Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Death of Charles IX

The massacre of St. Bartholomew (Aug. 24, 1572) was, as we have seen, aimed mainly against the aristocratic Huguenots,—the leaders of their political party,—for it was intended to carry out Alva's advice, which was: "Take the big fish and let the small fry go. One salmon is worth more than a thousand frogs!" The massacre was not confined to Paris, however, as orders for similar murders were sent to various provinces. In some places these commands were obeyed without question; in others, the governors bluntly refused to conform, and even two executioners declared that, while they were ready to do their duty and put to death persons who had been tried and found guilty, they utterly refused to execute those against whom nothing had been proved!

The governor of Bayonne wrote: "Sire, I have communicated the commands of your Majesty to the inhabitants of the town and the soldiers of the garrison, and I have found good citizens and brave soldiers, but not one executioner; on which account, they and I humbly beseech you to employ our arms and our lives in things we can effect. However perilous they may be, we shall willingly shed therein the last drop of our blood!"

Another noble soul declared: "Sire, I have received an order under your Majesty's seal, to put the Protestants of this province to death. I respect your Majesty too much not to believe that this letter is a forgery, and if, which God forbid, the order be genuine, I respect your Majesty too much to obey you."

Notwithstanding such refusals, the massacre in other provinces proved so extensive that more than twenty thousand Huguenots were slain in France.

The news of the massacre of St. Bartholomew was received very differently by various people. Chancellor de L'Hopital, for instance, who had always opposed persecution, was horrified when he heard about it, and cried, "Perish the memory of this execrable deed!" But at the Spanish court, king and courtiers openly rejoiced, as over a great victory.

It was inevitable that the massacre of St. Bartholomew should rekindle civil war. During the ensuing fourth religious conflict, the Protestants entrenched themselves in La Rochelle, which was vainly besieged by the Catholic forces (1573). But after great hardships had been endured by both besieger and besieged, a peace was concluded near that city, giving the Huguenots liberty to worship in certain towns in the south; for most of the Huguenots lived in southern France.

This had barely come to pass, when the Duke of Anjou, a brother of the king, was elected to occupy the throne of Poland (1574),—thanks to the bribes which his mother scattered lavishly among the electors to secure this honor. But he had barely left home to be crowned in Poland, when his brother Charles IX fell dangerously ill, and it soon became only too evident that this king, too, would die without leaving any children.

Charles IX


The death of Charles IX was pitiful in the extreme, for he suffered greatly. Being a consumptive, he had numerous hemorrhages, and the sight of his own blood always recalled the massacre which he had countenanced. At such moments it was with difficulty that his old Huguenot nurse could calm his terrors.

This poor young king died at twenty-four, frantically imploring God's pardon, his keen remorse proving that he was neither as hardened nor as guilty as his mother Catherine, who died some years later, without ever having expressed regret for that cruel massacre.

Although Catherine often gave Charles IX bad advice, she nevertheless discovered what was likely to please a fickle people, for she once said: "Twice a week give public assemblies, for the specific secret of French government is to keep the people always cheerful. They are so restless you must occupy them during peace, either with business or with amusements, or else they will involve you in trouble."