My daughter watches a show on television about empty headed girls screaming OMG every two seconds choosing their wedding dress. It reminded me of a blood wedding.
Allow me to take you back to Europe, 1572.
The Reformed Church was established in France by the mid-1530s and by the middle of the 16th century, there were about 2,000 congregations and perhaps 1.5 million believers. The new religion rejected the excesses and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the French monarchy. From the 1530s to 1560, the French Reformed Church experienced rapid growth, particularly among the nobility. By the 1560s, the Huguenots had their own churches, schools, garrisoned towns, manned castles and fortifications. But as the Protestant Church grew, conflict with the Roman Catholic Church and the Crown intensified. As early as the 1530s, the first religious refugees began to leave France.
The Catholics and Protestants have been fighting a civil war of three terrible years. On August, 5th 1570 Catherine de Medici declared the Peace of St. Germain. It was the end of the third of the French Wars of Religion, but the peace was short-lived. The Protestant Huguenots found a new leader in Henry of Navarre.
The Catholic King Charles IX had a sister Margaret of Valois. And Charles the IX and his wife Catherine de’ Medici thought it would be a clever idea if a marriage was arranged between the Kings Catholic sister Margaret and the Protestant Henry of Navarre. A gesture of good will, and all that. We don’t know if Margaret even liked her future husband Henry but the date was set: the were to be married on August 18th 1572 in Paris.
A large number of well-born and the most wealthy Huguenots were invited to attend the wedding ceremony. Paris was a violently anti-Huguenot city, and Parisians were extreme Catholics. A dilemma for the Huguenots: not going would be an insult, going would mean dangerous journey. There was a lot of tension in Paris: Catherine de’ Medici hadn’t obtained the Pope Gegory XIII’s permission to celebrate the marriage and this Catholic sister of the King was going to marry a Huguenot leader.
After the wedding the leading Huguenots stayed in Paris to discuss some outstanding grievances about the Peace of St. Germain with the King. Four days after the marriage an attempt was made on Admiral de Coligny’s life. He was shot and seriously wounded. The Admiral was one of the most respected leaders of the Huguenot and was in a close relationship with the King.
|Painting by François Dubois (1529-1584)|
However in fear of reprisals of the 4000 Huguenots camped outside Paris, King Charles IX closed all Paris gates and took the decision to eliminate the Huguenots who were still in Paris. It led to a massacre. At the low end of the figures of about 2000 in Paris up to 20000. Man, women and children. The bodies were collected on carts and thrown in the Seine. The hunt on Huguenots lasted three days.
The royal couple survived their ‘the blood wedding’ by the way. Henry III of Navarre became the Henry IV of France. There is a lot more to tell about his wife, Margaret of Valois. But I’ll save that for another time.