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

The Huguenots broke into the Romanist churches


These

massacres provoked reprisals. The Huguenots broke into the Romanist churches, tore down the images, defaced the altars, and destroyed the relics.

Sec. 13. _The Beginning of the Wars of Religion._

Gradually the parties faced each other with the Duke of Guise and the Constable Montmorency at the head of the Romanists, and the Prince of Conde and Admiral Coligny at the head of the Huguenots. France became the scene of a civil conflict, where religious fanaticism added its cruelties to the ordinary barbarities of warfare.

The Venetian Ambassador, writing home to the chiefs of his State, was of opinion that this first war of religion prevented France from becoming Protestant. The cruelties of the Romanists had disgusted a large number of Frenchmen, who, though they had no great sympathy for the Protestant faith, would have gladly allied themselves with a policy of toleration. The Huguenot chiefs themselves saw that the desecration of churches did not serve the cause they had at heart. Calvin and de Beze wrote, energetically urging their followers to refrain from attacks on churches, images, and relics. But it was all to no purpose. At Orleans, Coligny and Conde heard that their men were assaulting the Church of the Holy Spirit. They hastened there, and Conde saw a Huguenot soldier on the roof of the church about to cast an image to the ground. Seizing an arquebus, he pointed it

at the man, and ordered him to desist and come down. The soldier did not stop his work for an instant. "Sire," he said, "have patience with me until I destroy this idol, and then let me die if it be your pleasure." When men were content to die rather than refrain from iconoclasm, it was in vain to expect to check it. Somehow the slaughter of men made less impression than the sack of churches, and moderate men came to the opinion that if the Huguenots prevailed, they would be as intolerant as the Romanists had been. The rising tide of sympathy for the persecuted Protestants was checked by these deeds of violence.

The progress of the war was upon the whole unfavourable to the Huguenots, and in the beginning of 1553 both parties were exhausted. The Constable Montmorency had been captured by the Huguenots, and the Prince de Conde by the Romanists. The Duke of Guise was shot from behind by a Huguenot, and died six days later (Feb. 24th, 1563). The Marshal Saint-Andre and Antoine de Bourbon had both died during the course of the war. Catherine de' Medici was everywhere recognised as the head of the Romanist party. She no longer needed the Protestants to counterbalance the Guises and the Constable. She could now pursue her own policy.

From this time forward she was decidedly hostile to the Huguenots. She had learned the resources and popularity of the Romanists. But she disliked fighting, and the religious war was ruining France. Her idea was that it would be necessary to tolerate the Protestants, but impossible to grant them common rights with the Romanists. She applied herself to win over the Prince de Conde, who was tired of his captivity. Negotiations were opened. Catherine, the Constable, Conde, and d'Andelot met at Orleans; and, after discussion, terms were agreed upon (March 7th), and the Edict of Amboise incorporating them was published (March 18th, 1563).


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