Steinhilben: (near Reutlingen, Baden-Wurttemberg), 1572.
Together 2 sheets. Ad 1: Folio: (330 x 210 mm) manuscript letter, signed by Ludwig III Duke of Wurttemberg. Recto: 25 lines including flourished signature, verso blank; without watermark. Ad 2: Folio (330 x 215 mm) written to an unnamed correspondent. Recto: 40 lines including names of some of the victims, 6 lines on verso; watermark "Lettre P" virtually identical to Briquet 8826 (Graz or Styrie, "1570").
AN APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED, STRICTLY CONTEMPORARY MANUSCRIPT ACCOUNT OF THE ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY MASSACRE, SIGNED BY LUDWIG III, DUKE OF WURTTEMBERG, DATED SEPTEMBER 2, 1572 -- JUST DAYS AFTER THE HORRIBLE EVENTS TRANSPIRED IN PARIS -- TOGETHER WITH A SEPARATE DOCUMENT WHICH NAMES SOME OF THE PRINCIPLE VICTIMS AND PROVIDES ADDITIONAL DETAILS.
The French Wars of Religion produced one of the most brutal and excessive persecutions in history, including the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris which began on August 24, 1572 and continued for three hellish days. Thousands of Protestant Huguenots were tortured, raped, and murdered on the streets of Paris and elsewhere in France. In the provinces the violence continued through October. Whereas the number of casualties can only be conjectured, one instructive piece of evidence is the record of a payment by the City of Paris to workmen for collecting and burying exactly 1,100 bodies that had been washed up on the banks of the Seine during the week of August 24-31. A contemporary (Huguenot) chronicler estimated that upwards of 70,000 perished as a result of the pogrom.
The present letter was written upon receipt of news of the first day of the massacre: Ludwig III sends to an unnamed recipient a "very serious and very unhappy account" of the events. He also forwards a separate document, present here, which was probably sent to him by the diplomatic representative of Wurttemberg in Paris; judging from its date, the Huguenot blood on the streets of Paris had not yet been cleansed. In his letter, the Duke states that the Devil has not only achieved his goals, but has done so through voluntary instruments (i.e. the King and his Catholic supporters). Ludwig also mentions his concerns about the Catholic uprisings in The Netherlands.
The accompanying document is significant. The text begins: "Here are the names of some of the Huguenots who were massacred in Paris on August 24, 1572 at four in the morning." This list includes fifteen names; the first two are of particular interest, namely Admiral Coligny and the Comte de La Rochefoucauld (Prince de Marcillac), both high ranking Huguenot captains. Following the list, the author states that five hundred men, of which most were members of the aristocracy, were slaughtered. Most of the escapees (including Gabriel, Comte de Montgomery) were caught, imprisoned, and strangled. The princes of Navarre and Condé were saved, but the King had them put in prison also; we learn that the entire Court, and indeed Paris itself, is at war (emphasis ours). The foreign mercenaries who were to put themselves at the service of Coligny returned to their country at the news of the massacre. The narrator hopes that the event will ultimately be in favor of the Reformers (i.e. the Protestants), but he was quite mistaken: thousands of Huguenots either left France or converted to Catholicism in order to save themselves and their families.
Ludwig III (1554-1593), "the Pious" (Ludwig der Fromme), was just fourteen when, upon the death of
his father Christoph, became Duke of Wurttemberg, although at first it was under the guardianship of his mother Anna Maria von Brandenburg-Ansbach. At the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre he was only eighteen. In 1578, upon turning 24, he formally became ruler of the principality. His ardent defense of the Lutheran Church had already been expressed earlier. He successfully navigated the political perils of the late 16th-century (during Ludwig's reign Wurttemberg was entirely at peace). He was fond of sport (particularly jousting), hunting, and drinking. Through his civic works he pursued a dynastic propaganda like no other ruler of Wurttemberg before or after him, constructing stately buildings and churches upon which were placed lavish family trees and coats of arms. One of these was the Neues Lusthaus in Stuttgart (destroyed in 1901), was one of the most important buildings of the German late Renaissance. Ludwig founded the Collegium Illustre in Tubingen. He married rich, first to Dorothea Ursula, a daughter of Margrave Charles II of Baden-Durlach, and following her death to Ursula of Zweibrücken-Veldenz, a daughter of Count Palatine George John I.
Provenance: 1. Maison Jacques Etienne et Noel Charavay (Paris) 2. Dr. Otto Orren Fisher (1881-1961) of Detroit, whose superb library ultimately contained ca. 80,000 volumes, including all four Shakespeare Folios. 2. Mrs. Otto [nee Josephine Hillock] Fisher (1904-1996), Dr. Fisher’s widow, whose name as a lender appears on a typed exhibition label accompanying the present offering (institution not stated). Her name is inscribed in ballpoint pen: "J.H. Fisher" on the Etienne & Charavey folder. Sold at Cowans Auctions 12/4/2008 lot 1314 (poorly catalogued, in addition to being erroneously ascribed to Friedrich I, Duke of Wurttemberg, who did not become sovereign until 1593).