Presently there was a loud knock at the outer gate — “Open in the King’s name.” The St. Bartholomew Day Massacre began.
Continuing The Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre,
with a selection The Massacre of Bartholomew by Henry White published in 1868. This selection is presented in 7.5 easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The St. Bartholomew Day Massacre. Today’s installment is by Henry White.
As soon as Guise had left, the chief criminals — each afraid to lose sight of the other, each needing the presence of the other to keep his courage up — went to a room adjoining the tennis-court overlooking the Place Bassecour. Of all the party — Charles, Catherine, Anjou, and De Retz — Charles was the least guilty and the most to be pitied. They went to the window, anxiously listening for the signal that the work of death had begun. Their consciences, no less than their impatience, made it impossible for them to sit calmly within the palace. Anjou’s narrative continues: “While we were pondering over the events and the consequences of such a mighty enterprise, of which, to tell the truth, we had not thought much until then, we heard a pistol shot. The sound produced such an effect upon all three of us that it confounded our senses and deprived us of judgment. We were smitten with terror and apprehension of the great disorders about to be perpetrated.” Catherine, who was a timid woman, adds Tavannes, would willingly have recalled her orders, and with that intent hastily dispatched a gentleman to the Duke of Guise expressly desiring him to return and attempt nothing against the admiral. “It is too late,” was the answer brought back; “the admiral is dead” — a statement at variance with other accounts. “Thereupon,” continues Anjou, “we returned to our former deliberations, and let things take their course.”
Between three and four in the morning the noise of horses and measured tramp of foot-soldiers broke the silence of the narrow street in which Coligny lay wounded. It was the murderers seeking their victims: they were Henry of Guise with his uncle the Duke of Aumale, the bastard of Angoulome, and the Duke of Nevers, with other foreigners, Italian and Swiss, namely, Fesinghi (or Tosinghi) and his nephew Antonio, Captain Petrucci, Captain Studer of Winkelbach with his soldiers, Martin Koch of Freyberg, Conrad Burg, Leonard Grunenfelder of Glaris, and Carl Dianowitz, surnamed Behm (the Bohemian?). There were, besides, one Captain Attin, in the household of Aumale, and Sarlabous, a renegade Huguenot and commandant of Havre. It is well to record the names even of these obscure individuals who stained their hands in the best blood of France. De Cosseins, too, was there with his guard, some of whom he posted with their arquebuses opposite the windows of Coligny’s hotel, that none might escape.
Presently there was a loud knock at the outer gate — “Open in the King’s name.” La Bonne, imagining it to be a message from the Louvre, hastened with the keys, withdrew the bolt, and was immediately butchered by the assassins who rushed into the house. The alarmed domestics ran half awake to see what was the uproar: some were killed outright, others escaped upstairs, closing the door at the foot and placing some furniture against it. This feeble barrier was soon broken down, and the Swiss who had attempted to resist were shot. The tumult woke Coligny from his slumbers, and divining what it meant — that Guise had made an attack on the house — he was lifted from his bed, and, folding his robe-de-chambre round him, sat down prepared to meet his fate. Cornaton entering the room at this moment, Ambrose Pare asked him what was the meaning of the noise. Turning to his beloved master he replied: “Sir, it is God calling us to himself. They have broken into the house, and we can do nothing.”
“I have been long prepared to die,” said the admiral. “But you must all flee for your lives, if it be not too late; you cannot save me. I commit my soul to God’s mercy.” They obeyed him, but only two succeeded in making their way over the roofs. Pastor Merlin lay hid for three days in a loft, where he was fed by a hen, that every morning laid an egg within his reach.
Pare and Coligny were left alone — Coligny looking as calm and collected as if no danger impended. After a brief interval of suspense the door was dashed open, and Cosseins, wearing a corselet and brandishing a bloody sword in his hand, entered the room, followed by Behm, Sarlabous, and others; a party of Anjou’s Swiss guard, in their tricolored uniform of black, white, and green, keeping in the rear. Expecting resistance, the ruffians were for a moment staggered at seeing only two unarmed men. But his brutal instincts rapidly regaining the mastery, Behm stepped forward, and pointing his sword at Coligny’s breast asked, “Are you not the admiral?”
“I am, but, young man, you should respect my gray hairs, and not attack a wounded man. Yet what matters it? You cannot shorten my life except by God’s permission.” The German soldier, uttering a blasphemous oath, plunged his sword into the admiral’s breast.
“Jugulumque parans, immota tonebat — Ora senex.”
Others in the room struck him also, Behm repeating his blows until the admiral fell to the floor. The murderer now ran to the window and shouted into the court-yard, “It is all over.” Henry of Guise, who had been impatiently ordering his creatures to make haste, was not satisfied. “Monsieur d’Angoulome will not believe it unless he sees him,” returned the Duke. Behm raised the body from the ground, and dragged it to the window to throw it out; but life was not quite extinct, and the admiral placed his foot against the wall, faintly resisting the attempt. “Is it so, old fox?” exclaimed the murderer, who drew his dagger and stabbed him several times. Then, assisted by Sarlabous, he threw the body down. It was hardly to be recognized. The bastard of Angoulome — the chevalier as he is called in some of the narratives — wiped the blood from the face of the corpse.