Tenth Persecution Of The Vaudois, By Louis Xiv. King Of France, And Victor Amadeus Ii. Duke Of Savoy; With The Perfidious Treacheries Of Their Enemies, Which Was The Cause Of The Ruin And Dispersion Of Those Churches.
CHAPTER - 1
Wherein is recapitulated their former History; and showing withal, the Antiquity of the Vaudois, their original, rights, and continual submission to the Duke of Savoy, with the merits of their services; and justifying their conduct, with reference to their defense in the preceding and the following Massacres and Wars.
IT is not our present design to give a large and particular relation of whatever has happened on this occasion: seeing what we shall briefly declare, will show that there was a more cruel and unjust persecution, than this lately exercised on the inhabitants of the valleys of Piedmont, on the sole account of their religion.
The churches of the valleys of Piedmont, or of the Vaudois, as they were commonly called, were the most ancient of all those who drew their original from the apostles, whose doctrine they have ever taught and followed.
They had no need of reformation, having never partaken of the errors and idolatries wherewith the Romanists have infected the Christian church.
The simplicity of their manners agreed so well with that of their doctrines, as has forced their enemies to confess, that this especially contributed to their preservation. They did not content themselves with a bare not entering into an idolatrous and superstitious communion; but took all proper occasions to declare their abhorrence of it; with as great courage and freedom of mind, as any of the ancient reformers, who have all (on full inquiry) approved of their doctrines, as very agreeable to the apostolic simplicity.
It is no marvel then, if these churches, have been ever the object of the popish rage and fury; if popes have published crusades, and engaged several princes against them; if several famous inquisitors have employed at all times whatever their devilish malice could invent to exterminate those poor people; and if the Council de Propaganda fide et Extirpandis Haereticis, have omitted nothing for the obtaining their design. But here we cannot enough admire the especial Providence of God, in his particular protection of these churches, seeing maugre all these violent persecutions; the perfidiousness and treacheries wherewith their enemies have ever recompensed their fidelity; notwithstanding twenty-seven or twenty-eight invasions, which their religion has drawn on them, and the massacres which have so many times bathed the valleys with the blood of the Vaudois; yet has God still preserved them, by the continual turns of his Providence.
All historians, even those of the contrary party, are agreed, that these churches were in an immemorial possession of the exercise of their religion, before they were under the government of the dukes or earls of Savoy; for it was only in the year 1233, that Thomas Earl of Savoy became master of the town of Pignerol, and the valleys of Piedmont, under pre-tence the race of the princes of Piedmont was extinct.
It is also certain the Vaudois submitted themselves to the Earls of Savoy, (whence his present royal highness is descended,) on condition of being maintained in all their privileges. And in effect, it is on this foundation, that these earls being become princes of Piedmont, have maintained and confirmed the Vaudois churches, in the exercise of their religion, and their other rights and privileges. They have granted them for this end, from time to time, several authentic concessions; especially in 1561, 1602, and 1603, which having been verified and entered in the senate and chamber of Turin, in the year 1620, by means of a considerable sum of money, (which the Vaudois had paid for this purpose, as appears from the authentic act:) these concessions therefore, passed into the form of an irrevocable deed, and perpetual and inviolable law, whose execution was enjoined by several solemn decrees of the Duke of Savoy, from the years 1638, 1649, 16.54, and 1655.
The Council de Propaganda Fide, which is obliged by its foundation, title, and oath, to procure the ruin of those, she, terms heretics; observing with extreme regret the calm which the Vaudois enjoyed, by means of these presents, took all possible measures to trouble it.
To this end the council, which then consisted of the principal ministers of the court of Savoy, taking advantage from the minority of Charles Emanuel, Duke of Savoy, caused to be published in the month of January, 1655, an order, which obliged all the inhabitants of the valleys, to quit the plain in three days, and to retire into the mountains, on pain of death, if they could not make it appear they were become catholics.
The Vaudois obeyed this order, as unjust and cruel as it was: but their obedience, which took away all pretences from their enemies, could not preserve them front that horrid massacre in 1655, of which posterity will freely speak as an action the most inhuman and perfidious, mentioned in any writing.
This massacre was likely in all appearance, to have cut off all the Vaudois, but there were many of them, who escaping out of the hands of these butchers, resolved to defend their lives. They executed then this resolulion, with such vigor and courage, that they put their executioners to flight, in several rencounters; till the protestant princes and states became mediators in their behalf.
These generous protectors having heard of this dreadful massacre, were not contented to open the bowels of their charity and beneficence; but interposed earnestly for them with the Duke of Savoy by their intercessions. The evangelic cantons, amongst others, sent for this reason four ambassadors to the court of Turin, who joined themselves to the envoy of France, who was to be arbitrator in this affair for their master; all which jointly solicited this matter, and obtained for the churches and inhabitants of the valleys, the confirmation of their privileges definitively and irrevocably, by a solemn patent, which the Duke of Savoy granted the 9th of August, 1655, entered according to form in the senate and chamber of Turin.
It may seem, that after a patent of this nature, which carries the title and character of a perpetual and inviolable law, given in the presence, and at the intercession of the ambassadors of France and Switzerland, and of which the King of France had declared himself guarantee; it would seem (I say) that the Vaudois should enjoy the fruits of a peace, purchased by the blood of above six thousand of their brethren; but all this could net preserve them from the violence of their enemies.
The Council of Propagation violated this patent in the most essential points, and persecuted the Vaudois by diver’s unjust and wrongful means. and they offering only complaints against these persecutions, their enemies took their patience, for want of courage; and thinking they could oppress them without any resistance, they brought in again among them the dismal effects of fire and sword, and renewed in 1668, the miseries and violences of 1655.
The Vaudois knowing by experience, that their defense was their only means of safety, were therefore forced to stand on their guard, which succeeded so well, that they had procured their peace, and settled their affairs towards the end of the year 1663.
Then it was, that the evangelic cantons, sent again ambassadors to the court of Turin, to be mediators of the peace; which ambassadors being joined, as the preceding were, to the French resident at Turin, they procured again for the Vaudois, a solemn, perpetual, and irrevocable patent in the month of February, 1664; confirmative of the preceding, and entered according to form as before.
But this patent was not executed with greater sincerity than the former, although the duke had passed his word to the cantons of Switzerland, in a letter of the 28th of February, 1664, to have it punctually observed. It is hardly possible to describe the turnings and windings, the shifts and tricks which the Council for Propagation made use of, to render this patent of:none effect to the Vaudois. It is sufficient to say, they could never have defended themselves against such malicious inventions, had not God, in whose hands are the hearts of kings and princes, overruled that of Charles:Emanuel Duke of Savoy. This prince having nearly examined the conduct of the Vaudois, found it was without reason they were made so odious, and calling to mind the zeal they had showed in his service on several occasions, especially in 1638, and 1640, when they exposed themselves so vigorously in his defense against his enemies, whilst most of his estates had revolted against him, he resolved to use them for the future as subjects, which deserved his love, as well as his protection.
The war which he had with the Genoese in 1672, greatly confirmed him in his good opinion of the Vaudois; for they served him in it with such zeal and courage, that this prince thought it not enough to give them public commendations for their valor and fidelity, in a letter he wrote to them on this occasion, but protected them as long as he lived. Madam Royal his widow, treated them after his example, not only with great gentleness and favors, but engaged herself by a letter to the Swiss cantons, dated the 28th of January, 1679, to maintain and protect the Vaudois, in the full exercise of their religion, and their other privileges.
We have lightly touched on all these things, that we might not pass the bounds prescribed; for besides that they serve to show that the rights and privileges of the Vaudois were grounded on unmoveable foundations; and that their enemies have ever violated the most solemn and authentic engagements, and only exercised cruelties, injustice, and perfidiousness against them: they likewise serve to justify the conduct, which the Vaudois have observed to the end; which is properly the subject of this relation.
The Vaudois had flattered themselves that under the government of the Duke of Savoy now reigning, they might enjoy some hopes of tranquillity.
They had done him very considerable services in 1684, in the war against the banditti of Mondovi. And this prince had given them authentic assurances of his satisfaction, and good will towards them, in a letter he wrote to them on this occasion; and the beginning of his reign seemed to promise them for the future, that in rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, they should have the liberty of rendering to God what belonged to him. They fed themselves with these hopes, when the governor of the valleys of Piedmont published towards the end of the year 1685, an order, forbidding all strangers to inhabit in these valleys, and to remain therein more than three days without his leave, and also the inhabitants to entertain or lodge them, under grievous penalties.
The Vaudois had by this time been informed of the violences offered in France, to force the protestants to change their religion: they farther understood that the King of France had cancelled the edict of Nantz, and they perceived this prohibition of sheltering their brethren might prove of dangerous consequence to them. But they did not foresee the miseries which have since happened to them, because men do naturally love to flatter themselves; and their enemies used all endeavors, to remove out of their minds all the thoughts, which fear might inspire them with, to the end, they might be taken unprovided.
CHAPTER - 2
Giving an entire History both as to its Preparations and Execution, of the Tenth and last Persecution of the Vaudois in 1686, by the French King and the Duke of Savoy.
THEY were in this condition, when his royal highness’ orders were proclaimed in the valleys, being the 31st of January, 1686, which strictly forbad the exercise of their religion on pain of death, and confiscation of their estates; enjoining all their churches to be demolished, and the banishment of all the ministers; that the infants should be baptized, and brought up in the popish religion, on the penalty of their fathers being sent to the galleys, with many other particulars; to the same purpose, as the King of France’s declaration, which annulled, the edict of Nantz.
It is impossible to describe the Vaudois’s fears and griefs, at the news of so surprising an order, so much more terrible than the former, as designed to produce such tragical effects. For the preceding tended only to bind them in more narrow limits, and to deprive them of the right of inhabiting the plain, which they had done time out of mind, but the order of the 31st of January, wholly took from them all liberty of conscience, and exercise of their religion.
They saw themselves immediately precipitated into a dreadful abyss of miseries, without any remedy; and forced to behold either the light of the gospel extinguished in the valleys, which had there shone for so many ages, or the renewing those cruel massacres, which have sacrificed so many of their brethren; yet being persuaded this order was the effect of some misrepresentation of them by their enemies to his highness, they betook themselves to their usual course of supplications, and humble remonstrances, and presented four requests to the Duke of Savoy, to obtain the revocation of this order. But gaining only some time in the execution of it, they saw their misfortune was without remedy. And they were more confirmed in their assurances of their miseries, when they understood the King of France (who on politic reasons had always protected them, and oven declared himself guardian of the patents aforementioned) had not only obliged the duke to issue forth this order; but that his most Christian majesty had caused his troops to advance to Piedmont to see it executed.
Then it was, that the Vaudois began to think of defending themselves from the invasions of these foreigners, and not to die like beasts or fools.
In the mean time, the evangelical cantons being informed of this order, and the measures taken for its execution, believed themselves noways obliged to forsake a people persecuted for mere religion, and that they ought to appear on this occasion as heretofore.
It was resolved then in an assembly held at Baden, in the month of February, 1656, to send again ambassadors to the Duke of Savoy, to intercede in the behalf of the Vaudois, who arrived at Turin, in the beginning of March, and offered their request, tending to the revocation of the order set forth the 31st of January. They showed that the evangelic cantons were interested in this affair, not only as being of the same belief as the Vaudois, but for that the patents of 1655 and 1633, which this order annulled, were the fruits of their mediation, and they accompanied these their demands with several solid arguments.
The court of Turin pretended not to answer their reasons, thinking it enough to tell the ambassadors, that the engagements of the Duke of Savoy, with the King of France, were directly opposite to the success of their negotiation; which obliged the ambassadors to remonstrate, in a memorial for this purpose, that his royal highness’ predecessors having given their royal word to several states, and particularly to the evangelic cantons, for the executing the patents granted to the Vaudois, he could not renounce such formal engagements, because these patents were not mere tolerations, but perpetual concessions, and inviolable laws; and forasmuch also, that they having granted them at the request of several princes, they are, according to the law of nations, lasting monuments of public faith, in that the word of princes should be sacred and inviolable.
They also showed that several politic respects should induce the Duke of Savoy to maintain the Vaudois in their privileges: that it consisted not with his own justice and bounty, to suffer his countries to be filled with blood and slaughter, by destroying a people, who implored his grace and clemency, and who had done nothing deserving these severities.
But neither the reasonings of the ambassadors, nor their pressing solicitations, nor the letters of intercession, which several protestant princes wrote again in favor of these poor people, produced any effect.
They serving only to confirm the ambassadors in their belief, of the engagements wherein the Duke of Savoy had entered with the King of France, to destroy the protestant religion.
All this while the Vaudois were ignorant of what passed at Turin. They knew nothing of the ambassadors being at court, nor their transactions; because care was taken to stop two messengers in their passage, who were to carry the news into the valleys. It is true indeed, they knew sometime after, by a common report, that these ambassadors were at Turin, to demand the revocation of the order of the 31st of January, but they could hear nothing certain, touching the effect of their negotiation. They durst not go themselves to Turin, since the time allowed them was expired, and for that the court had refused a safe conduct, which the ambassadors had desired, for the deputies of the valleys appearance, to solicit their own affairs, as was practiced on former occasions.
However, the Vaudois had fortified themselves with some retrenchments in their country, and stood on their guard, to hinder the entrance of the troops, most of which were already encamped at the foot of the valleys.
The Duke of Savoy returned answer to the ambassadors’ proposals, by the Marquis of St. Thomas, one of the ministers of state, who had the management of foreign affairs, and who swore to them, that the duke could not revoke this order, he not being the master of this affair. He also protested to them, as from the part of his highness, that provided the order was executed, the duke would not refuse to enter into some expedients. He also showed them, that on their account, the Vaudois should have leave to depart the country, and dispose of their estates.
The ambassadors thinking the Vaudois, having neither officers nor troops, could not sustain a war, against two such powerful enemies as the King of France and the Duke of Savoy, who were united for their destruction; they imagined then, that to avert the tempest, with which these poor people were threatened, they ought to solicit their departure, and disposal of estates. But forasmuch as before they could enter on this negotiation, they must consult those of the valleys; the ambassadors therefore got leave of the court of Turin, that they might take a journey thither; for which purpose, they had a letter from the duke to the governor of the valleys.
But the event has made clear beyond dispute, that the sentiment of the court was not to let the Vaudois go out of Piedmont, but to force them to quit their religion, in the same manner as they had forced the protestants of France, and to destroy all those that would not conform to their superstition. And the consent that was given to the Vaudois of having liberty of quitting the country, was only a trick to divide them; they knew well, that there were a great, many that would not abandon their goods and estates, and lead a languishing and disconsolate life in foreign countries, and that those would sooner quit their religion than submit to such hard conditions: and as for those that would resolve to go out of the country, they would find means to trick them, either in taking away their children, and bringing them up in the Roman religion, or in hindering them from disposing of their goods, or in imprisoning some, and massacreing others, as they did in the year 1655, without the least regard to the most solemn promises or public faith.
The ambassadors arrived in the valleys the 22d of March, and the next morning caused an assembly of the people’s deputies to be summoned, to whom they declared, what they had done. In fine, they showed them, that in the condition they were in, deprived of all hopes of succor, they had no other part to take, but that of leaving their country, provided it could be obtained with the disposal of their estates; and if they would accept of this proposal, they would offer it as from them.
The Vaudois deputies, greatly surprised that they must expect no succour, on an occasion wherein they hoped all the protestant states would concern themselves: answered the ambassadors, they were sensible they could not do better than to follow their advice; but before they could resolve on an affair of this importance, they must consult a general assembly.
In the mean time the ambassadors returned to Turin, where they informed the Marquis of St. Thomas of the success of their journey, who assured them this negotiation was very agreeable to the court. They afterwards desired a passport, to bring thither some of the inhabitants of the valleys, with the determinations of this assembly; but this was refused them under two pretences; the first, that the Duke of Savoy would have no Vaudois to be seen following his court; and the other was, that he would not have it thought, that what he did, was out of any other respect than the gratifying the ambassadors. They were then obliged to send into the valleys the secretary of the embassy, to bring the determination of the people.
The secretary found the people assembled at Angrogue, the 28th of March, being much divided in their resolutions; for if on the one hand, they saw the dreadful consequences of this war; so on the other, the dangers and insuperable difficulties in departing the country, which supposing they could do, without any danger, yet they could not, without great regret, leave their estates and country, to travel to foreign parts; where they must lead a vagrant and uneasy life.
In fine, they agreed to send a memorial to the ambassadors, of the dangers and difficulties, which hindered their passage, and to write them a letter signed by nine divines, and eight of the laity, in which having entreated them to reflect on these obstacles, they declared, they would remit themselves to their prudence and conduct.
On this letter the ambassadors endeavored to obtain leave for the Vaudois to leave the states of Piedmont, and to dispose of their goods; but the Duke of Savoy, to whom the proposal was carried, sent word to them, that before he could give a positive answer to what they desired, he expected the people of the valleys should send deputies to him, with full power to make him those submissions, which were due to him; and to beg leave of him to withdraw from his states, as a favor which they implored of their prince. [This change makes it clear, that he consented to the relieving of the Vaudois, for no other end, but to divide them, as it after happened, to the great satisfaction of their enemies.] The ambassadors might well be surprised at this alteration of the scene, having been refused the safe conduct, which they had a little before requested, to.bring the Vaudois deputies to Turin. They had been several times told, that the grant of a retreat to the Vaudois should be wholly in consideration of the ambassadors. Whereas, now it must not be the ambassadors, who demand the leave, as a proposal coming from them, but it must on the contrary be the Vaudois, who make this request themselves.
This contrary course was not without some reason; for he Council of Propagation, who managed this affair, had without doubt these two several considerations; the one, that they would not have the ambassadors named in the permission of departure, that they might have less right to demand the execution of the things promised to the Vaudois; the other, that the Vaudois alone requesting this permission, as a grace or favor, they might impose on them such conditions as they pleased; and lastly, that the Vaudois making the submissions which the duke required, they must appear in the condition of supplicants, and consequently lay down their arms, otherwise they could not be received as such.
But however it was, the ambassadors being desirous to take away all pretence from the Vaudois’ enemies, took the safe conduct, and sent it by the secretary of the embassy, who assembled the people for the naming of their deputies; but as on the one hand, there were several, who never designed to leave their country; so on the other, the sudden march of their enemies filled them with suspicions, and contrary opinions, so that the resolutions given into their deputies, proved quite different. Some were for requesting the permission of retiring from the country, and disposing of their estates, and others for petitioning, that they might have the free exercise of their religion, and enjoyment of their other rights and privileges.
These deputies being come to Turin, the ambassadors thought it not fitting they should appear at court thus divided, they sent them therefore back again to the valleys to be united, and labored in the meanwhile to get a farther delay.
Their enemies apprehended with great satisfaction the divisions about leaving the country, and were so well persuaded this would be an infallible means to ruin them, that they sent persons expressly amongst them, to keep up this contrariety of determinations. It is also to be presumed, they had devised this expedient, touching the departure, as a means to disunite the Vaudois.
To make then the greater advantage of the different resolutions of these people, their enemies altered again their design. They had lately before declared, they expected first that the Vaudois themselves should sue for leave to depart, and to offer their submissions. The Vaudois had not made these submissions, nor presented their petition for a departure, there being several amongst them who never yet resolved to leave the country, neither did the ambassadors solicit the permission of departure, but a delay, as appears from a letter, which they wrote to the Marquis of St. Thomas, the 8th of April, 1686. However, to complete the division of the Vaudois, to destroy them with greater ease, there suddenly issued out, unknown to the ambassadors, an edict of the 9th Of the same month of April, which granted to the Vaudois a pardon, and leave to retire out of the countries of Piedmont, but to the end, we may the better judge of the design of the Council of Propagation, here is a copy of this edict translated out of Italian.
The Divine Providence, in setting princes over the people, has put into the hands of the former, the distribution of the rewards and punishments, that the hope of the first may encourage the good; and the fear of the latter restrain the wicked. Nothing but vengeance ought to fall from us on the heads of the valleys of Lucerna, who are of the pretended reformed religion, seeing it is apparent, they have not only obstinately disobeyed our order of the 31st of January last, but moreover hardened themselves in their crime, and fallen into the excesses of an enormous and execrable rebellion. Yet our natural clemency, surpassing their crime, and not contenting ourselves with the fatherly forbearance, with which we have for so long time expected, in vain, their repentance, we would also leave it again to their own will, who have hitherto been wickedly resolved, the choice of a happy or miserable condition, and open to them again the door of our mercy, in the manner following, whereto, if they do not submit, by a ready obedience, they must impute to their own obstinacy, the punishments they shall incur, without remission, from our provoked patience.
And therefore, in confirmation first of our declaration of the 31st of January last, we have, by virtue also of these presents, of our own certain knowledge, full power, and absolute authority, and by the advice of our council, commanded all our subjects of the valleys of Lucerna, making profession of the reformed religion, to lay down their arms, and return to their habitations, within the term hereafter prescribed.
We also command them to make no more assemblies, and public meetings, on any account whatever; to the end, that according to our intention, the judges may have free passage, and the father missionaries, and other religious persons, may return to the churches, whence they have been driven.
And it being unreasonable, that the religious missionaries, catholics, and catholicised, should suffer by any damages they have received, by those of the pretended reformed religion, we therefore command and strictly charge, that the necessary sums to indemnify them, shall be indistinctly levied from the goods and estates of the said pretended reformed, as it shall be sum. marily adjusted, before Mr. Mouroux, superintendent of the courts & justice in the valleys. Yet declaring, that in case those of the pretended reformed religion shall make it appear, that these damages have been occasioned by some particular persons, they shall have remedy and amends from the aforesaid particular.
And to show our said subjects, how great our clemency is towards them, we permit those who intend to leave our countries, to do it within the term, and according to the conditions hereafter prescribed.
But forasmuch as their maliciousness has too plainly showed itself, by their past demeanor; and that several may conceal their wicked designs, under a false color of obedience, we reserve, besides those who shall leave our countries, of their own will, to enjoin it to others, as we think fitting, and according as we shall find it expedient to secure the peace to those who shall stay behind, to whom we shall prescribe the rules they are to observe for the future.
And as a greater proof of our favor, we grant, as well to those who shall of their own will retire, as those who shall depart by our orders, to carry with them their goods and effects, and to sell them if they think fit, however in the manner hereafter prescribed.
The same shall extend to foreigners, and such as are born of them, who shall conform themselves to the last article contained in the declaration of the 31st of January above cited.
The aforesaid sale of goods must be marie to catholics and catholicised persons; but because there may not perhaps be found chapmen in the term hereafter prescribed, and we not intending that the religionaries, who shall depart our countries, shall lose the benefit of our present concession, they may therefore choose five or six persons, to whom they may make over their estates, and who may remain by our license in Lucerna in all liberty for three months, to treat and bargain with any one, and sell the estates of such as are gone, who shall have leave to prescribe in their letters of attorney, the rate at which they value their goods, and to have all due returns made them, without fraud or delay, the superintendency of which affair shall be committed to our chief justice Mr. Mouroux.
Those who would retire, shall be obliged to repair respectively to the place, and at the time hereafter specified, to be ready to depart, without arms, by the way which shall be denoted to them, either through Savoy, or the vale of Aoste. For this effect, a passport and letter of safe conduct shall be granted them, to prevent all ill usage and hindrances in our dominions. And for as much as being in great numbers, they may be exposed to several inconveniences in the way and places through which they shall pass with their luggage, they shall therefore consist of three companies; the first, which shall be those of the valley of Lucerna, must repair to the tower, to set forth immediately the day after the term here below mentioned; to wit, on the 21st of this month of April. The second company shall consist of those of the valley of Angrogne, St. Bartholomew, Rocheplate, and Pruristin, who shall part the day following; to wit, the 22d of this month and the third and last company, consisting of those of the vale of St. Martin and Peirouse, shall repair to Miradol, and part the third day; to wit, the 23d of this month.
The term in which our said subjects of the pretended reformed religion, inhabitants of the valleys of Lucerna, shall be obliged to lay down their arms, in the manner expressed in the first article of the present declaration, is eight days after its publication in the vale of Luceran, and which they must not fail to obey, if they expect to reap the fruits of our clemency, whose motions we follow, as well as those of paternal affection, with which we regard our said subjects, notwithstanding the enormity of their crimes.
And expecting punctual observance of the above particulars, we grant favor, pardon, remission, abolition, and an ample forgiveness, to our said subjects, for all excesses, failings, crimes, and other delinquencies, which they may have committed, since the publication of this our order of the 31st of January last, as well in general as in particular, in such manner, as they shall never be called in question for them, under what pretense soever; strictly charging all justices, counsellors and others, not to give them any molestation. But if they render themselves unworthy of these favors, by not observing what is aforementioned; it will then be of too pernicious example, to withhold any longer the chastisement they have deserved; having been so lavish to them of our favors, and expected so long their repentance; we shall then make use of the means which God has put into our hands, to reduce the obstinate to their duty, arid make them feel the punishment due to their insolencies.
Given at Turin the 9th of April, 1686.
This edict was published in the valleys on the 11th of April, the Same day the ambassadors wrote a letter to some of the Vaudois, to know their resolutions. They in the mean time presented a very earnest memorial to the Marquis of St. Thomas, to obtain some assurance, that the troops should not enter into the valleys, and to procure the Vaudois some more favorable conditions than those in the edict.
But the court of Turin gave them to understand, that there was nothing to be done for the Vaudois, till such time as they laid down their arms, of which the ambassadors gave advice to the deputies of the valleys, which had been at Turin, by a letter of the 13th instant, which they wrote them on this occasion.
On the 14th, the commons called a general assembly at Rocheplate, in which, having examined the terms,and conditions of the edict, they judged that their enemies had nothing farther from their intentions, than to let them have the benefit of the pretended pass, and that this edict was but a snare to entangle them, the more easily to work their destruction. They resolved then not to accept it; to follow the example of their fathers, and to commit the events to God’s providence. So that this edict, which was only given for the dividing them, had a direct contrary effect, and turned to the uniting them in the same particular judgment.
The chief reasons which hindered them from accepting this edict were, First , that seeing it enjoined the perfect execution of the declaration of the 31st of January, which commands all the churches to be demolished in eight days’ time, because the edict expressly says, that if in eight days they perform not what it contains, they are deprived of the favors and benefits which it offers them; to perform then the commands contained in the edict, the Vaudois themselves must demolish their own churches, or their enemies for them; the Vaudois could never bring themselves to the doing this, with their own hands, and they must have soldiers sent them, who, under pretense of this demolition, would have infallibly fallen on them.
Secondly , Had they been permitted to depart fairly, why was. not the execution of the order of the 31st of January suspended till such time as they could possibly get away? Why should they be obliged to demolish their churches in the eight days’ time allowed them to prepare themselves to leave for ever their country? What is this for, but to render their escape impossible?
Thirdly , This edict commands they should lay down their arms, and lay open their countries to popish priests and their emissaries. Now it is plain, that in laying down their arms, they must lie at the mercy of their enemies, and at the fury of the soldiers, who would not have failed entering in upon them to hinder their escape; and torment them till such time as they had changed their religion, as they had done in France. And their dreadful apprehensions had too certain grounds, seeing they had no assurance given them, that the troops should not come down into the valleys.
Fourthly , The Vaudois are also obliged to depart in three separate companies, and to render themselves in such places, where the soldiers being encamped, they could not fail of having their throats cut.
Fifthly , The permission which the same edict gives the Vaudois of selling their goods, was to them of no use; for, besides that sale could not be made till after their departure, to catholics, and that too by popish officers, so also out of the money raised from the sale of the same goods must be indemnified, the friars, the mis-mionaries, the ancient, the modern, and the future catholics, for the damages and interests which they might pretend to, and which they would not fail to make to amount to above the value of the estates sold.
Sixthly , The edict imports, that besides those who shall leave the valleys of their own free will, the prince reserves to himself the power of banishing such as he shall think good, to secure the peace of those who shall remain; which supposes not only that the conditions of the edict were so disadvantageous, that there must be several Vaudois who would not accept of them, nor move thence: but moreover, that the departure itself was to be looked on, not as a favor, but as a punishment to be imposed on several Vaudois, seeing they reserved the power of banishing those who were willing to remain.
Seventhly , The ambassadors were not named in the edict, and the Vaudois had no security for the faithful performance of the things therein contained. They had then reason to be in a great distrust; but the costly experiences which they had had on several occasions of the perfidiousness of their enemies, and particularly in this, wherein were violated all the laws of justice, made their suspicion but too well grounded.
In fine, the Duke of Savoy having declared, that he was not the master of this affair, by reason of the engagements he lay under to the King of France, it was not to be presumed that his most Christian majesty, who had interested himself in the business, would be more kind to the Vaudois, than he had been to his own subjects.
The Vaudois sent then their determinations to the ambassadors, who used all possible means to procure them more certain and advantageous condi- lions, than those contained in the edict; but neither their reasons nor solicitations could obtain any thing for them. They were continually told, that as long as the Vaudois were in arms, there could be nothing granted them, or any positive promises made. So that the Vaudois being persuaded, that the design of disarming them, was to destroy them with less difficulty, could by no means assent to so foolish proposals, and therefore persisted in the resolution of defending themselves, in case of invasion.
There happened a passage, which served greatly to confirm them in this resolution. For two or three days after the publication of the edict, Mr. Tholozan, Mr. Gautier, Mr. Gayante, Mr. Cabriol, and ten or twelve others of the inhabitants of the valleys, came to the intendant to acquaint him, that they and their families designed to be gone out of the estates of Piedmont, conformably to the edict, and therefore requested of him passports, which he refused them, on pretense they must stay to go out with the rest.
And farther, there being several, who refused to yield to the solicitations he made them, for the changing their religion, he caused them to be put in prison, where they have many of them perished. There needed no more to show they intended not to let them leave the country, or tarry behind without turning papists.
However, the Vaudois having read a letter from the ambassadors, assembled themselves again at Rocheplate, on the 19th of April, where they found it necessary to stand on their own defense. It was also decreed in this assembly, that all the ministers should preach, and administer the sacrament the Sunday following, which was Easter day.
Some of this valley changed their minds, without communicating their purposes to the rest. And the directors of the church of Villeseche, wrote to the ambassadors, who were then at Turin on the point of their departure, a letter dated the 20th of April, in which they declared they would obey the edict, and on this account entreated them to procure them a passport, and some time to prepare themselves.
One of the ambassadors took the pains to go to the camp, to make this request; but it was refused him, under pretense that the time was expired.
For it.was always too soon or too late.
In the mean time, the Duke of Savoy came to the camp some days after the publication of the edict, to discourage the Vaudois by his presence, and to oblige them to submit to the conditions imposed on them. He had made a review of his troops, and those of France, who were encamped near the plain, at the foot of the Alps. His army consisted of the troops of his household, of all his forces both horse and foot, of the militia of Mondovi, Barjes, Bagnols, and a great number of freebooters; commanded by Don Gabriel of Savoy, uncle to the duke. And the French army consisted of several regiments of horse and dragoons, of seven or eight battalions of foot, which had passed the mountains, and part of the garrison of Pignorel and Casal, commanded by Monsieur Catinat, governor of Casal. He had moreover set all things in order, to attack the Vaudois, as soon as the time limited should be expired, having appointed his army to force the valley of Lucerna, and the commonalty of Angrogne; and the French army to attack the valleys of St. Martin and Peirouse.
The Vaudois on their side, had taken some care to defend themselves.
They only had one part of the valley of Lucerna; for the town which gives the name to this valley, and several other considerable places were in the enemy’s hands. The commonalty of Angrogne, to which several give the name of a valley, by reason of its great extent, was not wholly in the hands of the Vaudois. They were masters in the valley of Petrouse only of some places which depend on the states of Piedmont, for this valley is divided between the French king, and the Duke of Savoy; but they held all the valley of St. Martin, which is stronger than any of the rest by its situation.
They had fortified themselves in each of these valleys, by several retrenchments of wood and stone, being about two thousand five hundred men able to bear arms, having chosen their officers from the most considerable persons of their own country, there being no foreigners among.them, and they thus expected the enemy with great resolution. But as on one hand they had no regulated troops, nor experienced officers, and on the other, there were several Vaudois, who had been corrupted or fallen off from their resolutions, during the negotiations, so it is not to be marvelled at, if they took not all necessary precautions. One of the greatest faults they committed was, their undertaking to keep all their posts. For had they abandoned those at the farthest distance, and retired into the retrenchments, within the mountains, there is no likelihood they could have been attacked with any success.
The 22d of April, being the day appointed for the onset, the French army commanded by Catinat, governor of Casal, marched two hours before day by torchlight, against the valleys of Peirouse and St. Martin, keeping along the river of Cluson, being the French king’s country.
Catinat drew out a detachment of foot, commanded by Ville-Vielle, a lieutenant colonel, who having passed over the river on a bridge, entered into the valley of Peirouse Piedmontoise. He possessed himself of St. Getmain, a village which the Vandots had forsaken, and came and assaulted a retrenchment, not far off, wherein there were two hundred men.
The Vaudois, after some resistance, quitted this post; and betook themselves to another, which lay more advantageously. In the mean time, a new detachment of horse and dragoons, having in like manner passed the river, came to the assistance of the infantry, who had begun the fight.
They did all they could to gain the Vaudois’ retrenchment, which they thought no hard task, seeing they were six to one; but they found here such a vigorous defense, that having lost a great many men, they retrenched themselves within pistol shot. Both parties held continual firing for ten hours; but in fine, the Vaudois issued out from their trenches, with their swords in’ their hands surprising the French, who did not expect such a bold action, and drove them into the plain beyond Cluson, where by good hap, they found a bridge, which saved them from drowning.
There were in this rencounter, above five hundred French killed and wounded, and amongst the rest, several officers of note, and the Vaudois, on their side, lost but two men, and had some few wounded. The relation, which the contrary party has written, on this subject, entitled, “An Account of the War against the Religionaries, called Barbers,” agrees touching the great loss the French suffered; saying, the Vaudois fought so desperately, as forced the French to an unhandsome retreat beyond Cluson. In this defeat, Ville-Vielle betook himself to the church of St. Germain, with severity soldiers, and some officers, who being summoned to surrender himself on terms of good quarter, he refused, and showed great resolution, though several of his people were killed.
The Vaudois had certainly forced him to yield, had not the approaches of the night, and the weariness of that day’s exercise induced them to give over. Having therefore left a guard at the church door, the rest went to seek some refreshments. Ville-Vielle was carried off at break of day, by the assistance of some troops, which the governor of Pignerol had sent secretly in the night. The Vaudois then returned to the retrenchments, expecting to be again attacked, but the enemy, although recruited by fresh forces, contented themselves with encamping about pistol shot distance, without firing on either side, for two days together.
Whilst things passed thus in Peirouse, the body of the French king’s army advanced from Cluson, to the fort of Petrouse; when Catinat drew out a retrenchment of horse, commanded by Melac, which having passed over the river on two bridges, went wheeling about to gain the high grounds, which separate the valley of St. Martin by a village named Rioclaret. But those who commanded in this valley, not expecting to be attacked after their offers of compliance with the terms of the edict; especially considering the day denoted for their departure out of the valley was not come; they therefore had not put themselves into a condition of defense, neither did they make any resistance, whereupon they chose to lay down their arms, and implore the pity and compassion of the victors. But the French, being enraged at what had passed at St. Germain, contented not themselves with burning, ravishing, and plundering, but massacred, without distinction of age or sex, with unheard of fury, all those, whom flight could not save from their cruelty. Catinat having ravaged all the country of Rioclaret in the most barbarous manner imaginable, left some troops in the vale of St. Martin, and traversed with the main body of the army the mountains, which separate this valley from that of Peirouse, and went and encamped, without finding any resistance, in the valley of Peirouse, where the soldiers massacred all those who fell into their hands, without sparing men, women, or children. In the mean time the detachment, which Melac commanded, having encamped one night on the risings of the valley of St. Martin, entered through several parts into this valley, directed by such Vaudois, as were so wicked as to lead them, through unknown ways to all others, but only the inhabitants of the country.
He left in all places, where he passed, the marks of an unheard of fury, and went and joined himself to the rest of the army, which lay encamped at Pramol. We shall not give here a particular account of the cruelties exercised on these occasions, and several others, but content ourselves in reciting in the sequel of this relation, some instances, which may make us judge of the rest.
We must of necessity break off the relation of what the French did in Peirouse, seeing there happened such things in the valleys of Lucerna and Angrogne, which should be first taken notice of.
The Duke of Savoy’s army being come to the plain of St. John, the 22d of April, were drawn into several bodies, which attacked divers retrenchments, which the Vaudois had in the valleys of Lucerna and Angrogne.
The Vaudois not being able to withstand the enemy’s cannon in such places, which likewise lay open to the horse, were forced, after some resistance, to abandon part of these retrenchments, and to betake themselves to a fort, more advantageously situated near Angrogne, to the number of five hundred men.
The enemy having burnt all the houses which they came near, they afterwards assaulted the fort of the Vaudois, who defended themselves so vigorously with shot and stones, against this great body, that they kept their post all that day, with the loss only of five men. Whereas the enemy lost three hundred, although defended by an advantageous retrenchment.
The Vaudois fearing they could not keep this fort, because the army continually grew bigger, betook themselves to another at two hundred paces distance, that was better situated; where they expected the army with great courage, which advanced to assault them, when advice was sent them, that the vale of St. Martin had surrendered, and that the French was coming on them behind; for to this valley there is an easy passage from Lucerna and Angrogne.
This news obliged the Vaudois to enter into composition with Don Gabriel of Savoy, uncle and general of the Duke of Savoy’s army, and with the rest of the other officers, who on notice of his royal highness’ will and pleasure, positively promised, as well from him, as from themselves, that the Vaudois should receive a full pardon, and be remitted to the terms of the order of the 9th of April, provided they stood to his mercy. But the Vaudois making some scruples at the confiding on this promise; Don Gabriel, who had notice of it, sent them a letter, wrote and signed with his own hand in his royal highness’ name, and in these words. “Lay down immediately your arms, and throw yourselves on his royal highness’ mercy, in doing which, assure yourselves, he grants you pardon; and that no violence shall be offered to yourselves, your wives, or children.”
An occurrence of this nature, one would think, should be sufficient for the securing the Vaudois’s lives and liberties. For besides that this promise was made in the name, and on the part of the duke, it must have seemed no less valid, had it only come from Don Gabriel, and other chief officers.
The Vaudois then laid down their arms, in reliance on this promise, and went most of them to surrender themselves to their enemies; hoping they should be immediately released. But all those who put themselves into their hands, were made prisoners, and led to the town of Lucerna, under pretense they were to be brought to his royal highness to make their submissions.
The enemy also seized on all the posts which the Vaudois had held in Angrogne. They contented not themselves with sacking, plundering, and burning the houses of these poor people; they moreover put to the sword a great number of Vaudois of both sexes, old and young. They ravished several women and virgins, and committed, in fine, such brutish actions, as strike with horror all persons endued with any sense of humanity. Yet there were several Vaudois, who, after their composition, slipped privately out of their hands, unwilling to deliver themselves to the mercy of such barbarous wretches, before they knew what would become of their companions, who had yielded themselves. Seeing then, on one hand, that the army exercised horrid cruelties, wherever it passed; and on the other, that they detained all those who surrendered themselves, they therefore hid themselves in the woods, and sent a request to Don Gabriel, by one Bartholomew Fraschie, to entreat him to release their brethren, detained contrary to proraise; and to forbear those acts of hostility, which were carried on with such barbarous cruelty. Don Gabriel made no answer to this humble request: but some officers told Fraschie, that the Vaudois were carried to Lucerna, only to beg pardon of his royal highness, and that after this, they should be released.
In the mean time the Marquis de Parelle gained the rising ground of the valleys of Angrogne, with a detachment from the army, who, finding no resistance, made up to the most considerable fort of the Vaudois, and in which they had most of their cattle. the marquis gave the Vaudois to understand, that the peace being made by the capitulation of Augrogue, it was their fault they enjoyed not the fruits of it. He assured them for this effect, on the word of a man of honor, that if they would put themselves into their hands, neither they, nor their wives, or children, should be harmed; and that they might carry with them whatever they pleased, without any fear of its being taken from them. That nothing would be required of them but to snake their submissions; and that as for those who would become catholics, they might return in all safety to their families and estates; and as to the rest, who were willing to leave the country, they should have free liberty to depart, according to,the order of the 9th of April.
These Vaudois then surrendered themselves again on the faith of these promises, which were no better observed thais the others. For the enemy were no sooner entered into the fort, but not only whatever the Vaudois there had, was delivered up to the rapine of the soldiers, and banditti of Mandovi, their capital enemies, who enriched themselves with their spoils; but these poor people, the greatest part of which were ancient men, women, and children, were made prisoners, with some ministers, who were amongst them; and conducted with such fury, that those whose age, or other infirmities, permitted them not to travel fast enough to the soldiers’ minds, were slain with their swords, or thrown down from rocks.
To return to the French, whom we left at Pramol, in the valley of Peirouse, they behaved themselves after the same manner as the troops of the duke had dose at Augrogue, and the vale of Lucerna. They had encamped themselves in a part of the common of Pramol, called the Rua; which is about half an hour’s march from another place, termed Pieumian, where a party of those of Pramol, St. Germain, Prarustin, and Rocheplate had retired, to the number of one thousand five hundred persons, men, women, and children. The French might easily from their quarter come down to St. Germain, and fall on the two hundred Vaudois, who had so valiantly defended themselves, and had resettled themselves in their trenches. But having notice of the loss of the valley of St. Martin, and the enemy’s march, they thereupon left this retrenchment, for fear of being attacked behind, and went to their brethren in Pieumian.
Whilst they deliberated on the course they should take to defend themsevles against the French, who were preparing to invade them; some inhabitants of the valleys being suborned, and won over to the enemy, came and told them, that the valleys of Angrogne and Lucerna had submitted to the will of their prince, who had taken them into favor, and granted, them the terms of the order issued out the 9th of April. They also told them, it was in their power to end a war, the burden of which they were riot able to sustain alone, and to procure for themselves an advantageous and lasting peace. Which news having taken from the Vaudois part of their resolution; they sent deputies with a drum to the French general to treat of peace; who told them, that the intention of his royal highness was to pardon them, and positively promised them from his part, and his own, their lives and liberties, with leave to return with all security to their houses, provided they laid down their arms immediately.
And the deputies telling him they feared lest the French, enraged at what had passed at St. Germain, would take vengeance on the Vaudois when they had nothing to defend themselves, he made them great protestations and oaths, that supposing their whole army should pass by their doors, they would not offer the least violence.
This composition being made, Catinat retained one of the deputies with him, and sent the others to give advice to the Vaudois, to oblige all those who had dispersed themselves, to repair the next morning, being the 25th of April, at Pieumian; that every man might return to his house on notice of the peace. Whilst the Vaudois assembled at Pieumian the scattered families, Catinat gave an account of this capitulation to Don Gabriel, who sent him over night a messenger, who passing by Pieumian, assured the Vaudois he brought good tidings of peace, and the next morning in his return, he told them it was concluded. They were so well persuaded of the truth of it, ‘that the day before they laid down their arms, according to the conditions of the treaty, entirely confiding in Catinat’s promise: they waited in this condition for news from Pieumian, when there arrived one named St. Peter, one of the French king’s captains of the garrison in the fort of Peirouse, followed with several dragoons; which captain was well known by the Vaudois, and immediately reiterated to them the assurance of the peace, but presently caused the men to go together apart, in a certain place, and the women and children in another.
The French troops being at the same time arrived, told the men, they had orders to conduct them to their houses, and made them pass along through them, four in a rank. These poor people having been constrained to leave their wives and daughters exposed to the soldiers’ discretion, were led not to their houses, as they had been told, but to Don Gabriel, who was encamped on the mountain of La Vachere, and who caused them to be carried prisoners to Lucerna.
In the mean time, the women suffered whatever the fury and brutish inhumanity of the soldiers could devise against them. For these barbarians contented not themselves with taking from them the money, but violated their chastity, with such circumstances, as are a shame to nature, and killed many of them in their resistance of their filthy attempts. Catinat was not present at what passed at Pieumian, but left the ordering of this affair to some officers, to keep out of hearing the just reproaches and complaints of the Vaudois, or else that he might not be the spectator of so many villanous actions. But however, it is certain, that excepting some women, who were killed, and such as fled away from the persecution of these monsters, and saved themselves in the neighboring woods, in danger of the guns, that were shot at them, to stop them, all the rest were dragged into divers prisons, with great cruelty.
It will be needless to use here many arguments to show that the enemies of the Vaudois have violated in these rencounters, the most sacred and inviolable obligations. The relation of what is past suffices to clear this truth, seeing it clearly justifies, that the Vaudois have been the victims of their enemies’ perfidiousness. And it is in vain to think to excuse this breach of promise, under pretense the Vaudois were rebellious subjects, who had taken arms against their lawful prince; for it will be easy to show that they cannot be accused of rebellion, seeing they only made use of a natural defense, against the unjust oppressions of the Congregation of Propagation, and their other enemies. But the present question is not, whether the Vaudois could justly do what they did; but touching the performance of the promises, which have been made them, notwithstanding this their pretended rebellion, seeing their surrender of themselves was grounded on the faith of these promises. So that it is certain, the violation of an obligation of this nature, can have no other color, than the authority of this maxim, that “faith is not to be kept with heretics.” It is also certain that kings and princes are especially obliged to condemn this vile maxim, since they are the representatives of a Being, who never failed of being faithful to his promises, and who has ever punished perfidiousness, either in the person of those who have been guilty of it, or in their descendants.
It is also in vain to allege that when the Vaudois surrendered themselves, they had only promise of life, for it is plain they were promised likewise their liberty. But had the promise extended no farther than life, can it be affirmed they kept their word, when they made them all perish under the weight of an intolerable misery, and the hardest captivity that ever was?
The valley of Peirouse being reduced as well as the rest, by the captulation of Pieumian, one part of the French army left this valley, and went and joined Don Gabriel at the Vacherie; and then it was on all sides they hunted and caught these poor Vaudois, who were dragged to several prisons, under pretense of being led before his royal highness, to entreat his pardon. But that which seems most deplorable, was their refusal to hear the complaints and tears of families, who implored the favor of suffering together. For they separated the fathers from their children, and the husband from the wife, to deprive them of the means of comforting and strengthening one another. They violated the ties of nature and consanguinity, that they might be less able to bear the temptations, and other miseries, they provided for them. They designed that those who could resist the sufferings and miseries of a rigorous prison, should be overcome by their restless longings to be with their relations. There were several young people of both sexes, who were dispersed, and placed in several particular houses in Piedmont; but this was not from a motive of equity, but to make them change their religion, and to keep them from coming near their parents.
Yet there were then a great number of Vaudois who had not delivered up themselves, nor were as yet taken; for those of Villars, Boby, and some other places, in the valley of Lucerna, would not consent to the composition, as did the rest, that they might keep themselves free. Many of those of Angrogne had joined themselves to these, having observed how the enemy kept their word. And several of the Vaudois of the vale of St. Martin had searched for shelter and hiding places, in woods and rocks, to escape the barbarity of the French fury; who gave no quarter. The enemy resolved to be masters of these Vaudois, by force or fraud, as they had been of the rest. For this effect, whilst part of the Duke of Savoy’s army was employed against those who were still in arms in the valley of Lucerna, the French returned to that of St. Marlin, with the Marquis Parelle, who was well known to the Vaudois, and the better able to persuade them. He knew by experience, that craft was a more likely means to succeed than open force. He made use then of some Vandois, who had yielded themselves, and in whom the people confided, causing them to march at the head of the army; with pistols at their throats, who were forced not only to be guides to the French, to discover the Vaudois, in secret places of their retreat, but moreover to write several notes, to exhort their brethren to throw themselves on the clemency of their prince, whose favor was offered to all those who would accept it. And because the usage of those who had already surrendered themselves, might discredit this solicitation, it was added in several of these notes, that the prisoners would be soon set at liberty. On the credit then of these notes, many of these poor people delivered up themselves, for several days, as relying too on the assurances which the Marquis Parelle, and the other officers gave them of his royal highness’ pardon.
Several others were massacred, or taken by the soldiers; but both those who surrendered themselves, and those who were taken, had both the same destiny, and were equally led away as prisoners, into divers prisons and castles.
Whilst thus craft or cruelty wasted the valley of St. Martin of its inhabitants, let us see what passed in the valley of Lucerna. The Vaudois here held amongst others, two strong places, the one called Jaimet, and the other Chamruma, above the castle, into which one part of those who had escaped out of Angrogne had fled. These two places sheltered Villars, wherein there were above a thousand persons, as well old as young. A detachment of the Duke of Savoy’s army, assisted by the banditti of Mon-dovi, came and attacked these two places, where the Vaudois defended themselves for a whole day, with an extraordinary courage. They killed a great number of soldiers, and considerable officers, amongst which was the commander of the banditti. They had only six men killed, and as many wounded. The enemy were extraordinarily tired, and intended a retreat: but forasmuch as they might be pursued easily, and defeated in retreating, they thereupon bethought themselves of this stratagem.
Several officers having laid down their arms, and laid by their hats, drew near at night to the trenches of Chamruma, with a handkerchief at the end of their sticks; and desired a parley, to make proposals of peace. They showed a paper, and told the Vaudois they came from their receiving letters, that peace was concluded in all the valleys: that his royal highness had granted a general pardon to all his subjects, and that it was their fault, who were still in arms, that they were not comprehended in it. They added, they had orders to cease all acts of hostility, and exhorted the Vaudois to do the same, and to accept the grace his royal highness offered them, of which the Podestat there present, could give them assurance.
Which person being well known by the Vaudois, having adjoined his protestations to those of the other officers, and all of them together having promised them, with the greatest earnestness, their lives and liberties, provided they withdrew; the Vaudois of Chamruma, trusting to these promises, left the place to the enemy, and retired, being persuaded of the certainty of the peace. There were several of Angrogae, who came to the castle to enjoy the fruits of this peace, but they were immediately seized on and conveyed away. This credulity of the Vaudois took from them a favorable opportunity of overthrowing their enemies; for they might, without any danger or trouble, vanquish troops who had wasted all their warlike ammunition.
The enemy, who pretended they had marched away only to make the Vaudois leave their post, which was a very advantageous place, having received some recruits, immediately returned and possessed themselves of it. Those who were at Jaimet, and had not entered into composition, were then obliged to abandon theirs, because it was commanded by the other, and to betake themselves to the mountains of Villars. The enemy marched after them, and encamped at Bonnet, on the avenues of Villars and Boby; where they remained two days without attempting any thing against the Vaudois, who might be about four or five hundred men. The officers of the army employed this time, in offering them proposals of peace, attended with specious promises, provided they surrendered themselves, and terrible threatenings, if they stood on their defense.
The Vaudois replied to these proposals that they desired nothing more; but that that which was offered them, was more to be dreaded than war, seeing it was not to be purchased, but by the loss of their liberty; that notwithstanding the peace promised to those of Chamruma, and on the faith of which they had delivered up their post, yet were they imprisoned, who had surrendered themselves; and that the example of their brethren taught them plain enough, what they must expect, if they relied on these assurances. Yet did not this hinder, but a great number of the Vaudois delivered themselves to the enemy, in that they swore to them that those who had yielded themselves should soon be set at liberty to return to their houses, having been carried to his royal highness only to ask his mercy, but these were also lead away captive, and used in no better sort than the rest.
One would marvel at the easiness wherewith the Vaudois suffered themselves to be deceived so often; but it is to be observed, there were several who did not believe any defense could avail after so many persons and places surrendered. Others feared lest their opposition should prove more than ordinarily prejudicial to their wives and children, who were in prison; and the most part could not imagine their enemies could be cruel enough to starve in prison such as delivered themselves up to their mercy.
They hoped however they should be set at liberty after some months’ imprisonment.
But the remainder of the other Vaudois being much weakened, quitted Villars, on which the enemy seized; who ceased molesting them till May the 4th, when the troops being re-enforced, attacked Boby, where the Vaudois were retired, but they were vigorously beaten back by one hundred and fifty Vaudois, who were in the mountain of Subjusque; and without the loss of one man, killed some officers, and a great many common soldiers. Eight days after the French army joined that of the Duke of Savoy. The enemy then made their last effort to be masters of Boby, but the Vaudois defended themselves so well, that after a fight, which lasted the whole day, they constrained the army to retire, and to encamp at Serre de la Sarsena, with the loss of many men.
The next morning the Marquis de Parelle, who came from the valley of St. Martin with a great detachment, passed over the ridge of Julian, which is an Alp, which was thought inaccessible, and prepared himself to attack the Vaudois behind. Which obliged the Vaudois to quit Boby, and to betake themselves to the woods and rocks. The Marquis de Parelie, and the Count de Brichantan, having possessed themselves of these posts, which the Vaudois had now forsaken, sent several persons to them in their retreats, to exhort them to surrender, and to accept of a pardon; and several of these poor people being pressed with misery and hunger, surrendered themselves to these offers, and became captives by their own credulity. Others yielded to the governor of Mirebouc, on assurance from. him of their lives and liberties; but they also paid for their trust in his word, by a rigorous imprisonment. There were several who had betaken themselves to the mountain of Vandelin, and who fought for some time with great courage and success. Yet they at last too suffered themselves to be over-persuaded by the Counicl la Roche, governor of the valleys, on promise which he made them of their lives and liberties. He assured them by a note, written with his own hand, they should return to their houses; but they had no sooner forsaken their places of retreat, but they were clapped up in prison, and the note taken from them which he had given them.
The enemy of the Vaudois having by the means afore related, taken away the lives of an infinite number of persons, and deprived above twelve thousand of them of their liberties, and carried away and dispersed above two thousand children, thought they had now done their work. They carried on their unjust practices to the end, and caused all the Vaudois’ estates to be confiscated.
And thus were the valleys of Piedmont depopulated of their ancient inhabitants, and the light of the gospel extinguished in a country, where it had shone for so many ages. Thus did perfidiousnsss and violence triumph over the simplicity of the Vaudois, which the Council de Propagatione, and their other enemies have executed to their utter extirpation. But to the end we may know thoroughly with what spirit their persecutors have been animated, we may here see some of the barbarous acts and cruelties they have exercised on these occasions.
Although we design to speak only of those which have been practiced after the compositions; yet we may relate some of the barbarities with which the French signalized their entrance into the valley of St. Martin; not only because they transcend the bounds which Christians ought to set to their victories; but moreover, because they have been committed on persons who offered no resistance. We may then here mention the murders of so many old men, women, and children, who were then the victims of the soldiers’ cruelty; the inexpressible lamentations of those poor women and maidens, who, after the abuse of their bodies, were constrained to travel all night at the head of the army, to serve for guides to the French; and the monstrous and diabolical actions of these furious soldiers, who glutted their filthy lusts on the same bodies they came from depriving of life. But we shall set aside the description of these things to speak of some instances of cruelties and violences exercised after the surrender of the valleys.
The soldiers made several massacres at Angrogne, not here to be instanced, lest it should put us on a long relation of particulars. There were several women and maidens violated, on the account of whose modesty, we shall conceal their names, some of them being yet alive. They would likewise have violated Marguerit Maraude, who was but fourteen years of age; and because James Maraude her father, and Margaret Marnude her aunt, opposed themselves to these violences; they were cruelly murdered.
Susanna Olivette and Margaret Baline, striving to save their chastity, lost their lives by the hands of these barbarians. Joseph David having been wounded at Angrogne, was carried by the soldiers into a neighboring house, where they burnt him. Four women and three children of Prarustin were killed in a hole of a rock, where they had hid themselves. The mother of Daniel Fourneron, aged eighty years, was thrown down a precipice in coining from the pre’ de Tour, because she could not go fast enough. At Pieumian the soldiers slew the wife of James Fourneron and Magdalen Roche, because they did not readily enough deliver the money they had.
Mary Romain, a young and beautiful damsel, promised in marriage to James Griot, was killed for endeavoring to save her chastity. Another virgin, to secure hers, having cast herself into a river, was there shot to death. Several women and maidens, who are yet alive, were dragged by the hair of their heads into neighboring houses, where they were ravished with horrible circumstances; one, through despair, ‘throwing herself out of a window. Honoree Jayer, a young child, having been found among the women, was shot to death. A great number of women and maidens running away into woods, fell by the musket-bullets shot after them to stop them.
The Marquis Parelle, and several Vaudois which he made to march before him, to serve for guides, passing by Pieumian, to go into the valley of St. Martin, found the bodies of several little children cut in pieces, with several naked women, slain with blows, some of which had stones thrust in their privities. They also saw several soldiers, who carried in their hats the marks of a horrible cruelty and a devilish impudicity, at which the Marquis Parelle was scandalized.
In the vale of St. Martin there were six men, twenty women, and some children, who. went and surrendered themselves in the town of Peirouse, on promise made them they should have no harm done them;.but they were no sooner come, but these six men were shot in the presence of their wives. John Ribet of Macel, having been taken, he had his arms and legs burnt, to oblige him to change his religion; but God gave him the grace to obtain the crown of martyrdom, in suffering constantly the death, which these executioners gave him. They likewise inhumanly put to death Bartholomew Ribel, James Brues, and his son. They fastened one poor infirm man to a horse’s tail, whom they dragged about till he expired. They hanged up a poor blind woman at her own door. They found a woman at the point of being delivered, and performed two murders at one blow, in taking away her life, and that of the child in her womb. They pursued two young women from a place called the Colet, to another named Boniot, where, overtaking them, they violated them, and afterwards both shot them and hewed them in pieces.
Four women having fallen at the same time into the hands of these barbarians, met with the same misfortune, only with this; difference, that before they were violated and massacred, they saw their children’s throats cut, in a place called the Fountains. They opened the bodies of a mother and her child and tore out the bowels, which they caused to be burnt.
They slew a great many children in the same place, because they were sick, and were not able to follow them to the prisons, where they would have secured them. Twenty-two persons, who had for a long time lain in woods, and most of which were women and children, were found by these murderers on the mountain of Pelue, and thrown off into dreadful abysses, being miserably shattered and torn by the edges of sharp-pointed flints, on which the entrails of these poor wretches were seen to hang a long time after.
In the vale of Lucerna, Susannah the wife of Daniel Violin, Katherina the wife of James Negrin, Anne Malanote and her daughter were,stabbed in the throats with bayonets. Some soldiers having used all their endeavors to flay Daniel Pelleue alive, and seeing they could not get the skin over his shoulders, they laid him on the ground, and placed a great stone on his belly, and made him thus expire. Daniel Brumerol lost his life with a cord, with which they fastened and straitened, with a dreadful violence, his head to his belly and privates. Anne and Magdalen Vittories, and several others were burnt; the wife of Daniel Monin was slain with a sword, with which her head was cleaved asunder. Anne Bastianne was thrown down from high rocks into a dreadful bottom. David Maudon had also his head cleaved asunder with the blow of a sword. Margaret Salvajot having been stripped naked, had several blows of a dagger struck into her body, but she suffered not only a cruel death in her own person, seeing that before she died, these wretches had so bruised the head of her daughter, but seven months old, against the rocky places, that the brains came out in the mother’s sight. They cut in pieces Mary Salvajot; and poniarded Mary Durand for resisting the attempts made on her chastity. They cut the throat of Mrs. Bertrand, the minister’s mother, who was eighty years of age, and lay bed-rid. A young maiden of Baby was fastened naked on her back on a mule, and thus exposed; and led openly through the town of Lucerna. Amongst a great number of Vaudois which were hanged in Baby, there was one named Anthony Malanot, on whom the soldiers discharged their guns several times after he was dead, making their mark those parts of his body which modesty forbids the mention.
The soldiers having found a woman, named Jaimonate, in a cavern of a rock, on the colliers’ mount, they led her to the Marquis de Bavi, colonel to the regiment of Savoy, who asked her how long she had lain in that place, and how she sustained herself; she answered, she had there hid herself eight days, and lived on the milk which a goat she had taken along with her had yielded her. They would have afterwards obliged her to tell them where the Vaudois were, who hid themselves in rocks, and protesting she knew nothing in that particular, the soldiers, after having given her a kind of torture in fastening and then straightening her fingers with matches to, make her confess, tied her neck and heels, and in this posture threw her down from a high rock; but being stopped in the way, they with stones so bruised her, that her bowels came out, arid at length beat her quite off, in the presence of the Marquis de Bavil. A youth of the valleys named David Magnot, whom this marquis had a fancy to, and had kept to wait on him, having since gotten away, was an eye-witness of this horrid action. Daniel Moudon, one of the elders of the church at Roras, having been the spectator of the death of John and James Maudon, his two children, (whose heads the soldiers cut off,) after he had seen the body of the wife of John ripped up from the navel, and her daughter’s brains beat out, who was not above six weeks old, and the two children of James cut in pieces, (one of which was four years old, and the other fourteen months,) was constrained by these monsters, to carry across his shoulders the heads of his two sons, and to march barefoot two hours’ journey, near Lucerna, where he was hanged in the midst of these two heads, which were fastened to a gibbet.
There would be no end in reciting particular instances of these kinds of cruelties; neither shah we insist on the piteous death of so many ancient and infirm people of all ages, and both sexes, who perished through cold and hunger, as well in woods as holes in the rocks. We here pass over an infinite number of prisoners, who were hanged, without any formality of justice, on the arms of trees, and in towns and villages; amongst which was Paul Megle, an infirm young man, who was carried out of his bed to execution.
What we have related may suffice, I think, to show how far extended the fury of the Vaudois’ enemies. We shall only then add here the death of Mr. Leidet, which is equally worthy of pity and admiration. He was minister of Prabz, in the vale of St. Martin, who had escaped at the surrender of the valleys, and hid himself for some time in the holes of rocks. He was taken by a detachment of soldiers, and carried away to Lucerna, into the palace of the Marquis of Angrogne, where was then the Duke of Savoy. He was put into prison in a tower of this palace, and one of his feet locked into a kind of stocks; where he long remained in this condition with bread and water, not being able to lie down. It was said he was taken with his arms in his hands; but this appearing to be a false accusation, as it was afterwards justified by those who took him, he was left several months is prison, without having any judgment passed on him, and several judges excused themselves from meddling with him. Yet in the mean time no day passed in which he was not exposed to the persecutions of the monks and popish priests, with whom he earnestly disputed, touching his religion, and always confounded them. They brought him one day two Bibles, in which he showed them so clearly the truth of his belief, that they left him and shamefully withdrew, after a dispute which held four hours. They often put him in mind of his approaching death, to affright him, and told him several times, there was no way of escaping it, but by turning Roman catholic; but he received the news of his determined death with great tranquillity. He answered them, that though he well knew they could not justly put him to death, seeing he was not taken with his arms in his hands, and that moreover the Duke of Savoy had promised pardon to all his subjects; yet was he ready to suffer what they might lay upon him, esteeming himself very happy, if he might suffer death for the name of Christ. He strengthened by his example and exhortations the prisoners which were with him, some of which had leave to come to him.
In fine, the monks and friars, being enraged at his zeal and constancy, found at length judges compliant enough to condemn him to die.
The day whereon he was executed, the recorder Salvay pronounced sentence on him, in the presence of several monks, which he heard read with admirable resignation, not showing the least trouble or alteration in his countenance. The monks left him not all that day, although he desired them several times to let him be in private, that he might the better pray to God; but they would not give over troubling him, but forced him into disputes,with them, as believing he was not now in a condition to defend himself against them; but he disengaged himself with such smartness and presence of mind, that they were all astonished at it. Yet this hindered them not from returning the next morning, to have the satisfaction of tormenting him to the end of his life. He said, when he was going out of the prison, that this was a day of double deliverance for him, seeing his body would soon be freed, not only from its corporeal prison, but his soul translated into immortal joy and felicity. He went to the place of execution with inexpressible cheerfulness and resolution, both despising life, which the monks offered him, and death, which was now before his eyes. He made a long and affectionate prayer at the foot of the scaffold, with which, those who stood by, were sensibly touched. He uttered these words on the ladder, “My God, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and died so edifying a death, that the friars themselves, who would not leave him, were forced to acknowledge he died like a righteous person.
CHAPTER - 3
Containing the just diffidence of a part of the Vaudois, which was the cause of their preservation; their courage and firm resolution to defend themselves, which procured them a safe retreat out of the Duke’s dominions, with Letters of safe conduct.
THERE only then remained in the valleys some inhabitants, who, preferring death before servitude, would not hearken to the proposals of peace. Some of these were in the valley of St. Martin, and although the one knew not the design of the others, because the army lying encamped between these two valleys, they could have no communication; yet they were all of the same mind, and both took a resolution worthy of immortal praise. They remained a long time hid and dispersed in the mountains, to prevent their falling into the enemy’s hands, who went every day out in small parties to surprise them. One cannot sufficiently admire the constancy with which they endured all the wearinesses and miseries, to which they lay exposed; being often glad to feed on grass, and the dogs and other beasts which came to prey on the Vaudois’ dead bodies, which lay unburied in the fields. But the French and banditti of Mondovi being retired, they were not so strictly pursued by the Duke of Savoy’s army, which remained alone in the valleys. Then it was, that those who were in the valley of Lucerna began to come out of their hiding places, to seek for food to sustain their languishing spirits. There were not in this valley above forty-two men, besides some women and children, when they were all together met, yet they made several attempts in the plain, always loading themselves with provisions and other necessaries, and worsted in several rencounters divers of the enemy’s detachments, and killed and put to flight a great number of the Savoyards, who were come to inhabit in the valleys; and in fine, performed for several months, such gallant actions, that they put the enemy under contribution, and forced them to furnish them with provisions, for some time, to hinder them from making their inroads into the plain.
We shall not now make a particular relation of these generous attempts, lest we engage in a long discourse, but content ourselves with saying, that the court of Turin, having in vain attempted by force to exterminate them from the valleys, sent them passports in good form, underhand, and hostages for greater security of their retreat, though those who carried these proposals to the Vaudois would by no means allow they acted by the court of Turin’s order. They affirmed, on the contrary, that what they did was of their own motion, and at the desire of some other persons, who undertook to obtain these passports, and deliver them hostages. But it is certain, an affair of this nature could not be carried on without a more than bare connivance from the court of Turin; for besides, that no particular person dared to have undertaken, of his own head, such a business, the passports which were despatched, did afterwards fully show, that all was done by the court’s order.
However, the Vaudois at first refused to hearken to this proposal, whether they thought they ought not to put any confidence in the promises made them, or whether resolving to perish themselves, they would choose rather to deliver their brethren out of captivity, death being more sweet to them than life, whilst they groaned in their chains. A while after this proposal was renewed, and several considerations were offered to oblige them to an acceptance. They were told that the Duke of Savoy had declared, that as long as they were in arms, the prisoners should not be released, and they were positively promised, that as soon as ever they were departed, their brethren should be set at liberty.
So that the Vaudois considering on the one hand, that winter came on, and that they must expect no succors; and on the other, that their resistance might furnish their enemies with a pretense for the detaining of the captives, they thereupon determined to depart their country. It was then agreed and resolved that they should leave the valleys, and depart with their wives and children, arms, and baggage, in two troops or companies, having their charges defrayed, and they conducted as far as Switzerland, at two several times, by one of his royal highness’ captains, with sufficient passports.
That for the greater security of the first troop, which should set out, hostages should be left in the valleys, in the hands of the second, who should keep them till such time as they had heard that the first company was arrived; and then this captain should deliver into their hands an officer of his relations, for a hostage, till such time the second troop or company should be arrived.
This treaty was faithfully executed; for those two companies happily got out of the country into a place of security, with their arms and baggage, under the conduct of this captain. We must not forget one remarkable circumstance, which is, that the Vaudois would never consent to leave the country, till such time as their kindred, who were in prison, were released and sent to them; whence it must be concluded, that this treaty was managed by the court of Turin; seeing these captives could not be released, but by its order.
The Vaudois who were in the vale of St. Martin did almost the same things, as those had done in the valley of Lucerna; for although they were reduced at last but to twenty-five men, and some women and children, yet they defended themselves with such vigor and resolution, that they also procured themselves passes, to retire to Switzerland, with their wives and children, arms, and baggage.
We have already said that those in one valley knew not what passed in the other, because the army cut off all communication. Could they have joined, or heard of each other, no doubt they had made a more advantageous composition, and perhaps delivered their brethren out of their captivity.
For if the court of Turin were willing to keep an army in the valleys to hinder the attempts of the Vaudois, or designed to people this country with Savoyards, who would be far from inhabiting there, as long as there were these people in arms; there is likelihood, that to get rid of them, they would have consented to the deliverance of the prisoners.
CHAPTER - 4
Of the ill treatment of the Vaudois, that had laid down their Arms upon the security of the public faith, with a relation of the cruelties that were exercised on them in Prisons; and at last of their enlargement, at the entreaty of the Swiss Cantons.
WHILST these Vaudois retired into Switzerland, by means of their own valor, which procured them both hostages and letters of safe conduct, the evangelic cantons did all they could, for the deliverance of the captives.
They had written several times fruitlessly to the court of Turin on this occasion; but their zeal and charity being never wearied, they therefore con voked an assembly at Arau, in the month of September, 1686, in which it was resolved to demand again the releasement of the prisoners they sent, for this effect, two deputies to the Count de Govon, the Duke of Savoy’s resident, at Lucerna in Switzerland; and having showed him the reasons which engaged the evangelic cantons to interest themselves in behalf of the Vaudois, they entered into a treaty with him in the beginning of October, with the consent of their superiors; which treaty obliges the Duke of Savoy to permit all the prisoners to come into Switzerland, and to clothe them, and defray the charge of their journey, till they came on the frontiers, where the evangelic cantons would take care of them, and conduct them into the heart of their country; to the end, they might not be in a condition to return to Piedmont. When this treaty was made, it was without doubt unknown at Lucerna that the Vandois we now speak of, were already retired; for there is an article which says, that the duke should give them passports in good form, to enable them to depart safely and freely, which would not have been inserted in this treaty, had what had passed on their account been known. However the cantons immediately ratified this treaty, which the duke did not till some time after, in a letter he wrote on this occasion, in which he directs the course, which the prisoners were to take, over mountains, then inaccessible, and through the country of Valay, which depends neither on the Duke of Savoy, nor the Switzers, and through which there could be no entrance, without negotiating with the Bishop of Sion, to whom it belongs. It is apparent, it was designed to raise obstacles against the performance of this treaty, otherwise they would not have marked out the way into other countries than those of Savoy, where the roads lie more commodious to go into Switzerland. The evangelic cantons complained of this to the Count de Govon, about which, having written to the court of Turin, the duke at length gave order, they should pass through Savoy to the canton of Berne, and caused the prison doors to be set open: but this was not before the midst of winter, and in so rigorous a season, that according to all appearances, those who had escaped the hardships in the prison, must perish in their way.
It will be very difficult to represent all the miseries and calamities which the captives had endured, during nine months’ imprisonment. Yet there are exact memorials of what hath passed in each particular prison, which is matter enough for a particular history. But we shall content ourselves with giving some general representations of the miseries they have suffered.
They were carried then into prison at divers times, and as fast as they surrendered themselves, or were taken. They were dispersed to the number of twelve thousand men, women, and children, into fourteen prisons or castles of the states of Piedmont; and were moral or less severely used, according to the humours of those who were the keepers of the prisons; but it is certain they were every where exposed to great hardships and sufferings. Their allowance in every prison was but bread and water, neither had they enough of that; in some prisons they had very black bread allowed them, which had no substance, and such as was kneaded with filthy water, that run down the kennels, and in which was found all manner of nastiness. [And in the bread, they often found lime, glass, and other filth.] In other places they had stinking water given them, and such as could not be drank, but by those who were ready to perish with thirst. They were obliged, in some places, to go and fetch water, but out of horse-ponds, and wherein were dogs thrown at the same time they took it. In certain places they were not suffered to draw water out of wells, that being judged too good for them: in other places they were permitted to have water only at certain hours, out of which they were not to have any, which has occasioned several sick persons to expire through need of a glass of water to refresh them. They were forced all of them to lie on bricks, with which the floors are paved in Piedmont, without straw; or if they had any given them, in some places, it was either such as was so short that it was mere dust, or else such as was musty.
They were so straitened, and pent up in some prisons, that they could not stir without great difficulty; and when they died, which every day happened, the apartments were filled up with others, that they might have no more ease. The stifling heat of the summer, and the filthy corruption with which the chambers were infected, by reason of the sick, had engendered such a great quantity of lice, that the prisoners could have no test, either night or day. They were also troubled with great worms, which gnawed their skins.
There were several sick people who may be said to have been the worm’s food in their lifetime; for these poor people not being able to rise up, they were so gnawed with them that their skin being already rotted, fell off from their flesh in small pieces; and in this miserable and languishing condition did they lie, till their deaths had put an end to all their sufferings.
They did not only endure all the inconveniencies of an excessive heat, but moreover those of a severe cold, seeing that in the midst of winter, they never had any fire given them, nor any clothes to warm them, although they were in high rooms, the greatest part of which lay exposed (without windows) to the weather. [Which in that season and country is extremely rigorous, being near those mountains of eternal snow.] They never had any light allowed them in winter and summer, although they were often submissively asked, to relieve the sadness of their conditions in the dark nights, and to help the sick amongst them, several of which have perished for want of succor. A great many women have also died in childbirth, for want of help in the night, and their loss has been followed with that of their children, who have received death at the instant wherein they should have obtained life. Sick people have been severed from the sound, and laid in open places, exposed to the injuries of the air, the winds, and storms. But this cruelty has been in some sort a kindness, seeing it has brought them to the end of their miseries, in the end of their lives. In other prisons, there have been several children sick of the smallpox, laid in wet yards, and under spouts, to have the water fall on them.
They were not contented in not assisting the sick themselves, but they also hindered charitable people from bringing them broth, and other necessaries. When the prisoners have dared to complain of the little charity showed them, they have been laden with injuries, threats, and blows. They were told, that instead of showing them compassion, they should be used like dogs, till they were all dead. There was scarcely any prisoner who was not burdened with some distemper.
There have been so many sick, that no less than seventy-five have been counted to lie ill at one time in a room. There have been taken out of the prisons a great many young children, notwithstanding the tears and supplications of both them and their parents. In fine, the prisoners have underwent such liar&hips, that it is scarce credible there should be so much cruelty amongst those who bear the Christian name, were it not well known to what point the enemies of the Vaudois have extended their fury.
But we cannot doubt of the excess of their rage, when it is notorious that above eight thousand of these poor creatures have expired under the weight of this cruel slavery.
Yet as if it was not enough that their bodies were thus afflicted, they have been, moreover, persecuted in their souls. For the monks and friars have used all possible means to make them change their religion; but God had endued them with the grace of persevering to the end, and there were few who fell under the burden of the temptation. Those who turned, were not used so severely as the rest, but were notwithstanding detained in captivity.
The prisoners were in this piteous condition when the Duke of Savoy caused to be published in the prisons the order, which permitted them to go forth, and retire into Switzerland. This publication was not made every where in the. same manner, nor at the same time; but successively, and according as the prisoners were set at liberty. Yet it was read in most of the prisons by an officer of justice, who, causing the prisoners to come before him, declared to them that all those who would depart out of the states of Piedmont, to go into Switzerland, might do it, and even those who had promised to change their religion; because the promises which had been made in prison, were to be considered as forced, and consequently void. He added, they were at liberty either to go, or stay, if they became catholics. Yet the prisoners had not all the liberty of choice which they pretended was granted them; for the monks and officers of the prisons, who were present at this publication, endeavored to avert the effect of it. Sometimes they were told that the rigor of the season, and the cruelty of the soldiers who conducted them, would destroy a great part of them in the way. Other times they were flattered with the hopes of returning into their own houses, if they would abjure their religion. But these considerations not being able to prevail on them, they were many times grievously beaten, as it happened in the prisons of Ast, where the governor gave them a thousand blows with a cane, in the presence of the auditor Leonardy. They were shut up in dungeons, and in the most noisome and filthy parts of the castles of Queirasque, and others. In fine, there were so many obstacles laid before them, that some fell under the temptation, and yielded to a change of religion. But instead of resettling them in their houses, they were led (as it were) into captivity into the province of Verceil, the least grateful, and most barren place in all the duke’s dominions. We must not omit some circumstances which are considerable enough; the one, that several young children, as well those who were brought up in prison, as others who were dispersed over Piedmont, having known that liberty was granted the prisoners, pressed earnestly to go with their fathers and mothers, but this could not be obtained; the other, that the permission of departure was not published in the prisons of Lucerna, but only fixed up at a place, to the end, the prisoners might not have the advantage of it; and in fine, the prisoners who were in the dungeon of Ast, and their families, which were in the citadel of Turin, had not the benefit of this declaration.
Soon after this publication, the Vaudois were made to set forth in several troops or companies, which were conducted to Geneva, by the duke’s officers and soldiers. It was promised by this treaty made with the Count de Govon, that the captives should be clothed, and yet there were nothing given them but some ragged old coats and breeches; but it was not only in this point that the treaty was not executed, it was violated in several others of great importance. For, besides the cruelties which were exercised on several companies, they were bereaved of a great many of their children in their journey. There happened two things amongst others, from which one may judge of the rest. The one regards the prisoners which were at Mondovi, who, about Christmas were told there was an order, the contents of which was, that if they did not immediately depart, this liberty would be revoked the next morning.
These miserable poor creatures were all in a sick and languishing condition.
Yet did they choose to be gone immediately without any convoy, and to expose themselves to imminent danger, rather than to groan any longer under this cruel captivity. They set out then in a night, the most cold and incommodious imaginable, and traveled four or five leagues without resting, on snow or ice, but with that misfortune, that there were above a hundred and fifty who fell by the way and. died; their brethren not being able to give them any assistance.
The other respects the prisoners who were at Forsan. There were a company of these poor captives, who, having lain at Novalaise, at the foot of Mount Senis, perceived the next morning, at their setting out, that a great storm was rising on this mountain. Some of this company showed the storm to the officer who conducted them, and entreated him to stay till it was past, and not to expose them to apparent danger, and to have pity on so many persons, most of whom were without any strength or spirit; they also told him, that if he would be so charitable to them, they should ask him for no bread; choosing rather to abide without any nourishment than to throw themselves into this danger. But this officer had the cruelty to make them travel immediately, and to sacrifice a part of them to his barbarity. For there were fourscore and six who perished on the mountain by the storm. These were ancient infirm people, women and small children, who had not strength to resist the severity of the weather, and whom their friends were forced. to leave as a prey to the wild beasts; this officer not suffering them to pay them any charitable office. The following companies, and several merchants, who passed soon after over this mountain, saw the bodies of these poor creatures stretched out on the snow; the mothers having still their children in their arms.
The evangelic cantons having been informed of the taking away of the children from their parents, and other bad usages of the Vaudois in their way, thought themselves still obliged in charity to endeavor their relief.
They sent deputies for this end to the court of Turin, as well to favor the journey of the several companies, who were not then arrived at Geneva, as to demand the restitution of the children taken up in the way, and other young people of both sexes, who were dispersed in Piedmont, at the surrender of the valleys. And receiving at the same time a letter from the Count de Govon, by which they were informed that his master had deferred, for some time, the deliverance of the ministers, and would not release some prisoners who had been taken with their arms in their hands, and were condemned to work all their lives on his royal highness’ fortifications; the evangelic cantons therefore commanded their deputies to demand the liberty of the ministers, and all other prisoners, according to the treaty made with the Count de Govon. But before we speak of the success of this negotiation, we must see in what condition the Vaudois were, when they arrived at Geneva.
They came thither at several times, and in several companies, which in all made not above two thousand five hundred persons; but they were all in so bad and deplorable a condition, that it is not possible to express it.
There were several of these poor people who dropped down dead at the town gates, and who met with the end of their lives in the beginning of their liberty. Others were so dispirited with sickness and grief, that they were expected every moment to expire in the arms of those who had the charity to sustain them. Others were so frozen with cold, that they had not the power to speak; some staggered under the weight of their distempers and weariness; others were deprived of the use of their limbs, and could not hold out their hands to receive the assistance which was offered them. The greatest part of them were naked and without shoes; in fine, both one and the other carried such marks of an excessive suffering and extreme misery, that the hardest heart must needs be grieved at it.
The companies staying some time at Geneva to rest and refresh themselves, before they parted for Switzerland; those who were first arrived, went out to meet those who came next, to inform themselves touching the condition of their relations, of whom they had not heard since the troubles in the valleys. A father demanded news of his child, a child what was become of his father, a husband of his wife, a wife inquired after her husband, and every one endeavored to learn what was become of his friend; but this being commonly in vain, seeing most part of them were dead in prison; this occasioned such a sad and lamentable spectacle, that all the beholders melted into tears, whilst these poor people, oppressed and overwhelmed with the excess of their grief, were not able to weep and bemoan themselves.
But if it be difficult fully to represent the misery of these poor people’s condition, it is no less hard a task to express the abundant charity those of Geneva showed on these occasions. The inhabitants strove so fast to meet those piteous objects to bring them into their houses, that the magistrate was obliged to forbid the people going out of the town, to avoid the inconveniences which this hurry caused. Every one strove who should have the most of these sick and distressed persons, to have the more occasion for the exercise of their charity. They were tended not only with the same care as their own children, but moreover, as persons which brought peace and a blessing into their families. There has been an extraordinary care taken of the sick, of which several have died at Geneva; and some of which do still carry the marks which the worms have made in their bodies. All the Vaudois who needed clothes, have been furnished either by those who lodged them, or out of the Italian stock, the managers of which have showed, from the beginning to the end, the marks of a tender compassion and ardent charity.
But it was not only in Geneva where the Vaudois were so kindly entertained; they also met with the same compassion in Switzerland, where the evangelic cantons received them in the most generous and Christian manner imaginable. And it is not only in respect of the Vaudois, but also of the other protestants, that one may say, that the country of Switzerland is an assured port of divine appointment, for the reception of those who are exposed on the waves of persecution.
The deputies then of the evangelic cantons being arrived at Turin, demanded the liberty of the ministers, and other prisoners, and the restitution of the children, as well of those who were taken away from their parents in their journey, as of those who were dispersed in Piedmont, at the time of the surrender of the valleys. They showed that in respect of the ministers, there could be no lawful pretense to detain them, not only because they were comprehended in the treaty made with the Count de Govon; but moreover, because they were the principal objects of the Switzers’ intercession; besides, that it is very just to remit the pastors to their flocks, to comfort arid encourage them under their sufferings. As to the prisoners condemned for all their life-time, to work on the fortifications, they likewise showed they were not distinguished from the rest, under pretense they are more faulty. For 1st, the treaty makes no exception to their prejudice: and says, that all the prisoners in general shall be released. 2dly, The Count de Govon has himself declared in a letter which he wrote on this subject, on the part of the duke his master, that they pretended not to retain any prisoners. 3dly, That seeing his royal highness was willing to grant safe conduct to those who were actually armed; on greater reason liberty should be granted to the prisoners in question, to depart, who have been always considered as far less criminal.
And as to the little children, they showed that as well those ought to be released, who. had been taken away in their passage, as others who had been dispersed in Piedmont, because both one and the other were retained contrary to the engagements of the treaty. But neither the solicitations nor arguments of these deputies produced any effect, they only served to procure the restitution of some of the children, which were carried away in the passage; for the surplus are still in the states of Piedmont. It is true that the court of Turin hath promised to deliver the ministers, but would not fix the time. As yet their are dispersed with their families, which consist of forty-seven persons, into three prisons or castles, where they are strictly kept, and exposed to great inconvenience and misery, without any appearance of their liberty.
And thus you have an abridgement of what has passed, that is most considerable on the occasion of the dissipation of the churches and inhabitants of the valleys of Piedmont. And there needs no more to show, there was never arty persecution more unjust and violent. As to these poor people themselves, they hope that all the reformed states will look with an eye of pity on their sufferings, and have some feeling of their griefs. They are the remains of those mother churches that can claim the greatest and purest antiquity, who from the bottom of their Alps had enlightened a great part of the world. But they are such sad remnants, and those reduced into so small a number, and such a deplorable condition, that we cannot behold either their diminution, or their misery, without being pierced with extreme sorrow. They implore then the protection of kings and princes, and protestant states, and in fine, of all true Christians. They entreat them, by the remembrance of what Christ has done and suffered for them, to give ear to the sorrowful cries of the oppressed, and to continue their charitable exhibitions to a remnant, whom God has delivered from both a corporeal and spiritual bondage. By which means, they shall be enabled to pray without ceasing for their benefactors, that God would reward their charity with uninterrupted peace, health, and plenty, in this life, and with immortal glory in the world to come.
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS OF SAVOY’S LETTERS TO, AND IN BEHALF OF, THE INHABITANTS OF THE VALLEYS.
To our most dear and faithful subjects of the valleys of Lucerna, Peirouse, St. Martin, and parts of Prarustin, of St. Bartholomew, and Rocheplate.
The Duke of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont, King of Cyprus, etc.
Most dear and faithful subjects:
Having taken very kindly the zeal and readiness wherewith you have provided us men, who have served us to our entire satisfaction in the occasions which we have had with the Genoise; we are therefore willing to give you this present testimony of it, assuring you we shall not lose the remembrance of it, that you may find in all necessities the benefits of our royal protection, as you shall more particularly understand from the count and intendant Boccaria, whom we have commanded to declare more fully to you our thoughts in this matter, and who is to take an account of the officers and soldiers who were killed or remain prisoners, to make us a report of them, that we may not be ignorant of their condition.
In the mean time these presents will serve you for an assured testimony of our satisfaction, and prayers to God to defend you from all evil.
From Turin, the 5th of November, 1678. (Signed) C. EMANUEL.
To the commonalties of the valleys of Lucerna, St. Martin, Peirouse, Prarustin, St. Bartholomew, and Rocheplate.
The copy of a letter written to the Count Boccaria, by his Royal Highness.
My Lord and most dear, etc. THE men whom the commonalties of the valleys of Lucerna, etc. have so well served us, that being willing to testify to them our satisfaction, we therefore have directed to you the letter subjoined to this, that you may deliver it to them, and may more fully express to them, the good will we bear them. Requiring you likewise to assure them, that whenever their need requires, we shall have a particular regard to their affection, and at the same time do you take a note of the officers and soldiers who were killed or taken prisoners, to make a report to us thereof, that we may take order accordingly. Thus remitting to your care, whatever more is necessary to signify our satisfaction and pleasure in their zeal and readiness, we beseech God to preserve you.
At Turin, the 5th of November, 1672. (Signed) C. EMANUEL.
To the Count Am. Boccaria, Counsellor of State, and Superintendent General of the Valleys.- The order of Don Gabriel of Savoy, in favor of the Inhabitants of the Valleys.
Don Gabriel of Savoy, Marquis of Rive, General of His Royal Highness’ army, both of horse and foot. “THE officers here below mentioned, of the valleys of Lucerna, having given such proofs of their zeal for his royal highness’ service, in all occasions which have offered, especially in the commotions of this province; that we think ourselves obliged to give them this testimony; to the end that in other exigeneies, wherein his royal highness’ service shall be concerned, they may be encouraged to continue these proofs of their zeal. And therefore, by virtue of the authority which we have from his royal highness, we permit the below-mentioned to wear and carry arms, provided they make no ill use of them. And we command all those depending on our orders of general, that they neither give nor permit to be given them any trouble for so doing, this being his royal highness’ will and pleasure.”
Given at Mondovi, the 29th of Sept. 1681. The Declaration and Manifesto of the Protestants of the Valleys of Piedmont, called the Vaudois, to all Christian Princes and States, of the reasons of their taking up arms just now against the Duke of Savoy. And why they have put themselves under the protection of William, King of Great Britain, and of the evangelic cantons of Switzerland. 1690.
To all Christian emperors, kings, princes, and states, the remonstrance and declarations of us the native and ancient inhabitants of the valleys of Lucerne, Peirouse, and St. Martin, commonly called the Valleys of Piedmont, greeting. IT it not unknown to all Europe, that of time out of mind, we and our ancestors have been in the uninterrupted possession of the aforesaid valleys, and of the same religion which we profess at this very day, without any considerable alteration either in doctrine or discipline: and that under the successive reigns of the princes of Piedmont and Pignerol: and that at length about four hundred years ago, upon the filling of the princes of that family, we put ourselves under the dominion of the house of Savoy, upon certain conditions and articles then agreed on for security of our religion and liberties.
Under which family of Savoy our ancestors lived in the greatest peace and ease for two ages and more, till by the unhappy counsels of some about our princes, we were put to great severities in the last age, on the account of religion; notwithstanding whereof, their royal highnesses were pleased at several times, and upon several occasions, to ratify our rights and privileges, and to grant us full and free liberty in the exercise of our religion; and particularly in the years 1561, 1602, 1603, and in the year 1620. All which were formally and solemnly ratified and enrolled in the chamber of Turin, and declared to be irrevocable, inviolable, and perpetual laws: and the execution thereof was ordained by several decrees of the said chamber, and by the senate of Turin, in the years 1638, 1649, 1654, and 1655.
In which year 1655, the Council de Propaganda Fide, settled at Turin some years before, taking the occasion of the minority of Charles Emanuel, then Duke of Savoy, caused to be published an edict, ordering all the inhabitants of the valleys to quit them within three days, and to retire to the mountains, under the pain of death, in case they did not renounce and abjure their religion they had been educated in. And albeit the said inhabitants did really obey this unjust order, as much as the shortness of time granted them would allow, by making ready to remove, yet upon it fell out that horrid and execrable massacre, whereof all Europe has to this day an abhorrence. But at length, by the intercession of several Christian princes and states with the then Duke of Savoy, and the dutchess, then regent, the said cruel edict of putting us all to the edge of the sword, was recalled, and a new confirmation given us as to our whole liberties, and the free exercise of our religion, upon the 9th of August, 1655, which was thereafter enrolled in the senate and chamber of Turin.
Notwithstanding this confirmation of our privileges, several bad ministers did in many particulars infringe it by oppressions and designed stretches of law; and at last, in the year 1663, they reacted the same tragedies upon us, as they had done in the year 1655. At which time, at the intercession of the same Christian princes, we obtained another solemn, irrevocable, and perpetual patent in the month of February, 1664, likewise ratified in the senate and chamber of Turin.
Since which time, we, the inhabitants of the valleys, lived in great peace, and did many remarkable and important services to the late Duke of Savoy, father to his present royal highness, and to his royal highness himself, both in the war against the state and republic of Genoa, in the year 1672, and against the banditti in Mondovi, in the year 1681 and 1684.
As was acknowledged by his royal highness in his letters written to us on that occasion, which was also enrolled in the chamber of accounts of Turin.
Thus we rested secure of our own innocence, and of the many reiterated assurances of his royal highness’ favor to, and protection of us, till the 31st day of January, 1685. At which time, without any imaginable provocation on our part, there was published in the valleys an edict of his royal highness the Duke of Savoy, prohibiting the exercise of our religion upon pain of death, and confiscation of moveables, ordering all our churches to be immediately demolished, all our ministers to be banished, all our children to be educated and baptized in the Roman catholic religion.
This dreadful edict was received among us with the greatest astonish. ment, and in a moment seemed to disanimate us altogether.
But at length we so far recovered ourselves from our consternation, as to fall upon the ordinary means we had many times tried before; and considering that it was more the effect of bad counsel than from the natural inclinations of his royal highness himself, of whose good intentions towards us we had so many proofs: we had recourse to supplications, and presented his royal highness four several petitions for recalling this bloody order; and at the same time made our address to the evangelic cantons of Switzerland, to intercede with his royal highness on our behalf.
Whereupon in an assembly of the said cantons, held at Baden, in the month of February, 1686, they despatched ambassadors to his royal highness at Turin, to solicit the revocation of that edict against us; and all the answer they could obtain, was, that it was not in his power to recall the edict, because his royal highness had passed his word to the most Christian king already to the contrary. Whereupon the ambassadors of the evangelic cantons seeing no other way at present to save us, proposed to the court of Turin, that we, the inhabitants of the valleys, might have leave between that and a fixed time, to depart to another country, with our families and goods, under the Duke of Savoy’s safe conduct. And to this end, the said ambassadors procured leave from his royal highness to allow certain deputies of ours to come to Turin, in order to concert and agree on the articles.
But in the mean time that we were meeting in an assembly at Angrogne about this affair, came out a second order from his royal highness, unknown to the said ambassadors, bearing date the 9th of April, 1686, for an amnesty to the inhabitants of the valleys, upon condition they immediately remove out of his royal highness countries, with their families and goods, but the order was so clogged and full of limitations and restrictions, that it was palpable to every body that it was nothing but a snare to intrap us, and to delude the solicitations of the ambassadors of the evangelic cantons; for according to the terms of this order, we were to remove in so few days, to leave such and such things behind us; we were to be separated in small troops, so many miles from one another, that we expected to be just so treated as in the massacre in the year 1655. Upon which sad juncture, we resolved to stand to our own innocent and lawful defense, till we might appease, by foreign intercessions, the wrath of the Duke of Savoy, and obtain for ourselves a lasting peace.
In perseverance of this resolution, it is known sufficiently to all the world, what dreadful afflictions, murders, rapes, tortures, and all manner of barbarities we suffered by an army of Savoy on the one hand, and of France on the other, till we were reduced to a poor handful of starved and infirm creatures, whereof the most of them perished in the mountains for hunger.
And at last, the miserable remainder, after our enemies had sufficiently glutted their rage with the blood of our brethren, were sent away to Geneva and Switzerland in the most deplorable condition that ever was seen in the world: many of us dying in the road through cold and sickness.
Since which time we have been forced to wander in strange countries, where we have been, against our wills, burdensome to the inhabitants, who have showed us a Christian sympathy and compassion.