CASTELNAU, Michel de, sieur de la Mauvissiere (1520–1592). Memoirs of the Reigns of Francis II. and Charles IX. of France. London: 1724

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CASTELNAU, Michel de, sieur de la Mauvissiere (1520–1592). Memoirs of the Reigns of Francis II. and Charles IX. of France. Containing A Particular Account of the Three First Civil Wars Raised and Carried on by the Huguenots in that Kingdom. Wherein the most remarkable passages in the Reigns of King Henry VIII. of England, Queen Elizabeth, and the Unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots, are set in a True Light. London: 1724.

Folio (13 4/8 x 8 4/8 inches). Woodcut head- and tail-pieces (title-page a bit stained, one or two other spots throughout). Contemporary speckled calf (upper hinge expertly repaired).

Provenance: with the engraved armorial bookplate of Robert Smyth, Esq of Gaybrook, Co. Westmeath.

First edition. Francis II of France was the eldest son of Henry II and Catherine de Médicis. He was famously married in April 1558 to Mary Stuart, queen of Scots and niece of François, duc de Guise, and of Charles, cardinal of Lorraine. "A sickly and weak-willed young man, Francis became a tool of the Guises, who saw an opportunity for power and a chance to break the Huguenot strength within the kingdom. To defeat the Guises, Louis de Bourbon, prince de Condé and Huguenot leader, planned the conspiracy of Amboise (March 1560), an abortive coup d’etat in which some Huguenots surrounded the Château of Amboise and tried to seize the King. The conspiracy was savagely put down, and its failure strengthened the power of the Guises. This in turn frightened Francis’ mother, Catherine, who then tried to balance the situation by securing the appointment of the moderate Michel de L’Hospital as chancellor.

"In the hopes of gaining peace and rehabilitating court finances, the States General was summoned, but Francis died soon after the session began at Orléans. His death temporarily ended the Guises’ dominion and saved Condé, who had been sentenced to death for high treason. Francis was succeeded by his brother, Charles IX" (Encyclopedia Britannica).

When Charles succeeded his brother in 1560, his mother became regent until he was proclaimed of age in 1563, after his 13th birthday. However he remained under his mother’s domination, being incapable of choosing and following a policy of his own. His health was poor and he was mentally unstable.

"To strengthen the prestige of the crown, Catherine took Charles on a tour of France from 1564 to 1566. The kingdom, however, was torn by the hostility between the Catholics and the Huguenots. The victories of his brother, the Duc d’Anjou (later Henry III), over the Huguenots at Jarnac and Moncontour in 1569 made Charles jealous, so that in 1571, when the Huguenot Gaspard de Coligny came to court, Charles was persuaded to favour a Huguenot plan for intervention against the Spanish in the Netherlands; Charles sanctioned a defensive alliance with England and Huguenot aid to the Dutch. All this came to nothing, however, when Catherine, alarmed at the new policy and at Coligny’s ascendancy, and dismayed at the reaction to an unsuccessful attempt on Coligny’s life (Aug. 22, 1572), induced Charles to order the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day" (Encyclopedia Britannica).

"As a young man, Castelnau served under local commanders in Piedmont and in Picardy. After the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), he entered the king’s service and was sent on diplomatic missions in 1560 to England, Germany, Savoy, and Rome. After the death of King Francis II he was charged with accompanying the widowed queen, Mary Stuart, back to Scotland.

"In 1562 Castelnau returned to France to fight against the Huguenots in Brittany and Normandy. In 1572, however, King Charles IX sent him to England, Germany, and Switzerland to appease the anger aroused by the massacre of French Protestants on St. Bartholomew’s Day. From 1575 he was Henry III’s ambassador to Elizabeth I of England. During his years in England, he wrote his Mémoires, with an eye to the moral instruction of his son. Covering the years 1559–70, they provide a well-informed account of the beginnings of the Wars of Religion. The Mémoires were published posthumously in 1621.

"He returned to France in 1585, when the Catholic League was about to dominate Paris. Because he refused to join the league, he was excluded from official appointments. Although Henry IV gave him a military command, he died in poverty" (Encylopedia Britannica). ESTC T124299.