On 24th August 1572 the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre took place in France during the French Wars of Religion, which was a period of civil infighting and military operations fought between the French Catholics and the Huguenots (Calvinist Protestants).
Admiral Gaspard de Coligny was the leader of the Huguenots and was considered dangerous by Catherine de’ Medici, the King’s mother, she believed the de Coligny was gaining too much power especially as he was pursuing an alliance with the English and Dutch Protestant rebels.
The King’s sister, Margaret of France who was a Catholic was set to marry the Protestant Henry of Navarre on 18th August 1572 and de Coligny and other nobles arrived in Paris for the wedding. The wedding attracted a large number of Huguenots to the largely Catholic Paris. Just four days later on 22nd August there was a failed assassination attempt on de Coligny when he was shot at on the streets on Paris. Although it was never discovered who ordered the attempt on de Coligny’s life it is widely believed to be Catherine de’ Medici who believed that de Coligny was becoming influential over the King.
A decision was made to close the gates to the city and arm the citizens of Paris to stop any Protestant uprising. The King’s Swiss Guard was provided with a list of prominent Protestants to kill As the bells for matins (between midnight and dawn) rang out the Swiss Guards evicted any Protestant nobles from the Louvre Castle and massacred them in the street.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Guise led a group of supporters killed de Coligny in his lodgings along with several of his men on 24th August. His body was then thrown out of the window where it was castrated, mutilated, dragged through the mud, thrown in the river, suspended on a gallows and then burned by the crowd.
As a result of de Coligny’s assassination the cities Catholics began murdering Protestants and looting their homes. The bodies of those killed were loaded onto carts and disposed of in the Seine River. The revolt lasted three days despite attempts by the King to stop it.
On 26th August the King and his court established an official version of events, it was said that King Charles held a Lit de justice, a formal session of Parliament, in which he ordered the massacre the stop the Huguenot’s rising up against the royal family.