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

A member of the Parlement of Toulouse


Sec. 8. _The higher Aristocracy won for the Reformation._

When the lists of Protestants who suffered for their faith in France or who were compelled to take refuge in Geneva and other Protestant towns are examined and analysed, as they have been by French archaeologists, it is found that the great number of martyrs and refugees were artisans, tradesmen, farmers, and the like.[203] A few names of "notables"--a general, a member of the _Parlement_ of Toulouse, a "gentleman" of Limousin--are found among the martyrs, and a much larger proportion among the fugitives. The names of members of noble houses of France are conspicuous by their absence. This does not necessarily mean that the new teaching had not found acceptance among men and women in the upper classes of French society. The noble of the sixteenth century, so long as he remained within his own territory and in his chateau, was almost independent. He was not subject to the provincial tribunals. Protestantism had been spreading among such. We hear of several high-born ladies present in the congregation of three or four hundred Protestants who were surrounded in a large house in the Rue St. Jacques (Sept. 4th, 1558), and who were released. Renee, daughter of Louis XII., Duchess of Ferrara, had declared herself a Protestant, and had been visited by Calvin as early as 1535.[204] Francis d'Andelot, the youngest of the three Chatillons, became a convert during his imprisonment at Melun (1551-56).

His more celebrated brother, Gaspard de Coligny, the Admiral of France, became a Protestant during his imprisonment after the fall of St. Quentin (1558).[205] De Beze (Beza) tells us that as early as 1555, Antoine de Bourbon, titular King of Navarre in right of his wife Jeanne d'Albret, and next in succession to King Henri II. and his sons, had the new faith preached in the chapel at Nerac, and that he asked a minister to be sent to him from Geneva. His brother Louis, Prince of Conde, also declared himself on the Protestant side. The wives of the brothers Bourbon, Jeanne d'Albret and Eleanor de Roye, were more determined and consistent Protestants than their husbands. The two brothers were among those present at the assemblies in the Pre-aux-Clercs, where for five successive evenings (May 13-17) more than five thousand persons met to sing Clement Marot's Psalms.[206] Calvin wrote energetically to all these great nobles, urging them to declare openly on the side of the Gospel, and protect their brethren in the faith less able to defend themselves.

Sec. 9. _France ruled by the Guises._[207]

The successor of Henry II. was his son Francis II., who was fifteen years of age, and therefore entitled by French law to rule in his own name. He was a youth feeble in mind and in body, and devotedly attached to his young and accomplished wife, Mary Queen of Scots. She believed naturally that her husband could not do better than entrust the government of the kingdom to her uncles, Charles the Cardinal of Lorraine, and Francis the Duke de Guise. The Cardinal had been Henry II.'s most trusted Minister; and his brother was esteemed to be the best soldier in France. When the _Parlement_ of Paris, according to ancient custom, came to congratulate the King on his succession, and to ask to whom they were to apply in affairs of State, they were told by the King that they were to obey the Cardinal and the Duke "as himself." The Constable de Montmorency and the favourite, Diane de Poitiers, were sent from the Court, and the Queen-Mother, Catherine de' Medici, that "shopkeeper's daughter," as the young Queen called her, found herself as devoid of influence as she had been during the lifetime of her husband.

The Cardinal of Lorraine had been the chief adviser of


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