Surprise of Meaux, September 1567

The Surprise of Meaux of September 1567 was an unsuccessful Huguenot attempt to seize control of the French court and remove a number of strongly anti-Protestant noblemen from the court.

Soon after the end of the First War of Religion (1562-63) the young king Charles IX was declared to be of age. His court was soon dominated by the Guise family, led by the young Duke Henry of Guise. The Protestant Huguenots were worried by Guise domination of power, as well as by the slow implementation of the Edict of Amboise, which had ended the First War of Religion. They also believed, almost certainly falsely, that the French and Spanish courts had agreed to destroy all heretics within their borders.

After prolonged discussions in the summer of 1567 the Huguenots leaders (most importantly Admiral Coligny and Prince Louse of Condé) agreed to take action. Their plan was to gather a force of several hundred noble cavalrymen and seize control of the weakly defended court, which at the time was based at the Chateau of Monceaux. The nearest Royal troops were some of 6,000 Swiss mercenaries who had recently been hired, and who were thirty miles away at Château-Thierry.

The Court discovered the plot on 24 September, just as it was being put into action. The court had already moved from Monceaux to the more easily defendable Meaux. Hostile horsemen were reported to be gathering at Rosay-en-Brie, and the roads to Paris were threatened. Catherine de Medici summoned the Swiss, and once they had arrived set off for Paris. The party left Meaux at three-four in the morning on 25 September.

The Royal party ran into at least one armed band of Huguenots during the day-long trip to Paris, but the lightly armed rebels were no match for the professional pike men, and the Royal party reached the Louvre on the same evening.

The 'surprise of Meaux' marked the start of the Second War of Religion. Condé followed the Royal party to Paris, and in early October began a blockade of the city that only ended after the one major battle of the war, at Saint-Denis on 10 November 1567.

The French Religious Wars 1562-1598, Robert Jean Knecht. A useful guide to the complex series of nine French Wars of Religion, including an examination of who the wars began and the main players on both sides, narrative accounts of the wars, overviews of the most important battles and sieges. Also looks at the impact of the wars on France’s neighbours, many of whom got dragged into the conflict, and on a selection of soldiers and civilians. Supported by a series of maps that help show how complex the conflict was
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 January 2011), Surprise of Meaux, September 1567 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/surprise_meaux.html

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