Assassins and the Vatican

In 1604 Denis lebedy de Batilly wrote a 64 page tract titled Traict de l’origine des anciens assasins porte-couteaux. He gave it the subtitle – With examples of their attempts and homicides against certain kings, princes, and lords of Christianity.

The pamphlet was produced in Lyon and gained a wide audience including Camillo Borghese otherwise known as Pope Paul V(1552-1621).

It is said that the passage in the book that this Pope most admired was…

‘Fly from the man who carries the death of kings and princes in his hands.’

Pope Paul V

Pope Paul V

The book was not entirely accurate, historically, but it made certain observations and gave certain revelations which contributed to the knowledge and understanding of assassins to 17th century Europe.

Batilly was one of Henri IV of France and Navarre’s officials and he would have been aware of the attempts made on Henri’s life after he abjured Protestantism to become king of France.

Paris is worth a Mass

Henri IV if France and Navarre

Henri IV of France and Navarre

Henri (husband of Marie de Medici and father of Louis XIII and Henrietta Maria) was certain that, one day, he would be assassinated and took precautions for a time.

But, on 14th May 1610, the king had meetings to attend. He went, despite the fact that an unsealed letter had been found in his rooms – ‘Sire, under no conditions go out this afternoon.’

The story of the assassination of Henri IV is well known. As his coach became caught between a wagon full of hay and one full of buckets in the narrow rue de La Ferronnerie, a man climbed on to the running board and stabbed at the king.

The first strike was to the chest and superficial. The second pierced a lung, cutting the aorta.

It was 4pm, 14th May 1610.

Jean-François Ravaillac, the assassin was caught, brought to the palais de Retz and searched. In his pockets were found eight silver coins, a rosary, a paper with the name Beillard and a strange octagonal piece of parchment with Christ’s name on each side and, in the centre, ‘Prepared for the pain of torment, in God’s name.’

Ravaillac had known associations with the Jesuits, and the Holy Alliance – a secret Vatican agency who employed spies and assassins across Europe.

Pope Paul V held a solemn Mass in the memory of the late King of France . And in secret spaces inside the catacombs of Rome another Mass was said for the Catholic Martyr – Jean François de Ravaillac.