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The Massacre (of St. Bartholomew's Eve)


by John Lucarotti
first broadcast - 19th February, 1966


(The next morning, STEVEN is woken by the noise of ANNE looking for something to eat.)

STEVEN: Oh, it's only you. What's the time?
ANNE: Oh, I'm sorry, monsieur. I didn't mean to wake you, I, I...
STEVEN: (Impatiently.) Never mind. What time is it?
ANNE: It's dawn, monsieur. The Tocsin's rung. Curfew's over.
STEVEN: And the 'Sea Beggar' dies today.
ANNE: Are we gonna leave Paris now?

(ANNE looks disappointed.)

STEVEN: (Gently.) No, I'm sorry, Anne, but I must go back to the Abbot's house.
ANNE: (Shouts.) No! Monsieur, no!
STEVEN: I must! Now, my friend should be there by now. He may know who the 'Sea Beggar' is.
ANNE: If you go back there, they'll arrest you.
STEVEN: No they won't, the Doctor should be able to stop them.
ANNE: They'll recognise you before you can find him. The Captain of the Guard and Monsieur Colbert.
STEVEN: Hmm. Perhaps if I disguise... see if we can find some other clothes.

(They rummage through the chest of clothes. He pulls out a dirty cloak.)

STEVEN: Ah, yes. Well, this should do.
ANNE: Ugh, but it's so dirty, monsieur.
STEVEN: Yes, well, never mind. Now, if I can find that hat...

(ANNE finds his hat.)

ANNE: Monsieur?
STEVEN: Good girl.

(ANNE laughs as STEVEN tries on his disguise.)

STEVEN: Yes, well I don't think the Captain'll recognise me in this.


(An early morning council session is taking place at the Louvre. In attendance on King CHARLES IX are ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY, MARSHAL TAVANNES, a third Councillor called TELIGNY and several other Councillors. The Queen Mother, CATHERINE DE MEDICI watches proceedings.)

ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: If we ally ourselves to the Dutch in their conflict with Spain, the common cause will unify the country, and prevent further civil strife.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Oh, surely the marriage between Henri of Navarre and His Majesty's sister has already put an end to the disturbances?
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: For how long? As I have pointed out, frequently, in this chamber, it would take but one small incident and the whole of Paris could be in uproar.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Incidents occur daily, and still the city does not rise.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: If we allied ourselves with the Dutch even those incidents would not take place.
CHARLES IX: My Admiral has a good point there. Pray accept it, Marshal, and let us finish with this tedious business.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Your Majesty, France cannot afford this war.
CHARLES IX: So we are told frequently by our mother.

(He looks at the silent CATHERINE.)

MARSHAL TAVANNES: The recent conflict inside the country has brought us almost to ruin. There is no money to pay for the forces that would be needed to wage war with Spain.
TELIGNY: But is it not so that under the treaty signed at Loire, the English will come to our assistance?
CHARLES IX: Not you as well, my little Councillor? The Admiral and the Marshal quarrel well enough without assistance.
TELIGNY: I apologise, sire. I had hoped to end the deadlock between them.
CHARLES IX: It was good to hear a different voice. So, Elizabeth of England has agreed to help us?
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Does anyone here trust her? She breaks more promises than she keeps.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: She has no love for Spain.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: She has yet to come out into the open and say so. However, if Your Majesty is so eager to fight this war, perhaps we could raise the money by leasing the Alpine hunting grounds to Italy?
CHARLES IX: Do you mock me, Marshal?
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Of course not, sire, but the war will have to be paid for. Some sacrifices will have to be made.
CHARLES IX: We will give away nothing of our land.
TELIGNY: Besides, the bears there are French. They may not like to be sold.
CHARLES IX: Ha, true! (He laughs.) Next winter you will accompany us on our hunt.
TELIGNY: (Bows.) Your majesty!
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: There is enough money in France to finance the war.
CHARLES IX: Enough of this war. I am bored with Spain.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: But I beg to advise, Your Majesty...
CHARLES IX: (Shouts.) No, Admiral, please! Talk of it some other time. War is so tedious. Move to matters closer to us.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: If the King refuses to make war, may it please God that another war will not be forced on him, which it would not be easy to renounce.


(STEVEN is ready to leave the shop in his disguise but ANNE refuses to stay behind alone.)

ANNE: No, monsieur. I won't stay here alone.
STEVEN: Then you must come with me!
ANNE: But they'll arrest me at the Abbot's house!
STEVEN: They won't. Now look, I'm almost certain that my friend is pretending to be the Abbot. Now he'll make sure that no harm comes to you.
ANNE: But, monsieur...
STEVEN: Now you must trust me. I'll take care of you.
ANNE: You've been very kind to me, monsieur, but... well, I'm...I'm afraid to go back to that house.
STEVEN: Look, I'll be with you. Besides, you won't stay here, so where will you go?
ANNE: (Thinks for a minute, then,.) Well...all right, I'll come with you.
STEVEN: Look, if anything happens on the way to the Abbot, if I'm recognised, then we'll have to run. Now you must come back here, do you understand?
ANNE: Well supposing they catch me?
STEVEN: No they won't. I'll be the one they chase. Now if you come back here I'll know where to find you, and I can join you as soon as possible.
ANNE: (Thinks again, then.) All right.
STEVEN: Good girl. Come on.

(They leave.)


(The Council session continues...)

ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: How much longer are the Huguenots to suffer these frequent violations of their rights?
MARSHAL TAVANNES: The treaty drawn up by the Queen Mother to conclude the religious difficulties of the country was generous in the extreme to the free thinkers.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: Words were spoken. Signatures were exchanged. But they did not prevent many acts against the Huguenots.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Do you question the promises of the Queen Mother, Admiral?
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: It is easy to promise.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: You speak treason!
CHARLES IX: (Stands up suddenly and shouts.) Enough! Why is it not possible for our councillors to talk without quarrelling?
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: Sire, it is imperative that the religious differences of the country be fully discussed!
CHARLES IX: Admiral, grant me but a few days more in which to amuse myself and then I promise you, as King, that I shall make you happy and all those of your religion.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: Kings are recognised only by the power they wield. The Queen Mother seems to claim this power. Take care, Your Majesty, that it does not prove detrimental to yourself, and to France.
CHARLES IX: Tavannes, no more. Marshal!

(MARSHAL TAVANNES obeys CHARLES' one word order. A furious CATHERINE DE MEDICI storms out of the chamber.)

CHARLES IX: This meeting is over. Since my noble mother has seen fit to depart, let us do likewise. We need to get on with the Feast of St. Bartholomew, so until the day after tomorrow, let us enjoy ourselves.

(He walks out of the chamber. TELIGNY turns to the DE COLIGNY.)

TELIGNY: Was that wise? To insult the Queen will only make her work harder against you.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: It is time her power was challenged.
TELIGNY: The King still fears his mother. Surely this may damage all for which you've worked so hard?
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: Let us hope not.

(CHARLES comes back into the chamber.)

CHARLES IX: Ha ha! Admiral, come with us. We are going to play tennis.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: Your Majesty, I must beg to be excused. I have work which must be done.
CHARLES IX: Oh, my dear Admiral, we are pleased with you! Since now our mother will not speak to us for the rest of today, you will come with us. I have a new racquet I want you to see. Come!


(A PRIEST escorts STEVEN and ANNE into the room.)

PRIEST: You will have to wait in here. The Abbot cannot be disturbed.
STEVEN: Yes, but I must speak to him. It's most important.
PRIEST: You do not understand, young man. The Abbot is saying his office.
STEVEN: His what?
PRIEST: His office. We cannot disturb him while he is at prayer.
STEVEN: Well how long's he going to be?
PRIEST: You must curb your impatience, young man. If you will tell me what your business is, then perhaps I can help you.
STEVEN: Erm... I, I have a message for the Abbot, concerning a man who is to die today.
PRIEST: If it is a case for the last sacraments, then there is no need to trouble the Abbot. I, myself, will come with you.
STEVEN: Well, no. I mean, I mean, it's very kind of you but...
PRIEST: Is there something more?
STEVEN: Well, yes. And I can only discuss it with the Abbot.

(At that moment, the "ABBOT OF AMBOISE" enters the room and spots STEVEN and ANNE.)

ABBOT OF AMBOISE: What is this?
PRIEST: My Lord Abbot.
STEVEN: Doctor!
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: Silence! Who is this man? And why does he disturb my peace?
PRIEST: It appears he comes from a dying man.
STEVEN: (Unsure of how to act in front of the "ABBOT".) Um, I, I... I've brought back the servant who ran away.
ANNE: (Shocked at STEVENS'S betrayal of her.) Monsieur!
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: You have done well, my son. (To the PRIEST.) Father, you may leave us. I will settle this matter.
PRIEST: Very well, my Lord Abbot.

(The PRIEST leaves the room.)

STEVEN: (To ANNE.) I felt you would be safer here, as Bondot waits for the 'Sea Beggar'.

(At that moment, MARSHAL TAVANNES enters.)

MARSHAL TAVANNES: (To the "ABBOT".) Father Abbot, a word with you.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: The young man has returned the girl to us, Marshal.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: The one who lodged with the 'Sea Beggar'.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Oh, she is of no importance. I must speak with you alone.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: Very well. (To STEVEN.) Take the girl and wait outside. I'll tend you later.

(STEVEN and ANNE leave the room...)


(...but can still hear the conversation between the "ABBOT" and TAVANNES.)

MARSHAL TAVANNES: (OOV.) Is Bondot prepared?
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: (OOV.) Of course, I never fail. Neither will my servants.
ANNE: (To STEVEN.) Listen!
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: (OOV.) Bondot has been prepared for the last few hours.
STEVEN: (To ANNE.) Quick, we've got to tell Nicholas.

(They quickly leave.)


ABBOT OF AMBOISE: Is the 'Sea Beggar' on his way home?
MARSHAL TAVANNES: I don't know. The King delayed him after the council. He had seen fit to insult the Queen Mother and His Majesty was naturally pleased with him.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: De Coligny will allow no one to take him away from his work. I think we can take it he is on his way by now.

(ROGER enters quickly.)

ROGER: The girl, the servant who ran...
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: (Angry.) Colbert! How dare you interrupt us!
ROGER: But she is with the Englishman from the Admiral's house. I've just seen them!
MARSHAL TAVANNES: (Shocked.) What?
ROGER: The Englishman with the girl. He's the one who was with the Huguenots.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: (To the "ABBOT".) Who did he say he was?
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: I never asked him.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: (To ROGER.) Fetch him back!
ROGER: I've sent the guards after them. He was taking her out the side door.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: (Snaps.) My Lord Abbot, what mistake have you perpetrated now?
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: He could not hear what was being said. I sent him out of the room. In any case, it is too late for him to warn the Admiral.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: For your sake it had better be.


(NICHOLAS sits brooding in his room. He hears a noise from outside and rushes to the hallway...)


(...where STEVEN is struggling to gain access. The SERVANT tries to hold him back.)

STEVEN: Will you get out of my way!
SERVANT: But monsieur, I cannot allow...
NICHOLAS: (Interrupting.) Steven?
STEVEN: Nicholas! Quickly, it's the Admiral!
SERVANT: (To STEVEN.) Monsieur...
NICHOLAS: (To the SERVANT.) Be quiet! (To STEVEN.) What's wrong?
STEVEN: The plot!
NICHOLAS: The Catholics?
STEVEN: Yes! It's the Admiral they're going to kill!
NICHOLAS: de Coligny?!
STEVEN: Today! Now!
NICHOLAS: But how?
STEVEN: I don't know, but you've got to warn him.
NICHOLAS: He's at the Louvre. There's a council meeting.
STEVEN: No, it's over. They're going to kill him on the way back.
STEVEN: (Unsure how to pronounce.) The Rue... St... St. Germaine?
NICHOLAS: The Rue des Fosse St. Germaine?
NICHOLAS: Stay here!

(He rushes out.)


(In an attic room overlooking the Rue des Fosse St. Germaine, Bondot sets up his gun overlooking the street below. Soon, ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY makes his way on foot from the Louvre to his house along the street. He walks with a group of other courtiers but remains silent, reading a paper. Passing along the street, Bondot aims the gun at him from the attic window. The ADMIRAL'S paper is blown out of his hand and he stoops to pick it up as the shot is fired. The ADMIRAL falls. NICHOLAS rushes up to him.)

NICHOLAS: Admiral! Admiral!
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: See how honest men are treated in France? The shot came from that window.

(He points.)

TELIGNY: Search the house! We must get him to a surgeon.

(NICHOLAS and TELIGNY help the DE COLIGNY to his feet but the ADMIRAL is proud and shrugs off their help. He walks away, very unsure of his balance and step.)


MARSHAL TAVANNES: (Nervous.) We should have heard by now.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: (Calm.) The King may have delayed him further.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Due to your stupidity, the Englishman has had a chance to warn him.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: I said he did not hear anything.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: Then why did he run off?
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: (Thinks, then.) I don't know.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: If this should go wrong, you are to blame, and you will be the one to answer for it.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: The Cardinal...
MARSHAL TAVANNES: (Interrupts.) Is in Rome and cannot help you now.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: If de Coligny is delayed by the King, then the news of his death will be delayed also. Bondot is an excellent marksman. You know that. There is only one thing for us to do, that is to wait. Meantime, I will retire to my room. (He turns to leave.)
MARSHAL TAVANNES: You will not. You will wait here, with me.

(He does as he his bid and returns to his chair. ROGER rushes in.)

ROGER: Father Abbot!

(ROGER sees the MARSHAL.)

ROGER: The attempt has failed.
ABBOT OF AMBOISE: I see. Was Bondot caught?
ROGER: He rode away. The Admiral was only wounded, not killed.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: So, the 'Sea Beggar' lives. (To the "ABBOT".) You have failed! (To ROGER.) Call the guards!

(ROGER leaves to fetch the guards.)

MARSHAL TAVANNES: It is strange, Father Abbot, that since you came everything which had been so carefully planned has gone wrong.

(ROGER returns with two guards.)

MARSHAL TAVANNES: This man is a traitor to the Queen. Kill him! (The guards hesitate.) You heard my order, kill him!

(The guards close in on the "ABBOT".)


(TELIGNY has requested an audience with the king but it is the Queen Mother who stands before him.)

CATHERINE DE MEDICI: Monsieur De Teligny, I am waiting.
TELIGNY: I... I'm sorry, Your Majesty, but the news I have must be given first to the King.

(The King enters.)

CHARLES IX: Well, what's the matter? Why must I always be interrupted? And I was winning.
TELIGNY: Your pardon, sire, but I bring news of the greatest importance.
CHARLES IX: Well what is it?
TELIGNY: Admiral de Coligny has been severely wounded. Someone tried to shoot him.
CHARLES IX: (Screams.) Will I never have any peace?!
TELIGNY: Your Majesty, the Admiral is badly hurt.
CHARLES IX: What happened?
TELIGNY: The assassins were waiting in the Rue des Fosse St. Germaine. As we came down the street they fired at him.
CHARLES IX: Were they caught?
TELIGNY: No, sire. We searched the house and found the weapon, the men had gone.
CHARLES IX: Well they must be found. An inquiry. Call the council! The Admiral's assassins must be caught and punished! (Screams.) Call the council!


CHARLES IX: Oh, my Admiral! My little father! I will see you avenged.


(DE COLIGNY, bleeding badly, lies in the main room of his residence. NICHOLAS, STEVEN and the SERVANT watch over him.)

ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: (Weakly.) Take me to my own room. Help me up.
NICHOLAS: No, Admiral, wait for the surgeon. He'll be here soon.
ADMIRAL DE COLIGNY: Why did they do it?
SERVANT: (To NICHOLAS.) Monsieur, are you sure we shouldn't take him to his own room?
NICHOLAS: No, he's lost so much blood. Go and wait for the surgeon... bring him straight in!
SERVANT: Yes, monsieur.

(He leaves the room.)

STEVEN: Nicholas, I'm sorry. I tried to tell Gaston, he wouldn't listen to me.
NICHOLAS: I know, he told me.
STEVEN: I knew that the 'Sea Beggar' was going to be killed. Until this morning I didn't know who that was.
NICHOLAS: I could've told you. How did you find out?
STEVEN: Well, when I ran away from you yesterday, I went to the Abbot's house. The Doctor wasn't there, but I overheard some men talking about the 'Sea Beggar'.
NICHOLAS: Who were they?
STEVEN: I don't know. But, well one of them was the same man who came to see the Abbot this morning.
NICHOLAS: So the Abbot is behind this.
STEVEN: No! The Abbot is the Doctor. Now that I've seen him I'm certain of it. He's just pretending to be the Abbot, that's all.
NICHOLAS: Now listen, Steven...

(TELIGNY enters and interrupts the conversation.)

TELIGNY: How is he?
NICHOLAS: He's very weak.
TELIGNY: The King has called for an inquiry but it won't do any good.
NICHOLAS: What do you mean?
TELIGNY: As I left the Louvre I heard that some of our men have taken the law into their own hands.
TELIGNY: The Abbot of Amboise was murdered just outside his own house.
STEVEN: (Shocked.) What?
TELIGNY: The Abbot is dead and they're blaming it on the Huguenots.
STEVEN: But he wasn't the Abbot!

(STEVEN races from the room.)

TELIGNY: The King has summoned the council. I must return to the Louvre. (He looks down at the ADMIRAL.) Take care of him, Nicholas.


(The days second Council session is underway...)

CHARLES IX: ...and, Marshal, since you claim to know nothing of this attempted assassination, I have a special charge for you. You will be responsible for the Admiral's safety. Empty the street of Catholics, station your men around his house, and mark me well, if anything further happens to him, you pay with your head.
TELIGNY: We do not need the Marshal's protection, sire. To drive Catholics from their homes will only make them hate us even more.
MARSHAL TAVANNES: (Sardonically.) Is that possible? (To the King.) Your concern for your friends does you credit, sire.
CHARLES IX: (Shouts.) I gave you an order! See it is done!
TELIGNY: But, sire...
CHARLES IX: (Angry.) Not another word! From either side. I've had enough of your bickering. Leave me. All of you!

(They leave the room as an angry CATHERINE enters.)

CATHERINE DE MEDICI: You summoned the council?
CHARLES IX: I gave orders I was to be left alone.
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: Without my knowledge or consent?
CHARLES IX: I asked to be left alone, mother.
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: The threat over your friend, the Admiral? You are the King.
CHARLES IX: (Slams his fist down on the table.) Yes, I am the King! And to be obeyed! Now keep out of my sight unless you care to end your days in a convent.
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: I would wish you have the courage, my son.
CHARLES IX: I have but to give the order.
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: Summon your guards, have me arrested. But you had better have a good reason for the council...and for the people.
CHARLES IX: The attempted assassination of my Admiral, by you and Tavannes. Do you deny it, Madame?
CHARLES IX: Have a care. I mean what I say. I shall send Tavannes to the block!
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: You would execute the Marshal of France for doing his duty?
CHARLES IX: Duty? He's an assassin!
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: He tried to rid you of a dangerous enemy.
CHARLES IX: de Coligny is my friend. You, Madame, are my enemy.
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: (She laughs.) If ever I were to be... (Snaps.) may God help you. (She passes him a list of names.) Look at these before you decide who are your enemies. You think the Huguenots would stop at killing me? They want your blood too.
CHARLES IX: So you keep telling me every day of my life. Why? I protect them. They're all my subjects. What have they to gain?
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: Until now, nothing.
CHARLES IX: And now?
CATHERINE DE MEDICI: We have a Protestant prince in Paris - Henri of Navarre. You think they give a fig for your protection (Her voice rises in anger.) now that one of their own is within grasp of the throne?

(The King looks thoughtful at this...)


(A crowd has gathered, gossiping, by the "ABBOT'S" body, which lies in the street. Several people in particular are stirring up feeling, met with cries of approval from the crowd.)

FIRST MAN: The Huguenots must have done it!
WOMAN: The free thinkers!
FIRST MAN: They shouldn't be allowed to come here! They've done it!
WOMAN: It's a wicked thing!
FIRST MAN: The Huguenots will stop at nothing! They even kill our priest!
SECOND MAN: Nothing is sacred to the Huguenots!
FIRST MAN: Something will have to be done. The Huguenots must be banned from entering towns! (Shouts louder.) They will kill these poor defenceless priests elsewhere! Now lock them up and kill them!!

(Away from the main group, ROGER observes the crowd with the CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD.)

ROGER: You're certain that no one saw the body brought here?
CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD: Just look at them. They all believe the Huguenots killed him.

(STEVEN arrives at the scene and falls down beside the corpse.)

STEVEN: (Distraught.) What happened? What have they done?
WOMAN: The Huguenots murdered him!
STEVEN: (Shouts.) No!
FIRST MAN: They did. We saw them!
WOMAN: There were fifteen of them!
FIRST MAN: Just struck him down! But he'll be revenged!

(There are more cries of approval. ROGER sees STEVEN and shouts to the guards.)

ROGER: Hold that man! He's responsible!
CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD: After him! Go on! Get him!

(STEVEN runs, the guards in close pursuit. The crowd's anger rises to fever pitch...)

Next Episode

Abbot of Amboise



Charles IX

Catherine de Medici

Marshal Tavannes

Admiral de Coligny






Captain of the Guard

Old woman

First man

Second man

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