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

But it was not so easy to catch the Bearnese


At

Tours, on the other hand, the fact that the heir to the throne was a Protestant, threw the Roman Catholic nobles into a state of perplexity. They had no sympathy with the League, but many felt that they could not serve a Protestant king. They pressed round the new King, beseeching him to abjure his faith at once. Henry refused to do what would humiliate himself, and could not be accepted as an act of sincerity. On the other hand, the nobles of Champagne, Picardy, and the Isle of France sent assurances of allegiance; the Duke of Montpensier, the husband of the Leaguer Duchess, promised his support; and the Swiss mercenaries declared that they would serve for two months without pay.

Sec. 20. _The Declaration of Henry IV._[229]

Thus encouraged, Henry published his famous declaration (Aug. 4th, 1589). He promised that the Roman Catholic would remain the religion of the realm, and that he would attempt no innovations. He declared that he was willing to be instructed in its tenets, and that within six months, if it were possible, he would summon a National Council. The Roman Catholics would be retained in their governments and charges; the Protestants would keep the strongholds which were at present in their hands; but all fortified places when reduced would be entrusted to Roman Catholics and none other. This declaration was signed by two Princes of the Blood, the Prince of Conti and the Duke of Montpensier; by

three Dukes and Peers, Longueville, Luxembourg-Piney, and Rohan-Montbazon; by two Marshals of France, Biron and d'Aumont; and by several great officers. Notwithstanding, the defections were serious; all the _Parlements_ save that of Bordeaux thundered against the heretic King; all the great towns save Tours, Bordeaux, Chalons, Langres, Compiegne, and Clermont declared for the League. The greater part of the kingdom was in revolt. The royalist troops dwindled away. It was hopeless to think of attacking Paris, and Henry IV. marched for Normandy with scarcely seven thousand men. He wished to be on the sea coast in hope of succour from England.

The Duke of Mayenne followed him with an army of thirty thousand men. He had promised to the Parisians to throw the "Bearnese" into the sea, or to bring him in chains to Paris, But it was not so easy to catch the "Bearnese." In the series of marches, countermarches, and skirmishes which is known as the battle of Arques, the advantage was on the side of the King; and when Mayenne attempted to take Dieppe by assault, he was badly defeated (Sept. 24th, 1589). Then followed marches and countermarches; the King now threatening Paris and then retreating, until at last the royalist troops and the Leaguers met at Ivry. The King had two thousand cavalry and eight thousand infantry to meet eight thousand cavalry and twelve thousand infantry (including seventeen hundred Spanish troops sent by the Duke of Parma) under the command of Mayenne. The battle resulted in a surprising and decisive victory for the King. Mayenne and his cousin d'Aumale escaped only by the swiftness of their horses (March 14th, 1590).

It is needless to say much about the war or about the schemes of parties. Henry invested Paris, and had almost starved it into surrender, when it was revictualled by an army led from the Low Countries by the Duke of Parma. Henry took town after town, and gradually isolated the capital. In 1590 (May 10th) the old Cardinal Bourbon (Charles X.) died, and the Leaguers lost even the semblance of a legitimate king. The more fanatical members of the party, represented by the "Sixteen" of Paris, would have been content to place France under the dominion of Spain rather than see a heretic king. The Duke of Mayenne had long cherished dreams that the crown might come to him. But the great mass of the influential people of France who had not yet professed allegiance to Henry IV. (and many who had) had an almost equal dread of Spanish domination and of a heretic ruler.


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