An amazing new insight into French history! Just a few weeks ago, in an Estate sale in France, a man opened up an old wooden trunk in the attic, and inside was a very old journal from an anonymous writer. The entries were dated back to 16th Century France and were based around the French Wars of Religion, and the relationship between Catholics and Huguenots. (Full Disclosure: There was no real journal…I wrote this as historical fiction and thought this format would be a fun way to answer my Western Civilization instructor’s assignment–“Who were the contenting parties in the French wars of religion? What was the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre? What was the Edict of Nantes?” Enjoy!)
-July 14, 1559
Today was stressful. Our King, Henry II of France, died. Yesterday we celebrated the end of our conflicts with Spain, and whilst we were celebrating, the King was engaged in a jousting tournament. I did not linger to watch the outcome, but I was hoping that my king would triumph. However, today I do not care if he won or not, because he is dead! Who will take his place? I hope King Henry’s strong reign is continued by whoever takes his place.
-September 21, 1559
Today is the coronation day for the new king, Francis II, the son of King Henry II. He may be the new king, but he is only in his fifteenth year! How will he rule? He has no experience! His mother Catherine de Medici, who is regent of France is said to really be the person in charge while Francis acts as king. Already, I am afraid what the future may hold.
-October 19, 1559
The new king, Francis II, has been a good figure-head and has been slowly taking on more responsibility, but, like his father he continues to repress and fight against the Protestant Huguenot movement. I have to say though, this is probably something that could have been stopped when Francis became king. The Huguenots aren’t causing any problems. This could be seen as a threat to the monarchy though, seeing as how they are Catholic.
-March 25, 1560
Things have been escalating between Catholics and Huguenots lately. And because of that, things may be changed by the monarchy and government. Hopefully, adopting a policy of religious toleration will be debated. I think though, that the Huguenots just want some freedom.
-December 5, 1560
The two parties, Catholics and Huguenots, have stopped arguing and debating because Francis II has died. He was only king for a year and a half. But soon his brother, Charles IX, shall take the throne. Will things change then? He is just as inexperienced as his brother when he started. I hope for the best. The Estates General, a gathering of the clergy, nobility and representatives of the people, has also met. It has been some time since the last Estates General was called. Hopefully, they are debating how to deal with the Huguenots.
-May 16, 1561
I feel the topic of death and coronations is a recurring one. Anyway, Charles IX was coronated yesterday. His mother, Catherine, is still acting as regent, seeing as how he is so inexperienced.
-February 3, 1562
I realize I haven’t been very consistent in writing in this journal, but I hope I have at least been consistently writing about important events in history. A couple of weeks ago on January 17, the Edict of Saint-Germain was created and was approved by Catherine, and gave limited freedom to the Huguenots. Even though now they have their little bit of freedom, there has been a sudden influx of them coming out into the open. Literally. I am very happy that the Huguenots are able to practice and worship, and that the government decided on religious toleration. It is a much better solution than fighting and oppression.
-February 28, 1562
Since I began writing, I have not said anything about my village where I live and, specifically, how it has been affected by this movement. I will tell you that it has been affected, just not in the way I would like. Many Huguenots live in the village, and as soon as the Edict of Saint-Germain was created, all the Huguenots were able to start an actual life and begin worshipping. I was happy for them; I was glad to see that different kinds of people can live together in relative peace. However, a week ago, a leader of the Huguenots in my village declared that all people had no choice but to come to the Huguenot worship services. If you were Catholic, you couldn’t attend the Catholic church. Even if you didn’t have or follow a religion, or didn’t want to go, you were forced to go. I was appalled! Also, at first, I thought my village was the only one under this tyrannical reign, but no! I soon found many other villages were also under this power. The only logical explanation I can come up with is that the Huguenots wanted to make the Catholics see what it is like to be under a repressive power. Nobody likes it. Unfortunately, it is getting worse because the Huguenots began vandalizing the village’s Catholic church. Now, I am not Catholic or a Huguenot, but this is still wrong! I hope that this doesn’t escalate tensions any higher than they already are. It probably will though.
-July 1, 1569
It has been seven years since I last wrote in here, quite a long time, but I felt that the events that transpired in those years were unworthy of being written down here. Yet I am hoping somebody else recorded the tragic news. Well, the Catholics and Huguenots couldn’t hold themselves back any longer and they began fighting. Again. All the events I couldn’t bear to record were just more conflicts and massacres. And if you can believe it, they are still happening! All the peace treaties made thus far, have, unfortunately, fallen apart because one side couldn’t stand the other and broke it. I have been avoiding the danger by moving away from wherever the fighting occurs. This is not an ideal situation for people who believe in religious freedom.
-October 10, 1570
I am no longer young and I don’t know where in France I can go to escape this horrible period of time and place. I do not affiliate myself with the Catholics or the Huguenots for fear of persecution. Does the Devil not thrive in war and contention? You cannot justify a war by doing it for religion because the Devil, who thrives in hate, is present. God, most definitely, is not.
-August 25, 1572
I know the timing of my entries is spotchy, but the events that happen are not. A couple of days ago, an assassination attempt was made on Admiral Gaspard Coligny, an influential Huguenot leader. He survived, but it still riled the Huguenots. Also, Catherine de Medici believes that the Huguenots are coming to kidnap the her and the king. I think she may be overreacting. The king was overreacting yesterday too, but in a much more startling way. Yesterday it was the eve of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Feast and I was making my way back to my temporary room at an inn here in Paris. It was late. As I was walking past the palace, I could hear the king screaming from somewhere around the palace: “By the death of God since you choose to kill the admiral, I consent. But then you must kill all the Huguenots so that not one be left to reproach me. Kill them all! Kill them all!” He must have been talking with Catherine, but still, I will not wait around here to witness the slaughter of innocent Huguenots. I am going to leave Paris today. I am going to avoid this thing of the Devil.
-August 31, 1572
The slaughtering is worse than I imagined it would be! I have traveled 100 miles out of Paris but the King’s word has traveled faster and farther than I had hoped. Everyone is in pain. Men, women and children are all running wildly through the streets, mobs are breaking into houses, men are dragging Huguenots out of their houses, many lie out on streets wounded, dying. Many are praying, pleading with God for deliverance. I have to run and sneak through every little village and town I am in just to avoid being killed. I can’t even begin to imagine what the King is thinking right now. This is a hell on earth. The Devil is closer to being a physical being now more than ever. God is not watching.
-September 5, 1572
I have made it to Calais, on the coast of France, and I am making my way to England. I cannot bear to stay in France any longer. I have received heart-breaking news as well. Many of my friends have been killed because they were accused of being Huguenots It disgusts me how men will stretch the truth to justify a murder. I knew they were not Huguenot! This is the most terrible, hideous, and abominable thing I have ever witnessed. I don’t know when or if the killing of innocent people will end, so until then, I will live the rest of my life in England. To those who read this in the future — I wish you the best and hope that France has become a better country and has changed ways.
20 Years Later…
-April 31, 1598
I open this journal one last time to write this one event, which I felt was a worthy candidate for finishing this story: After over twenty years since I left France, someone finally did something right. Henry IV of France has created the Edict of Nantes, giving freedom to all Protestants and treating them as equals. I am very glad this has turned out the way it has. However, I cannot help but wonder, why it took so long. I am now old and just felt that this was the one thing that was worthy and able to put a happy ending to this story.