Nostradamus, the Man Who Saw Through Time, by Lee McCann , at sacred-texts.com
p. 291 p. 292
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Ronsard, who celebrated the arrival of Nostradamus at court with verses in his honor.
ONE OF THE CHILDREN, Francis II, was now gone. The Biblical scourges were unleashing their furies in the religious wars between the Catholics and Protestants, which had begun in 1561, while Nostradamus still lived. Solyman the Great was on the throne of Turkey, his pirates were sweeping the length of the Mediterranean, harrying Venice, preying on the commerce of all Europe. Hatred and rivalry were between Charles IX and his brother, the Duke d’Anjou, Catherine's favorite child.
These three quatrains are like the opening bars of a tragic symphony, giving the leit-motif which the music will interweave with other patterns, amplifying and developing the theme. Covering the reign of Charles IX were the four religious wars which spread death and ruin over the country. The Protestants numbered more than a quarter of the population of France, a large number to do away with or even crush, yet such was the only idea that presented itself to the Catholics.
In 1565 Catherine and Charles IX met the Duke of Alva at Bayonne to consult about means of quenching the fire of the Protestant menace. The time was set for the massacre which was later postponed until Saint Bartholomew's because the Protestants got wind of it. The Nymph of the North is Queen Elizabeth, whose encouragement and active support were invaluable to the Protestants. The prophet sees the unity of faith lost to France, snuffed out never to return, largely by virtue of this support. Elizabeth also removed the light of the Duke d’Anjou's hope to marry her, which died aborning.
In 1558, two years after the prophet's death, a new and final edition of the Prophecies was published at Lyons by Rigaud. The arrangement of the Centuries was in two parts. The first comprised all of the two previous editions together with the letter to César. The second half consisted of three new Centuries of a hundred verses each, preceded by a letter of dedication to Henry, King of France Second. The edition was brought out under the direction and supervision of Brother Jean Vallier of the monastery of the Mineurs Conventuals, and with the permission of his ecclesiastical superiors. It is evident that this must have been in accordance with a pre-arranged plan made during the prophet's lifetime. It also shows the support and
approval which the Church accorded to his prophetic powers.. In this time of high excitement, war and death, the publication of fresh prophecies was an event of prime importance in court circles. So many forecasts had already been fulfilled that, as Nostradamus had predicted, he was even more famous in death than he had been in life.
In this same year occurred another event of importance to the court, and saddening to all France. This was the death of the Princess Elizabeth, then Queen of Spain. Of her marriage to Philip, Nostradamus had this to say:
Jupiter and Sun, stars of pomp and royalty, had been in friendly aspect during the splendid, fatal tourney which celebrated the match. Philip, from the time he became King of Sicily, was called by the French the "Blood-Sucker of the Midi." The prophet, remembering the sweet child he had seen at Blois, called the
marriage an "extreme remedy," but he saw that the sacrifice was justified for France. The long peace was as foretold. It was only broken after the death of Henry III, when the rise of Navarre, allied with the Nymph of the North, roused Spanish fears.
While the turmoil of civil war was obsessing France, momentous happenings in the Mediterranean were fulfilling more of the prophet's visions, which were a continuation of what Villiers de L’Isle Adam, the soldier of Rhodes, had told him so many years before.
In 1565 the Turks boldly attacked Malta, killing eight thousand of the Knights and possessing themselves of half the island. The island had, you will remember, been given to the Knights of Rhodes, under Nostradamus’ patient, the Knight Commander de L’Isle Adam, by Spain, as a reward for their valor at Rhodes. Therefore, says Nostradamus, it is poor guerdon for Philip II of Spain and King of Sicily (the deed of Messina, Sicily) to leave them to be squeezed in the straits without sending any help in their dire extremity. John Calvin made Geneva his headquarters. The prophet refers to the "New City," as it was called, in this connection, as contributing to the war.
The Holy Father shall heed the cry of Sicily,
All preparations will go forward from the Gulf of Trieste
Extending down to Sicily,
Comprising many galleys. Flee, flee from the horrible scourge.
In 1571 the Battle of Lepanto turned back and seriously crippled Turkish sea power. In that year the island of Cyprus, "The neighboring descendants of the Crusaders will be ambushed," was seized by Turkey with a massacre so complete and dreadful that at last Christian Europe was galvanized into action. Individual soldiers went from France to take part in the expedition, as did soldiers from all over Europe and England. But France as a nation remained aloof. Philip of Spain and the Pope were the organizers of the naval expedition which did include ten governments, counting the states of Italy. "The picked men" were the flower of Europe's chivalry. Great princes in person led the boarding parties that took the Moslem ships. Cervantes was among the heroes at the battle. The colorful Don John of Austria was the military commander of the allied fleet.
The losses on both sides were very heavy, but the Christians administered a smashing defeat from which Turkey never recovered. Lepanto is one of the most
important naval engagements in history. Its spirit was that of the ancient Crusaders. Its "trireme galleys," little changed from the days when Rome defeated Carthage, saw their last use in a major engagement at Lepanto. These romantic ships of war were shortly discarded for boats of different build adapted to hold the new artillery, and to a complete change in the methods of sea war.
It was some years later, but in direct consequence of Lepanto, that the Shah of Persia seized important Turkish provinces, and also one of the great ports on the Persian Gulf, which enabled him to enrich himself by expansion of his maritime commerce.
Meanwhile the civil wars of religion went on interminably in France. Leaders on both sides were killed. The ability and faith of Admiral Coligny, after the Prince of Condé died, made him the greatest leader and military commander whom the Protestants had.
Admiral Coligny resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the French navy seven years after he had received it, in order to head the Protestant party. He came within an ace of carrying off "the prize" of power by his ascendancy over Charles IX. For a time, he and his party, as well as his enemies, thought that he had. His domination was so great that Catherine dared delay no longer in putting into execution the plans made seven years previously with the
[paragraph continues] Duke of Alva, at Bayonne. And the first death must be Coligny's. An assassin was sent, Maurevert, to kill the Admiral. Guizot says he watched Coligny's house for three days before the Admiral went out, and the killer got his chance. Nostradamus’ vivid picture of the old man reading his Bible under the eye of the murderer is a perfect bit. Coligny was only wounded, so that the general mass murder was ordered at once. This occurred on the twenty-fourth of August, 1572. Six days earlier, Marguerite of Valois had married Henry of Navarre, and the court was still celebrating the wedding. The feverish deliberations and last minute conferences which preceded the ringing of the tocsin happened precisely as Nostradamus describes. Coligny was murdered at night, unarmed, by the Duke de Guise, his servant, Besme, and three or four of the Swiss mercenaries. The towns mentioned were those in which Protestants were strong, particularly New La Rochelle.
The prophet had no sympathy for Coligny, the spearhead of the faction he believed undermining France. The anointed King acted within his rights to kill the "Traitor." But he deplored that the savagery of that same King should massacre his people, "the slaughtered innocents" of the quatrain quoted earlier. Charles IX was said to have stood at the palace window, arquebus in hand, and shot down Protestants until exhausted.
Events of importance followed two years later, in 1574.
The Fish was the Duke d’Anjou. The Pope, in the Centuries, is often called the Fisherman. France, politically and religiously, was always the best-loved fish of the papacy. Henry of Anjou was heir presumptive to the throne. The quarrel between himself and Charles had become so acute that neither was safe from the other. Henry was offered the crown of Poland, which he accepted to get out of France. After sophisticated Paris, he loathed living in Poland. The Poles quite misjudged the character of the times in France when they invited Henry. He was only there three months. Charles IX, racked with remorse and illness, died, soothed at the last only by the old Protestant nurse whom the prophet had seen with the little boy in the gardens of Blois. Henry left Poland at once to become Henry III of France, until such time as one of his own people would murder him.
Henry III was weak, vicious, perverted; but like all the Valois he had charm. The psychopathic jealousy
and hatred which he had felt for his brother, Charles IX, now that Charles was dead, he projected upon the strong, brilliant Henry, Duke de Guise, son of the warrior who took Calais. Courtly, eloquent, magnetic, Guise was the idol of Paris. He was twice wounded in action, once in the arm, and again in the leg and head. A bullet clipped his ear and scarred his cheek which gave him his nickname, Le Balafré, in spite of which he was considered very handsome. One of the cardinals at court remarked of the Guises, father and son, that they made other people seem common by comparison.
Guise as the descendant of Charlemagne, and having also the royal blood of the Capet line, was one of the two royal brothers whom Nostradamus describes in the following accurate picture of their deadly duel, which was half personal hatred, half desire for power. Guise, like the Bourbons, wanted the throne. As the leader of the Catholic faction, he was in consequence close to the palace, and had in a fashion the inside track. He was at this time far more powerful than the coming King, Henry of Navarre. Guise had every confidence that he would win the crown. The weak King, Catherine supporting her son with her craft, and the Duke de Guise are the actors in this tragedy.
The religious wars were more than a fight between Catholic and Protestant. They were a three-cornered fight for power between Catherine de’ Medici, backing successively her sons, and the great competing houses of Guise-Lorraine and Bourbon-Navarre. None of the three would yield to the others; it had to be, as it was, a duel to the death.
Note how the Oriental motif is sustained. Lepanto had defeated Turkey, but not crushed her, and France had not fulfilled her obligation then. No Turkish armies threaten, but the Turk still takes his captives as pirates' prey, while Christian France quarrels internally. The Duke de Guise organized the Catholic League to wrest the power from the King. Spain supported this effort, the King was losing. Assassination was the answer. The King had gone to Blois. The Duke, as Lieutenant-General of France and High Steward of the Royal Household, was also there, both being present for the meeting of the States-General.
[paragraph continues] So one has the strange picture of these two deadly enemies and rivals under the same roof and dining at the same table. The King summoned the Duke for a private conference. As the Duke raised the tapestry to enter the room, known as the old closet, he was stabbed five times by the King's men. The King and the Duke had taken communion together shortly before the murder.
When the Duke was dead the King exclaimed, "Now I am sole King. The King of Paris is dead!" Catherine said, "You have done the cutting, now we must sew it well." But there was little time for her sewing. Her own death, in bed, occurred thirteen days after the murder of the Duke de Guise. France was outraged at the murder. Orleans turned against the King. The other towns mentioned by the prophet promptly went over to the Protestants, for which Nostradamus blames them. Sixtus V, whom, as we have seen, the prophet did not admire, was subservient to Spain, and in many ways vacillating or afraid to adopt a strong policy. The Cardinal de Guise, brother ("Two shall be killed by one of the children") of Le Balafré, was murdered by Henry a few days after the Duke. The third Guise brother, the Duke de Mayenne, then took over the leadership of the Catholic League.
The edict of Poictiers, passed by Henry III in 1577, among other things permitted Protestant ministers to marry. Nostradamus saw this as a threat to Catholicism. It was a temptation away from the ascetic standards of the priesthood, into the freer customs of the Protestant ministry. Venus, here a metaphor for self-indulgence, clouds the Sun of the monarchy.
The two royal brothers, Henry III and Henry of Navarre, sinking their religious differences and agreeing on a common plan, climb into the same ship of state which is also the barque of religion in a country having a state religion. The condition of the treasury, and the reaction of Italy to the combination of the two rulers were as the prophet indicates.
The great King will be taken by a Young Man
Not far from Easter, when there will be confusion and knife thrust, p. 313
The perpetration of the deed is at the time when there are captives, and powder in the tower,
This murder follows the death of three brothers who injured themselves.
After the furor over the murder of the two Guises, Henry III, twice King, once of Poland, once of France, desperately in need of backing, with the Duke de Mayenne, the third and sole surviving Guise brother, in virtual control of Paris, sought out Henry of Navarre and made an alliance with him. But, "scant
space"--only a few months later the King was assassinated by Jacques Clément, believed to be the agent of the Third Estate. "The Third Estate shall murder one." Clément, the name meaning clement or gentle, is exactly indicated by the prophet as the murderer. The alliance with Navarre was at Easter, the murder--"not long after."
Paris, in the hands of the Duke de Mayenne, preparing its defenses and arresting Protestants and royalists, there were "captives and powder." Pope Sixtus, "the leader of Perouse," after the papacy having been despoiled of England by Henry VIII, was terrified lest it happen now with France. Henry II had been struck on his armored neck-piece by Montgomery's lance. Henry III was stabbed in "the little gut," or neck of the colon. "Father and son both struck in the neck." Henry of Navarre, surviving member of the alliance, is advised to hang on, for not to the nobles under the Duke de Mayenne shall fall Lutetia, Paris. Henry will survive his opponents.
The Seven Children of the King are now dead, all but Marguerite, the wife of Henry of Navarre, who had no children. Under the Salic law she cannot rule, and in time Navarre will divorce her.
Cryptic as these verses read, they tell a perfectly straight story. Two brothers in royalty, Navarre and Mayenne, lead the Protestant and Catholic factions. The winner of the war, Navarre, will not live beyond 1610. He was assassinated then. A coup or an illness will mark his year in 1606. He nearly died of illness in 1608, but Guizot speaks of it as if it were of long standing, and it may have begun when the prophet said.
Henry of Navarre did claim the crown to avenge Henry III, his brother-in-law. He seized Brittany, previously tributary, but autonomous under France. It had belonged to Queen Claude, grandmother of Henry III. Nostradamus said in a verse, previously given, "the cadet branch," the Bourbon, "will plant its foot on Armoric soil." Armorica was the old name of Brittany. Thereafter Brittany remained as a province of the crown.
"The buried" is Coligny who, through his Protestant successor, Henry of Navarre, will enchain the power of Paris. The Barbel is a fish equipped with prongs to spear its prey. The fish, in the Centuries, is always a religious symbol. Here, the Barbel, the vicious fish of the false religion, Protestantism, will poison with the eggs it lays, hopes of the house of the Catholic faction under Guise-Lorraine, so that it is defeated by Navarre. The latter is Lord Warden of the Marches because he comes from the border kingdom of Navarre, a bulwark against Spanish aggression.
But when Henry claimed the throne, the Duke de Mayenne put up a counter-claimant who was none other than Navarre's uncle, the old Cardinal de Bourbon, who had come over to his side. It was in this Cardinal's house that the prophet had lodged while in Paris. But nothing can stop Vendôme (one of the family names of Navarre) although he is worried and doesn't know what Spain is going to do about all this. His first concern was to see that his uncle, whom he had under guard, didn't escape and get himself crowned. The Cardinal was at Chinon in the care of Sieur Chavigny, who was also old, like the Cardinal, and nearly blind. Henry sent a courier with a letter to the governor of Saumur "bidding him at any price" to get the Cardinal away from Chinon and under proper guard, which was done. But the poor old man, "the contender in the duel," died, as the prophet said, not long after.
The battle of Arques, 1589, the first of Navarre's
two great victories, was as the prophet indicates it. Mayenne was between Henry and the sea, blocking help. Henry had a complete line of trenches dug surrounding the castle and town of Arques. Nor does Nostradamus forget to mention the white plume of Navarre, so famous in song and story. Victory, he tells us, will crown Navarre in the battle, that is what he means by "follow the Fleur de Lis." It is the beginning of the taking over by the house of Bourbon--to the prophet a faithless line--the royal lily emblem of Capet.
Meanwhile the letters from Sixtus were very bittersweet. He admired Navarre, but he didn't want a Protestant ruling France. Henry of Navarre at once began to put into practice his ideas of toleration which later were shaped into the Edict of Nantes. "The son of Anion," the religious turncoat and heretic, Navarre, of course, was chosen at Rome, after his purely political conversion to Catholicism. Thus were the two great personages, Mayenne and the Cardinal, defeated.
The Cardinal is dead, but we are not yet finished with the Duke de Mayenne. (And, reader, if the history of France seems unduly involved, don't shoot the prophet and the author. Like the pianist, we are doing our best.)
Navarre and his rule were under the ban of the Church, they were anathema until his conversion. The prophet in this verse looks forward to Henry's end when fanatical hatred destroys him, and with his passing the new brood, the Protestants, gradually lose their political power, shorn of royal protection. It was, however, hardly true that they were responsible for their own destruction.
Henry had early renounced Protestantism at Chambray, but he hesitated to take the final steps against the feeling of his own party. Only after he was bulwarked by the support of Orleans, which came over to him, did he feel strong enough to take this step, which he did in 1593. He then accommodated himself to the requirements of the Pope, "the legate of the earth and sea."
After his conversion, Henry took Paris the following year. On the 14th of March the civic powers of Paris, having decided to admit him, forbade meetings of the Mayenne faction. Seven days later, as stated by the prophet in a quatrain given earlier, Navarre entered Paris. The reference to the new palace, when Navarre entered the old walls of Paris, is to the Tuileries,
which Catherine de’ Medici had begun but which was still not entirely finished. De Givry and La Charry are names of two of Navarre's enthusiastic supporters. The three towns mentioned in the same verse were in the Sardinian states with which Henry had a certain amount of fighting and difficulty.
The war continued for a time longer but eventually Mayenne yielded and made the best terms for himself that he could, and became a friend and loyal subject of the King. The Duke of Parma, who led the Spanish forces assisting Mayenne, returned to Spain, and, Spanish influence removed, the people of France, the majority of them, rejoiced in the entry of the Protestant into the monarchy.
Philip's plot to seize Marseilles for Spain was in the early years of Henry's rule while he was still fighting for power and had declared war on Spain. When the design was foiled, the traitor killed and dragged in the mud of the streets, Henry exclaimed: "Now I am really King!" Such was the importance, says Guizot, of Marseilles as the queen of the Mediterranean.
The fighting in Picardy was with the Spaniards, mainly, and like that of Piedmont before he came into his full sovereignty.
As true of modern Geneva as in the times of Henry IV. The passing of the Edict of Nantes, the great law of religious toleration, of which the prophet disapproved, permitted the return to France of "the defeated and the dreamers," who had received asylum in Geneva during the religious wars.
Two pieces of treachery marked the reign of Henry IV. One was that of the great soldier, Marshal Biron, whom the King said that he loved like a brother. Biron sold out to Spain. He wanted, he said, to see his head on a coin before he died. If he had lived today it might have gone on a stamp; as it was, it went on the block. His agent was Lafin, who confessed to the King. The other traitor, who also wanted Spanish gold, was an obscure clerk in the diplomatic service. He was trapped through a watch set on the post-office, and when pursued by night, near the Marne, fell in the water and was drowned.
Henry IV's second marriage was to Marie de’ Medici, who came by galley to Marseilles as Catherine had done so long ago. Her father, the prophet lets us know, did very well for himself when he married his daughter
to the King of France. Marie's mother was said to be what Nostradamus called her, but not particularly furtive about it. Marie was twice regent after Henry's death. Richelieu exiled her to the country. She escaped to Brussels and died in Belgium.
Henry IV was preparing for war when he was stabbed by Ravaillac, while on his way to the Cathedral for his second coronation. Halted by the congestion in the narrow Rue Ferroniere, he was standing, strangely enough, beneath a sign, The Crown Pierced By An Arrow. In this street of the iron-workers there was one little alley which was occupied by the makers of pokers, les tisoniers. The King was standing opposite the entrance to this, "face Tyson," when he was struck down. It is said that before he left the palace to go to the Cathedral, a tree in the courtyard, decorated in gala style according to old custom for such occasions, fell over.
The accession of Henry of Navarre (he had already been ruling for more than a decade) had established the Bourbon dynasty upon "the golden throne." It had
brought to fulfillment the long struggle of the Bourbons for the rulership of France which the Constable de Bourbon had begun sixty years before. The prophet could never bring himself to admire the splendid qualities of Henry, though he admits his greatness. To him Navarre was always the faithless scion of a faithless house, whose leader in the days of his youth, the Constable, had brought treachery, plague and slaughter to Rome and to France. He knew, too, that France was not through with the changeable loyalties of the house of Bourbon. Louis de Condé, called The Great, namesake of Bossu, would go against his King, Louis XIII. Philippe Egalité would vote for the beheading of his own brother, Louis XVI. And Louis Philippe would abandon the flag of the Fleur de Lis for the Tricolor. The prophet had spoken bitterly of that; it hurt him. However, with the coming of Henry, the Bourbons were henceforward France, and to those who ruled after Henry, Nostradamus gave spiritual allegiance as he followed them in his prophetic visions.
The author regrets that space forbids the presentation of the great periods intervening between Henry IV and the contemporary scene. It is in our own time, as prophesied by Nostradamus, that the last of the Bourbons is to rule France, the man who is to be her greatest King, who is to arise and guide the nation back to glory. This King will close the cycle of both the Bourbons and the monarchy of France.
It was, however, the reign of Henry of Navarre which closed the cycle of the people Nostradamus knew,
born in his lifetime. The world had greatly changed since he came into it. Still, there was always something of its familiar character left while there remained some of those born in his lifetime and acquainted with the old ways. Now that is over. The world which he describes from this time on is a world different from his experience, and known only to his prophet's vision.
It was sometime during the reign of Henry of Navarre that César Nostradamus, nephew of the prophet, and governor of Provence under Henry IV, presented to the King the fifty-eight Sixains and one hundred and forty-one Presages which were among the prophet's effects. In view of Nostradamus’ devastating attacks on Henry in so many of his verses, which the King must have seen, it does not seem a too tactful present. One wonders how the King really felt about it, in spite of the records which say that he was interested and pleased. But Henry was a gay, generous, tolerant nature. He probably shrugged it off and, like the vert galant the Gascons still call him, sought out the prettiest woman in the room and told her about it as a jest.