ORACLES OF NOSTRADAMUS - Historical Fragments
I SHALL now give a few detached historical fragments that relate to France, commencing with the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis, 1559, and running down to the death of Louis XV., 1774, in chronological order, just as M. le Pelletier has found the counterpart to lie embedded in the quatrains of Nostradamus, in a fashion seemingly interpretable to him. This, for any but French readers, will probably be sufficient to indicate the style and value of the presages enveloped in the strange and fatidical diction of the quatrains. I doubt not but that, by original research instituted and by careful re-reading of the text throughout, a good many more of the mysterious stanzas might be unravelled and elucidated; also by collation of all that has been written by commentators on our author, a good deal of light might be thrown upon what they have done, even where their own interpretation has fallen short of clearness. All that my book purposes to accomplish is,--at least for England,--to establish, without doubt, and at once, for all future time, that Nostradamus is no impostor, but, when rightly understood and unlocked, a very wonderful anticipator of events to happen hereafter; and, farther than this, that his works are, to all intents and purposes, the most startling oracles ever put on paper by mortal man not professing divine inspiration. From immemorial time instances of human prescience have occasionally been manifested. The whole human race has an ardent and ingrain desire to search into and anticipate futurity.
[paragraph continues] Very few individuals, however, have from time to time been able to gratify and keep alive their passion in this respect. But no one has done so in a degree that at all sets him on a par with Nostradamus in the felicitous and reiterated coruscations whereby he has anticipated the more prominent points and epochs of time Future; and sometimes in minuteness he even mentions by name some individual who emerges though it be but for an instant from the general obscurity of his life.
THE PEACE OF CATEAU-CAMBRESIS (APRIL 3, 1559). [I. 71.]
Century IX.--Quatrain 52.
Peace approaches on one side, and [as to] war
Never was the pursuit of it so great:
Men and women [have cause] to weep innocent blood on earth;
All through France it shall be from end to end.
The peace was that concluded with Spain at Cateau-Cambresis, whilst the war, carried on with such hot pursuit, was the civil conflict that raged between Romanist and Calvinist. This it was made men and women lament the blood spilt upon the earth in all parts of France, from north to south.
DEATH OF HENRI 11. (JULY 10, 1559). [I. 72.]
Century I.--Quatrain 35.
The young lion shall overcome the old
On the field of war in single combat [duelle];
He will pierce his eyes in a cage of gold.
This is the first of two loppings, then he dies a cruel death.
Montgomery, who at the moment of the narrative bore the name of Captain Coryes (Garencières, p. 25), afterwards became Earl of Montgomery, overthrew Henri II. (le vieux lion) in the tournay-lists or duel, and pierced him above the eye through the gilt visor of his helmet. This is the first of the two blows that will destroy the dynastic tree of the house of Valois. Henri II., wounded mortally, shall be the first to die a violent death; whilst his son, Henri III., will be the second, who fell by the hand of Jacques Clément.
August 1. 1589.
This is a very celebrated quatrain. It is found in the earliest edition of the quatrains published at Lyons in 1555, containing merely 300 quatrains. It lifted Nostradamus into celebrity at once. He had applied it to Henri II. several years before it happened, and had even announced it as a prediction to the King himself. He was well known to Henri II., to whom he dedicated the last three Centuries, in a long and curious epistle, which we have already given in full. The, King seems to have had infinite confidence in Nostradamus, for he let him draw the royal horoscope, as well as that of his two children, in 1556.
The story of this is curious, as given by Guynaud in his "Concordance des Prophéties de Nostradamus," 1712, 1 pp. 86-91. Henri II., it would seem, proclaimed a tournament in the Rue St. Antoine, the site of the Bastille, then in the country, for July 1, 1559, in honour of the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth of France with Philip II. of Spain. He listed himself as one against all comers. The joust being nearly over and the sun setting, the Duc de Savoie begged him to quit the running, as his side was already victorious; but the King wanted to break another lance over it, and commanded the young Comte de Montgommeri, captain of his Scotch Guard, to run a tilt in conclusion. He excused himself, but the King insisted and grew angry. Of course the young man then obeyed, put spurs to his horse, and struck the King upon the throat, below the vizor. His lance shivered, and the butt raising the vizor, a splinter wounded the King above the right eye, cutting several of the veins of the pia mater. The King swooned. He lived on, however, for ten days in terrible agony, as foretold in the prophecy, Deux classes une, puis mourir, mort cruelle. Nostradamus styles both of them lions, as they both fought under that device. The King wore a gilt helmet, so that the cage d'or was literally fulfilled.
The strange part is that another astrologer, named Luc Gauric, had once been visited by the King in company with two other gentlemen, to whom he feigned to give precedence; but the astrologer, perhaps knowing him, insisted on addressing him first, and told him he would die in a duel. He also prophesied a violent death to the King's companions, and managed to displease the whole trio. The King said of this, "We are making peace now with the King of Spain, so it is not very likely that I shall challenge him, and
as a king I could in no other way be challenged, whatever may be the fate of the other gentlemen." Guynaud quotes this story from the Princesse de Clèves, who, in the second volume of her writings, represents the Court as discussing the credibility of astrologers, the prevalent opinion apparently being rather strong against them. Still, we know that Henri II. greatly honoured Nostradamus. Prophetic warning is evidently futile, for the King had two separate warnings and heeded neither.
PRINCESSE DE CLÈVES. [II. 145.]
Quelques jours après, le Roy étoit chez la Reine à l'heur du Cercle; l'on parla des Horoscopes et des prédictions. Les opinions étaient partagées sur la croyance que l'on y devoit dormer. La Reine y ajoûtait beaucoup de foi; elle soûtint qu'après tant de choses qui avaient été prédites, et que l'on avait vu arriver, on ne pouvait douter qu'il n'eut quelque certitude dans cette science. D'autres soûtenaient, que parmi ce nombre infini de prédictions, le pea qui se trouvaient veritables, faisait bien voir que se n'etait qu'un effet du hazard.
"J'ai eu autrefois beaucoup de curiosité pour l'avenir," dit le Roy; "mais on m'a dit tant de choses fausses et si peu vraissemblables que je suis demuré convaincu que l'on ne peut rien savoir de véritable. Il y a quelques années qu'il devint ici un homme d'une grande reputation dans l'Astrologie. Tout le monde l'alla voir, j'y allai comme les autres, mais sans lui dire qui j'étais, et je menai Monsieur de Guise et Descars, je les fit passer le premier. L'Astrologue neanmoins s'addressa d'abord à moi, comme s'il m'eut jugé le maitre des autres: Peut-être qu'il me connaissait; cependant il me dit une chose qui ne me convenait pas, s'il m'eut connu. Il me predit que je serai tué en duel. Il dit ensuite à Monsieur de Guise, qu'il serait tué par derrière, et à Descars, qu'il aurait la tête cassée d'un coup de pied de cheval. Monsieur de Guise s'offensa quasi de cette prédiction, comme si l'on eut accusé de devoir fuir. Descars ne fut guerre satisfait de trouver qu'il devait finir par un accident si malheureux. Enfin nous sortimes tous très malcontents de l'astrologue. Je ne scais cc qui arrivera à Monsieur de Guise et à Descars, mais il n'y a guerre d'apparence que je sois tué en duel. Nous venons de faire la paix le Roy d'Espagne et moi; quand nous ne l'aurions pas faite, je doute que nous nous battions, et que je le fisse appeller comme le Roy men père fit rappeller Charles Quint."
The story, as told by the Princesse de Clèves, is fuller than I have given it, but does not correspond at all with the version
given to Lord Bacon when in France, as told to him by Dr. Penn, who said (Bacon's "Essay on Prophecies") that the queen-mother, Catherine de Medici, was given to curious arts, and caused the King's nativity to be cast under a false name. The astrologer adjudged that he should be killed in a duel. The queen laughed, supposing her husband to be above challenges to duel; "but he was slain upon a course at tilt, the splinters of the staff of Montgomery going in at his beaver." History, in events large or small, hath so many variants that any man, whose view of things is a little sinister, may well be allowed to say all history is a variant of truth, and all that is sure in it is that it cannot be relied upon at all. In this case the astrologers were right, spite of the odds against them.
ARREST OF MONTGOMERY (May 27, 1574). [I. 73.]
Century III.--Quatrain 30.
To him who in strife and armour in the warlike field
Shall have carried away the prize from one greater than himself,
By night in bed six men will stab him;
Unprotected he will be surprised naked and unarmed.
This means that Montgomery, who in joust (au faict bellique,--bellique, we are told, means an engagement on horseback) with lance in hand will have carried away the prize from Henri II. (plus grand que luy) will be suddenly
surprised in bed at night, naked and unarmed, by six men, who will deliver him into the vengeful hands of Catherine de Medici.
Some say the dying King gave him free pardon; others report that he fled to England to save himself: but at any rate he came to England, and there embraced Protestantism. When he returned to France, he placed himself at the head of the revolted Huguenots in Normandy, and was besieged in Domfront by the Marshal de Matignon and a large force, to which he was obliged to surrender. The terms of the sur, render guaranteed his life, but by express command of Catherine he was arrested in his own castle of Domfront on the night of May 27, 1574, by six gentlemen of the royal army, and carried to the Château of Caen, thence to the Conciergerie at Paris, and there immured, where the great tower still goes by his name.
THE REGENCY OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI (1559-1574). [I. 74.]
Century VI.--Quatrain 63.
La Dame seule au regne demeurée,
D'unic esteint premier au lict d'honneur;
Sept ans sera de douleur esplorée,
Puis longue vie au regne par grand heur.
The lady shall remain to rule alone,
Her unique spouse dead, who was first in the field of honour.
She will weep for grief through seven long years,
And gifted with long life will reign long.
Catherine de Medici did not put off her weeds till. August 1, 1566, seven years and a few days from the death of the King in July, 1559. on her return from a progress with her son Charles IX., in the course of which she had visited all the mutinous cities throughout the kingdom, with a view to satisfy them. She survived till the year 1589, and practically retained the whole power during the reigns of her
two eldest sons, François II. and Charles IX., but she entirely lost it on the succession of Henri III.
The quatrain applies to no one so well as to Catherine de Medici; and, if it be allowed to be realized as to her person, there is no denying the singular exactitude of the prophecy. We have no evidence that the Queen applied the quatrain to herself, or that her contemporaries bore it in mind; but the second line is remarkable as assuming with reposeful confidence the previous death of the King as predicted. The third line is a startling example of the precision with which our prophet can mark out the duration of a period: seven years the Queen is to wear mourning, and she does so all the time she is travelling. The sceptical will say she did it to fulfil the prophecy; but it looks rather as if that had fallen quite out of remembrance, and as if it was due much more to policy, and for the purpose of creating sympathy, during her state tour, than to motives either of superstition or any singular attachment to her deceased husband. The quatrain is most unobtrusively worded, and yet so confidently assured and searching, that it seems to me, as if perfectly unbiassed and disinterested observers might take it as a kind of moral voucher for the simple integrity of its author. I merely draw attention to it so far, and every reader will form his own judgment upon the point. I hold myself aloof from theory; but this is how the particular fact we are upon impresses my mind, and probably it may affect many others in the same way.
EXTINCTION DES VALOIS (1559-1589). [I. 77]
De maison Sept par mort mortelle suite;
Gresle, tempeste, pestilent mal, fureurs:
Roi d'Orient, d'Occident tous en fuite,
Subjuguera ses jadis conquereurs.
The death of the house of seven by a suite of deaths.
Hail, tempest, pestilence evil, fury.
A king of the East will put all the West to flight,
And will subdue his at-one-time conquerors.
The house of Valois consisted of the seven children of Henri II. By the death of the fourth son, Henri III., in 1589, the whole of the seven were dead except Marguerite, who married Henri IV., so that the family may well be said to have died out by a suite of deaths (mortelle suite). Heresy was rampant (pestilent mal) and civil war. Soliman II., called the Magnificent, threatened all Christendom, and recovered all the Holy Places that the Crusaders had wrested from his predecessors.
CIVIL WAR (1575, 1576). [I. 78.]
Century VI.--Quatrain 11.
Des septs rameaux à trois seront reduicts,
Les plus aisnés seront surprins 1 par mort,
Fratricider les deux seront seduicts
Les conjurés en dormans seront morts.
The seven branches when they shall be reduced to three,
And the four eldest shall have been surprised by death,
The two (males) shall entertain fratricidal aims,
And the conspirators sleeping shall be reduced to death.
This means that, when the seven are become but three (i.e. the three youngest), Henri III. and the Due d'Alençon will enter upon a fratricidal war. In 1575 Alençon escaped from the Court, where he was under surveillance, and put himself at the head of the Malcontents, who were in alliance with the Huguenots. He was successful, and forced the edict of pacification, May 14, 1576, upon his brother the King.
[paragraph continues] Daniel, in his "History of France" under Henri III., shows that they mutually sought each other's death by dagger and poison. The Guise (les conjurés) and the Leaguers will come by their deaths from indulging in a false security.
THE MURDER OF HENRI III. (1589). [I. 79.]
Century V.--Quatrain 67.
When the chief of Perouse dare not risk casting off his tunic
Without stripping himself entirely naked,
The last of the seven taken, what an event in the upper circles!
Father and son killed by a stab in the throat.
When Sixtus V. (chef de Perouse) will not dare to excommunicate Henri III., having already lost England in 1534, and feeling he must not be entirely stripped by a further Gallican schism, will be rid of the posterity of Henri II. (seront Prins sept) by a tremendous event in aristocratic circles. Father and son will both perish by a thrust in the throat.
DEATH OF THE GUISE (DECEMBER 23, 24, 1588). [I. 80.]
Century IV.--Quatrain 60.
Seven children will be left in his house;
The tiers état will come to murder his child;
Two will have been pierced by the sword of his son;
Genoa and Florence will come to disorder them.
This is, Henri II. at his death will leave seven children in his house. The Conseil des Seize (le tiers) will incite Jacques Clément to go to St. Cloud to assassinate Henri III., because he has caused Henri de Guise and the Cardinal to be slain by sword thrusts. Then Charles Emmanuel I., Duke of Savoy (le Génois), and Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma (le Florentin), General of Philip II., will come to make war on Henri IV., who will be compelled by Farnese to raise the siege of Paris (1590) and Rouen (1592) with precipitation.
Parma was, originally, of Etruscan foundation (Bouillet, "Dictionnaire d'Histoire" s.v. Parme), and in this respect rises above Florence, the capital of Modern Tuscany. This justifies Nostradamus in designating the Duke of Parma as Florence. Genoa, by synecdoche, may stand for Savoy, as being its more commercial emporium.
BURIAL AT ST. DENIS OF THE LAST OF THE VALOIS (1589-1610). [I. 82.]
Century I.--Quatrain 10.
The coffin being lowered behind the grille of iron,
Where the seven children of the King are buried,
The ancestors of the Valois will rise from the depths of the tomb,
And cry out to see their withered fruit thus die.
Henri III. was deposited, provisionally, in 1589, at Compiègne, in the Abbey of St. Corneille; and it was only in 1610 that his body was conveyed to the vaults of St. Denis, at the same time with the bodies of Henry IV. and Catherine de Medici. This quatrain is not very remarkable, but the interpretation hangs pretty well together. It has perhaps this value, that it shows us one incident in a vast procession of historical dissolving views that seem to have passed before the eye of Nostradamus, and one would say in chronological sequence, which he must himself have broken up purposely afterwards, fearing that the chronological clue would often render the prophecy too open to interpretation to be good for either his own safety or the public advantage.
MARRIAGE OF FRANÇOIS II. AND MARY STUART (APRIL 24, 1558). [I. 84.]
Century X.--Quatrain 39.
The eldest son leaves, with his wretched marriage,
Widow, no children, and two isles in strife,
And dies before eighteen, incompetent of age.
The younger son will marry earlier still. 4
The matter seems to stand thus. François II., eldest son of Henri II., shall die and leave his wife, Mary Stuart, a widow without children, after an unhappy marriage that extends
over less than two years, before he is eighteen, or of competent age. The particularity of this detail is wonderful, and far more like history than prophecy, except as to the brevity with which it is expressed. His enunciations amount to hints only, but they are so pregnant that, when you fill in the indispensably connected particulars, the statement reads like history. So here the instant you recognize that François II. is the subject of the lines, you refer to history for his birth and death, January 19, 1543, December 15, 1560--that is, 17 years, 10 months, and 15 days, or a month and 15 days short of 18 years. Avant dix-huict is Nostradamus's phrase. Again, his death establishes discord between Elizabeth of England and Mary of Scotland (deux Isles en discord). Charles IX., his younger brother, was affianced to Elizabeth of Austria when still younger, at eleven years of age, though he did not marry till twenty. This is how M. le Pelletier harmonizes the line. But, as affiancing is not marriage, this cannot have any affinity at all with marrying at an incompetent age. I should propose to read the line thus. Of the younger one afterwards, and lower down, will the concordance, account, or accord be given; and accordingly we shall have now to enter upon several stanzas that relate to Charles IX.
CHARLES IX. (Le roi farouche). (1560-1574). [I. 86.]
Century III.--Quatrain 66.
Le grand Baillif d'Orleans mis a mort
Sera par un de sang vindicatif:
De mort mérité ne mourra ni par sort;
Des pieds et mains mal le faisoit captif.
The great Bailiff of Orleans shall be put to death
By one of vindictive blood:
Not undeserved death shall he die, nor by fate;
For they will insecurely make him captive by feet and hands.
Jérôme Groslot shall be arrested November 9, 1561, and condemned by the Inquisition to beheadal for delivering the city to the Calvinists. But he will not suffer the death merited, nor undergo his fate; his keepers being bribed, he shall escape.
DEFECTION OF ADMIRAL COLIGNY (1559-1567). [I. 87.]
Century VI.--Quatrain 75.
He who shall have been appointed admiral by the king,
Shall leave the fleet to take a higher post;
Seven years later, shall take the opposite side to the king;
Venice shall dread an army of barbarians coming.
Gaspard de Coligny, made grand-admiral by Henri II., in 1552, shall quit the fleet in 1559, on the death of the King, and place himself at the head of the Calvinist party. In 1562 he will be general of their forces, and in 1567--that is, seven years after withdrawal from the fleet, he will head the rebellion in the civil war. At the same moment Venice will dread the armies of Selim Il., that will wrest Cyprus from her in 1570. The peace between the Catholics and Protestants was signed at St. Germain in this very year. The Venetians, however, in this year gained the naval victory of Lepanto over the Turks in 1570.
MURDER OF LOUIS DE BOURBON, PRINCE OF CONDE
(MARCH 13, 1569). [I. 88.]
Century III.--Quatrain 41.
Bossu sera esleu par le conseil:
Plus hideux monstre en terre n'apperceu.
Le coup voulant crevera l'œil 1
Le traistre au Roy pour fidelle receu.
Crookback shall be elected by the council:
A more hideous monster never seen on earth.
An intentional shot pierces the eve of the traitor
Who had sworn to be faithful to the king.
Prince Louis of Condé, the Humpback, shall be elected general-in-chief by the council of notables of the Calvinists. Such a monster of wickedness was never seen on earth. Montesquiou killed him with a pistol-shot in the eye, who had twice escaped from his treasonous practices against the King. Here Nostradamus' forecast is miraculously clear, although it has baffled Guynaud to find its concordance with events. He here also exhibits his religious partisanship, A hunchback is always considered to be morally as well as physically deformed; and, as Louis de Bourbon took the side of the Calvinists, he became at once to our prophet le plus hideux monstre en terre. Evidently, however, he was a grand fighting fellow, and spent his life in camps, if we go no further than Moreri for his history. He was condemned for a conspirator in 1560 to lose his head. But the sentence was never carried out, as King François II. died at the moment, and none was bold enough to see to it. When Charles IX. set him at liberty, the Cour des Pairs found out that he was innocent, and declared him so. He perished at the battle of Jarnac. He had his leg broken by
the kick of a horse, and was seated at the foot of a bush when Montesquiou, captain of the Duke of Anjou's guards, saw him, and, for some old pique, coolly, but like the veriest coward, shot the wounded Condé in the eye with his pistol. The body was conveyed for burial to St. George of Vendôme, either by chance or insult, on the back of a she ass, at Jarnac; which led to one of those impromptu epitaphial epigrams that the French turn so prettily:
L'an mil cinq cens soixante neuf,
Entre Jarnac et Chateauneuf,
Fut porté mort sur une ânesse
Le grand ennemi de la Messe.
(V. MORERI, s.v. Louis de Bourbon.)
ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY (AUGUST 24, 1572). [I. 89.]
Century IV.--Quatrain 47.
The savage king, when he shall have tried
His blood-stained hand with fire, sword, and bows,
All the people shall be terrified
To see the great hung by the neck and feet.
When Charles IX. shall exercise his sanguinary hand with fire, the sword, and the arquebus, the people will be horrified to see the great Calvinist lords strung up by the neck and feet. One of the savage amusements of Charles, in hunting, was to cut off at a single blow the heads of any asses or pigs he came across on the way. During the very massacre he placed himself at a window of the Louvre and took several shots with a long arquebus at the Huguenots
who fled from the other side of the Seine in the Faubourg St. Germain. The body of Coligny was dragged by the populace, at the end of a rope, through all the mud of the kennels, and then hung up by one foot to the gibbet at Montfaucon. This 24th of August fell on a Sunday. The King himself died two years after, with some suspicion of poisoning. He is said to have been a man of high courage and of a lively, quick wit, possessing a good share of eloquence; was given much to dissimulation; and full of oaths, unreasonably violent, and without self-control. He turned a verse well, and loved hunting. His poems still remain, but I do not know they can ever command a single reader. In speaking of poets, he used to say they ought to be well fed, like good horses, but not satisfied, or they become lazy. The world in general prefers to starve them if they are first-rate, and enrich them if they are second-rate. We cannot expect people to reward what they cannot understand: though inevitable, we cannot but deplore the arrangement. With good abilities, Charles had so little judgment that his actions would always have been mischievous; the best thing that could have happened was his death at twenty-four. He is said to have remarked, when dying, that he was glad to die young and have no children, for he had sadly learnt, in his own case, how miserable is the conduct of a prince who mounts the throne a child, and so governs through the ministry of others. This only shows a little recovery to sober reason, but none of the remorse that is attributed to him on his death-bed, as being the ostensible author of the blackest act that has ever disfigured Christianity or stained Europe. In perfidy and crime it cannot be surpassed, nor as the outcome of religious perversion. The crimes of an atheistic democracy, perpetrated two hundred years later on the same theatre precisely, have only been able to surpass
it, in the carnal lusts exhibited, in the inhuman degradation of the body of man, and in the ubiquity of iniquity, when the whole people are thirsting to satiate their debased passions in sin. Nostradamus has elsewhere called Paris the City of the Sword. It is the wine-press of the earth, fat with the blood of man: Lutetia of mud and blood. Haussmann rebuilt it, but nothing can cleanse it. Their very guillotine is an instrument contrived to publicly gratify the populace in its tiger-taste for the reek of blood in the streets of the City of Blood. If you wish to see the disgrace of religion, read Sully's description of the endeavour of the ferocious priests on that day to have his blood. Look also on the medal of Gregory XIII., 1 struck rejoicingly to commemorate that awful crime. Bonanni shows it; and, as a work of medallic art, the head of the Pope is of the very highest order of beauty and Italian grace. But, then, it commemorates the blood of sixty thousand victims, he says. Ranke (ii. 69) puts
it at fifty thousand. Take this number, if you like; it is, enough to satisfy the successor to St. Peter, to whom the special mandate was addressed, "Feed my sheep,"--as other shepherds do for the butcher, is the Gregorian gloss. Trades. men, however, have the decency to shut the shambles on the Sunday morning; but the servus servorum is at home in his ministrations on the Dominical day. That Sunday in August is indeed a Saints' rubric! For that day there is no need of a calendar. Time, till the world ruptures, can never forget it,--nor forgive.
Le noir farouche of this quatrain is, by Guynaud, p. 113, said to stand for Admiral Coligny, who is designated, according to him, very variously in the quatrains. The noir farouche alludes to his rough and forbidding exterior. Le grand Pillot (VI. 75) is another epithet; le tiran (Présage III.) another. The conclusion of the quatrain is admitted, both by Le Pelletier and Guynaud, to stand for Coligny. In the earlier portion, most will, I think, prefer to take noir as the anagram of Roi.
Guynaud gives a surprising account from the historians of Provence and France, of what happened to Coligny when he was at Angoulême in 1568. He set up a gibbet there, and on his own authority hanged upon it Michel Grêlet, Guardian of the Cordéliers, and a most zealous preacher against the heretics. In his dying speech on the scaffold, the latter said, "Admiral, you put me to death very unjustly. I am going to God now to give account to Him of my actions; but remember, you and all the people present here to-day, I predict that in a short time you will yourself be thrown from an upper window, and your body will be cut to pieces." The histories go on to say that an Italian cut off Coligny's head to send it to Cardinal de Lorraine at Rome, whilst other men cut off his hands and other parts of his body;
also that at about six in the morning the mob found his body on a dunghill in a stable, dragged it to the Seine, and threw it in. It was again fished out, and hung by the foot to the gibbet of Montfaucon, where it became blackened in the smoke of the fires that were lighted below it. (Guynaud, "Concord. Nostra.," p. 113.)
Sixain 52. [I. 90.]
La grand' Cité qui n'a pain à demy
Encor un coup la Sainct Barthelemy
Engravera au profond de son ame:
Nismes, Rochelle, Geneve et Montpellier,
Castres, Lyon, Mars entrant au Belier,
S'entrebattront; le tout pour une Dame.
The great city that has bread at only half rations
Will have the further blow of Saint Bartholomew
Cut deep into its soul:
Nismes, Rochelle, Geneva, and Montpellier,
Castres, Lyons, with Mars entering the Ram,
Will fight one another; and all for the Queen mother.
The great city is, of course, Paris, and une Dame is the Queen, Catherine de Medici. It has to be borne in mind that these sixains were not published till thirty-three years after the massacre of St. Bartholomew's. Naturally, the prediction loses all special authority in this case. It raises, however, a singular question: Why, if it was written after the event, it was not rendered more explicit, if those who published it had an interest in augmenting the fame of the prophet? It looks very much as if the testamentary duties were performed in perfect good faith, mechanically, and without even understanding the purport or meaning of the words.
Another passage relating to St. Bartholomew's massacre occurs in the text of 1605, and its authority is no greater than
that of the sixain just quoted, as it was not published till after the event. It goes, however, to strengthen the remark I above made. Those who caused the work to be printed seem to have been perfectly unconscious of the meaning of the stanzas; they regarded the whole procedure as a mere form of respect to the memory of a celebrated relative. Their duty was clear to them, and they performed it; but the writings were to them perfectly unintelligible.
Presage III. (ii. 252) is dated as if written January, 1555 and for anything that I can see there is nothing whatever to make one doubt but that it was so. Having made this point as clear as I can, the reader will take it or reject it as he pleases.
The brazen bell that rings the daily hours
Will play full volley at the tyrant's death:
Tears, cries, and groans; the waters freeze up bread,
With son of Charles the Fifth a peace is made.
The tyrant here is interpreted by Guynaud (p. 107) a. Coligny, and he appends some interesting remarks from Favin's "Histoire de Navarre," touching St. Bartholomew's Day In Paris. He says they marked the lodgings of the Huguenots that they might know where to find them in the hurry, and it was arranged that at the tocsin of the great bell at the palace, as well as that of the church of St. Germain de l'Auxerrois, they were to lay violent hands (mainbaisse)
on all the heretics. Two p.m. was the hour appointed. The Catholics who went into the street were to distinguish themselves by a white cross upon their hats. The bodies of the slain were for the most part thrown into the river. Mezerai records that the queen-mother hastened the signal by a full hour, and that it was, contrary to arrangement, started by the bell of St. Germain de l'Auxerrois, although that was immediately followed up by the big bell of the palace.
Coligny was slain in bed, and flung out of window in his shirt only. His face, being covered with blood, the Duc de Guise coolly wiped it with his handkerchief, to assure himself that it actually was Coligny. We shall shortly see this bloodthirsty villain himself murdered at Blois.
The massacre continued the whole week through, for seven days that is, but the chief fury had spent itself by Tuesday night. The Janus Gallicus professes, though how Aimé could have any certainty of it I cannot tell, that Nostradamus, by tyran, alludes to Coligny, and says that the bell tolled so long that it broke. The quatrain does not necessitate the supposal of any such thing, and I believe the fact is not elsewhere recorded. Of course, if it be, it would be so literal a fulfilment that all the sceptical world would immediately take advantage of what I have pointed out, that this is a prophecy après coup. If so doing should rejoice anybody, I can only say that he has my consent. My business is to put the facts, without a shred of disguise, before the reader; he can weave them into theories for himself. If I at any time manifest what I think, he will be pleased to accept it merely as a contribution towards the same end.
In January, 1572, the river Seine was frozen over for a long time, and the roads became almost impassable. This may perhaps be thought to interpret eaux glace pain ne
dône, with such hieroglyphic symbolism of scarcity as oracular utterance delights in. It is pretty certain that provisions did not enter Paris that winter with their usual flow. In allusion to the army mentioned, Guynaud says that the Duc d'Anjou marched with fifty thousand men to the siege of Rochelle, where, after firing thirteen thousand shots, they at last effected a breach. What they battered down, oddly enough, was the Boulevard of the Gospel (Boulevard de l'Évangile), but they could not storm it, and lost twenty thousand men without taking the place.
In that eulogium on Catherine de Medici which de Brantôme ("Panthéon Littéraire," ii. 116) calls her Life, he relates that she died of a broken heart, from grief at having consented to the massacre on this ill-starred day, and that without intending it she (p. 133) had invited the nobles and lords of the land to gather to it. The Cardinal de Bourbon said to her, "Madam, you have brought us all to the butchery without intending it." This touched her to the quick; she took to her bed and never left it again. One can only say this does not quite accord with Mezerai and her sounding the tocsin an hour earlier by anticipation. Further, as the massacre took place in 1572, and the queen-mother did not die at Blois till 1589, seventeen years after, her heart resisted grief much as granite does vinegar. The lady must originally have possessed a very good heart. De Brantôme says poison was talked of; but he considers the broken heart more likely.
CIVIL WAR UNDER HENRI III. (1559-1589). [I. 93.]
Century III.--Quatrain 55.
En l'an qu'un œil en France regnera
La Cour sera en un bien fascheux trouble:
Le Grand de Blois son amy tuera;
Le regne mis en mal et doute double.
In the year when a one-eyed man shall reign in France
The Court shall be in very vexatious trouble:
The great one of Blois shall kill his friend;
The Kingdom, plunged into evil and doubt, shall divide in two.
M. le Pelletier's version here seems to be a little forced. The one-eyed man he makes to be Henri II., whose eye was destroyed by Montgomery's lance. The Court is to be in great embarrassment. Henri III. (le Grand de Blois) will convoke at that place the States-General, and will there assassinate the Duc de Guise, first taking with him, in Italian fashion, the Holy Communion, as a sign of entire reconciliation, Then the desolated kingdom will divide into two camps--the Royalists on one side, and the Leaguers On the other.
REGENCY OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI (1537-,574). [I. 94.]
Century VI.--Quatrain 29.
The holy widow shall receive news
Of the difficulties that perplex and trouble her children;
He whom she calls home to quiet disturbances
Shall bring them to a crisis by his pursuit of shaven heads.
There is a little difficulty in applying the epithet saincte to the queen-mother, and Garencières supposes it to signify
Roma la Santa; but, if so, the rest will have no meaning, Nostradamus is so entirely for Henri II., his wife, and the Romish Church, that in spite of his designating her son le roi farouche, he might think the term saincte not inappropriate to her. She sent a private despatch to her son, Henri III., to hurry back from Poland, as we shall see him doing in the next quatrain cited, that he may take the direction of the French Government. He enters into an alliance with Henri IV. and the Huguenots to counterbalance the Catholic League. Thence follows the murder of the Cardinal, brother of the Duc de Guise, who was murdered by the King's order on December 24,1588, one day after his brother. This is the prosecution of the Church (pourchas des razes), coupled with the repression of the League, which culminates the crisis. The only jarring word in this concordance, when once it is comprehended, lies in the word saincte, to which I have already drawn attention, and which may be explained by the devotion felt by Nostradamus to the crown of France and to Rome. It is evident that Brantôme was able to regard her as a most admirable and lovable lady. The tocsin and the blood spoil our appreciation.
HENRI III. RENOUNCES POLAND (JUNE 26, 1574). [I. 96.]
Century VII.--Quatrain 35.
The great gambler 3 shall complain and weep
To have elected him: deceived in his age:
The duke had no desire to stay with them:
He will be slain by men of his own tongue.
Poland, then, will deplore having elected the Duc d'Anjou n 1573, for he stayed only one year with them, and absconded on the 26th of June at night, at his mother's summons, to France. The Comte de Fanchin, the Grand Chamberlain, was sent after him, and overtook him at Piesna, a frontier town in Austria, but the duke was deaf to all intercession (Guynaud, p. 119). He never took the Polish throne because he wished it, but because he was pressed by the Court of France; and now French affairs called him back. Guynaud thinks that the last line means that his friends deceived him into taking it; but this is because he did not discover the Latin meaning in deceu. For certainly Nostradamus meant that he would go home to die by Clement's hand, as he shows in as many words a little later on. Guynaud says that Poland had been deceived as to the prince's age, and that he was represented to be much older than he really was.
EDICT OF POITIERS (OCTOBER 3, 1577). [I. 97.]
Century V.--Quatrain 72.
To pass an edict of a sugared sort,
They'll mingle poison with our holy faith:
And Venus darken, in her course robust,
All law and light from out the sacred Sun.
The Sun, in Nostradamus, often stands for the Church or Christianity, by him believed to be within the palisade of Popery. It might also mean France, whose King's name was Rex Christianissimus. Louis XIV. assumed the device of the sun, with the motto nec pluribus impar. Venus stands for sensual pleasure--the world triumphant over the Church. The edict of Poitiers, October 8, 1577, So far favoured the Protestants that they were authorized to hold public services on the reformed footing. Calvinist ministers might marry, and auricular confession was suppressed. Thus did Henri III. mingle the poison of unchastity, etc., with the Catholic faith. The licence of morals (Vénus)
became unbridled and tarnished the law of Christendom (Soleil).
Guynaud interprets with Le Pelletier in this, and considers the poison to consist particularly in freeing the Huguenots from the Sacrifice of Penance; in condemning the monastic orders; in encouraging unchastity, by allowing the Calvinist ministers to marry; in abandoning confession. Vénus sera is a line showing that many monks will quit the cloisters to indulge in marriage and other debauchery. The last line may be understood, that the glory of the King will be tarnished, and make him to be ill thought of by the Catholics; or that it will obscure faith in the Church (p. 122).
JOURNÉE DES BARRICADES (MAY 12, 1588). [I. 98.]
Century III.--Quatrain 50.
La republique de la grande cité
A grand rigueur ne voudra consentir:
Roy sortir hors par trompette cité,
L'eschelle an mur la cité repentir.
The Republic of the great city (Paris)
Would not submit itself to the very rigorous treatment;
The King summoned by trumpet to quit the city,
Which is called to repent by the ladder at the wall.
This quatrain and the event it prefigures are alike wonderful. Garencières is much puzzled over it. What city has a commonwealth? Is it Venice, Genoa, Geneva, Luca? He cannot tell. However, the "great city" in Nostradamus almost always stands for Paris. The League, mistress in Paris, would not submit to the coercive measures of Henri III., and by a call to arms--perhaps the old tocsin of St. Germain de l'Auxerrois sounding the while--told him, as par trompette, he had better quit the city with all speed. Trial and
sentence in one word, "Take yourself off,"--for the first time uttered to a king of the race Capetian, in some eight hundred years of history. Later on, the drumming and trumpeting crack-brained citizens, with nothing about them to be called sane but their river, will feel themselves called to repentance when the escalading ladders are laid by Henri III. to the wall.
Let it be noted now that this Day of the Barricades is very remarkable, and, as such, is not to be found at all in Bohn's "Index of Dates." It was, however, repeated in the civil war of the Fronde, August 26, 1648; in the three days' war, July 27, 28, 29, 1830, that set Philippe Citoyen on his rickety perch; and again in June 23, 1848. But close on two hundred years after, in 1789, when the philosophic Republic was at hand and the Bastille was taken; when another Capet was to be handled by the mob; offering cul pour tête to the admiration of a wise world, then was to be best discerned the result of this first reaction from St. Bartholomew's Day; pretty well that tocsin of treason has rung alarum to a world on fire. A further curious analogy demands attention here. The Popes of Rome were the earliest patrons of the principle of regicide, and Clément the monk, whom we shall soon introduce, was the first to practise it; here we see the Catholic League to be the first organized body to repudiate kingship, to set up a republican form, and consecrate a day to revolt and insurrection, which has become memorable in history for ever, though forgotten by Bohn, as la Journée des Barricades. But what shall we say of this forecast by Nostradamus, fifty-three years before the event happened? He is, I think, the first who ever put in type the word Republic as representative of rebellion and revolt, throughout the modern world. But here we have it,--the dough of
prophecy made out of the ground wheat-seed of time, and baked by the oven of events into the bread of history; not Walpole's lies, nor the principles, mostly false, that philosopher Hume finds so cleverly for us, but the facts divested of motive.--like a petrified coral. reef of insect humanities concreted into permanence and solidity by the death of myriads. For those who can see, it lies all contained in that linear rune, La république de la grande cité.
MURDER OF THE DUC DE GUISE (DECEMBER 23, 1588). [I. 99.]
Century III.--Quatrain 51.
Paris conjure un grand meutre commetre,
Blois le fera sortir en plein effect:
Ceux d'Orleans voudront leur chef remettre;
Angers, Troye, Langres leur feront un meffait.
Paris conspires to commit a great murder;
Blois will carry it into full effect:
The Orléanois will try to place a Leaguer at their head;
Angers, Troye, Langres will try and undo this.
Henri III. at Paris contrived the murder of the Duc de Guise, who had incited and led the Parisians on the day of the Barricades, when Henri was compelled to fly to Chartres. Henri de Lorraine, Duc de Guise, was murdered the day after the Cardinal, his brother, had been, at the Convention of the Estates at Blois. The murder took place at the Chateau de Blois. The Orléanois, on learning this, rose against Balzac d'Entragues, the governor of the town, and set Charles de Lorraine, Chevalier d'Aumale, at their head,--he was one of the chiefs of the League,--whilst Angers, Troyes, and Langres took the side of Henri III. It is not very easy, says Le Pelletier, to distinctly prove the exact position taken up by these three towns, but Nostradamus habitually puts a part to stand for the whole. In
the divided interests various cities took differing sides. At the time he wrote there was nothing to show that such internecine separations would take place. He clearly anticipated them, and, so far, is absolutely right. We cannot, it seems, prove him to be right in all the details; but equally, there is nothing to show him wrong.
LE DUC DE MAYENNE (1589-1593). [I. 100.]
Century I.--Quatrain 85.
The King shall be troubled by the Queen-mother,
The deputies at risk of life remonstrate:
The Guise will act for both his brothers dead,
The two whom envy, hatred, malice slew.
Henri III. will be troubled by the response of Catherine de Medici, who disapproves of the murder of the Guise; the deputies (ambassadeurs) from both Paris and Blois, make lively remonstrance at the peril of their lives. The Duc de Mayenne (le Grand), when proclaimed chief of' the League, will take the title of Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, and, as if doubled in authority, will represent his two brothers, Henri de Guise and the Cardinal de Lorraine, whom the envy, hatred, and malice of Henri III. and his Court had assassinated. We seem to have here a republic tempered by daggers, in place of what followed, a tyranny tempered with epigrams. This active forging of daggers, knives, and sword-cutlery in France, to carve out an idol of a republic, with its bloodstained heathen Phrygian cap;
taken together with its repetition sixty years later, in the Barricades of the Fronde, August, 1648, was clearly generating the poison and concentrating its venom for the most startling act of death known to mankind, but one, in all history,--at Whitehall, on that wintry 30th of January, 1649,--the venom, that by the subtle inoculation of a Raleigh could, for a time, strike silly such a soul as Milton's--"Psalmist of Paradise,"--who, but for this damned virus in the world, might have taught men how to realize a paradise on earth.
CRIME OF JACQUES CLÉMENT (AUGUST 1, 1589). [I. 102.]
Century IX.--Quatrain 36.
A great King taken by a young man's hand
Close upon Easter, confusion, and a knife:
There's powder on the tower for captives then,
Three brothers perish; this death takes the last.
Henri III., in his camp at St. Cloud, will be struck by the hand of a young monk,--Joyne might easily be a misprint for Moyne. Jacques Clément was twenty-five. He came straight from receiving the Communion (non loin de Pasque). He thought he did God service (confusion); he struck him in the lower bowel with a knife. The crime will be committed when the Parisians are cut off (captifs) by the King beleaguering, and his vengeance is ready to fall upon
their ramparts. This murder completes the violent deaths of the three sons, the issue of Henri II. and Catherine de Medici.
There is no occasion to call attention to the remarkable lucidity of this forecast, when once the linguistic difficulties of its conveyance have been studiously solved. The demilune towers projecting at intervals from the wall, as at the Haute Ville, Boulogne, well enough represent the husne, or tower of vantage, in the quatrain, they need but a shield or belvidere added.
DEATH OF HENRI III. (AUGUST 2, 1589). [I. 103.]
The twice King dies, by Clement hand is slain;
War and revolt make the year pestilent.
Hold who hold can, the great oppose not well,
Live laughter down and teach the cavillers.
This is a most singular prophecy. Henri III., King, first of Poland then of France is quaintly called Roy-Roy. Le Doux is an excellent synonym for Clément, all must admit. The year was harassed by civil and religious war, and the Leaguers (les esmues) begin to grow anxious about the consequences. Let Henri IV. hold hard his own, the lilied sceptre: "Let Curzon holde what Curzon helde" be his motto. The time is passed for the Catholic grandees (les
grands) to woo Lætitia. The King can laugh now at the laughers of the Guise; he laughs best who laughs last.
The murder by Clément of the anti-papal king, Henri III., followed very close upon the setting up of Jesuit Clubs in Paris under papal sanction (Elliot's Horæ Apoc, iii. 321). The pulpits also had been filled by clerical preachers of sedition and bloodshed. Precisely two hundred years later the Bastille was taken, and in the Jacobin Clubs of that day were hung, says Alison, the pictures of Clement and Ravaillac, in the gloomy rooms of the old convent, in which they met like night-birds of ill-omen, and within little wreaths beneath each picture might be seen inscribed the words, "He was fortunate; he killed a king." This is so sentimental, petty, and petulant, that it would move to laughter any large good-natured mind, were it mot for the slaver of malignity that accompanies everything that drops from the tongues of that sack of reptiles gathered out of the Jacobin dunghill, as they crawled forth one by one poisoning and to poison.
80:1 Old word for jamais, never.
80:2 Latin, a. by.
81:1 Bouys [Oracles, p. 103] says that the King alone had the right to a visor of pure gold. I believe this to be pure nonsense. It would be little stronger than lead. It merely means a gilt casque, and I think some of the accounts say so in as many words. If Bouys were right, the King courted death.
81:2 Greek, κλάσις, breaking or lopping.
81:3 Latin, una, the one or first.
82:1 See also Brantôme, Vie des hommes illustres de son temps.
84:1 Qu'en, for qui en.
84:2 Romance, for lutte.
84:3 Porté, pour remporté.
84:4 Latin, subito, suddenly.
84:5 Romance, surprins for surpris.
87:1 Romance, surprins = surpris.
88:1 Latin, exspoliare, totally despoiled.
88:2 Romance, for pris.
88:3 Romance, hostaige, maison, house, palace.
88:4 Romance, tiers, third.
88:5 Latin, trucidare, cut the throat.
88:6 Latin, inconditus, dispersed.
89:1 Greek, σάρπος, wooden case, coffin,
89:2 Sortiront bas, for d'en bas.
89:3 Latin, infernus, subterranean.
90:1 Romance, vefve, veuve. The word is made here to apply to the wife, Mary Stuart, whom he leaves a widow without children. The grammatical effort is somewhat violent; but vef or veuf is the masculine form, so there is very little choice given.
90:2 In the quatrain this ought to be written eage, as it stands in the texte-type, or the line will not scan.
90:3 Près, for après.
90:4 This is how M. le Pelletier renders the last line.
92:1 Italian, piloto, pilot.
92:2 Latin, mandatus, appointed to a charge.
92:3 Latin, classis, fleet.
92:4 Romance, contrebandé, marching in a contrary band.
92:5 Ordo is, Venise craindra une armie de barbares qui viendra.
93:1 This line is a foot short. Garencières reads:
Le coup volant luy crevera un œil.
94:1 Noir, anagram of roi, cutting off n.
94:2 Arcs tendus, arquebus.
94:3 Latin, tantum, much.
96:1 The family name of Pope Gregory XIII. was Hugo Buon-Compagni. On May 13, 572, he was made Pope. He assumed the name of Gregory out of respect to St. Gregory Nazianzen. He caused the Church to encourage the murder of refractory kings; he promoted the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day, which Sir Paul Rycaut, the historian of the Popes, does not so much as mention in the life of Gregory. He only says towards the end that "he may be numbered amongst the good Popes." As Buon-Compagni was a good lawyer before he became a good Pope, he was prequalified for a virtuous career in any line of life. He re-confirmed the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth; he rectified the Calendar which goes by his name,--the Gregorian. The Jesuits' College was finished by him at Rome, dedicated so oddly--
Religioni et bonis Artibus.
In his day Japan was, by Jesuit missionary effort, brought within the pale of the Church: on which a wit remarked that Japan varnish was introduced into Europe, and Christian varnish into Japan. He died at eighty-three, and to the last could almost mount on horseback without the help of his servants. His place of retirement, Rycaut says, was Frescati, about ten miles distant from Rome, where the Borghes Palace now is, and was then called Monte Dragone--a most fit name for the residence of the Old Worm of St. Bartholomew's massacre.--V. Paul Rycaut, "Lives of the Popes," ed. 1689, vol. ii. p. 163.
99:1 Will sound in full volley.
99:2 These letters are interpreted by the old commentators and Guynaud (p. 107) as meaning the peace concluded with Philip II. of Spain: V., cinq, S., successeur, C., Charles--i.e., Successor to Charles Quint.
102:1 Romance, vefve = veuve, widow.
102:2 Latin, qui, celui qui.
102:3 Latin, ductus, led.
102:4 Appaiser, for pour apaiser.
102:5 Pourchas, old word, pursuit, active intrigue (proquassatio).
102:6 Razes, tonsured priests and monks (têtes rasées).
103:1 Greek, πεσσικός, draught-playing, or gambling. The word was applied to gaming by the Greeks, as we find a story in Plutarch [Liddell and Scott, Lex.], exhibiting Hermes as playing draughts (on the πεσσευτήριον) with Selene, and winning five days, which he adds to the year. Guynaud (p. 119) reads poche, which I take to be an abscess, wolf, or devouring ulcer; both he and Le Pelletier interpret it as meaning Poland.
103:2 Plaindre, for se plaindre.
104:1 Guiere. Nobody explains this word, and yet it seems to stand much in need of it. It is given by Roquefort, as from gubernator, a general. Leader, Or we may say dux, for the Duc d'Alençon. It is really guides or guide. Guber, govern, guide, being all three cognate.
104:2 Latin, decisus, cut off, severed.
104:3 This term is applied to Poland by Nostradamus n allusion to its elective throne, which became purely venal--a thing at last coming to be played for as a hazard at dice. But, curiously enough, the less authentic reading poche is almost equally descriptive--a burning ulcer eating into the body politic till it destroys it.
105:1 Latin, virtuosus; according to M. le Pelletier "vigorous." Classical Latin has no such word, and the lower Latin means probus, bonis moribus et virtute præditus. Nostradamus probably meant vertueux, in old French, to be equivalent to robuste.
105:2 Aloi, the quality of the substance of a metal. The battle of French etymologists is very instructive over this word, as may be seen in Littré. Of course, however, it comes from à loi, conformable to law. But I think there is a misprint, and that we ought to read toute loi = toute la loi. Guynaud (p. 122) reads loi in the second line for foy. We might suppose that that variant had been introduced to correct the fourth line, and was only by a "devil" carried to the second instead, by which that imp of mischief contrived to leave two errors in place of one. In confirmation somewhat of this, the texte-type reads tout à loy.
109:1 Latin, ira, anger.
109:2 Ordo, deux mourront par ire, etc.
110:1 Romance, prins, pris.
110:2 Romance, joyne, jeune homme.
110:3 Romance, cultre, couteau.
110:4 Latin, perpetratio.
110:5 Husne, a small tower, or belvidere.
110:6 Romance, murtre, meurtre.
111:1 Latin, pernicies, destruction.
111:2 Romance, esmues, émus, seditious.
111:3 Tien, for tienne.
111:4 Latin, Lætitia, joy, pleasure, and play on Lutetia, Paris.
111:5 Romance, cavilleux, cavillers.