The New Student's Reference Work/Coligni, Gaspard de

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Coligni, Gaspard de (deh ko-lēn′yē), a French general, was born Feb. 16, 1517. A soldier at 22, he fought bravely in the wars against Spain, and was made general of infantry by Henry II. In 1552 he was made admiral of France, though he never commanded on the sea. In 1557 he stubbornly held St. Quentin, with a handful of men, for 11 days against the Spanish army, and, though all hope of defending the town was gone, he refused to surrender and was captured, fighting desperately at the head of a few soldiers. This defense saved France from being overrun by the Spaniards. Imprisonment followed, during which he became a Huguenot. As able a statesman as he was a soldier, he succeeded in outwitting the Guises and securing for the Huguenots freedom of worship. The bad faith of the queen-mother, Catherine dei Medici, brought about the second Huguenot war, in which Coligni was chief commander of the forces of Henry of Navarre, afterward Henry IV. When peace was concluded, Catherine took advantage of the marriage of Navarre with the sister of Charles IX, the king, to order the massacre of St. Bartholomew (1572). Its chief victim was Coligni, who was murdered in his bed, at Paris and his body thrown into the street. Personally, Coligni was one of the noblest Frenchmen of the 16th century and had a profound love for his country.