A Little Invasion and some Big Questions . . .
In mid-July of 1572 a French Huguenot nobleman, the Seigneur de Genlis, invaded Netherlands from France with 4,000 infantry and slightly less than 1,000 Calvary. It went badly. Don Frederic of Toledo routed the Seigneur and his troops at Quiévrain, and not two hundred Frenchmen survived (those who survived the battle proper where quickly slaughtered by local peasants). Gossip and fallout at the French Court was immediate.
A good number of courtiers and foreign figures (for example the Venetian ambassador) were sure Genlis had been sent by Admiral Coligny with the King’s knowledge. Others avowed, adamantly, that the Seigneur had gone without the knowledge or permission of either the King or the Admiral.
Frankly, and after years researching the Valois Court in this era, it is impossible for me to believe that the King did not at least know of Seigneur de Genlis’ plan in advance, whether or not he tacitly approved it, if for no other reason than the planned invasion was a very open secret at French Court. So much so that Spain caught wind of it making for an easy interception of the French near mons. Additionally, a letter evidencing Charles complicity found on Genlis when was taken prisoner.
Yet confronted with the invasions catastrophic failure, Charles denied that he sanctioned the expedition and congratulated Philip II on his victory. This represented more than a desperate effort to distance himself from a plan run amok. His actions were at his mother Catherine de Médicis’ behest and she also demanded that he declare publicly that his subjects had disobeyed his orders in going to Flanders. All of this suborning of what was basically perjury was part of a larger struggle between the Queen Mother and Admiral Coligny for the role of chief-influencer over Charles. War with Spain was on the table and while Coligny pressed for it, Catherine was against it.
Less than two months later the winner and loser of this struggle would become painfully and bloodily clear.