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HE withered white-haired man busily writing in the Escurial

and devoutly giving thanks to God, after an ancient pattern, that he was not as other men are, had formidable foes with

whom to contend. He comforted himself with the unction that he had sent forth his invincible fleet to defeat the English, not to contend with the elements; but there were men whom he could no more subdue than he could calm the storm.


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In France there was one of sound heart and head, quick of eye, strong of hand, resolute of purpose, in whom Philip recognized a dangerous foe. “A man of moderate stature, light, sinewy, and strong; a face bronzed with continued exposure ; small mouth; full yet commanding blue eyes glittered from beneath an arched brow and prominent cheek bones; a long hawk's nose almost resting upon a salient chin, a pendant moustache, and a thick, brown, curly beard, prematurely grizzled." This was the man whom Philip feared and hated.

He was every inch a man. While he was coming into the world his mother sang a gay Bernese song, so that, as his grandfather observed, he should be neither sulky nor morose. And truly this man was neither ; his ringing laugh was full of geniality, his ready wit and magnificent good humour were without a dash of bitterness. In the lappel of his dressing gown his grandfather had taken him as soon as ever he was born, and brushed his infant lips with a clove of garlic, and moistened them with generous Gascon wine. So, said he, should the boy be bold and merry. He was bold. Never a blither spirit at the board ; never a more heroic nature in the field ; wherever his white plume was seen there the battle was the hottest; the first to advance, the last to retreat-this great manthis noble spirit—this Henry of Navarre—was the dread of the industrious letter writer of the Escurial.

There was another Henry in France for whom Philip cared nothing ; and he it was who wore the crown-Henry III. A weak, frivolous, contemptible creature, with neither mind to think nor heart to feel, a silly puppet in the hands of his crafty mother, the famous, or the infamous Catherine de Medici. His time was spent in the society of the vilest and most worthless associates, those who flattered his vanity and were unscrupulous in his service and their own, who laughed at his idle jests, praised his beauty, admired the cut of his clothes, and complimented him on his taste in monkeys and lapdogs. This king was never so well satisfied as when he put on woman's attire and rivalled the charms of the court ladies. It was his glory to have a woman's face, and to bare his neck and shoulders, and paint his cheeks and dye his eyebrows, and appear with jewelled stomacher and silken flounces, his little feet shod in satin slippers, and his delicate hands gloved; he slept in gloves to preserve the delicacy of his hands. Thus attired he would appear at court balls and tournaments—the belle of the ball room, the

of the lists, indulging in mimicing coquetry with the gallants, and carrying with him




an odour of perfume, everything he wore being scented, even the little lapdog he carried occasionally under his arm and made to bark playfully at a too pressing suitor. At other times he might be seen dressed in the very height of the mode, slashed doublet and placarded vest, lounging in the public promenades and gravely playing at cup and ball, followed by a bevy of gentlemen and ladies all equally in the fashion and all intent on the same stately game. Sometimes, however, he became alarmed at what might come hereafter, or was frightened by his mother, and then he would throw aside his little porringer cap, and well starched ruff, and doublet of golden cloth, and in sackcloth bewail his sins, and say his prayers like a fawning coward; counting his beads—every bead made in the shape of a death's head-making rash promises to heaven, as if the saints were to be bribed, and this over, again betaking himself to cup and ball, or to the putting on of petticoats and the airs of a harlot.

This Henry III. succeeded to the throne of France on the death of his brother, Charles IX., chief actor in the Bartholomew Massacre. He had been elected King of Poland a short time previous to the death of Charles, and had set out for that country. The crown of Poland, subordinate to a fierce aristocracy, had long been a crown of thorns, and a law was at last passed putting it out of the power of any occupant of the throne to relieve himself from the weight of royalty by abdication. On receiving the news, therefore, of his accession to the regal dignity Henry was anxious to forsake the Poles ; he therefore deceived his attendants as to his movements, slunk out of the palace by night, and did not rest till he had crossed the borders of his turbulent kingdom. He then slackened his speed, and amusing himself with the fêtes that were prepared in his honour on the road, consumed four months in his journey.

On arriving in France he found his mother Catherine de Medici had assumed the regency and was swaying the sceptre with no feeble hand. She was conciliating the Protestants—the Huguenots-striving to make them forget the horrors of the Bartholomew, not because she had any regard for them, but because they formed a powerful party in the state and might effect the stability of the throne. They had confederated with the liberal Catholics, and three princes of the blood were at their head : thus the court party was compelled to recognize them in another character from that of heretics, and soon after the return of Henry a treaty was signed with them by which they obtained large concessions.

The stern Catholic party were disgusted with what they considered the weakness of the king and the queen mother in permitting these concessions, and they formed a scheme called the League to set aside the reigning sovereign and transfer the crown to Henry of Guise.

Henry Duke of Guise, Henry with the Scar they called him, was a popular favourite. He was tall and stately in appearance, with a dark, martial face and expressive eyes; a physiognomy made still more expressive by an arquebus-shot which had damaged his left cheek. He was the idol of the Parisian shopkeepers, and the fishwomen doated on him as something more than mortal. They saw in him the defender of the old

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religion and the uncompromising foe of all new-fangled doctrines. He certainly possessed this advantage over the reigning king—he was a man. But for Henry with the Scar and Madame League—as the great Spanish Catholic conspiracy against the liberties of France, England, and the Netherlands was affectionately termed by the Paris populace—honest Catholics would fare no better in France than they did in England. As to what they suffered in England the printsellers instructed the populace in the matter by coarse caricature engravings of supposed cruelties inflicted by Queen Elizabeth on her Romish subjects. But although Henry of Guise was the ostensible head of the League, its great chief was in reality Philip of Spain ; Spanish counsel, Spanish ducats, Spanish promises were the real machinery, and Catherine de Medici, ostensibly supporting the 'frivolous king, was in reality playing into the hands of Henry of Guise, Philip of Spain, and the Pope of Rome.

On the death of the Duke of Anjou, the king's brother—the Anjou who was almost King of the Netherlands-new life was given to the civil dissensions which disturbed France, for it left Henry of Navarre, the brave, merry-hearted king who had been welcomed into the world by a gay song and a draught of Gascon-heir to the crown.

He was a Huguenot, a stout, staunch Protestant. “He was the man to prove, too, for the instruction of the patient letter-writer of the Escurial, that the crown of France was to be won with foot in stirrups and carbine in hand, rather than to be caught by the weaving and casting of the most intricate nets of diplomatic intrigue though thoroughly weighted with Mexican gold.” This prince had been early trained to regard the Spaniards as his bitterest enemies—enemies on whom an heirloom of wrong was to be avenged. His education had been of the roughest. Barefooted and bare headed he had been allowed to wander among the peasantry of Berne, to climb its mountains and rocks, to grow as rugged as a bear and as nimble as a kid, to feed on black bread, beef, and garlic, to read the Bible and to scorn a lie. He could ride, and shoot, and break a lance with any man, could do with less food and less sleep than most men, and was in every way qualified to play a chivalrous part in the great drama of history. With his uncle Condé, and Admiral Coliguay, and Louis of Nassau, he had studied the art of war-in the battle field. In a sort of State imprisonment after the Bartholomew Massacre, at Paris, he had learned a little of the subtlety of courts. Henry of Guise had endeavoured to ascertain his exact sentiments, had courted his society, had written many a letter to him with no other inscription than “to my master,” and many a letter had he received in reply “to my gossip.” But the wily duke with all his cunning was an unequal match for the simple-hearteå Bernese, who saw through him and gave him no advantage, so that, finding himself foiled, Henry of the Scar became the bitterest enemy of Henry of Navarre, and more especially when there was a probability of his ascending the throne of France.

Of all the princes that stood between him and the throne, there was none remaining save the helpless, childless, superannuated youth who was its present occupant. Henry of Navarre was legitimate heir to the crown of France. "Espoir' was now in letters of light upon his shield; but he

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