THE PRINCE OF CONDÉ KILLED
 AFTER, the death of Francis II., his brother Charles, a
boy of only ten years old,
The Guises offered to support the queen-mother as
regent if she would allow them to
put the King of Navarre and the Prince of Condé to
This Catherine de Medici refused to do. Without making
terms with the Guises she
became regent, and ruled France for her little son,
At first the regent tried to pacify the Huguenots by
giving them liberty to worship
as they pleased, but she did not altogether quarrel
with the Guises, although she
thwarted their wishes in many different ways.
The hatred between the Catholics and the Huguenots was
not ended by the regent's
kinder treatment, and quarrels between the two parties
were constantly breaking out.
Sometimes it was the Huguenots who suffered, sometimes
the Catholics, for whichever
side was stronger cruelly persecuted the other.
At length matters came to a crisis. One Sunday, in
March 1562, the Duke of Guise was
riding with his troops past the little town of Vassy.
Hearing the sounds of bells,
he stopped and asked for what purpose they were rung.
"To call the Huguenots to their barn," was the answer.
"Have they many meeting-houses?" asked the duke.
"They are growing up in every town and village of
France," he was told.
Then the duke began to mutter and to put himself in
 a white heat, gnawing his
beard as he was wont to do when he was enraged or had a
mind to take vengeance.
However, he went quietly enough to a monastery in the
little town and had dinner
before he rode down to the barn where the Huguenots
The minister was preaching, and the duke ordered him to
But the people, interrupted in their worship, turned
fiercely upon the duke, and
began to throw stones at him. One hit him, when his
troops at once fired on the
unarmed Huguenots, and refused to stop, even at their
master's command, until they
had killed more than fifty persons and wounded two
hundred. Nor was their rage
satisfied even then. For they next tore in pieces all
the French bibles they could find, pulled the pulpit into fragments, and
utterly destroyed the barn.
This terrible massacre at Vassy was the introduction to
the long religious wars,
which lasted for twenty years, and caused great misery
When the regent heard of the massacre she forbade the
Duke of Guise to come to
Paris. But he paid no attention to her command, and
entered the capital with as much
magnificence as if he had been king. But the massacre
of Vassy roused the Huguenot chiefs.
Admiral Coligay and Condé, together with their troops,
hastened to Fontainebleau,
where the little king then was. They intended to take
him away from the influence of the Catholics.
But the Guises had been quicker than the admiral, and
had already carried Charles IX. to Paris, telling the regent she might follow or
not as she pleased.
Led by the Prince of Condé, the Huguenots then besieged
the town of Orleans and took
it. Making it for the time their headquarters, they
formed themselves into a league,
"For the honour of God, for the liberty of the king,
and for the maintenance of the
pure worship of God."
 Both the regent and the Huguenots hoped for
foreign help, the Catholics from
Spain, the Huguenots from the Protestant German princes
and from Elizabeth, Queen of
In the war that now began, the Huguenots were at first
so successful that they began
to think they would soon be the rulers of the country.
Their triumph, however, did not last long. The
Catholics were really the stronger,
and they soon retook town after town, and at last laid
siege to Rouen, one of the
strong-holds of the Huguenots.
The King of Navarre, who had, for the time, joined the
Catholics, was wounded before
the walls of the city, and soon after died, leaving his
brave wife, Jeanne d'Albret,
to bring up their son Henry, the little Prince of Beam,
as he was called from the
place of his birth. At this time, 1562, the prince was
only nine years old. Being of
the house of Bourbon, Henry might possibly succeed to
the throne of France.
Rouen fell into the hands of the Catholics in spite of
all the Huguenots could do;
and now, of the many towns they had taken, Lyons and
Orleans alone were left in
In December 1562 the two armies met on the field of
Dreux, where a great battle was
fought. From one o'clock until five the conflict was
fierce, the leaders on both
sides being always in the very centre of the fight.
Montmorency was wounded and taken prisoner, while, on
the Huguenot side, the Prince
of Condé was also captured. The troops were then led by
the Duke of Guise and
Admiral Coligny, both brave and tried soldiers. Guise,
however, won the day, and at
once marched to Orleans and besieged the city. Before
long it was on the point of
being taken. Then the Duke of Guise left the camp to
ride to a castle a short
distance away. As he rode along, confident that on his
return Orleans would be his,
a shot rang out.
 Some one, hidden by a hedge, had hit the duke. He
fell forward upon his
horse's neck, trying in vain to draw his sword.
The wound was fatal. As the duke lay dying, he begged
the queen-mother to make peace
with the Huguenots; then, saying that he forgave his
murderer, he breathed his last.
But Poltrot, the assassin, was captured; and, while he
was being tortured, he
declared that his crime had been done by the order of
Coligny denied that he had anything to do with the
murder of the duke, but the crime
of which he was accused was made an excuse for the
terrible fate that soon overtook
the admiral and his followers.
Poltrot was put to death, but he was not sorry for the
cruel deed he had done; for
before he died he was heard to murmur, "For all that,
he is dead and gone, the
persecutor of the faithful, and he will not come back
The regent, with her constable a prisoner, Guise dead,
and Orleans still untaken,
was wise enough to follow the advice the duke had given
By the Edict of Amboise, March 1563, she made peace
with the Huguenots, allowing
them to worship God in their own way. But shortly after
this Catherine brought an
army of Swiss mercenaries to Paris, and when the Prince
of Condé demanded what she
intended to do with her army, the only answer she would
give was, "We shall find
good employment for them."
The young king, Charles IX., who was now thirteen years
of age, was declared to be
old enough to rule by himself. He was a tall lad,
graceful, intelligent, but easily
influenced, and even more easily roused to fits of
great anger, when he scarcely
knew what he did. And those courtiers and favourites
who surrounded the young king
were not the ones to mould his character wisely.
For three years after the Edict of Amboise there was
peace; then in 1567 a feeling
of unrest began to spread
 throughout the country.
Catherine de Medici was no
longer regent, but she still ruled the country through
her son. It was whispered that she intended to seize the admiral
and the Prince of Condé, that
the Swiss soldiers had orders to crush the Huguenots.
The suspense was intolerable, and the Reformers
determined to fly to arms to be
ready for whatever might happen.
Coligny and the prince therefore set out for Paris with
a small force, hoping to
besiege the capital and starve it into submission.
But the constable, who was no longer a prisoner,
sallied out of the city, determined
to dislodge the enemy. He was however killed, and it
was his son, the Marshal
Montmorency, who forced the Huguenots to retreat.
A short peace followed, but a year later the armies
were again on the field, and a
great battle was fought at Jamac.
The old constable being no longer there to lead the
royal army, the command was
given to Henry, Duke of Anjou, the queen-mother's third
son, while by his side
fought the young duke, Henry of Guise, eager to avenge
his father's death and to win
his spurs. Admiral Coligny and the Prince of Condé
commanded the Huguenot forces.
Condé, as he prepared to charge the column led by the
Duke of Anjou, received a
kick, which broke one of his legs. His arm was already
crushed by a fall.
Brave and determined as ever, the prince, first showing
his wounded limbs to his
men, waved above him his standard bearing the words,
"Sweet is danger for Christ and
for Fatherland," and cried, "Nobles of France, this is
the desired moment." Then,
with only three hundred horse, he charged the eight
hundred lances of the Duke of
For a moment the royal forces staggered, so fierce was
the attack; but fresh bands
of soldiers arrived, one after the other, to support
the Duke of Anjou, until
Condé's men were pushed back.
The prince's horse had been killed, and he was unable
 to mount another because
of his broken limbs. Twelve of his comrades gathered
round to defend their leader,
but, covered with wounds, they were soon taken
Condé was left alone, his back against a tree, still
defending himself. Feeling that
he was growing faint, he surrendered to two Catholic
soldiers. The men, whom the
prince had helped in other days, swore to save his
But the Duke of Anjou's guards, easily known by their
red cloaks, were riding hard
in the direction of the prince.
Condé saw them, and, feebly raising his arm, pointed
toward his enemies.
"Hide your face, prince," cried one of the Catholic
soldiers who was guarding him.
Alas, as the captain of the guard galloped by, he heard
what the soldier said, and,
pulling sharply up, turned, rode back, and shot the
A little later the Huguenots had lost the battle of
Jarnac. The Catholics rejoiced
when they heard of the death of the great Prince of
Condé. Throughout the land
thanksgiving services were held in their cathedrals and
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics