About Gaspard II de Coligny, comte de Coligny
- Gaspard de Coligny est un noble et amiral français, né le 16 février 1519 à Châtillon-sur-Loing et assassiné le 24 août 1572 à Paris, lors du massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy. Comte de Coligny, baron de Beaupont et Beauvoir, Montjuif, Roissiat, Chevignat et autres lieux, seigneur de Châtillon, amiral de France, il est l'un des membres les plus connus de l'illustre maison de Coligny. C'est le fils de Gaspard Ier de Coligny, maréchal de France sous François Ier, et de sa femme Louise de Montmorency. Il est le frère d'Odet, cardinal de Châtillon et de François d'Andelot.
- Gaspard de Coligny (16 February 1519 – 24 August 1572), Seigneur (Lord) de Châtillon, was a French nobleman and admiral, best remembered as a disciplined Huguenot leader in the French Wars of Religion.
Coligny came of a noble family of Burgundy. His family traced their descent from the 11th century, and in the reign of Louis XI, were in the service of the King of France. His father, Gaspard I de Coligny, known as the Marshal of Châtillon, served in the Italian Wars from 1494 to 1516, married in 1514, and was created Marshal of France in 1516. By his wife, Louise de Montmorency, sister of the future constable, he had three sons, all of whom played an important part in the first period of the Wars of Religion: Odet, Gaspard and François.
Born at Châtillon-sur-Loing in 1519, Gaspard came to court at the age of 22 and began a friendship with François of Guise. In the campaign of 1543 Coligny distinguished himself, and was wounded at the sieges of Montmédy and Bains. In 1544, he served in the Italian campaign under the Count of Enghien, and was knighted on the Field of Ceresole. Returning to France, he took part in different military operations; and having been made colonel-general of the infantry (April 1547), exhibited great capacity and intelligence as a military reformer.
That year he married Charlotte de Laval (d. 1568). He was made admiral on the death of Claude d'Annebaut (1552). In 1554, he led the French infantry pikemen and arquebusiers at the French victory at the Battle of Renty. In 1557, he was entrusted with the defence of Saint-Quentin. In the siege he displayed great courage, resolution, and strength of character; but the place was taken, and he was imprisoned in the stronghold of L'Ecluse. On payment of a ransom of 50,000 crowns he recovered his liberty.
By this time he had become a Huguenot, through the influence of his brother, d'Andelot. The first known letter which John Calvin addressed to him is dated 4 September 1558.
Establishment of Huguenot colonies
Gaspard de Coligny secretly focused on protecting his co-religionists, by attempting to establish colonies abroad in which Huguenots could find a refuge. He organized the expedition of a colony of Huguenots to Brazil, under the leadership of his friend and navy colleague, Vice-Admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, who established the colony of France Antarctique in Rio de Janeiro, in 1555. They were afterwards expelled by the Portuguese, in 1567.
Coligny also was the leading patron for the failed French colony of Fort Caroline in Spanish Florida led by Jean Ribault in 1562.
In 1566 and 1570, Francisque and Andre d'Albaigne submitted to Coligny projects for establishing relations with the Austral lands. Although he gave favourable consideration to these initiatives, they came to nought when Coligny was killed in 1572 during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacres.
Following the death of Henry II he placed himself with Louis, Prince of Condé, at the forefront of the Huguenot party, and demanded religious toleration and certain other reforms. In 1560, at the Assembly of Notables at Fontainebleau, the hostility between Coligny and François of Guise broke forth violently. When the civil wars began in 1562, Coligny decided to take arms only after long hesitation, and remained always ready to negotiate. In none of these wars did he show superior genius, but he acted throughout with great prudence and extraordinary tenacity; he was "le héros de la mauvaise fortune" ("hero of misfortune")
In the "first war" of 1562-63 he commanded the cavalry at the Battle of Dreux, the first major engagement and, unlike both commanders in chief, managed to avoid being captured, and withdrew in good order from the defeat. He was blamed by the Guise faction for the assassination of Francis, Duke of Guise at Orléans in 1563.
In the "third war" of 1569 the defeat and death of the Prince of Condé at the Battle of Jarnac left Coligny the sole leader of the Protestant armies. Victorious at the Battle of La Roche-l'Abeille, but defeated in the Battle of Moncontour on October 3rd, he entered into the negotiations for what became the Peace of Saint-Germain (1570). Marrying Jacqueline de Montbel, Countess d'Entremont, and returning to court in 1571, he grew rapidly in favour with Charles IX, becoming a close mentor to the weak, easily-manipulated King.
As a means of emancipating the king from the tutelage of his mother and the faction of the Guises, the admiral proposed to him a descent on Spanish Flanders, with an army drawn from both faiths and commanded by Charles in person. The king's regard for the admiral and the increasingly bold demands of the Huguenots alarmed Catherine de' Medici, the Queen Mother.
Assassination and massacre
The wedding of the Protestant Henry, King of Navarre, and Marguerite de Valois, the King's sister brought a great number of Huguenot notables to Paris, and political and religious tensions were running extremely high. On 22 August 1572, the day after the end of the wedding festivities, Coligny was shot in the street by a man called Maurevert from a house belonging to the Guise. However, the bullets only tore a finger from his right hand and shattered his left elbow. The would-be assassin escaped.
It never became clear who, if anyone, had hired or encouraged Maurevert to carry out the attempt but historians generally centre on three possibilities: the Guise family, Catherine de Medici, or the duke of Alba on behalf of Philip II of Spain. The King sent his own physician to treat Coligny and even visited him, but the queen mother prevented all private discourse between them.
The Catholics now feared Huguenot retaliation for the attempt on Coligny's life, and it was decided to pre-emptively assassinate their leadership, in what became known as the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. As one of the main targets, on the night of 24 August, Coligny was attacked in his lodgings by a group led by Guise. After several of his entourage had been killed, a servant of the new Duke of Guise, Charles Danowitz (Karel z Janovic), generally known as Besme or Bême, plunged a sword through Coligny's breast and threw his body out of a window to his master's feet. Coligny finally died when another of Guise's associates chopped off his head.
Historian Barbara B. Diefendorf, Professor of History at Boston University, wrote that Simon Vigor had "said if the King ordered the Admiral (Coligny) killed, 'it would be wicked not to kill him'. With these words, the most popular preacher in Paris legitimised in advance the events of St. Bartholomew's Day".
Coligny's papers were seized and burned by the queen mother; among them, according to Brantôme, was a history of the civil war, "very fair and well-written, and worthy of publication".
Marriages and issue
By his first wife, Charlotte de Laval (1530-1568), Gaspard had several children:
Louise, who married first Charles de Téligny and afterwards William the Silent, Prince of Orange;
François, Admiral of Guienne, who was one of the devoted servants of Henry IV (Gaspard de Coligny (1584–1646), son of this François, was Marshal of France during the reign of Louis XIII); and
Charles (1564-1632), Marquis d'Andelot, a Lieutenant General in Champagne.
By his second wife, Jacqueline de Montbel (1541-1588), the Countess d'Entremont and Launay-Gelin, Gaspard had one daughter, Beatrice, who became Beatrice de Coligny (b. 1572), Countess d'Entremont.
Several places are named after him:
Coligny, South Africa
Fort Coligny, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Châtillon-Coligny, in France
Coligny Plaza, Hilton Head Island
From the windows of his ancient castle, Gaspard de Coligny could look out over miles of mountain, stream & forest, all of which belonged to him. He was rich & eminent. His familiy had been great in France for over 400 years.
His mother, being left a widow, had given great care to the care & education of her 4 sons. They were taught the knightly games of tilt & tourney, in which they played at war, and learned how to give blows and take them. They were trained in the courteous manners of the time. They could sing the ballads which celebrated the courage of the heroes of Charlemagne. and could read about them in books. They could also read the New Testement, which had been translated into French. One of the boys was made a cardinal, at the age of 16; one died; and Gaspard and Andelot, were brought to the court of King Francis the First. Here was a life of balls & tournaments, with an occasional experience of real fighting, in the wars which were always going on.
Here Coligny met young Francis of Lorraine, known later as the Duke of Guise, and the two became fast friends. Already the two friends showed the qualities which later made them enemies. Guise desired his pleasure; Coligny to do his duty. Guise was an aristocrat and cared only for persons of high birth of nobility; Coligny cared for the common people. The years passed and Francis died & Henry the second came to the throne, with Catherine de'Medici his wife. It was Guise who held the town of Metz against the tremendous forces of Charles the fifth. It was Coligny who brought order & discipline to the army of France. The soldiers fighting for France came from various countries for the sake of French pay. The were wild & lawless, & their only interest was to get whatever spoil that they could. When war was in progress they fought the enemy, but when there were intervals of peace that fought each other. These were the soldiers that Coligny brought under stern rule. He hated disorder and even more the oppression of the weak at the hands of the strong. He promptly hanged every robber. Men committin lesser offenses were beaten with hafts of pikes. Thus the general saved the people from the soldiers. Introducing into the army a drill, a discipline, a life under severe rule, such as is common enough now.
At the age of 33, Coligny was made Admiral of France. But the fortunes of war turned against him. At the siege of St. Quentin, he was taken prisoner by the Spaniards. During the months of imprisonment, while he waited for the ransom to be paid for his release, he had the opportunity to think, not only about war, but about religion. He became a Huguenot-a French protestant. He brought to the Huguenots the might of his own personality, and the stength of his high position. At the end of the war when the Admiral's ransom was paid which freed him, he found himself at the head of the Protestant party in France; the papal party was led by his old companion, the Duke of Guise. Between these parties, was the Queen-mother Catherine de'Medici. She was the ruler of France. After the death of her husband, Henry the second, her sons came to the throne: first Francis the second, at the age of 16; and after his death, Charles the ninth, at the age of 10. The real power was in her hands.
At a meeting of the Assembly of Notables to consider the condition of the kingdom, Coligny presented a petition, "the supplication of those who, in divers provinces, invoke the name of God, according to the rule of piety." It was a request that the Huguenots be permitted to practice their religion without hinderance. "But," cried Guise, "the petition is unsigned." " I will get 50,000 signatures in Normandy alone," said Coligny. "And I," said Guise, "will give 500,000 who will oppose it with their blood." It was finally agreed to call a national parliament to discuss the matter, and after some years, and many obstructions put in the way by the Guises, such an assembly was put together. An edict was passed that the Protestants had the right to meet under the protection of the law. 6 weeks later, the Duke of Guise, riding toward Paris with an escort of gentlemen & soldiers. On a Sunday morning they came to the little town of Vassy. The Huguenots of Vassy were holding a religious service in a large barn. "What is this," said the Duke of Guise. " It is a Huguenot meeting," said somebody nearby. "I will Huguenot them," cried the Duke. Thereupon he marched his soldiers against the barn; they broke the doors and fired Thus began a series of wars of religion that lasted 10 years. Guise was the leader of the Catholics and Coligny was the leader of the Protestants. The forces seemed to be evenly matched. The whole land was in distress. Campaign followed campaign, across France, leaving burned houses, desecrated churches and dead bodies. Coligny's brother Andelot, after valiant service in the Huguenot army, died of a fever. Coligny's castle was attacked and all of his belongings were destroyed. His fortune was gone. When the news came as to the plunder of his castle, he wrote to his boys, "We must not count upon what is called property, but rather place our hope elsewhere than on earth." Suddenly, with an army that increased like a rolling snowball, Coligny attacked Paris. Catherine, in great fear, made terms of peace. She granted what Coligny had been fighting for, liberty of religion. There was peace in France, but only on the surface. It seemed to Coligny that there was only one way to unite the people of France & that was to go to war with Spain. At this point in time Spain was busy attempting to put down a Protestant revolution in the Netherlands. If France won, Spain would be humbled and the Netherlands would be added to the domain of France; and the cause of Protestantism would be geatly strengthened in Europe. An attempted assassination of Coligny occured while he was attending wedding festivities in Paris. The king and Catherine came to visit the wounded man. Following the sympathy visit, a hasty meeting of the council was set up. It seemed that at any moment Civil War would break out again. It seemed to Catherine, that for the sake of the nation & the Catholic religion, there was only one thing to be done. They must put to death Coligny & all Huguenot leaders in Paris. Such an operation might save France, "The dead do not make wars." On August 24, the feast of St. Bartholomew, the king, urged on by his mother, gave the signal of a ringing church bell and the attack began. The house of Coligny was assaulted and and entrance made. Coligny was killed and his body was thrown out a window to the courtyard to the Duke of Guise. For 3 days, the streets of Paris ran red with blood. Thousands were killed in Paris and in the countryside.
The rejoicing of Christian men over the bodies of their enemies seems almost as horrible as the massacre itself. Other Christians, Catholic as well as Protestant, denounced it. To the pope, however, the news came like tidings of victory in battle. He overlooked the black treachery of it in honest gratitude that the enemies of the Church had fallen.
Thus Coligny died a martyr, and the cause to which he gave his noble life died with him. For a time, the Huguenots were tolerated in their weakness. Finally, by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, they were driven out of France.
As for Coligny, his cause failed; but courage and devotion never fail. The men who do battle for the sake of truth and right may be defeated, but their memory becomes a priceless possession. The example of a man who gives up ease, and wealth, and the pleasures of comfortable success, and life itself for a good cause, is an inspiring influence to all time. Coligny's name is a great victory. Men have ever since been braver and better because of him.
- 'Gaspard de Coligny : (Marquis de Chatillon), admiral of France, colonel of French infantry, governor of Picardy, Ile de France, Paris, and Havre (1879) Author: Besant, Walter, Sir, 1836-1901
The Catholic Priest, Le Labourer, once said of Gaspard of Coligny, "He is probably one of the greatest men ever to come out of France, and if I were to venture to say more, I would say that he was the most loyal to his country." It is therefore hard to believe that such a man could have been stabbed to death and thrown out a window, only to have his head cut-off and sent as a gift as part of a gruesome gesture of allegiance. However, if we take a closer look at Gaspard of Coligny, we will find a man with such convictions that it is a wonder he was not killed sooner.
The Admiral of Coligny, Lord of Chatillon, never participated in a battle at sea to earn his title of Admiral. His military skills alone helped him to win that title, and along with it, the trust of King Henry II. Gaspard of Coligny, born 1519, was the second son (which in part explains why he chose the military as a career) of a noble man close to the royal family. His father was Lord of Chatillon and had been Marechal of France as well. He earned his title through a marriage to a noble woman close to the king's family (Louise de Montmorency). Coligny's family was not Protestant. He was Catholic, and it is on the battlefields fighting the Protestants that the king noticed him. His ardor and bravery allowed him to rise to the top of the ranks in little time. In 1544, during the battle at Carignano, Italy, Henry II named him "Colonel General de France." Then, under the king's orders, Coligny traveled to the New World (Brazil and Florida). Home at King Henry's court, he was the closest companion of the king, hunting with him and dining with him often. His contemporaries described him as a simple man (always chewing on a tooth pick) and appeared to be quiet; however, on the battlefield, he was bold and ferocious. The king also appreciated his talents as a military tactician, though his favor with the king did not last for long.
A battle in Italy resulted in the capture of Gaspard of Coligny and his brother. They remained in jail for several years. During his incarceration, Coligny converted to Calvinism. He studied the bible as well as the writings of Calvin and Luther. (Coligny's brother also converted to Calvinism, but was forced to abjure to save his life. He was assassinated soon thereafter.) Once freed, Coligny discovered he lost all the favors he had been granted by the king. Although the king tried to persuade Coligny to return to his court, he refused, and eventually Coligny was returned to prison. Upon his release, however, he found he had become a hero, and the French Protestants had found their new leader. He married Charlotte of Laval with whom he had several children. The children were the only family members that survived the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre.
When the king died, Catherine of Medici took the affairs of the kingdom into her own hands and asked Coligny for assistance. In an effort to bring peace to the kingdom, she decided to give part of the responsibilities of the kingdom to the Protestants while she waited for the future legitimate king, Charles IX, to come of age and rule the kingdom himself. Hence, Coligny won his seat at the "king's council". There were other circumstances that lead the queen to this decision - the weak regency was being eyed by neighboring kingdoms such as Spain, and the queen, knowing he had always been faithful to the crown, knew she could rely on Coligny's tactician skills if needed.
Consequently, in 1571, Coligny found himself vested with considerable power. In a short time he had demonstrated his abilities and won the trust of king Charles IX who referred to him as "my father". Meanwhile, the queen mother was becoming increasingly jealous and worried. Coligny had voted for war against Spain at the Council, upon which he had more and more influence. It was he who suggested the marriage between Margot and Henri of Navarre. The queen mother soon realized she had only two options, censor Coligny or eliminate him.
A few days before the historical massacre, Catherine de Medici hired an assassin to kill Coligny, however, he was merely wounded in the attempt. Later, as the violence of the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre erupted in the streets below, Coligny was dragged from his bed where he lay recovering from his injuries. He was stabbed half to death, then thrown from his window. Still alive, his head was cut-off and sent to Rome as a present to the Pope by the Guises. His body was left behind and given to catholic Parisian youths for their macabre games. Not everyone found their games amusing, however - Coligny's head was soon intercepted by the mayor of Lyons. To this day no one knows what finally became of it.
He was a courageous leader of the Protestant Reform Church. He died at the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris.
After the Admiral's death, his wife, the Countess felt indebted to the children of Nicolas. She took under her protection a son of Nicolas. (Claude Mius Demeuion d’Entremont.) The boy was actually placed under the care of Jacqueline's mother, the Countess Beatrice Bacheoc-d'Entremont of the House of Montbel d'Entremont of Savioe. The name of d'Entremont was then added to his surname Mius. This was Jacqueline's wish, since she was the only child who survived her parents’ marriage, and had only a daughter from her marriage to the Admiral.
Gaspard II de Coligny, comte de Coligny's Timeline
February 16, 1519
Châtillon, Allier, France
September 28, 1554
September 23, 1555
Châtillon-Coligny, Loiret, Centre, France
August 24, 1572
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
December 21, 1572
Saint-André-de-Briord, Savoie, France