« AnteriorContinuar »
entirely reorganize the States of Europe and establish on a constitutional basis the right of people and princes.
Henry had understood the necessity of sowing, by long and peaceful works at home, the seeds of his future triumph, and of securing numerous allies abroad. Already, on signing the peace with Spain, it was for war that he had prepared. He mediated between the Pope and the Venetians, whom Spain had succeeded in embroiling, and reconciled them ; every year he furnished subsidies and ammunitions to the Dutch ; and in 1608 entered into a defensive league with them, forcing the Spaniards to treat with the United Provinces as with a free country. There had long been a good understanding between him and Queen Elizabeth of England, and when, in April, 1603, he heard of her death, he was deeply afilicted. It was, indeed, an irretrievable loss to him. Henry did not, however, lose courage. Numerous States successively entered into his alliance. He was soon enabled to calculate on the Prince of Orange, on Sweden and Denmark, on nearly all the Protestant princes of Germany, on the numerous reformers of Bohemia, of Hungary, and the Arch-duchy of Austria, on the Duke of Savoy, on the Pope, and finally, on James I., the new King of England.
But the great project of Henry was never to be realized. Rumours were abroad that with the great forces he had assembled he proposed his own aggrandizement only, and the extension of his own territories. Added to this, there was the suspicion that he was about to forsake the Catholic faith and resume his forsaken Protestantism. This suspicion was fatal to him.
A mad young friar of the name of Francis Ravaillac resolved on his death. The third Henry was to die as his namesakes—he died by the hand of an assassin.
Before joining the army Henry determined on appointing his queen Regent in his absence; and her coronation, a ceremony which had not yet taken place, was thought to be requisite. For his own part the Bernese cared nothing for State ceremony-the golden orb and sceptre, the jewelled crown, were to him no more than baubles, but to Marie de Medici they were most precious. She delighted in the pomp and pageantry of palaces, and insisted on her coronation being conducted with the utmost splendour. Henry was annoyed, and fretted. He frequently said he should never see Paris alive, and longed to contradict his own presentiment. The coronation took place. Even the heart of Marie de Medici must have been satisfied with the splendour of the ceremonial. Henry presented her with the golden orb—the emblem of sovereignty—the child Louis standing between them. Rubens painted the picture, and it is one of his noblest works. On the day after the coronation, May 14, 1610, Henry manifested great despondency. He wished to see Sully, who was then ill at the
Arsenal; so the royal carriage was ordered, and, accompanied by seven of his suite, the king left the palace.
In the narrow street, Rue de la Ferronnerie, the carriage was delayed by two loaded carts. It was the moment chosen by Ravaillac for the crime he meditated. Springing forward he leaned full into the carriage and stabbed the king with a poniard, first in the stomach and then in the heart.
,'I amwounded!” They were the last words of Henry of Navarre. He fell back a corpse.
“To paint the rage and despair of the people," says a modern writer, "would be impossible. The once-detested Henry had won every heart, and the general grief for him partook of the character of madness. Tears were the least tokens of sorrow ; many died on learning the catastrophe, amongst others the brave de Vic, the comrade of Henry. The lifeless body was borne to the Louvre, whilst Ravaillac, who made no attempt to escape, was taken, brandishing his dagger, and only preserved by the guards from being instantly torn in pieces. He had been a monk, strongly imbued with the king-killing principles that the Jesuits had broached. His crime had long been meditated by him, but no proof exists that he had been instigated either by Spain or by any knot of malcontent courtiers. Suspicion, indeed, has scattered its stain on all with an unsparing hand. Epernon, the queen, Concini, and many others were accused as being privy to the deed ; and the record of Ravaillac's trial having been destroyed, whilst these personages possessed the chief influence, gives some colour to the charge. Ravaillac was torn limb from limb, and was astonished to hear the lamentations of the people for their father, and their eagerness to offer their horses for the punishment of the regicide."
OCHELLE, in the year of grace 1864, is a place of no con
siderable importance. It is a second-rate commercial town, with a third-class fortress. It exports some excellent brandy,
made in the adjoining province of l'Aurris; but neither for its eau-de-vie, its corn, or its wine, is Rochelle particularly famous. Its fame belongs to a far distant date—to a widely different condition of society to that of the Napoleonic dynasty—to an age when civil discord and religious differences unsheathed every sword in France, and divided the people against each other. Rochelle was the head-quarters of the Huguenot, the Protestant party in France; the great centre and metropolis of the French reformers. There they made their stand against the Catholic party, and openly defied the authority of Church and State. The Huguenots, who had followed the white plume of Henry of Navarre, were men of determination. They were expert in the use of their weapons-weapons not furnished from the spiritual armoury, and were not willing to yield an inch of ground or doctrine. At Rochelle they had defied the royalists shortly after the Bartholomew massacre ; at Rochelle they had maintained their own for more than half a century, working and worshipping, none daring to make them afraid ; but in 1628-9, when Louis XIII. was king, and Cardinal Richelieu, prime minister, Rochelle was the scene of one of the most memorable sieges on record ; and the visitor to Rochelle to this day is reminded more of that terrible event, than of anything else that has happened in the old town before or since.
The little port of Rochelle is entirely enclosed by the buildings of the town, and consists of an outer tidal basin, and an inner wet dock, protected by a pier, and flanked at its entrance on either side by the round towers of La Chaîne and St. Nicholas. A quay planted with trees runs round the harbour, and forms an agreeable promenade. Opposite the tower in the bay on the shores of which it stands are the islands of Ré and d'Oléron. The island of Ré is the scene of the Duke of Buckingham's unfortunate expedition, and in glancing towards it we can imagine something of that heart sickness which the people of Rochelle must have felt at seeing help so near, and yet so powerless to save. At low water the remains of Richelieu's famous dyke are still to be seen-a long pile of stones, stretching from the point of Coreille to that of Fort Louis, a distance of 1640 yards. Within the town we may visit the house of Guiton, the chief magistrate during the siege—a man of iron will and inflexible determination. We may visit also the Hotel de Ville, where he made his notorious dagger speech; and there we may see the Council table at which he presided, and the chair in which he sat. Everywhere there is something to recall the heroic struggle—to banish the Rochelle of to-day, and restore the Rochelle of 1628. Again the watchmen were on the lofty tower of St. Sauveur, straining their anxious eyes towards the island of Ré; again the mayor, gaunt with famine, and the brave Duchess de Rohan animate the drooping courage of the besieged ; again all the horrors of starvation are renewed, and the streets filled with dead and dying. Vauban has changed the aspect of the town, as he has changed the aspect of many another town; but there is more than enough left of ancient Rochelle to recall the chief incident in its history.
Before entering on the story of the siege of Rochelle, we shall take a rapid glance at the events which had transpired in England and the Netherlands, while the Protestants of France were assisting those liberties for the destruction of which Philip of Spain had so long plotted and prayed.