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

And saw her dependants attracted by the preaching at Vassy


The

edict of January 17th, 1562, had exasperated the Romanists without satisfying the mass of the Protestants. The marked increase in the numbers of Protestant congregations, and their not very strict observance of the limitations of the edict, had given rise to disturbances in many parts of the country. Everything seemed to tend towards civil war. The spark which kindled the conflagration was the Massacre of Vassy.[217]

Sec. 12. _The Massacre of Vassy._

The Duke of Guise, travelling from Joinville to Paris, accompanied by his brother, the Cardinal of Guise, his children and his wife, and escorted by a large armed retinue, halted at Vassy (March 1st, 1562). It was a Sunday, and the Duke wished to hear Mass. Scarcely a gunshot from the church was a barn where the Protestants (in defiance of the edict, for Vassy was a walled town) were holding a service. The congregation, barely a year old, was numerous and zealous. It was an eyesore to Antoinette de Bourbon, the mother of the Guises, who lived in the neighbouring chateau of Joinville, and saw her dependants attracted by the preaching at Vassy. The Duke was exasperated at seeing men whom he counted his subjects defying him in his presence. He sent some of his retainers to order the worshippers to quit the place. They were received by cries of "Papists! idolaters!" When they attempted to force an entrance, stones began to fly, and the Duke was struck. The barn was

rushed, the worshippers fusilladed, and before the Duke gave orders to cease firing, sixty-three of the six or seven hundred Protestants were slain, and over a hundred wounded.

The news of the massacre spread fast; and while it exasperated the Huguenots, the Romanists hailed it as a victory. The Constable de Montmorency and the Marshal Saint Andre went out to meet the Duke, and the Guises entered Paris in triumph, escorted by more than three thousand armed men. The Protestants began arming themselves, and crowded to Paris to place themselves under the orders of the Prince of Conde. It was feared that the two factions would fight in the streets.

The Regent with the King retired to Fontainebleau. She was afraid of the Triumvirs (Montmorency, the Duke of Guise, and Marshal Saint-Andre), and she invited the Prince de Conde to protect her and her children. Conde lost this opportunity of placing himself and his co-religionists in the position of being the support of the throne. The Triumvirate, with Antoine de Bourbon, who now seemed to be their obedient servant, marched on Fontainebleau, and compelled the King and the Queen Mother to return to Paris. Catherine believed that the Protestants had abandoned her, and turned to the Romanists.

The example of massacre given at Vassy was followed in many places where the Romanists were in a majority. In Paris, Sens, Rouen, and elsewhere, the Protestant places of worship were attacked, and many of the worshippers slain. At Toulouse, the Protestants shut themselves up in the Capitol, and were besieged by the Romanists. They at last surrendered, trusting to a promise that they would be allowed to leave the town in safety. The promise was not kept, and three thousand men, women, and children were slain in cold blood. This slaughter, in violation of oath, was celebrated by the Roman Catholics of Toulouse in centenary festivals, which were held in 1662, in 1762, and would have been celebrated in 1862 had the Government of Napoleon III. not interfered to forbid it.


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