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HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION - THE KING’S ANGER.
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THE terrible placard posted up during the night in Paris and over a great part of France, ‘in every corner,’ says Sturm, produced an immense sensation. The people were agitated, the women and the weak alarmed, and the magistrates filled with indignation. But the adversaries of popery did not relax their blows. At almost the same time there appeared another treatise ‘against the pope’s traffickers and taverners.’ This writing, which was less evangelical, was rather in the mocking spirit of Erasmus. ‘Everything must subserve the cupidity of the priests, it said; ‘heaven, earth, and hell, time, all creatures animate and inanimate, wine, bread, and oil, flax, milk, butter, cheese, water, salt, fire, and fumigations… From all these they knew how to extract… silver and gold. And the dress of the dealer adds to the price of his wares, for a mass by an abbot or a bishop costs more than one by a curate or a friar. Like women of ill fame, they sell their shame all the dearer the gayer the ornaments they wear.’ The agitation increased hourly; priests and friars, scattered among the groups of citizens and people, fomented their anger, increased their terror, and circulated false reports. ‘The heretics,’ it was said, ‘have resolved to surprise the catholics during divine service, and to murder men, women, and children without mercy.’ An absurd imputation, invented, says a Romish historian, to make the reformers odious. It was believed all the same, and horrible rumors began shortly to circulate among the crowd. ‘A frightful plot has been laid against the State and the Church. This placard is the signal; the heretics intend to fire the churches and palaces, massacre the catholics, abolish the monarchy, and reduce the kingdom to a desert… Death to the Lutherans!’
Nowhere was the fury so great as at the Sorbonne among the doctors: the first outbreak of their anger was incredibly violent. ‘This action,’ says the chronicler, ‘led them into such fury that their former violence seemed tolerable. No tempest ever equaled it in severity.’ The thunderbolt was destined, however, to be launched from a different quarter.
Francis I., who was then at Blois, had for some time felt a certain uneasiness with regard to the Reform. One day in 1534, when he was complaining of the pope to the nuncio, and insinuating that France might easily imitate the example of Henry VIII., ‘Frankly, sire,’ replied the nuncio, ‘you will be the first to suffer; the religion of a people cannot be changed without their next demanding the change of the prince.’ It had been no use to tell Francis that neither the German princes, nor Henry VIII. himself had been dethroned by the Reformation: the nuncio’s words had sunk like an arrow into his heart.
Blois was not exempt from the evangelical movement, and the Reform had made its way among the choristers of the royal chapel: it was one of these who was commissioned to post up the placards in that city. Being of a daring and enthusiastic temperament, this individual resolved to post the protestant manifesto in the castle itself, to which he had easy access. Entering it at a favorable moment, he crept with his handbills as far as the king’s chamber, and being satisfied that there were no servants or courtiers in the gallery, he fastened the paper to His Majesty’s door, and then retired hastily. This imprudent and guilty action, for it was disrespectful, was to be cruelly atoned for.
Montmorency and the Cardinal de Tournon appeared in the morning before the king as was their custom. They had the ear of Francis I., and had long been looking for an opportunity to deal a desperate blow at the Reformation. Just as these two personages were about to enter the king’s closet, they caught sight of the placard posted on the door; they stopped and read it, and taking the matter seriously, not without reason, they tore down the paper angrily, and carried it into their master. Nothing in the world could excite him so much as an attack like that: his royal dignity was ill his eyes almost as sacred as the Divine majesty. He trembled and turned pale; he took the paper and then gave it back, and disturbed by such unheard-of audacity, he ordered them to read it.
It was what Tournon wanted. He read the document to the king, dwelling on the most irritating passages; but the prince could not hold out to the end. The insult offered to his person, the impression which such a public scandal might produce on his allies, and especially on the pope, the reflection that at the very moment when he was preparing the reconciliation of protestants and catholics, a few fanatics should stir up all the passions of the priests and the people, and cause his pacific designs to fail — all this exasperated his mind more than the attack upon the mass.
Those who were about him took advantage of the opportunity, and represented the affair as one of high-treason. Montmorency and De Tournon drove the bolt deep into the king’s heart. ‘He burst into a transport of passion,’ wrote Sturm to Melanchthon; ‘he was so inflamed,’ says the Book of Martyrs ; ‘he put himself in such a rage,’ says Theodore Beza; ‘he became so hot that everybody trembled about him,’ says the catholic Fontaine. — ‘Let all be seized without distinction,’ he exclaimed, ‘who are suspected of Lutheresy. I will exterminate them all.’
The event caused a great agitation; nothing else was talked of, and every one described it in his own manner. ‘Do you know,’ said some, ‘that the king, in the very height of his passion, taking his handkerchief from his pocket, pulled out a placard, which fell at his feet: some clever fellow had slipped the copy in.’ ‘You may believe it, if you like,’ says Fontaine, estimating this popular story at its real value. The whole household of the castle was immediately on the alert to discover the author of the misdeed, which was no hard matter. The Lutheran opinions of the chorister were known to many; he was arrested, put in chains, and sent to Paris to be tried. But the king’s wrath was not to be confined to this man. The crime had been committed everywhere, the punishment must be inflicted everywhere. ‘Write and order the parliament to execute strict justice,’ said the king; ‘and tell the lieutenant-criminal that, to encourage him, I increase his salary by six hundred livres a year for life. Let inquisition be made forthwith through all the realm for the people who are such enemies of God.’
The parliament had not waited for the king’s orders. On the morrow of the famous day, the 26th October, the chief president, Pierre Lizet, convened all the chambers, and the crowded court, being moved and indignant, ordered a minute search and processions to be made. The trumpets sounded, the people assembled, and an officer of the parliament proclaimed: ‘Whosoever shall give information as to the person or persons who stuck up the said placards, he shall receive from the court a reward of one hundred crowns; and all who conceal them shall be burnt.’ All this while the evangelical christians, and especially those who had set fire to the mine, alarmed at the terrible explosion it had made, remained hidden and silent in their houses. They knew Morin’s skill in discovering his victims and inventing tortures; a dark future saddened their countenances. Then were heard among them groans, and regrets, and mournful deliberations. ‘What shall we do?’ they said. Take flight! — What! leave home, and family, and country without knowing where to go?… How gloomy the future! But is it not better to lose all than to lose your life?… Such were the heart-rending conversations held almost everywhere. Fathers and wives and children conjured with tears those whom they loved to get out of the way of the king’s anger. Some of them, indeed, did leave their homes by night and flee. Many of those who had not posted the placards, but who were known by the frank confession of their faith, thought that the danger could not concern them… The unhappy people hesitated and delayed, and many of them paid dearly for their imprudent security. The lieutenant-criminal, a great opponent of the religious movement, and a man of very dissolute life, of rare audacity in catching criminals, and remarkable subtlety in entrapping them by their answers, was meditating the plan of his campaign. His vanity, his greed, his trotted wall his passions were engaged in the business. He desired to catch all the heretics together by one cast of his net. But how? A bright idea struck him: by seizing one man, he hoped to take all the rest. ‘You know that shop where they sell sheaths and other such articles, in. the Rue de la Vannerie leading to the Greve,’ he said to one of his officers. ‘Go and arrest the sheath-maker and bring him to me.’ — ‘Sheath-maker,’ he said, ‘you are one of the heretics, and what is worse, you are their convener, I know full well. It is you, do not deny it, who inform them of the places where their secret meetings are to be held. I have a wish to assemble them; you will lead me to their houses.’ The poor man, understanding what he meant, tremblingly refused to commit such treason. The lieutenantcriminal ordered a scaffold to be got ready. As soon as the officials had left the room, Moring turned to the sheath-maker: ‘It is you that conduct the people to church, and it is quite fair that you should begin the dance.’ The wretched man trembled. What a frightful alternative! How could he go to those whom he was wont to summon to the temple of God, in order to deliver them to the flames? There was a terrible struggle in his soul, but the fear of God was overcome, the light of reason extinct, all regard for honor put aside. ‘Satan entered into Judas,’ and he sought how he could betray his brethren. Believing himself ‘on the point of being burnt,’ says Beza, he promised all he was asked. Paris was all in commotion. The streets were hung with drapery, processions were made, and in order to wipe out the insult offered to the mass, the Corpus Domini was carried solemnly through every parish. Morin took advantage of this agitation to conceal his proceedings. The treacherous sheath-maker went before him, pale and trembling; sergeants followed him at a little distance, and this cruel company glided silently through the streets. The sheath-maker stopped and pointed to a door:
Morin entered. The startled family protested their innocence in vain. The lieutenant ordered the poor creatures to be manacled, and then continued his pitiless course. ‘He spared no house, great or small,’ says the chronicler, ‘not even the colleges of the university of Paris.’
By degrees the news of this horrible expedition spread through the capital; anguish seized not only the friends of Farel, but all who were not fanatical adherents of Rome, and even the mere followers of learning or of pleasure, who had no taste for the Reformation. ‘Morin made all the city quake,’ for no one knew that he might not De among the number Of the suspected. In many houses a look-out was kept, to observe whether the terrible troop was coming. Nicholas Valeton the receiver, who kept near the window, saw Morin approaching; hurriedly turning away, he said to his wife: ‘Here he is, take the chest of books out of my room… I will run and meet him; I will speak to him and detain him, so as to give you time.’
The startled young woman took the books and hastily thrust them into a hiding-place. ‘Arrest this man,’ said the lieutenant-criminal, immediately he saw Valeton; ‘let him be put into close confinement.’ He then went upstairs and searched every corner, saw the empty chest, but found nothing. Being impatient to interrogate his prisoner, he did not stop, but proceeded straight to the prison whither he had been taken. He could not entrap him. The receiver, being a clever man, eluded all his questions. The lieutenant began to grow nervous; thinking to himself that the receiver had influence, and was a man likely to bear him a grudge, he resolved to destroy him by proceeding more craftily. The empty chest recurred to his mind; it must have con-rained something that .had been removed at his approach. He immediately returned to the house of the accused, and standing near the chest, said in a natural tone: ‘Madame, your husband has confessed that he kept his books and secret papers in this trunk. Besides, we are agreed; I desire to behave mercifully towards him; if you give a certain sum of money and tell me where the books are, I swear to you before God that your husband shall suffer no prejudice.’ The wife, who was ‘young, thoughtless,’ and much disturbed by what had taken place, suffered herself to be caught by this trick. Morin put so many crafty and subtle questions,’ that trusting in his promise, she told him everything. ‘Good!’ thought the lieutenant-criminal, ‘he wished to hide his books from us, because he felt himself guilty of heresy.’ Having seized them, he left the house, and putting the papers in a place of safety, went to look for other victims.
That was of no consequence, and Bartholomew Milon was one of the first towards whose house Morin turned his steps. He had had him in his prison before this; ‘but,’ says the Book of Martyrs, ‘the Lord had delivered him to make him serve for the consolation of his people in this bitter season.’ The lieutenant-criminal knew the shoemaker’s shop very well; it was noted down in his books. He entered, like one out of his mind and foaming with rage, into the room where poor Berthelot was lying. ‘Come, get up!’ he cried, looking fiercely at him. Bartholomew, ‘not being terrified by the hideous face of the tyrant,’ replied, with a sweet smile: ‘Alas! sir, it wants a greater master than you to make me rise.’ — ‘Take this fellow away,’ said the brute to his creatures, and after ordering them to carry with them a piece of furniture in which the paralytic kept his papers, he continued his inglorious campaign.
The lieutenant-criminal now proceeded towards the gate of St. Denis, to the sign of the Black Horse, and entered the shop of the wealthy tradesman, Du Bourg. When they caught sight of him, all who had any employment there were startled; but although they loved their master well, no one stirred to defend him. The draper’s wife, daughter of another rich tradesman named Favereau, was not so tranquil: bursting into tears and shrieking, she conjured the cruel Morin not to take her husband away.
Nothing could soften him, and he arrested Du Bourg. ‘He is one of those who pasted up the papers at the corners of the streets,’ said the lieutenant, and took him away. Next came the turn of the poor bricklayer, Poille, who was captured in his wretched hut.
After them many persons without distinction of rank or sex were shut up — those who had condemned the placards as well as those who had approved of them. Informers were not wanting; they were given a fourth part of the property of the accused, and accordingly these quadruplers (as they were called) were indefatigable in hunting out victims; each of them could be accuser and witness in one. It was a reign of terror, and all good people were astounded at it.
The Sorbonne took advantage of this furious tempest to be avenged on Margaret and to punish her friends. That princess had quitted Bearn at the beginning of summer to be present at the marriage of her sister-in-law, Isabella of Navarre, with Viscount de Rohan, and had obtained her brother’s permission for Roussel, who was with her, as well as Courault and Berthaud, to preach in Paris. These moderate men were strongly opposed to the act accomplished in the night of the 25th October; they were thrown into prison all the same. As there was no apprehension of offending the king’s allies, many Germans were roughly seized, catholics as well protestants; it was enough to have a transrhenane accent to be suspected of heresy.
In the meantime Francis I. arrived in Paris. Cardinals, Sorbonne, Parliament, all the ardent friends of Roman-catholicism, outvied each other in zeal to confirm ‘this wise and good prince’ in his religion, which had been somewhat shaken. They must take advantage of the crisis to detach him from his alliances with the English and the Saxons. Now was the time for striking the blow and for severing these guilty ties. Cardinal de Tournon was particularly indefatigable and continually calling for punishments. When Du Chatel, bishop of Tulle, declared his opposition to sanguinary measures: ‘Your tolerance has a suspicious look,’ said De Tournon; ‘it is unbecoming a true son of the Church.’ — ‘I am acting like a bishop,’ answered Du Chatel, firmly, ‘and you like a hangman.’ But nothing could check either the Cardinal or Duprat. They said to Francis: ‘Carefully preserve the honor which Pius II. gave our kings when he said:
The kings of France have .this peculiarity, that they preserve the catholic faith and the honor of churchmen; and added: ‘We prevent the spreading of a fire, by knocking down the houses which it has first touched, and even the adjoining ones; do likewise, Sire; order those to be exterminated utterly and without reserve, who rebel against the Church. Kindle the fire and erect gibbets for the use of the Lutherans.’ A new act of madness (as some historians relate, but which we can hardly believe) inflamed the king’s wrath still further. The very night of his arrival, we are told, the placards reappeared and were stuck on the gates of the Louvre. Nay more; it. is asserted that as Francis I. was going to bed, he found the document under his pillow. The historian who records these things is very prone to exaggeration, and I am inclined to think that such stories are mere fables invented by the enemies of the Reform, its friends being just then too terrified to show such boldness.
No one was more alarmed and more agitated than Margaret. Nothing was more opposed to her nature than the style of the placards; and in reality they were not only all attack against Rome, but a protest against the conciliatory catholic system of the Queen of Navarre. Those who protested in this way bore a certain resemblance (not reckoning their christianity) to a well-known character in literature: they condemned alike the fanatic Romanists and the spiritual Catholics — Les uns, parcequ’ils sont mechants et malfaisants, Et les autres, pour etre aux mechants complaisants. The queen had not the slightest suspicion of the blow that was preparing; and at the very moment when she believed the Gospel to be on the point of gaming the victory, everything seemed ended for it in France. Her brother’s anger, the hard look he turned upon her, for perhaps the first time, alarmed this princess who had, it is true, a strong understanding, but also a heart easily moved and even timid. She shed floods of tears: she had no doubt that the whole affair was the result of a plot contrived between the Sorbonne and Cardinal de Tournon. ‘My lord,’ she said to the king, ‘we are not sacramentarians. These infamous placards have been invented by men who wish to make the responsibility of their abominable maneuver fall upon us.’ She resolved to do everything to save Roussel at least; the very thought that he might be burnt terrified her. Why had she not left him at Pau?
Seeing the unusual coldness of the king, she commissioned the perfidious Montmorency to present her petition. ‘They are occupied at this moment,’ she wrote to him, ‘with completing their case against Master Gerard; I hope the king will find him deserving something better than the stake… He has never held an opinion tainted with heresy. I have known him for five years, and if I had seen anything suspicious in him, I should not have put up so long with such poison. I entreat you, fear not to speak in my behalf.’ Montmorency, far from being disposed to do what the queen asked, endeavored to ruin not only Roussel, but also Margaret herself; while Cardinals Duprat and De Tournon helped him to insinuate into the king’s mind that his sister had some share in the matter of the placards. The coldness, the harshness even of Francis I. towards Margaret, increased daily; heartbroken, and unable to bear up any longer, she left Paris hastily.
Some went further than Duprat and De Tournon, and would have made their vengeance fall upon the king himself. The impetuous Beda, that tribune of the Sorbonne, who forgot neither his exile nor his imprisonment, sought an opportunity of revenging himself on the prince who had disgraced him. He hated Francis cordially; to do him an injury for the mere pleasure of doing it was his ambition. Not satisfied with ascribing the placards to Queen Margaret, he would accuse the king himself. Going into the pulpit, he preached a sermon against that prince full of invective. ‘If it is not the king who had these bills posted up,’ he said, ‘at least he is responsible for them. The favor he shows the heretics, and his alliance with the King of England, are the cause of all this mischief.’ This time the priest was mistaken in fancying himself more powerful than the sovereign.
Being accused before the parliament of high-treason, Beda was thrown into prison, condemned to do penance in front of the church of Notre Dame, and to be confined for the rest of his days in the abbey of St. Michael, where he died. Thus perished in obscurity this furious forerunner of the League.
The revolutionary fury of the Romish champion softened Francis a little: finding himself accused as well as his sister, he recalled her to Paris. The queen, whose courage was as easily revived as it was cast down, arrived at the Louvre full of hope, not doubting that she would win over the king to the golden mean she loved so dearly. But she found Francis less accessible than she had fancied, and still showing signs of his ill-humor. But this did not stop her: imprudent and violent men had wished to abolish the mass by means of a fanatical placard, she will try to attain the same end by gentler and more prudent means. ‘You want no church and no sacraments,’ said the king to her, abruptly. The queen of Navarre replied that, on the contrary, she wanted both; and profiting by the opportunity for carrying out her plan, she represented to her brother that it was necessary to unite the whole of Christendom into one body with the bishop of Rome at its head; and that for this object, the priests should be brought to give up voluntarily certain scholastic doctrines and superstitious practices which stripped the ritual of the Church of its primitive beauty. Then, taking from her pocket a paper which Lefevre had drawn up at her request, during her stay. in the south, she presented it to the king: it was the confession of faith known as the Mass of Seven Points. ‘The priest will continue to celebrate mass,’ said Margaret to her brother, ‘only it will always be a public communion ; he will not uplift the host; it will not be adored; priests and people will communicate under both kinds; there will be no commemorations of the Virgin or of the Saints; the communion will be celebrated with ordinary bread; the priest, after breaking and eating, will distribute the remainder among the people. Further, priests will have liberty to marry.’ When Francis had heard the seven points of his sister’s mass, he asked her what was left of the Roman mass? Then the queen, taking him on his weak side — glory — represented to him that by means of this compromise he would unite all sects, and restore the Catholic unity which had been broken for so many centuries. Was it not the greatest honor to which a prince could aspire?
Francis I. appeared to be shaken, but yet he saw great difficulties. The queen begged him to send for Roussel and the two Augustine monks, Courault and Berthaud: ‘They will show you, I have no doubt,’ she said, ‘that the thing is practicable.’ The king was curious, says an historian, and accepted the offer. The three evangelicals were taken from their prison and conveyed to the Louvre, where the queen presented them to her brother.
She was full of joy: the matter of the placards, which threatened to ruin everything, might possibly be the means of saving everything. She was deceived. When Francis talked with her, it was no trouble to be like a kind brother with a sister; but in the presence of the two friars and Roussel he was a master. These persons displeased him: the zeal with which they pointed out the errors and abuses o£ the mass irritated him, and he sent them back hurriedly to prison. Men more zealous than they were, had already left their dungeons for the scaffold.