Anonymous Journal Found in France! Sheds New Light On French Wars of Religion

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.

Adieu.

20 Years Later…

-April 31, 1598

I felt that this one event was a worthy candidate for finishing this story.  After over 20 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.

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The Dutch Revolt

During the 16th Century, when Philip II was King of Spain, he was also governor of the Netherlands.  Unfortunately, he was not very tolerant of any religion other than  Catholicism.  So this made it hard for him to deal peacefully with the Protestants.  While Philip was never actually in the Netherlands, his sister Margaret, Duchess of Parma was living in the Netherlands as regent.   And what she saw was that the Protestants were very tolerant towards all and that nobody was forced to do anything against their will.  However, because Philip didn’t believe in religious toleration, he tried to stem the protestant growth in the Netherlands by instating the Inquisition.  There were many different times in Europe when the Inquisition was used, but this was a time when the Protestants were not allowed any religious freedom and were persecuted.  It was religious prejudice.

A bit fearfully, Margaret wrote to Philip pleading with him to stop the Inquisition because in the Netherlands was very happy.  So Philip did the right thing and gave the Protestants some space.  But what worried him next was that the Protestants were now having large gatherings, and they were all showing up armed.  This made Philip start to think that maybe he had been too nice to them.  Had he?  Philip began receiving reports about more large gatherings and how Catholic churches and houses were being vandalized by Protestants now as well.  Now that was it for Philip, he immediately organized a 10,000 strong army, led by the Duke of Alba to get the Protestants under control.  He didn’t reinstate the Inquisition, but it was still just as bad.  The Duke of Alba also issued a 10% tax increase, which added to the mix of the Protestants’ anger and frustration.  No matter what the King did, he could no longer contain the revolting Protestants.

The revolt finally ended in 1648, long after all the people who had started it in 1568 were dead, and when the Treaty of Münster was signed and gave the Protestants religious freedom.  The Netherlands as a whole was also given its own freedom.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

 

You can read more about the Dutch Revolt and the Treaty of Münster here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Revolt#Peace

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_of_Münster

Elizabeth I Chooses…?

Many people today struggle with finding or staying with a religion.  This isn’t a new problem.  Many people, especially important people,  sometimes struggled with this.  Elizabeth I, Queen of England was one of these.

In the 16th Century, while Elizabeth I, was able to create a system of order and a thriving economy with low taxes in her England.  Being queen for 45 years probably helped too!  I’m sure many people were happy to have Elizabeth as their queen.  However,  she struggled to pick a religion for her country to use.  Did she want Protestantism?  Or would she try something relatively new?  Did she want Catholicism?  If she did,  she would have to share power with the Catholic church which was not what she wanted to do.  She most definitely wanted to be absolutist or the only one in charge of church and state.  But, Catholicism was the religion that was accepted by previous monarchs.  And although, she did like some views of the Catholic church, she was reluctant to share any power.  She abandoned trying to choose between Protestantism or Catholicism and chose, instead, the religion of Anglicanism.  She even forced Ireland to abandon Catholicism and have Anglicanism as their religion.  They had no choice.

Unfortunately, this confirms  one of humankind’s major weaknesses: That powerful people will often do anything to keep their  power and have it all.  In Queen  Elizabeth’s case, there’s a good chance that she didn’t believe in or truly want Anglicanism for England — except as a wise political move.  Maybe she just did it to avoid the Catholics and to keep the Protestants ‘Okay’  with her decision.   Looking back, history must ask if she ever picked a national religion for the benefit of her people?  Or just to stay in power?  Maybe she felt it was both.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

 

Four Simple Steps to Take Over a Country

What I am about to tell you is the best way to take over a country!   But, in order for you to understand why this strategy works so well, I have to tell you a story:

Charles V lived in the 16th Century and was originally from the Lowlands or Netherlands.  When he inherited the crown and became King of Spain, he was only king for a couple of years  before he was elected to succeed his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor.  In order to be coronated, he had to leave Spain and go to Germany.  During his absence he left one of the officials in charge — an official he had brought from the Netherlands.  Charles was likely scared that if he left a Spaniard in charge then they would take over and he would lose the crown.  His fears were not made-up because the Spanish people and government did not care much for their foreign king, especially that did not speak Spanish.  In his defense, he was learning! Just not very fast.  But now, they REALLY hated him for leaving a bunch of lowlanders who thought that they were better than the Spanish people in charge of their country.  Like me, you can now understand why my instructor, Tom Woods, points out that “the various provincial assemblies (known as the Cortes) hesitated to accept Charles as their king.”

When Charles got back, having been successfully coronated as H.R.E, Spain was in a mess.  The Spanish people had revolted against the foreign officials and the officials had lost control.  The Spanish aristocrats had sided with the officials though, not to help put down the threat of a revolt, but so that they, the aristocrats, could avoid a ‘class war’ and keep their power and wealth.   Meanwhile, all that the Spanish people wanted was self-government within their own provinces.  Maybe they went about it in the wrong way?  But Spain had been completely spent.  While Charles was not.  So it was really easy for him to take back control and reorganize Spain.

The best way to take control of a country is to make the citizens angry, leave for a while, (hint: take a vacation!), put some friends from another country in charge, come back when both sides are just exhausted from fighting and arguing, and “Voila!”– take back control!  Perfect.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

A Thesis on the 95 Theses

 

I was recently asked by Dr. Tom Woods, instructor of my on-line Western Civilization course, to consider: “What were the 95 Theses about? What was the basic message of Luther’s complaint?

Here are my thoughts.

Martin Luther, who is sometimes referred to as the ‘father’ of the Protestant Reformation, wanted to reform the Catholic church.  In a sense, he wanted to reboot the whole system.  If possible, his goal was to replace all the Catholic beliefs with new ones.  And, naturally, preferably with his.  As one can imagine, this did not go over well with the Catholic leadership or even normal, everyday parishioners so he ended up forming his own sect of religion instead.  What he is most known for was the bold way he and ‘hand-delivered’ his complaints, nailing 95 statements against the selling of indulgences.

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Martin Luther ‘hand-delivering’ his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg

An indulgence was a slip of paper that, when purchased, declared you forgiven of your sins.  Along with a few required actions, like saying a prayer, all you really had to do was purchase one every time you needed to do some repenting.  For instance, Theses No. 27 chides, “They [Catholic bishops and other authorities] preach man that as soon as the penny jingles in the money box, the souls fly out of purgatory.”  I am curious to know if the Catholic  bishops back then actually believed that divine forgiveness required money more than a change of heart, but either way it is easy to understand how this could get out of hand.  For the poor, what was it like if they had to choose between buying food or indulgences?

Another one of Luther’s arguments that kills the practice at its core, and one that I particularly liked, is  No. 36: “Every truly penitent Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt without letters of pardon.”  He is saying that not just some  Christians have the chance to be saved, but all of them!

While I’m sure the Catholic church has changed and moved on since the 16th Century, I believe God inspired Martin Luther, and other truth seekers like him, to courageously stand up against what they felt was wrong for the benefit of believers.

 

How broken legs created a theologian

During a recent lesson in my Western Civilization course, I had the opportunity to read a small part of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.  First though let me briefly tell you a little bit about this religious man then I will mention what I found about his religious and doctrinal opinions.

Ignatius lived in 16th Century Spain.  When he was a young man, he joined the Spanish military.  While serving in the military, he was shot in the legs by a cannonball and he survived!  Unfortunately for him, he was discharged from the military.  That incident left him with a limp for the rest of his life.  When he was in the hospital he read some religious texts that sparked an interest in religion.  In 1540  he and a few other theologians, including St. Francis Xavier, were granted permission, by Pope Paul III, to organize the Society of Jesus or Jesuits.

You cannot read Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises and not get the sense that he really was a committed Catholic.  However I found it interesting in the reading that he does not want time to be wasted explaining faith vs. good works in depth.  Instead, he felt that people should decide on their own whether they faith or did good works.  He argued that there would be no need for faith if everybody practiced good works and no need for good works if everybody had faith.

In many ways Loyola accomplished much, but his greatest contribution was to the betterment of the current state of the world that he lived in.  And even though he is not alive today, his contributions, such as his Spiritual Exercises can still be read and have the same impression it had on someone then as it does today.  That is the great thing about religious books and texts, they will always be applicable no matter where and when you live!

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student

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Xavier’s Mission

Do you know who St. Francis Xavier was?  No, you say? Well, then let me tell you about him!  This man was a Spaniard who was one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.  He was a missionary, and was sent all over Europe and Asia to teach and spread Catholicism.  At one point, while in India he wrote a letter to the Society. He titled his ‘Letter from India’  and shared his recent experiences.  I want to share some highlights that I found with you.

Francis mentions all the children he is teaching and how he tasks them with sharing what they are learning with their friends and family.  In one excerpt of the letter, he told the children that all idol, not made for the intention of worshipping the one, true God, it was to be torn down.  And the kids took them down!  Sometimes very violently!  This did not go over very well with the Brahman worshippers in Hinduism (which is a polytheistic religion).  The Brahmans would sometimes test Francis on his knowledge of the Catholic religion.  They tried to trip him over his words so they could argue.   He was able to report one of his amazing accomplishments – his successful teaching and conversion of a Brahman worshipper to Catholicism.  This Brahman man did not care about whether or not his religion was correct.  This man was “a man of learning” as quoted by Xavier.  This man answered questions that Francis had, and had his questions about Francis’s religion answered as well.  Francis made the man promise that he would publish all that he had just told him so that other people could read for themselves all the answers to their questions pertaining to Francis’s religion.  The man later asked Francis to secretly make him a Christian and Xavier also gave him the task of teaching all people.

“I charged him to teach the ignorant and unlearned that there is only one God, Creator of  Heaven and Earth.”

This may not be the 16th Century or a time when religion defined just about everything you did,  but it still is just as important then as it is now.  Many people, young and old, teaching their religion to all no matter where or who they are.

Why the 16th Century Catholic Church was ready for reform

How would you describe the condition of the Catholic Church on the eve of the Protestant Reformation?
In the 16th century, the Catholic church was very lazy in following their rules and exercising authority.  One big event in a series of many changed all of this.  It was started by Martin Luther and it came to be known as the Protestant Reformation.  People were searching for something new because they did not like the corruption and inefficiencies of the church.  Due to hundreds of years of being a main religion it had fallen into disarray.   For example, Catholic bishops would take on the duty of looking after multiple villages and hamlets to spiritually help them.  For money.  Sometimes the bishops didn’t even visit their area because all they wanted was money and to be lazy.  Maybe they didn’t know how to spiritually help a village!
One way to get roasted (figuratively) in those days was to bring a bishop and university professor together and see who who was more knowledgeable in theological matters.  Usually the professor won.  I am surprised at this!  The bishops were very untrained and not taught in theology, but the Church seemingly found a warm body and told them to help the people however they could.  All without training!  No wonder they struggled.  This made the bishops pretty useless.
Not all followers, like normal church-goers or bishops were like this, whether they cared or were untrained, but there were enough of those kind of people, that the Church was in need of desperate reform.  Many people, like Martin Luther took the incentive and made other paths for people to meet their spiritual needs.  The Catholic Church was paying the price of not functioning at its best, and the people voted with their feet to switch their religion.
Quinn Palmer
RPC Student
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