ABSTRACT

The eighth and longest of the ‘Wars of Religion ‘had started in 1586, when the miserable Henry III, after a feeble attempt to defend himself against Guise and the Leaguers, had submitted himself entirely to them at the Treaty of Nemours (July 7) and declared open war on the Protestants, by publishing an Edict which withdrew all toleration, and gave fifteen days’ grace for all who would not accept the Catholic faith to quit the kingdom. Naturally the Huguenots flew to arms in all directions, and since they had great tracts of the West and South in their interest, it was clear that the Edict of Nemours was a declaration of war rather than an effective document. As in 1569 they called the Protestant princes of Germany to their aid, and the Elector Palatine, John Casimir, promised to raise once more hordes of reiters and landsknechts for an invasion of France in the next year. But the best security for the Huguenots was that the King was more interested in shaking off the yoke of the Guises than in extirpating heresy, and his forces and those of the League never co-operated. While sporadic warfare spread over most districts of southern France, the King let other local campaigns fare as they might, but took as his own main share of the war an invasion of the South by a royalist army under his profligate and expensive favourite Joyeuse, whom he had married to his own sister-in-law. The forthcoming German irruption would have to be looked after by the Guises and their friends. Joyeuse’s first operations were futile, but in September 1587 he was marching from Saumur across Poitou and Angoumois, with the definite intention of joining another royalist force which held Bordeaux, and of shutting off the Protestants of the west from their coreligionists of Languedoc and Gascony. In this manoeuvre he was marching across the front of the King of Navarre, who was collecting forces in the La Rochelle-Saintes district, with the object of carrying out precisely the manoeuvre which 471Joyeuse was wishing to prevent, namely, that of dropping down through Perigord and Languedoc, with the ultimate intention of joining hands with the succours expected from Germany. This was indeed a repetition of the plan which Coligny and the Duke of Zweibrücken had carried out nearly twenty years before. 1