On August 20, he left the capital and retired to Chantilly.
In the years preceding the massacre, Huguenot "political rhetoric" had for the first time taken a tone against not just the policies of a particular monarch of France, but monarchy in general. In part this was led by an apparent change in stance by John Calvin in his Readings on the Prophet Daniel , a book of , in which he had argued that when kings disobey God, they "automatically abdicate their worldly power" — a change from his views in earlier works that even ungodly kings should be obeyed.
This change was soon picked up by Huguenot writers, who began to expand on Calvin and promote the idea of the sovereignty of the people , ideas to which Catholic writers and preachers responded fiercely. Nevertheless, it was only in the aftermath of the massacre that anti-monarchical ideas found widespread support from Huguenots, among the " Monarchomachs " and others. This was much more than a war against the policies of the crown, as in the first three civil wars; it was a campaign against the very existence of the Gallican monarchy itself".
Tensions were further raised when in May the news reached Paris that a French Huguenot army under Louis of Nassau had crossed from France to the Netherlandish province of Hainaut and captured the Catholic strongholds of Mons and Valenciennes now in Belgium and France, respectively. This intervention threatened to involve France in that war; many Catholics believed that Coligny had again persuaded the king to intervene on the side of the Dutch,  as he had managed to do the previous October, before Catherine had got the decision reversed.
After the wedding on 18 August , Coligny and the leading Huguenots remained in Paris to discuss some outstanding grievances about the Peace of St.
Germain with the king. On 22 August, an attempt was made on Coligny's life as he made his way back to his house from the Louvre. He was shot from an upstairs window, and seriously wounded. The would-be assassin, probably Charles de Louviers , Lord of Maurevert c. History records three possible candidates:. The attempted assassination of Coligny triggered the crisis that led to the massacre. Admiral de Coligny was the most respected Huguenot leader and enjoyed a close relationship with the king, although he was distrusted by the king's mother. Aware of the danger of reprisals from the Protestants, the king and his court visited Coligny on his sickbed and promised him that the culprits would be punished.
While the Queen Mother was eating dinner, Protestants burst in to demand justice, some talking in menacing terms. Coligny's brother-in-law led a 4,strong army camped just outside Paris  and, although there is no evidence it was planning to attack, Catholics in the city feared it might take revenge on the Guises or the city populace itself. On the evening of 23 August, Catherine went to see the king to discuss the crisis. Though no details of the meeting survive, Charles IX and his mother apparently made the decision to eliminate the Protestant leaders.
Holt speculated this entailed "between two and three dozen noblemen" who were still in Paris.
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Like Coligny, most potential candidates were accompanied by groups of gentlemen as staff and bodyguards; so each killing of a leader could have been expected to involve killing these as well. Shortly after this decision, the municipal authorities of Paris were summoned. They were ordered to shut the city gates and arm the citizenry to prevent any attempt at a Protestant uprising. The king's Swiss mercenaries were given the task of killing a list of leading Protestants.
It is difficult today to determine the exact chronology of events and to know the moment the killing began. It seems probable that a signal was given by ringing bells for matins between midnight and dawn at the church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois , near the Louvre, which was the parish church of the kings of France. The Swiss mercenaries expelled the Protestant nobles from the Louvre castle and then slaughtered them in the streets. A group led by Guise in person dragged Admiral Coligny from his bed, killed him, and threw his body out of a window.
Huguenot nobles in the building first put up a fight, as they were terrified for the life of their leader,  but Coligny himself seemed unperturbed.
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One of Coligny's murderers recognized this calm regarding his fate by stating that "he never saw anyone less afraid in so great a peril, nor die more steadfastly" Dethou. Germain now exploded in a wave of popular violence. The common people began to hunt Protestants throughout the city, including women and children. Chains were used to block streets so that Protestants could not escape from their houses. The bodies of the dead were collected in carts and thrown into the Seine. The massacre in Paris lasted three days despite the king's attempts to stop it. Holt concludes that "while the general massacre might have been prevented, there is no evidence that it was intended by any of the elites at court", listing a number of cases where Catholic courtiers intervened to save individual Protestants who were not in the leadership.
On August 26, the king and court established the official version of events by going to the Paris Parlement. According to Mack P. Holt: "All twelve cities where provincial massacres occurred had one striking feature in common; they were all cities with Catholic majorities where there had once been significant Protestant minorities All of them had also experienced serious religious division Moreover seven of them shared a previous experience In several cases the Catholic party in the city believed they had received orders from the king to begin the massacre, some conveyed by visitors to the city, and in other cases apparently coming from a local nobleman or his agent.
In the cities affected, the loss to the Huguenot communities after the massacres was numerically far larger than those actually killed; in the following weeks there were mass conversions to Catholicism, apparently in response to the threatening atmosphere for Huguenots in these cities. In Rouen, where some hundreds were killed, the Huguenot community shrank from 16, to fewer than 3, mainly as a result of conversions and emigration to safer cities or countries. Some cities unaffected by the violence nevertheless witnessed a sharp decline in their Huguenot population.
Soon afterward both sides prepared for a fourth civil war , which began before the end of the year.
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Estimates of the number that perished in the massacres have varied from 2, by a Roman Catholic apologist to 70, by the contemporary Huguenot duc de Sully , who himself barely escaped death. At the low end are figures of about 2, in Paris  and 3, in the provinces, the latter figure an estimate by Philip Benedict in Body counts relating to other payments are computed from this. The Politiques , those Catholics who placed national unity above sectarian interests, were horrified, but many Catholics inside and outside France initially regarded the massacres as deliverance from an imminent Huguenot coup d'etat.
Although these formal acts of rejoicing in Rome were not repudiated publicly, misgivings in the papal curia grew as the true nature of the killings gradually became better known. On hearing of the slaughter, Philip II of Spain "laughed, for almost the only time on record".
The massacre caused a "major international crisis". The massacre "spawned a pullulating mass of polemical literature, bubbling with theories, prejudices and phobias". Anjou's supposed account was the source of the quotation attributed to Charles IX: "Well then, so be it! Kill them!
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But kill them all! Don't leave a single one alive to reproach me! The author of the Lettre de Pierre Charpentier was not only "a Protestant of sorts, and thus, apparently, writing with inside knowledge", but also "an extreme apologist for the massacre The Venetian government refused to allow the work to be printed there, and it was eventually published in Rome in , and in the same year quickly reprinted in Geneva in the original Italian and a French translation.
It was in this context that the massacre came to be seen as a product of Machiavellianism , a view greatly influenced by the Huguenot Innocent Gentillet , who published his Discours contre Machievel in , which was printed in ten editions in three languages over the next four years. Christopher Marlowe was one of many Elizabethan writers who were enthusiastic proponents of these ideas. The French 18th-century historian Louis-Pierre Anquetil , in his Esprit de la Ligue of , was among the first to begin impartial historical investigation, emphasizing the lack of premeditation before the attempt on Coligny in the massacre and that Catholic mob violence had a history of uncontrollable escalation.
The question of whether the massacre had long been premeditated was not entirely settled until the late 19th century; Lord Acton changed his mind on the matter twice, finally concluding that it was not. Over the centuries, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre has inevitably aroused a great deal of controversy. Modern historians are still divided over the responsibility of the royal family:. Traditional histories have tended to focus more on the roles of the political notables whose machinations began the massacre than the mindset of those who actually did the killing.
Ordinary lay Catholics were involved in the mass killings; they believed they were executing the wishes of the king and of God. At this time, in an age before mass media, "the pulpit remained probably the most effective means of mass communication". Forgotten your password?
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St. Bartholomew's Day massacre
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