Sully, Maximilian De Bethune, Duke Of

, one of the most able and honest ministers that France ever had, was descended from an ancient and illustrious house, and born in 1559 at Rosni, descended from a younger branch of the ancient counts of Flanders. His father was the baron de Rosni. He was bred in the opinions and doctrine of the reformed religion, and continued to the end of his life constant in the profession of it, which seems to have fitted him for the important services to which Providence had designed him. The queen of Navarre, after the death of her husband Antony de Bourbon, returned to Beam, where she openly professed Calvinism. She sent for her son Henry from the court of France to Pau in 1556, and put him under a preceptor, who trained him up in the Protestant religion. She declared herself the protectress of the Protestants in 1566; and went to Rochelle, where she devoted her son to the defence of the Reformed religion. In that quality Henry, then prince of Beam, was declared chief of the party; and followed the army from that time to the peace, which was signed at St. Germains, August 11, 1570. He then returned to Beam, and made use of the quiet that was given him, to visit his estates and his government of Guyenne, after which he went and settled in Rochelle, with his mother.

The advantages granted to the Protestants by the peace of St. Germains, raised a suspicion in the breasts of their leaders, that the court of France was acting treacherously, and that in reality nothing else was intended by the peace, than to prepare for the most dismal tragedy that ever was | acted and the truth was, that the queen dowager Catharine de Medicis, and her son Charles IX. being now convinced that the Protestants were too powerful to be subdued by force, were determined to extirpate them by stratagem. They, however, dissembled their intentions; and, during the whole year 1571, talked of nothing but faithfully observing the treaties of entering into a closer correspondence with the Protestants, and carefully preventing all occasions of rekindling the war. To remove all possible suspicion, the court of France proposed a marriage between Charles the IXth’s sister, and Henry prince of Beam; and feigned, at the same time, as if they would prepare a war against Spain, than which nothing could be more agreeable to Henry. These things, enforced with the appearance of great frankness and sincerity, entirely gained the queen of Navarre; who, though she continued irresolute for some months, yet yielded about the end of 1571, and prepared for the journey to Paris, as was proposed, in May 1572.

Sully’s father was one of those who doubted the sincerity of the court, and conceived such strong apprehensions, that when the report of the court of Navarre’s journey to Paris first reached him, he could not give credit to it. Firmly persuaded that the present calm won Id be of short continuance, he made haste to take advantage of it, and prepared to shut himself up with his effects in Rochelle, when every one else thought of leaving it. But the queen of Navarre having informed him of her design, and requested him to join her in her way to Vendome, he went, and took Sully, now in his twelfth year, along with him. He found a general security at Vendome, and an air of satisfaction on every face; to which, though he durst not object in public, yet he made remonstrances to some of the chiefs in private. These were considered as the effects of weakness and timidity; and therefore, not caring to seem wiser than persons of greater understandings, he seemed to incline to the general opinion. He went to Rosni, to put himself into a condition to appear at the magnificent court of France; but, before he went, presented his son to the prince of Beam, in the presence of the queen his mother, with great solemnity, and assurances of the most inviolable attachment. Sully did not return with his father to Rosni, but went to Paris in the queen of Navarre’s train. He applied himself closely to his studies, without neglecting to pay a proper | court to the prince his master; and lived with a governor and a valet de chambre in a part of Paris where almost all the colleges stood, and continued there till the bloody catastrophe which happened soon after.

Nothing could be more kind than the reception which the queen of Navarre, her children, and principal servants, met with from the king and queen; nor more obliging, than their treatment of them. The queen of Navarre died, and some historians make no doubt but she was poisoned; yet the whole court appeared sensibly affected, and went into deep mourning. Still many of the Protestants, among whom was Sully’s father, suspected the designs of the court; and had such convincing proofs, that they quitted the court, and Paris itself, or at least lodged in the suburbs. They warned prince Henry to be cautious; but he listened to nothing; and some of his chiefs were as incredulous, and the admiral de Coligni in particular, though one of the wisest and most sagacious men in the world. The fact to be perpetrated was fixed for the 24th of August, 1572, and is well known by the name of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. The feast of St. Bartholomew fell this year upon a Sunday; and the massacre was perpetrated in the evening.

All the necessary measures having been taken, the ringing of the bells of St. Germain TAuxerrois for matins was the signal for beginning the slaughter. The admiral de Coiigni was first murdered by a domestic of the duke of Guise, the duke himself staying below in the court, and his body was thrown out of the window. (See Coligni.) The king, as Daniel relates, went to feast himself with the sight of it; and, when those that were with him took notice that it was somewhat offensive, is said to have used the reply of the Roman emperor Vitellius, “The body of a dead enemy always smells sweet.” All the domestics of the admiral were afterwards slain, and the slaughter was at the same time begun by the king’s emissaries in all parts of the city. Tavanes, a marshal of France, who had been page to Francis I. and was at that time one of the counsellors and confidants of Catharine de Medicis, ran through the streets of Paris, crying, “Let blood, let blood! bleeding is as good in the month of August, as in May!” Among the most distinguished of the Protestants that perished was Francis de la Rochefoucault; who having been at play part of the night with the king, and finding himself seized in bed by men in masques, thought they were the king and his courtiers, who | came to divert themselves with him. During this carnage, Sully’s safety is thus accounted for by himself: “1 was in bed,” says he, “and awaked from sleep three hours after midnight by the sound of all the bells and the confused cries of the populace. My. governor, St. Julian, with my valet de chambre, went hastily out to know the cause; and I never afterwards heard more of these men, who, without doubt, were among the first that were sacrificed to the public fury. I continued alone in my chamber dressing myself, when in a few moments I saw my landlord enter, pale, and in the utmost consternation. He was of the reformed religion; and, having learned what the matter was, had consented to go to mass, to preserve his life, and his house from being pillaged. He came to persuade me to do the same, and to take me with him: I did not think proper to follow him, but resolved to try if I could gain the college of Burgundy, where I had studied; though the great distance between the house where I then was, and the college, made the attempt very dangerous. Having disguised myself in a scholar’s gown, I put a large prayer/-book under my arm, and went into the street. I was seized with horror inexpressible at the sight of the furious murderers; who, running from all parts, forced open the houses, and cried aloud, ‘ Kill! kill! massacre the Huguenots!’ The blood which I saw shed before my eyes, redoubled my terror. I fell into the midst of a body of guards; they stopped me, questioned me, and were beginning to use me ill, when, happily for me, the book that I carried was perceived, and served me for a passport. Twice after this 1 fell into the same danger, from which I extricated myself by the same good fortune. At last I arrived at the college of Burgundy, where a danger still greater than any I had yet met with awaited me. The porter having twice refused me entrance, I continued standing in the midst of the street, at the mercy of the furious murderers, whose numbers increased every moment, and who were evidently seeking for their prey; when it came into my mind to ask for La Faye, the principal of this college, a good man, by whom I was tenderly beloved. The porter, prevailed upon by some small pieces of money which I put into his hand, admitted me; and my friend carried me to his apartment, where two inhuman priests, whom I heard mention Sicilian vespers, wanted to force me from him, that they might cut me in pieces; saying, the order was, not to spare even infants at the breast. All the good man could | do was to conduct me privately to a distant chamber, where he locked me up; and here I was confined three days, unceriain of my destiny, seeing no one but a servant of my friend, who came from time to time to bring me provision.

Henry king of Navarre, who had been married to Charles the IXth’s sister bnt six days before, with the greatest solemnity and with all the marks of kindness and affection from the court, was awaked two hours before day by a great number of soldiers, who rushed boldly into a chamber in the Louvre, where he and the prince of Conde lay, and insolently commanded them to dress themselves, and attend the king. They would not suffer the two princes to take their swords with them, who, as they went, saw several of their gentlemen massacred before their eyes. This was contrived, doubtless, to intimidate them; and, with the same view, as Henry went to the king, the queers gave orders, that they should lead him under the vaults, and make him pass through the guards, drawn up in files on each side, and in menacing postures. He trembled, and recoiled two or three steps back; but the captain of the guards swearing that they should do him no hurt, he proceeded through, amidst carbines and halberts. The king waited for them, and received them with a countenance and eyes full of fury: he ordered them with oaths and blasphemies, which were familiar with him, to quit a religion, which he said had been taken up only for a cloke to their rebellion: he told them in a fierce and angry tone, “that he would no longer be contradicted in his opinions by his subjects; that they by their example should teach others to revere him as the image of God, and cease to be enemies to the images of his mother;” and ended by declaring, that “if they did not go to mass, he would treat them as Criminals guilty of treason against divine and human majesty.” The manner of pronouncing these words not suffering the princes to doubt the sincerity of them, they yielded to necessity, and performed what was required of them: and Henry was even obliged to send an edict into his dominions, by which the exercise of any other religion but the Romish was forbidden.

In the mean time the court sent orders to the governors in all the provinces, that the same destruction should be made of the Protestants there as had been at Paris; but many of them nobly refused to execute these orders; and the viscount d’Orthe had the courage to write from Bayonne to Charles IX. that, “he found many good soldiers | in his garrison, but not one executioner: and begged him to command their lives in any service that was possible.” Yet the abettors and prime actors in this tragedy at Paris were wonderfully satisfied with themselves, and found much comfort in having been able to do so much for the cause of God and his church. Tavanes, mentioned above, who ran about the streets crying “Let blood! let blood!” being upon his death-bed, made a general confession of the sins of his life; after which his confessor saying to him with an air of astonishment, “Why! you speak not a word of St. Bartholomew;” he replied, “I look upon that as a meritorious action, which ought to atone for all the sins I have ever committed.” This is related by his son, who has written memoirs of him. The king himself must have supposed real merit to have been in it; for, not content with setting his seal and sanction to these detestable butcheries, he is credibly affirmed to have taken the carbine into his own hands, and to have shot at the poor Huguenots as they attempted to escape. The court of Rome did all they could to confirm the Parisians in this horrid notion: for though Pope Pius V. is said to have been so much afflicted at the massacre as to shed tears, yet Gregory XIII. who succeeded him, ordered a public thanksgiving to God for it to be offered at Rome, and sent a legate to congratulate Charles IX. and to exhort him to continue it. Father Daniel contents himself with saying, that the king’s zeal in his terrible punishment of the heretics was commended at Rome; and Baronius affirms the action to have been absolutely necessary. The French writers, however, have spoken of it in the manner it deserves; have represented it as the most wicked and inhuman devastation that ever was committed “an execrable action,” says one of them, Prefixe, “that never had, and I trust God will never have, its like.” Seventy thousand, according to Sully’s Memoirs, was the numberof Protestants massacred, during eight days, throughout the kingdom.

At the end of three days, however, a prohibition against murdering and pillaging any more of the Protestants was published at Paris; and then Sully was suffered to quit his cell in the college of Btirgundy. He immediately saw two soldiers of the guard, agents to his father, entering the college, who gave his father a relation of what had happened to him; and, eight days after, he received a letter from him, advising him to continue in Paris, since the prince he | served was not at liberty to leave it and adding, that he should follow the prince’s example in going to mass. Though the king of Navarre had saved his life by this submission, yet in other things he was treated very indifferently, and suffered a thousand capricious insults. He was obliged, against his will, to stay some years at the court of France; he knew very well how to dissemble his chagrin 5 and he often diverted it by gallantries, and the lady de Sauves, wife to one of the secretaries of state, became one of his chief mistresses. But still he did not neglect such political measures as seemed practicable, and he had a hand in those that were formed to take away the government from Catharine de Medicis, and to expel the Guises from court which that queen discovering, caused him and the duke of Alengon to be arrested, set guards upon them, and ordered them to be examined upon many heinous allegations. They were set at liberty by Henry III. for Charles IX. died, 1574, in the most exquisite torments and horrors, the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s -day having been always in his mind. Sully employed his leisure in the most advantageous manner he was able. He found it impracticable in a court to pursue the study of the learned languages, or of any thing called learning; but the king of Navarre ordered him to be taught mathematics and history, and all those exercises which give ease and gracefulness to the person; that method of educating youth, with a particular attention to the formation of the manners, being peculiar to Henry, who was himself educated in the same way.

In 1576, the king of Navarre made his escape from the court of France, while on a hunting-party near Senlis; from whence, his guards being dispersed, he instantly passed the Seine at Poissy, and went to Tours, where he no sooner arrived than he resumed the exercise of the Protestant religion. A war was now expected; and Catharine de Medicis began to tremble in her turn: and, indeed, from that time to 1S89, Henry’s life presents us only with a mixture of battles, negociations, and love-intrigues, which last made no inconsiderable part of his business. Sully- was one of those who attended him in his flight, and who continued to attend him to the end of his life, serving him in the different capacities of sofdier and statesman, as the various conditions of his affairs required. Henry’s wife whom Catharine had brought to him in 1578, was a great impediment to him yet by his management she was sometimes | of use also. There were frequent ruptures between him and the court of France; but at last Henry III. confederated with him sincerely, and in good earnest, to resist the League, which was more furious than ever, after the death of the duke of Guise and the cardinal his brother. The reconciliation and confederacy of these two kings was concluded in April 1589: their interview was at Tours the 30th of that month, attended with great demonstration of mutual satisfaction. They joined their troops some time after to lay siege to Paris: they besieged it in person, and were upon the point of conquering that great city, when the king of France was assassinated by James Clement, a Dominican friar, the 1st of August, at the village of St. Cloud. “The league,” says Renault, “is perhaps the most extraordinary event in history; and Henry III. may be reckoned the weakest prince in not foreseeing, that he should render himself dependant on that party by becoming their chief. The Protestants had made war against him, as an enemy of their sect; and the leaguers murdered him on account of his uniting with the king of Navarre, the chief of the Huguenots.

Henry III. upon his death-bed declared the king of Navarre his successor, who accordingly succeeded him, but not without very great difficulties. He was acknowledged king by most of the lords, whether catholic or protestant, who happened then to be at court; but the leaguers refused absolutely to acknowledge his title till he had renounced the protestant religion; ‘and the city of Paris persisted in its revolt till the 22d of March, 1594. He embraced the catholic religion, as the only method of putting an end to the miseries of France, by the advice of Sully, whom he had long taken into the sincerest confidence; and the celebrated Du Perron, afterwards cardinal, was made the instrument of his conversion. He attempted also to convert Sully, but in vain: “My parents bred me,” said the minister, “in the opinions and doctrines of the reformed religion, and I have continued constant in the profession of it; neither threatenings, promises, variety of events, nor the change even of the king my protector, joined to his most tender solicitations, have ever been able to make me renounce it.

This change of religion in Henry IV. though it seemed to create a present satisfaction, did not secure him from continual plots and troubles and being made upon | political motives, it was natural to suppose it not sincere. Thus, Dec. 26, 1594, a scholar, named John Chastel, attempted to assassinate the king, but only wounded him in the mouth; and when he was interrogated concerning the crime, readily answered, “That he came from the college of the Jesuits,” and then accused those fathers of having instigated him to it. The king, who was present at his examination, said with much gaiety, that “he had heard, from the mouths of many persons, that the society never loved him, and he was now convinced of it by his own.” Some writers have related, that this assassination was at* tempted when he was with the fair Gabrieile, his mistress, at the hotel d’Estrees; but Sully, who was with him, says that it was at Paris, in his apartments in the Louvre. This Gabriel le was the favourite mistress of Henry IV. and it is said that the king intended to marry her; but she died in 1599, the year that his marriage with Margaret of Valois, sister of Charles IX. was declared null and void by the pope’s commissioners, with consent of both parties. He married Mary of Medicis, at Lyons, the year after, and appointed madame de Guercheville, to whom he had made love without success, to be one of her ladies of honour; saying, that “since she was a lady of real honour, she should be in that post with the queen his wife.” Henry, though he was a great monarch, was not always successful in his addresses to the fair; and a noble saying is recorded by many writers of Catharine, sister to the viscount de Rohan, who replied to a declaration of gallantry from this prince, that “she was too poor to be his wife, and of too good a fau.ily to be his mistress.

Sully was now the first minister; and he performed all the offices of a great and good minister, while Henry performed the offices of a great and good king. He attended to every part of the government; prosecuted extortioners, and those who were guilty of embezzling the public money; and, in short, restored the kingdom, in a few years, from, a most desperate to a most flourishing condition; which, however, he could not have done, if the king had not resolutely supported him against favourite mistresses, the cabals of court, and the factions of state, which would otherwise have overwhelmed him. The king himself turned his whole application to every thing that might be useful, or even convenient, to his kingdom, without suffering things that happened out of it to pass unobserved, as soon | as he had put an end to the civil wars of France, and had concluded a peace with Spain at Vervins, on the 2d of May, 1598. The state of the finances of France was at thu time in a wretched situation, as many of the provinces were entirely exhausted, and none of them in a condition of bearing any new imposition. The standing revenues brought into the king’s coffers no more than thirty millions, though an hundred and fifty millions were raised on the people: so great were the abuses of that government in raising money; and they were not less in the dispensation of it. The whole scheme of the administration was a scheme of fraud, and all who served cheated the public, from the highest offices down to the lowest; from the commissioners of the treasury, down to the under farmers and under treasurers. Sully beheld this state of things, when he came to have the sole superintendency of affairs, with horror; he was ready to despair but zeal for his master and for his country animated his endeavours, and he resolved to make the reformation of abuses, the reduction of expences, and a frugal management, the fund for the payment of national debts, and for all the great things he intended to do, without overcharging the people. This plan fully succeeded. The people were immediately eased, trade revived, the king’s coffers were filled, a maritime power was created, and every thing necessary was prepared to put the nation in a condition of executing great designs, whenever great conjunctures should offer themselves. “Such,” says Bolingbroke, “was the effect of twelve years of wise and honest administration: and this effect would have shewed itself in great enterprises against the house of Austria, more formidable in these days than the house of Bourbon has been in ours, if Henry IV. had not been stabbed by one of those assassins, into whose hands the interest of this house, and the frenzy of religion, had put the dagger more than once.

Henry was murdered the 17th of May, 1610; and, it appears, had many presages of his cruel destiny, which, bully tells us, “were indeed dreadful and surprising to the Ja>t degree.” The queen was to be crowned purely to gratify her, for Henry was vehemently against the coronation; and, the nearer the moment approached, the more his terrors increased. “In this state of overwhelming horror, which,” says Sully, “at first I thought an unpardonable weakness, he opened his whole heart to me: his | own words will be more affecting than all I can say. ` Oh my friend,‘ said he, `this coronation does not please me I know not what is the meaning of it, but my heart tells me some fatal accident will happen.’ He sat down, as he spoke these words, upon a chair in my closet; and, resigning himself some time to all the horror of his melancholy apprehensions, he suddenly started up, and cried out, Par Dieu, I shall die in this city; they will murder me here; I see plainly they have made my death their only resource!” for he had then great designs on foot against Spain and the house of Austria. He repeated these forebodings several times, which Sully as often treated as chimeras; but they proved realities.

After the death of his master, by which he was greatly afflicted, Sully retired from court; for, a new reign introducing new men and new measures, he was no longer regarded. The life he led in retreat was accompanied with decency, grandeur, and even majesty; yet it was, in some measure, embittered with domestic troubles, arising from the extravagance and ill conduct of his eldest son, the marquis of Rosni. He died Dec. 22, 1641, aged eighty-three, and his duchess caused a statue to be erected over his burying-place, with this inscription: “Here lies the body of the most high, most puissant, and most illustrious lord, Maximilian de Bethune, marquis of Rosni, who shared in, all the fortunes of king Henry the Great; among which was that memorable battle, which gave the crown to the victor; where, by his valour, he gained the white standard, and took several prisoners of distinction. He was by that great monarch, in reward of his many virtues and distinguished merit, honoured with the dignities of duke, peer, and marshal of France, with the governments of the Upper and Lower Poitou, with the office of grand master of the ordnance; in which, bearing the thunder of his Jupiter, he took the castle of Montmelian, till then believed impregnable, and many other fortresses of Savoy. He was likewise made superintendant of the finances, which office he discharged singly, with a wise and prudent occonomy; and continued his faithful services till that unfortunate day, when the Caesar of the French nation lost his life by the hand of a parricide. After the lamented death of that great king, he retired from public affairs, and passed the remainder of his life in ease apd tranquillity. He died at the castle of Villebon, Dec. 22, 1641, aged 82.| Though he lived to such an age, no life could be more frequently exposed to perils than that of Sully. One of these was of a very extraordinary kind, and deserves to be particularly mentioned. It was at the taking of a town in Cambray, in 1581, when, to defend the women from the brutality of the soldiers, the churches, with gu.irds about them, were given them for asylums; nevertheless, d very beautiful young girl suddenly threw herself into the arms of Sully, as he was walking in the streets, and, holding him fast, conjured him to guard her from some soldiers, who, she said, had concealed themselves as soon as they saw him. Sully endeavoured to calm her fears, and offered to conduct her to the next church; but she tpld him she had been there, and had asked for admittance, which they refused, because they knew she had the plague. Sully thrust her from him with the utmost indignation as well as horror, and expected every moment to be seized with the plague, which, however, did not happen.

The character of Sully, as it was given by his master Henry IV. is thus preserved in his memoirs. “Some persons,” said Henry, “complain, and indeed 1 do myself, sometimes, of his temper. They say he is harsh, impatient, and obstinate: he is accused of having too enterprising a mind, of presuming too much upon his own opinions, exaggerating the worth of his own actions, and lessening that of others, as likewise of eagerly aspiringafter honours and riches. Now, although I am well convinced that part of these imputations are true, and that I am obliged to keep a high hand over him, when he offends me with those sallies of ill humour yet I cannot cease to love him, esteem him, and employ him in all affairs of consequence, because I am very sure that he loves my person, that he takes an interest in my preservation, and that he is ardently solicitous for the honour, the glory, and grandeur of me and my kingdom. I know also that he has no malignity in his heart; that he is indefatigable in business, and fruitful in expedients; he is a careful manager of my revenue, a man laborious and diligent, who endeavours to be ignorant of nothing, and to render himself capable of conducting all affairs, whether of peace or war; who writes and speaks in a style that pleases me, because it is at once that of a soldier and statesman. In a word, I confess to you, that, notwithstanding all his extravagances and little | transports of passion, I find no one so capable as he is of consoling me under every uneasiness.

The “Memoirs of Sully” have always been ranked among the best, and certainly are among the most interesting and authentic books of French history, replete with good sense and virtuous remark. They contain a particular account of whatever passed from the peace in 1570, to the death of Henry IV. in 1610; a period of time, which has supplied the most copious subjects to the historians of France. They are full of numerous and various events; wars, foreign and domestic; interests of state and religion; master-strokes of policy; unexpected discoveries; struggles of ambition; stratagems of policy; embassies and negociations. These memoirs take their value, perhaps their greatest value, from the innumerable recitals of a private kind, which scarcely belong to the province of history; for, at the same time that they treat of the reign, they describe the whole life of Henry the Great. They are not, however, either in the form or language in which they were left by Sully: the form has been digested and methodized, and the language has been corrected and polished. The best edition in French is that of Paris, in 3 vois. 4to, and also in 8 vols. 12mo. They have been translated into English by Mrs. Charlotte Lennox, and published both in 4to and 8vo.