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 Massacre of the Huguenots

Charles IX was one of those who opposed a Huguenot massacre, obstinately refusing at first to sign the decree his mother presented. But his was a weak and credulous nature, so at the end of a very few days, wearied by Catherine's importunities, and convinced besides by her false statements that the Huguenots were really plotting against his life, he suddenly seized the pen, and signed the order for the massacre, exclaiming hysterically: "By God's death, since you will kill the admiral, kill them all! Kill all the Huguenots in France, so that none may be left to reproach me. By God's death, kill them all!"

Having thus wrung from her weak and bewildered son the permission she desired, Catherine entrusted to Guise and certain other influential Catholics, the charge of murdering the Huguenot wedding guests who were still tarrying in Paris. It was settled that the massacre should take place on St. Bartholomew's Day, and that the bells of the famous old church near the Louvre should ring out the signal for the attack at two o'clock in the morning. The houses where the principal Huguenot noblemen lodged were all marked in advance, and the conspirators agreed to recognize each other, even in the darkness, by means of a white sleeve or badge which all were to wear on the left arm.

At first the plan had been to sacrifice only a few of the leaders, but the lists gradually grew longer and longer, so that by the time the signal bell pealed forth, a general massacre had been arranged. Most of the prominent Huguenots in Paris, and many of their followers, were slain, for they were taken by surprise in the night, and thus unable to offer any defense; besides, the gates of the city were closed and guarded so that none could escape.

The Duke of Guise, without troubling himself about lesser victims, proceeded immediately to the house of Admiral Coligny. After posting men to prevent any attempt at escape, he sent guards upstairs to murder his aged political rival. Breaking into Coligny's sleeping room, these assassins found him there, calm and composed, although at the first alarm he had bidden his servants escape by way of the roofs, saying: "For a long time past I have kept myself in readiness for death. As for you, save yourselves if you can!"

When the door was broken open, the guard abruptly inquired, "Are you Coligny?"

"Yes, I am he, young man, and you ought to respect my gray hairs," replied the admiral, adding philosophically, "But you will not shorten my life much!"

The murderer, having thus ascertained that this was really the victim he sought, dealt Coligny a mortal blow, and had barely done so, when he heard his master call out impatiently from below, "Is it done? Show me some proof." Although the breath had not yet left the admiral's body, the assassin hurled him out of the window, at the duke's feet, where someone wiped the blood away from the dead man's face, to enable the duke to make quite sure that the right person had been dispatched. Standing there, gazing at his victim, the Duke of Guise touched the corpse with his foot, crying in a tone of wonder, "Gracious, I didn't know he was so tall!" Then, turning to his followers, he boldly exclaimed: "Courage, companions, we have begun well. On to the others!"

It is said that Charles IX, hearing the bells peal out their terrible signal, was seized with sudden repentance, and sent a messenger off in great haste to stay the duke's hand. But the order did not arrive till after Coligny was murdered, so Guise coolly sent back word, "Tell the king it is too late!"

Meantime, other murderers were at work also. Not only were more than two thousand Huguenots slain, but a few Catholics as well; for the great disorder made a good opportunity for wreaking private revenge. Even in the Louvre, the massacre went on, the Huguenots there being led down into the palace yard, and only Henry of Navarre and young Conde were allowed the alternative of "Mass or the Bastille!" In the new Queen of Navarre's bedroom a few Huguenots were murdered, some frantic followers of the bridegroom having tried to take refuge there from the foes so hotly pursuing them.

When the day dawned, Charles IX himself is said to have gone out on a balcony of the Louvre, where, armed with a crossbow, he shot at the fugitives who were vainly trying to gain the bridge and flee across the river. We are also told that Catherine and her maids paraded the streets, gazing complacently at their victims.

Besides Henry of Navarre and the Prince of Conde, the king spared his Huguenot nurse, and his physician Pare, because he was much attached to them both, and depended upon them for comfort in many ways.