ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY
 IN August 1572 the royal wedding took place. Three days
later, Coligny, as he was
walking to his lodgings, was shot at from a window by a
servant of the young Duke of
Guise. The admiral was, however, but slightly wounded.
When Charles heard what had happened, he was playing
tennis with the duke. In one of
his violent fits of anger, he dashed his racket to the
ground, breaking it to
pieces, while he cried, "Shall I never have rest then?"He went to see Coligny the
same day, and was with him a long while, telling him
how grieved he was at the
accident, and how determined he was to punish the
Guises for the outrage. Thus the
admiral's trust in the king remained unbroken.
But in this attack on Coligny, Catherine saw her
chance. She went to her son and
convinced him that the Guises would certainly accuse
him of having encouraged the
attack on the admiral, and that the Huguenots would
then once more fly to arms.
"It would be better," said the cruel queen-mother, "to
win a battle in Paris, where
we hold all the chiefs in our clutches, than put it to
hazard in the field."
For more than an hour and a half Charles was true to
the admiral, and refused to
allow any attack to be made on the Huguenots.
But when Catherine burst into tears, and again
threatened to leave the court, his
mother's influence proved too strong for the unstable
In one of his wild fits of passion he now rose from his
 seat, crying, "Since
you think proper to kill the admiral, I consent, but
all the Huguenots as well, in
order that there remain not one to reproach me
afterwards. Give the orders at once."
Catherine de Medici was not the woman to hesitate. It
was Saturday when the king
spoke. The next day, Sunday, August 24, 1572, the Feast
of St. Bartholomew, was
fixed for the awful deed.
The Guises were well pleased, only they wished that the
Bourbons and the
Montmorencies might be slain as well as the Huguenot
chiefs and their followers.
This Catherine sternly forbade.
As for the king, he went to the Louvre, where he had
had a forge set up, and worked
with all his strength that he might tire himself, and
so forget what in his mad fit
of anger he had recklessly allowed to be done in his
On the morning of Saturday, August 23rd, the streets of
Paris were crowded as was
usual, but as the evening crept on apace a strange
feeling of danger seemed to haunt
every corner and doorway. Strange shadows flitted
stealthily hither and thither.
People moved and spoke as though under a sense of some
great impending horror, they
knew not why.
The admiral, serene in his unconsciousness of the
influenced that had made the king
break faith with him, went early to bed on Saturday
night, ill and restless, but
untouched by ominous forebodings.
Suddenly, between one and two o'clock on Sunday
morning, a bell rang out upon the
stillness of the summer night. It was the signal agreed
upon by Catherine and her
followers for the assassination of all the Huguenots in
No sooner had the single bell sounded than, at once,
from every belfry in the city
an answering bell was heard.
Clang, clang, loud and insistent the noise fell upon
startled ears, until at length
the city awoke, wide-eyed, to
 see everywhere
armed men with torches, bearing
in their hats or on their sleeves a white cross, the
badge of the Cardinal Guise.
Then followed horrors of which I cannot tell, save that
every Huguenot, and many as
well who knew nothing of the new faith, men, women,
little children, all whom the
queen-mother's soldiers or the Paris mob could find,
were cruelly put to death.
Admiral Coligny was one of the first to perish. He had
been sleepless, and when the
bells rang out he did not take long to guess what they
foretold. He quickly rose,
put on his dressing-gown, and said to the Huguenot
minister who had been sitting by
his bed, "Pray for me. I commend my soul to my Saviour.
I have long been prepared
Then, unselfish to the last, he bade his terrified
servants go try to save
themselves. And they obeyed, running upstairs, and so
on to the roof of the house.
Almost at once the door of the bedroom was burst open,
and a young man belonging to
the Guises entered, saying, "Art thou not the admiral?"
"Young man," answered Coligny, "thou comest against a
wounded and aged man. Thou "It
not shorten my life by much."
Almost before his brave words were uttered, the admiral
was stabbed to death and his
body flung out of the window into the street below,
where the Duke of Guise waited
with impatience to make sure that his enemy had
"ADMIRAL COLIGNY WAS ONE OF THE FIRST TO PERISH."
By dawn the terrible work was wellnigh done. Paris was
as a city of the dead. In the
provinces the Huguenots had also been slain.
The palace itself had been the scene of many a painful
death. Even there no Huguenot
was spared, save the surgeon of the king and Charles's
old nurse. To his surgeon,
Charles, whose remorse had already begun, said, "I wish
the helpless and the
innocent had not been included."
 In the church of St. Peter, at Rome, a
thanksgiving service was held because
so many heretics had been slain.
But when a little later the Pope heard how the
Huguenots had been entrapped and sent
unaware to their death, he wept.
"When certain of my lords, the cardinals who were
beside him, asked wherefore he
wept, and was sad at so goodly a despatch of those
wretched folk, enemies of God and
his Holiness," he answered, "I weep at the means the
king used, exceeding unlawful
and forbidden of God, for to inflict such punishment. I
fear that amongst so many
dead folk there died as many innocent as guilty."
All Europe was aghast at the terrible massacre of St.
Bartholomew's Day, and from
none save Philip II. did Charles receive any sign of
approval. He in his zeal
offered to send soldiers, should the French king need
them, to complete the
destruction of the Huguenots.
After that never-to-be-forgotten Sunday in August,
Charles IX. had no peace of mind.
To escape from the memory that haunted him, he would
hunt for twelve or fourteen
hours, stopping only to eat and snatch a few moments to
sleep, or he would work for
long hours at his forge.
Two unhappy years passed slowly away, and then, in the
spring of 1574, Charles fell
His Huguenot nurse watched over him and slept in his
room during his illness.
One night, when she had lain down upon a chest and was
just beginning to doze,
hearing the king moaning, weeping, sighing, she went full gently up to the bed.
" 'Ah, nurse, nurse,' said Charles, "what bloodshed,
what murders! Ah, what evil
counsel have I followed! O my God, forgive me them, and
have mercy upon me, if it
may please Thee.' "
Then the kind old nurse comforted her young master,
 telling him the guilt lay
upon the heads of those who made him do the deed. "Of
yourself, sire, you never
would," she said, begging the poor king to cease
"And thereupon she fetched him a pocket-handkerchief,
because his own was soaked
In May 1574 Charles IX. died, having made Catherine de
Medici once again regent over
the kingdom of France.