Battle lines were being drawn in more ways than one. Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre, had thrown in her lot with the French Huguenots. So had the highest military commander of France, Admiral Coligny. Ministers were coming into France who had been trained in the doctrines of the sovereignty of God under men such as Calvin and Beza. Sometimes these ministers came in openly and served their churches freely. Mostly they came in secretly and served in churches unknown to any but those belonging to them. But however it was accomplished, the Reformed faith was growing in France—in numbers and in knowledge.
Such growth was not to be tolerated by the Catholic crown in France. Charles IX was on the throne after his older brother had suddenly died of a fever at sixteen. Charles was only ten. That did not matter to the Queen Mother, who ruled through her young sons. Nor did that matter to the men of the court who held great power in France. Their goal: the Huguenot party needed to be stopped. But that battle could not be won spiritually. The bold and unswerving stand of the Queen of Navarre was only one example of such a futile attempt. But a flesh and blood battle…that might be in their power to win.
Hundreds of Protestants in Paris had already been imprisoned and burnt at the stake for confessing the Reformed faith. Jeanne, Queen of Navarre, was visiting Paris at the demand of her husband, but it was a dangerous city for her as well. She received word of secret plans to end her life. She needed to get back to Navarre quickly. But how? She wrote to Louis de Bourbon, her husband’s brother, for protection. He was a man of military skill and valor, and he had already revealed himself to be a leader and protector of the Huguenots. He sent a company of men to escort her out of Paris. Her escape was narrow and the rest of her journey was perilous as well. She was pursued, but arrived safely back at the castle of Pau, nonetheless. After her arrival, though, she found she needed to give orders to defend her Huguenot countrymen. Her husband, Antoine, had not only defected from the Reformed faith, he had also sent a man to lead a band of soldiers throughout Navarre to harass the Huguenots there. The citizens of Navarre were very glad to see their queen return.
Flesh and blood battles continued to rage on other fronts as well. Though the issues were not always strictly religious, civil religious wars began to break out in other areas of France between the Huguenot and Catholic parties. Jeanne’s husband, now fighting on the Catholic side, was wounded in the first of these battles. He died of his injuries in November of 1562.
Jeanne sorrowed over his death. Even though he had left the Reformed faith two years ago, he had been her husband and she had loved him. She needed to raise twelve-year-old Henry alone now, along with three-year-old Catherine. And she needed to do it in these perilous times, being surrounded by wars and rumors of wars.
But at the same time, she had the helm of Navarre in her hand alone now, too. She was free to make this little country to be a haven for Huguenots and a beacon for the spread of the Reformed faith. She paid the way for twenty ministers from Geneva to come to Navarre to teach the people the truth of justification by faith alone and the sovereignty of God in all things. Jeanne could not have known how much these truths would help these people in the dangerous times that lay ahead.