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stories and histories GABRIEL DE LORGES, COMTE DE MONTGOMERY

Gabriel de Lorges, comte de Montgomery
Gabriel was a hero, rebel and killer of a king.
Not all of this was by choice.

Gabriel was the son of Jacques, Duke of Montgomery, a Scottish nobleman with a sound career supporting the kings of France.

Gabriels life should have been gilded and assured.

In 1559 Gabriel was 29 and Lord of lands in Normandy.
He was married to Isabeau de La Touche, and had welcomed the first four of their eventual eight children.

Gabriel was captain of King Henri IIs Scottish Guard, and a favourite at court
Before he was 30 years old he would be an outcast.

30th June 1559, started as a day of magnificent courtly celebration.

A peace treaty was being firmly sealed with the marriages of Henry IIs daughter Elizabeth with Philip II of Spain, and his sister Margaret to Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy.

The entertainment was lavish, and included a royal joust.
Queen Catherine de Medici sat impassively next to Diane de Poitiers, as her husband took part in the tournament.

It was no surprise to her that he wore Dianes favour, a black and white ribbon - Diane had been his mistress for years.

King Henry was proud of his athleticism and expected his knights to fight hard and fair.

He soon triumphed over his new brother-in-Law the Duke of Savoy, but towards the end of the day, as no lance had broken, insisted on just one more joust.

It would be his last...

Gabriel prepped himself for this final joust.
40 year old King Henri was confident of a win.

Then Gabriels lance hit him hard, shattering as the kings helmet was forced open.

Before Henri hit the ground it was clear something terrible had happened.
A large shard from Gabriels lance had pierced the Kings right eye.

Although the wooden shard was removed, the damage was too severe and Henri died on 10 July.

Gabriel Montgommery had killed the King of France....

The queen would never forgive him - her children were too young and too feeble to take control of the country and their Valois family could lose the throne.

Catherine de Medici ensured Gabriel was stripped of his captaincy and banished from court.

Catherine then set about ruling France through her sickly 15 year old son Francis.
Diane de Poitiers was the second person she cheerfully expelled.

Gabriel first went to Jersey then Venice, but everywhere he was known as the man who killed the king of France.

By 1560 he was in a rather more sympathetic London.

The English court under Elizabeth I was a very different place to the French court he was used to.

It was Protestant and catholic Gabriel, with time on his hands and no country to defend, he studied this foreign religion.

What he discovered impressed him greatly and in 1562 he formally converted.

In 1562 Gabriel was back in Normandy.
He allied himself to fellow convert, Louis I de Bourbon prince de Condé and prepared for battle.
He quickly proved himself to be an astute commander.

Gabriels Protestant army took control of the town of Bourges, without killing a single person.

Catholic forces around Rouen increased until the Protestants were forced to ask for Queen Elizabeth of England for help.
Her forces arrived, as did Gabriel and his army.

For two brave months Gabriel and the Protestant armies held Rouen, fighting off numerous attacks.

Then on 26th October 1562, the Catholic royalist troops retook Rouen and pillaged it for three days.

Gabriel and a handful of his closest lieutenants escaped by boat.
Gabriel made it to Havre and on to England, and safety.

Catherine de Medici singled out Gabriel as a target.
A large bounty was put on Gabriels head.

Catherine de Medici repeatedly demanded that Queen Elizabeth I return Gabriel to the French court.

Elizabeth was rather fond of Gabriel, and knowing this would be signing his death warrant, she refused.

Word then reached England about a terrible siege at La Rochelle.

The town had been a Protestant stronghold for years, and as now seen as a threat to the Catholics.

Gathering a huge force of ships and Protestant supporters, in April 1573 Gabriel confidently sailed for La Rochelle.
He underestimated the situation, and despite great bravery, he and his navy were repulsed.

It was not long before he was back in England.

By March 1574 he was back in Normandy with an army of 5,000 men.
They set about making their presence felt, burning, looting and killing along the way.

Catherine de Medici had awarded a skillful soldier, Marshall Matignon the lieutenant generalship of lower Normandy.

She made it clear it was his responsibility to kill the man who murdered her husband.

Matignon and his army went after Gabriel.

Matignon caught up with Gabriel and his depleted forces at St Lo, and started to organise a siege.

Gabriel, on horseback with a cavalry of around 70 of his best men, managed to force their way past Matignons surprised guard and escape under a shower of musket bullets.

He didnt lose a single man.

His cavalry split and Gabriel arrived at Domfront on 8 May 1574 with just 20 men.

They intended to stay just long enough to take on supplies and more recruits.
He was joined by a company of 40 on horseback.
In total, a garrison of 150 stood ill prepared in Domfront, as Matignon launched a surprise and vicious attack.

Over the next few weeks, as Domfront ran out of food, water and munitions, Matignon kept up a fierce onslaught, shooting, sending burning waste over the battlements and attempting to breach the walls.

His forces grew as Gabriels fell, either through death or desertion.

After a particularly fierce battle, that lasted over 5 hours, Gabriel knew they could go on no longer.

On 27th May, assured by Matignon he and his men would not be killed, they surrendered.
Of course Matignon was not telling the truth.

Gabriel was taken straight to Paris into the unforgiving custody of Catherine de Medici.

With high treason his crime, torture was mandatory. Sentenced to death Gabriel refused to confess his sins or receive a catholic priests last rights.

In front of a great baying Catholic crowd, Gabriel de Lorges, comte de Montgomery was led to the scaffold, on 26th June 1574.

He appeared infuriatingly serene.
A royal edict was read to him - his land was to be confiscated, and his children would not inherit his titles.

Still calm Gabriel shouted tell my children, if they are not able to reclaim their position, I curse them from the grave!

And then they cut off his head.
One of his sons, held under the scaffold, was sprayed with his blood.

However, Gabriel's death would not be the end of the de Montgomery family.
But that's another story.....


Gabriel de Lorges comte de Montgomery. Accidental killer of a king, leader of armies, and proud protestant.
By Feron Eloi Firmin.


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