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BLOG: Murder On the Streets of Paris!

March was sure an exciting month. I saw the dawning of my fourth novel, WEST OF SANTILLANE, and April should be full and satisfying too. There are still several wonderful events coming up for the launch of the book. If any of you have book clubs and would like me to come and present, please let me know. If you're not in my area, we could try a ZOOM format or Facetime to achieve the same goal.

This week, I have author Rosemary Griggs with us. Rosemary knows the 16th century and aside from being the era of "Gloriana"--Elizabeth Rex, it was also a bloody time of Reformation and many lives were lost. The St. Bartholomew's Rebellion was one such instance, where literally thousands of people died in one night.

Below, Rosemary has written a fascinating piece, offering insight into this terrible event. Hundreds of years may have passed, but there's still too much ignorance when it comes to faith. I hope you enjoy it, and I'd like to warmly welcome Rosemary to Brook's Journal!

Read ON, everybody!

Murder on the Streets of Paris - The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre 24 August 1572

By Rosemary Griggs


Violence was part of everyday life in the late sixteenth century. But the sheer horror of the atrocity in Paris on St Bartholomew’s Day 1572 sent shockwaves across Europe. The massacre is also a crucial part of the story in my latest novel, The Dartington Bride

The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre by Francois Dubois (c 1572-84) sourced via Wikimedia Commons 


The French Wars of Religion had been raging for over ten years, with periods of intense fighting occasionally interrupted by short-lived peace agreements. These agreements sometimes granted concessions to the Protestants, but time and time again, the fighting would resume.


In the year 1570, the treaty of St Germain-en-Laye was signed. It was a new attempt to secure a lasting peace and brought the third war of religion to an end. It allowed Protestant leaders, including Admiral Gaspard Coligny, to make a cautious return to the royal court.


However, certain Catholics, including the followers of the influential Duc de Guise, believed the latest treaty went too far. Tensions were rising once again.


Catherine de Medici had a strong influence on many decisions made by the young King Charles IX. Despite being a fervent Catholic, she saw the sense of supporting a policy of relative religious tolerance. Catherine worked hard to persuade Henry of Navarre’s mother, Jeanne D’Albret, to agree to the marriage of her son, Protestant Henry, to Catholic King Charles’ sister, Marguerite. The wedding, which took place on 18 August 1572, was intended to cement the peace between the two religious factions.


Many Huguenots, including noblemen and military leaders, converged on Paris to join in the celebrations. The presence of numerous well-born Protestants in a violently anti-Huguenot Paris created a very tense atmosphere. Despite this, Admiral de Coligny, the Protestant leader, opted to remain in Paris for a few days after the wedding. He had begun to forge better relations with the young king. He hoped to persuade him to send French forces to support William of Orange and those who had risen up against Philip II of Spain in the Spanish Netherlands. Coligny thought that a war against Spain might unite Catholics and Protestants against a common enemy, thereby bringing a reconciliation between the two religious factions.


On the morning of 22 August, as he returned to his lodgings from a counsel meeting, Coligny was shot and wounded. The shot was fired from a house believed to be occupied by supporters of the Duc of Guise. The Guise family, who were very much opposed to the Flanders war, were popular with the largely Catholic population of Paris. They also had a long running personal feud with Coligny, who Henry Duc de Guise held responsible for the assassination of his father during the Siege of Orleans in 1563.


The Admiral had escaped serious injury, but many alarmed Huguenot leaders assembled at his house to discuss what had happened. The King made a visit to Coligny, assuring that those responsible would be apprehended. All seemed quiet.


But during the night of 23 August, the bells of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois sounded the alarm. The Admiral was murdered, and his body thrown out of the window of his house. Many Huguenot noblemen were massacred in the Louvre palace or in the streets of Paris. Everyone was caught unawares in the dead of night, unable to defend themselves. Théodore de Bèze, a Calvinist theologian and scholar, wrote that they were killed “like sheep at the slaughterhouse”.


The king is believed to have authorised the assassination of some of the Huguenot leaders after being persuaded that they were plotting rebellion. These targeted murders set the fuse for an explosion of unimaginable violence throughout the city. Mobs hunted down Protestants. They killed everyone who did not show their catholic allegiance by wearing a white armband or a white cross in their hats. The mobs showed no mercy, not even to women and children. The streets ran red with blood. The killings continued throughout the city for three days. Some sources suggest that as many 3,000 Protestants perished in Paris.


The Queen Mother of France, Catherine de Medici, has historically been blamed for the atrocity. It has been suggested that she orchestrated the assassination because she was jealous of Coligny’s influence over the young king and fearful of his plans for war with Spain. However, recent scholars, including Estelle Paranque, argue that she is unlikely to have plotted a massacre of the people with whom she has been trying for decades to negotiate peace.


One of the Huguenot leaders who attended the wedding in Paris was Gabriel de Lorges, Count of Montgomery. He is a key character in my new novel. The Dartington Bride is his daughter Roberda’s story.


Caption: Caption: Gabriel de Lorges, Comte de Montgomery, Copy from an original kept at the Château de Beauregard; commissioned by Louis-Philippe in 1834 — In the public domain, sourced via Wikimedia Commons


Gabriel came into the spotlight in 1559 when he inadvertently caused the death of King Henri II of France during a jousting event. The tournament was the grand finale of festivities to celebrate two weddings. On that occasion the King’s sister, Marguerite, married Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy and King Henri’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, wed King Phillip of Spain. Those weddings were intended to cement peace, not between the religious factions, but with France’s Hapsburg enemies.


King Henri insisted that Gabriel ride against him. A shard of wood from Gabriel’s splintered lance entered the king’s eye, and he died ten days later. Although King Henri pardoned him from his death bed, Gabriel fled France. First, he headed to the Channel Islands, then to Venice, before he reached England in the spring of 1562.


Gabriel’s stay in England allowed him to make connections with influential people, such as Lord Robert Dudley. He likely also met Sir Arthur Champernowne, who was the brother of Queen Elizabeth’s childhood governess, Kat Astley.


When Gabriel returned to France, he had converted to the Protestant faith, and he soon became a prominent Huguenot military leader. He led many campaigns during the first three wars of religion. He also made repeated efforts, using his contacts in England, to secure the support of the English Queen, both in terms of finances and military assistance.


No doubt Gabriel thought a marriage between his daughter, Roberda, and Sir Arthur Champernowne’s son might strengthen his hand. Sir Arthur, a staunch protestant and log-time supporter of the Huguenot cause, was keen for the match. After protracted negotiations involving a substantial dowry, a few months before the massacre, Roberda came to England to marry Gawen Champernowne.


For reasons unknown, Gabriel was absent from the meeting of Huguenot leaders at the Louvre during the Admiral’s attack. Instead, he was asleep in a house in Faubourg St Germain on the other side of the River Seine.


The story goes that a man swam across the river to warn Gabriel that he must flee. With around fifty or sixty others, he made his escape on horseback, pursued by the 200 or more soldiers, led by the Duc de Guise. Gabriel and his companions would have been caught if the pursuers hadn’t been delayed by a locked gate and the search for keys. That gave Gabriel and the others a head start, and after a while, their pursuers gave up the chase. When he reached the coast, he took ship to Jersey.  Gabriel’s wife Isabeau, and all of his family, were at the family chateau at Ducey, Normandy, when they heard the news of the massacre. They managed to join Gabriel, and the whole party made their way to England in disguise.


Sir Arthur Champernowne welcomed all of them as refugees to Dartington Hall. Roberda's new husband had been in Paris, working as an informant for Walsingham, the English ambassador. He, along with many others, sought shelter in Walsingham's house during the atrocities. Meanwhile, Roberda faced hostility from some of the Dartington servants. When the refugees arrived, the situation did not improve.


This article was drawn together from a wide range of sources, including:

Estelle Paranque — Blood, Fire and Gold

William A Heap — Elizabeth’s French Wars, 1562 - 1598

All About the Dartington Bride

1571, and the beautiful, headstrong daughter of a French Count marries the son of the Vice Admiral of the Fleet of the West in Queen Elizabeth’s chapel at Greenwich. It sounds like a marriage made in heaven...


Roberda’s father, the Count of Montgomery, is a prominent Huguenot leader in the French Wars of Religion. When her formidable mother follows him into battle, she takes all her children with her.


After a traumatic childhood in war-torn France, Roberda arrives in England full of hope for her wedding. But her ambitious bridegroom, Gawen, has little interest in taking a wife.


Received with suspicion by the servants at her new home, Dartington Hall in Devon, Roberda works hard to prove herself as mistress of the household and to be a good wife. But there are some who will never accept her as a true daughter of Devon.


After the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Gawen’s father welcomes Roberda’s family to Dartington as refugees. Compassionate Roberda is determined to help other French women left destitute by the wars. But her husband does not approve. Their differences will set them on an extraordinary path...

All about Rosemary

Author and speaker Rosemary Griggs has been researching Devon’s sixteenth-century history for years. She has discovered a cast of fascinating characters and an intriguing network of families whose influence stretched far beyond the West Country and loves telling the stories of the forgotten women of history – the women beyond the royal court; wives, sisters, daughters and mothers who played their part during those tumultuous Tudor years: the Daughters of Devon.

Her novel A Woman of Noble Wit tells the story of Katherine Champernowne, Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother, and features many of the county’s well-loved places.

Rosemary creates and wears sixteenth-century clothing, a passion which complements her love for bringing the past to life through a unique blend of theatre, history and re-enactment. Her appearances and talks for museums and community groups all over the West Country draw on her extensive research into sixteenth-century Devon, Tudor life and Tudor dress, particularly Elizabethan.

Out of costume, Rosemary leads heritage tours of the gardens at Dartington Hall, a fourteenth-century manor house and now a visitor destination and charity supporting learning in arts, ecology and social justice.

Connect with Rosemary




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1 Comment

Cathie Dunn
Cathie Dunn
Apr 04

Thanks so much for hosting Rosemary Griggs with such a fascinating guest post about this dark event in history.

Take care,

Cathie xo

The Coffee Pot Book Club

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