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JANUARY, 1880.


FRANCE, in the age when Protestantism was spreading in Europe, found herself in a place where two seas met. If the ship of state did not go to pieces, like the vessel which threw St. Paul upon the coast of Malta, it had to struggle through a long and frightful tempest from which it barely escaped. In the other European countries, the situation was different. There was intestine discord, but not to the same extent; or with consequences less ruinous.

In Germany, the central authority was too weak to coerce the Lutheran states. The war undertaken by Charles V. for that purpose was brief, and comparatively bloodless. The final issue was the freedom of the Protestants for a long period, until imperial fanaticism, in the early part of the seventeenth century, brought on the terrible Thirty Years' War, which exhausted

* This Article was finished before the publication of the admirable History of the Rise of the Huguenots in France, by Professor Henry M. Baird. (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1879.) Professor Baird's narrative is founded on thorough researches, and is an accurate and impartial, and, at the same time, vivid description of the progress of the Reformation in France from its beginning to the close of the reign of Charles IX.

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what was left of the vitality of the German Empire, and ended in the establishment of Protestant liberties at the Peace of Westphalia (1648). In England, as late as Elizabeth's reign, not less than one half the population preferred the old Church; but in the wars of the Roses, the nobles had been decimated, and regal authority strengthened; and the iron will of the Tudor sovereigns, Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, coupled with an inbred hatred of foreign rule, ecclesiastical and secular, and supported by the fervent love of a great party to the Protestant faith, kept the nation on one path, and stifled various attempts at insurrection, which might otherwise have blazed up in civil war. In Scotland, the league of the nobles with the reformers, aided by the follies of Mary Stuart, proved strong enough to uphold against the opposing faction the revolution which had made Calvinism the legal religion of the country. In Sweden, Protestantism speedily triumphed under the popular dynasty erected by Gustavus Vasa. In the Netherlands, there was a fierce battle continued for the greater part of a century; but the contest of Holland was against Spain, to throw off the yoke that she was determined to fasten upon that persecuted and unconquerable race. In Italy and in the Spanish peninsula, Protestantism did not gain strength enough to stand against the revived fanaticism of its adversary, and was swept away, root and branch.

In general, it may be said that in the North, among the peoples of the Teutonic stock, the preponderance was so greatly on the side of the Protestants, that the shock occasioned by the collision of opposing parties was weakened and unity was preserved; while in the South, among the Romanic peoples below the Alps and the Pyrenees, the Catholic cause had a like predominance in a much greater degree, and overwhelmed all opposition. But, as for France, she stood midway between the two mighty currents of opinion. Her people belonged, in their lineage and tongue, to the Latin race; but they had somewhat more of German blood in their veins than their brethren in the South, and what is much more important-by their geographical situation, previous history, and culture, they were made much more sensitive to the influences of what was then modern thought.

Yet, France was a powerful and compact monarchy, and seemed better able than any other country to breast the storm. On the 1st of July, 987, Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, elected king by an assembly of nobles, superseded the foreign Carlovingian line, and was crowned at Rheims. From him all the later kings of France-the Bonaparte usurpers alone exceptedthe direct Capetian line, the Valois, Bourbon, and Orleans monarchs, down to the abdication of Louis Philippe, are sprung. Out of the dominion of Hugh Capet, the small district known as the Isle of France, of which Paris was the center, there was built up in the course of centuries, by the accretion of feudal territories, by lucky marriages, by treaties or conquest, the modern kingdom of France. The wars with England which went on, with many intervals, for 250 years-from the end of the twelfth century to the middle of the fifteenth--resulted at the end of this period, largely through the heroic deeds of Joan of Arc, in the expulsion of the English from every place except the single town of Calais. Normandy, Guienne, and all the other territories which had been held by the victors of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, who were more than once the almost undisputed masters of France, fell back to their native and rightful owners. Towards the close of the fifteenth century, the crafty policy of Louis XI. effected the downfall of Charles the Bold, and secured to France the Duchy of Burgundy. From the king of Aragon, he acquired, on the south, the counties of Roussillon and Cerdagne, the last of which was permanently incorporated in France. Anjou, Maine, and Provence reverted to him from the house of Anjou, together with the claims of that family upon Naples. Charles VIII., son of Louis XI., married Anne, the heiress of Brittany, and so this fine province was added to the jewels of the French Crown.

Francis I., who ascended the throne in 1515, two years before the posting of Luther's theses, had a consolidated kingdom powerful enough to enable him, a few years later, to cope on equal terms with his rival, Charles V. At home, he could set at defiance the will of his parliaments, and augment his authority through the Concordat with Pope Leo X., which secured to

* The Valois line begins with Philip VI. (1328); the Bourbon with Henry IV. (1589); the Orleans with Louis Philippe (1834).

the king the power of filling by nomination the great ecclesiastical benefices in his realm. During the thirty-two years of his reign, and the twelve years' reign of his son and successor, Henry II., the Protestants could offer only a passive resistance to the persecution which was instigated and managed by the Sorbonne-the Faculty of Theology at Paris-and which found myriads of brutal agents throughout the land. Francis, and Henry after him, with one arm aided the German Lutherans in their contest with Charles V., and with the other crushed their French brethren of the same faith. "One king, one law, one faith"-was the motto. There must be one, and only one religion, tolerated in the realm. Yet Protestantism, notwithstanding its long roll of martyrs, and partly by means of them, had gained a firm foothold before the death of Henry II.

The revival of learning, which in other countries paved the way for the reform in religion, was not without its natural fruit in France. Francis himself was proud of being called the father of letters; cherished the ideas of Erasmus; founded the college of the three languages at Paris, in spite of the disgust and hostility of the doctors of theology, the champions of mediævalism; drew to his side from beyond the Alps men like Leonardo Da Vinci, scholars and artists; protected his sister Margaret in her Protestant predilections; and contributed not a little, indirectly, notwithstanding his occasional cruelties, to the diffusion of the new doctrine. Henry II. was more of a bigot; but he followed his father's policy of joining hands with the Protestant communities of Germany, in opposition to Charles.

The first converts to the Reformation in France were Lutherans; but Lutheranism was supplanted by the other principal type of Protestantism. Calvinism was more congenial to the French mind. Calvin was himself one of the most acute and cultivated of the Frenchmen of that age. Driven from his country, he continued to act upon it from Geneva with incalculable power. Geneva became to France what Wittenberg was to Germany. The lucid, logical, consistent character of the system of Calvin commended it to the French mind. The intense moral earnestness and strict ethical standard of that system attracted a multitude who were shocked by the almost

unexampled profligacy of the age. Among the higher classes, and still more among the industrious and intelligent middle classes, the Calvinistic faith had numerous devoted adherents. In 1559 the Calvinists held their first national synod at Paris. Their places of worship, scattered over France, numbered at that time two thousand; and in their congregations were four hundred thousand worshipers, all of whom met at the risk of their lives. That same year, Henry II., who had just agreed with Philip II., in the treaty of Cateau Cambresis, to exterminate heresy, and to give his daughter in marriage to the Spanish monarch, was accidentally killed by a splinter from the lance of Montgomery, the captain of his guards, with whom he was tilting at the festival in honor of the wedding.

The whole posture of affairs was now changed. His oldest son, Francis II., was a boy of sixteen, feeble in mind and body. He was not young enough to be made subject to a regency; and too young, had he been possessed of talents and character, to rule. Who should govern France? Catherine de Medici, the widow of Henry; she to whom, more than to any other individual, as we shall see, the massacre of St. Bartholomew was due, thought that the power for which she had long waited was now within her grasp. The granddaughter of the great Lorenzo de Medici, and the daughter of Lorenzo II., she was left an orphan in her infancy, and was placed in a convent. Her childhood was encompassed with perils. When her uncle, Pope Clement VII, was laying siege to Florence, in 1530, she being only twelve years old, the Council of the city proposed to hang her in a basket over the wall as a mark for the besiegers' cannon. About ten years after, she was married to Henry, the second son of Francis I., in pursuance of an arrangement between the Pope and the King, which grew mainly out of the king's want of money. The death of the Dauphin placed her husband within one step of the throne. She was obliged to pay obsequious court to the mistresses of the King and of her husband, the Duchess D'Etampes and Diana of Poitiers. Henry regarded her with a feeling little short of repugnance. Under this feeling, and disappointed that she bore him no children, he entertained, at one time, the thought of sending her back to Italy. This was prevented by her own submissive demeanor,

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