Imágenes de páginas


England was afterwards called "the thorough," and which modern Yankees would call the "whole hog." It was determined in its opposition to any toleration of the Protestants, firm in its loyalty to Rome, most friendly towards Philip of Spain, most bitterly at enmity with Elizabeth of England. It believed, or professed to believe, in the Duke of Guise as the staunchest man and truest Catholic in France.

Very miserable had been the condition of the king,-a king who counted his beads-sometimes-and who liked the society of a priest-occasionally -as it was like being pleasantly tickled, he said, to hear the good father

[graphic][merged small]

talk-but who was never very zealous in religion, and was well content to be left alone with his courtiers and courtezans, his monkeys and his lapdogs. He knew very well that his cousin of Navarre was a different sort of man from himself, but he liked him. He at least was honest, and had nothing of the vulpine sagacity of Guise. He would have been glad him as his successor, and

to make terms with Navarre, openly recognize so receive him at court, but the man, as the Pope, Sixtus V., complained, was unsound in the faith-the ablest princes in Christendom, Elizabeth of England and Henry of Navarre, both heretics! "In the winter of

1586-7 the queen-mother held many conferences with Henry, in which every means was tried to detach him from his party and induce him to turn Catholic; but all without success. Henry mingled in the fêtes and balls which accompanied the queen-mother wherever she went, and seemed to enjoy the pleasure of her court as much as she desired; but whenever she attempted to extort a compromise he was on his guard. Once, when she complained of his obstinacy, and said she sighed for nothing so much as peace, 'Madam,' he replied, 'I am not the cause of it; it is not I who hinder you from sleeping in your bed, it is you who prevent me from. resting in mine. The trouble you give yourself pleases and nourishes you, quiet is the greatest enemy of your life." "

The failure of the negociations with Henry of Navarre had resulted in an appeal to arms. On the 20th of October, 1587, the royal army was defeated by the Huguenots at Contras, in Perigord; this defeat had been in some degree compensated by the overthrow of a German army 40,000 strong, which had marched to the help of the French Protestants. The position of the three Henries was becoming every day more critical when the year of marvels began-and the sun with a sword in his mouth was seen (?) in the heavens—when King Philip's dockyards were busy with the Armada and Duke Parma was courteously explaining everything to the English envoys. The first evil which befel the Protestant cause in France was the death of the Prince of Condé-under strong suspicion of being poisoned by his wife. The death of the prince was deeply bewailed by the Protestants: when the event was announced to Henry he gave expression to his grief in loud cries, and exclaimed that he had lost his right arm. The loss, however, which the Protestants sustained by the death of the Prince of Condé was more than compensated by what befel their opponents.

The League-men, as we have seen, marched on Paris; the powerful Sixteen rose up to welcome the invaders; the Swiss guards of the king were badly used, many of them murdered, and the great day of the barricades (May 22, 1588) was long to be remembered. Henry III. escaped, not without difficulty, and fled to Chartres, leaving Guise in possession of Paris, and Catherine to make terms with the Leaguers.

In retirement Henry III. reconciled himself to Henry of Guise by publicly disinheriting Henry of Navarre. But he had made up his mind as to what he would do. Guise he dreaded. He was ambitious and unscrupulous, and made very little secret of deposing the weak monarch

and either taking the crown for himself or offering it to Philip of Spain. His sister was also said to carry at her girdle a little pair of golden scissors with which she laughingly remarked she meant to give the king the tonsure, and send him to a monkhouse for the rest of his life. There was one way of getting rid of Guise which naturally occurred to a man like Henry III., namely, the dagger of the assassin. It was a ready mode of disposing of troublesome princes. Philip and Parma had employed it successfully against William the Silent, and would have used it against Elizabeth, if they could. So Henry took comfort and congratulated him

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

self on giving the finishing stroke to the career of the proud, ambitious Guise: besides, there was Scripture precedent for it-"Art thou in health, my brother? and he stabbed him under the fifth rib."

Guise heard that the king proposed to assassinate him, but laughed the threat to scorn- "He durst not." So said Guise, and confident in his own strength, thought no more of the matter.

The States-General was convoked at Blois. It is an ancient and picturesque town, built on a steep slope crowned at one end of the ridge by the historic and gloomy castle, and on the other by the cathedral. The castle was for ages the residence of kings and princes, and though it

was for years neglected and degraded to mean purposes, within a comparatively recent period it has been restored to something of its pristine grandeur. It is the scene of some of the most stirring events-plots, crimes, murders-in French history; but there is no part of the edifice so interesting as the suite of rooms in which the tragedy of the Guises was consummated. Tradition, as it seems, gloated over this deed of blood and preserved the memory of the minutest particulars connected with it, and although at the Revolution the interior was stripped of almost all its decorations and the walls whitewashed like those of a common prison, the different chambers are still pointed out where the acts of the dark drama was performed. We may visit the room where Catherine de Medicithe real instigator of the murder-planned and prayed, reverentially seeking help from the saints sometimes, and profanely dabbling with sorcery at others-now consulting Urim and Thummim, now bribing the Witch of Endor. We may stand in the room where the weak, vacillating Henry was surrounded by his unscrupulous gentlemen, and distributed to them five-and-forty duly consecrated daggers for the murder of the hero of the barricades. We may go into the chapel adjoining where the robed priests offered their prayers for the success of the murder. We may visit the Salle des Etats where the council was assembled on that dark winter day (December 23, 1588) and Guise, never in better humour, was eating plums when summoned to private audience with his Majesty. We may recall for a moment the tall, stately form, dark, martial face, and piercing eyes which Antonio Moro loved to paint, as he smiles somewhat grimly at those who are near him, as though to say— "What wants the idler with me?" We may follow that soldierly figure as he approaches the old cabinet and lays his hand on the arras which covers the door. He hears maybe the intoning of the priests, little thinking their prayers are his requiem—but in a moment falls pierced by more than forty wounds-the king to whose presence he is summoned is the King of kings.

For two hours the body of Guise lay in the outer chamber with a cloak and cross of straw thrown over it. At length the royal murderer stepped forth, and those who stood near uncovered the face of the corpse to show the crowned Cain how well the work had been accomplished. The king spurned it with his foot-"Je ne le croyais pas aussi grand," said he, and ordered it to be burnt and the ashes thrown into the river.

So ended the life of Henry of the Scar.

« AnteriorContinuar »