Nostradamus, the Man Who Saw Through Time, by Lee McCann , at sacred-texts.com
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Last resting place of the older Capetian kings.
NEARLY THREE MONTHS had gone by from the time that Nostradamus had left Salon, to his return, laden with gifts and the honor of the King's appointment. It was a great day in the life of the little town when he came back to his people with laurels of this new adventure. Family and friends rejoiced at his success. His triumphs, though pleasing to Nostradamus, made no difference in his way of life. As soon as he had rested up he resumed the busy even tenor of his days as if Paris had never called him.
Yet there was a difference. He was no longer merely the wonderful Doctor Nostradamus of Provence. He was now the celebrated prophet of France, honored by his king, and known throughout Europe. In those days when personalities counted more than policies in the political arena--because personalities then made policies--diplomatic reports on royalty were as gossipy as a tabloid. They were expected to be. In the lives of kings and queens, everything relative to them had political significance.
[paragraph continues] The least occurrence that an ambassador could find out was incentive to him to seize his quill and write a dispatch to his sovereign. Ink had flowed like water during the visit of Nostradamus to Paris, and copious reports had been sent home by the diplomats describing this amazing man. Some of the diplomats had made an effort to meet him in order to size up what sort of influence he might exert on the King. The Queen's patronage of prophets was well known. But Henry's interest was something else. It made Nostradamus potentially high politics.
After his return to Salon, foreign rulers began to send private emissaries there to see him. This was with the double hope that he might let drop some information of value, and, on the other hand, if he was as amazing as reported, there was not a ruler in Europe who did not yearn for a little advance knowledge on the aims of his competitors. A good prophet was worth his weight in gold to any king. So the people of Salon had one more thing to wonder and gossip over in the important looking men with a foreign air who now came and went mysteriously at the house of Nostradamus. Naturally these consultations were of the utmost secrecy, and nothing is known of them except the rumors and observations of the townspeople.
In his leisure time Nostradamus took up the work on his verses for another volume of prophecies. He also
turned his attention to other kinds of writing. He had published in 1552 a little book, Traité des Fardements. In 1557 he brought out in Anvers another, Des Confitures. These two were later on combined into one work, perhaps supplemented, and formed the two little volumes to which Bareste refers, one of which contained the recipe for the troches.
It was not strange in that day for a famous doctor to occupy himself with writing about beauty secrets and cooking. In that pre-beautician, pre-dietician age, the doctor was the only safe authority on such matters. The cult of the body, which the pagan revival raised to romantic heights, demanded to be served with formulae which contributed to the effectiveness of feminine charm and preserved its loveliness from age. Every beauty of the day had her private collection of formulae. Some of these were very old family secrets, carefully guarded and passed on from mother to daughter. Valuable additions to this tested knowledge were greatly prized. Perfumes, too, were a part of the doctor's field. The sixteenth century drenched itself in sweet-smelling essences not alone because they were fashionable and much enjoyed, but they were thought to have some prophylactic value too.
There was also the matter of cooking, which was by no means beneath a physician's notice. Culinary recipes, like those for beauty, were especially important in France, and were hoarded and prized in every household. Nothing was known about diet, but it was recognized that in illness special feeding was required,
and usually this took the most unfortunate form. Scurvy, which was one of the commonest diseases, was considered, then as now, a deficiency disease. They knew that much about it. But the sufferers were denied the citrus fruits which would have cured them and were "strengthened" with rich meats and heavy wines. The doctors of the day not only recommended the foods which they considered most efficacious for various types of illness, but wrote books of recipes for cooking of every sort. Their wives must have laughed in their capacious sleeves over this, for of course it was their recipes these learned doctors brought forward with such éclat. They did the cooking, and the doctor took the cash and credit. A little compendium of what every woman should know--perfumes, cookery, beauty hints, household remedies and how to keep the silver clean was a popular, practical book and met a real need. When doctors stopped writing these books, much of this old, generalized information found its way into almanacs. Doctor Nostradamus had many highborn feminine patients. These might not have cared so much for the doctor's ideas on cooking, but they would certainly have demanded that he produce a few miracle-aids for beauty.
Now that he was so famous, the plain people of the countryside, who knew well his kindness, began to claim their need of attention. Their concern was with the land, its crops and harvests. Farmers, laborers, shepherds, estate managers and gardeners swarmed to
ask the prophet to tell them when to plant, how their crops would turn out, how to destroy pests, what the weather would be, how to cure livestock, and the thousand and one things a far ruer wants to know. They took up so much of his valuable time that something had to be done about it.
So Nostradamus, in order to help them, and, so it is said, for his own diversion too, wrote and published his astrological almanacs. These gave the times and seasons for the farmers' work, and included a number of public forecasts in prose. These almanacs were dedicated to Pope Paul IV, and presumably met with his august approval. King Henry II was overlooked in the matter of dedication which, one would think, by all the laws of hospitality received, would have been made to him. Unless it was that the need for the good will and protection of the Church made the gesture desirable.
Like everything he did, the almanacks caught on at once. They sold like wildfire. Printers all over France, seeing a gold-mine in Nostradamus’ name, began to pirate it. Bogus almanacs, imitating his style and using his name, were put out everywhere. The common people, greedy for the prophet's words, were unable to discriminate between the publications, but they knew false prophecy when they saw it, and blamed Nostradamus. His enemies fed the fuel of undeserved criticism, and in consequence of all the ensuing furor Nostradamus’ reputation took a fall among the people
at large. This was not true of the court, the people of position and culture who knew him realized the situation, and their loyalty never wavered.
There were no copyright laws. The almanacs were at once translated and republished in England. They were the ancestors of Old Moore's and other famous English prophetic almanacs which have always been popular there. Nostradamus had no protection or redress. He consulted a Lyons lawyer about the misuse of his name but there was nothing to be done. In Lyons particularly, the city for which he had done so much at the time of the plague, old acquaintances cold-shouldered hint and he found that his popularity was gone. He is said to have been deeply wounded by his treatment there.
In 1557 he published at Lyons his Paraphrase of Galen, a philosophic discourse which was well received by scholars.
All was quiet in little Salon as the prophet pursued his peaceful studies. But in the great world large events were taking place, fulfilling incredibly his prophecies. While the bourgeois and the common people who bought the paper almanacs were attacking him, kings and their courts who owned and studied the small, finely bound leather volumes of his quatrains were according him new and breathless acclaim.
In January of 1557 Henry II, unable to contain himself longer, sent Guise into Italy to join the Pope in his war against Philip II of Spain.
Bloody Mary of England was then the wife of Philip II of Spain. Philip persuaded Mary to help him by declaring war on France.
The dog (sometimes the great mastiff) is a symbol sometimes used by the prophet for the guardian qualities of the kings of France, the watch dogs. The lion is here the heraldic one of the Tudor family. Mary declared war by sending a single herald to France to give in person, in the old mediaeval fashion, her personal defiance to Henry. Henry told him to begone
the kingdom and that had he not come from a woman he would have told him some worse things. Philip, with some English help, then landed fifty thousand men in Picardy and Flanders. The Duke de Guise had to rush back from the Italian failure to meet this new threat as best he could. Meanwhile "the alliance with the royal virgin" goes forward and, while Philip's army is landing, Mary Stuart is married to the dauphin of France.
This verse is in the later quatrains, then withheld. It is interesting that he used "Mary," the English word, rather than Marie, as she was called in France. The rivalry of Mary and the Medici queen, after Henry's death, is history. Piteous Phoebus, the Sun of the French Monarchy, is Francis II.
Meanwhile the armies of Philip were before Saint-Quentin, considered one of the bulwarks of France. The Spaniards were commanded by the Duke of Savoy, who would later marry the prophet's friend, the Princess Marguerite. King Henry was ill prepared to meet this siege. His forces were tied up in Italy. The defense army hurriedly mustered was only twenty thousand
men. It developed that Saint-Quentin was in a deplorable state, an impressive shell with only dated equipment, as Philip had privately found out.
Soldiers, munitions and food were all lacking. Coligny got there first, sent away the useless mouths and began trying to strengthen the weakest points. Old Constable de Montmorency, Bossu of Condé, Francis d’Andelot, men who would soon be murdering each other in deadliest hate, were there with the flower of the nobles of France of whatever creed. They stood together then as Frenchmen and fought as Frenchmen can. But it was one of those never heeded lessons in preparedness. They were unprepared and their defeat was bloody and total, just as the prophecy had said.
Francis of Guise, arriving from Italy after Saint-Quentin had fallen, sought for some brilliant counterstroke to humble Spain. Calais, like Saint-Quentin, was poorly defended and its equipment was run down. Very secretly Guise moved before Philip could get wind of it, and:
The capture of Calais did indeed confer immortality upon the name of Guise and give him an enduring monument. The Pope said it was worth more than the capture of half of England. Mary Tudor, who was dying, cried out: "If they open my heart, they will find Calais graven on it." Guizot lists in his history the vast extent of the "captivity" of the British commander, "cannon and munitions, the gold and silver,
furniture, merchandise, and horses" which passed to Guise. England had held Calais for over two hundred years. From this capture it remained with France until 1940. Spain had accomplished nothing whatever by the war, for the peace terms gave back to France everything she had lost, all her "captured but not captured towns." The Duke of Alva was general-in-chief for Charles V and Philip II of Spain.
All wars come to an end and this one closed with the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis in the spring of 1559. Nostradamus saw it only as the prelude to worse and internal war.
[paragraph continues] But not while Henry lived would the storm break. Bloody Mary had died while the war was on, which changed the political lineup, as Protestant Elizabeth inherited the English throne, and it was too early yet to foresee the character of her rule. Philip and Henry had decided for a change to be friends; besides, Philip had seen young Elizabeth's picture, the little daughter of Henry II whose sweetness had so charmed the prophet at Blois.
Nostradamus has given a pen picture of Philip.
[paragraph continues] This cruel king, although Nostradamus doesn't seem to think so except when Philip is fighting France or her interests, did, as Nostradamus says, continue the policy of ridding Spain of Moors, and encouraged the Inquisition to do its worst. He is to be credited with the major effort in defeating the Turks (who as Moslems hold Friday sacred) at Lepanto. Perhaps that is what the prophet means rather than the Inquisition by "returning the Church to its pre-eminence."
Henry II decided that his sister Marguerite had better marry a late enemy too. So her marriage was planned with the Duke of Savoy on whose hands the blood of three thousand Frenchmen slain at Saint-Quentin
had hardly dried. Henry had got Saint-Quentin back in the peace settlement.
Henry acted with generosity by presenting Mary Stuart, now dauphiness, with Saint-Quentin as a wedding present. Kings have to make rather expensive gifts, and this would stay in the family.
The heraldic imperial eagle of the Spanish Empire, the Lion of Scotland and the Cross of Savoy were represented in the three royal marriages with Spain, Scotland and Savoy. But Henry's wedding presents were too much for the French. Others besides Nostradamus said the weddings had cost too much good crown land and felt it was a sell-out for France.
The peace had been signed in April. The marriages took place at the end of June. Henry II celebrated the acquisition of his new relatives with a splendid tourney.
The three-day sports event was attended by the entire royal family--even to Baby Margot. Society turned out in the full magnificence of its jewels, its laces and its stiff brocades. Before this audience of the rank, wealth and beauty of France was played a long-awaited tragic drama. Staged against a background of damascened silks, feathers, tassels and fluttering streamers, with the trumpets of heralds in parti-colored dress calling the final act, on the 29th June 1559 occurred the "duel" in which Henry II lost his life, as prophesied.
Henry II loved to joust, a sport at which he excelled most of his court. He had already run several tilts "like a sturdy and skillful cavalier," and he wanted one more before he stopped. He challenged his young Scottish captain of the guard, the Earl of Montgomery. The Earl, like everyone else, knew the prophecy. He excused himself, but the King wouldn't have it. It was a command. The Seneschal, radiant in her black and white, was looking on from the royal dais, at her colors flying from her lover's lance and shield. The King was mounted on a curvetting Spanish barb, caparisoned with crimson velvet. Henry's armor, as was royalty's privilege, flashed with the goldsmith's art of cunning and intricate gold inlay, which covered
the steel like a golden lace. His casque was gilded and crested with plumes.
A fragment of Montgomery's lance struck the King's neck--a piece forced up the visor, and a splinter of wood entered Henry's eye and injured the brain. He lingered for eleven days in horrible agony, then died.
Probably of all the prophetic verses which Nostradamus has written, none is so widely familiar as have always been the quatrains describing this tragic affair.
Young Montgomery was a Scot, indicated by the heraldic Lion.
The Great One of Blois is of course the King, and the young Earl of Montgomery, his friend. Almost
over the King's dead body the struggle began between the Guise and Bourbon factions, with Catherine as a helpless factor in the fight for power. Francis II, the boy-king, doubled the uncertainty of the situation through his frail health.
Nostradamus must have been looking ahead to the continued protection of Catherine's favor when he mentions her seven years' lament. Seven days would have been stretching it. This line was a courtier's phrase for a practical purpose. But it is true that seven years after Henry's death Catherine made a grand tour of France with Charles IX, and it was the first time she had indulged in such a public display of social pomp since King Henry's death. She lived to be seventy years old. Few royalties in her day lived so long.
The working out of the prognostications of Maître Nostradamus had the court gasping with awe. With Henry dead, everyone set to with a will for a fresh bout with the quatrains to see if they could wrest an
inkling of where the next blow would fall. The boy-king, Francis II, with lovely Mary Stuart, were now the King and Queen of France. It was the triumphal hour of Francis, Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine. It was Catherine's hour to mourn, not for Henry gone, but for herself, alive and beset by enemies on every hand. But who knows what secret prophecies she hugged to her bosom while outwardly dutifully meek, as became a sorrowing widow? Only Nostradamus and Ruggiero could have told.
Bossu, Coligny and their crowd had no intention of letting the Guises rule France without a struggle. They had their own prophecies that some day a Bourbon would unseat a Valois. And prophecy or not, they meant to keep fighting.
Had Condé and Coligny seen that verse when the plot was hatched, and did they only scoff at the Catholic sorcerer? Did no one whisper in their ears, saying, this man has a record for truth, Saint-Quentin, the King's death and all the other things he has foretold should give you pause?
The conspiracy of Amboise was the Protestants' opening gun in the bloody religious wars that would devastate France for more than thirty years. The French historian, Malet, says that Condé, Bossu, was the secret head of the plot to kidnap the King and break up the influence of the Guises. The forces of the plotters were stationed in the forest of Amboise. There, under the trees, they were discovered, beheaded or hanged.
Nostradamus heard of all these things in Salon; there was another of his forecasts destined to come true very shortly; one he hadn't published yet, it would be included in the last three Centuries.
Mary of Scotland had married the dauphin while he was still "the eldest son" of the seven children the King was to leave behind him. There were no children of this marriage and Mary returned to her native heath, unwanted in France by Catherine, and set two Isles in discord through feud with Elizabeth. The
dauphin, King at his death, poor "Phoebus," was only sixteen years old and he was king for but sixteen months.
The story has come down that before the death of Francis II the Venetian ambassador, Lorenzo, wrote to his government that all the court was quoting verse 39 of Century X under the breath. Yet this verse was not published until 1568 and the boy-king died in 1560. So many legends have grown up about Nostradamus, inspired no doubt by the natural desire of the raconteur to top the other fellow's story, that one is constantly finding these inconsistencies in old accounts. The court would have been far more likely to discuss the ingress of Saturn into Cancer hinted at as the date for a new king. That verse was in the first edition.
The month before Francis died, the blow, also predicted in the first edition, struck the Bailiff of Orleans, Jerome Groslot.
The court would have been watching for developments on this verse indicating a prominent man.
[paragraph continues] Perhaps Groslot had studied the verse too, and taken heart from the prophecy that he would escape. He allowed the Calvinists to seize Orleans, for which the Inquisition promptly condemned him to be beheaded. Nostradamus makes it clear that he thought he deserved the sentence as a Calvinist traitor, but foresaw that he would get away. Groslot escaped death in just the way that Nostradamus said it would happen.
During this period, since Nostradamus had paid his visit to the court, while war and turmoil had brought so many of his forecasts to fulfillment, he had published another edition of his prophecies. This had been in 1558.
This edition is spoken of by many commentators as princeps, but it was the second edition supplemented by more of the verses. It contained all that the first volume printed, with three hundred and ninety-one additional quatrains, bringing the number up to seven full Centuries of a hundred verses each, and one of forty-four verses, seven hundred and forty-four in all. Between the sixth and seventh Centuries was interpolated an unnumbered Latin verse which he titled:
Invocation of the Law Against Stupid Critics
Nostradamus reveals in this peculiar verse his savage resentment against the people who had insulted his work. He warns that his book is for the serious minded only. And to those who have called him sorcerer he will offer a curse, as they have so long accused him of doing. It is also revealing that though he constantly asserts, for reasons of his own, in his letters that he is himself an astrologer, he includes astrologers here among the people who are to keep hands off his work. He gives away in these lines the fact that he did not use astrology, and that he even despised the popular practice of this esoteric art. His mention of the common mob seems inconsistent with the public presentation and sale of his book, as if he both wanted and hated the acclaim it brought him. There is no doubt that he was very thin-skinned to censure, for certainly he was not alone in suffering it. Every scholar who came before the public risked it. Nostradamus was indeed among the fortunate in that he never endured worse, and that the chorus of his praises swelled at all times louder than the minority voices of those who disliked him.
It seems odd that, when Nostradamus had been so recently and highly honored by the King, he did not dedicate to him this new edition, or that he did not
bring out the fresh quatrains in a small separate book devoted to the King. Nostradamus knew, none better, when the King would die. If he had ever intended a dedication to Henry II, then was his last opportunity to make it, for Henry died the following year. If, however, the dedication to Henry II which prefaced the third and last book of the Centuries was never intended for this king, but was meant for another Henry, fifth of his name, who is yet to come, then it was entirely logical that Nostradamus should have arranged matters as he did. The preface to the complete edition, though written ostensibly as a letter to Henry II, was never seen by him. It was not published until he had been dead a decade. Nostradamus himself planned it that way and made his own arrangements for the letter and final volume to be brought out only after he and the King were both gone.
Moreover, the letter begins with a salutation which does not use the word deux, as one would expect, but addresses him as Henry, King of France Second. The connotation of second is a little different from deux. It has the implication of "following," and the words seem intended to convey the idea of a king of France which is to follow, or a second France.
Had he, during the King's lifetime, dedicated a book to Henry II, no one would ever have considered it as other than it seemed. It was only by holding the letter back until the man for whom it seemed to be written had died without receiving it, that he could get his idea across to some people.
Why, one may ask, all this fuss? Why didn't he just write to Henry V in the first place? Because he foresaw the Duke de Bordeaux who, if he had reigned, would have been Henry V, and did claim the title. People would have mistaken the Duke de Bordeaux for the man for whom the letter was written, then branded Nostradamus as a false prophet because he never reigned. Nostradamus’ wording was perfect for his purpose. He knew that the human mind seeks always a conclusion. He knew the world would hang on to the quatrains and preserve them as long as they hadn't solved the mystery. And four hundred years have proved him right.
This would also account for his sensitivity to criticism. One can scarcely imagine his modest, natively retiring personality going after the sensational reputation which his book brought him, unless he had a secret and definite reason for doing it. He could not explain this, he could only suffer through what he felt was its necessity, when people called him a sensation-seeker and attacked him for his pretensions as a prophet.
Everything Nostradamus did, and his personal reactions in regard to the Centuries, appear to point to an ulterior purpose in writing them.
With the passing of Francis II, another boy-king assumed the throne. This time there was no lovely, inconvenient wife to menace Catherine de’ Medici. Charles IX was only ten years old, and his mother
ruled as regent of France in his name. Catherine's power-dream had at last come true.
Francis II had died in December of 1560. Catherine, though de facto regent at once, did not receive parliamentary confirmation of this until sometime in the following summer, just the time when Saturn was making its ingress into Cancer, a water sign. One must bear always in mind that we are looking at astrology through the eyes of the sixteenth century, remembering too that Nostradamus gave indications of the timing of events by astronomical positions. This verse is of particular interest analyzed with that understanding. One must not forget, either, the wide familiarity which cultivated people then had with famous birth-charts. Even without this verse, people who followed their charts would have said, "Oh, Oh! When Saturn goes into Cancer that will hit the King and the Queen-mother. His Sun and her Mars are closely conjoined in that sign, which bodes ill for the country staying at peace. Saturn will touch that off. There will be trouble."
The two, mother and son, were astrologically linked together. That is just what Nostradamus means when he speaks of a strong king. He refers to the mother-son combination which he treats as one force, which it was. He was not speaking alone of the little boy he had seen at Blois, who was still unspoiled and fine. In another passage forecasting the eventual rise of Henry of Navarre he says, "he will shave the beard of Catherine." Indication enough that she was the strong king, it would be only as accessory that the boy would be responsible for "the slaughter of the innocents." Quoting the French historian, Guizot, "From 1561 to 1572 there were about twenty-five massacres, thirty or forty single murders unfortunate enough to be remembered by history. Formal civil war, religious and partisan, broke out in four campaigns signalized by great battles, ending in 1572 with the greatest massacre in French history"--Saint Bartholomew, for slaughtering the innocents. The reign of Charles covered the years 1561-1574, and he was only twenty-four when he died. Not until the Revolution would there be again such "slaughter of the innocents" as filled these blood-drenched years. Trouble began at once with minor slaughters on both the Catholic and Protestant sides. But it was in July, 1562, when the Sun was conjoined with Saturn and both bodies were over the birth Sun of Charles and the birth Mars of Catherine, 14 and 17 degrees of Cancer, that the first religious war was opened.
This quatrain has never been understood by analysts
because none has understood the astronomical reference the way Nostradamus used these to date and characterize the thirteen tragic years of this mother-son kingship. We may be sure that there were plenty of people at that time who were quick to grasp the allusions, including Catherine. It may be why the Queen tried so hard in the earlier years of this joint rule to pacify both sides. Catherine didn't want slaughter, she wanted peace, but no woman could have handled and tamed the unbridled, passionate fanaticism which broke all bounds. Later, when it was a question of losing her own power or killing Huguenots, Catherine killed. From her point of view she had no choice.
Some modern students of the Centuries, noting this verse, have wondered if it might not relate to the coming king of France, the prophesied Henry V. In June of 1944 Saturn makes its new ingress into Cancer attended by the Sun, Mercury and Venus in a powerful quadruple conjunction. The present Duke of Guise has his birth Sun and Mars in Cancer. It could be. Interpretations of Nostradamus are tricky, and dualistic, and this is as much due to history as to the prophet. "Destiny is an eternal chain . . . looping upon itself" in repeating patterns, the same and never the same. The author, however, feels that this verse specifically referred to Charles IX and Catherine.
Nostradamus, better than any other in France, understood the terrible threat of the mounting strife. Already it was reaching deeply into Provence and men
were dying there for their beliefs. But there were still bright spots to be enjoyed. Chief of this was the promised visit from the Princess Marguerite, who was now the Duchess of Savoy. She came to Salon bringing with her Emmanuel-Philibert. They were on their grand honeymoon swing through the country and probably a little bored with all the public entertainments that were given them everywhere. Nostradamus gave the usual Latin oration on behalf of Salon, as the town always liked him to do for their distinguished visitors. Emmanuel-Philibert seems to have been as charmed by Nostradamus as was his wife. They made quite a stay in the town, longer, that is, than they had planned. They invited Nostradamus to sup with them, and they in turn visited him informally. There were the long and interesting talks that Marguerite had looked forward to. It violated, however, the etiquette of her day, and there was some criticism to mar the pleasure. Nostradamus was a gentleman but not a noble. The sixteenth century made fine distinctions in rank, and Catherine had rigidly tightened all matters of etiquette. She even made such a fuss about the Constable de Montmorency riding his horse into the Louvre courtyard, that he said it was easier for him to win a battle than to get inside the Louvre.
People said that the Savoys were too high in rank to associate with Nostradamus as an equal. It was all right to employ and honor him as a prophet, but not to make a familiar friend of him. The Duchess’ new home was now just over the Alps from Provence. The
democratic Duchess and her independent husband no doubt valued the intellectual interest of the prophet's friendship above all criticism, and one would like to know if they continued by letter their agreeable acquaintance. So very little is known of the private contacts and friendships of Nostradamus in these late, important years, that we who cannot see through time must regretfully forego the reading of this varied and fascinating chapter of his life. What part he played, what influence he had upon the great who came or sent their messengers to him, as in the days of Delphi, we have no way of knowing.
His friend, the Count de Tende, was increasingly disturbed over heavy Protestant gains through Provence. In 1560 the Governor had occasion to notify the Duke de Guise of an election of entirely Protestant deputies in Languedoc. The Duke de Guise tried accommodatingly to have the deputies killed, but they escaped him. They had been legally elected, and if not murdered could serve, as they did. This heavy conversion to the religion which was going on in Provence was naturally a threat to so prominent a personage and so rigid a Catholic as Nostradamus. The friendship of the Governor was powerful protection, but there must have been times when he and his family went in fear of their lives.
One of the popular and much embroidered stories of the prophet is concerning the personal reading he made for Henry of Navarre, a story of which Tronc
de Condoulet is said to have been the author, and he should certainly have known. But Henry was only three years old when Nostradamus went to court, and seems to have made his own court debut not until two years later when his father, King Antoine, took him to Paris. Nostradamus, now ill, living in retirement, would hardly have risked his life in Protestant Béarn, certainly not without the royal protection of that court. Jeanne, Queen of Navarre, mother of Henry, was the inspired and fanatical leader of the Protestants. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely situation than Jeanne allowing her baby to be prophesied for by an old Catholic sorcerer, for as such she would certainly have regarded him. So it is difficult to see how this story could be true. Nostradamus made many prophecies about Henry of Navarre, for which he did not need to see him and probably never did.
The first prophecy made for the house of Navarre by Nostradamus concerned the father of Henry and appeared in the first edition of the Centuries. Since he called by name King Antoine, whom for some reason he seems to have admired, the veiled reference to lead might easily mean the next king of Navarre, Antoine's successor, Henry, whom Nostradamus did not like and never failed to say as much. This verse further gives the lie to the story of the examination of Henry by the prophet. Probably neither of the child's parents would have wanted it. Antoine was a weak man with the turn-coat propensities of his family. He
was by turns Protestant and Catholic, but he was Catholic when he died, killed at the siege of Rouen in 1562.
The Lice are of course the Protestants who assailed Antoine and killed him at Rouen. The last lines are a play on words. Lead is the base metal of the alchemists in contrast to gold, the metal of spiritual purity. Henry, the son of Antoine, shall not value gold, but will covet the baser things, and these will be the measure of the man and his ultimate tragedy of assassination.
In view of the many prophecies in circulation that the heir of Navarre would supplant the Valois, these unflattering comments would have been well understood. It gains in aptness from the fact that both Henry and the prophet, having the same birthday, came under the sign and planet ruling lead. But Nostradamus may have considered that in his own case spiritual alchemy had done its work of transmutation.
The prophet's time was growing short now. The town of Salon, holding many of the religion, had
greatly changed, and so had, in consequence, its affection and respect for the prophet. In place of that had come gradually a sullen fear of the strange old man and his secret and sorcerous works. The town avoided him, all but a few close, loyal friends like de Condoulet. He lived in great retirement, receiving distinguished visitors from outside, who were still as numerous as ever, and working on the last group of his Centuries. His strength has greatly failed but he knows to the day how much time he has left.
In 1564-1566, the Queen-mother thought it might be a good and pacific idea if between wars she and Charles made a publicity tour through the whole realm, and let the people see and know their King. Great pomp and ceremony characterized the trip. It was the seventh year since the death of Henry II. Catherine adopted for the trip richer, more elaborate dress, in keeping with the occasion which might be said to mark the end of her official mourning.
When the royal progress brought the King and the Queen-mother to Salon, the town turned out in full array for them. The Mayor and the town fathers were the spearhead of the welcoming, enthusiastic crowd. Among the magistrates stood Nostradamus. It is said that the young King brusquely ignored the demonstration, cutting the Latin oratory short with,
"I have come to see Nostradamus."
The little boy whom the prophet had seen at Blois was growing up into a tall youth whose fierce blue eyes and restless, curt manner were an indication of
the changes taking place in him. Catherine, who was stout when Nostradamus had visited the court, was now frankly fat. She might have posed for one of the famous Seine frogs which the old Merovingian kings took for their device. What secret interview took place at this second meeting with royalty was not recounted. Yet surely there was a private meeting, with questions asked and talk of the fulfilled forecasts of the last eight years. The Venetian ambassador, who seems to have wielded an active, if not always accurate pen, was not there to chronicle the rumors, otherwise we might have had a story.
Charles IX confirmed at this time the appointment of Physician-in-Ordinary and Councilor which his father had bestowed on the prophet. Some writers say that it was not Henry, but Charles who first gave it. Others speak of the prophet holding his appointment under three kings, Henry II, Francis II and Charles IX. In view of the facts this seems the more likely assumption.
On his way back to Paris Charles again summoned Nostradamus. On this occasion he gave him a purse of two hundred gold écus. Whether in the past years Nostradamus had carried out secret missions for the crown is not known. There would hardly have been a record of it if it had been so. However, the King, on the occasion of this second meeting, did send the prophet on some kind of embassy which the prophet mentions, together with the King's gift, in his farewell quatrain. It must have been an important, delicate
matter which Catherine felt no one else could so well undertake. Otherwise she would scarcely have chosen a man who was crippled with his malady and near death. This was the last time, though it may not have been the first, in which he served the Queen in other than his prophetic capacity.
Nostradamus knew exactly how long he had left to live. After his passing, there was found written in his own hand in his copy of the Ephemeris of Jean Stadius, beside the last date in June, "Hic prope mors est." "Here my death draws near." It was on that day that he sent for the notary and dictated his will.
"June 30th, in the year 1566, Maître Michel Nostradamus, doctor of medicine, astrophile, Physician-in-Ordinary and councilor to the king, bequeaths to his daughter Magdeleine 600 écus of gold, and to his other daughters, Anne and Diane, 500 écus of gold. To his dear wife, Anne Ponsart, 400 écus of gold, together with certain household furniture. I bequeath, moreover, all my books to that one of my sons who improves himself or profits most from study, together with all letters, notes and manuscripts found in the dwelling of the testator, who has not at all desired that an inventory should be taken, but that his effects should be gathered and closed up in one of the rooms of the house until the one who should have them will be of age to receive them."
There follow a few generous bequests to churchly orders, and six hundred écus in gold to be distributed among the poor. Nostradamus was himself a member
of the third order of the Cordeliers, a lay rank in which obligations are assumed rather than vows taken.
"The aforesaid testator has furthermore declared that he possesses in currency the sum of 3444 écus in gold and 10 sols, which he declares in the pieces hereinafter specified." Follows a picturesque enumeration of coinage to charm the heart of a numismatist. There were so many of rose nobles, of double ducats and imperials, 1 gold écu of King Louis, 1 gold medal, florins of Germany and pieces called Portuguese.
Nostradamus has without any doubt planted clues to the dates of his undated quatrains. They are all over the place, and if one were versed in the wiles of the rhétoriqueurs and the ancient number cycles, they might perhaps be decoded. The "seven men with seven mops" have been trying, with so far no results. This author has a mop too, but it has not as yet done its perfect work. Nor is there space in this book for speculative findings. No one else has noted, however, that there may be a major clue in the numbers of coins mentioned in the will, but this author believes it is there. Nostradamus, in his letter to his son, prefacing the first edition of the prophecies, mentions the year 3797. This is undoubtedly a cryptic, symbolic date rather than an actual one. If the number of verses in the first edition, 353, is subtracted from the year figure, the difference is 3444, the total number of gold écus in the will. If 353 is added to the date of publication of the first edition, 1555, the sum is 1908, the
year of birth of the present Duke de Guise, whose name is Henry, and who, as pretender to the throne of France, may become the Henry V of Nostradamus’ prophecy. These number oddities may be only coincidental, but there are a great many curious such correspondencies.
On the morning of July 2nd, O. S., they found him at his bench bent in the last study that comes to all. The Ephemeris of Jean Stadius, near at hand, showed for that day the Sun, symbol of man's life, just departed from its conjunction with Saturn, the Grim Reaper, and making an aspect with Neptune, the strange planet of timeless things, still undiscovered in that day. Under the mysterious influence of this star the prophet's gift had been developed, under its guidance this titan of two worlds entered his new home in the farther country of Time, whose boundaries between the seen and unseen lands he had so often crossed.
In the church of the Cordeliers at Salon the prophet was "honorably inhumed" in the tomb which he had
long ago prepared for himself, upright in the massive church wall where he still reposes. Above the tomb is the bust which César made of his father from memory. "Quietam posteri ne invidete." "Let those who come after disturb not my peace," was the inscription which Nostradamus caused to be cut in the stone. To these words his wife added her further tribute in a Latin epitaph, inscribed on the tomb, which translated reads:
Here rest the bones of the most illustrious
alone in the judgment of mortals worthy to record the future events of the entire world under the influence of the stars.
He lived 62 years, 6 months, and 17 days.
He died at Salon in the year 1566. Let not posterity disturb his peace. Anne Ponsart Jumelle wishes her husband true felicity.
So ends all that we know of the Seer of the Centuries. At the close of the third edition of his prophecies, he wrote the word Fin. More fitting words for ending the final chapter of the life story of this timeless traveler and man of tomorrow are