbets.
The tyranny of the Guises, which increased from the demolition of this conspiracy, procured them more enemies than ever; yet so formidable was their power, that for some time it repressed all opposition. The party of the prince of Condé and the Hugonots were forced to dissemble their mortification, and to affect a placid acquiescence in the government of the Guises. The prince of Condé had the imprudence to come to court; he. was immediately seized by order of the duke of Guise, brought to trial for his concern in the conspiracy of Amboise, and condemned to be beheaded. His life, however, was saved by the death of the young monarch Francis II., and the consequent disturbances in the kingdom. Charles IX., (the brother of Francis,) then a boy of ten years of age, was committed to the guardianship of the queen mother, Catharine de Medicis, on whom the states conferred, likewise, the administration of the kingdom. The court was a scene of faction and division, as well as the kingdom: the queen was equally afraid of the power of the Guises and the Condés; she was, therefore, obliged to negotiate between the protestants and catholics, and for that purpose appointed a solemn conference at Poissy, to debate on the articles of religion. The pope sent thither his legate to main
tain his interest, or rather to crush all disputes, by declaring the assembly illegal, as not convened by himself. His remonstrance, however, was disregarded, the conference was held, and the issue was an edict of pacification, by which the protestants were permitted the exercise of their religion through all France, without the walls of the towns. The consequence of this edict was a civil war. The duke of Guise, the head of the catholic party, met with a few protestants upon the borders of Champagne, who, under the sanction of the edict, were assembled in a barn for the purpose of devotion. His servants broke up the meeting, killed about sixty men, and dispersed and wounded the rest. This inhumanity was the signal of an insurrection through the whole kingdom, which was divided between the parties of the prince of Condé and the duke of Guise, the protestants and the catholics.
Philip II., king of Spain, to increase the commotions, sent some thousands of men to the aid of the catholics. The Guises were successful at the battle of Dreux, where the constable Montmorency, who commanded the royal army, and the prince of Condé were both taken prisoners. Guise, after this victory, laid siege to Orleans, where he fell by the hands of an assassin, who accused the heads of the protestant party as having instigated him to the murder; an accusation which was not generally believed, as it touched the admiral de Coligni, one of the chief supporters of that party, whose excellent character put him far above the suspicion of so vile a piece of treachery. A short peace succeeded these disturbances, and Condé was reconciled to the
court; but the admiral kept still at the head of a considerable party in the provinces. The king, who had now attained his fourteenth year, had scarcely assumed the reins of government, when the prince of Condé, who had before attempted to take his predecessor, Francis, out of the hands of the Guises at Amboise, made a similar attempt to rescue Charles IX. from the leading-strings of the constable de Montmorency. The war was of consequence renewed; and Condé and Coligni engaged the army of the constable at St. Denis: the catholic party was defeated, and Montmorency killed. The party of the protestants was now increased by the aid of ten thousand Germans from the palatinate; yet the catholics continued the war with increased obstinacy and resolution, and France was a scene of massacre and desolation. The army of the catholics, which, on Montmorency's death, was now commanded by the king's brother, the duke of Anjou, was victorious in its turn. The prince of Condé was killed in a skirmish after the battle of Jarnac, and Coligni now supported alone the party of the Hugonots. A peace, however, was concluded between the two parties; and France had just begun to repair her losses and disasters, when a most infernal scheme was formed by the catholics for the destruction of all the protestants in France, a measure, perhaps, unparalleled in the annals of human nature, and which excited the horror and detestation of all the kingdoms of Europe. This was termed the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
The plot was laid with a dissimulation equal to the atrociousness of the design. The queen
mother, Catharine de Medicis, a most flagitious woman, had always expressed her hatred of the protestant party, though she had at times shown a personal favour for some of its chief supporters. Her son, Charles IX., a coward in his disposition, was a monster of cruelty in his heart. It was concerted between the mother and her son, that the leaders of the protestant party should be brought to court, and taken off their guard by extraordinary marks of favour and attention. Charles had given his sister Margaret in marriage to young Henry of Navarre; and he, together with the admiral Coligni and his friends, were entertained at court with every demonstration of kindness and respect. On the 24th of August, 1572, in the night, and at the ringing of the bell for matins, a general massacre was made by the catholics of all the protestants throughout the kingdom of France. The circumstances of this abominable tragedy are too shocking to be narrated in detail. One half of the nation, with the sword in one hand and the crucifix in the other, fell with the fury of wild beasts upon their unarmed and defenceless brethren. The king himself was seen firing with a musket from the window of his palace upon those unhappy wretches who escaped into the streets naked from their beds, and endeavoured to save themselves by flight.* Father Daniel informs us, that when the news of this massacre was brought to Rome, the pope highly commended the zeal of this young monarch,
*This dreadful massacre was general through the kingdom of France, except a few of the provinces, which were saved by the humanity and courage of their governors.