At the time when persecution suddenly began to rage in France John Calvin escaped to Strasburg, and there composed his Institute, the finest work of Reformation literature. He wrote with a view to show that there was nothing in the Protestant religion to alarm the government, and that the change it demanded was in the Church, not in the State. He dealt more largely with theology than with practical religion, and did not disclose those ideas on the government of religious society that have made him the equal of Luther in History. Geneva, when he came there in 1536, was a small walled town of less than 20,000 inhabitants, with so narrow a territory that France was within cannon range on one side and Savoy on the other. It was secure in the alliance and protection of Berne, which came almost to the gates; for what is now the canton of Vaud was, until the French Revolution, a Bernese dependency. It had been an episcopal city, but the bishop had retired to Annecy, and the Genevese Reformation had been at the same time a Genevese Revolution. Power over Church and State passed to the commonwealth, to the municipality. The new masters, rejoicing in their independence, did not at once settle down; the place was disturbed by factions, and was not a scene of edification.
Calvin set to work to reform the community, to introduce public order and domestic virtue. He was a foreigner by birth, and not conciliatory in disposition; and after a brief experiment, the offended Genevese cast him out. He was not yet thirty. He returned to Strasburg and rewrote his Institute, expounding his theocratic theory of the government of the Church by the Church, and of the State by the union of Church and State. He was present at the Diet of Ratisbon, and saw the Lutherans in a yielding mood, when Melanchthon and Contarini, with the urgent mediator Gropper of Cologne, were very near understanding each other. That event, as everybody knows, did not come off; but everybody does not know the consequences, for we shall see that the Counter-Reformation sprang from those conferences at Ratisbon. Calvin had no part in Irenics. He was persuaded that the work before them was to create not a new church, but a new world, to remodel not doctrine only, but society; that the chasm could never be bridged, but must grow wider with time. That conviction was not yet strongly held by the German Lutherans, and they do not all hold it at the present day. During his absence Cardinal Sadolet wrote to the Genevese, intreating them not to break up the unity of Latin Christendom; for Geneva was the first town beyond the Teutonic range that went over. Sadolet was not only reputed the finest Latinist of the age, but he was the most gracious of the Roman prelates, a friend of Erasmus, an admirer of Contarini, and the author of a commentary on St. Paul in which Lutheran justification was suspected. The Genevese were not then so rich in literature as they afterwards became, and they were not prepared to answer the challenge, when Calvin did it for them. In 1541, after a change of government, he was recalled. He came back on condition that his plans for the Church were accepted, and his position remained unshaken until his death.
The Strasburg clergy, in losing him, wrote that he was unsurpassed among men, and the Genevese felt his superiority and put him on the commission which revised the Constitution. It was not changed in any important way, and the influence of the Geneva Constitution upon Calvin was greater than his influence on the government of Geneva. The city was governed by a Lesser or Inner Council of twenty-five, composed of the four syndics, the four of last year, and as many more as made up the twenty-five. These belonged to the ruling families, and were seldom renewed. Whilst the Lesser Council administered, through the syndics, the Great Council of two hundred was the legislature. Its members were appointed, not by popular election, but by the Lesser Council. Between the twenty-five and the two hundred were the sixty, who only appeared when the Lesser Council wanted to prepare a majority in the Greater Council. Its function was to mediate between the executive and the legislature. It was a system of concentric circles; for the twenty-five became the sixty by adding the necessary number of thirty-five, and the sixty became the two hundred by the addition of one hundred and forty members. Beyond this was the assembly of citizens, who only met twice a year to elect the syndics and the judge, from names presented by the Lesser Council. The popular element was excluded. Beyond the citizens were the burghers, who did not enjoy the franchise. Between the two there was material for friction and a constitutional struggle, the struggle from which Rousseau proceeded, and which had some share in preparing the French Revolution.
Upon this background Calvin designed his scheme of Church government and discipline. His purpose was to reform society as well as doctrine. He did not desire orthodoxy apart from virtue, but would have the faith of the community manifested in its moral condition. And as the mere repression of scandals would promote hypocrisy, it was necessary that private life should be investigated by the same authority that was obeyed in public. Teaching and preaching belong to the clergy alone. But jurisdiction is exercised by the pastors in conjunction with the elders. And the elders were the choice of the civil power, two representing the Lesser Council, four the sixty, and six the two hundred. That was all that he could obtain. His success was incomplete, because the government worked with him. A hostile government would be more adapted to his purpose, for then the elders would be elected, not by the State, but by the congregation. With a weak clergy the civil magistrate would predominate over the Church, having a majority in the consistory. While Calvin lived no such thing was likely to happen. The Church co-operated with the State to put down sin, the one with spiritual weapons, the other with the material sword. The moral force assisted the State, the physical force assisted the Church. A scheme substantially the same was introduced by Capito at Frankfort in 1535.
But the secret of Calvin's later influence is that, he claimed for the Church more independence than he obtained. The surging theory of State omnipotence did not affect his belief in the principle of self-government. Through him an idea of mutual check was introduced which became effective at a later time, though nothing more unlike liberty could be found than the state of Geneva when he was the most important man there. Every ascertainable breach of divine law was punished with rigour. Political error was visited with the sword, and religious error with the stake. In this spirit Calvin carried out his scheme of a Christian society and crushed opposition. Already, before he came, the Council had punished vice with imprisonment and exile, and the idea was traceable back to the Middle Ages. It had never found so energetic an advocate.
The crown was set upon the system by the trial and execution of Servetus. The Germans, in their aversion for metaphysics, had avoided the discussion of questions regarding the Trinity which in the south of Europe excited more attention. As early as 1531, long before the rise of the Socinians, the Spaniard Servetus taught anti-Trinitarianism, and continued to do it for more than twenty years. He remained isolated, and it was not until after his death that his opinions attracted followers. Calvin, who thought him dangerous, both by his doctrines and his talent, declared that if ever he came to Geneva he would never leave it alive. He caused him to be denounced to the Inquisition, and he was imprisoned at Vienne on the Rhone, tried, and condemned to be burnt at a slow fire, on evidence supplied by Calvin in seventeen letters. Servetus escaped, and on his way to Italy stopped at Geneva, under a false name, for he knew who it was that had set the machinery of the Holy Office in motion against him, and who had said that he deserved to be burnt wherever he could be found. He was recognised, and Calvin caused him to be arrested and tried without a defender. The authorities at Vienne demanded his extradition, and the Governor of Dauphiny requested that any money Servetus had about him might be sent back to him, as he was to have had it if the execution had occurred in his territory. Calvin disputed with his prisoner, convicted him of heresy, and claimed to have convicted him of Pantheism, and he threatened to leave Geneva if Servetus was not condemned. The Council did not think that the errors of a Spanish scholar who was on his way to Italy were any business of theirs, and they consulted the Swiss churches, hoping to be relieved of a very unpleasant responsibility. The Swiss divines pronounced against Servetus, and he was sentenced to die by fire, although Calvin wished to mitigate the penalty, but refused, at a last interview, the Spaniard's appeal for mercy. The volume which cost Servetus his life was burnt with him, but falling from his neck into the flames, it was snatched from the burning, and may still be seen in its singed condition, a ghastly memorial of Reformation ethics, in the National Library at Paris.
The event at Geneva received the sanction of many leading divines, both of Switzerland and Germany; and things had moved so far since Luther was condemned for his toleration, that Melanchthon could not imagine the possibility of a doubt. Hundreds of humble Anabaptists had suffered a like fate and nobody minded. But the story of the execution at Champel left an indelible and unforgotten scar. For those who consistently admired persecution, it left the estimate of Calvin unchanged. Not so with others, when they learnt how Calvin had denounced Servetus long before to the Catholic Inquisitors in France; how he had done so under the disguise of an intermediary, in a prolonged correspondence; how he had then denied the fact, and had done a man to death who was guilty of no wrong to Geneva, and over whom he had no jurisdiction. It weakened the right of Protestants to complain when they were in the hands of the executioner, and it deprived the terrors of the Inquisition of their validity as an argument in the controversy with Rome. Therefore, with the posting of the Thesis at Wittenberg; with Worms, and Augsburg, and Ratisbon; with the flight of Charles V before Maurice, and with the Peace of Religion, it marks one of the great days in the Church history of the century. But it obtained still greater significance in the times that were to come. On the whole, though not without exceptions, the patriarchs approved. Their conclusions were challenged by younger and obscurer men, and a controversy began which has not ceased to cause the widest diversion among men.
The party of Liberty—Castellio, Socinus, Coornhert in the sixteenth century, like Williams and Penn, Locke and Bayle in the seventeenth—were not Protestants on the original foundation. They were Sectaries; and the charge of human freedom was transferred from the churches to the sects, from the men in authority to the men in opposition, to Socinians and Arminians and Independents, and the Society of Friends. By the thoroughness and definiteness of system, and its practical adaptability, Calvinism was the form in which Protestant religion could be best transplanted; and it struck root and flourished in awkward places where Lutheranism could obtain no foothold, in the absence of a sufficient prop. Calvanism spread not only abroad but at home, and robbed Luther of part of Germany, of the Palatinate, of Anhalt, of the House of Brandenburg, and in great part of Hungary. This internal division was a fact of importance later on. It assisted the work of the Counter-Reformation, and became the key to the Thirty Years' War. The same thing that strengthened the Protestant cause abroad weakened it on its own soil. Apart, then, from points of doctrine, the distinctive marks of Calvin's influence are that it promoted expansion, and that it checked the reigning idea that nothing limits the power of the State.
Exactly the reverse of this distinguishes the movement which took place at the same time in England, proceeding from the government before the wave of Reformation struck the shores. Here there were local reminiscences of Lollardry, and a tradition, as old as the Conquest, of resistance to the medieval claims of Rome; but the first impulse did not arise on the domain of religion. From the beginning there was a body of opinion hostile to the king's marriage. The practice was new, it was discountenanced by earlier authorities, and it belonged to the same series of innovations as the recent system of indulgences which roused the resistance of Germany. Precedents were hard to find. Alexander VI had granted the same dispensation to Emmanuel of Portugal, but with misgivings; and had refused it until the king undertook to make war in person against the Moors of Africa. Julius II, coming immediately after, had exacted no such condition from Henry VII, so that he had done what was never done before him. Sixtus V afterwards declared that Clement had deserved the calamities that befell him, because he had not dissolved so unholy a union. Others thought so at the time. No protest could well be heard before 1523, when Adrian censured his predecessors for exceeding their powers. After that it could be no offence to say that Julius was one of those whose conduct was condemned by his next successor but one. But it was still a dangerous point to raise, because any action taken upon it implied a breach with the queen's nephew Charles V, and the loss of the old alliance with the House of Burgundy.
After the triumph of Pavia, the captivity of Francis I, and his defiance of the treaty by which he obtained his deliverance, Wolsey accepted a pension of 10,000 ducats from France, England renounced friendship with the Habsburgs, and the breach was already accomplished. The position of Catharine became intolerable, and she led the opposition to Wolsey, the author of the change. Therefore, from 1526, both the religious and the political motive for silence ceased to operate, and there were, just then, evident motives for speech. There was no hope that Catharine would have a son, and the secret that a queen may reign by her own right, that the nation may be ruled by the distaff, had not been divulged in England. In foreign policy and in home policy alike, there were interests which favoured a new marriage, if its legitimacy could be assured.
Wolsey had an additional inducement to promote what we call the divorce, though it was nothing of the kind, in the fact that the queen was his enemy. He had reasons to hope for success. The armies of Charles had invaded Italy and threatened Rome, and the papal minister, Giberti, enchanted with the zeal of the great English cardinal, wished that he had him at the Vatican in the place of the tremulous and inconstant Clement. Spain was the enemy; England was the ally. It was probable that the Pope would do what he could in the interest of England, to keep up its enmity with Spain. The case was a difficult one, not to be decided on evidence. Something would remain uncertain, and some allowance must be made for good or ill will at Rome. If the invading Imperialists were defeated, the prospects would be good. If they held their ground and made the Pope their dependent, it would be all over with the divorce. Wolsey admitted afterwards that he prompted the attempt, and persuaded the king that he could carry it through. But at first he shifted the responsibility on to the French envoy, Grammont, afterwards a cardinal, who came over to arrange a marriage with Mary Tudor. He said that when he raised some preliminary objection, Grammont lost his temper, and told him that they might be glad of such an offer for a princess who was not legitimate. Another story put into circulation was that Henry had married under protest, and by compulsion, having been warned that if he refused he would be dethroned. Erasmus, who admired Henry, took care to explain that a king of England who lost his throne was likely to lose his life. Wolsey intended to cement the French alliance by a marriage with Renee, daughter of Lewis XII, not believing that Anne Boleyn would be an obstacle. But the friends of Anne, the cluster of English nobles who were weary of being excluded from affairs by the son of the butcher of Ipswich, soon made it clear that she was only to be won by the promise of a crown.
From that moment Wolsey, with all his astuteness, was digging his own pit. If he succeeded, he would fall to make way for the Boleyn faction. If he failed, he involved the Catholic cause in his downfall. The first step in the business was the demand for permission to marry a lady not named, notwithstanding any impediment arising from an intrigue with her sister. With that the secret was out, and they knew at Rome what the king's scruples were worth. This was done behind the cardinal's back. When he took the matter in hand, he asked that the Pope should dissolve the first marriage, on the ground that Julius II had issued a dispensation in terms which could not be justified. That this might not be taken as denying the plenitude of the prerogative, he further asked for a dispensation to marry a second wife without repudiating the first. And he desired that the cause might be judged in this country and not at Rome.
When these negotiations commenced, in the spring and summer of 1527, Rome had been sacked by the Imperialists, and Clement was a prisoner in St. Angelo, or a fugitive at Orvieto, with the strongest motive for resentment against the author of his humiliation. By the summer of 1528, when Lautrec was in Italy at the head of a French army, Clement had conceded virtually the whole of the English demands. He removed every impediment to the marriage with Anne other than the fact that Henry was married already. He authorised the trial of the case in England by Wolsey and Warham; or again, by Wolsey and Campeggio, Archbishop of Bologna, the best jurist of the sacred college. He pronounced on the question of law, leaving questions of fact to the legates, and he pronounced against the terms of the dispensation, intimating that Julius had done what no Pope has a right to do. He promised that judgment as given in England would be final, and that he would not remove the cause to Rome. He was willing that Richmond, the king's son, should marry the king's daughter, Mary Tudor. He did not turn a deaf ear even to the proposal of bigamy. For several years he continued to suggest that Henry should marry Anne Boleyn and renounce the quest of a divorce. In 1530, somebody informed him that this would not do, and that brought him to the last of his resources. He proposed to the Imperialists, in order to prevent a schism, that Henry should live with Anne without marriage and without divorce. That he might not be hopelessly wrong with the Emperor, he required that the most compromising of these documents should be kept secret. His friendliness rose with the French advance and fell with the French disasters. If Lautrec would approach the vicinity of Rome, he said, he would do more, because the Emperor would excuse him on the ground of compulsion. When Campeggio reached England, Lautrec was dead and his army defeated. The papal secretary wrote, "Decide nothing, for the Emperor is victorious, and we cannot afford to provoke him." There was nothing more to be done.
While the Court was sitting in London, the Pope made his peace with Charles; Catharine appealed to him from his legates in England, and he was obliged to call the case before him. The queen's friends demanded the strongest measures, and Aleander wrote that if you resisted Henry VIII he became as gentle as a lamb. Such persuasions did not influence the Pope, who put off action as long as he could, knowing that a breach would inevitably follow. The French Chancellor warned him that he would be known to be acting under pressure of the Emperor, that the censure of Henry would be resented as the victory of Charles. The French defeat in Italy was the ruin of Wolsey, who had caused the breach with Spain without any advantage. A year later, when Campeggio prorogued the Legatine Court, and the divorce had to be given up, he was dismissed.
One further step had to be taken before settling the matter in England. By advice of a Cambridge Don the universities were consulted. They gave various replies, but those that helped the king were not convincing, for they cost him more than L100,000 and he obliged the clergy to give him that sum. As it was obvious for what purpose Henry was arming himself with these opinions, Charles V conceived serious scruples, and thought for a moment that to give way might be the lesser evil. At the same time he sent 450,000 ducats to Rome to facilitate matters; for the divorce was the one pending question which delayed the conclusion of that treaty of Barcelona which laid Italy for centuries at the feet of Spain. The uncertainty in the policy of Rome as the power of the Emperor rose and fell, the open avowal that so much depended on political considerations, besides the strange proposal in respect of two wives, led to a belief in England that the cause was lost by the pressure of interest and fear, not by principle. Therefore, the establishment of the Spanish dominion over Italy was quickly followed by the rejection of papal supremacy in favour of the English state. The bishops themselves were impressed with the danger of allowing the spiritual power to be influenced through the temporal power by an enemy of this country, so that they made no resistance. England broke with the Papacy on these, and not on strictly religious grounds.
Tunstall, coming up to attend Parliament, suffered himself to be stopped by a letter from the king, dispensing with his presence. Fisher alone offered opposition. He caused the royal supremacy to be accepted with the proviso, "so far as the divine law permits." And as this proved only a stepping-stone to the unconditional headship of the Church, he regarded it as his own fault. He refused submission, and put himself in communication with the Imperialists with a view to effective intervention. Sir Thomas More, the most modern and original mind among the men of his time, showed greater caution. He admitted the right of Parliament to determine the succession, and made no struggle for Mary Tudor, as he had made none for her mother. He did not openly contest the royal supremacy until after sentence. Besides these two, a large number of monks were executed during Cromwell's ministry.
Having given up the Pope, the government had no ground for keeping the religious orders. They did not belong to the primitive Church, and some of them, Grey Friars and Black Friars, were an essential part of the medieval system which was rejected with the papal authority. When Rome was taken in 1527, and Clement a prisoner, Wolsey, with some other cardinals, proposed that he should act as his vicar during captivity, so that the Church should not be receiving orders from the Emperor through the Pope. This proposal is a first glimpse of what was now introduced. The idea of a middle course, between Rome and Wittemberg, occurred easily to every constant reader of Erasmus; and many divines of the fifteenth century suggested something similar. What then prevailed was not a theological view, but a political view. The sovereignty of the Modern State, uncontrolled by the opinions of men, commanded the minds both of Cromwell and of Gardiner, rivals though they were. Cromwell is the first public man known to have been a student of Machiavelli's writings; and the first to denounce them was his enemy, Reginald Pole. It is the advent of a new polity. Gardiner believed in it, thinking that nothing else could save Catholicism after the mismanagement of the Church in Germany. And it is the dominant note of the following years, whichever party was prevailing.
That is the broad distinction between the continental Reformation and the contemporary event in England. The one was the strongest religious movement in the history of Christendom; the other was borne onward on the crest of a wave not less overwhelming, the state that admits no division of power. Therefore, when the spirit of foreign Protestantism caught the English people they moved on lines distinct from those fixed by the Tudors; and the reply of the seventeenth century to the sixteenth was not a development, but a reaction. Whereas Henry could exclude, or impose, or change religion at will with various aid from the gibbet, the block, or the stake, there were some among the Puritans who enforced, though they did not discover, the contrary principle, that a man's conscience is his castle, with kings and parliaments at a respectful distance.
PHILIP II, MARY STUART, AND ELIZABETH
THE MONARCHY of Philip II was held by no binding idea, but religious unity. The dynasty was new, and the king was not personally imposing or attractive. The people of Palermo, Milan, Antwerp, had no motive to make sacrifices, except the fact that their king was the one upholder of religion in Europe. Catholics in every country were his natural allies.
Charles V, who accepted inevitable divisions in Germany, had established the Inquisition in the Netherlands. Under Philip that policy was consistent, and promised, in the flood of the Counter-Reformation, to be a source of power. He would not fall behind his father. He drove the Netherlands into rebellion; but his intention was intelligible. In the sixteenth century the pride of state does as much for oppression and intolerance as religious passion. If he succeeded in repressing heresy, he would have a very real political advantage over other powers. In October 1565 he wrote: "As to the Inquisition, my will is that it be enforced by the Inquisitors as of old, and as is required by all law, human and divine. This lies very near my heart, and I require you to carry out my orders. Let all prisoners be put to death, and suffer them no longer to escape through the neglect, weakness, and bad faith of the judges. If any are too timid to execute the edicts, I will replace them by men who have more heart and zeal."
By this scheme of violence Philip II turned the Reformation into revolution. He saw that generally nothing was more striking than the ease with which people changed religious profession; and he believed that what was done with success in Germany and Austria and England, could be done in the seven provinces of the Burgundian crown. The leaders of the popular movement were men of rank, like Egmont and William of Orange, men not likely to go to extremes. And it was an axiom that the masses are always led by few, and cannot act of themselves. But in the Netherlands more than elsewhere the forms, if not the reality, of freedom were preserved, and the sovereign was not absolute. Moreover, he governed from a distance, and, in addition to his constitutional caution and procrastination, correspondence was very slow.
The endeavour of Philip to substitute his will for self-government provoked a Catholic and aristocratic opposition, followed by a democratic and Protestant movement, which proved more difficult to deal with. The nobles were overcome by the strong measures of Alva. The Gueux were defeated by Don Juan and Farnese, after the recall of Alva. And it seemed, for many years, that the movement would fail. It is to the statesmanship of William the Silent, who was neither a great soldier nor a strong churchman, that they owed their success. He failed, indeed, to keep Protestants and Catholics together on a wide basis of toleration. In 1579 the southern provinces returned to Spain, and the northern provinces cast off their allegiance. But, by the union of Utrecht, they founded that confederacy which became one of the foremost powers in the world, and the first of revolutionary origin. The southern provinces remained Catholic. The northern were, in great measure, Protestant, but with a large Catholic population. William, the Stadtholder, was killed by an assassin in 1584, before his work was done. He had brought in Alencon, Elizabeth's suitor, that he might secure the help of France. But Alencon proved a traitor; and during the proconsulate of Farnese, Duke of Parma, the Spaniards gained much ground.
Philip II stood at the height of his power in the middle of the eighties. He had annexed Portugal, with its immense colonial empire. By the death of Alencon, the King of Navarre, who was a Huguenot, became the heir to the crown of France, and the Catholic party looked to Spain for their salvation. Now, after many patient years, he prepared for war with England. For Drake was ravaging Spanish territory; and an English army under Leicester, having occupied the Netherlands after the death of William, though they accomplished little, gave just cause for an open quarrel. Whenever, in the course of the Counter-Reformation, it came to a duel between Spain and England, the fate of Protestantism would be staked on the issue. That conflict was finally brought about, not by the revolt of the Netherlands, but by the most tragic of all histories, that begins at Holyrood with the murder of Riccio and ends twenty-one years later at Fotheringay.
When Mary Stuart came to Scotland the country had just become Protestant. She did not interfere with the settlement, but refused to permit the suppression of Catholicism, and became, in opposition to the most violent of the reformers, a champion of religious toleration. John Knox differed from all the Protestant founders in his desire that the Catholics should be exterminated, root and branch, either by the ministry of State, or by the self-help of all Christian men. Calvin, in his letter to Somerset, went very far in the same direction, but not so far as this. The nobles, or rather the heads of clans, in whom the power of society resided, having secured the Church lands, were not so zealous as their preachers, and the queen succeeded in detaching them. Mary was religious without ferocity, and did not share the passions of her time. She would have been willing to marry Leicester, and to make herself dependent on English policy, but Elizabeth refused to acknowledge her right of succession, and drove her to seek connection with the Catholic Powers. She wished at one time to marry Don Carlos, that, having been Queen of France, she might become Queen of Spain. This was impossible; and so she became the wife of Darnley, who united the blood of the Tudors and the Stuarts. She belonged, on her mother's side, to the house of Guise, whose princes were leaders of the militant Counter-Reformation. The duke, who had slaughtered the Huguenots at Vassy, was now dead. But his brother, the Cardinal, who afterwards claimed the merit of a more signal massacre, was still an important personage in Church and State. Mary, appearing on this background of sanguinary uncles, was believed to be an adherent of their policy, and to take part in all extremes of the Catholic reaction.
Riccio, the Piedmontese secretary, through whom she corresponded with foreign princes, was hated accordingly; and Darnley, who attributed to the Italian's influence his own exclusion from power, consented that he should be made away with. The accomplices who wrought the deed took care that Mary should know that they acted with his approval; and when she found herself the wife of an assassin and a coward, the breach ensued which was sometimes dissembled but never repaired. Three months later their son was born, but Darnley was not present at the christening. His enemies advised the Queen to obtain a divorce, but she objected that it would injure the prospects of her son. Maitland then hinted that there might be other ways of getting rid of him. Mary did not yield consent; but the idea once started was followed up, and the king was doomed to death by what was called the Bond of Craigmillar.
At the end of 1566 he fell seriously ill at his father's house at Glasgow. Mary came, spent three days with him, and an explanation took place, amounting apparently to a reconciliation. Darnley was taken to Edinburgh, and lodged about a mile from Holyrood, at Kirk-o'-Field, where he was repeatedly visited by the queen. On the night of 9th February she went away to attend a ball, and three hours after she had left him his house was blown up, and he was found in the garden, strangled. Nobody doubted at the time, or has ever doubted since, that the crime was committed by the Earl of Bothwell, a rough and resolute soldier, whose ambition taught him to seek fortune as a supporter of the throne. He filled Edinburgh with his troops, stood his trial, and was at once acquitted. Thereupon his friends, and some who were not his friends, acting under pressure, resolved that he should marry the queen. As a widow, she was helpless. Bothwell possessed the energy which Darnley wanted, and, as he was a Protestant, the queen would be less isolated. He had killed her husband; but then her husband was himself a murderer, who deserved his fate. Bothwell, encouraged by many of the Lords, had only executed justice on a contemptible criminal. There was a debt of gratitude owing to him for what he had done.
Public decorum forbade that the queen should ostensibly accept the offer of a man who made her a widow ten weeks before. Therefore Bothwell waylaid the queen at the Brig of Almond, some miles from Edinburgh, dispersed her attendants, and carried her off to Dunbar. There was a difficulty about the marriage, because he was married already. He now procured a divorce, and, ten days after the outrage at Almond Brig, they reappeared at Edinburgh. The queen publicly forgave Bothwell for what he had done, made him a duke, and, on 15th May, three months after the explosion at Kirk-o'-Field, married him according to the Presbyterian rite. The significant sequence of these events gave an irresistible advantage to her enemies. It was an obvious inference that she had been a party to the murder of the king, when she was so eager to marry the man that slew him. The only answer would be by discarding him. Nobody could think the son safe in the hands of his father's murderer.
Either the Lords must get the queen into their power, or they must dethrone her and govern Scotland during the long minority of her son. The forces met at Carberry Hill. There was no fight. Mary hoped, by a temporary parting from her third husband, to save her crown. She passed into captivity, was shut up at Loch Leven, and compelled to abdicate. The Protestant interest was at last supreme.
Mary escaped from her island prison, gathered an army, gave battle at Langside, and lost it, and then, losing courage before her cause was helpless, fled to England, in the belief that Elizabeth would save her.
From the death of Darnley, still more after her Protestant marriage, she had ceased to be the champion of her own Church. That was again her position when she came to England. There, she was heir to the throne, and the centre of all the hopes and efforts to preserve or to restore Catholicism.
The story of Mary Stuart cannot be told without an understanding in regard to the Casket Letters. They are still the object of an incessant controversy, and the problem, although it has made progress of late, and the interest increases with the increase of daylight, remains unsolved. The view to be taken of the events depends essentially on the question of authenticity. If the letters are what they seem to be, the letters of the queen to Bothwell, then she is implicated in the murder of her husband. If they are not authentic, then there is no evidence of her guilt. Everybody must satisfy himself on this point before he can understand the ruin of the Catholic cause in Scotland and in England, and the consequent arrest of the Counter-Reformation in Europe.
At the same time the issue does not seriously affect the judgment of History on the character of the queen herself. She repeatedly expressed her delight in murder, and her gratitude to those who executed or attempted it, and stands on the same level of morality with the queen her mother-in-law, or with the queen her rival. But the general estimate does not throw light on the particular action, and supplies no help in a hanging matter.
The opinion of historians inclines, on the whole, in her favour. About fifty writers have considered the original evidences sufficiently to form something like an independent conclusion. Eighteen of these condemn Mary, thirty pronounce her not guilty; two cannot make up their minds. Most of the Catholics absolve, and among Protestants there is an equal number for and against. The greater names are on the hostile side. They do not carry weight with us, because they decided upon evidence less complete than that which we possess. Four of the greatest, Robertson, Ranke, Burton, Froude, were all misled by the same damaging mistake. The equal division of the Protestants shows how little any religious bias has had to do with the inquiry; so that the overwhelming majority on the Catholic side requires explanation.
There have been two reasons for it. Many found it difficult to understand how a woman who died so edifying a death could have been a murderess. It would be easy to find many instances of men in that age who led holy lives and died with sincerity, but who, in the matter of homicide, had much in common with the Roman triumvirs, or the heroes of the French Revolution. But persons disposed to admit that difficulty would naturally be impressed by an argument of much greater force. The man who produced the famous letters, the Chancellor Morton, was a notorious villain. He had kept guard at Holyrood while his friends slew Riccio. Further, many have admitted, many more are now ready to admit, that some portion of the letters is forged. In that case, how can we accept evidence which the forgers have supplied? How can we send Mary to the scaffold on the testimony of perjured witnesses? Either we must say that the proofs are genuine throughout, and that Morton did not suffer them to be tampered with, or we must absolve Mary. Nobody, I think, at the present day, will deny that the letters, as we have them, were tampered with. Therefore we must hold Mary to be not guilty. Everybody can see the force of this argument, and the likelihood that it would impress those who expect to find consistency in the lives and characters of men, or even of women.
On 20th June, 1567 Morton captured Dalgleish, one of Bothwell's men, who had helped to kill Darnley. In order to escape torture—he did not escape capital punishment—Dalgleish delivered up a silver gilt casket which had belonged to the queen's first husband, and which now contained papers, the property of her third husband. Among them were eight letters, not directed, or dated, or signed, but which were recognised by those who saw them to be in the handwriting of the queen.
Towards the end of July it began to be whispered, by Moray in London, by Throckmorton at Edinburgh, that they proved her complicity in the death of Darnley, and justified the Lords in deposing her. In the following year, when Mary had sought a refuge in England, these papers were produced, and they furnished the argument by which Elizabeth justified the detention of the Scottish queen. The decisive piece is a long document, known as the Glasgow letter, which alludes distinctly to the intended crime. As it contains a conversation with Darnley, which he repeated to Crawford, one of his officers, the confirmation thus supplied caused it to be widely accepted at the time, and by the four writers I named just now.
That is what puts them out of court; for the letter was evidently concocted by men who had Crawford's report before them. The letter is spurious, and it is the only one that connects the queen with the death of Darnley. It does not follow that the others are spurious, for they add nothing to the case. The forgers, having constructed the damning piece, would not be likely to do more. Every additional forgery would increase the risk of detection, without any purpose. What purported to be the originals do not exist. They can be traced down to 1584, and no farther. The handwriting can no longer be tested. Until lately, the French text of the letters was not known, and they could be studied only in translations.
Since 1872, when the Hatfield letters were discovered, and were printed at Brussels, we possess four in their original shape. These cannot be seriously impeached. The comparison of the style and language with that of Mary's undisputed writings shows that they correspond; and they do not resemble in the same degree those of her contemporaries. The ablest of Mary's advocates accept these letters as genuine. But they deny that they were written to Bothwell. The writer speaks of a secret marriage, which she would like to disclose. There certainly was no secret marriage with Bothwell; but it is a possible hypothesis that she may have married Darnley in secret before the ceremonial wedding. Therefore this letter, which is a love letter, is quite legitimate, and is meant for the right address. But the word which the queen uses, marriage, is employed in the sense of a wedding ring, as they say alliance or union, to this day, in the same meaning. She is regretting that she must wear the ring round her neck, and cannot produce it in public, because of Darnley.
Besides the one which is spurious and the four which are genuine, there are three other letters which we do not know in the original French. They cannot be tested in the same manner as those I have just spoken of, and cannot be accepted with the same confidence. If, then, we divide the letters in this way: one evidently forged, four evidently genuine, and three that are best left aside, the result is that there is no evidence of murderous intent. But it would appear that Mary wished to be carried off by Bothwell, and that she meant to marry him. How she proposed to dispose of her living husband, whether by death or by his consent to divorce, we cannot tell. The case is highly suspicious and compromising; but more than that is required for a verdict of guilty in a matter of life and death.
What is known as the Penal Laws begins with Mary's captivity in England. There was the northern rising; the Pope issued a Bull deposing Elizabeth, and Philip undertook to make away with her; for the Queen of Scots, once Queen of France, now fixed her hopes on Spain and the forces of the Counter-Reformation. The era of persecution began which threw England back for generations, while France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands were striving for religious freedom. It was proposed to extirpate the Catholics. Negotiations were opened with the Scots to give them back their queen, on condition that they would at once put her to death. And when she had been condemned for plotting treason, Elizabeth asked her gaoler to murder her in her prison. The execution at Fotheringay gave Elizabeth that security at home which she could never have enjoyed while Mary lived. But it was the signal of danger from abroad. Philip II was already preparing for war with England when Mary bequeathed her rights to him. The legal force of the instrument was not great, but it gave him a claim to fight for, constituting the greatest enterprise of the Reformation struggle. Sixtus V, the ablest of the modern Popes, encouraged him. Personally, he much preferred Elizabeth to Philip, and he offered her favourable terms. But he gave his benediction, and even his money, to the Spaniards when there was a chance that they would succeed. And their chances, in the summer of 1588, seemed very good. The Armada was stronger, though not much stronger, than the English fleet; but the army that was to be landed at the mouth of the Thames was immeasurably superior to the English. This was so evident that Philip was dazzled and listened to no advice. They might have sailed for Cork and made Ireland a Spanish stronghold. They might have supplied Farnese with the land force that he required to complete the conquest of the revolted provinces, putting off to the following year the invasion of England. When they came in sight of Plymouth, Recalde, one of the victors of Lepanto, and Oquendo, whose name lasted as long as the Spanish navy, for the ship of the line that bore it was sunk in Cervera's action, demanded to fight. But the orders were peremptory to sail for Dunkirk and to transport Farnese to Margate. The Armada made the best of its way to Gravelines, where they were attacked before Farnese could embark, and the expedition failed.
An American writer, meditating upon our history at Battle, on the spot where Harold fell, once expressed his thought in these words, "Well, well, it is a small island, and has been often conquered." It was not conquered in August 1588, because Drake held the narrow seas. The credit was not shared by the army. And it may be a happy fortune that the belated levies of Tilbury, commanded by Leicester, never saw the flash of Farnese's guns. For the superiority of Spain was not by sea, nor the greatness of England on land. But England thenceforth was safe, and had Scotland in tow. Elizabeth occupied a position for which her timorous and penurious policy, during so many years, had not prepared the world. She proposed terms to Philip. She would interfere no more in the Low Countries, if he would grant toleration. Farnese entered into the scheme, but Philip refused. The lesson of the Armada was wasted upon him. He did not perceive that he had lost Holland as well as England.
The revolt of the Netherlands created a great maritime power; for it was by water, by the dexterous use of harbours, estuaries, and dykes, that they obtained independence. By their sea power they acquired the trade of the Far East, and conquered the Portuguese possessions. They made their universities the seat of original learning and original thinking, and their towns were the centre of the European press. The later Renaissance, which achieved by monuments of solid work what dilettantism had begun and interrupted in the Medicean age, was due to them and to the refuge they provided for persecuted scholars. Their government, imperfect and awkward in its forms, became the most intelligent of the European governments. It gave the right of citizenship to revolutionary principles, and handed on the torch when the turn of England came. There the sects were reared which made this country free; and there the expedition was fitted out, and the king provided, by which the Whigs acquired their predominance. England, America, France have been the most powerful agents of political progress; but they were preceded by the Dutch. For it was by them that the great transition was made, that religious change became political change, that the Revolution was evolved from the Reformation.
THE HUGUENOTS AND THE LEAGUE
WHEN THE religious frontiers were fixed in the rest of Europe, in France, the most important state of all, they were still unsettled. There the struggle was obstinate and sanguinary, and lasted more than thirty years, ending, towards the close of the century, with the triumph of the Crown over the nation, and the State over the Church.
Although the French had had at least one reformer before the Reformation, and were prepared by the Gallican system for much divergence from prevailing forms of medieval Catholicism; they received the new ideas as an importation from Germany. In that shape, as Lutheranism, they never became an important force in the country, though there was, a time of comparative toleration, followed, after 1535, by the severities which at that time became usual in Europe. The number of victims in the last years of Francis I is supposed to have been eighty-five or a little more. Luther, in his life and thought, presented so many characteristics of the exclusively German type as to repel the French, who, during many years of that generation, were at war with Germany. After his death, the first man among the reformers was a Frenchman, and the system as he recast it was more congenial. Calvinism possessed the important faculty of self-government, whilst Lutheranism required to be sustained by the civil power. For these reasons the Calvinistic doctrines obtained a far more favourable hearing, and it is in that shape only that the Reformation struck root in France.
King Henry II, who had been educated in Spain, where he was detained as a hostage, was resolutely intolerant, and when the general peace was concluded he turned his thoughts to the state of religion. He made an attempt to introduce the Inquisition, but was killed in a tourney before he had achieved his purpose. The Protestants at that time were estimated by Calvin at about 300,000, and in certain districts they were increasing rapidly. They had two translations of the Bible, and a celebrated book of hymns; and they now began to combine and organise. They were strongest in Dauphiny, which was near Geneva, and at Lyons, which was a centre of trade. Then they spread to Normandy, and in the west, and as time went by it became difficult to say which part of the country or which class of the population was most deeply influenced by their doctrine. No province ever became Protestant, and hardly any town. There never was any prospect that the Reformation would prevail; but at first, in the tide of early expansion, this was not quite evident, and they dreamt, not of liberty only, but of predominance. They did not profess the liberal principle, and never repudiated the maxim of their chief at Geneva regarding the repression of other sects. They thought it a life and death struggle, persuaded that the Catholics were irreconcilable, and impossible fellow-subjects and neighbours. By image-breaking, assaults on processions, and general violence, they made the part of tolerant Catholics difficult to play. As a religious body, guided by the counsels of Calvin, they should have professed passive obedience. But they were associated with vast political interests, and with men less eager about points of doctrine than about affairs of state, who brought them into action against the government. As there were princes of the blood among them, and even crowned heads, resistance to the authority of the day was not felt to be seditious. In this way it came to pass that while Calvin at Geneva was preaching non-resistance, Calvinists in France formed an armed opposition and became involved in plots.
As the new king was too young to govern, Queen Catharine, his mother, became nominal regent; but as he was married to Mary Stuart, her uncles governed the kingdom. One of them was the Duke of Guise, the conqueror of Calais, and the most popular soldier in France. His brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, one of the most conspicuous ecclesiastics of the age, was a Gallican prelate, obnoxious to Rome, and willing to concede much in favour of the Confession of Augsburg as an arm against Geneva, maintaining his power by every means, and an avowed and unshrinking advocate of assassination. Against the administration of these men, princes and Protestants combined. Their plans were detected; many accomplices were put to death at Amboise, and the Prince of Conde was arrested, tried, and in imminent danger of execution, when Francis II died, and the reign of the Guises was at an end.
Catharine, whose effective regency now began in the name of Charles IX, her second son, rested on the moderates. There was so little passion in her religion that people doubted whether there was much conviction. When Pius V proffered advice as to the king's marriage, she replied that he was old enough to act for himself, without foreign interference. She assured Elizabeth that she would have no objection if she treated her Catholics as Protestants were treated in France on St. Bartholomew's day. Once, on the report of a Protestant victory, she declared that she was quite ready to say her prayers in French. In Italy, her want of zeal made people suppose that she was at heart a Huguenot. She encouraged the liberal and conciliatory legislation of L'Hopital; for the most striking feature of the time is the sudden outbreak of tolerant opinion.
To arrest this surrender of Counter-Reformation policy, and the ruin which it portended to the Church in France, Guise fell upon a congregation of Protestants, and mingled their blood with their sacrifices. This is the massacre of Vassy, which provoked the wars of religion. They lasted, with intervals, sometimes of several years, for a whole generation, and effaced the country as a European Power. This long obliteration protracted the struggle in the Netherlands, led to the fall of Mary Stuart, and assisted the triumphant rise and growth of England in the middle years of Elizabeth. During the sixties Coligny advanced steadily to the highest place in his party and in the State, and he repeatedly secured terms which satisfied the Protestant leaders, though at the expense of their followers.
The third war of religion, the war of 1569, in which the Huguenots were defeated in the historic battles of Jarnac and Moncontour, had been so devastating that the government lost the disposition to go on fighting, and counsels of moderation prevailed. Coligny, summoned to advise, was listened to with attention, and a marriage was decided on between the king's sister, Margaret of Valois, and Henry of Bourbon, the young King of Navarre, whose birthright made him the head of the Protestant interest. Before the wedding was celebrated a change occurred in the European situation which profoundly affected the policy of France. The revolt broke out in the Netherlands, the real revolt, which was not the work of Belgian nobles, but of the Water Beggars, who took advantage of the maritime configuration, and accomplished the deliverance of the northern provinces.
This was Coligny's opportunity. It was the manifest policy of France to intervene, now that the conflict was a serious one, and to rectify the frontier along the line of peril, by which the capital was exposed to attack. What could not have been attempted while Alva held the provinces in subjection, was possible now that his power was shaken to its foundation. England was an obstacle, because England preferred Spanish masters in the Low Countries to French; but it was possible to negotiate compensation with Elizabeth; and Charles IX, under pressure from Coligny, concluded a treaty with her. He also decided that a Protestant force should join the Flemish insurgents in their operations against the Duke of Alva. If they succeeded, their success was to be followed up, and the merit of the expected conquest would be theirs. Conciliation and peace at home would be purchased by victories over the Spaniard. If they failed, they would be disavowed. Accordingly, in July 1572, an expedition under Genlis went to the relief of Mons, and was betrayed and defeated. The Huguenots had had their opportunity and had made nothing of it. The perfidy of the French government was detected, and the king, in his embarrassment, denounced the invaders, and urged Alva to make short work with prisoners. At the same time, he did not give up the scheme that had begun so badly, the scheme for the conquest of Flanders by a forlorn hope of Huguenots.
Coligny was to have another chance of securing liberty by the splendour of his services to the country, and the wedding of the Princess Margaret of Valois with Navarre, in defiance of the Pope's refusal of the requisite dispensation, proclaimed that the court had gone over to the Protestants. France was on the brink of a war with Spain, in which the admiral would have the command of her armies. It was to be a war for Protestant dominance, with France at the head of the Protestant interest in Europe, and Protestants in high offices at home. Queen Catharine was resolved not to submit to their ascendency, and she knew a short way out of it. There was a blood-feud of nine years' standing between the House of Guise and the admiral who had never succeeded in vindicating himself from the suspicion that he was cognisant of the murder of the former Duke of Guise at the siege of Orleans. They were glad to obtain their revenge; and one of their bravos, after two days' watching, shot Coligny, wounding him severely but not mortally. His friends, who were collected at Paris in large numbers, insisted on satisfaction. Catharine then informed her son that there could be no punishment and no inquiry, that the real culprit was herself, and that if anything was done, by way of justice, Guise would cast upon her all the ignominy of the attempt, all the ignominy of its failure. Nothing could save her but the immediate destruction of Coligny and his chief adherents, all conveniently within reach. The king hesitated. Not from any scruple; for when the Parliament had offered a reward for the capture of the admiral, he had obliged them to add the words—alive or dead. But he hesitated to surrender the hope of annexing Flanders, the constant and necessary object of national policy.
Late in the day after that on which Coligny received his wound, the civic authorities were warned to hold their men in readiness, when the bell of the church near the Louvre, St. Germain of Auxerre, rang the tocsin. This was the beginning of that alliance between the rural aristocracy of Catholic France and the furious democracy of the capital which laid the inauspicious foundation of the League. Their objects were not entirely the same. The Parisian populace were indiscriminately murderous and cruel, killing every Huguenot they knew. The Spanish envoy wrote: "not a child has been spared. Blessed be God!" Guise had his thoughts fixed on political enemies. Some Protestant officers who lived beyond the Seine, hearing the tumult, took horse and made off before it reached them, and were pursued by Guise for many hours along the north road. When Guise gave up the chase and returned to Paris, his house became a refuge for many obscure persons from whom he had nothing to fear. In his absence, the king had laid the blame upon him, and described the massacre as a result of the old quarrel between Guise and Chatillon. This was not to be borne, and another explanation was speedily devised. It was now stated that a Protestant conspiracy had been discovered, and happily crushed in time by a prompt effort in self-defence. This was suggested by the threatening attitude assumed by Coligny's friends in order to compel punishment for the attempt on his life. Both theories were adopted in dealing with England and the German princes. Whilst orders went forth to the local authorities all over France to imitate the example of the capital, every effort was made to avert a breach with the Protestant Powers.
These efforts were so successful that Elizabeth stood godmother to the daughter of Charles IX, while his brother, Henry of Anjou, was elected King of Poland by a union of parties, although his share in the slaughter was notorious. This idea soon became preponderant; and when provincial governors neglected or refused to obey the sanguinary commands, nothing was done to enforce them. The actual massacre was a momentary resolve: it was not a change of front.
The premeditation of St. Bartholomew has been a favourite controversy, like the Casket Letters; but the problem is entirely solved, although French writers, such as Guizot and Bordier, believe in it; and the Germans, especially Baumgarten and Philippson, deny it. It is perfectly certain that it was not a thing long and carefully prepared, as was believed in Rome, and those who deny premeditation in the common sense of the word are in the right. But for ten years the court had regarded a wholesale massacre as the last resource of monarchy. Catharine herself said that it had been in contemplation, if opportunity offered, from the year 1562. Initiated observers expected it from that time; and after the conference with Alva at Bayonne, in 1565, it was universally considered probable that some of the leaders, at least, would be betrayed and killed. Two cardinals, Santa Croce and Alessandrina, announced it at Rome, and were not believed. In 1569 Catharine admitted that she had offered 50,000 crowns for the head of Coligny, and corresponding sums for others. The Archbishop of Nazareth reported to the Pope in the autumn of 1570 that the Treaty of St. Germain had been concluded with the intention of slaughtering the Protestants when they were beguiled by the favourable conditions granted them, but that the agents disobeyed. He hoped that the Peace of St. Germain had the same legitimate motive and excuse, and advised that a list of proscription should be drawn up. In short, the idea had been long entertained, and had been more than once near execution. At last, the murder of Coligny was provoked by the imminent war with Spain, and the general slaughter followed. The clergy applauded, but it did not proceed from them. Excepting Sorbin at Orleans and the Jesuit Auger in the south, few of them were actual accomplices before the fact. After the energetic approval given by the court of Rome, it was not quite easy for a priest to express dissent.
One dauntless ecclesiastic warned the Pope to prohibit demonstrations which revealed the secret of the priesthood. The man who thus disturbed the unanimity of exultant cardinals was Montalto, afterwards Sixtus V, and he deserves to be recorded, because he outweighs many names. He thought so ill of his predecessor, Gregory XIII, that he was tempted to revoke the best act of his pontificate, the reformation of the Calendar; and he was quite perspicacious enough to understand that the massacre was the height of folly as well as the worst of crimes.
We have no reliable statistics of the slain. The fugitives who escaped to England spoke of one hundred thousand. At Rome they put the figure for Paris alone at sixty thousand. For the capital a basis of calculation is supplied by the number of bodies found in the river. The result would be something over two thousand. In the provinces there are reports from about forty towns. The Protestant martyrology assigns two thousand to Orleans alone. But Toussaint, one of the ministers, who was there, and had the good fortune to escape, knew only of seven hundred, and that is still the belief in the town itself. It was said that two hundred perished at Toulouse. But the president, Durand, who lost some of his own friends, and whose Memoirs were not written for the public, speaks of thirty-six. In five towns the victims amounted to between one hundred and seven hundred. In all the rest they were fewer. Taking the more authentic figures, and in cases where we cannot decide between statements that conflict, preferring the lower figure, because of the tendency to exaggerate where there is passion or excitement, we arrive at rather more than five thousand for the whole of France. The editor of Queen Catharine's correspondence, La Ferriere, urged me to make some allowance for persons who lost their lives on the byways in attempting to escape. That is a probable conjecture, but no evidence takes us as high as eight thousand. I reached that conclusion many years ago, and it is confirmed by what has since appeared, especially by the new Histoire Generale, which accepts the limit I have mentioned. The higher estimates commonly given are not based on a critical investigation. The character of the event, and of its authors and admirers, is not affected by numbers. For the massacres of September and the revolutionary tribunal wrought less bloodshed in twenty-three months than the French Catholics had done in about as many days. At a time when papal agents estimated the Huguenots at one-fifth of the entire population, the loss of five thousand, or even of eight thousand, would not seriously weaken them. It checked their increase, and injured mainly the royalist element among them, for Coligny was the leader of the party that desired to support the monarchy.
Lord Clarendon has said that it was a massacre that all pious Catholics, in the time in which it was committed, decried, abominated, and detested. There were, of course, many in France who thought it possible to be a good Christian without being a professional murderer, and who sincerely desired toleration. For such men it was impossible to continue associated with the Catholics of the League, and they were in far closer sympathy with the Protestants. In this way a new party arose, which was called the Politiques, and consisted of those whose solicitude for dogma did not entirely silence the moral sense and the voice of conscience, and who did not wish religious unity or ascendency to be preserved by crime. It was on an ethical issue that the separation took place, but it necessarily involved political consequences of a definite kind.
The Politiques became promoters of the regal authority against the aggression of the clergy, the aristocracy, and the democracy. They had their strength among the jurists and the scholars in an age when France was at the head of all scholarship and jurisprudence. The very reason of their existence was the desire to resist the influence and the spirit of Rome, and to govern France on contrary principles to those professed by ecclesiastical authority and enforced by ecclesiastical law. Therefore they strove to reduce the action of the Papacy within very strictly defined limits, to abolish ultramontanism, and to develop the Gallican theory of Church and State which French divines had produced at the reforming councils of the fifteenth century. As the clergy were subject to a Power which had encouraged extermination, they aimed at the supremacy of the secular order, of the lawyer over the priest, and of the State over the Church. They were the most intelligent advocates of the modern state in relation to society. For them, the representative of the State was the crown, and they did their utmost to raise it above the restraining forces. For the purpose that animated them the sole resource was the monarchy; and it is they who terminated the wars of religion, the League, and the Revolution, and prepared the great period of the Bourbon kings. Their ideas survive, and are familiar to the later world in the classic History of Thuanus.
The survivors closed their ranks and rapidly established a system of self-government, which sought safety in its own organisation, not in the protection of the crown. The intense conservatism of the early Protestants was already giving way in the Netherlands, and it now made way in France for the theory of resistance. A number of books appeared, asserting the inalienable right of men to control the authority by which they are governed, and more especially the right of Frenchmen, just as, in the following century, Puritan writers claimed a special prerogative in favour of Englishmen, as something distinct from the rest of mankind. The most famous is the Vindiciae contra Tyrannos, by Junius Brutus, generally attributed to Hubert Languet, but written, as I believe, by Duplessis Mornay, a man eminent as a party leader, who lost ground by entering on religious controversy. As an adherent and even a friend of Henry of Navarre, he was moderate in his language. This is the beginning of the literature of revolution. But the Huguenots quickly restrained themselves, for the same reason which, as we shall see, drove the Catholics of the League to the extremity of violence and tyrannicide. The cause of these dissimilar consequences was the problem of succession to the crown. Henry III had no children, and the future of the Valois dynasty rested on his only brother, the duke of Anjou, formerly of Alencon, the favoured and apparent suitor of Elizabeth, who by his perfidy and incompetence lost the government of the Netherlands.
In 1584 Anjou died, and nobody remained between the king and Henry of Navarre, the head of the Bourbons. Therefore, if the king died, the next heir would be the chief of the Protestants, a relapsed heretic, whom the Pope had excommunicated. It would be the ruin of the Catholics as a political party, and the renunciation of Catholicism as a system of law and authority, for a relapsed heretic was a culprit to whom the Church could show no mercy. To make him king was to defy the ecclesiastical code, and to abandon the practice of Rome and Spain for that of Germany under the Peace of Religion. The example of Denmark, of Sweden, and of England showed that a Protestant king would impose his religion on the people. They preferred to fight for the principle that a people should impose its religion on the king. This consideration was the origin of the League, as a great confederation distinct from earlier and less important associations. It was constituted out of three distinct elements: first, Guise and his partisans, who had carried on the civil wars, and were the Catholic portion of the aristocracy; then the Parisian democracy, who had acted with the others against Coligny and the Huguenots, who cherished a strong municipal spirit, and eventually created a supreme commune, such as had existed in the fourteenth century, and was seen again in 1792 and in 1871; lastly, Philip II of Spain, who gave a million crowns.
Gregory XIII bestowed a qualified sanction, which was not enough to allay the scruples of some men. Beyond the suppression of Protestantism and the restored ascendency of the Church, on which all were agreed, there was a design to develop local self-government and provincial institutions. All the liberties, they said, that had come down from Clovis, and more if possible. The League was a movement directed against the crown, even if it surrendered to them. There was an idea, vague at first, afterwards more distinct, that Guise descended from Charlemagne, and had a valid claim to the throne; and this was a rift in his alliance with the King of Spain. For Philip hoped to secure the crown of France for his own daughter Isabella, who became the ruler, and the successful ruler, of Belgium. At the time when the League was formed, in January 1585, Philip had reached the highest point in his career. He had annexed Portugal and its immense dominion. William of Orange was dead, and Farnese had already recovered an important part of the insurgent region. He had succeeded, for a quarter of a century, in avoiding a breach with Elizabeth, in spite of the expulsion of his ambassador and of Drake's victorious piracies. If he had pursued the same cautious policy, and had employed, under Farnese against the Dutch, the resources he wasted against England, he might have ended his reign in triumph. The prudence for which he was renowned deserted him when he joined the League, and then made it subservient to the purposes of the Armada. His object was that France should continue to be divided against itself, and that neither Henry III nor his own confederate Guise should prevail. While those disorders continued, and made the French powerless abroad, the expedition of the Armada was carried out, without interference, and failed by mismanagement.
Meantime, Henry III was supported in a half-hearted way by Protestants and Politiques, who did not trust him, and Guise, at the head of the population, made himself master of Paris. Henry retired to Blois. After that outrage, refusing to acknowledge that the breach was irremediable, the duke followed, and trusted himself, undefended, in his enemy's hands. Then followed the only thing by which Henry III could retain his power. He took six days to make up his mind that it was right, and then ordered Guise to be dispatched. His brother, the cardinal, met with the same fate. Catharine of Medici, who was in the castle of Blois when this happened, and also had thirty years' experience in such things, died immediately, after giving her son warning that the merit is not in the way you cut the thread, but in the way you sew it. He thought that he was safe at last, and the applause of Europe followed him on his march against the capital. He had shown so much weakness of will, such want of clearness and resource, that nobody believed he had it in him. In the eyes of Parisians he was guilty of the unpardonable sin, for he had killed the popular leader and the champion of orthodoxy. As he was also an ally of heretics and an accomplice of Navarre, a young Dominican came into his camp and stabbed him. His name was Jacques Clement, and he became a popular hero and martyr, and his example is cited by Mariana as the true type of tyrannicide. The action of the crazy friar produced effects that were not intended, for it made Henry of Navarre King of France. A long struggle awaited him before he prevailed against the League, the armed citizens of Paris, the Pope, and the King of Spain. He succeeded by the support of the Royalists and Legitimists, who detached themselves from the theological conflict, and built up an independent ideal of political right.
HENRY THE FOURTH AND RICHELIEU
THE ARGUMENT of the following half century, from the civil wars to the death of Richeleau, as in the English parallel from the Armada to the Long Parliament, was the rise of political absolutism. Henry IV, the prince who made it acceptable and national, and even popular in France, was fitted to disarm resistance, not only by brilliant qualities as a soldier and a statesman, but also by a charm and gladness of character in which he has hardly a rival among crowned heads. He succeeded in appeasing a feud which had cost oceans of blood, and in knitting together elements which had been in conflict for thirty years. The longing for rest and safety grew strong, and the general instinct awarded him all the power that was requisite to restore public order and dominate surging factions.
The Catholics held out till 1594 at Paris, and still longer in Rome. But the League began to go to pieces when its invincible protector, Farnese, died in 1592. Then Mayenne, the general of the League, who was a Guise, and his brothers successor as leader of the Catholic nobility, came to a breach with the fierce democracy of Paris. The siege, by intensifying antagonism and passions, had produced new combinations in politics and a wider horizon. The Parisians who, twenty years earlier, had adopted massacre as a judicious expedient, now adopted revolution. The agitators and preachers who managed opinion, taught the right of armed resistance, the supremacy of the masses, the duty of cashiering kings, the lawfulness of tyrannicide. The blending of inquisition with revolution was a novelty.
Since the popes had become temporal sovereigns, like the of the Gentiles, the tendency of the Church was towards conservatism and sympathy with authority. But the Parisian clergy, when opposing monarchy associated 'with Protestantism, endeavoured to employ the utmost violence of popular feeling. And they had the support of Rome. A papal legate was shut up in the capital, encouraging it to resist. He belonged to the ancient and illustrious house of Caetani. The last head of that family, the father of the Duke of Sermoneta, lately minister of foreign affairs, once showed me an inscription, in monumental Latin, setting forth how he had at last paid off the immense debt incurred by the legate in the defence of Paris. With Caetani was Bellarmin, the most famous controversialist of the sixteenth century, who there imbibed the doctrines which made him one of the masters of revolutionary Catholicism, and a forerunner of Algernon Sidney. There, too, Mariana had witnessed the scenes of 1572, and learnt the mingled lesson of conditional authority, revolt, and murder, which he taught publicly, and without incurring censure at Madrid or Rome. For thirty years these views prevailed over a wider circle, and were enforced in many volumes too ponderous to survive.
In France the revival of these sanguinary sentiments served to increase reaction and to strengthen the party of the throne. In preference to such defenders of religion and the public good, people turned to the austere Royalists and Gallicans. The change was not final or complete, and did not carry all men with it. Imitators of Jacques Clement arose among the clergy, and Henry fell at last by the hand of a fanatic. When Mayenne sent the leaders of the populace to the scaffold, the defence became hopeless. Henry foiled his enemies by becoming a Catholic. He was not capable of taking dogmatic issues much to heart, and never ceased to hope for reunion, believing that the breach could be repaired, and that men who took pains to understand each other would find that there was no insurmountable obstacle to reconciliation. Many profited by the change who doubted his sincerity. But Henry was in the hands of Duperron, one of the most expert divines of modern times, who proved more than a match for Duplessis Mornay, and whom Casaubon, a better scholar than Duplessis Mornay, described as a thunderbolt of a man. Nobody supposed that he would have conformed if it had involved the sacrifice of the crown. It is not clear that it did actually involve the sacrifice of his conviction. The Pope, under Spanish influence, hesitated long to acknowledge him. It was a defeat and a humiliation to accept as eldest son of the Church an excommunicated heretic, who, by the law of the Supreme Tribunal, deserved to die, and to submit to him because he was victorious over Catholics of France and Spain. His elevation was a boon to the French, because he restored the prosperity of their Church; but it was none to Rome, because his belief was a compromise between Roman doctrine and ethics the reverse of Roman. The delicate negotiation was carried to a satisfactory end by Cardinal D'Ossat, whose despatches were long received, and perhaps still are, as the best in the language, and the model of all diplomacy. Spain followed Rome, and a conference was held under the presidency of the Pope, which concluded peace in the Treaty of Vervins. Then Philip II died, a defeated and disappointed man, whose schemes were wrecked by an inflexible intolerance; but with his military power undiminished, still the master of incomparable legions, still the ruler of the greatest empire in History.
Henry IV closed the era of religious wars by granting liberty to Protestants on terms intended to ensure permanence. All offices, civil and military, were thrown open; they retained their cities of refuge, and acquired the machinery of equal justice, by the expedient of mixed tribunals. The Catholics gained even more; for whereas Protestant churches were excluded from Paris, and from certain towns which had capitulated on that condition, the mass was restored everywhere, and particularly in two hundred and fifty towns from which the Huguenots, who predominated in the west and south, had banished it.
The Edict of Nantes forms an epoch in the progress of toleration, that is, in the history of liberty, which is the marrow of all modern History. It is a more liberal scheme than the Peace of Religion, which satisfied the previous generation of Germans. It pacified France and afforded to the minority sufficient strength and safety, not on the basis of religious equality, but in the shape of circumscribed and definite privilege. Some of the Acts of Pacification which failed had been more ample. Socinians went much deeper in the sixteenth century, and Independents in the seventeenth. The edict involved no declaration of new principles, and no surrender of ancient claims. The government made concessions of a purely practical kind, which might be revoked thereafter, if the Huguenots became less formidable and the crown more powerful. There was no recognition that they were concessions of the moral order, which it would be usurpation to refuse, or to which the subject had a right under a higher law. The action of the crown was restricted, without detriment to its authority. No other religious body was admitted but that which had made its power felt by arms in eight outbreaks of civil war. Beyond them, persecution was still legitimate. The power of the Protestants was acknowledged, not the prerogative of conscience. The Edict of Nantes was not one of those philosophical instruments which breed unending consequences, growing from age to age, and modifying the future more and more. It was a settlement, not a development. This was the method chosen in order to evade resentment on the part of Catholics and the weakening of the crown. To speak in general or abstract terms of the sovereign conscience was to urge the contrast between the Roman Inquisition and the spirit of early Christianity, and to promote a breach with the Catholicism of Southern Europe. To proclaim that the civil magistrate has no right to regulate belief was to limit monarchy and to repel the Politiques, who were the legislators of the day, and who attributed all power on earth to the State, admitting a wise restraint, but no renunciation of right.
The plan adopted achieved the desired result. The Protestants enjoyed the faculty of self-government, and their great writers and scholars were free to influence opinion by their writings. While the stubborn fixity of German Lutherans and Swiss Calvinists lifted them out of the stream of actual history, French Protestantism, like English, was full of growth and originality. The law of the new government was to raise the Crown above parties, and the State above the nation. It was part of the doctrine which Machiavelli revealed to the men of the Renaissance. The Middle Ages had practised class government. The interests dominant in society dominated the State, and employed it for their own advantage. The territorial aristocracy, or the clergy, legislated for themselves and controlled taxation. Venice, which was a republic not of landowners but of shipowners, was the first to revert to the ancient notion of the State acting for its own purposes, bound to no interest, following the opinion of no majority. Venice turned from the sea to the land, and became an Italian Power, in obedience to no class, on public grounds only, regardless of other influences. The French monarchy, as Henry restored it, was of necessity raised above the contending parties, and was the organ of no inspiration but its own. He dropped the states-general, which had been turbulent and hostile, and carried out his measures in defiance of the parliaments. That of Rouen refused for ten years to register the Edict of Nantes. Feeling safe with the Protestants and with the Politiques, who were the real basis of his administration, he devoted himself to the task of winning over their Catholic opponents. The Jesuits represented Rome, the Counter-Reformation, and the League, and were banished for tyrannicide. Henry recalled them, and made one of them, a divine whose life has been written in four volumes, the keeper of his conscience. He was solicitous of the friendship of Rome, and of influence in the College of Cardinals, where his moderating hand was soon felt.
The king's conciliatory policy triumphed in a quarrel which broke out between Rome and Venice. The Papacy desired to enforce a system of its own in matters of Church and State, and, in other words, to make laws for the nations to obey. The Canon Law did not come down from heaven, but was enacted from time to time in the past, and was to be enacted furthermore in the future. Venice, as a modern state, self-sufficing and concentrating power, legislated for its clergy as well as for its laity, resenting interference outside questions of pure doctrine. The two pretensions clashed under Paul V, a zealous and uncompromising pontiff, the founder of the House of Borghese. He claimed a jurisdiction in Venice which could not have been asserted successfully in France or Spain, because a surrender of authority which may be made to superior force cannot be made voluntarily where there is no compulsion. But the court of Rome was the chief seat of those aspirations after the control of states, which had been so lately renewed.
Since the failure of the schemes against Elizabeth and the victory of Gallicans over the League and the medieval ideal, a new heresy, the political heresy, had been discovered, which Cardinal Baronius, the foremost of the Roman divines, denounced as the most damnable of all heresies. By that was meant the notion of a science of politics limiting the ecclesiastical domain; an ethical and political system deriving its principles elsewhere than from the Church, and setting up a new and rival authority yet to be defined, ascertainable in no book, and not accepted by the nations. Those amongst us who deny the existence of a political science, and believe that ethics cannot be made to include politics, have ardent supporters in the Roman clergy of three centuries ago. The Venetian theorists who could be caught were burnt at Rome. One, who did not trust himself in Roman hands, was badly wounded near his own door. This was the famous Father Paul, whose History of the Council of Trent issued from this controversy. He was a Servite monk and theological adviser to the government, and the emissaries who flocked from England, France, Geneva, and the German states, to see how far the Venetians would move away from Rome, believed that he was at heart a Calvinist. In reality Sarpi had more of the eighteenth century than of the sixteenth in his turn of mind, and stood far aloof from the doctrines over which his contemporaries contended, and the expectations entertained of his countrymen were illusory. The city was placed under an interdict, and the orders that were faithful to Rome departed across the Lagoon, singing hymns. The Pope looked about for means of coercion when Henry mediated. He owed much to Venice, which was the first of the Catholic Powers to recognise him. In action, he called to his men to watch where his white plume waved, and to follow wherever they saw it. In gratitude to the Republic he presented it with his suit of armour, which is still conspicuous at the Arsenal, the helmet still displaying the famous feather, changed to a melancholy yellow. Henry induced both parties to yield something of their extreme attitude, and prevented a collision. No such conflict has ever since occurred in Europe.
The other great event in his foreign policy was his protectorate of the Netherlands. By his influence, pursued through an intricate negotiation, the twelve years' truce was concluded. Spain would not consent to a permanent treaty, and when the Thirty Years' War broke out, again fought with her ancient enemy. It was during this truce that the best-known events of Dutch history occurred—the Synod of Dort, the suppression of the Republicans and Arminians by Maurice of Nassau, when he put Olden Barnevelt to death, and compelled the most illustrious of all Dutchmen, Grotius, to make his escape packed in a box of books.
After some years of prosperous tranquillity, Henry IV found himself the first personage in Europe. He had done much for the army, something for the finances and the national wealth. He was watching for an opportunity to break the power of the Habsburgs, which surrounded him everywhere, and threatened Amiens, not a hundred miles from Paris. He relied on Protestant alliances, and did not despair of the Pope. From Sully's Memoirs, and also from other sources, we learn the lines upon which he schemed to remodel the map of Europe. The Memoirs are not written by Sully himself, and have been tampered with. The Grand Design was never executed, never even attempted, and need not be discussed. Henry boasted to the Spanish ambassador that he would lose no time over Italy; that he would breakfast at Milan, hear mass at Rome, and dine at Naples. "Then," said the Spaniard, "you will be in time for vespers in Sicily." Before starting for his expedition Henry had his queen crowned, that she might act as regent in his absence. On his way to arrange the ceremony of her entrance into Paris he met his death. Rumours of a plot had reached him and made him nervous. While the conspirators were watching for him to pass, a solitary fanatic, Ravaillac, drove a knife between his ribs, and gave a respite to the House of Austria.
Henry's institutions broke down immediately after his death. His widow, Mary of Medici, was unequal to the task of continuing a policy of independent action, relying on no group of friends and on no established force of opinion. The clergy influenced her as they had never influenced her husband. The princes of the blood, the great nobles, the Protestants, became turbulent; and the states-general, summoned for the last time before Lewis XVI, afforded no assistance: The queen gave her confidence to Concini, a Florentine like herself, whom she created a marshal of France. Her son, Lewis XIII, ordered him to be killed in the courtyard of the palace; and his wife, the queen's foster-sister, was put to death by complaisant judges. The young king's favourite, Luynes, governed for a time, until the queen obtained the first post for an adviser of her own, who was the strongest Frenchman of the old regime.