Today I thought I would post a passage from my beloved “History of Protestantism.” It describes the death of the young French king, Charles IX in 1574, just twenty-one months after he agreed to the mass-murder of the Protestants in his kingdom – what is called the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. But first, just a single paragraph describing the first hours of St. Bartholomew’s itself:
“By and by the sun rose; but, alas, who can describe the horrors that the broad light of day disclosed to view! The entire population of the French capital was seen maddened by rage, or aghast with terror. On its wretched streets, what tragedies of horror and crime were being enacted. Some were fleeing, others were pursuing; some were supplicating for life, others were responding with the murderous blow, which, if it silenced the cry for mercy, awoke the cry for justice. Old men and infants in their swaddling clothes, were alike butchered on that awful night. Our very page would weep were we to record all the atrocities now enacted….”
Now several months later:
“…The king’s constitution, sickly from the first, had been drained of any original vigor it had ever possessed by the vicious indulgences in which he lived, and into which his mother, for her own vile ends, had drawn him; and now his decline was accelerated by the agonies of remorse – the Nemesis of the St. Bartholomew. Charles was rapidly approaching the grave. It was now that a malady of a strange and frightful kind seized upon him. Blood began to ooze from all the pores of his body. On awakening in the morning his person would be wet all over with what appeared a sweat of blood, and a crimson mark on the bed clothes would show where he had lain…..
…the man who had stipulated, when giving orders for the St. Bartholomew Massacre, that not a single Huguenot (French Protestant) should be left alone to reproach him with the deed, was now waited upon on his death-bed by a Huguenot nurse!
As she seated herself on a chest, and was beginning to doze, she heard the king moan and weep and sigh. She came gently to his bedside and, adjusting the bedclothes, the king began to speak to her; and heaving a deep sigh, and while the tears poured down, and sobs choked his utterance, he said,
‘Ah, nurse, dear nurse, what blood, what murders! Ah, I have followed bad advice. Oh, my God, forgive me! Have pity on me, if it please thee. I do not know what will become of me. What shall I do? I am lost; I see it plainly.’
Then the nurse said to him, ‘Sire, may the murders be on those who made you do them; and since you do not consent to them, and are sorry for them, believe that God will not impute them to you, but will cover them with the robe of his Son’s justice. To him alone you must address yourself.’
Charles IX died on the 30th of May, 1574, just twenty-one months after the St. Bartholomew Massacre, having lived twenty-five years and reigned fourteen…”
Final comment: there was great celebration in Rome at the news of St. Bartholomew. It was commemorated by the Pope with both a painting and medals…