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If the report of the death of Charles the ninth,
did not reach Poland sooner than was expected, the return of his brother Henry, to take possession of the tottering throne of France, was quicker than had been foreseen. He ascended the throne of this divided kingdom, at the age of twenty-three, and was crowned at Rheims, in 1575.
On his first appearance in France, the queen, with the nobility, waited upon him, at Lyons, and were greatly disappointed. While only duke of Anjou, Henry had attracted their attention; but he now appeared weak, both in body and mind, and every way unpromising as a king. Immediately he abandoned himself to voluptuousness, giving very little attention to business. He no longer permitted the greatest lords to address him with the liberty and familiarity of former times; admitting only to such freedom, a few young men, who had neither experience nor merit. One historian says, He was so proud, that he set rails round his table, and affected the pomp of an eastern king: and so mean, that he often walked in procession with a beggarly brotherhood, with a string of beads in his hand, and a whip at his girdle.
The civil war between catholics and protestants recommenced; but it was soon found necessary to make a peace. By this peace, in 1576, all that calvinists demanded were granted; and particularly, liberty to profess their religion in all parts of the kingdom, without exception.
This peace, that pacified the discontented, was provoking to many roman catholics; and
gave them occasion to form what was called the HOLY LEAGUE. The pretence was to defend the church, the king, and the state. The chief promoter of this faction, was the duke of Guise, who had very different purposes to accomplish than to manifest any just regard for the church or the king.
The articles of this league were, that a CHIEF should be chosen, as soon as possible, whom all the confederates should be obliged to regard; that he should have power, without the form of trial, to put all to death who should dare to disobey him; that all catholics should be invited to join in this confederacy; that those who refused, should be considered as the enemies of religion, and pursued with open force; and that, if any one, after having joined this league, should withdraw. from it, he should be instantly punished in the severest manner, as a rebel against Almighty God. This is a fair representation of that kind of liberty that factions admire: may every nation have wisdom to abhor such artful and injurious combinations.
The king, who at first joined this formidable league, was soon made sensible of his danger; but his conduct was so changeable, hypocritical, and extravagant, that instead of pleasing either catholics or protestants, he was, by turns, the jest or scorn of both.
The league immediately proceeded to action, seized several towns; and Henry, to obtain peace, revoked the edicts in favour of the protestants, and resigned his army and treasures to the use of the confederates: but, insulted by a council of the citizens nominated by the duke of Guise, and scarce safe in Paris, whose streets were filled with tumult, he soon repented of his former concessions,
Five armies, raised in the king's name, threatened the protestants with destruction. That commanded by the duke of Guise, was alone victorious; and his arrogance and ambition seemed daily to increase. In defiance of the king's command, he entered Paris, and demanded audience. Henry was provoked at his insolence, and resolved, at all events, to take away the life of this haughty and ambitious subject. The duke, therefore, soon after this rude approach to the king, was assassinated, by his majesty's command; who went immediately into the apartment of the queen mother, and said, At last, madam, I am king; the duke of Guise is dead: and the day after, his brother, the cardinal; fell, by nearly the same mode of assassination.
These dreadful deeds roused the abhorrence of the catholics against Henry. The clergy, and the greater part of his nobles, formed a league against him, and placed the duke of Mayenne, brother of the late duke of Guise, at their head; who, by his usurping sovereign authority, left the king only the shadow of power. These indignities, and usurpations, were sanctioned by churchmen. The doctors of the Sorbonne, absolved his subjects from their allegiance; and he was excommunicated by the Pope, as favouring the reformed, and as un worthy to reign: so near in disposition, have the clergy of different denominations been, when God has been forgotten, and their king despised,
During these transactions, the king's mother, Catharine de Medicis, died at Blois, aged seventyone; and left behind her, a name, which no good man can mention with pleasure. At the time of her death, she was loaded with debts and crimes,
Chalons says, She seemed to have been born only · for the destruction of the kingdom, Shę recommended it, however, to the king, with her last breath, to reconcile himself to the king of Navarre; and added, that peace could not be established in the kingdom, without allowing liberty of conscience,
: When Henry was, by these means, greatly disa tressed, the princes of the blood hastened to his assistance; and, among them, the king of Nayarre paid distinguished attention to his affairs. By his advice, Henry returned towards Paris, and, on his
road road thither, met with considerable success: but he was not long suffered to enjoy it. For, as he pressed the siege of Paris, James Clement, a jacobin friar, inflamed by his own passions and pride, and by the false doctrine of the Sorbonne, resolved to murder him. He, therefore, under false pretences of informing his majesty of matters of great importance, obtained an audience. While the king was listening to this false prophet, with great attention, or reading his letter, the villain stabbed him in the bowels with a knife. The king, thus mortally wounded, cried out, Wretch, what have I done to thee, that thou shouldst kill me? and, drawing out the knife, he struck more than once at this murderous monk. The spectators, at a distant part of the room, not being masters of their first impulse, ran to the regicide, and stabbed him in a thousand places. The king lived till the following morning, and then died, in the thirty-ninth year of his age, and in the sixteenth year of his reign.
In his dying moments, he manifested great regard for the king of Navarre; acknowledged him to be his lawful heir, and recommended him warmly, to the officers of his court and army.
And now, who would not imagine, that the death of this king would have been universally lamented, and his despicable assassin as generally abhorred? On the contrary, by multitudes, the murderer was admired, and the death of the king strangely for