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with infinite inhumanity, yet, when he was afraid that the ruin of the German protestants would strengthen the hands of the emperor Charles V. he made an alliance with the protestant princes of Germany, and allowed the Duke of Orleans, his second son, to offer them the free exercise of their religion in the Dukedom of Luxemburg. He suffered his sister, the Queen of Navarre, to protect the reformation in her county of Bearn, and even saved Geneva, when Charles Duke of Savoy would have taken it. It was no uncommon thing, in that age, for princes to trifle thus with religion. His majesty's first concern was to be a king, his second to act like a rational creature.
The reformation greatly increased in this reign. The pious Queen of Navarre made her court a covert from every storm, supplied France with preachers, and the exiles at Geneva with money. Calvin who in 1534, had fled from his rectory in France, and had settled at Geneva in 1541, was a chief instrument; he slid his catechism and other books into France. Some of the bishops were inclined to the reformation ; but secretly, for fear of the christians of Rome. The reformation was called Calvinism. The people were named Sacramentarians, Lutherans, Calvinists: and nick-named Hugonots, either from Hugon, a Hobgoblin, because, to avoid persecution, they held their assemblies in the night ; or from the gate Hugon, in Tours, where they used to meet; or from a Swiss word which signifies a league.
Henry II. who succeeded his father Francis, 1547, was a weak, and a wicked prince. The increase of his authority was the law and the prophets to him. He violently persecuted the calvinists of France, because he was taught to believe, that heresy was a faction repugnant to authority; and he made an alliance with the German protestants, and was pleased with the title of Protector of the Germanic liberties, that is, protector of protestantism. This alliance he made in order to check the power of Charles V. He was governed, sometimes by his queen, Catherine de Medicis, neice of Pope Clement VII. who, it is said, never did right, except she did it by mistake : often by the constable de Montmorenci, whom, contrary to the express command of his father, in his dying illness, he had placed at the head of administration : chiefly by his mistress, Diana of Poitiers, who had been mistress to his father, and who bore an implacable hatred to the protestants : and always by some of his favorites, whom he suffered to amass immense fortunes by accusing men of heresy. The reformation was very much advanced in this reign. The gentry promoted the acting of plays, in which the comedians exposed the lives and doctrines of the popish clergy, and the poignant wit and humor of the comedians afforded infinite diversion to the people, and conciliated them to the new preachers. Beza, who had fled to Geneva, 1548, came backward and forward into France, and was a chief promoter of the work. His Latin testament, which he first published in this reign, was much read, greatly admired, 1556, and contributed to the strength of the cause. The new testament was the Goliah's sword of the clerical reformers, there was none like it.
Francis II. succeeded his father Henry, 1559. He was only in the sixteenth year of his age, extremely weak both in body and mind, and therefore incapable of governing the kingdom by himself. In this reign began those civil wars, which raged in France for almost forty years. They have been charged on false zeal for religion : but this charge is a calumny, for the crown of France was the prize for which the generals fought. It was that which inspired them with hopes and fears, productive of devotions, or persecutions, as either of them opened access to the throne. The interests of religion, indeed, fell in with these views, and so the parties were blended together in war.
The family of Charles the Great, which had reigned in France for 236 years, either became extinct, or was deprived of its inheritance, at the death of Lewis the Lazy in 987. Him Hugh Capet had succeeded, and had transmitted the crown to his own posterity, which, in this reign subsisted in two principal branches, in that of Valois, which was in possession of the throne, and that of Bourbon, the next heir to the throne of France, and then in possession of Bearn. The latter had been driven out of the kingdom of Navarre : but they retained the title, and were sometimes at Bearn and sometimes at the court of France. The house of Guise, Duke of Lorrain, a very rich and powerful family, to whose niece, Mary Queen of Scots, the young king was married, pretended to make out their descent from Charles the Great, and were competitors, when the times served, with the reigning family for the throne, and, at other times, with the Bourbon family, for the apparent heirship to it. With these views they directed their family alliances, perfected themselves in military skill, and intrigued at court for the administration of affairs. These three houses formed three parties. The house of Guise, (the chiefs of which were five brethren at this time) headed one; the King of Navarre, the princes of the blood, and the great officers of the crown, the other; the Queen-mother, who managed the interests of the reigning family, exercised her policy
on both, to keep either from becoming too strong; while the feeble child on the throne was alternately a prey to them all.
Protestantism had obtained numerous converts in the last reign. Several princes of the blood, some chief officers of the crown, and many principal families, had embraced it, and its partizans were so numerous, both in Paris and in all the provinces, that each leader of the court parties deliberated on the policy of strengthening his party by openly espousing the reformation, by endeavoring to free the protestants from penal laws, and by obtaining a free toleration for them. At length, the house of Bourbon declared for protestantism, and, of consequence, the Guises were inspired with zeal for the support of the ancient religion, and took the roman catholics under their protection. The king of Navarre, and the prince of Conde, were the heads of the first : but the Duke of Guise had the address to obtain the chief management of affairs, and the protestants were persecuted with insatiable fury all the time of this reign.
Had religion then no share in these commotions? Çertainly it had, with many of the princes, and with multitudes of the soldiers : but they were a motley mixture; one fought for his coronet, another for his land, a third for liberty of conscience, and a fourth for pay. Courage was a joint stock, and they were mutual sharers of gain or loss, praise or blame. It was religion to secure the lives and properties of noble families, and though the common people had no lordships, yet they had the more valuable rights of conscience, and for them they fought. We mistake, if we imagine that the French have never understood the nature of civil and religious liberty, they have well understood it, though they have not been able to obtain it. Suum
cuique would have been as expressive a motto as any that the protestant generals could have borne.
The persecution of the protestants was very severe at this time. Counsellor Du Bourg, a gentleman of eminent quality, and great merit, was burnt for heresy, and the court was inclined, not only to rid France of protestantism, but Scotland also, and sent La Brosse with three thousand men to assist the Queen of Scotland in that pious design. This was frustrated by the intervention of Queen Elizabeth of England. The persecution becoming every day more intolerable, and the king being quite inaccessible to the remonstrances of his people, the protestants held several consultations, and took the opinions of their ministers, as well as those of their noble partizans, on the question, whether it were lawful to take up arms in their own defence, to make way for a free access to the king to present their petitions? It was unanimously resolved, that it was lawful, and it was agreed, that a certain number of men should be chosen, who should go on a fixed day, under the direction of Lewis Prince of Conde, present their petition to the king, and seize the Duke of Guise, and the Cardinal of Lorrain, his brother, in order to have them tried before the states. This affair was discovered to the duke by a false brother, the design was defeated and twelve hundred were beheaded. Guise pretended to have suppressed a rebellion,
that was designed to end in the dethroning of the - king, and, by this manœuvre, he procured the general lieutenancy of the kingdom, and the glorious title of Conservator of his country. He pleased the puerile king by placing a few gaudy horse-guards round his palace, and he infatuated the poor child to think himself and his kingdom rich and happy, ".