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I HIS prince was not twelve years of age, when his brother, Francis the second, died. His minority gave ample opportunities for his cunning and ambitious mother, to indulge her predominant passion for dominion; and by so doing, her hypocrisy, cruelty, and other subordinate passions, were often unavoidably exposed.
In 1560, the states general met at Orleans. The constable, going to this assembly, found a guard at the gates of the city, and demanded the reason of such precaution. Being told it was to protect the king, he was offended. The king, said he, is safe in the affection of his subjects. Depart, or I will take care that all of you shall be hanged. The guards were terrified, and silently obeyed this stern commander.
At Orleans, the hopes of the protestants were again revived. The prince of Condé was acquitted and released. The slanderous report concerning the king's death, was refuted; and the best judges admitted, that he died by the bursting of an imposthume in his ear. The queen, from political motives, seemed disposed to shew favor to the reformed. She wrote even to the pope in their behalf,
and requested the cup in the sacrament might be restored, and that public service might be performed in the vulgar language. Her chancellor openly blamed violence in matters of religion, and paid a respectful attention to the complaints of those that had suffered for conscience sake.
These were pleasing appearances, but not lasting. The queen never had any predominant regard for religion; but, at that time, she wanted as. sistance from protestants, to form a balance of power against her rivals for dominion, and, on that account, she courted their attention.
Her schemes were counterbalanced, by a formidable league between the constable Montmorency, the duke of Guise, and the marshal de St. Andre. This party, in allusion to similar factions in the ancient common wealth of Rome, was called the TRIUMVİRATE; and they who formed it, greatly abridged the queen's authority. Under pretence of keeping the king at a proper distance from the HUGONors, as the protestants were now called, they seized both him and his mother, and conducted them first to Milan, and afterwards to Paris.
A conference was now proposed by the queen, in which some of the catholic bishops, and several of the most eminent pastors among the reformed, were to give their opinions on matters of importance. They assembled at Poissy. Princes, cardinals, and the greatest lords of the kingdom, were present at this debate, in which the king himself presided. The chancellor de l'Hospital declared the king's intention in calling that assembly, was to discover a remedy for the yet existing disorders on the subject of religion; that they should therefore endeavour to correct such things as had need of correction, and not separate till they had brought about a sincere reconciliation.
This once celebrated conference, continued almost two months; in which, BEZA, in behalf of the protestants, spoke with great freedom, and was much applauded. He gave, however, great offence to cardinal de Tournon and his party. The catholics, would make no concessions in any one article; the debate, therefore, degenerated into particular disputes and private contentions, and ended, as such conferences generally do, with mutual dissatisfaction. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world; and every attempt to make it so, must be criminal, and in vain.
The conference at Poissy, was not only unprofitable and vexatious, but, in one part of it, at least, injurious. To that assembly, Pious the fourth, sent Lainez, second general of the Jesuits, and the principal author of their institutes, who, though he argued with insolence, and offended the queen, had credit enough to cause an act to be passed for the establishment of the Jesuits, in the form of a college. Thus, that famous assembly, from which
was expected an equitable accommodation of theological disputations, established an order more inimical to equity, than any other society, subject to the SEE of Rome.
Soon after this conference, the king of Navarre, father of Henry the fourth, who had been a zealous protestant, renounced his profession, and joined the triumvirate. His temptation to this inglorious revolt was, an offer to invest him with the kingdom of Sardinia, and with other temporal advantages, provided he would openly embrace the catholic religion. This temptation his own concupiscence would not permit him to resist. The queen of Navarre, who had hitherto preferred a dance to a sermon, was offended with the king's behaviour, and instantly became a zealous protestant; but how far her zeal was accompanied with knowledge, will afterwards appear.
An edict was now passed, by which the protestants obtained liberty of conscience, on condition that they should hold their assemblies in the suburbs, and not in the cities; and that only till the king should otherwise appoint. On this grant, those who had been restrained, ran every where to the meetings, till quarrels arose, in which the catholics and protestants insulted each other. In this state of reciprocal irritation, the duke of Guise passing through Vassy, in Champagne, with a numerous retinue, many of his valets and soldiers behaved illiberally to a congregation of protestants, who
were then hearing a sermon in a barn. The Duke interested himself in the quarrel; the consequence was, two hundred were wounded, and sixty left dead upon the spot.
This was the first blood that was shed in the civil war; but how much afterwards was shed at Dreux; at St. Dennis; in the battle at Jarnac, near Saintongue; at Moncontour, in Poitou, and at other places, before the protestants would lay down their arms, cannot be told.
At the treaty of peace, obtained in 1570, mischief of the greatest magnitude was contrived by Catherine de Medicis, who wished to destroy by perfidy, those she was unable to conquer by the sword. Charles the ninth, trained up for such exploits, seconded her design, and veiled the most atrocious wickedness, by the most brilliant appearance of reconciliation.
· To render the peace apparently permanent, a marriage was proposed, between Margaret his sister, and Henry of Navarre. This proposal was accepted; and the queen of Navarre, her son Henry, the princes of the blood, and the most opulent protestants, went to Paris with alacrity, to celebrate this inauspicious marriage.
The queen of Navarre, poor woman! was charm ed with this flattering prospect, and with the ca: • resses and honour she was loaded with at court.