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The Signs of the Times, vol. 13 - Contents
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    “The Huguenots and St. Bartholomew’s Day” The Signs of the Times 13, 22, pp. 344-346.

    WE have received a request to give in our columns an account of—SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.1

    “1. The Edict of Nantes—when and by whom made, when and by whom revoked, and what the consequences of the revocation?SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.2

    “2. The Huguenots—why so called?SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.3

    “3. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s.”SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.4

    These questions all refer to the same people—the Huguenots—and to view them in their proper connection we shall have to take up the second point first, then the third, and the first one last. First,SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.5


    The Huguenots were the French Protestants of the Reformation period. The term Huguenots was a nickname first applied to them by the enemies of Protestantism, but which became their acknowledged title, even as the term Christian with the early disciples of the Lord, and the term Methodist with Wesley and his companions. As for the term itself, it is of uncertain origin, and has been the subject of much controversy. The best account of its origin seems to be this:—SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.6

    In the city of Tours there was a popular superstition that a hobgoblin, called in French le roy Huguon, roamed the streets of that city. And, of course, it was with him as with all other hobgoblins, ghosts, and spooks, he was seen only in the night, and did all his exploits in the night. Now as the first Protestants in France, as well as in other countries, dared not, at the peril of their lives, meet together except under the friendly cover of the darkness, it was an easy transition that attached to them the name of the great hobgoblin—Huguon—who moved about only in the dark. And so they were nicknamed Huguenots, and that title distinguished a people who bore the wrath of the Papacy for more than two hundred and seventy years, yet who at times became so numerous and powerful as to endanger the supremacy of the Catholic religion in France. In fact, the means by which France was held under the sway of the Catholic religion, was that of which the fullest illustration is furnished in that dreadful scenes ofSITI June 9, 1887, page 344.7


    August 24, 1572. Charles IX. Was nominally king of France. He was scarcely more than an imbecile, and his mother, the terrible Catherine de Medici, ruled the kingdom in the spirit of a second Jezebel. Philip II. was king of Spain, and, through the Duke of Alva, was carrying on a perpetual St. Bartholomew’s in the Netherlands. Gregory XIII. was Pope at the time of the massacred, but it had been plotted under the instructions of his immediate predecessor, Pius V. Catherine and the Duke of Guise were the leaders of the Catholics; Henry of Navarre, afterward King Henry IV. of France, and Admiral Coligny were the leaders of the Huguenots. As Catherine, by years of open war, had failed to destroy, or even to very much weaken, the Protestant cause, she determined to compass the destruction of the Huguenots by treachery and massacre. It was a deeply laid scheme. It had to be, for the object was the total extirpation of Protestantism in France. The first thing was to disarm the suspicion of the Huguenots. A very plausible means presented itself.SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.8

    The year before, a war of three years had closed so favorably to the Huguenots that it was in their power to indicate the terms of peace, and the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye was made August 8, 1570, by which they were guaranteed liberty of worship outside of Paris. Catherine now proposed a close alliance of the two parties, and they united to make an armed intervention in the Netherlands in aid of the Prince of Orange, and to relieve the Netherlands from the scourge of Philip of Spain. To seal the alliance, she proposed that Henry of Navarre should marry Margaret of Valois, Catherine’s own daughter, sister to Charles IX.; and that Admiral Coligny should head the united expedition to the rescue of the Netherlands. This scheme was the most taking to the Huguenots because the marriage had been actually talked of while as yet Henry and Margaret were but children; and if by this they could secure peace in France, they would gladly help to bring deliverance to their Protestant brethren in Holland.SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.9

    The Huguenots were thoroughly deceived. The marriage was accomplished August 18, 1572. “The four following days all Paris was occupied with fêtes, ballets, and other public rejoicings. It was during these festivities that the final arrangements were made for striking the great meditated blow.” The massacre was to begin Sunday morning, August 24, at daybreak. Friday afternoon an attempt was made to assassinate Admiral Coligny, but he was only wounded, though severely, in the right hand and the left arm. Friday night and Saturday were spent in more perfect preparation. Troops were brought into the city, and all the gates were closed, except two, which were left open for the introduction of provisions. As the dreadful hour drew near, the king faltered, but Catherine was prepared for that. She told him it was now too late to retreat, that their plans were known to the Protestants, and that now to hesitate was to be lost. She succeeded in rallying him, and he exclaimed with an oath: “Then let Coligny be killed, and let not one Huguenot in all France be left to reproach me with the deed.” What followed, we shall tell in the words of Dr. Wylie, “History of Protestantism,” book 17, chap. 16.SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.10

    “It was now 11 o’clock of Saturday night, and the massacre was to begin at daybreak. Tavannes was sent to bid the Mayor of Paris assemble the citizens, who for some days before had been provided with arms, which they had stored in their houses. To exasperate them, and put them in a mood for this unlimited butchery of their countrymen, in which at first they were somewhat reluctant to engage, they were told that a horrible conspiracy had been discovered, on the part of the Huguenots, to cut off the king and the royal family, and destroy the monarchy and the Roman Catholic religion. The signal for the massacre was to be the tolling of the great bell of the Palace of Justice. As soon as the tocsin should have flung its ominous peal upon the city, they were to hasten to draw chains across the streets, place pickets in the open spaces, and sentinels on the bridges. Orders were also given that at the first sound of the bell torches should be placed in all the windows, and that the Roman Catholics, for distinction, should wear a white scarf on the left arm, and affix a white cross on their hats.SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.11

    “‘All was now arranged,’ says Maimbourg, ‘for the carnage;’ and they waited with impatience for the break of day, when the tocsin was to sound. In the royal chamber sat Charles IX., the Queen-mother, and the Duke of Anjou. Catherine’s fears lest the king should change his mind at the last minute would not permit her to leave him for one moment. Few words, we may well believe, would pass between the royal personages. The great event that impended could not but weigh heavily upon them. A deep stillness reigned in the apartment; the hours wore wearily away; and the Queen-mother feeling the suspense unbearable, or else afraid, as Maimbourg suggests, that Charles, ‘greatly disturbed by the idea of the horrible butchery, would revoke the order he had given for it,’ anticipated the signal by sending one at two o’clock of the morning to ring the bell of St. Germain l’Auxerois, which was nearer than that of the Palace of Justice. Scarcely had its first peal startled the silence of the night when a pistol shot was heard. The king started to his feet, and summoning an attendant he bade him go and stop the massacre. It was too late; the bloody work had begun. The great bell of the Palace had now begun to toll; another moment and every steeple in Paris was sending forth its peal; a hundred tocsins sounded at once; and with the tempest of their clamor there mingled the shouts, oaths, and howlings of the assassins. ‘I was awakened,’ says Sully, ‘three hours after midnight with the ringing of all the bells, and the continued cries of the populace.’ Above all were heard the terrible words, ‘Kill, kill!’SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.12

    “The massacre was to begin with the assassination of Coligny, and that part of the dreadful work had been assigned to the Duke of Guise. The moment he heard the signal, the duke mounted his horse and, accompanied by his brother and three hundred gentlemen and soldiers, galloped off for the admiral’s lodging. He found Anjou’s guards with their red cloaks, and their lighted matches, posted round it; they gave the duke with his armed retinue instant admission into the court-yard. To slaughter the halberdiers of Navarre, and force open the inner entrance of the admiral’s lodgings, was the work of but a few minutes. They next mounted the stairs, while the duke and his gentlemen remained below. Awakened by the noise, the admiral got out of bed, and wrapping his dressing-gown round him and leaning against the wall, he bade Merlin, his minister, join with him in prayer. One of his gentlemen at that moment rushed into the room. ‘My lord,’ said he, ‘God calls us to himself!’ ‘I am prepared to die,’ replied the admiral; ‘I need no more the help of men; therefore, farewell, my friends; save yourselves, if it is still possible.’ They all left him and escaped by the roof of the house. Coligny, his son-in-law, fleeing in this way was shot, and rolled into the street. A German servant alone remained behind with his master. The door of the chamber was now forced open, and seven of the murderers entered, headed by Behme of Lorraine, and Achille Petrucci of Sienna, creatures of the Duke of Guise. ‘Art thou Coligny?’ said Behme, presenting himself before his victim, and awed by the perfect composure and venerable aspect of the admiral. ‘I am,’ replied Coligny; ‘young man, you ought to respect my grey hairs; but do what you will, you can shorten my life only by a few days.’ The villain replied by plunging his weapon into the admiral’s breast; the rest closing round struck their daggers into him. ‘Behme,’ shouted the duke from below, ‘hast done?’ ‘Tis all over,’ cried the assassin from the window. ‘But M. d’Angoulême,’ replied the duke, ‘will not believe it till he see him at his feet.’ Taking up the corpse, Behme threw it over the window, and as it fell on the pavement, the blood spurted on the faces and clothes of the two lords. The duke, taking out his handkerchief and wiping the face of the murdered man, said, ‘Tis he sure enough,’ and kicked the corpse in its face. A servant of the Duke of Nevers cut off the head, and carried it to Catherine de Medici and the king. The trunk was exposed for some days to disgusting indignities; the head was embalmed, to be sent to Rome; the bloody trophy was carried as far as Lyons, but there all trace of it disappears.SITI June 9, 1887, page 344.13

    “The authors of the plot having respect to the maxim attributed to Alaric, that ‘thick grass is more easily mown than thin,’ had gathered the leading Protestants that night, as we have already narrated, into the same quarter where Coligny lodged. The Duke of Guise had kept this quarter as his special preserve; and now, the admiral being dispatched, the guards of Anjou, with a creature of the duke’s for their captain, were let loose upon this battu of ensnared Huguenots. Their work was done with a summary vengeance, to which the flooded state of the kennels, and the piles of corpses, growing ever larger, bore terrible witness. Over all Paris did the work of massacre by this time extend. Furious bands, armed with guns, pistols, swords, pikes, knives, and all kinds of cruel weapons, rushed through the streets, murdering all they met. They began to thunder at the doors of Protestants, and the terrified inmates, stunned by the uproar, came forth in their night-clothes, and were murdered on their own thresholds. Those who were too affrighted to come abroad, were slaughtered in their bed-rooms and closets, the assassins bursting open all places of concealment, and massacring all who opposed their entrance, and throwing their mangled bodies into the street. The darkness would have been a cover to some, but the lights that blazed in the windows denied even this poor chance of escape to the miserable victims. The Huguenot as he fled through the street, with agonized features, and lacking the protection of the white scarf, was easily recognized, and dispatched without mercy.SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.1

    “The Louvre was that night the scene of a great butchery. Some 200 Protestant noblemen and gentlemen from the provinces had been accommodated with beds in the palace; and although the guests of the king, they had no exemption, but were doomed that night to die with others. They were aroused after midnight, taken out one by one, and made to pass between two rows of halberdiers, who were stationed in the underground galleries. They were hacked in pieces or poniarded on their way, and their corpses being carried forth were horrible to relate, piled in heaps at the gates of the Louvre. Among those who thus perished were the Count de la Rochefoucault, the Marquis de Renel, the brave Piles—who had so gallantly defended St. Jean D’Angely—Francourt, chancellor to the King of Navarre, and others of nearly equal distinction. An appeal to the God of Justice was their only protest against their fate.SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.2

    “By-and-by the sun rose; but, alas! who can describe the horrors which the broad light of day disclosed to view? The entire population of the French capital was seen maddened with rage, or aghast with terror. On its wretched streets what tragedies of horror and crime were being enacted! Some were fleeing, others were pursuing; some were supplicating for life, others were responding by the murderous blow, which, if it silenced the cry for mercy, awoke the cry for justice. Old men, and infants in their swaddling clothes, were alike butchered on that awful night. Our very page would weep, were we to record all the atrocities now enacted. Corpses were being precipitated from the roofs and windows, others were being dragged through the streets by the feet, or were piled up in carts, and driven away to be shot into the river. The kennels were running with blood. Guise, Tavannes, and d’Angoulême—traversing the streets on horseback, and raising their voices to their highest pitch, to be audible above the tolling of the bells, the yells of the murderers, and the cries and moanings of the wounded and the dying—were inciting to yet greater fury those whom hate and blood had already transformed into demons. ‘It is the king’s orders!’ cried Guise. ‘Blood, blood!’ shouted out Tavannes. Blood! every kennel was full; the Seine as it rolled through Paris seemed but a river of blood; and the corpses which it was bearing to the ocean were so numerous that the bridges had difficulty in giving them passage, and were in some danger of becoming choked and turning back the stream, and drowning Paris in the blood of its own shedding. Such was the gigantic horror on which the sun of that Sunday morning, the 24th of August, 1572—St. Bartholomew’s Day—looked down.SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.3

    “We have seen how Charles IX. stood shuddering for some moments on the brink of his great crime, and that, had it not been for the stronger will and more daring wickedness of his mother, he might after all have turned back. But when the massacre had commenced, and he had tasted of blood, Charles shuddered no longer he became as ravenous for slaughter as the lowest of the mob. He and his mother, when it was day, went out on the palace balcony to feast their eyes upon the scene. Some Huguenots were seen struggling in the river, in their efforts to swim across, the boats having been removed. Seizing an arquebus, the king fired on them. ‘Kill, kill!’ he shouted; and making a page sit beside him and load his piece,....SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.4

    “For seven days the massacres were continued in Paris, and the first three especially with unabating fury. Nor were they confined within the walls of the city. In pursuance of orders sent from the court, they were extended to all provinces and cities where Protestants were found. Even villages and châteaux became scenes of carnage. For two months these butcheries were continued throughout the kingdom. Every day during that fearful time the poniard reaped a fresh harvest of victims, and the rivers bore to the sea a new and ghastly burden of corpses. In Rouen above 6,000 perished; at Toulouse some hundreds were hewn to pieces with axes; at Orleans the Papists themselves confessed that they had destroyed 12,000; some said 18,000; and at Lyons not a Protestant escaped. After the gates were closed they fell upon them without mercy; 150 of them were shut up in the archbishop’s house, and were cut to pieces in the space of one hour and a half. Some Roman Catholic, more humane than the rest, when he saw the heaps of corpses, exclaimed, ‘They surely were not men, but devils in the shape of men, who had done this.’SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.5

    “The whole number that perished in the massacre cannot be precisely ascertained. According to De Thou there were 2,000 victims in Paris the first day; Agrippa d’Aubigne says 3,000. Brantome speaks of 4,000 bodies that Charles IX might have seen floating down the Seine. La Popeliniere reduces them to 1,000. ‘There is to be found, in the account-books of the city of Paris, a payment to the grave-diggers of the Cemetery of the Innocents, for having inferred 1,100 dead bodies stranded at the turns of the Seine near Chaillot, Antenil, and St. Cloud; it is probable that many corpses were carried still further, and the corpses were not all thrown into the river.’ There is a still greater uncertainty touching the number of victims throughout the whole of France. Mezeray computes it at 25,000; De Thou at 30,000; Sully at 70,000; and Perefixe, Archbishop of Paris in the seventeenth century, raises it to 100,000; Davila reduces it to 10,000. Sully, from his access to official documents, and his unimpeachable honor, has been commonly reckoned the highest authority. Not a few municipalities and governors, to their honor, refused to execute the orders of the king. The reply of the Vicompte d’Orte has become famous. ‘Sire,’ wrote he to Charles IX., ‘among the citizens and garrison of Bayonne, you have many brave soldiers, and loyal subjects, but not one hangman.’ ...SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.6

    “At Rome, when the news arrived, the joy was boundless. The messenger who carried the dispatch was rewarded like one who brings tidings of some great victory,.’ On the following day the Pontiff went in procession to the Church of Minerva, where, after mass, a jubilee was published to all Christendom, ‘that they might thank God for the slaughter of the enemies of the Church, lately executed in France.’ A third time did the Pope go in procession, with his cardinals and all the foreign ambassador then resident at his court, and after mass in the Church of St. Louis, he accepted homage from the Cardinal of Lorraine, and thanks in the name of the King of France, ‘for the counsel and help he had given him by his prayers, of which he had found the most wonderful effects.’SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.7

    “But as if all this had not been enough, the Pope caused certain more enduring monuments of the St. Bartholomew to be set up, that not only might the event be held in everlasting remembrance, but his own approval of it be proclaimed to the ages to come. The Pope, says Bonanni, ‘gave orders for a painting, descriptive of the slaughter of the admiral and his companions, to be made in the hall of the Vatican by Georgio Vasari, as a monument of vindicated religion, and a trophy of exterminated heresy.’ These representations form three different frescoes.—‘The king approves Coligny’s slaughter!SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.8

    “The better to perpetuate the memory of the massacre, Gregory caused a medal to be struck, the device on which, as Bonanni interprets it, inculcates that the St. Bartholomew was the joint result of the Papal counsel and God’s instrumentality. On the one side is a profile of the Pope, surrounded by the words—Gregorius XIII., Pont. Max., an. I. On the obverse is seen an angel bearing in the one hand a cross, in the other a drawn sword, with which he is smiting a prostrate host of Protestants; and to make all clear, above is the motto: Ugoniottorum strages, 1572—‘The slaughter of the Huguenots, 1572.’”SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.9

    Bishop Foss of the M. E. Church, now possess one of these medals.SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.10

    The account of the Edict of Nantes, we defer will next week. J.SITI June 9, 1887, page 345.11

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