League, The Holy
LEAGUE, THE HOLY
French leagues were religious and political organizations designed as a countermeasure to the Reformation. They started on a local basis to oppose and combat more effectively the action of the huguenots. Early Catholic leagues, formed in Toulouse (1563), Angers (1565), Dijon (1567), Bourges, and Troyes (1568), were restricted to the towns and composed of royalist burghers. The movement was taken over by the nobility in 1576 with the formation of the Sainte Ligue. In the formulation of the League's program the decisive event was the Treaty of Beaulieu ("Peace of Monsieur") of May 6, 1576. Marshal d'Humières, governor of Peronne, Roye, and Montdidier—who organized in Picardy the first league to be dominated by the aristocracy—refused to give Peronne to Henry, Prince of Condé, one of the Huguenot leaders, who had been appointed governor of Picardy under the terms of the treaty. D'Humières's goal was not simply defense of the Catholic religion, but also revolt against royalty. Outside the province the movement was spread by the lawyer Pierre David and the Jesuit Jean Mathieu; in Paris it was organized by Pierre Hennequin and the Des Labruyère (father and son). Despite the official declaration of obedience to Henry III, who became the nominal chief of the League, its most zealous new recruits were antiroyalist. The League became a too 1 of the nobles, who were intent on promoting their own ends at the expense of the crown.
Leadership of the Duke of Guise. The first public action of the League took place at the first States-General at Blois (November to December 1576) when both the nobility and the clergy demanded revocation of the Treaty of Beaulieu and the suppression of heresy by armed force. Henry III capitulated by passing the Edict of January (1577) and joining the League. During the two wars of religion between 1576 and 1580 his influence and authority in the Catholic camp rapidly diminished: Henry, Duke of guise, became the real leader of the Catholic party and set his sights on the throne of France. It became the League's aim to depose the House of Valois. Its members were afraid that Henry III might appoint Henry de Navarre, a Huguenot, as his successor. A secret committee of five (expanded to 16 in early 1587) was formed in Paris; its members were concerned with pro-League propaganda, the recruitment of adherents, the arming of Parisians, and the establishment of links with the major French towns. Cardinal de Bourbon was declared the League's official candidate for the throne. Henry de Guise, with the League's strong backing—his strongest support came from extremist elements within the party— turned to foreign alliances (one of the chief reasons for the League's later demise) and concluded a formal alliance with philip ii of spain (Treaty of Joinville, 1584). The purpose of the alliance was to destroy heresy in France and the Netherlands, and upon the death of Henry III to crown Cardinal de Bourbon. Guise's reputation was further enhanced during the eighth war of religion (1585–89) in which he personally defeated German troops at Vimory and at Auneau in 1587 (see wars of religion). The war was a series of successes for the League: these included the taking of a number of fortified towns in the east (Metz, Toul, Verdun, etc.) to bar a possible Protestant invasion from abroad. By the Treaty of Nemours (July 1585) Henry III surrendered to the League, canceling all previous measures of toleration. The only major defeat suffered by the League was at the battle of Coutras (Oct. 20, 1587) in which Joyeuse was beaten by Navarre.
Defying the king's orders, on May 9, 1588, Guise went to Paris (where he was acclaimed "King of Paris") to press him to introduce into France the Inquisition and the decrees of the Council of Trent (1545–63). The latter rejected all forms of compromise between Protestantism and Catholicism. The 30,000 men mustered by the League, and kept in readiness to support Guise's claims against the royalty, were ready to destroy the 6,000 Swiss soldiers called into the city by the King on May 12 ("Day of the Barricades"). Henry III fled to Chartres and through the Edict of Union (July 10) made far-reaching concessions: he granted places of surety to the Leaguers, made Guise lieutenant general of the kingdom, and promised to call the States-General.
Dual Character of the League. The second States-General, held at Blois (September to December 1588), was entirely dominated by the League; the overall national interest was to be sacrificed to the religious need, and the king was to yield to the representatives of the people. The dual character of the League was thus revealed: a religious movement against Protestantism combined with a joint reaction of aristocratic and democratic elements against royal absolutism. Humiliated and angered by the States-General, Henry III broke with the League and had Henry de Guise and his brother Charles murdered (Dec. 23 and 24, 1588). Taking over the League, the Duke of Mayenne assumed the presidency of its general council, consisting of 40 members. He received financial aid from Philip II of Spain and sought the support of Rome. The League ruled Paris in open revolt against the monarchy. Henry III, in alliance with Henry de Navarre, was about to begin the siege of Paris when he was assassinated by Jacques Clément (Aug. 2, 1589). The royalist army recognized Navarre as heir to the throne; all patriotic elements acclaimed him as the national leader. He soon fostered an alliance between the Huguenots and the moderate Catholics against the Leaguers. The latter, refusing to recognize him as Henry IV, proclaimed the aged Cardinal de Bourbon as Charles X (1590). A division within the League followed: some wanted Mayenne as successor to the throne; others backed Philip II, who claimed the throne on behalf of his daughter Isabella, offspring of his marriage with Elizabeth de Valois; some supported Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy. The League vigorously opposed Henry IV while he was reconquering the country and, despite Henry's victories—he defeated Mayenne at Arques (September 1589) and at Ivry (March 1590)—had some successes.
Decline in Power. Henry IV's final victory at the siege of Paris was delayed by Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, one of Philip II's generals. Combining forces with Mayenne, Farnese managed to break the blockade and bring provisions into the city. During Mayenne's absence from Paris, the government of Sixteen took violent measures, killing some members of the parlement and terrorizing the politiques by drawing up proscription lists. Upon his return, Mayenne had four of the Sixteen executed; others went into hiding and the revolutionary government of the League in Paris came to an end. Cardinal de Bourbon died in 1591. At the States-General in 1593, an attempt was made to deal with the question of succession. The assembly rejected the candidature of Isabella of Spain on the ground of the Salic law. The solution was offered by Henry IV, who abjured the reformed religion at Saint-Denis (July 25, 1593). The great majority of Catholics declared themselves on his side; among the first towns to do so were Meaux, Pontoise, Orléans, Bourges, and Lyon. Charles de Cossé, Count of Brissac, governor of Paris, having received a gift of 200,000 livres and a marshal's baton, led the king into the city on March 22, 1594. Gifts amounting to 32 million livres bought the allegiance of the dukes of Mayenne, Guise, Elbeuf, Nemours, Epernon, and Joyeuse. The League melted away. In September 1595 Henry IV was granted the papal absolution. Only the Duke of Mercoeur resisted the king in Brittany until March 1598.
Bibliography: m. wilkinson, A History of the League or Sainte Union 1576–1595 (Glasgow 1929). i. v. luchitskii, Documents inédits pour servir à l'histoire de la Réforme et de la Ligue (Paris 1875). p. le roy et al., Satyre Ménippée de la vertu du Catholicon d'Espagne … (Paris 1594), a contemporary parody of the States-General of 1593. h. de l'Épinois, La Ligue et les papes (Paris 1886). p. robiquet, Paris et la Ligue sous le règne de Henri III (Paris 1886). c. labitte, De la démocratie chez les prédicateurs de la Ligue (2d ed. Paris 1865). s. goulart, ed., Mémoires de la Ligue …, rev. c. p. goujet, 6 v. in 4 (Amsterdam 1758).
[w. j. stankiewicz]
"League, The Holy." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/league-holy
"League, The Holy." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved January 20, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/league-holy
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