Coligni, Gaspard De

, the second of the name, of an ancient family, admiral of France, was born the 16th of February 1516, at Chatillon-sur-Loing. He bore arms from his very infancy. He signalized himself under Francis I. at the battle of Cerisoles, and under Henry II. who made him colonel-general of the French infantry, and afterwards admiral of France, in 1552; favours which he obtained by the brilliant actions he performed at the battle of Renti, by his zeal for military discipline, by his victories over the Spaniards, and especially by the defence of St. Quintin. The admiral threw himself into that place, and exhibited prodigies of valour; but the town being forced, he was made prisoner of war. After the death of Henry II. he put himself at the head of the protestants against the Guises, and formed so powerful a party as to threaten ruin to the Romish religion in France. We are told by a | contemporary historian, that the court had not a more formidable enemy, next to Conde, who had joined with him. The latter was more ambitious, more enterprising, more active. Coligni was of a sedater temper, more cautious, and fitter to be the leader of a party; as unfortunate, indeed, in war as Conde, but often repairing by his ability what had seemed irreparable; more dangerous after a defeat, than his enemies after a victory; and moreover adorned with as many virtues as such tempestuous times and the spirit of party would allow. He seemed to set no value on his life. Being wounded, and his friends lamenting around him, he said to them with incredible constancy, “The business we follow should make us as familiar with death as with life.” The first pitcht battle that happened between the protestants and the catholics, was that of Dreux, in 1562. The admiral fought bravely, lost it, but saved the army. The duke of Guise having been murdered by treachery, a short time afterwards, at the siege of Orleans, he was accused of having connived at this base assassination; but he cleared himself of the charge by oath. The civil wars ceased for some time, but only to recommence with greater fury in 1567. Coligni and Conde fought the battle of St. Denys against the constable of Montmorenci. This indecisive day was followed by that of Jarnac, in 1569, fatal to the protestants. Concle having been killed in a shocking manner, Coligni had to sustain the whole weight of the party, and alone supported that unhappy cause, and was again defeated at the affair of Men Icon tour, in Poitou, without suffering his courage to be shaken for a moment. An advantageous peace seemed shortly after to terminate these bloody conflicts, in 1571. Coligni appeared at court, where he was loaded with caresses, in common with all the rest of his party. Charles IX. ordered him to be paid a hundred thousand francs as a reparation of the losses he had sustained, and restored to him his place in the council. On all hands, however, he was exhorted to distrust these perfidious caresses. A captain of the protestants, who was retiring into the country, came to take leave of him: Coligni asked him the reason of so sudden a retreat: “It is,” said the soldier, “because they shew us too many kindnesses here: I had rather escape with the fools, than perish with such as are over-wise.A horrid conspiracy soon broke out. One Friday the admiral coming to the Louvre, was fired at by a musquet from a window, and dangerously | wounded in the right hand and in the left arm, by Maurevert, who had been employed by the duke de Guise, who had proposed the scheme to Charles IX. The king of Navarre and the prince of Cond6 complained of this villainous act. Charles IX. trained to the arts of dissimulation by his mother, pretended to be extremely afflicted at the event, ordered strict inquiry to be made after the author of it, and called Coligni by the tender name of father. This was at the very time when he was meditating the approaching massacre of the protestants. The carnage began, as is well known, the 24th of August, St. Bartholomew’s day, 1572. The duke de Guise, under a strong escort, marched to the house of the admiral. A crew of assassins, headed by one Besme, a domestic of the house of Guise, entered sword in hand, and found him sitting in an elbow-chair. “Young man,” said he to their leader in a calm and tranquil manner, “thou shouldst have respected my gray hairs but, do what thou wilt thou canst only shorten my life by a few days.” This miscreant, after having stabbed him in several places, threw him out at the window into the court-yard of the house, where the duke of Guise stood waiting. Coligni fell at the feet of his base and implacable enemy, and said, according to some writers, as he was just expiring “If at least I had died by the hand of a gentleman, and not by that of a turnspit!Besme, having trampled on the corpse, said to his companions: “A good beginning! let us go and continue our work!” His body was exposed for three days to the fury of the populace, and then hung up by the feet on the gallows of Montfaucon. Montmorenci, his cousin, had it taken down, in order to bury it secretly in the chapel of the chateau de Chantilli. An Italian, having cut off the head of the admiral, carried it to Catherine de Medicis; and this princess caused it to be embalmed, and sent it to Rome. Coligni was in the habit of keeping a journal, which, after his death, was put into the hands of Charles IX. In this was remarked a piece of advice which he gave that prince, to take care of what he did in assigning the appanage, lest by so doing he left them too great an authority. Catherine caused this article to be read before the duke of Alei^on, whpm she knew to be afflicted at the death of the admiral: “There is your good friend!” said she, “observe the advice he gives the king!” “I cannot say,” returned the duke, “whether he was very fond of me; but 1 know that | such advice could have been given only by a man of strict fidelity to his majesty, and zealous for the good of his country.Charles IX. thought this journal worth being printed; but the marshal de Retz prevailed on him to throw it into the fire. We shall conclude this article with the parallel drawn by the abbe“de Mably of the admiral de Coligni, and of Francois de Lorraine, due de Guise.” Coligni was the greatest general of his time; as courageous as the duke of Guise, but less impetuous, because he had always been less successful. He was fitter for forming grand projects, and more prudent in the particulars of their executioj. Guise, by a more brilliant courage, which astonished his enemies, reduced conjunctures to the province of his genius, and thus rendered himself in some sort master of them. Coligni obeyed them, but like a commander superior to them. In the same circumstances ordinary men would have observed only courage in the conduct of the one, and only prudence in that of the other, though both of them had these two qualities, but variously subordinated. Guise, more successful, had fewer opportunities for displaying the resources of his genius: his dexterous ambition, and, like that of Pompey, apparently founded on the very interests of the princes it was endeavouring to ruin, while it pretended to serve them, was supported on the authority of his name till it had acquired strength enough to stand by itself. Coligni, less criminal, though he appeared to be more so, openly, like Caesar, declared war upon his prince and the whole kingdom of France. Guise had the art of conquering, and of profiting by the victory. Coligni lost four battles, and was always the terror of his victors, whom he seemed to have vanquished. It is not easy to say what the former would have been in the disasters that befell Coligni; but we may boldly conjecture that the latter would have appeared still greater, if fortune had favoured him as much. He was seen carried in a litter, and we may add in the very jaws of death, to order and conduct the longest and most difficult marches, traversing France in the midst of his enemies, rendering by his counsels the youthful courage of the prince of Navarre more formidable, and training him to those great qualities which were to make him a good king, generous, popular, and capable of managing the affairs of Europe, after having made him a hero, sagacious, terrible, and clement in the conduct of war. The good | understanding he kept up between the French and the Germans of his army, whom the interests of religion alone were ineffectual to unite; the prudence with which he contrived to draw succours from England, where all was not quiet; his art in giving a spur to the tardiness of the princes of Germany, who, not having so much genius as himself, were more apt to despair of saving the protestantsof France, and deferred to send auxiliaries, who were no longer hastened in their march by the expectation of plunder in a country already ravaged; are master-pieces of his policy. Coligni was an honest man. Guise wore the mask of a greater number of virtues; but all were infected by his ambition. He had all the qualities that win the heart of the multitude. Coligni, more collected in himself, was more esteemed by his enemies, and respected by his own people. He was a lover of order and of his country. Ambition might bear him up, but it never first set him in motion. Hearty alike in the cause of protestantism and of his country, he was never able, by too great austerity, to make his doctrine tally with the duties of a subject. With the qualities of a hero, he was endowed with a gentle soul. Had he been less of the great man, he would have been a fanatic; he was an apostle and a zealot. His life was first published in 1575, 8vo, and translated and published in English in 1576, by Arthur Golding. There is also a life by Courtilz, 1686, 12mo, and one in the “Hommes Illustres de France.1

1 Moreri.—Dict. Hist. edition 1789. Clement Bibl. Curieuse.