The Coup of Meaux
On the 28th of September 1567, Huguenots led by Louis I, Prince de Conde fearful for the lives of their their fellow brethen breached the Chateau de Montceaux under the pretext of protecting the kind from Italians. Louis succeeded in capturing Charles IX and his mother Catherine de Medici, though they almost got away. Louis then forced Charles to accept his "protection" in exchange for an increase in the rights and privledges granted to the Huguenots in the edict of Meaux. Charles was placed under house arrest at the Chateau while his mother was moved to Vendome.
Word spread quickly of the events that had transpired at Montceau. Violence broke out in Paris, Orange, Rouen, and other major cities as Catholic mobs assaulted the Huguenot communities living there. Towns such as La Rochelle declared allegiance to the Huguenots and took up arms while the moderate Catholics remained on the sidelines and largely incapacitated without concrete leadership.
The Second and Third French Wars of Religion, and The Dutch War of Independence
The Conflict Begins
Following the capture of Charles, fighting between the Catholics and Protestants broke out again. Under the leadership of Anne de Montmorency, the Catholics laid siege to La Rochelle and Meaux which had become the two strongest Protestant strongholds in France. In southern cities like Nimes catholic priests and prominent members of society were rounded up and murdered in retaliation for the attacks on protestants in northern and central France.
Both the Catholics and the Huguenots lacked the funds and men necessary to carry out a prolonged war. The siege of Meaux was ultimately lifted after 2 months, with Anne falling back to Paris. Charles under duress issued the Edict of Meaux which reaffirmed the earlier Edict of Saint-Germain, and gave the protestants the formal right to maintain arms outside of the crown's control. The edict infuriated the catholic forces and nearly brought both sides to blows again in January 1568.
Despite these new concessions and control over the young king, the Huguenots were outnumbered and in an increasingly precarious situation as Anne and the house of Guise built up their forces preparing for another assault on the protestants strongholds. They also flirted with the Spanish court to gain the support of Felipe II of Spain. Felipe agreed to help the catholic forces since he wanted to eradicate the protestants once and for all and destroy a potential ally for the dutch protestants who had rising up in arms against him.
Throughout the spring of 1568 Conde put together a powerful army in Southern and Central France, and sent requests for aid to the English and to William the Silent in the Lowlands at the "behest" of Charles IX. In response to Felipe's decision to aid the Catholics, both William van Oranje and Elizabeth I of England agreed to assist Louis to counter Spanish power. The German Wolfgang Count Palatine who was a Calvinist himself promised to support Conde's forces. In September 1568 fighting had started up again as the Huguenots fearful of encroachment laid siege to the catholic cities in Poitou and Saintonge to secure safe passage from Navarre the centre of power for the Southern Calvinists and La Rochelle. From the North a Dutch army lead by William the Silent marched into France towards Meaux to meet up With Conde's forces. The combined Dutch-Huguenot forces would successfully defended Meaux and launched an offensive to take Paris in August 1568, meeting the catholic forces at the battle of Saint-Denis. Under the leadership of both William and Conde the protestant forces numbering close to 20,000 routed General Montmorency's forces forcing them to retreat to Paris which now came under siege by the protestants.
The protestant victories at Meaux, and Saint-Denis sent shockwaves through Catholic Europe, with the Protestant cause gaining traction in one of the major continental powers. Spain now fearful for their position in the Lowlands, and for the advancement of the heretics in France amped up the persecution of Protestants in the Lowlands, and sent an army under the command of Alba from the Netherlands to relieve the besieged catholic forces in Paris. Catching wind of the Spanish movements Queen Elizabeth finally intervened in the conflict as promised by sending substantial funds to Wolfgang, Count Palatine, who invaded burgundy in March 1569 with a force of some 14,000 German mercenaries. The situation in Northern France. With the invasion of protestant forces from the Rhineland, Alba was forced to divert a substantial amount of his forces to Burgundy to assist the weakened catholic forces, allowing the Protestants, under Conde's command to finally take Paris after almost 7 months leading to the Paris Massacre of 1569. Almost a third of the city's population was murdered by the angry protestant forces put down whatever resistance the catholic forces put up as they seized the capital in the name of the still imprisoned Charles IX. Anne de Montmorency was captured and executed on the orders of Louis de Conde. Having secured the capital Charles was transferred to Paris, and again persuaded by the protestants to rule in their favor politically. Charles IX ordered on the 8th of May the demobilization of French Catholics, and demanded that the Spanish withdraw from French soil.
The Third War, and the Dutch Revolt Begins
The French catholic forces were in shambles following the destruction of their forces after the fall of Paris, Only the forces loyal to Guise remained in the North of the the country, while Alba's forces now faced encirclement from protestant forces, and was ultimately forces to retreat to the Spanish Netherlands, paving the way for Wolfgang's troops to successfully take control of Burgundy. Fearful that he would meet the same fate as Montmorency,Henri of Guise would finally surrender to the Protestant-Royalist forces in late 1569 after losing the battle of Jarmac in Southern France. With this in effect Charles signed the peace of Paris ending the second French war of Religion. The Peace of Paris reaffirmed the ealier Edicts of Ambroise, and Meaux, granted complete religious freedom to the Huguenots and recognized their rights to take up arms in defence of these freedoms. This was the final straw for Felipe II of Spain and for Henri, duke of Anjou (the brother of Charles IX) who fled to Spain, Henri would soon be followed by Henri of Guise. Felipe II declared war on France and ordered the invasion of Northern and southern France in spring 1570 sparking what would later become known as the . The forces marching into France from the north would be led by Alba, while Guise lead spanish troops from the south laying seige to Navarre forcing Queen Jeanne and her son the future Henri IV of France to flee to Paris where they were hosted by the court of Charles IX.