This poem and the four that follow show that Halkerston had a deep-seated distaste for Henri III of France (r. 1574-1589), and shared the same frustration and anger at his leniency towards French Protestants, or Huguenots, as his major French opposition. Although Henri (formerly the Duc d'Anjou) initially acceded to the throne with popular support, his policy of toleration (typified by the so-called 'Peace of Monsieur' in 1576 and the Treaty of Bergerac in 1577), and his unwillingness to employ a policy of execution against Huguenots when they failed to comply with limits to their rights of worship, led to the formation of the Guise-led 'Catholic League' against him. Henri also became the victim of a systematic and long-lived satirical campaign, which lambasted him as an effeminate and weak tyrant. It is in this tradition that Halkerston's epigrams should be located. The epigram below criticises his interest in courtly and 'bookish' pleasures (most notoriously exemplified by his maintenance of a coterie of low-born favourites or 'mignons' at court at the exclusion of traditional nobility) as his country burns around him. The fact that it is given here as part of a cycle with the poem that follows (d1_HalJ_003) suggests a possible date of around 1585. Metre: elegiac couplets.
In Henricum III, Galliarum regem (c.1585)
In Henricum III, Galliarum regem
Gallia dum nuper civilibus occidit armis,
et cinere obruitur semisepulta suo;
[p377] grammaticam exercet media rex noster in aula.
Discere namque cupit rex generosus 'amo'.
Declinare cupit, vere declinat; et ille
bis rex qui fuerat sit modo grammaticus.
Against Henri III, king of the French
While France recently was struck down with civil war, and half-buried lies smothered in its own ashes, [p377]our king practices his grammar in the midst of the court. And all because our noble king wants to learn 'amo'. a He wants to decline, b and indeed he declines c ; and he who has twice been a king, is only fit to be a grammarian.
a: There is a pun here: 'amo, amas, amat' was the standard introduction to conjugating a Latin verb, but 'amo' could also be translated here as Halkerston saying 'because our noble king wants to learn, I love him'.
b: Words, ie 'decline' in the sense of conjugate.
c: To take any real action.