Monday, 12 June 2017

The Spare Prince VIII

Henri II
An Italian Interlude

The newly installed King Philip decided to trade for time and on 5th February 1556 the Truce of Vaucelles was signed with France giving Spain a five year breathing space. It gave Philip Franche-Comté. It is highly likely that Henri accepted a truce rather than a treaty because the French treasury was empty and the crown owed over two million éçus[i].

Cardinal Carafa visited Paris, ostensibly to discuss peace, in reality to press for war. His uncle told François de Tournon,

‘It is time to break the truce and to give the crown of Naples to the King of France.’[ii]

Philip did not wait for the French and the pope to come to an agreement but had Alba make a pre-emptive strike into Latium. By mid-September Alba’s troops had captured Anagni opening up the road to Rome. Cardinal Carafa turned to Henri for help and he agreed to send an army to the pope’s aid.

Ercole d'Este 
François de Guise was appointed Lieutenant General in the Italian peninsula and over 200 of the nobility joined up to seek glory. They were well aware that the overarching plan was to conquer the kingdom of Naples for France[iii]. François de Guise left Turin on 9th January 1557 with 11,000 infantry, 1,800 cavalry and a few guns. The weather was terrible as the army marched down the Po Valley leaving horses and men floundering in mud.

De Guise met up with his father-in-law Ercole d’Ésté Duke of Ferrara and Cardinal Carafa at Reggio nell’Emila. The news arrived that the pope was dying and had only created two new French cardinals which would be insufficient to force through the appointment of Henri as king of Naples. Given that his Italian allies refused him subsidies and the Turks were not prepared to act in the French interest Henri decided to cut his losses in Italy.

The Truce is Broken

Emmanuel-Philibert of Savoy
In the summer of 1557 Philip launched an invasion of northern France under the leadership of Emanuel-Philibert of Savoy. Montmorency awaited him with an army and the two sides clashed at St Quentin on 10th August. Montmorency was taken prisoner as the French army was beaten ignominiously. The Parisians blamed the Cardinal of Lorraine for wishing this war upon them

‘The Parisians ….ceaselessly lacerate the Cardinal of Lorraine as the principal author of this war; they recall that he went to Rome to conclude an alliance with the pope and that, aided by his family, he has since pressed the king as hard as possible to go to war.’[iv]

Henri recalled François de Guise and his army from Italy as a first step to save France from the Spanish incursion. François was back at court by October and was appointed Lieutenant General of the kingdom with extraordinary powers while his brother Cardinal Lorraine was put in charge of domestic and foreign policy in place of the absent Montmorency.

The two brothers planned to take back Calais for France, encouraged by the Hapsburg-Tudor alliance. Henri arranged to borrow the monies necessary to fund the campaign. The clergy promised to fund one third of the 3,000,000 crowns needed for the exercise while the towns loaned the remainder to Henri at 8.3% interest[v]. In return Henri promised to reduce taxation.

Henri chose to launch the attack in winter and François’ army crossed into the Pale on 31st December 1557 and seized the outworks before taking the castle. The town fell on 7th January. Henri made his entrance into Calais in mid-January as his troops were attacking Guîsnes. To reward the Guise family Henri finally agreed to the marriage between the Dauphin and Mary of Scotland, despite Montmorency’s objections.

Paul de Termes was made Governor of Calais and in June he and Jean d’Estouville de Villebon took and sacked Dunkerque, Nieupoort and Bergues. De Termes was captured during an attempt to take Gravelines. In late August the Vidame de Chartres cleared out the remaining English garrisons in Picardy.

Renewed Attacks on Heresy

Prince de Conde
In July 1557, horrified that the nobility were being contaminated by heresy Henri issued the Edict of Compiègne. The Prince de Condé espoused the new religion and one of the Coligny brothers[vi] François was a keen supporter. The Calvinists sent eighty-eight missionaries into France in the seven years between 1555 and 1562. Their converts came mainly from the urban middle class and the main strength of the movement was in towns like Poitiers and Orléans.

The edict was directed at the Calvinists and applied to death penalty for all those who failed to take the sacrament. Lutherans were exempt as many of Henri’s allies, mercenaries and bankers were of that faith. Henri had been given permission by the pope to start a French Inquisition.

‘In accordance with the persuasion and advice that Cardinal Caraffa has given me on the part of our Holy Father, to introduce here the Inquisition, according to legal form, as the true means of extirpating the root of such errors.’[vii]

The cardinals of Lorraine, Bourbon and Châtillon[viii] were chosen to head the new body. It was Cardinal Lorraine who was the most eager proponent of the new body which fell foul of the French magistrates who disputed the Inquisition’s right to take on tasks hitherto supervised by them.

François de Coligny arranged for his estates in Brittany to become evangelised with the aid of a Parisian pastor, setting up a permanent church at le Croisic and reinvigorated the church at Angers. François was arrested when he returned to Paris and pressured to recant even as another missionary was being introduced to François’ brothers, Gaspard[ix] and Cardinal Odet[x]

Heresy in Paris

Francois de Coligny
In September 1557 an angry mob broke up a Calvinist meeting in Paris and the congregation included members of the nobility, royal officials, artisans and servants. The armed nobles managed to get away but 132 people were arrested and thrown in prison. They were tried in Parlement and three were burnt to death on 14th September.

On 15th January 1558 Henri appeared before Parlement to obtain registration of his edict against heresy. The defeat at Saint-Quentin meant that the edict was never enforced. The conversions continued unabated. The German Protestant princes wrote to Henri requesting clemency for their co-religionists; Henri told them to mind their own business.

In May 1558 the Protestants, taking advantage of the momentary softening of the anti-heretic actions, staged a mass demonstration in Paris where a group of 4-5,000 people, protected by armed nobles, sang psalms in the Pré-aux-Clercs, a field within sight of the Louvre. The demonstration lasted several days despite a ban by Parlement. Henri felt that the display at Pré-aux-Clercs was a challenge to his authority. He quarrelled violently with François de Coligny and removed him from his position of Colonel-General of Infantry.

Encouraged by the Cardinal de Lorraine,
‘To prove to the King of Spain his firmness in the faith’[xi]
St-Chapelle (R background)
on 10th June 1559 Henri attended a special mercuriale[xii] called to counter the increasing numbers of staff holding heretical views. The king was horrified by the opinions of some of the councillors and ordered the arrest of eight suspects.

His actions against heresy may very well have been given extra weight by the attempted assassination of himself when emerging after a service at the Sainte-Chappelle[xiii]. A chancellery clerk, whose brother had been tried and executed for blasphemy and other charges, tried to stab Henri. Henri wanted to talk to his attacker but he had been disposed of, allegedly by the Calvinists who did not want their secrets to fall into official hands.

The French Calvinists were becoming more organised and in May 1559 held a synod in Paris which resulted in the drafting of a Confession of Faith and Ecclesiastical Discipline.


Martyrs and Murderers – Stuart Carroll, Oxford University Press 2009

Suleiman – André Clot, Saqui Books 2012

Catherine de Medici – Leonie Frieda, a Phoenix Paperback 2003

Philip of Spain – Henry Kamen, Yale University Press 1997

French Renaissance Monarchy – RJ Knecht, Longman Group 1996

The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France – RJ Knecht, Fontana Press 1996

Catherine de’ Medici – RJ Knecht, Pearson Education Ltd 1998

A History of France – David Potter, The MacMillan Press 1995

Henri II – H Noel Williams, Methuen and Co 1910 (reprint 2016)


[i] Only 650,000 éçus of which were secured. Henri issued a series of edicts that consolidated his debt moving from short-term to long-term loans at 16%. But by the end of October 1555 Henri had contracted further debts of at least 340,000 éçus In 2015 the relative: labour cost of that project is £1,456,000,000.00 economic cost of that project is £49,800,000,000.00 Problems paying these debts meant that in April 1557 the French line of credit ran out  
[ii] The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France - Knecht
[iii] There was some historical precedent for this as Joanna of Naples had appointed one of the French royal family as her heir see
[iv] The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France - Knecht
[v] The nobility failed to fund any part of the expedition
[vi] Nephews of Anne de Montmorency
[vii] Henri II - Williams
[viii] Named Grand Inquisitor in 1561
[ix] One of France’s admirals
[x] Who was to formally become a Protestant in 1561
[xi] Henri II - Williams
[xii] The name given to the three monthly religious review of government staff

1 comment:

  1. the Protestants might have got further if they'd not been such a dingy and boring lot, Catholics certainly held the crown of artwork.