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

A Young King and Queen

When Henry II died, at the age of forty, he left four sons, three of whom were destined to rule over France, but none of whom had either good health, great intelligence, adequate training, or even good morals. His immediate successor was Francis II, then only sixteen years of age, a weak and wavering prince, entirely subject to his beautiful young wife, Mary Stuart.

Francis II took no active part in state affairs, but devoted instead all his small stock of strength to the light pleasures which found favor in the eyes of his beautiful young wife. Queen of Scotland in her own right ever since infancy, and brought up at the frivolous French court, Mary Stuart, at seventeen, could not reasonably be expected to show much decision of character or sedateness, nor could she offer sufficient resistance to the subtle flattery of the gay courtiers by whom she was surrounded. It is natural, therefore, that she and her young husband should gladly have entrusted all the troublesome affairs of state to her uncles, the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, who thus became, for a time, the real rulers of France.

Now the Guises were stanch Catholics, and as such saw with displeasure the increase of the Protestant party. At this time the French Protestants were greatly encouraged by the fact that the chiefs of the House of Bourbon—close kin to the royal family—had joined their ranks. Because the Bourbons were their leaders, the Protestants fancied they should have some influence at court; but they found before long that it was difficult either to approach the monarch, or to gain a fair hearing. Then they rashly decided to take matters in their own hands, and formed what is known as the "Conspiracy of Amboise" (1560). Their plan was to attack the court at Amboise, take possession of the young king,—thus gaining not only his ear but the custody of his person,—and then forcibly remove him from what the Protestants styled the baneful influence of the Guises.

Chateau of Amboise


Unfortunately for the Protestants, this plot was betrayed to the Guises; so although a few of the plotters escaped, Louis of Bourbon, Prince of Conde, the real leader, was taken captive. The prime minister, Chancellor de L'Hopital',—a wise and tolerant man, who succeeded in preventing the establishment of the inquisition in France,—could not prevent the execution of some of these conspirators, or the severe prosecution of Conde.

It was just while his trial was going on that Francis II, who had long been sickly, succumbed, after wearing the crown seventeen months, the shortest actual reign in the history of France. As he left no children, the scepter, at his death, passed on to his younger brother, Charles IX, then aged ten, thus depriving Mary Stuart and her uncles of their influence at court.

In fact, very shortly after her husband's death, Mary Stuart was reluctantly obliged to return to Scotland, which she had not seen since she left its shores at five years of age. Her despair on leaving France, the only home she could remember, was most pathetic, and it is said she sat on deck all night, hoping that when morning dawned she would still be able to catch a glimpse of the fair country where she had spent a brilliant and happy youth, and to which she addressed touching poetical farewells.

Mary Stuart was leaving France forever, just when great troubles were about to begin, for by this time the Reformation had made considerable progress, and counted a large number of earnest adherents in France, though most of the French were strongly Catholic. The French Protestants soon assumed the name of Huguenots, which is said to be a corruption of the Swiss word Eidgenossen (sworn members).

The most marked among the Protestant leaders was undoubtedly Admiral Coligny, a man of great strength and nobility of mind and of unblemished character, who was respected by all, and who would fain have prevented the bloodshed which was about to take place. It is this Coligny who attempted to found a Huguenot colony in Florida, the colony which was exterminated by the Spaniards and avenged by De Gourgues.