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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

And reached France in September 1574


Catherine

was both furious and confounded at the audacity of these "rascals" (_ces miserables_), as she called them. She declared that Conde, if he had been at the head of twenty thousand cavalry and fifty thousand infantry, would never have asked for the half of what these articles demanded. The Queen Mother found herself face to face with men on whom she might practise all her arts in vain, very different from the _debonnaire_ Huguenot princes whom she had been able to cajole with feminine graces and enervate with her "Flying Squadron." These farmers, citizens, artisans knew her and her Court, and called things by rude names. She herself was a "murderess," and her "Flying Squadron" were "fallen women." She had cleared away the Huguenot aristocracy to find herself in presence of the Protestant democracy.

The worst of it was that she dared not allow the King to give them a decided answer. A new force had been rising in France since Saint Bartholomew's Day--the _Politiques_,[222] as they were called. They put France above religious parties, and were weary of the perpetual bloodshed; they said that "a man does not cease to be a citizen because he is excommunicated"; they declared that "with the men they had lost in the religious wars they could have driven Spain out of the Low Countries." They chafed under the rule of "foreigners," of the Queen Mother and her Italians, of the Guises and their Jesuits. They were prepared to unite with the Huguenots in order

to give France peace. They only required leaders who could represent the two sides of the coalition. If the Duke of Alencon, the youngest brother of the King, and Henry of Navarre could escape from the Court and raise their standards together, they were prepared to join them.

Charles IX. died on Whitsunday 1574 of a disease which the tainted blood of the Valois and the Medicis induced. The memories of Saint Bartholomew also hastened his death. Private memoirs of courtiers tell us that in his last weeks of fever he had frightful dreams by day and by night. He saw himself surrounded by dead bodies; hideous faces covered with blood thrust themselves forward towards his. The crime had not been so much his as his mother's, but _he_ had something of a conscience, and felt its burden. "Et ma Mere" was his last word--an appeal to his mother, whom he feared more than his God.

On Charles' death, Henry, Duke of Anjou, succeeded as Henry III.[223] He was in Poland--king of that distracted country. He abandoned his crown, evaded his subjects, and reached France in September 1574. His advent did not change matters much. Catherine still ruled in reality. The war went on with varying success in different parts of France. But the Duke of Anjou (the Duke of Alencon took this title on his brother's accession) succeeded in escaping from Court (Sept. 15th, 1575), and the King of Navarre also managed to elude his guardians (Feb. 3rd, 1576). Anjou joined the Prince of Conde, who was at the head of a mixed force of Huguenots and Politiques. Henry of Navarre went into Poitou and remained there. His first act was to attend the Protestant worship, and immediately afterwards he renounced his forced adhesion to Romanism. He did not join any of the parties in the field, but sent on his own demands to be forwarded to the King along with those of the confederates, adding to them the request that the King should aid him to recover the Spanish part of Navarre which had been forcibly annexed to Spain by Ferdinand of Aragon.


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