Charles IX would take part in an appalling, bloody ceremony of black magic organized by his mother and Cosme Ruggieri, at Vincennes.

Lost in the depths of the Parisian Marais, the little Sourdis backstreet, which still today has its milestones and its stream, once sheltered the workshops of artisans and smelters in the Wars of Religion era.  At which time, one of them is occupied by a German master bell founder, who has been brought in at great expense from Mayence.  No-one has ever seen this artisan, who lives in the workshop and never goes out.  He receives his orders from a little man always dressed in black, who is of phenomenal ugliness with his little beard and his enormous nose which is even more pointed than it is wide, which denotes, apart from evil, Mediterranean origins…

Every day, a carriage leaves the little man in black at the entrance to the backstreet.  In his round Italian-style shoes, always wearing a felt hat on his head, he hurries to close the door behind him:  in fact, it has been six months now since the master founder from the other side of the Rhine has been seen outside.  Inside, his work is taking shape.  It is three statues for which he firstly made a mould from three full-length portraits of the French Huguenot chiefs Conde, Coligny and Andelot.  The previous day, he had broken the moulds after having poured the metal alloy and for hours, he has been cleaning up the bronze to make the statues smooth and shiny.  Now, they are lined up over there, deep inside the workshop, life-size and ready to be taken away.  But the founder who has worked without any assistance – it was a clause of his contract – has not yet completely finished his work…

He lays the statues on their sides on a workbench and attaches them to it.  Then, he starts to drill holes in diverse parts of the metal, the joints and the chest in particular.  Holes which have the diameter of steel screws of which he has made a certain number as well.  He verifies one more time that they fit the holes properly and then, looking infinitely tired, he gathers his tools in a bag and waits.

The little man has come back and is inspecting his work attentively.  Then he counts out thirty double ducats of gold, takes him amicably by the shoulders and leads him to the door.  There, he stands back to let the man pass.  The man has not taken three steps into the narrow lane before he falls, his back pierced by a dozen sword thrusts…

There is no flicker of emotion on the little man in black’s face.  He comes back slowly towards the statues, pulls from his pocket a book written in Hebrew characters and, looking fixedly at the effigy of Conde, begins to chant invocations, while slowly, very slowly tightening the screws…

Catherine de Medicis had “bronze bewitchments” performed against the huguenot chiefs, Conde, Coligny and Andelot.

This is what is known as a “bronze bewitchment”, and the little man who is at work is the favourite astrologer of Catherine de Medicis.  His name is Cosme Ruggieri and he is the son of Laurent the Magnificent’s doctor, one of the greatest scholars of the Italian Renaissance.  Continually up against her subjects’ religious divisions, the Lady Regent, who has just signed the precarious Saint-Germain peace treaty, esteems that Coligny’s influence on her son Charles IX is redoubtable.  The Florentine adventurer has offered to get rid of him by magic.  Already, fifteen years before these events, in 1559, he had predicted to the Queen the death of her spouse Henri II in the famous Tournelles tournament, and Catherine, who is more and more given to superstition and undertakes nothing without referring to her augures, has accepted.  It is not that she unreservedly believes in these spells and she knows that nothing is possible without that luck which has so often shone on her, assisted it is true by the typically Medicis use of poison…

Has the bronze bewitchment succeeded?  A few months later, Conde falls from his horse in the Battle of Jarnac and is killed in cowardly fashion by Montequiou, a gentleman of the Royal Guard.  Andelot, Admiral Coligny’s brother, follows a few months later, expedited by a bad herbal tea.  However, the doctors who practise the autopsy of the two bodies are adamant:  on the chest, the thighs and the joints of the arms, the two men bear very clear stigmata…

As for Coligny, he falls seriously ill but would resist another three years, until the knife of the German Besme, employed by the Guises, kills him, along with the thousands of other victims of the Saint-Barthelemy.

“The more dead there are, the fewer enemies there are!”

comments Catherine de Medicis, while deploring that the massacre had also made an unexpected victim:  her own son Charles IX.  At the age of twenty-four, he looks like an old man, whose blood-spitting increases every time that the horrible images of the massacre return to his troubled mind.  He knows that his brother, the Duke of Alencon, is waiting for his death to take over the throne.  Against Catherine and the King, he has even formed a Party, “the Discontented”, which disapproves of the Saint-Barthelemy Massacre and wants to take measures of appeasement.  Not brilliant either, is the Duke of Alencon, mainly occupied in trying to wear the crown, even at the price of the death of his brother.  But the implacable Catherine is watching.  She discovers a plot, fomented by two close friends of the Duke, the Count de La Mole, lover of Marguerite de Navarre, the witty, nymphomaniac “Queen Margot”, daughter of Catherine and future wife of Henri IV, and a Piedmont noble, Annibal Coconas.  The conspirators are arrested and a correspondence is discovered which proves that Ruggieri not only has knowledge of it all, but that he has even been involved in the affair by preparing some little, wax statuettes stuck with pins…  One of them strikingly resembles Charles IX:  it is pierced in the heart by a sharp nail.  So Ruggieri, upon whom Catherine has been showering gifts, to the point of putting the Chateau de Chaumont at his disposition, where he has been spending enormous sums of money looking for alchemical gold, has been preparing bewitchments against her and her unfortunate son!…

The Florentine magician is a crook, but not a coward…  Atrociously tortured, he confesses nothing.  And he knows that the Queen is much too superstitious to dare to have him killed.  For appearances sake, he is sent for a while to the galleys.  Ruggieri would not go farther than the house of the Admiral whence there is a magnificent view over the Marseilles  harbour.  He would live there surrounded by luxury for a few months, making a profitable trade in horoscopes to while away the time.  Coconas and La Mole would not be as lucky:  they would be drawn and quartered by four horses and the pieces of their bodies nailed to the  gates of Paris.  So the guilty were punished.  But Charles IX’s health does not get any better.  To counter the bad spell, Catherine de Medicis pardons Ruggieri and has him brought back to her side…

We are by now in Spring 1574, and it is in this year that would take place the most appalling scenes of black magic in History.

To be continued.

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