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§ 174. Beza and Henry IV.


In the course of his long life Beza had few joys, aside from the abiding one of his religion, and many sorrows. His heart was bound up with the fortunes of the Reformed Church in France, and they were usually bad. Still he took courage every time a little improvement was noticeable. Much hope had he cherished in consequence of the accession of Henry of Navarre (1589), because he was a Protestant. But early in the summer of 1593, the news reached Geneva that the king, upon whom religion and morality sat very lightly, in the interests of peace and national prosperity, was determined to abjure the Protestant faith. Alas for all their hopes! Beza was greatly moved, and addressed the monarch a letter in which he set forth the eternal consequences of the change the king was about to make.13051305    See the letter in Heppe, 294-299. He felt assured, however, that Henry would be delivered from the machinations of his and their enemies, and not take the fatal step. But ere Beza’s letter reached him the deed was done. In the ancient abbey church at St. Denis on the morning of Sunday, July 25, 1593, King Henry of Navarre, the son of Jeanne d’Albret, the only Huguenot who ever sat upon the throne of France, abjured his faith, and took a solemn oath to protect the Roman Catholic, and Apostolic religion.

Beza was deeply grieved at this apostasy. But when he learned that the king favored his old co-religionists in many ways, and especially, when in 1598, he published the Edict of Nantes, which put the Protestants on a nearly common footing with the Roman Catholics in France, Beza took a more hopeful view of the king’s condition. In 1599 the king, in the course of a war with Charles Emmanuel, approached near Geneva. The city saw in this a chance to obtain from the king the promise of his protection, especially against the Duke of Savoy, who had built a fort called St. Catherine, quite near Geneva. To effect this the city sent a delegation headed by Beza, and the interview between the monarch and the reformer was honorable to both. The king gladly gave his promise, and the next year the fort was destroyed. He also came to Geneva and received its hospitality.



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