Ivry: A Song Of The Huguenots by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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"Be Your Oriflamme Today The Helmet Of Navarre"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The original Huguenot was "one who took an oath." It comes from the earlier French eiguenot, changed because of a fancied resemblance to the name Hugh, and was applied to the sixteenth and seventeenth century French Protestants. Though Henry IV (1553–1610) of France, was brought up as a Protestant, he wavered back and forth toward Catholicism. His claim to the French throne was recognized by Coligny, chief of the Huguenots, in 1569. When he was named to the throne, the Catholic League, to force him to abjure Protestantism, waged the War of the Three Henrys. The League was defeated at the Battle of Ivry, in northern France, where Henry IV issued his gallant order: "If you lose your standards, follow my white plume." Later, with the explanation, "Paris is worth a Mass," he permanently became a Roman Catholic. Navarre lies across the Pyrenees Mountains and was formerly an independent kingdom. Now the southern part forms Spain's Basque region, while the northern section is part of France. In one of his miscellaneous poems, Macaulay tells of the Battle of Ivry. The oriflamme was the ancient royal standard of France, with flame-shaped streamers.

The king is come to marshal us, in all his armor drest,
And he has bound a snow-white plume upon his gallant crest.
He looked upon his people, and a tear was in his eye;
He looked upon the traitors, and his glance was stern and high.
Right graciously he smiled on us, as rolled from wing to wing,
Down all our line, a deafening shout, "God save our Lord the King!"
"And if my standard-bearer fall, as fall full well he may,
For never saw I promise yet of such a bloody fray,
Press where ye see my white plume shine, amidst the ranks of war,
And be your oriflamme to-day the helmet of Navarre."