Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21, 2012

Victims of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: Charles de Teligny

He was a fairly young man when he died, only thirty-seven. Charles de Teligny had lived an adventurous life that ended in the most horrendous way. He was born in 1535 and had the good fortune of befriending L’Amiral Gaspard de Coligny, that great lion of the Huguenots, and being under his patronage. Teligny was a man of multiple talents. He was a writer and a fighter, the latter occupation placing him under Coligny during the Wars of Religion. 

Such connections extended into marriage. In 1571 --- just one year before his death --- he married Louise, the admiral’s daughter. It was a difficult and dangerous time to be alive, yet when he moved to La Rochelle, already known as a Huguenot haven, he must have believed that many of the dangers had slipped away. The massacre still loomed like a dark cloud in his future.

The newly-married Teligny had very little time to enjoy wedded bliss. He was soon summoned to Paris on a political matter, seeking to end hostilities between France’s blood-soaked Catholics and Protestants. It was said that King Charles IX considered him a personal friend. But none of that saved him. When the bell rang at Saint Germain l’Auxerrois at midnight on August 24th, 1572, Teligny was staying at the Louvre, which was then a royal palace. He was asked if he would convert to Catholicism and deny the Protestant faith that had sustained him in a life full of hardship.

He said no.

Even after death --- even after he became one of many men, women, and children lying lifeless and silent in bedrooms and hallways and streets and porticoes throughout Paris and beyond --- the abuses did not end. In 1625, after his relatives had secured his body and buried it properly at the Teligny ancestral home, the Bishop of Castres, Jean VI de Fossé, had his remains dug up and unceremoniously deposited in the nearest river. It was not enough that Teligny had died so horrendously. ‘Insult to injury’ was the order of the day.

Charles de Teligny

So now we have Charles de Teligny’s story, part one of bestowing an identity to a victim his executioners wished to remain nameless . . . what about a face? A contemporary portrait shows him achingly young, with a long, slender face, handsome French features, and thin brown hair pulled back underneath a smart black feathered beret. He glances at the painter almost shyly, while his neatly-trimmed mustache and beard fail to hide the mouth turned up just the slightest bit in a smile. He is dressed in the Protestant austerity of the day, in a high-necked black doublet with a modest lace ruff. 

It always gives me a thrill to put faces and identities to the victims of the St. Bartholomew’s massacre. Charles de Teligny was not a nameless casualty. He was a man, with a face, an identity, and a life all his own. Seeing such portraits is like thwarting those who took his life. One by one the faces emerge. I wish I could see pictures of them all.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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