1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/St Bartholomew, Massacre of

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11766201911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 23 — St Bartholomew, Massacre of

ST BARTHOLOMEW, MASSACRE OF, the name given to the massacre of the Huguenots, which began in Paris on St Bartholomew's day, the 24th of August 1572. The initiative for the crime rests with Catherine de' Medici. Irritated and disquieted by the growing influence of Admiral Coligny, who against her wishes was endeavouring to draw Charles IX. into a war with Spain, she resolved at first to have him assassinated. The blow failed, and the admiral was only wounded. The attempt, however, infuriated the Huguenots, who had flocked to Paris for the wedding of Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois. Charles IX. declared that the assassin should receive condign punishment. Catherine then conceived the idea of killing at a blow all the Huguenot leaders, and of definitely ruining the Protestant party. After holding a council with the Catholic leaders, including the duke of Anjou, Henry of Guise, the marshal de Tavannes, the duke of Nevers, and René de Birague, the keeper of the seals, she persuaded the king that the massacre was a measure of public safety, and on the evening of the 23rd of August succeeded in wringing his authorization from him. The king himself arranged the manner of its execution, but it is scarcely probable that he fired upon the Huguenots from a window of the Louvre. The massacre began on Sunday at daybreak, and continued in Paris till the 17th of September. Once let loose, it was impossible to restrain the Catholic populace. From Paris the massacre spread to the provinces till the 3rd of October. The duc de Longueville in Picardy, Chabot-Charny (son of Admiral Chabot) at Dijon, the comte de Matignon (1525–1597) in Normandy, and other provincial governors, refused to authorize the massacres. François Hotman estimates the number killed in the whole of France at 50,000. There were many illustrious victims, among them being Admiral Coligny, his son-in-law Charles de Téligny and the logician Peter Ramus. Catherine de' Medici received the congratulations of all the Catholic powers, and Pope Gregory XIII. commanded bonfires to be lighted and a medal to be struck.

See H. Bordier, La St Barthélemy et la critique moderne (Paris, 1879); H. Baumgarten, Vor der Bartkolomausnackt (Strassburg, 1882); and H. Mariéjol, “La Réforme et la Ligue” (Paris, 1904), in vol. vi. of the Histoire de France, by E. Lavisee, which contains a more complete bibliography of the subject.