December 23rd, 2007 Headsman
On this date in 1559, Protestant parliamentarian Anne du Bourg was publicly strung up and burned for his uncompromising defense of Calvinism.
With the dissolute crowned head before him to attend a seating of Parlement considering the matter of the heretics’ suppression, Anne du Bourg delivered himself of a rebuke of “more courage than prudence” (Batiffol and Bodley):
While men are conducted to the stake for the sole crime of praying for their prince, a shameful license encourages and multiplies blasphemies, perjuries, debaucheries, and adulteries. (Martyn)
Incensed, the king had du Bourg and others of the “moderate” party arrested in Parlement and drug to the dungeon. And though his compatriots were satisfied to recant what imperiled them, du Bourg remained obdurate and even provocative, smuggling a pamphlet against the monarch out of prison.
Henri would not make good his vow to see du Bourg burnt, having been slain by a freak jousting accident. But it little availed du Bourg inasmuch as Henri’s untimely demise put the Catholic faction even more firmly in the saddle. The agitation of Protestants for du Bourg’s release went for naught, and the sharp-tongued minister of state had occasion to speak to posterity from the scaffold. “My friends, I am not here as a thief or a martyr, but for the evangelium.”
“His one speech did more harm to the Catholic Church than a hundred ministers could have done.”
-Eyewitness Florimond de Roemond, quoted in The Cambridge Modern History
The religious conflict that made an end of du Bourg soon exploded into civil war. Many more, like du Bourg, would find their triumph in death — until, after three bloody decades, a Protestant prince accepted triumph in apostasy by deciding that “Paris is worth a Mass.”
Also on this date
- 1605: Niklaus von Gulchen, Nuremberg privy councillor
- 1926: Petrus Stephanus Hauptfleisch, mother-murderer
- 1799: Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas, anti-slavery insurrectionist
- 1942: Sasha Filippov, during the Battle of Stalingrad
- 1953: Lavrenty Beria, Stalin henchman
- 1948: Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war criminals