Montmorency is the name of one of the oldest noble families of France, which figures both in secular and ecclesiastical history, though oftentimes its celebrity was purchased at the expense of all humanitarian principles. The name of the family was derived from the village in which its several members lived, and dates from the 10th century. Oftentimes the house of Montmorency has been styled "the first barons of France," and in recognition of their services to Romanism, "the first Christian barons." They furnished officers of state and generals for the French army, distinguished ecclesiastics for the Church of Rome, some of whom rose even to the cardinalate, besides a number of grand-masters and knights of the different European orders. One of the branches established in the Netherlands furnished count of Horn (Philip II de Montmorency-Neville), who, together with Egmont, was executed in Brussels during the bloody reign of the Spanish general Alva. But we have room here only for those chiefly concerned in the Huguenot movement.
1. ANNE, first duke of Montmorency, marshal and grand-constable of France, noted for his alliance with the Guises, SEE HUGUENOTS, was born in March, 1493. His Christian name, Anne, it is said, he received from his godmother, Anne of Brittany. He distinguished himself by his gallantry and military skill in the wars between Francis I and the emperor Charles V, and was taken prisoner along with his sovereign in the battle of Pavia, which was fought against his advice. He afterwards became the leader of the French government, showing great ability in matters of finance and diplomacy, and was made constable in 1538; but his rough manners made him an object of dislike to many; and the suspicions of the king having been aroused against him, he was suddenly banished from court in 1541, and passed ten years on his estates, till the accession of Henry II, when he came again to the head of affairs. In 1548 he suppressed the insurrection in Guienne, but was less successful in 1557 in his contest with the celebrated general of Philip II, duke Philibert Emmanuel of Savoy, which resulted in the, to France, disadvantageous peace of Chateau-Cambresis; and hence, with the accession of the youthful king, Francis II, there came a decline of the power of the house of Montmorency, and the ascendency of the house of the Guises, who had Francis entirely under their control. Fortunately for Montmorency, the widow of the late king, Catharine de Medici, ambitious to rule the kingdom, cast her influence with constable Montmorency, who had retired from court, though apparently she coveted the friendship of the Guises (Martin, 8:362). An alliance was now formed among disaffected courtiers, bourgeoisie, and Protestants against the Guises, and him who, ruling over the nation, had submitted to their guidance; and though it is not believed that Montmorency had any part in it, it is certain that some of his house-three brothers of the house of Chatillon (Obet, cardinal of Chatillon, admiral Coligny, and Dandelot, colonel of the Cisalpine infantry), sons of Louisa of Montmorency, the sister of the constable-were more or less intimately associated with all Protestant movements in France, and that possibly two of these three had actually a part in, or at least a knowledge of, the conspiracy of Amboise ( SEE HUGUENOTS; and comp. Ranke, Fracnzs. Gesch. 1:147; Mrs. Marsh, The Protest. Ref. in France, 1:142; BrantSme, Vie des Honmes illustres, 3:20). The sudden termination of the reign of Francis II (1560) brought forward the minor, Charles IX, and with him the regency of Catharine. Her object was to effect a fusion of parties, or, rather, to hold the balance evenly between them, and, by allowing neither to preponderate, to preserve the paramount authority in her hands. By the advice of the sagacious counsellor L'HSpital (q.v.), the king of Navarre was made lieutenant-general, and Montmorency was again given the direction of military affairs, while the Guises kept their places in the council, and duke Francis retained the post of master of the royal household. The Guises, perceiving the intent of the queen, now denominated "apostate," labored earnestly for an alliance with Montmorency, in order to foil the queen in her designs. The constable finally separated from his nephews, who had reappeared at court, and were enjoying many favors, and allied himself with the duke of Guise and the marshal St. Andre, composing the famous triumvirate which resisted Catharine de Medici, and proceeded in most stringent measures against the Huguenots (q.v.). The colloquy at Poissy had softened the heart of Catharine, and the Protestants were given many privileges. The triumvirate opposed all such concessions, and finally brought on the massacre at Vassy — "the St. Bartholomew of 1562" (March). The queen-mother and king were seized, and forced to inaugurate a new policy. Montmorency himself signalized the new departure by various open attacks on the Huguenots. Thus he led a mob to storm a Protestant church in the suburbs of Paris called "the Temple of Jerusalem." "Bursting in the doors of the empty place, they tore up the seats, and, placing them and the Bibles in a pile upon the floor, they set the whole on fire, amid great acclamation." He returned to Paris as if a victor fresh from battle, and, flushed with success, he rested not until other churches had been submitted to a like treatment, and he was given the nickname of "Captain Burnbenches." In 1562 he commanded the royal army against the Huguenots, but at the battle of Dreux was wounded and taken prisoner by the Protestants. Released by the peace of Amboise in 1563, he plotted a massacre of the Protestants; but the court not only refused to approve his proposal, but also caused his retirement finally. In 1567 he again appeared on the stage of public affairs, and again took part in the warfare against the Huguenots; but he did not long remain in the field, for he received a fatal wound at St. Denis, and died at Paris on the following day, November 12, 1567. His death was in many respects a blessing to France. From a neutral, if not a friend of the Huguenots, he had turned to a most deadly enemy, because, after he had espoused the Guises' interest, and had been placed in command of the army, he had never been able to gain a victory over the Huguenot armies. Even the duke of Guise, who had fallen in 1563 (when returning from his outposts he was mortally wounded by a fanatical Huguenot, Poltrot [q.v.] de Mere), had counselled in his dying hour that the queen-regent should make peace with her revolted subjects, but Montmorency insisted on their destruction, and counselled their massacre in open battle and by private means. His last hours were spent in a most deadly struggle, and yet even then he failed to be the victor; for, though he sacrificed himself, the contest remained undecided, the Huguenots. if anything, having the vantage- ground. as they had saved their leader. It is generally asserted that Montmorency's death was welcome news to Catharine de Medici and the courtiers, whom he had frequently offended by his overbearing manners. See Lescouvel, Anne de Montmorency (1696); Davila, Hist. of the Civil Wars of France; Martin, Hist. of France, volume 9; Ranke, Franzosische
Gesch. vornehmlich im 16 u. 17 Jahrh. (Engl. transl. Hist. of Civil Wars and Monarchy in France), 1:164-212; Sir J. Stephen, Lect. Hist. France (3d ed. Lond. 1857, 2 volumes, 8vo), volume 2, lects. 16 and 17; Student's Hist. of France, pages 311, 316, 319, 324, 337; Jervis, Hist. of the Church of France (Lond. 1872, 2 volumes, 8vo), volume 1, chapter 2; Fisher, Hist. of the Ref page 258 sq.; and the works referred to in the article SEE HUGUENOTS.
2. HENRI, second Duc de Montmorency, grandson of the famous constable de Montmorency, but more honorable and consistent in his conduct, thought he also warred against the Huguenots, was born at Chantilly April 30, 1595. His godfather was the great Henri Quatre, who always called him his "son." Louis XIII made him admiral when he was but a youth of seventeen. He succeeded his father in the governorship of Languedoc, and took an active part in the wars against the Hugueenots, distinguishing himself on the royal side in the sieges of Montauban and Montpellier, and in 1625 by taking the Isle of Re from the Huguenots of Rochelle. He afterwards gained other victories over them, and in 1629 was mainly instrumental in bringing about the peace of Alais, which terminated the religious civil wars in France. In 1630 he received the chief command of the French troops in Piedmont, where he defeated the Spaniards, for which he received a marshal's baton. Unfortunately for himself, he ventured to oppose Richelieu, who had always been his enemy, and espoused the cause of Gaston, duke of Orleans; for this he was declared guilty of high- treason, and marshal Schomberg being sent against him, defeated him at Castehlnaudary, and took him prisoner. Although almost mortally wounded, Montmorency was carried to Toulouse, sentenced to death by the Parliament, and notwithstanding his expressions of penitence, and the most powerful intercession made for him — for example, by king Charles I of England, the pope, the Venetian republic, and the duke of Savoy — was beheaded, October 30, 1632. He was distinguished for amiability and courtesy of manners, as well as for his valor. His life was written by one of his officers (1663, 4to). See also the works cited above.