Imágenes de páginas

knew that his path to greatness led through manifold dangers, and that it was only at the head of the Huguenot chivalry that he could cut his way.

He was the leader of the nobles of Gascony, Dauphiny, and Guienne, in their mountain fastnesses; of the weavers, cutlers, and artizans in their thriving manufacturing and trading towns. It was not Spanish gold, but carbines and cutlasses, bows and bills, which could bring him to the throne of his ancestors. And thus he stood the chieftain of that great austere party of Huguenots, the men who went on their knees before the battle, beating their breasts with their iron gauntlets and singing in full

[graphic][merged small]

chorus a psalm of David before smiting the Philistines hip and thigh. Their chieftain—scarcely their representative-fit to lead his Puritans in battle field, was hardly a model for them elsewhere. Yet though profligate in one sense he was temperate in every other. In food, and wine, and sleep he was always moderate. Subtle and crafty in self-defence, he retained something of his old love of truth, of his hatred for liars. Hardly generous, he was a friend of justice, while economy in a wandering prince ike himself was a necessary virtue, of which France was one day to feel the beneficent action. Reckless and headstrong in appearance, he was in truth the most careful of men. On the religious question, most cautious of all, he always left the door open behind him, disclaimed all bigotry of opinion, and earnestly implored the Romanists to seek not his destruction but his instruction. Always open to conviction on the subject of his faith, he repudiated the appellation of heretic. A creed, he said, was not to be changed like a shirt, but only on due deliberation and under spiritual advice. In his secret heart he probably regarded the two religions as his chargers, and was ready to mount alternately the one or the other as each seemed the more likely to bear him safely in the battle."

No man saw more clearly—or, at all events, with more interest—the anarchy into which France, between these three Henries, was gradually sinking, than Philip of Spain. He felt that he must first make sure of France before he again attempted an invasion of England, or could hope completely to subjugate the Netherlands.

The state of France became every day more and more perplexing. A hundred different plots were hatching; couriers riding hither and thither with secret despatches; hired bravoes ready to kill sometimes Henry the King, sometimes Henry of the Scar, sometimes Henry of Navarre ; all the foundations of society seemed to have given way; and the Queen Catherine de Medici, who had been playing a life-long game, found all the cards going against her.

Henry III. dreaded the Duke of Guise ; he felt that he was dangerous, and would fain have kept him off, or have knocked him like a mad dog on the head, by deputy ; but Guise was fearless, the crown was at stake, and who shall be king hereafter was freely discussed in the presence of the monarch. Henry heard that Guise with an army was approaching Paris, and forthwith sent forth a courier to forbid him coming. But the royal exchequer was empty, the courier did not receive his fee, and failed to deliver the message, so Guise came on, banners displayed, and weapons glittering in the light; he was welcomed by the Parisians, the traders and the market women thronged about him to give him a hearty reception. Henry III. sent for four thousand of his Swiss guards ; but at their appearance the whole city broke forth in insurrection, the streets were unpaved, the windows piled with stones, chains were stretched and barricades erected. The royal troops were invested and attacked. Foremost in the interests of the League and in opposition to Henry III. were the Sixteen, a faction so called on account of its affairs being managed by sixteen members, one for each division of Paris—a faction which asserted the doctrines of the League to their extreme, who adopted what in

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]


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 to make terms with Navarre, openly recognize him as his successor, and 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

« AnteriorContinuar »