Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine

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Charles, cardinal de Lorraine (1550) by François Clouet
Coat of arms

Charles de Lorraine (17 February 1524 – 26 December 1574), Duke of Chevreuse, was a French Cardinal, a member of the powerful House of Guise. He was known at first as the Cardinal of Guise, and then as the second Cardinal of Lorraine, after the death of his uncle, John, Cardinal of Lorraine (1550). He was the protector of Rabelais and Ronsard and founded Reims University. He is sometimes known as the Cardinal de Lorraine.

Biography[edit]

Born in Joinville, Haute-Marne, Charles of Guise was the son of Claude, Duke of Guise and his wife Antoinette de Bourbon. His older brother was François, Duke of Guise. His sister Mary of Guise was wife of James V of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. He was made Archbishop of Reims in 1541 or 1538 (?), Cardinal on 27 July 1547 (the day after the coronation of king Henry II of France, at which he had officiated), and Bishop of Metz on 18 May 1550, in succession to his uncle. He resigned the see of Metz on 22 April 1551.

The efforts of this cardinal to enforce his family's pretensions to the Countship of Provence, and his temporary assumption, with this object, of the title of Cardinal of Anjou were without success. He failed also when he attempted, in 1551, to dissuade Henry II from uniting the Duchy of Lorraine to France. He succeeded, however, in creating for his family interests certain political alliances that occasionally seemed in conflict with each other. He coquetted for instance on the one hand with the Lutheran princes of Germany, and on the other his interview (1558) with the Cardinal de Granvelle (at Péronne) initiated friendly relations between the Guises and the royal house of Spain.

Thus the man who, as the Archbishop of Reims, crowned successively Henry II, Francis II and Charles IX had a personal policy which was often at variance with that of the court. This policy rendered him at times an enigma to his contemporaries. The chronicler Pierre de L'Estoile accused him of great duplicity; Brantôme spoke of his "deeply stained soul, churchman though he was", accused him of skepticism and claimed to have heard him occasionally speak half approvingly of the Confession of Augsburg. He is also often held to be responsible for the outbreak of the Huguenot wars, and seems now and then to have attempted to establish the Inquisition in France. Many libelous pamphlets aroused against him strong religious and political passions. From 1560 at least twenty-two were in circulation and fell into his hands; they damaged his reputation with posterity as well as among his contemporaries. One of them, "La Guerre Cardinale" (1565), accuses him of seeking to restore to the Holy Roman Empire the three former prince-bishoprics of Metz, Toul and Verdun, in Lorraine, which had been conquered by Henry II. A discourse attributed to Théodore de Bèze (1566) denounced the pluralism of the cardinal in the matter of benefices.

Portrait of Charles of Guise by El Greco.

Under Charles IX, the Cardinal of Guise constantly alternated between disgrace and favour. In 1562, he attended the Council of Trent, possessing the full confidence of his royal master. Louis de Saint-Gélais, Sieur de Lansac, Arnaud du Ferrier, president of the Parlement of Paris, and Guy de Faur de Pibrac, royal counsellor, who represented Charles IX at the Council from 26 May 1562, towards the end of the year were joined by the Cardinal Lorraine. He was instructed to arrive at an understanding with the Germans, who proposed to reform the church in head and members and to authorize at once Communion under Both Kinds, prayers in the vernacular and the marriage of the clergy.

In the reform articles which he presented (2 January 1563), he was silent on the last point, but petitioned for the other two. Pius IV was indignant, and the cardinal denounced Rome as the source of all abuses. In the questions of precedence which arose between him and the Spanish ambassador, Count de Luna, Pius IV decided for the latter. However, in September 1563, on a visit to Rome, the cardinal, intent perhaps on securing the pope's assistance for the political ambitions of the Guises, professed opinions less decided Gallican. Moreover, when he learned that the French ambassadors, who had left the council, were dissatisfied because the legates had obtained from the council approval of a project for the "reformation of the princes", which the latter deemed contrary to the liberties of the Gallican church, he endeavoured, though without success, to bring about the return of the ambassadors, prevailed on the legates to withdraw the objectionable articles and strove to secure the immediate publication in France of the decrees of the council; this, however, was refused by Catherine de' Medici.

When in 1566 François de Montmorency, royal governor of Paris and his personal enemy, attempted to prevent the cardinal from entering the capital with an armed escort, the ensuing conflict and the precipitate flight of the cardinal gave rise to an outcry of derision which obliged him to retire to his diocese for two years. In 1570 he aroused the anger of Charles IX by inducing Duke Henri, the eldest of his nephews, to solicit the hand of Margaret of Valois, the king's sister, and in 1574 he vexed the king still more when, through spite, he prevented the marriage of this princess with the king of Portugal. His share in the negotiations for the marriage between Charles IX and Elizabeth of Austria, and for that of Margaret Valois with the prince of Navarre, seems to have won him some favor only briefly, for Catherine de' Medici knew only too well what a constant menace the personal policy of the Guises constituted for that of the king. Shortly after the death of Charles IX, the cardinal appeared before his successor, Henry III, but died soon afterwards, at Avignon.

References[edit]

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Jean IV of Lorraine
Archbishop of Reims
1538–1574
Succeeded by
Louis II, Cardinal of Guise
Preceded by
Jean IV of Lorraine
Bishop of Metz
1550–1551
Succeeded by
Robert de Lenoncourt
Preceded by
Jean IV of Lorraine
Abbot of Cluny
1550-1574
Succeeded by
Claude de Guise
Titles of nobility
Preceded by
Jean
Duc de Chevreuse
1555–1574
Succeeded by
Charles