This Week In History – Bloody Massacre In France
Before dawn on the morning of August 24, 1572, church bells tolled in the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois quarter of Paris. Just moments earlier, soldiers under the command of Henri, duke of Guise, had assassinated the admiral of France, Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligny, in his bedroom.
They threw the body from the window to the ground below, where a hate-filled crowd later mutilated it, cutting off the head and hands, and dragged it through the streets of Paris. As Guise walked away from Coligny’s lodging, he was overheard to say “it is the king’s command.”
The killing unleashed an explosion of popular hatred against Protestants throughout the city. In the terrible days that followed, some 3,000 Huguenots were killed in Paris, and perhaps another 8,000 in other provincial cities – a fact which points to planning and organisation.
Some chroniclers put the total dead even higher. Huge numbers of survivors fled to England.
This season of blood—known as the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre—decisively ended Huguenot hopes to transform France into a Protestant kingdom. It remains one of the most horrifying episodes in the Reformation era.
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