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Martyrs and Murderers

The Guise Family and the Making of Europe

Stuart Carroll

"Sixteenth-century French politics and religion present a labyrinth of changing affiliations, arcane conspiracies and mysterious assassinations. Carroll guides readers through its twists and turns with aplomb." - The Sunday Times

"Shame on the House of Guise for its leading role in this and other actions against the Protestants? That certainly has been the verdict of many historians. Mr Carroll takes a more nuanced view. What motivated the family, with its motto “All for One: One for All”, was the pursuit of power—and the high offices and riches that came with it." - The Economist

"Professor Carroll's scholarship exposes the parochialism of much British work on the period, while dealing elegantly with the complex theology behind the politics." - The Independent, Best History Books of 2009

The Guise family rose to prominence as the greatest enemy of the House of Habsburg and had dreams of a great dynastic empire. They were among the staunchest opponents of the Reformation, and played a major role in refashioning Catholicism at the Council of Trent before plunging France into a bloody civil war that culminated in the infamous St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre. They protected English Catholic refugees, plotted to invade England and overthrow Elizabeth I, and ended the century by unleashing Europe's first religious revolution, before succumbing in a counter-revolution that made them martyrs for the Catholic cause.

Martyrs and Murderers is the first comprehensive modern biography of the Guise family in any language. In it Stuart Carroll unravels the legends which cast them either as heroes or as villains of the Reformation, weaving a remarkable story that challenges traditional assumptions about one of Europe's most turbulent and formative eras.

Stuart Carroll is Professor of Early Modern History. He is twice winner of the Nancy Roelker prize for the best essay on early modern French history, and is the author of Blood and Violence in Early Modern France and Noble Power during the French Wars of Religion.


Stuart Carroll, Martyrs and Murderers: The Guise Family and the Making of Europe (Oxford University Press, 2009)

For scholars and specialists the book is a useful summary and synthesis of a good deal of original research—much of it undertaken by Carroll himself—on three generations of the Guise family in the sixteenth century. - English Historical Review