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

The Forced Wedding

After the meeting at Bayonne, the queen mother ceased to show any favor to the Huguenots. This roused their suspicions, and, believing that they must hold themselves ready to defend their lives and liberty, they began to arm. The second religious war followed, in which was fought the bloody but indecisive battle of St. Denis, at the gates of Paris. Peace was soon signed again, but it did not prove lasting.

In the third war, a terrible battle took place at Jarnac (1569). At the beginning of this memorable encounter, Conde (Louis of Bourbon) was not only wounded in one arm, but had one leg shattered by a cannon-ball. Notwithstanding these disabling wounds, he insisted upon fighting, calling out bravely to his dismayed followers, "Go on, noble Frenchmen, behold the combat which you have so much desired, and remember in what state Louis of Bourbon entered into it for Christ and his country!"

In spite of heroic efforts, Conde was soon surrounded and made prisoner. Just as he was giving up his sword, a cowardly enemy, stealing up behind him, shot him in the head! Thus deprived of a leader, the Huguenots lost the battle, and were in a state closely bordering on despair, when the widowed Queen of Navarre (Jeanne d'Albret) suddenly appeared in their camp with her son and with young Henry of Bourbon, the son of Conde.

Presenting both lads to the Protestant army, this lady said: "Soldiers, I offer you everything I have to give—my dominions, my treasures, my life, and, what is dearer to me than all, my child. I make here solemn oath before you all, I swear to defend to my last sigh, the Holy Cause which now unites us." Her son, Henry of Navarre (who was to be later on Henry IV of France), then declared, in his turn: "I swear to defend the religion, and to persevere in the common cause until death or victory has restored to us all that liberty for which we fight."

With the addition of two such important partisans to their army, the Huguenots took courage again, and, after more fighting and marching, obtained a peace (St. Germain, 1570) which granted them many privileges, including the possession of four fortified towns. But these concessions angered and seriously alarmed the Catholics, who soon prevailed upon Catherine to make further attempt to rid herself of such dangerous foes.

Hoping either to win over the principal Huguenot noblemen, or to get them all in her power, Catherine now proposed that Henry of Navarre should come to Paris to wed her daughter. Henry's mother, pleased with this offer, gladly came herself to Paris to negotiate the marriage, but even while visiting Catherine de' Medici, she died so suddenly that there have been suspicions ever since that she may have been poisoned.

In spite of this tragic death, the preparations for the marriage went on, and many of the principal Huguenots came to Paris with Henry of Navarre to attend the festivities. But the bride, Margaret, had no desire to accept the bridegroom thus forced upon her, and obstinately declared she would say "no" even at the altar. Besides, the priests were reluctant to celebrate a marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant, and did not consent to do it till the king had threatened to lead his sister into a Protestant meeting, and have her married there.

Henry of Navarre, being a Huguenot, refused, as leader of his party, to enter Notre Dame for the marriage services, so his nuptials had to be celebrated on a platform just outside of the sacred building. At the wedding, the bride still refused to say "yes," or to nod her head in answer to the priest's question. Her royal brother, therefore suddenly stepped up behind her, and gave her a rude thrust which made her head bob, sternly calling out to the priest, "Go on, she has nodded her consent!"

Among the Protestants who had come to Paris to witness the wedding, and to celebrate the reconciliation which it heralded between the conflicting parties, was the great Admiral Coligny, whom King Charles then embraced joyfully, saying, "I have you now, my father, and do not think that you shall escape me easily again!" Indeed, the young king talked so much to him that Catherine began to fear lest her son might yet escape from her influence and fall under that of the admiral. In her terror, Catherine determined to rid herself of this possible rival, and she and Guise hired an assassin to fire upon him as he was leaving the Louvre.

Although the admiral was only wounded, the mere fact that he had been attacked in this way, in such a place, roused keen indignation among the Huguenots assembled in Paris. When the king heard of it, he flung down his tennis racket, petulantly crying, "Am I never to have peace.-'" Then he went to visit the wounded admiral, and expressed great sympathy.

Notre Dame


It may be that this very visit precipitated matters, for Catherine and her most devoted followers now began to plot a great Huguenot massacre. Some of those who were approached in regard to it were in favor of getting rid of all the Huguenot leaders at any cost, but others were too honorable to subscribe to any such measure; one man, for instance, boldly declared: "God forbid that I should give my assent to any design so perfidious—one so fatal to the honor of France and to the repute of my king!"