restricted access The Saint Bartholomew Massacre
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The History of the Church 182 The Saint Bartholomew Massacre It was a beautiful occasion in France, at first. The marriage of the sister of King Charles IX to Henry of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France) in August 1572, brought to the very Catholic city of Paris all the Huguenot nobility of the kingdom, companions of the husbandto -be. The atmosphere grew heavy, however. On August 22, Admiral de Coligny, the head of the Protestant faction (but yet a councilor to the king) was wounded in an assassination attempt. Advised by the queen mother, Catherine de Medici, and the Catholic party, the weak Charles IX consented to putting an end to the Huguenots. Theconspiracy was executed in masterly fashion, starting on August 24 (the feast of Saint Bartholomew). At the sound of the alarm bell, the king’s guards set upon homes and hotels where Protestants were lodged; Coligny’s throat was slit and around 200 Huguenots of the nobility were assassinated. A wounded Huguenot took refuge in the Louvre Palace, in the bedchamber, in fact, in the very bed of the young newlywed princess. Queen Margot, as she would be called in the due course of history, described in her memoirs how she saved the life of an unknown wounded man, with the acquiescence of the captain of the royal guard who had a good laugh at the sight. As to the very Catholic Parisians, they took advantage of the occasion to rid their town of any Protestant presence. From door to door, from town to town, the massacre spread to claim an estimated 30,000 victims. The young husband, Henry of Navarre, escaped by abjuring (only very temporarily) his religion. His life, as well as Paris, was certainly worth a Mass.* Alexandre- Évariste Fragonard (1780–1850) Scene of the Saint Bartholomew Massacre in the Bedchamber of the Queen of Navarra Musée du Louvre, Paris * A reference to his famous comment: “Paris is worth a Mass.”—Trans. ...


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