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History of Protestantism, vol. 2 - Contents
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    Chapter 19 : Henry IV and the Edict of Nantes

    Henry IV—Birth and Rearing—Assumes the Crown—Has to Fight for the Kingdom—Victory at Dieppe—Victory at Ivry—Henry’s Vacillation— His Double Policy—Wrongs of the Huguenots—Henry turns towards Rome—Sully and Duplessis—Their Different Counsel— Henry’s Abjuration—Protestant Organization—The Edict of Nantes— Peace— Henry as a Statesman—His Foreign Policy—Proposed Campaign against Austria—His Forebodings—His Assassination—His Character

    Picture: Medal of Catherine de Medici.

    Picture: View in Paris: the Place de la Concorde.

    The dagger of Jacques Clement had transferred the crown of France from the House of Valois to that of Bourbon. Henry III being now dead, Henry of Navarre, the Knight of the White Plume, ascended the throne by succession. The French historians paint in glowing colors the manly grace of his person, his feats of valor in the field, and his acts of statesmanship in the cabinet. They pronounce him the greatest of their monarchs, and his reign the most glorious in their annals. We must advance a little further into our subject before we can explain the difficulty we feel in accepting this eulogium as fully warranted.HOPV2 617.1

    Henry was born in the old Castle of Pau, in Bearn, and was descended in a direct line from Robert, the sixth son of Saint Louis. The boy, the instant of his birth, was carried to his grandfather, who rubbed his lips with a clove of garlic, and made him drink a little wine; and the rearing begun thus was continued in the same hardy fashion.HOPV2 617.2

    The young Henry lived on the plainest food, and wore the homeliest dress; he differed little or nothing, in these particulars, from the peasant boys who were his associates in his hours of play. His delight was to climb the great rocks of the Pyrenees around his birth-place, and in these sports he hardened his constitution, familiarized himself with peril and toil, and nurtured that love of adventure which characterized him all his days. But especially was his education attended to. It was conducted under the eye of his mother, one of the first women of her age, or indeed of any age. He was carefully instructed in the doctrines of Protestantism, that in after-life his religion might be not an ancestral tradition, but a living faith. In the example of his mother he had a pattern of the loftiest virtue. Her prayers seemed the sacred pledges that the virtues of the mother would flourish in the son, and that after she was gone he would follow with the same devotion, and defend with a yet stronger arm, the cause for which she had lived. As Henry grew up he displayed a character in many points corresponding to these advantages of birth and training. To a robust and manly frame he added a vigorous mind. His judgment was sound, his wit was quick, his resource was ready. In disposition he was brave, generous, confiding. He despised danger; he courted toil; he was fired with the love of glory. But with these great qualities he blended an inconvenient waywardness, and a decided inclination to sensual pleasures.HOPV2 617.3

    The king had breathed his last but a few moments, when Henry entered the royal apartment to receive the homage of the lords who were there in waiting. The Huguenot chiefs readily hailed him as their sovereign, but the Roman Catholic lords demanded, beware swearing the oath of allegiance, that he should declare himself of the communion of the Church of Rome. “Would it be more agreeable to you,” asked Henry of those who were demanding of him a renunciation of his Protestantism upon the spot, “Would it be more agreeable to you to have a godless king? Could you confide in the faith of an atheist? And in the day of battle would it add to your courage to think that you followed the banner of a perjured apostate?”HOPV2 618.1

    Brave words spoken like a man who had made up his mind to ascend the throne with a good conscience or not at all. But these words were not followed up by a conduct equally brave and high-principled. The Roman Catholic lords were obstinate. Henry’s difficulties increased. The dissentients were withdrawing from his camp; his army was melting away, and every new day appeared to be putting the throne beyond his reach. Now was the crisis of his fate. Had Henry of Navarre esteemed the reproach of being a Huguenot greater riches than the crown of France, he would have worn that crown, and worn it with honour. His mother’s God, who, by a marvellous course of Providence, had brought him to the foot of the throne, was able to place him upon it, had he had faith in him. But Henry’s faith began to fail. He temporized. He neither renounced Protestantism nor embraced Romanism, but aimed at being both Protestant and Romanist at once. He concluded an arrangement with the Roman Catholics, the main stipulation in which was that he would submit to a six months’ instruction in the two creeds — just as if he were or could be in doubt-and at the end of that period he would make his choice, and his subjects would then know whether they had a Protestant or a Roman Catholic for their sovereign. Henry, doubtless, deemed his policy a masterly one; but his mother would not have adopted it. She had risked her kingdom for her religion, and God gave her back her kingdom after it was as good as lost. What the son risked was his religion, that he might secure his throne. The throne he did secure in the first instance, but at the cost of losing in the end all that made it worth having. “There is a way that seemeth right in a man’s own eyes, but the end thereof is death.”HOPV2 618.2

    Henry had tided over the initial difficulty, but at what a cost! — a virtual betrayal of his great cause. Was his way now smooth? The Roman Catholics he had not really conciliated, and the Protestants stood in doubt of him. He had two manner of peoples around his standard, but neither was enthusiastic in his support, nor could strike other than feeble blows. He had assumed the crown, but had to conquer the kingdom. The League, whose soldiers were in possession of Paris, still held out against him. To have gained the capital and displayed his standard on its walls would have been a great matter, but with an army dwindled down to a few thousands, and the Roman Catholic portion but half-hearted in his cause, Henry dared not venture on the siege of Paris. Making up his mind to go without the prestige of the capital meanwhile, he retreated with his little host into Normandy, the army of the League in overwhelming numbers pressing on his steps and hemming him in, so that he was compelled to give battle to them in the neighborhood of Dieppe. Here, with the waters of the English Channel behind him, into which the foe hoped to drive him, God wrought a great deliverance for him. With only 6,000 soldiers, Henry discomfited the entire army of the League, 30,000 strong, and won a great victory.HOPV2 618.3

    This affair brought substantial advantages to Henry. It added to his renown in arms, already great. Soldiers began to flock to his standard, and he now saw himself at the head of 20,000 men. Many of the provinces of France which had hung back till this time recognized him as king. The Protestant States abroad did the same thing; and thus strengthened, Henry led his army southward, crossed the Loire, and took up his winter quarters at Tours, the old capital of Clovis.HOPV2 619.1

    Early next spring (1590) the king was again in the field. Many of the old Huguenot chiefs, who had left him when he entered into engagements with the Roman Catholics, now returned, attracted by the vigor of his administration and the success of his arms. With this accession he deemed himself strong enough to take Paris, the possession of which would probably decide the contest. He began his march upon the capital, but was met by the army of the League (March 14, 1590) on the plains of Ivry. His opponents were in greatly superior numbers, having been reinforced by Spanish auxiliaries and German reiter. Here a second great victory crowned the cause of Henry of Navarre; in fact, the battle of Ivry is one of the most brilliant on record. Before going into action, Henry made a solemn appeal to Heaven touching the justice of his cause. “If thou seest,” said he, “that I shall be one of those kings whom thou givest in thine anger, take from me my life and crown together, and may my blood be the last that shall be shed in this quarrel.” The battle was now to be joined, but first the Huguenots kneeled in prayer. “They are begging for mercy,” cried some one. “No,” it was answered, “they never fight so terribly as after they have prayed.” A few moments, and the soldiers arose, and Henry ad dressed some stirring words to them. “Yonder,” said he, as he fastened on his helmet, over which waved his white plume, “Yonder is the enemy: here is your king. God is on our side. Should you lose your standards in the battle, rally round my plume; you will always find it on the path of victory and honour.” Into the midst of the enemy advanced that white plume; where raged the thickest of the fight, there was it seen to wave, and thither did the soldiers follow. After a terrible combat of two hours, the day declared decisively in favor of the king. The army of the League was totally routed, and fled from the field, leaving its cannon and standards behind it to become the trophies of the victors. 1It is scarcely necessary to remind our readers that this battle formed the subject of Lord Macaulay’s well-known ballad-song of the Huguenots.HOPV2 619.2

    This victory, won over great odds, was a second lesson to Henry of the same import as the first. But he was trying to profess two creeds, and “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” This fatal instability caused Henry to falter when he was on the point of winning all. Had he marched direct on Paris, the League, stunned by the blow he had just dealt it, would have been easily crushed; the fall of the capital would have followed, and, with Paris as the seat of his government, his cause would have been completely triumphant. He hesitated—he halted; his enthusiasm seemed to have spent itself on the battle-field. He had won a victory, but his indecision permitted its fruits to escape him. All that year was spent in small affairs— in the sieges of towns which contributed nothing to his main object. The League had time to recruit itself. The Duke of Parma— the most illustrious general of the age—came to its help. Henry’s affairs made no progress; and thus the following year (1591)was as uselessly spent as its predecessor. Meanwhile, the unhappy country of France— divided into factions, traversed by armies, devastated by battles—groaned under a combination of miseries. Henry’s great qualities remained with him; his bravery and dash were shown on many a bloody field; victories crowded in upon him; fame gathered round the white plume; nevertheless, his cause stood still. An eclipse seemed to rest upon the king, and a Nemesis appeared to dog his triumphal car.HOPV2 620.1

    With a professed Protestant upon the throne, one would have expected the condition of the Huguenots to be greatly alleviated; but it was not so. The concessions which might have been expected from even a Roman Catholic sovereign were withheld by one who was professedly a Protestant. The Huguenots as yet had no legal security for their civil and religious liberties. The laws denouncing confiscation and death for the profession of the Protestant religion, re-enacted by Henry III, remained unrepealed, and were at times put in force by country magistrates and provincial Parliaments. It sometimes happened that while in the camp of the king the Protestant worship was celebrated, a few leagues off the same worship was forbidden to a Huguenot congregation under severe penalties. The celebrated Mornay Duplessis well described the situation of the Protestants in these few words: “They had the halter always about their necks.” Stung by the temporizing and heartless policy of Henry, the Huguenots proposed to disown him as their chief, and to elect another protector of their Churches. Had they abandoned him, his cause would have been ruined. To the Protestants the safety of the Reformed faith was the first thing. To Henry the possession of the throne was the first thing, and the Huguenots and their cause must wait. The question was, How long?HOPV2 620.2

    It was now four years since Henry after a sort had been King of France; but the peaceful possession of the throne was becoming less likely than ever. Every day the difficulties around him, instead of diminishing, were thickening. Even the success which had formerly attended his arms appeared to be deserting him. Shorn of his locks, like Samson, he was winning brilliant victories no longer. What was to be done? this had now come to be the question with the king. Henry, to use a familiar expression, was “falling between two stools.” The time had come for him to declare himself, and say whether he was to be a Roman Catholic, or whether he was to be a Protestant, There were not wanting weighty reasons, as they seemed, why the king should be the former. The bulk of his subjects were Roman Catholics, and by being of their religion he would conciliate the majority, put an end to the wars between the two rival parties, and relieve the country from all its troubles. By this step only could he ever hope to make himself King of all France. So did many around him counsel. His recantation would, to, a large extent, be a matter of form, and by that form how many great ends of State would be served!HOPV2 620.3

    But on the other side there were sacred memories which Henry could not erase, and deep convictions which he could not smother. The instructions and prayers of a mother, the ripened beliefs of a lifetime, the obligations he owed to the Protestants, all must have presented themselves in opposition to the step he now meditated. Were all these pledges to be profaned? were all these hallowed bonds to be rent asunder? With the Huguenots how often had he deliberated in council; how often worshipped in the same sanctuary; how often fought on the same battle-field; their arms mainly it was that raised him to the throne; was he now to forsake them? Great must have been the conflict in the mind of the king. But the fatal step had been taken four years before, when, in the hope of disarming the hostility of the Roman Catholic lords, he consented to receive instruction in the Romish faith. To hesitate in a matter of this importance was to surrender-was to be lost; and the choice which Henry now made is just the choice which it was to be expected he would make. There is reason to fear that he had never felt the power of the Gospel upon his heart. His hours of leisure were often spent in adulterous pleasures. One of his mistresses was among the chief advisers of the step he was now revolving. What good would this Huguenotism do him? Would he be so great a fool as to sacrifice a kingdom for it? Listening to such counsels as these, he laid his birth-right, where so many kings before and since have laid theirs, at the feet of Rome.HOPV2 620.4

    It had been arranged that a conference composed of an equal number of Roman Catholic bishops and Protestant pastors should be held, and that the point of difference between the two Churches should be debated in the presence of the king. This was simply a device to save appearances, for Henry’s mind was already made up. When the day came, the king forbade the attendance of the Protestants, assigning as a reason that he would not put it in the power of the bishops to say that they had vanquished them in the argument. The king’s conduct throughout was marked by consummate duplicity. He invited the Reformed to fast, in prospect of the coming conference, and pray for a blessing upon it; and only three months before his abjuration, he wrote to the pastors assembled at Samur, saying that he would die rather than renounce his religion; and when the conference was about to be held, we find him speaking of it to Gabrielle d’Estrees, with whom he spent the soft hours of dalliance, as an ecclesiastical tilt from which he expected no little amusement, and the denouement of which was fixed already. “This morning I begin talking with the bishops. On Sunday I am to take the perilous leap.” 2“Le saut perilleux.” (Mem. de Sully, tom. 2, livr. 5, p. 234, footnote.)HOPV2 621.1

    Henry IV had the happiness to possess as counselors two men of commanding talent. The first was the Baron Rosny, better known as the illustrious Sully. He was a statesman of rare genius. Like Henry, he was a Protestant; and he bore this further resemblance to his royal master, that his Protestantism was purely political. The other, Mornay Duplessis, was the equal of Sully in talent, but his superior in character. He was inflexibly upright. These two men were much about the king at this hour; both felt the gravity of the crisis, but differed widely in the advice which they gave. “I can find,” said Sully, addressing the king, “but two ways out of your present embarrassments. By the one you may pass through a million of difficulties, fatigues, pains, perils, and labours. You must be always in the saddle; you must always have the corselet on your back, the helmet on your head, and the sword in your hand. Nay, what is more, farewell to repose, to pleasure, to love, to mistresses, to games, to dogs, to hawking, to building; for you cannot come out through these affairs but by a multitude of combats, taking of cities, great victories, a great shedding of blood. Instead of all this, by the other way—that is, changing your religion —you escape all those pains and difficulties in this world,” said the courtier with a smile, to which the king responded by a laugh: “as for the other world, I cannot answer for that.”HOPV2 621.2

    Mornay Duplessis counseled after another fashion. The side at which Sully refused to look-the other world-was the side which Duplessis mainly considered. He charged the king to serve God with a good conscience; to keep Him before his eyes in all his actions; to attempt the union of the kingdom by the Reformation of the Church, and so to set an example to all Christendom and posterity. “With what conscience,” said he, “can I advise you to go to mass if I do not first go myself? and what kind of religion can that be which is taken off as easily as one’s coat?” So did this great patriot and Christian advise.HOPV2 621.3

    But Henry was only playing with both his counselors. His course was already irrevocably taken; he had set his face towards Rome. On Thursday, July 22, 1593, he met the bishops, with whom he was to confer on the points of difference between the two religions. With a half-malicious humor he would occasionally interrupt their harangues with a few puzzling questions. On the following Sunday morning, the 25th, he repaired with a sumptuous following of men-at-arms to the Church of St. Denis. On the king’s knocking the cathedral door was immediately opened. The Bishop of Bourges met him at the head of a train of prelates and priests, and demanded to know the errand on which the king had come. Henry made answer, “To be admitted into the Church of Rome.” He was straightway led to the altar, and kneeling on its steps, he swore to live and die in the Romish faith. The organ pealed, the cannon thundered, the warriors that thronged nave and aisle clashed their arms; high mass was performed, the king, as he partook, bowing down till his brow touched the floor; and a solemn Te Deum concluded and crowned this grand jubilation. 3Mem. de Sully, tom. 2, livr. 5, p. 239.HOPV2 621.4

    The abjuration of Henry was viewed by the Pro testants with mingled sorrow, astonishment, and apprehension. The son of Jeanne d’Albret, the foremost of the Huguenot chiefs, the Knight of the White Plume, to renounce his faith and go to mass! How fallen! But Protestantism could survive apostasies as well as defeats on the battle-field; and the Huguenots felt that they must look higher than the throne of Henry IV, and trusting in God, they took measures for the protection and advancement of their great cause. From their former compatriot and co-religionist, ever since, by the help of their arms, he had come to the throne, they had received little save promises. Their religion was proscribed, their worship was in many instances forbidden, their children were often compulsorily educated in the Romish faith, their last wills made void, and even their corpses dug out of the grave and thrown like carrion on the fields. When they craved redress, they were bidden be patient till Henry should be stronger on the throne.His apostasy had brought matters to a head, and convinced the Huguenots that they must look to themselves. The bishops had made Henry swear, “I will endeavor to the utmost of my power, and in good faith, to drive out of my jurisdiction, and from the lands under my sway, all heretics denounced by the Church.” Thus the sword was again hung over their heads; and can we blame them if now they formed themselves into a political organization, with a General Council, or Parliament, which met every year to concert measures of safety, promote unity of action, and keep watch over the affairs of the general body? To Henry’s honour it must be acknowledged that he secretly encouraged this Protestant League. An apostate, he yet escaped the infamy of the persecutor.HOPV2 621.5

    The Huguenot council applied to Henry’s government for the redress of their wrongs, and the restoration of Protestant rights and privileges. Four years passed away in these negotiations, which often degenerated into acrimonious disputes, and the course of which was marked (1595) by an atrocious massacre-a repetition, in short, of the affair at Vassy. At length Henry, sore pressed in his war with Spain, and much needing the swords of the Huguenots, granted an edict in their favor, styled, from the town from which it was issued, the Edict of Nantes, which was the glory of his reign. It was a tardy concession to justice, and a late response to complaints long and most touchingly urged. “And yet, sire,” so their remonstrances ran, “among us we have neither Jacobins nor Jesuits who aim at your life, nor Leagues who aim at your crown. We have never presented the points of our swords instead of petitions. We are paid with considerations of State policy. It is not time yet, we are told, grant us an edict,—yet, O merciful God, after thirty-five years of persecution, ten years of banishment by the edicts of the League, eight years of the present king’s reign, and four of persecutions. We ask your majesty for an edict by which we may enjoy that which is common to all your subjects. The glory of God alone, liberty of conscience, repose to the State, security for our lives and property—this is the summit of our wishes, and the end of our requests.”HOPV2 622.1

    The king still thought to temporise; but new successes on the part of the Spaniards admonished him that he had done so too long, and that the policy of delay was exhausted. The League hailed the Spanish advances, and the throne which Henry had secured by his abjuration he must save by Protestant swords. Accordingly, on the 15th April, 1598, was this famous decree, the Edict of Nantes, styled “perpetual and irrevocable,” issued.HOPV2 622.2

    “This Magna Charta,” says Felice, “of the French Reformation, under the ancient regime, granted the following concessions in brief:—Full liberty of conscience to all; the public exercise of the ‘religion’ in all those places in which it was established in 1577, and in the suburbs of cities; permission to the lords’ high justiciary to celebrate Divine worship in their castles, and to the inferior gentry to admit thirty persons to their domestic worship; admission of the Reformed to office in the State, their children to be received into the schools, their sick into the hospitals, and their poor to share in the alms; and the concession of a right to print their books in certain cities.” This edict further provided for the erection of courts composed of an equal number of Protestants and Roman Catholics for the protection of Protestant interests, four Protestant colleges or institutions, and the right of holding a National Synod, according to the rules of the Reformed faith, once every three years. 4Mem. de Sully, tom. 3, livr. 10, pp. 204,353. The State was charged with the duty of providing the salaries of the Protestant ministers and rectors, and a sum of 165,000 livres of those times (495,000 francs of the present day) was appropriated to that purpose. The edict does not come fully up to our idea of liberty of conscience, but it was a liberal measure for the time. As a guarantee it put 200 towns into the hands of the Protestants. It was the Edict of Nantes much more than the abjuration of Henry which conciliated the two parties in the kingdom, and gave him the peaceful possession of the throne during the few years he was yet to occupy it.HOPV2 622.3

    The signing of this edict inaugurated an era of tranquillity and great prosperity to France. The twelve years that followed are perhaps the most glorious in the annals of that country since the opening of the sixteenth century. Spain immediately offered terms of peace, and France, weary of civil war, sheathed the sword with joy.HOPV2 623.1

    Now that Henry had rest from war, he gave himself to the not less glorious and more fruitful labours of peace. France in all departments of her organization was in a state of frightful disorder-was, in fact, on the verge of ruin. Castles burned to the ground, cities half in ruins, lands reverting into a desert, roads unused, marts and harbors forsaken, were the melancholy memorials which presented themselves to one’s eye wherever one journeyed. The national exchequer was empty; the inhabitants were becoming few, for those who should have enriched their country with their labor, or adorned it with their intellect, were watering its soil with their blood. Some two millions of lives had perished since the breaking out of the civil wars. Summoning all his powers, Henry set himself to repair this vast ruin. In this arduous labor he displayed talents of a higher order and a more valuable kind than any he had shown in war, and proved himself not less great as a statesman than he was as a soldier. There was a debt of three hundred millions of francs pressing on the kingdom. The annual expenditure exceeded the revenue by upwards of one hundred millions of francs. The taxes paid by the people amounted to two hundred millions of francs; but, owing to the abuses of collection, not more than thirty millions found their way into the treasury. Calling Sully to his aid, the king set himself to grapple with these gigantic evils, and displayed in the cabinet no less fertility of resource and comprehensiveness of genius than in the field. He cleared off the national debt in ten years. He found means of making the income not only balance the expenditure, but of exceeding it by many millions. He accomplished all this without adding to the burdens of the people. He understood the springs of the nation’s prosperity, and taught them to flow again. He encouraged agriculture, promoted industry and commerce, constructed roads, bridges, and canals. The lands were tilled, herds were reared, the silkworm was introduced, the ports were opened for the free export of corn and wine, commercial treaties were framed with foreign countries; and France, during these ten years, showed as conclusively as it did after the war of 1870-71, how speedily it can recover from the effects of the most terrible disasters, when the passions of its children permit the boundless resources which nature has stored up in its soil and climate to develop themselves.HOPV2 623.2

    Henry’s views in the field of foreign politics were equally comprehensive. He clearly saw that the great menace to the peace of Europe, and the independence of its several nations, was the Austrian power in its two branches — the German and Spanish. Philip II was dead; Spain was waning; nevertheless that ambitious Power waited an opportunity to employ the one half of Christendom of which she was still mistress, in crushing the other half. Henry’s project, formed in concert with Elizabeth of England, for humbling that Power was a vast one, and he had made such progress in it that twenty European States had promised to take part in the campaign which Henry was to lead against Austria. The moment for launching that great force was come, and Henry’s contingent had been sent off, and was already on German soil. He was to follow his soldiers in a few days and open the campaign. But this deliverance for Christendom he was fated not to achieve. His queen, Marie de Medici, to whom he was recently married, importuned him for a public coronation, and Henry resolved to gratify her. The ceremony, which was gone about with great splendor, was over, and he was now ready to set out, when a melancholy seized him, which he could neither account for nor shake off. This pensiveness was all the more remarkable that his disposition was naturally gay and sprightly. In the words of Schiller, in his drama of “Wallenstein” —HOPV2 623.3

    “The king Felt in his heart the phantom of the knife Long ere Ravaillac armed himself therewith. His quiet mind forsook him; the phanasma Startled him in his Louvre, chased him forth Into the open air: like funeral knells Sounded that coronation festival; And still, with boding sense, he heard the tread Of those feet that even then were seeking him Throughout the streets of Paris.”HOPV2 623.4

    When the coming campaign was referred to, he told the queen and the nobles of his court that Germany he would never see-that he would die soon, and in a carriage. They tried to laugh away these gloomy fancies, as they accounted them. “Go to Germany instantly,” said his minister, Sully, “and go on horseback.” The 19th of May, 1610, was fixed for the departure of the king. On the 16th, Henry was so distressed as to move the compassion of his attendants. After dinner he retired to his cabinet, but could not write; he threw himself on his bed, but could not sleep. He was overheard in prayer. He asked, “What o’clock is it?” and was answered, “Four of the afternoon. Would not your Majesty be the better of a little fresh air?” The king ordered his carriage, and, kissing the queen, he set out, accompanied by two of his nobles, to go to the arsenal. 5P. de L’Estoile, apud Mem. de Sully, tom. 7, pp. 406,407.HOPV2 623.5

    He was talking with one of them, the Duke d’Epernon, his left hand resting upon the shoulder of the other, and thus leaving his side exposed. The carriage, after traversing the Rue St. Honore, turned into the narrow Rue de la Ferroniere, where it was met by a cart, which compelled it to pass at a slow pace, close to the kerbstone. A monk, Francois Ravaillac, who had followed the royal cortege unobserved, stole up, and mounting on the wheel, and leaning over the carriage, struck his knife into the side of Henry, which it only grazed. The monk struck again, and this time the dagger took the direction of the heart. The king fell forward in his carriage, and uttered a low cry. “What is the matter, sire?” asked one of his lords. “It is nothing,” replied the king twice, but the second time so low as to be barely audible. Dark blood began to ooze from the wound, and also from the mouth. The carriage was instantly turned in the direction of the Louvre. As he was being carried into the palace, Sieur de Cerisy raised his head; his eyes moved, but he spoke not. The king closed his eyes to open them not again any more. He was carried upstairs, and laid on his bed in his closet, where he expired. 6L’Estoile, Mathieu, Perefixe, etc.—apud Mem. de Sully, tom. 7, pp, 404-412. Malherbe, apud Guizot, vol. 3, pp. 623,624.HOPV2 624.1

    Ravaillac made no attempt to escape: he stood with his bloody knife in his hand till he was apprehended; and when brought before his judges and subjected to the torture he justified the deed, saying that the king was too favorable to heretics, and that he purposed making war on the Pope, which was to make war on God. 7Mem. de Sully, tom. 7, p. 418. Years before, Rome had launched her excommunication against the “two Henries,” and now both had fallen by her dagger.HOPV2 624.2

    On the character of Henry IV we cannot dwell. It was a combination of great qualities and great faults. He was a brave soldier and an able ruler; but we must not confound military brilliance or political genius with moral greatness. Entire devotion to a noble cause the corner-stone of greatness — he lacked. France-in other words, the glory and dominion of himself and house-was the supreme aim and end of all his toils, talents, and manueuverings. The great error of his life was his abjuration. The Roman Catholics it did not conciliate, and the Protestants it alienated. It was the Edict of Nantes that made him strong, and gave to France almost the only ten years of real prosperity and glory which it has seen since the reign of Francis I. Had Henry nobly resolved to ascend the throne with a good conscience, or not at all had he not paltered with the Jesuits—had he said, “I will give toleration to all, but will myself abide in the faith my mother taught me”—his own heart would have been stronger, his life purer, his course less vacillating and halting; the Huguenots, the flower of French valor and intelligence, would have rallied round him and borne him to the throne, and kept him on it, in spite of all his enemies. On what different foundations would his throne in that case have rested, and what a different glory would have encircled his memory! He set up a throne by abjuration in 1593, to be cast down on the scaffold of 1793!HOPV2 624.3

    We have traced the great drama of the sixteenth century to its culmination, first in Germany, and next in Geneva and France, and we now propose to follow it to its new stage in other countries of Europe.HOPV2 624.4

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