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Part III

De Thou and the Lorraines-Guises

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Chapter 6De Thou on the Lorraines-Guises, 1548-1572

When de Thou's History appeared in the first decade of the seventeenth century, the various branches of the House of Lorraine, with the exception of the senior ducal branch headed by Charles III, duc de Lorraine (d. 1608), were recovering from over-engagement on the Catholic side in the Wars of Religion, and from defeat. Thirty-three year-old Charles de Lorraine, duc de Guise (1571-1640), was attending court functions and competing for favors from the royal great pardoner, Henry IV. It was young Guise's father, the Balafré, who had been assassinated at Blois in 1588. His paternal uncle, Charles de Lorraine, duc de Mayenne (1554-1611), general for the League, had been defeated and in a sense humiliated by Henry, not only on the battlefield but also by the king's successful assumption of power in Paris, which had been a League-Lorraine stronghold. After having strongly supported the Guise project to assume all but the supreme sovereign powers of the realm, the young duc de Guise's paternal cousin Charles de Lorraine, duc d'Elbeuf (1566-1605), had pulled together his extensive sources of wealth and clients in Normandy. Yet another Lorraine cousin, also named Charles -- in this case duke of the Aumale branch (1566-1631) -- had been an intense Leaguer and governor of Picardy allied with Spain. Aumale's power having collapsed before Henry IV, he had fled to the Spanish Netherlands. When de Thou began publication of the History, the House of Lorraine had no cardinal in its midst, a rare moment.

After everything that the Lorraines had been, silences about their past and current activities would prevail (there were diehard ultra-Catholic initiatives from time to time); but after the flow of pamphlets eulogizing or attacking the Guises, there developed a need for a more general understanding about the activities of the Guise branch of the House of Lorraine. One of the central themes of de Thou's account of his own times is the rise and relative fall of the Guises. From the very beginning of his narrative, the late 1540s, he frames the family as "ambitious," and its several generations of cardinals and dukes as domineering; and while he does not use the word "tyrannical," he frequently notes their decades of activities currying popular favor. As Grands, the Guises demonstrate occasional superior moral actions; thus de Thou commends the dukes for their military victories and the cardinals for their efforts at an accommodation with heretics. Those who held offices, benefices, abbeys, captaincies, etc., did not and would not forget their Guise protectors.

Let us turn now to de Thou's narrative, focusing on the sixteenth-century Guises. The translation of the books about the reigns of Henry II, Francis II and Charles IX is credited to Pierre Du Ryer. To permit readers to consider its purported weaknesses, the Latin will occasionally be supplied for key passages. Only de Thou's own words can convey the richness, authority and complexity of what he writes about the Guises. Yes, he writes about the Guises often, without specifying individual members of the family. The Aumales, the Elbeufs and the dukes of Lorraine (the senior branch) rarely appear in the history of the early decades. Only the cardinals of Lorraine and the dukes of Guise receive a major presence in the History. De Thou does not seem to fear opening old wounds.

Dramatis personae

In the Preface addressed to the king, there is no account of what a particular family or an individual subject has done, beyond François Baudouin's heroic defense of royalism in Arras and Isaac Casaubon's fostering of Letters (learning). The absence of the grand figure of the century in this direct discourse to Henry IV testifies not only to de Thou's sense of a better future, but also to a royalism grounded on the law -- institutions such as the Parlement rather than personal ties to the Montmorency, the Montpensier, and the Lorraines-Guises.

Let us repeat a central theme in de Thou: Charles VIII's invasion of Italy brought nothing of value to France. In the subsequent decades of war, France lost the upper hand to Spain. When de Thou begins his History, starting with the 1540s, the Lorraines-Guises are characterized as a faction that strongly supports French initiatives in Italy, notably the Angevin claim. The Montmorency go to war when the king decides to do so; but in council the constable generally favored caution and non-intervention. The Montmorency are thus depicted as more attentive to local, indeed French conditions. While the Lorraines-Guises are not mentioned in this first salvo, they clearly were being described: "Quand une fois on s'est dépoüillé de l'amour de la patrie, on renonce aisément à la foi et à l'humanité." (Exuto semel amore patriae charitatis omnem una humanitatem ac fidem exui.) (1)

In something of a flashback that sheds light on the the early seventeenth century, de Thou characterized Cardinal Charles de Lorraine: "le Cardinal de Lorraine," he wrote, " s'étant vainement employé pour ménager un accommodement, et l'Empereur [Charles V] y ayant retiré la parole qu'il avoit donnée de restituer le Milanez au Roi, il fallut en venir aux armes." (Itaque per cardinalem Lotharingum frustra tentata concordia, cum promissa de Mediolani imperio Caesar retractaret, ad arma tandem ventum est.) (2)

Having been wounded in battle, Claude duc d'Aumale, the cardinal's slightly older brother, is characterized as:

ce grand homme, qui donna dans la suite tant de preuves de sa valeur, parut avoir été conservé par le Génie de France qui sembloit être sur son déclin, pour attacher par sa vertu heroïque le coeur des Peuples dégoutez de leurs Princes légitimes, et pour ouvrir à ses enfans un chemin, où courant à la gloire ils prissent les armes, et ne les missent bas qu'après avoir reconnu leur erreur. (Hic ingentis animi vir, qui tot laudis bellicae monumenta postea reliquit, fato Galliae ad exitium vergentis reservatus videtur, ut ipse [virtute propria fretus,] populos legitimorum principum dominationem exosos sibi conciliaret, et filiorum auspiciis ad arma nunquam nisi sero errore cognito ponenda viam sterneret.) (3)

Note the emphasis on a popular shift away from the Valois toward the heroic warrior.

François de Lorraine de Guise was created duke in 1548 and, as we shall see, curried popular support throughout his career. In a complex political culture, a charismatic leader could not simply impose himself. The weaknesses of the Valois were in the future, but de Thou lays out a dynamic. Preconditions for the rise of a tyrant: popular discontent and the presence of a heroic aristocratic figure successful in war. François de Lorraine had been wounded yet was victorious, thereby confirming the image of the ideal captain in French military culture and protector of the Nation.

De Thou's next step in his early characterization of the Lorraines-Guises was to have King Francis I warn his heir, Henry II, about the dangers of factionalism. There is no way of knowing whether Francis I actually gave such a warning. De Thou's depiction of a dying king who was uttering présages was a device used by both ancient and modern historians, and de Thou may well have invented what follows:

Enfin le dernier avis de François à son fils, fut, qu'il se défiât de l'ambition des Guises, prévoyant, sans doute, que s'ils entroient jamais dans le Ministère, ils dépouilleroient ses propres enfans, et ruineroient la France sans ressource. On eut soin d'abord de ne pas publier ce dernier avis, qui flattoit peu les inclinations du nouveau Roi [Henry II] et qui fut d'ailleurs étouffé par la faveur naissante des Guises ... (4)

But as if sensing reader skepticism about the authenticity of this passage, de Thou adds that Catherine de Médicis knew about this advice that, he says, eventually was revealed by Marguerite de Modon, her confidente. François de Lorraine was still merely "d'Aumale" when the king died. To be sure, his father, Claude de Lorraine, first duke of Guise, and his brother Jean, the first of four successive cardinals, were often referred to as "de Lorraine" or "de Guise," before disgrace removed them from the court prior to the death of King Francis I. There is a considerable literature on speeches in ancient histories. For French histories written during the early-modern period, has work been done on this still-Humanist phenomenon?

Not only the Guises, but the Montmorency would return to the court early in the reign of Henry II; but it seemed to many that the Montmorency were already "comblés" with offices and honors, and that it was the Lorraines' turn:

En France, le Roi fit au commencement de cette année [1548] François de Lorraine, comte d'Aumale, duc et pair. Cette maison ambitieuse peu contente des honneurs qu'elle possedait déjà, aspiroit sans cesse à des titres plus distinguez, et accumuloit les dignitez, comme autant de degrez pour parvenir à la souveraine puissance. (5)

Not mincing words, de Thou places the same political-cultural frame around numerous incidents where Guise ambition would provoke jealousy and opposition from other high-ranking competitors at court.

An assessment of Cardinal Jean de Lorraine is placed in the year of his death, 1550:

Jean cardinal de Lorraine étoit mort à Nevers, le dix de Mai, ayant été frappé d'une apoplexie en soupant. Ce Cardinal avoit sçû gagner les bonnes graces de François I par une liberalité indiscrete, et parce qu'il s'empressoit pour lui trouver des plaisirs: il étoit venu à bout par ce moyen d'appaiser la juste indignation que ce Prince avoit conçûë contre Claude de Guise son frere. Ce duc mourut le 18 Avril quelques tems avant le Cardinal, Prince aussi célébre dans la guerre que dans la paix. (6)

De Thou adds that his funeral was splendid, not unlike the funerals of kings. (7)

After working through the relations that gave the cardinal great influence in the royal council (through Diane de Poitiers), de Thou takes up the creation of the présidiaux, saying that, in regard to the legislation:

Cet édit fut l'ouvrage du Cardinal de Lorraine, qui en établissant à Reims, dont il étoit archevêque, une jurisdiction royale, au lieu qu'auparavant on n'y reconnoissoit que la jurisdiction des Archevêques, fit si grand tort, et à sa propre autorité, et à celle de ses successeurs. (8)

As he approaches the foreign-policy issues and war in the North, de Thou includes a succinct history of the duchy of Lorraine. He also does this for small city states in Italy and Germany; so including Lorraine is not exceptional, except that the Lorraine family claimed descent from Charlemagne. And de Thou begins his account of Lorraine with the reign of that emperor.

Actions d'éclat

François de Guise's role in the siege of Metz is narrated, to bring into relief the duke's heroic actions. There is a suggestion that if the king was less than prompt in sending help to the city, it was because he could rely on Guise's prudence. Is this irony? The violence and the fires of the siege endangered not only the living, but the dead as well. À propos of the church of Saint-Arnoul, de Thou comments:

La nécessité présente l'emporta sur le respect dû aux temples, et on tâcha de colorer cette impieté [placing a cannon on the high vaults of the church] par une cérémonie religieuse. Car comme il y avoit dans cette ancienne Eglise plusieurs tombeaux de personnages illustres par leur sainteté, et même que quelques Rois, le duc de Guise, une torche à la main et la tête nuë, suivi des plus grands seigneurs, les fit transporter dans la ville avec beaucoup de pompe. (9)

Guise forbids that bells be rung in the city without his permission (see I. de Smet's article, listed in the Bibliography). From atop the walls, and surrounded by the Grands, he gives a speech about the king and about past French victories. It made a "forte impression."

After the Emperor lifted the siege, Guise remained alert to the population's needs, turning from anger to compassion:

En effet on ne voyoit de toutes parts que des mourans, qui se traînoient dans les chemins et dans la bouë; on voyoit un grand nombre de cadavres qui n'étoient point enterrez, et un plus grand nombre qui avoient été inhumez, mais que la pluye avoit découverts, et qui présentoient à la vûë l'objet le plus hideux. L'humanité du duc de Guise éclata en cette occasion; il fit enterrer les morts, et après avoir fait traiter les malades, il les fit mettre dans des batteaux, et les envoya à Thionville. ... (10)

Public prayers were held, and the "duc de Guise fit chercher le lendemain dans toutes les maisons les livres de Luther, et les fit bruler par la main du bourreau." (11)

Accompanied by his brothers-in-law, Alfonso d'Este and d'Este's brother the Grand Prieur de France, François de Guise gave another speech to inspire courage in the fight against the Habsburgs and their allies.

Moving on to 1556-1557, de Thou characterizes the Guises in general terms, before turning to the campaign to conquer Naples: "Les princes de la maison de Guise, emportez par le feu de la jeunesse, et par une ambition demesurée, qui leur faisoit esperer, qu'à la faveur des troubles ils pouvoient augmenter leur crédit et leur puissance ...." (12) Montmorency favored peace, Diane and the cardinal de Lorraine favored war, and the king was undecided. The Italian campaign of 1557, which saw the Guises in command of 12,000 foot, would prove a disaster, because the duke, "méprisant de si sages conseils, ne suivit que les avis du Cardinal de Lorraine, son frère, dont l'esprit, rempli de vastes idées, s'étoit formé des chimères." (13) As if this were not harsh enough, de Thou repeats that, from irritation, the duc de Guise, "ébloüi et comme enchanté des belles idées de son frere," (14) finally began to blame his brother for the failures. Guise wanted to return to France, but the king ordered him to carry on for awhile. The Habsburg incursions on the northern border would change all that. The siege of Saint-Quentin prompts de Thou to write: "Cette défaite fut très-fatale à la France." (15) It had been the Lorraines who wanted war in Italy; and now Montmorency was defeated, captured and humiliated in the North, despite his correct policy.

Upon his return, the duc de Guise quickly assembled an army and besieged and captured Calais in 1558. There was a meeting of the Estates, where "le Cardinal de Lorraine se leva, et fit un discours enflé, diffus, et selon sa coûtume, rempli de loüanges et de flatteries," (16) and ended up asking for 3,000,000, écus d'or! Here may be an example of the deep differences between the Robe's outlook on rhetoric, and the soon-to-develop Asianist way of painting pictures with words, of the Jesuits in particular. (17)

The cardinal would soon enter into a secret agreement with the bishop of Arras that recognized that Guise interests vis-à-vis the Habsburgs differed from those of the French. The result, says de Thou, "combleroit de gloire la maison de Guise, en leur attirant la vénération du peuple, à qui un tel projet seroit agréable, et dont ils avoient interêt de ménager l'affection, pour prévenir des révolutions inopinées." (18) Cryptic and oblique, these remarks nevertheless confirms de Thou's general understanding that tyranny arises with popular support.

The taking of Calais had been an action d'éclat. It put Guise in a highly favorable light, despite the failure of the Italian campaign. It would not be long before Guise sought a shift of powers. At court, as Montmorency withdrew from the royal presence, Guise approached the king and said:

Je ne doute point, Sire, que le Connêtable ne vous ait prié de lui conserver sa charge et ses biens, et d'accorder votre protection à ses enfants. Il paroit juste que Votre Majesté ait égard à ce qu'il vous a demandé, et que vous le laissez dans le rang qu'il occupe, tant à cause de son mérite personnel, que des services qu'il a rendu à l'Etat; mais, s'il mouroit, j'espère que vous ne donneriez pas à un autre qu'à moi sa charge de Grand-Maître de votre Maison, dont j'ai déjà fait les fonctions au mariage de M. le Dauphin. (19)

Henry II's rejoinder was ambiguous. Guise's speech is an example of courtly politics in the form of a speech that certainly was heard by no one but the king. In short, de Thou constructed it on the basis of patterns of inference that had become "polite" and overt, once reading Castiglione had pervaded political elites. The usual invented speech in Antique history dealt with public matters, and it was given before a public. Thus de Thou transfers a type of invented discourse from one political sphere to another. The speech is set off by quotation marks at the start of every line; but unless de Thou had very secret access to one of the parties, it must be said that this exchange was written by de Thou.

Having summarized the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis and eulogized Charles V, de Thou comments, almost as an aside: "... et les Guises qui cherchoient à se rendre agréables au peuple par la punition des Sectaires ..." (20) He prepares the reader for Henry II's accidental death: "Alors, la Reine mere, qui vouloit gouverner, ... s'unit aux Guises oncles de la jeune Reine." (21) Though very caring and assiduous to Diane de Poitiers, the Guises drop her immediately; then, a paragraph later, regarding the whole tragic moment, de Thou remarks "que ce qui fut fatal à Montmorenci avoit été très-avantageux aux Guises." (22)

The royal seals were taken from Bertrandi, despite the fact that he had received them on the recommendation of the Guises, and of Diane. Saint-André had to struggle to keep his position after Montmorency's fall. The latter made the "mistake" of staying on after the funeral at Saint-Denis, although the Guises, the king and the queen mother, breaking with custom, had gone to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The visible signs of ambition were everywhere. As the young king came before the public for the first time, "en habits de deuil suivi de toute la cour, le duc de Guise osa bien porter la queuë du manteau royal, ce qui n'appartenoit qu'aux Princes du sang." (23) Henry of Navarre was not given quarters worthy of his rank, not an accidental decision. De Thou weighs the constituted powers: "Ces avantages des Guises sur le premier prince du Sang [Henri de Navarre], firent croire à ces favoris superbes, qu'ils avoient triomphé des Bourbons, qui seuls pouvoient résister leur puissance." (24)

Here the issue is one of function and rank, it is not yet dynastic.

The increasing intensity of the Guise demands

New reign, new chapter. Some of the elements that would become more consequential to the overall course of French sixteenth-century history during the reign of Francis II, became so many pieces engaged on the chessboard by the time of Henry II's death. Cedric Michon has recently emphasized the importance of the office of grand maître in the overall governance of the court, the council and the country in the sixteenth century. (25) We have already seen the duc de Guise's bid for the office prior to Henry's death.

Montmorency initially did not wish to resign as the new reign began. Catherine offered to make his son a supernumerary marshal of France. Given his growing isolation, Montmorency gave in, and Guise became grand maître. De Thou notes that, of the eighteen new knights of St. Michel, all were Guise clients. (26)

There were edicts about bearing arms at court. Long coats and boots permitted weapons to be hidden, and "plusieurs disoient que le Cardinal de Lorraine naturellement timide, qui craignoit, parce qu'il étoit haï, et qu'il avoit offensé bien des personnes, avoit fait donner cet Edit." (27)

De Thou evokes the opinions of others throughout his History. These very probably were opinions with which he concurred; but instead of presenting them as his, he attributes them to others. For example: "Les François qui aiment leurs Princes, étoient indignez de ce renversement dans l'Etat, et tout retentissoit de plaintes à la Cour" because, as princes étrangers, the Lorraines assumed the duties and privileges of princes du sang. (28) Some opponents were intimidated, others were flattered; all the Guises and all the Lorraines made promises to those who could be useful to them. And the Guises "donnerent au Roi le conseil extrême et inhumain, de faire élever un gibet aux environs de Fontainebleau." (29) As an Erasmian might, de Thou notes inhumanity and humanity many times throughout his work. Here, what is "inhumain" is the sowing of fear of execution: the gallows were installed close to a royal residence whose attributes were joy and pleasure: "La Reine mere, et les Guises ne voyoient qu'avec peine que plusieurs demandoient une assemblée des Etats, qui auroit donné des bornes à leur puissance. Ils accusoient de rébellion ceux qui osoient proposer cette convocation." (30)

De Thou's account of the conspiracy of Amboise is brief. The pretext was the Guise usurpation of sovereign authority with the consent of the Estates. La Renaudie's printed speech centers on the Guises as usurpers, as princes étrangers; a counter-interpretation conforming to the "système des Guises" (31) stated that the plot had been aimed at the king and the queen mother.

The climate of plotting prompted the "naturellement timide" cardinal de Lorraine to move toward a less hostile attitude toward the Protestants, while at the same time the Guises pressed for an Inquisition in France. Catherine outwardly gave the Guises a great deal of influence, but she was not duped by them. As Francis II became fatally ill, the Guises did not know which way to turn. First President Lizet had opposed authorizing the title "prince" for a prince étranger: it should be reserved for members of the royal family. De Thou admired Lizet, and de l'Hospital as well; but he does not praise them while they are in office. When Christophe de Thou, the historian's father, became first president, he advised the cardinal de Guise to be more moderate. (32)

The reign of Charles IX (1560): "La justice seule distingue les Rois des Tyrans" (33)

"Que si on comptoit exactement ce qui lui avoit été accordé de gratifications, on trouveroit qu'un Connêtable [Montmorency], à qui la France devoit infiniment, n'avoit pas reçû la septiéme partie des dons excessifs, que les goufres de l'Etat, la duchesse de Valentinois, S. André, et les Lorrains avoient englouties." (34) A new reign prompted a summary for most Ancien Régime historians, and de Thou was no exception.

The Lorraines' pressure for higher honors continued. At Charles IX's coronation, Guise claimed a seat just after the king of Navarre and before the duke of Montpensier. At the same time, the attempt to control the council through Catherine was failing, so the Guises sought "alliances" with Condé and Montmorency.


Le duc de Guise et le Cardinal de Lorraine son frere, qui croyoient n'avoir plus rien à craindre, aprés avoir contracté une si étroite amitié avec le Connêtable et le maréchal de S. André, et après avoir détaché le roi de Navarre du parti Protestant, trouverent ... un prétexte spécieux pour quitter la Cour. (35)

Leaving the court with a trumped-up excuse, or no excuse at all, inevitably created the jitters in an unstable central government, with a young king and a foreign queen mother. De Thou sees a hardening of the religious divisions. Guise was opposed to a Gallican Church council; the massacre of Vassy aroused anger and recrimination. As de Thou put it: "Quoique tout ceci fut arrivé contre l'intention et la volonté du duc de Guise, cependant pour se justifier lui et les siens, il fit venir plusieurs des principaux Protestants, qui avoient été pris, et il leur fit une vive réprimande...," as if it had been their fault.

Would Navarre join the Triumvirate? De Thou asserts that Catherine really comprehended the danger she and the young king were facing, and that the peuple had begun to appear as an actor. De Thou states the facts, often without interpreting them, especially in regard to Catherine : "... pour prévenir la sédition dont on étoit menacé, elle défendit aux partisans des Guises de venir à Paris. Cependant elle écrivit au duc de Guise de sa main, et elle l'exhorta de se rendre auprès du Roi, mais avec peu de suite. ..." (36) Was de Thou relying on his readers to infer that this was not a prudent action?

Seeking security, Catherine went to Melun. The prévôt des marchands and Claude Marul, "le plus aimé du peuple," attempted to convince the court to return to Paris because of the dangers posed by Condé, whose armed Protestants were in the capital. Arms were distributed to the militia. De Thou notes: "Tout se disposoit à une sédition et à une guerre ouverte; le Cardinal de Lorraine, habile dans l'art de feindre, faisoit sans cesse répandre les faux bruits." (37) His dramatic entrance by the city gate customarily used by royalty had prompted contestation. The duke had a different response: "Dans une affaire de cette importance, il falloit lever toutes les difficultez par un coup d'éclat." (38)

The war that followed, and its culmination at Dreux by Guise's victory over the Protestants and Condé, had prompted the building of bonfires in the Parisian streets. As of 1562, a special relationship had begun to develop between the peuple of Paris and the Lorraines. Dreux strengthened those ties, as would Guise's assassination in February 1563. The assassin's motives prompted de Thou to write:

En effet, soit que son assassin eût voulu acquerir la fausse gloire de défendre la liberté publique contre un tyran qui vouloit l'opprimer, comme on le disoit hautement; soit qu'il eût été animé de quelque esprit de vertige et de fureur; soit qu'il eût été sollicité et engagé par les ennemis du Duc, il semble à en juger par les circonstances du tems, qu'en tuant celui qui étoit regardé comme le plus opposé à la paix, il fraya le chemin au traité qui suivit de près son assassinat. (39)

But that was not all. The long-term consequences affected the Guise children:

Mais si on en veut juger sainement, il est certain que cette mort, bien loin d'éteindre les factions, et de concilier les differens partis, jetta dans les coeurs des enfans du duc de Guise, les semences des vifs ressentimens et des haines implacables, qui se sont fortifiées avec l'âge, et ont produit dans leur tems les guerres civiles, dont la Fance a été depuis agitée. Heritiers de la valeur de leur pere, et de l'affection qu'on avoit pour lui; appuyez du prétexte plausible de la Religion; soûtenus par l'amour du peuple; ne trouvant dans les Princes et dans les Grands, que paresse et lâcheté; dans ceux qui étoient à la tête des affaires, que perversité, et dans le siécle où ils vivoient, que vices et corruption, il profiterent d'une occasion si favorable pour faire éclater leur courage, et pour susciter de nouvelles affaires: ils firent de leurs ennemis particuliers, des ennemis de l'Etat; ils prirent les armes contr'eux sous les auspices des Rois; enfin ils les tournerent contre la patrie, et même contre les Rois, à la ruine du Royaume, et à leur propre perte. (40)

If the victory at Dreux, and the Guises' assassination in 1562 would make peace possible, that peace would not last. De Thou seems already to have in mind what Henri, son of the murdered and lamented François duc de Guise, would become. His readers, of course, would think of duc Henri, the Balafré. Thus de Thou may have consciously and deliberately created an atemporality with a proto-historical dimension.

The seditious climate in Paris had prompted the duke of Guise to think of carrying out a "coup d'éclat." His victory at Dreux could be considered such, since it prompted a highly favorable response by the Parisians. Was it the turn of Charles, cardinal de Lorraine, to act? He had returned from Rome to Joinville and had quickly resolved to go to Paris "pour se montrer au peuple, et voir ses créatures après une si longue absence." (41) A clash between the guards of François de Montmorency, governor of Paris, and the guards of the cardinal de Lorraine, ended in two deaths and a standoff. De Thou also notes in this context that the cardinal had written the emperor to assure him that he, Lorraine, was his vassal, and to request imperial defense of Metz. Both points were an affront to the French Crown.

De Thou's narrative of the violence during the late 1560s refers only briefly to the Lorraines. That changes with the attack on Poitiers in 1569. Here Henri de Guise appears with his brother, Mayenne, and captures the moment: "le premier étoit déjà au rang des grands capitaines tant par son propre merite, que par la grande réputation de son pere," (42) notes de Thou. He continues:

Le duc [Henri] de Guise, qui tout jeune qu'il étoit, avoit une ambition sans bornes, et une envie extrême d'acquerir de la gloire, ne voulut pas, même au peril de sa vie, démentir l'opinion que le peuple et une grande partie de la Noblesse avoient de lui, ni qu'on pût lui reprocher d'avoir eu plus de soin de conserver sa vie, que de soûtenir la gloire de sa maison, celle de son pere et la sienne propre, dans une occasion décisive. (43)

Among the events of 1570 narrated by de Thou is a plot to assassinate young Henri de Guise, perpetrated by the king, who saw a "trop grande familiarité" between his sister Marguerite and Guise, "aussi bien fait que brave," that violated dynastic ranking. The plot was found out, so no life was lost; but this led to Guise's precipitous marriage (approved by his mother, Anne d'Este) to Catherine of Clèves, widow of the prince de Porcien. De Thou does not comment directly on the dynastic implications, presumably because they would have been evident to readers in the early seventeenth century.

As if this account of the marriage had brought another marriage to mind, de Thou says that the cardinal de Lorraine arranged the union of the Duc de Montpensier and Catherine de Lorraine, Duke Henri's sister, "dans l'espérance d'attirer dans son parti ce Prince [Montpensier] qui, quoique ennemi irréconciliable des Huguenots, n'en étoit pas plus ami des Guises." (44) Attending was Scipione Fieschi, whom de Thou identifies as the "frère de Louis Fiesque, qui vingt-trois ans auparavant avoit voulu se rendre maître de la Republique de Gênes." (45) This paralleling of Fiesque-Guise-Lorraine ambition (and failure) may not become more explicit than this as we advance toward 1588. A brief parallel is also drawn between the events at Merindol and the events in Paris, August 1572.

Satisfaction is the operative word. That is to say, the Crown never seems to do enough for the Guises-Lorraines:

Dans ce même tems [1572] les Guises quittèrent la Cour, sous prétexte que le Roi sembloit avoir oublié les services que cette illustre famille avoit rendus à l'Etat; qu'il n'avoit tenu aucun compte de venger le meurtre du duc [François] de Guise; et qu'il faisoit mille caresses à leurs ennemis mortels. (46)

Factionalism and violence in the 1570s

As de Thou approached the major events of the early 1570s, he made a resumé of the deliberations in the Conseil d'État in 1572:

Voici comme on raisonnoit. Il y a dans le Royaume deux factions, l'une des Monmorencis, dont les Colignis leurs alliés faisoient autrefois partie; mais ils en ont formé une à part des sectateurs de la religion qu'ils ont embrassée: l'autre faction est celle des Guises. (47)

Note that he stresses two exchanges, the first between the Montmorency and the Coligny, and the other the joining of the Coligny and the Protestants.

De Thou continues his summary of council deliberations:

Mais les troubles ont rendu les chefs de faction si puissans, qu'il n'y a pas moyen de les accabler tous ensemble; et il faut donc les prendre les uns après les autres ...; il est à propos de commencer par Coligny: comme il reste seul de sa famille .... (48)

The Protestants are present at this point in the deliberations, but they are considered allies of Admiral Coligny.

De Thou then summarizes the repeated attempts to eliminate Coligny. Had one of the attempts succeeded, the other heads of factions could also suffer the same fate, the implicit aim of these assassinations being increased royal power. A dynamic is described that seems favorable only to royal power:

Si les Protestans entreprennent de venger la mort de Coligny, eux et les Monmorencis se trouvant les plus foibles, seront exterminés par la populace. ... Pendant ce tems-là le Roi fera venir beaucoup de troupes au Louvre; et après avoir été spectateur du combat, lors qu'il sera fini, il attaquera les vainqueurs affoiblis et las de tuer; et sous prétexte qu'ils auront excité cette sédition, et qu'ils auront pris les armes sans son ordre, il les fera tous massacrer sans en laisser échaper un seul, et fera en même-tems main basse sur les Seigneurs qui auront été attachés à quelqu'un des partis. (49)

The entire plan was designed to redound favorably on Catherine.

Guise is, according to de Thou, informed of the plans to kill Coligny, but not of the rest. Finding an assassin was not difficult; Maurevel, says de Thou, had previously been ordered to kill Coligny; but de Thou does not say who had given the order. Maurevel had lived in various Guise houses.

De Thou's narrative of events has the king's dissimulation as its leitmotiv. Charles IX made remarks against the Guises and their relations with the Parisian populace. Guise was ordered to station troops around the Louvre. At several points de Thou includes texts surrounded by quotation marks, but he does not provide a source. He mentions, but does not say why, Camillo Capilupi, the lyric poet he admired, and Giovanni Battista Adriani ("Hadriani"), the continuator of Guicciardini, from whom he frequently borrowed facts. (50) Do the passages within quotation marks come from Adriani? There is also an allusion to "les historiens Italiens." (51)

On the other hand, there are no quotes around the passage about how Guise "brought in" Jean Charon, the prévôt des marchands, who informed the corps de ville and the militia captains of the plan to exterminate Coligny, a plan that they received and executed "avec joye." De Thou captures the anxiety in the Louvre, the midnight meetings to review the plans, and the decision to lay the full blame on the Guises.

At the news, the cardinal de Lorraine was "comme transporté de joy [et] fit compter mille écus d'or à un Gentilhomme du duc d'Aumale son frère, qui lui apporta cette agréable nouvelle." (52) Not quite ironic, nor a parallel, but close to what J.H. Elliott does so well: finding the coincidental. De Thou asserts that the deliberations about Coligny's fate took place in the very room where Guise would be killed eighteen years later! (53) The statement is doubly incorrect: Guise was assassinated at Blois, not in Paris; and the event took place sixteen years later, not eighteen. But it is the freedom to move back and forth in time that is striking, and that is, of course, framed by the title: Historiarum sui Temporis.

To emphasize only what de Thou writes about the Guises and St. Bartholomew's Day is to distort understanding the whole narrative; but recall that our aim is only to study the actions of the Guises. It is evident that de Thou did not perceive any Guise-Lorraine action, in the 1572 events in Paris, that could be characterized as leading to increased tyrannical powers. But Guise possessed the political relations needed to bring the Parisians into play on the king's orders.

References to the role played by the populace appear in the council deliberations. As part of the plan, the king sought to make the Guises responsible for all violence beyond Coligny's murder. De Thou notes royal orders to put troops around the Louvre. He does not say that those orders included mobilizing the city militia. Yet it seems certain that the king wished to blame the Guises for extending the violence. This attempt to lay the blame proved unsuccessful: Charles IX would be forced to admit that he had given the orders that led to the tragic events.



1. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 162; Historiarum sui temporis (London: Buckley, 1733), vol. I, bk III, p. 96.

2. HU, vol. I, bk I, p. 37; Historiarum sui temporis, vol. I, bk I, p. 27.

3. HU, vol. I, bk I, p. 76; Historiarum sui temporis, vol. 1, bk I, p. 48.

4. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 183.

5. HU, vol. I, bk IV, p. 334.

6. HU, vol. I, bk V, p. 402.

7. HU, vol. I, bk. V, p. 402.

8. HU, vol. II, bk VIII, p. 139.

9. HU, vol. II, bk XI, p. 308.

10. HU, vol. II, bk XI, p. 321.

11. HU, vol. II, bk XI, p. 325.

12. HU, vol. III, bk XVII, p. 23.

13. HU, vol. III, bk XVIII, p. 82.

14. HU, vol. III, bk XVIII, p. 83.

15. HU, vol. III, bk XIX, p. 160

16. HU, vol. III, bk XX, p. 212.

17. See M. Fumaroli, L'Éloquence et res litteraria.

18. HU, vol. III, bk XX, p. 224.

19. HU, vol. III, bk XX, p. 228.

20. HU, vol. III, bk XXII, p. 357.

21. HU, vol. III, bk XXII, p. 373.

22. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 377.

23. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 378.

24. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 381.

25. Cédric Michon, Les Conseillers de François I (Rennes, 2011), passim.

26. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 385.

27. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 382.

28. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 381.

29. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, pp. 397-398.

30. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 405.

31. Coming upon the word système in this context brought the issue of the weak translation to mind. The Latin text does not use that word, or even a synonym for it! This may be evidence not only of the translator's engagement, but also of his understanding of the argument about the Guises and tyranny. The Latin reads: ... et Ambosianum castrum, in quo erat, circunsedisse. nam Guisiani ab omnibus dici et credi cupiebant, contra regem Catharinam... (Drouart edition of 1606, vol. 1, p. 684). The French version reads: "... pour attaquer dans le château d'Amboise, où il étoit, des personnes qu'il honoroit de sa confiance. Or ce n'étoit pas là le systême des Guises. Ils vouloient qu'on publiât, et qu'on crût, que la conjuration avoit été formé contre ...." In other words, the translator added the underlined sentence, HU, vol. 3, bk XXV, p. 501.

32. HU, vol. III, bk XXIII, p. 577.

33. HU, vol. IV, bk XXVII, p.12.

34. HU, vol. IV, bk XXVII, p.

35. HU, vol. IV, bk XXVIII, p. 129.

36. HU, vol. IV, bk XXIX, p. 170.

37. HU, vol. IV, bk XXIX, p. 174.

38. HU, vol. IV, bk XXIX, p. 176.

39. HU, vol. IV, bk XXXIV, p. 519.

40. HU, vol. IV, bk XXXIV, p. 519.

41. HU, vol. V, bk XXXVII, p. 12. On the general, often confused and contradictory roles of the grands, see S. Carroll, "Nager entre deux eaux: The Princes and the Ambiguities of French Protestantism," Sixteenth-century Journal, 44 (2013), pp. 985-1020.

42. HU, vol. V, bk XLV, p. 613.

43. HU, vol. V, bk XLV, pp. 616-617.

44. HU, vol. VI, bk XLVII, p. 63.

45. HU, vol. VI, bk XLVII, p. 64.

46. HU, vol. VI, bk LI, p. 330.

47. HU, vol. VI, bk LII, p. 381.

48. HU, vol. VI, bk LII, p. 381. Stuart Carroll notes that these after-the-fact summaries of the Conseil's deliberations have the effect of exculpating members of the royal family.

49. HU, vol. VI, bk LII, p. 383.

50. HU, vol. VI, bk LIII, p. 443.

51. HU, vol. VI, bk LI, p. 331.

52. HU, vol. VI, bk LIII, p. 442.

53. HU, vol. VI, bk LI, p. 327.