Gaspard II de Coligny Biography

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Who was Gaspard II de Coligny? What did Gaspard II de Coligny do? Information on Gaspard II de Coligny biography, life story and career.

Gaspard II de Coligny; (1519-1572), French Huguenot noble, who was prominent in the wars of religion in Valois France. He was born at Châtillon-sur-Loing on Feb. 16, 1519. A member of the powerful Châtillon family, he held the title of Count de Coligny. Coligny grew up at the court of Francis I, where he was the companion of the future King Henry II. After Henry was crowned in 1547, he made Coligny lieutenant general, governor of Paris and the Ile-de-France, and in 1552 admiral of France. Coligny served the crown heroically against Emperor Charles V and negotiated the Truce of Vaucelles in 1556.

Coligny was captured by the Spaniards at St. Quentin in 1557, and his subsequent imprisonment marks a turning point in his career. His reading of Scripture during this period, and perhaps a prior inclination, brought about his conversion to Calvinism. He deferred his public profession of faith, however, until 1559. That year Henry II was killed in an accident, and France was left with a boy king, Francis II. French Calvinism faced a zealously Catholic party headed by the Duke de Guise, and civil war seemed imminent. For the next 13 years Coligny sought to protect Calvinism while preserving the peace. Unlike many of his peers, the admiral had no feudal ambitions and sought honestly to serve both the monarchy and his faith. But religious antipathies, unchecked by the weak monarchy, made his task impossible.

Francis II was dominated by his Guise advisers, so Coligny’s appeals for religious toleration went unheeded. Guise’s massacre of Huguenot worshipers at Vassy in 1562 precipitated the first war of religion, in which Coligny reluctantly fought. The Peace of Amboise (March 1563) only temporarily soothed religious passions. The assassination of François de Guise by a Huguenot was unjustly blamed on Coligny by Guise’s son, who swore vengeance against the admiral.

Coligny withdrew to his estates while Charles IX and the queen mother Catherine de Medicis toured France (1564-1566). But the bad faith of both parties in the religious struggle revived the civil war in 1568, and Coligny fought ably as the lieutenant of the Prince de Conde. When Conde was killed at Jarnac in 1569, Coligny assumed leadership of the Huguenot party. His perseverance in the face of continued defeat finally forced a stalemate. The Peace of St.Germain (1570) granted the Calvinists freedom of conscience, freedom of worship in two cities of each province, and also four fortified cities.

In September 1571 Coligny was recalled to court. He soon acquired influence over Charles IX, who was uncomfortable under the domination of his mother, Catherine de Medicis. The admiral persuaded Charles to try to unite the nation by supporting the Low Countries in their revolt against Spain. Catherine and the Duke de Guise were opposed to this move since it involved the danger of renewed war with Spain and challenged Catherine’s influence over her son. Before the new royal policy could be implemented, Catherine and Guise planned Coligny’s assassination. When the assassin succeeded only in wounding him (Aug. 22, 1572), Catherine panicked. Fearing disgrace if her plot were revealed to the admiral, she persuaded her weak son that the Huguenots were planning his, his brother’s, and her own death. Charles then authorized the Saint Bartholomew massacre (Aug. 24, 1572). In the massacre Coligny was murdered and his body mutilated by followers of the Duke de Guise.

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