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The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

( The War of the Three Henrys )



St. Batholomew's Day Massacre

The Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre was an event that had followed endless religious disputes and political upheavals between the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots. On that early morning of August 24, 1572 France shook with a religious fever. Though the feud was among the privileged it was the common Catholic people who slaughtered the Huguenots. In France the fourth religious war had begun.

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Catherine de Medicis played a pivotal role in the Massacre. Catherine de Medicis for years had dominated the French throne held by her three sons from Henry II. It was through her son Charles IX that Catherine was involved in both the Massacre's groundwork and its final horrific decision. For years Catherine had worked as a Catholic go-between to help retain peace among the French Protestants and Roman Catholics. Because of this it only seemed natural for her to give her daughter Margaret in marriage to Henry of Navarre, who was known as a substantial leader of the Huguenots, in order to keep the peace. In time Catherine had begun to see the growing Protestant influence on her son and wished to rid him of such influences directly. [1] Catherine saw another opportunity from this marriage however, for with many of the Huguenots in France for the wedding festivities she could cut the influence off straight at the head. With the House of Guise at her side Catherine sent out Catholic Swiss mercenaries to murder Gaspard de Coligny. The murder, however, had failed and the Huguenots vowed revenge against the Catholics. Charles made the quick decision following the sweet persuasion from his mother; Charles IX ordered the massacre and for it to begin with Gaspard de Coligny.

"Beginning at Paris, the French soldiers and the Roman Catholic clergy fell upon the unarmed people, and blood flowed like a river throughout the entire country." [2] Upon the kings go ahead his guard gathered round the castle and France in order to "protect him from the Huguenots’ wrath." The guard was instructed to kill every group of Protestants that they found. The Catholic masses found the Protestants efficient scapegoats for the rising prices for food, fuel and shelter; they were only too happy to do away with them. [3]


[1] Knight, Kevin<knight@knight.org>. "Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre" In "Catholic Encyclopedia" <http://www.knight.org/advent/cathen/13333b.htm>Jan.1999

[2] Kilkenny. "Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre" In "The Reformation Online"<http://www.reformation.org/bart.html>Jan.1999.

[3] Kingdon, Robert McCune, Myths About the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres (Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 150

[4] The National Huguenot Society<alfinnell@compuserve.com>. "Important Dates in Huguenot History" In "The National Huguenot Society" <http://huguenot.netnation.com/index.htm>Jan.1999

Illustration: "An Eyewitness Account of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre" by François Dubois, Musée Cantonal Des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne Switzerland. This digital image from "Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre" In "The Reformation Online"<http://www.reformation.org/bart.html>Jan.1999

Edited by: James Natividad, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
Researched by: Lalin Nuth, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
Written by: Andrea Thomann, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
13 October 1998

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