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The Story of France by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

ADMIRAL COLIGNY GOES TO PARIS

[294] THE death of the Prince of Condé was a heavy blow to the Huguenots, yet they could not despair while they still had the noble and fearless Admiral Coligny to lead them.

Moreover, Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, no sooner heard of the death of Condé than she hastened to the Huguenot camp, taking with her her son Henry, Prince of Beam, who was now fifteen years old, and the head of the House of Bourbon. Along with him Jeanne also took the young Prince of Condé, son of the prince who had just perished on the battlefield of Jarnac.

The queen led the two lads, one by each hand, to Coligny, bidding him accept her son as his chief.

Henry was eagerly cheered by the army, while Coligny welcomed the lad with all reverence as one who might some day sit upon the throne of France.

The lad himself, high-spirited and frank, let go his mother's hand, and, stepping before the Huguenot army, said in his clear, boyish voice, "Your cause is mine, your interests are mine; I swear on my soul, honour and life, to be wholly yours." Both princes then took service under Admiral Coligny, who was now made lieutenant-general of the army.

The boys were soon in action, for another great battle was fought at Moncontour in 1569, and again the Huguenots were severely beaten and forced to take refuge in La Rochelle, now the strongest fortress they possessed.

It seemed at first as though the Huguenots could never recover from the terrible defeat they had suffered at Moncontour, but still undaunted, Coligny soon assembled another [295] army and marched across the east of France, plundering and burning the country.

La Noue, who was one of the bravest and most skilful of the admiral's captains, was threatening the west; while he also commanded that a fleet should be stationed outside La Rochelle, to prevent the enemy from attacking the town from the sea.

The queen-mother, seeing that the enemy was as active as ever, again offered to make terms with them, and the Peace of St. Germain was signed in August 1570.

Such good terms as they now secured the Huguenots had never gained before. Liberty to worship as they wished had been granted to them by other treaties, but now they were allowed to keep and garrison four strong cities, while a general pardon was offered to all who had taken up arms against the king.

Trusting to the royal promises, Coligny and the other Huguenot chiefs now went back to court and behaved, not only as if the war was really over, but as if friendship and trust were restored between the two parties.

There were some among the Huguenots, however, who doubted if the queen-mother was sincere, even though she had signed the Peace of St. Germain.

Catherine de Medici was certainly growing ever more bitter towards the Huguenot chiefs, while she was doing her utmost to make them feel sure of her support.

Admiral Coligny she flattered in every possible way, and, as if to show that she had no longer any dislike for a Huguenot, the queen-mother herself arranged that her daughter Margaret should marry young Henry of Navarre.

Coligny was often with Charles IX. during the days that followed the Peace of St. Germain. And the king, who was easily led, soon showed that the good man's influence had reached him. He would call the admiral "my dear father," and consult him about everything. Little by little the king separated himself from his mother and her party, until Catherine began to fear the influence of Coligny.

[296] The admiral himself grew more and more certain of his hold over the young king, and, when he was warned that he had enemies at court, he refused to believe that Charles would allow any one to harm him.

As for the Guises, they were so much offended at the prospect of the marriage of the king's sister to a Huguenot, and at the favour shown to Coligny, that they withdrew from the court.

Catherine de Medici felt that the time was come to regain her influence with her son.

Charles had gone off happily on a hunting expedition, and his mother determined to follow him. She insisted on being driven with such speed that one of the horses dropped down dead at the end of the journey.

But little did Catherine care. She had found her son, and drawing him aside from his companions the queen-mother burst into tears, reproaching Charles with hiding his plans from her and taking counsel with her enemies. Then, after doing all she could to poison the king's mind against the Huguenots, she begged to be allowed to withdraw from court.

Charles was, as he always had been, much disturbed by his mother's words and tears. He refused to let her leave the court, but still clung to his faith in his "dear father," the admiral.

Meanwhile, as it was August, and the royal wedding was to take place in that month, the court moved to Paris. The Huguenot chiefs, the Guises, and indeed all the nobility of France, were invited to the capital.

Coligny was entreated not to risk his life at Paris, but, sure of the king's goodwill, he refused to listen to the warnings of his friends.

The Guises, too, returned to court; but although the two parties seemed to be friendly, the Guises in reality hated the admiral, and still believed it was he who had planned the murder of Francis, Duke of Guise.


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