Henry IV - John S. C. Abbott

The Houses of Valois, Guise, and Bourbon

At this time, in France, there were three illustrious and rival families, prominent above all others. Their origin was lost in the remoteness of antiquity. Their renown had been accumulating for many generations, through rank, and wealth, and power, and deeds of heroic and semi-barbarian daring. As these three families are so blended in all the struggles of this most warlike period, it is important to give a brief history of their origin and condition.

1. The House of Valois.

More than a thousand years before the birth of Christ, we get dim glimpses of France, or, as it was then called, Gaul. It was peopled by a barbarian race, divided into petty tribes or clans, each with its chieftain, and each possessing undefined and sometimes almost unlimited power. Age after age rolled on, during which generations came and went like ocean billows, and all Gaul was but a continued battle-field. The history of each individual of its countless millions seems to have been, that he was born, killed as many of his fellow-creatures as he could, and then, having acquired thus much of glory, died.

About fifty years before the birth of Christ, Caesar, with his conquering hosts, swept through the whole country, causing its rivers to run red with blood, until the subjugated Gauls submitted to Roman sway. In the decay of the Roman empire, about four hundred years after Christ, the Franks, from Germany, a barbarian horde as ferocious as wolves, penetrated the northern portion of Gaul, and, obtaining permanent settlement there, gave the whole country the name of France. Clovis was the chieftain of this warlike tribe. In the course of a few years, France was threatened with another invasion by combined hordes of barbarians from the north. The chiefs of the several independent tribes in France found it necessary to unite to repel the foe. They chose Clovis as their leader. This was the origin of the French monarchy. He was but little elevated above the surrounding chieftains, but by intrigue and power perpetuated his supremacy. For about three hundred years the family of Clovis retained its precarious and oft-contested elevation. At last, this line, enervated by luxury, became extinct, and another family obtained the throne. This new dynasty, under Pepin, was called the Carlovingian. The crown descended generally from father to son for about two hundred years, when the last of the race was poisoned by his wife. This family has been rendered very illustrious, both by Pepin and by his son, the still more widely renowned Charlemagne.

Hugh Capet then succeeded in grasping the sceptre, and for three hundred years the Capets held at bay the powerful chieftains who alternately assailed and defended the throne. Thirteen hundred years after Christ, the last of the Capets was borne to his tomb, and the feudal lords gave the pre-eminence to Philip of Valois. For about two hundred years the house of Valois had reigned. At the period of which we treat in this history, luxury and vice had brought the family near to extinction.

Charles IX., who now occupied the throne under the rigorous rule of his infamous mother, was feeble in body and still more feeble in mind. He had no child, and there was no probability that he would ever be blessed with an heir. His exhausted constitution indicated that a premature death was his inevitable destiny. His brother Henry, who had been elected King of Poland, would then succeed to the throne; but he had still less of manly character than Charles. An early death was his unquestioned doom. At his death, if childless, the house of Valois would become extinct. Who then should grasp the rich prize of the sceptre of France? The house of Guise and the house of Bourbon were rivals for this honor, and were mustering their strength and arraying their forces for the anticipated conflict. Each family could bring such vast influences into the struggle that no one could imagine in whose favor victory would decide. Such was the condition of the house of Valois in France in the year 1592.

2. The House of Guise.

No tale of fiction can present a more fascinating collection of romantic enterprises and of wild adventures than must be recorded by the truthful historian of the house of Guise. On the western banks of the Rhine, between that river and the Meuse, there was the dukedom of Lorraine. It was a state of no inconsiderable wealth and power, extending over a territory of about ten thousand square miles, and containing a million and a half of inhabitants. Rene II., Duke of Lorraine, was a man of great renown, and in all the pride and pomp of feudal power he energetically governed his little realm. His body was scarred with the wounds he had received in innumerable battles, and he was ever ready to head his army of fifty thousand men, to punish any of the feudal lords around him who trespassed upon his rights.

The wealthy old duke owned large possessions in Normandy, Picardy, and various other of the French provinces. He had a large family. His fifth son, Claude, was a proud-spirited boy of sixteen. Rene sent this lad to France, and endowed him with all the fertile acres, and the castles, and the feudal rights which, in France, pertained to the noble house of Lorraine. Young Claude of Lorraine was presented at the court of St. Cloud as the Count of Guise, a title derived from one of his domains. His illustrious rank, his manly beauty, his princely bearing, his energetic mind, and brilliant talents, immediately gave him great prominence among the glittering throng of courtiers. Louis XII. was much delighted with the young count, and wished to attach the powerful and attractive stranger to his own house by an alliance with his daughter. The heart of the proud boy was, however, captivated by another beauty who embellished the court of the monarch, and, turning from the princess royal, he sought the hand of Antoinette, an exceedingly beautiful maiden of about his own age, a daughter of the house of Bourbon. The wedding of this young pair was celebrated with great magnificence in Paris, in the presence of the whole French court. Claude was then but sixteen years of age.

A few days after this event the infirm old king espoused the young and beautiful sister of Henry VIII. of England. The Count of Guise was honored with the commission of proceeding to Boulogne with several princes of the blood to receive the royal bride. Louis soon died, and his son, Francis I., ascended the throne. Claude was, by marriage, his cousin. He could bring all the influence of the proud house of Bourbon and the powerful house of Lorraine in support of the king. His own energetic, fearless, war-loving spirit invested him with great power in those barbarous days of violence and blood. Francis received his young cousin into high favor. Claude was, indeed, a young man of very rare accomplishments. His prowess in the jousts and tournaments, then so common, and his grace and magnificence in the drawing-room, rendered him an object of universal admiration.

One night Claude accompanied Francis I. to the queen's circle. She had gathered around her the most brilliant beauty of her realm. In those days woman occupied a very inferior position in society, and seldom made her appearance in the general assemblages of men. The gallant young count was fascinated with the amiability and charms of those distinguished ladies, and suggested to the king the expediency of breaking over the restraints which long usage had imposed, and embellishing his court with the attractions of female society and conversation. The king immediately adopted the welcome suggestion, and decided that, throughout the whole realm, women should be freed from the unjust restraint to which they had so long been subject. Guise had already gained the good-will of the nobility and of the army, and he now became a universal favorite with the ladies, and was thus the most popular man in France. Francis I. was at this time making preparations for the invasion of Italy, and the Count of Guise, though but eighteen years of age, was appointed commander-in-chief of a division of the army consisting of twenty thousand men.

In all the perils of the bloody battles which soon ensued, he displayed that utter recklessness of danger which had been the distinguishing trait of his ancestors. In the first battle, when discomfiture and flight were spreading through his ranks, the proud count refused to retire one step before his foes. He was surrounded, overmatched, his horse killed from under him, and he fell, covered with twenty-two wounds, in the midst of the piles of mangled bodies which strewed the ground. He was afterward dragged from among the dead, insensible and apparently lifeless, and conveyed to his tent, where his vigorous constitution, and that energetic vitality which seemed to characterize his race, triumphed over wounds whose severity rendered their cure almost miraculous.

Francis I., in his report of the battle, extolled in the most glowing terms the prodigies of valor which Guise had displayed. War, desolating war, still ravaged wretched Europe, and Guise, with his untiring energy, became so prominent in the court and the camp that he was regarded rather as an ally of the King of France than as his subject. His enormous fortune, his ancestral renown, the vast political and military influences which were at his command, made him almost equal to the monarch whom he served. Francis lavished honors upon him, converted one of his counties into a dukedom, and, as duke of Guise, young Claude of Lorraine had now attained the highest position which a subject could occupy.

Years of conflagration, carnage, and woe rolled over war-deluged Europe, during which all the energies of the human race seemed to be expended in destruction; and in almost every scene of smouldering cities, of ravaged valleys, of battle-fields rendered hideous with the shouts of onset and shrieks of despair, we see the apparition of the stalwart frame of Guise, scarred, and war-worn, and blackened with the smoke and dust of the fray, riding upon his proud charger, wherever peril was most imminent, as if his body were made of iron.

At one time he drove before him, in most bloody rout, a numerous army of Germans. The fugitives, spreading over leagues of country, fled by his own strong castle of Neufchateau. Antoinette and the ladies of her court stood upon the battlements of the castle, gazing upon the scene, to them so new and to them so pleasantly exciting. As they saw the charges of the cavalry trampling the dead and the dying beneath their feet, as they witnessed all the horrors of that most horrible scene which earth can present—a victorious army cutting to pieces its flying foes, with shouts of applause they animated the ardor of the victors. The once fair-faced boy had now become a veteran. His bronzed cheek and sinewy frame attested his life of hardship and toil. The nobles were jealous of his power. The king was annoyed by his haughty bearing; but he was the idol of the people. In one campaign he caused the death of forty thousand Protestants, for he was the devoted servant of mother Church. Claude the Butcher was the not inappropriate name by which the Protestants designated him. His brother John attained the dignity of Cardinal of Lorraine. Claude with his keen sword, and John with pomp, and pride, and spiritual power, became the most relentless foes of the Reformation, and the most valiant defenders of the Catholic faith.

The kind-heartedness of the wealthy but dissolute cardinal, and the prodigality of his charity, rendered him almost as popular as his warlike brother. When he went abroad, his valet de chambre invariably prepared him a bag filled with gold, from which he gave to the poor most freely. His reputation for charity was so exalted that a poor blind mendicant, to whom he gave gold in the streets of Rome, overjoyed at the acquisition of such a treasure, exclaimed, "Surely thou art either Christ or the Cardinal of Lorraine."

The Duke of Guise, in his advancing years, was accompanied to the field of battle by his son Francis, who inherited all of his father's courtly bearing, energy, talent, and headlong valor. At the siege of Luxemburg a musket ball shattered the ankle of young Francis, then Count of Aumale, and about eighteen years of age. As the surgeon was operating upon the splintered bones and quivering nerves, the sufferer gave some slight indication of his sense of pain. His iron father severely reprimanded him, saying,

"Persons of your rank should not feel their wounds, but, on the contrary, should take pleasure in building up their reputation upon the ruin of their bodies."

Others of the sons of Claude also signalized themselves in the wars which then desolated Europe, and they received wealth and honors. The king erected certain lands and lordships belonging to the Duke of Guise into a marquisate, and then immediately elevated the marquisate into a duchy, and the youngest son of the Duke of Guise, inheriting the property, was ennobled with the title of the Duke of Mayence. Thus there were two rich dukedoms in the same family.

Claude had six sons, all young men of imperious spirit and magnificent bearing. They were allied by marriage with the most illustrious families in France, several of them being connected with princes of the blood royal. The war-worn duke, covered with wounds which he deemed his most glorious ornaments, often appeared at court accompanied by his sons. They occupied the following posts of rank and power: Francis, the eldest, Count of Aumale, was the heir of the titles and the estates of the noble house. Claude was Marquis of Mayence; Charles was Archbishop of Rheims, the richest benefice in France, and he soon attained one of the highest dignities of the Church by the reception of a cardinal's hat; Louis was Bishop of Troyes, and Francis, the youngest, Chevalier of Lorraine and Duke of Mayence, was general of the galleys of France. One of the daughters was married to the King of Scotland, and the others had formed most illustrious connections. Thus the house of Guise towered proudly and sublimely from among the noble families in the midst of whom it had so recently been implanted.

Henry VIII. of England, inflamed by the report of the exceeding beauty of Mary, daughter of the Duke of Guise, had solicited her hand; but Claude was unwilling to surrender his daughter to England's burly and brutal old tyrant, and declined the regal alliance. The exasperated monarch, in revenge, declared war against France. Years of violence and blood lingered away. At last Claude, aged and infirm, surrendered to that king of terrors before whom all must bow. In his strong castle of Joinville, on the twelfth of April, 1550, the illustrious, magnanimous, blood-stained duke, after a whole lifetime spent in slaughter, breathed his last. His children and his grandchildren were gathered around the bed of the dying chieftain. In the darkness of that age, he felt that he had been contending, with divine approval, for Christ and his Church. With prayers and thanksgivings, and language expressive of meekness and humility before God, he ascended to that tribunal of final judgment where there is no difference between the peasant and the prince.

The chivalrous and warlike Francis inherited his father's titles, wealth, and power; and now the house of Guise was so influential that the king trembled in view of its rivalry. It was but the kingly office alone which rendered the house of Valois superior to the house of Guise. In illustration of the character of those times, and the hardihood and sufferings through which the renown of these chieftains was obtained, the following anecdote may be narrated.

Francis, Duke of Guise, in one of the skirmishes with the English invaders, received a wound which is described as the most severe from which any one ever recovered. The lance of an English officer "entered above the right eye, declining toward the nose, and piercing through on the other side, between the nape and the ear." The weapon, having thus penetrated the head more than half a foot, was broken off by the violence of the blow, the lance-iron and two fingers' breadth of the staff remaining in the dreadful wound. The surgeons of the army, stupefied by the magnitude of the injury, declined to attempt the extraction of the splinter, saying that it would only expose him to dreadful and unavailing suffering, as he must inevitably die. The king immediately sent his surgeon, with orders to spare no possible efforts to save the life of the hero. The lance-head was broken off so short that it was impossible to grasp it with the hand. The surgeon took the heavy pincers of a blacksmith, and asked the sufferer if he would allow him to make use of so rude an instrument, and would also permit him to place his foot upon his face.

"You may do any thing you consider necessary," said the duke.

The officers standing around looked on with horror as the king's surgeon, aided by an experienced practitioner, tore out thus violently the barbed iron, fracturing the bones, and tearing nerves, veins, and arteries. The hardy soldier bore the anguish without the contraction of a muscle, and was only heard gently to exclaim to himself, "Oh my God!" The sufferer recovered, and ever after regarded the frightful scar which was left as a signal badge of honor. He hence bore the common name of Le Balafre, or The Scarred.

As the duke returned to court, the king hurried forth from his chamber to meet him, embraced him warmly, and said,

"It is fair that I should come out to meet my old friend, who, on his part, is ever so ready to meet my enemies."

Gradually, however, Francis, the king, became very jealous of the boundless popularity and enormous power acquired by this ambitious house. Upon his dying bed he warned his son of the dangerous rivalry to which the Guises had attained, and enjoined it upon him to curb their ambition by admitting none of the princes of that house to a share in the government; but as soon as King Francis was consigned to his tomb, Henry II., his son and successor, rallied the members of this family around him, and made the duke almost the partner of his throne. He needed the support of the strong arm and of the inexhaustible purse of the princes of Lorraine.

The arrogance of the Guises, or the princes of Lorraine, as they were frequently called, in consequence of their descent from Claude of Lorraine, reached such a pitch that on the occasion of a proud pageant, when Henry II. was on a visit of inspection to one of his frontier fortresses, the Duke of Guise claimed equal rank with Henry of Navarre, who was not only King of Navarre, but, as the Duke of Vendome, was also first prince of the blood in France. An angry dispute immediately arose. The king settled it in favor of the audacious Guise, for he was intimidated by the power of that arrogant house. He thus exasperated Henry of Navarre, and also nurtured the pride of a dangerous rival.

All classes were now courting the Duke of Guise. The first nobles of the land sought his protection and support by flattering letters and costly presents. "From all quarters," says an ancient manuscript, "he received offerings of wine, fruit, confections, ortolans, horses, dogs, hawks, and gerfalcons. The letters accompanying these often contained a second paragraph petitioning for pensions or grants from the king, or for places, even down to that of apothecary or of barber to the Dauphin." The monarchs of foreign countries often wrote to him soliciting his aid. The duke, in the enjoyment of this immense wealth, influence, and power, assumed the splendors of royalty, and his court was hardly inferior to that of the monarch. The King of Poland and the Duke of Guise were rivals for the hand of Anne, the beautiful daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, and Guise was the successful suitor.

Francis of Lorraine was now appointed lieutenant general of the French armies, and the king addressed to all the provincial authorities special injunction to render as prompt and absolute obedience to the orders of the Duke of Guise as if they emanated from himself. "And truly," says one of the writers of those times, "never had monarch in France been obeyed more punctually or with greater zeal." In fact, Guise was now the head of the government, and all the great interests of the nation were ordered by his mind. Henry was a feeble prince, with neither vigor of body nor energy of intellect to resist the encroachments of so imperial a spirit. He gave many indications of uneasiness in view of his own thralldom, but he was entirely unable to dispense with the aid of his sagacious ally.

It will be remembered that one of the daughters of Claude, and a sister of Francis, the second duke of Guise, married the King of Scotland. Her daughter, the niece of Francis, was the celebrated Mary, Queen of Scots. She had been sent to France for her education, and she was married, when very young, to her cousin Francis, son of Henry II. and of the infamous Catharine de Medici. He was heir of the French throne. This wedding was celebrated with the utmost magnificence, and the Guises moved on the occasion through the palaces of royalty with the pride of monarchs. Henry II. was accidentally killed in a tournament; and Francis, his son, under the title of Francis II., with his young and beautiful bride, the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, ascended the throne. Francis was a feeble-minded, consumptive youth of 16, whose thoughts were all centred in his lovely wife. Mary, who was but fifteen years of age, was fascinating in the extreme, and entirely devoted to pleasure. She gladly transferred all the power of the realm to her uncles, the Guises.

About this time the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants began to grow more violent. The Catholics drew the sword for the extirpation of heresy; the Protestants grasped their arms to defend themselves. The Guises consecrated all their energies to the support of the Papal Church and to the suppression of the Reformation. The feeble boy, Francis II., sat languidly upon his throne but seventeen months, when he died, on the 5th of December, 1560, and his brother, Charles IX., equally enervated in mind and with far less moral worth, succeeded to the crown. The death of Francis II. was a heavy blow to the Guises. The Admiral Coligni, one of the most illustrious of the Protestants, and the bosom friend of Henry of Navarre, was standing, with many other nobles, at the bedside of the monarch as he breathed his last.

"Gentlemen," said the admiral, with that gravity which was in accordance with his character and his religious principles, "the king is dead. It is a lesson to teach us all how to live."

The Protestants could not but rejoice that the Guises had thus lost the peculiar influence which they had secured from their near relationship to the queen. Admiral Coligni retired from the death-bed of the monarch to his own mansion, and, sitting down by the fire, became lost in the most profound reverie. He did not observe that his boots were burning until one of his friends called his attention to the fact.

"Ah!" he replied, "not a week ago, you and I would each have given a leg to have things take this turn, and now we get off with a pair of boots."

Antoinette, the widow of Claude of Lorraine, and the mother of Francis, the then Duke of Guise, was still living. She was so rancorous in her hostility to the Protestants that she was designated by them "Mother of the tyrants and enemies of the Gospel." Greatly to her annoyance, a large number of Protestants conducted their worship in the little town of Vassy, just on the frontier of the domains of the Duke of Guise. She was incessantly imploring her son to drive off these obnoxious neighbors. The duke was at one time journeying with his wife. Their route lay through the town of Vassy. His suite consisted of two hundred and sixty men at arms, all showing the warlike temper of their chief, and even far surpassing him in bigoted hatred of the Protestants.

On arriving at Vassy, the duke entered the church to hear high mass. It is said that while engaged in this act of devotion his ears were annoyed by the psalms of the Protestants, who were assembled in the vicinity. He sent an imperious message for the minister and the leading members of the congregation immediately to appear before him. The young men fulfilled their mission in a manner so taunting and insulting that a quarrel ensued, shots were exchanged, and immediately all the vassals of the duke, who were ripe for a fray, commenced an indiscriminate massacre. The Protestants valiantly but unavailingly defended themselves with sticks and stones; but the bullets of their enemies reached them everywhere, in the houses, on the roofs, in the streets. For an hour the carnage continued unchecked, and sixty men and women were killed and two hundred wounded. One only of the men of the duke was killed. Francis was ashamed of this slaughter of the defenseless, and declared that it was a sudden outbreak, for which he was not responsible, and which he had done every thing in his power to check; but ever after this he was called by the Protestants "The Butcher of Vassy."

When the news of this massacre reached Paris, Theodore de Beza was deputed by the Protestants to demand of Catharine, their regent, severe justice on the Duke of Guise; but Catharine feared the princes of Lorraine, and said to Beza,

"Whoever touches so much as the finger-tip of the Duke of Guise, touches me in the middle of my heart."

Beza meekly but courageously replied, "It assuredly behooves that Church of God, in whose name I speak, to endure blows and not to strike them; but may it please your majesty also to remember that it is an anvil which has worn out many hammers."

At the siege of Rouen the Duke of Guise was informed that an assassin had been arrested who had entered the camp with the intention of taking his life. He ordered the man to be brought before him, and calmly inquired,

"Have you not come hither to kill me?"

The intrepid but misguided young man openly avowed his intention.

"And what motive," inquired the duke, "impelled you to such a deed? Have I done you any wrong?"

"No," he replied; "but in removing you from the world I should promote the best interests of the Protestant religion, which I profess."

"My religion, then," generously replied the duke, "is better than yours, for it commands me to pardon, of my own accord, you who are convicted of guilt." And, by his orders, the assassin was safely conducted out of camp.

"A fine example," exclaims his historian, "of truly religious sentiments and magnanimous proselytism very natural to the Duke of Guise, the most moderate and humane of the chiefs of the Catholic army, and whose brilliant generosity had been but temporarily obscured by the occurrence at Vassy."

The war between the Catholics and Protestants was now raging with implacable fury, and Guise, victorious in many battles, had acquired from the Catholic party the name of "Savior of his Country." The duke was now upon the very loftiest summits of power which a subject can attain. In great exaltation of spirits, he one morning left the army over which he was commander-in-chief to visit the duchess, who had come to meet him at the neighboring castle of Corney. The duke very imprudently took with him merely one general officer and a page. It was a beautiful morning in February. As he crossed, in a boat, the mirrored surface of the Loiret, the vegetation of returning spring and the songs of the rejoicing birds strikingly contrasted with the blood, desolation, and misery with which the hateful spirit of war was desolating France. The duke was silent, apparently lost in painful reveries. His companions disturbed not his thoughts. Having crossed the stream, he was slowly walking his horse, with the reins hanging listlessly upon his mane, when a pistol was discharged at him from behind a hedge, at a distance of but six or seven paces. Two bullets pierced his side. On feeling himself wounded, he calmly said,

"They have long had this shot in reserve for me. I deserve it for my want of precaution."

[Illustration] from Henry IV by John S. C. Abbott


He immediately fell upon his horse's neck, and was caught in the arms of his friends. They conveyed him to the castle, where the duchess received him with cries of anguish. He embraced her tenderly, minutely described the circumstances of his assassination, and expressed himself grieved in view of the stain which such a crime would inflict upon the honor of France. He exhorted his wife to bow in submission to the will of Heaven, and kissing his son Henry, the Duke of Joinville, who was weeping by his side, gently said to him,

"God grant thee grace, my son, to be a good man."

Thus died Francis, the second Duke of Guise, on the twenty-fourth of February, 1563. His murderer was a young Protestant noble, Jean Poltrot, twenty-four years of age. Poltrot, from being an ardent Catholic, had embraced the Protestant faith. This exposed him to persecution, and he was driven from France with the loss of his estates. He was compelled to support himself by manual labor. Soured in disposition, exasperated and half maddened, he insanely felt that he would be doing God service by the assassination of the Butcher of Vassy, the most formidable foe of the Protestant religion. It was a day of general darkness, and of the confusion of all correct ideas of morals.

Henry, the eldest son of the Duke of Guise, a lad of but thirteen years of age, now inherited the titles and the renown which his bold ancestors had accumulated. This was the Duke of Guise who was the bandit chieftain in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.

One day Henry II. was holding his little daughter Marguerite, who afterward became the wife of Henry of Navarre, in his lap, when Henry of Guise, then Prince of Joinville, and the Marquis of Beaupreau, were playing together upon the floor, the one being but seven years of age, and the other but nine.

"Which of the two do you like the best?" inquired the king of his child.

"I prefer the marquis," she promptly replied.

"Yes; but the Prince of Joinville is the handsomest," the king rejoined.

"Oh," retorted Marguerite, "he is always in mischief, and he will be master every where."

Francis, the Duke of Guise, had fully apprehended the ambitious, impetuous, and reckless character of his son. He is said to have predicted that Henry, intoxicated by popularity, would perish in the attempt to seat himself upon the throne of France.

"Henry," says a writer of those times, "surpassed all the princes of his house in certain natural gifts, in certain talents, which procured him the respect of the court, the affection of the people, but which, nevertheless, were tarnished by a singular alloy of great faults and unlimited ambition."

"France was mad about that man," writes another, "for it is too little to say that she was in love with him. Her passion approached idolatry. There were persons who invoked him in their prayers. His portrait was every where. Some ran after him in the streets to touch his mantle with their rosaries. One day that he entered Paris on his return from a journey, the multitude not only cried 'Vive Guise!' but many sang, on his passage, 'Hosanna to the son of David!'"

3. The House of Bourbon.

The origin of this family fades away in the remoteness of antiquity. Some bold chieftain, far remote in barbarian ages, emerged from obscurity and laid the foundations of the illustrious house. Generation after generation passed away, as the son succeeded the father in baronial pomp, and pride, and power, till the light of history, with its steadily-increasing brilliancy, illumined Europe. The family had often been connected in marriage both with the house of Guise and the royal line, the house of Valois. Antony of Bourbon, a sturdy soldier, united the houses of Bourbon and Navarre by marrying Jeanne d'Albret, the only child of the King of Navarre. Henry came from the union, an only son; and he, by marrying Marguerite, the daughter of the King of France, united the houses of Bourbon, Navarre, and Valois, and became heir to the throne of France should the sons of Henry II. die without issue.

This episode in reference to the condition of France at the time of which we write seems necessary to enable the reader fully to understand the succeeding chapters.