French Wars of Religion: 1562 - 1598
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The French Wars of Religion were fought between the Catholic
League and the Huguenots
from the March
massacre of 1,000 Hugeunots at Vassy
In the early to middle part of the 16th
century, the French
Calvin created the doctrine and conventions for a uniquely French form of
Protestantism. Before long, it attracted many powerful followers in the
nobility, tired of the domination of the state by the Vatican.
was embraced by thousands of ordinary citizens.
Urged on by Rome,
which had recently lost control of the Catholic
Church in England
under the will of King
Henry VIII, King
Henri II of France attempted to crush a movement he perceived to be a threat
to his power. His attempt was unsuccessful, as were those of his three sons who
all became King of France. Instead, the country was severely divided by the Wars
The religious fanaticism of the adversaries, combined with the usual
brutality of the times, resulted in a vicious struggle in which great atrocities
were committed by both sides. All of France was laid waste to and agriculture
was virtually wiped out as citizens of the country underwent a living nightmare
of constant destruction and massacres of entire villages.
In 1558, Francois,
dauphin of France married Mary
Queen of Scots. By 1559, she had appointed her two powerful uncles of the House
of Guise, Francois,
Duke of Guise and Charles,
Cardinal of Lorraine, to high positions in the French government. This
prompted the Conspiracy
of Ambroise in which the Huguenots
and the House
of Bourbon plotted to usurp the power of the Guise
family. The Guise
family made a preemptive attack and killed hundreds of conspirators. In 1562, Catherine
de Medici tried to soothe tensions by giving the Huguenots
religious rights with the Edict
of Toleration. This precipitated a temporary coup d'état by Francois,
Duke of Guise in which he killed 30 Huguenots.
After that, the Wars of Religion openly began.
de Medici, as Regent
and as the Queen mother, was the real ruler during most of three of her sons
reigns (sons: Francois
of Alencon). Although Roman
Catholic, at first she was more concerned about the potential loss of royal
power and attempted to negotiate a compromise that would enable both sides to
practice their faith without restriction. She first became the regent for Charles
IX of France and she sided with Francois,
Duke of Guise when the wars broke out in 1562. With the defeat of the royal
troops by Admiral Gaspard
de Coligny, she feared she might lose power, so she planned his
assassination, but it failed. To keep her family on the throne, she arranged the
marriage in 1572 of her daughter Marguerite
de Valois to Duke Henry
of Nevarre of the House
of Bourbon, who had a claim to the throne after her children. She planned to
have the Saint
Bartholomew's Day Massacre after the wedding, so she persuaded King Charles
IX to follow through with it, and had 3 thousand Huguenots
killed in Paris
and 20 thousand killed around France.
She did nothing but exacerbate the situation and keep her lineage in power until
the death of her son Henry
III of France.
The consummation of the struggle came when the War
of the Three Henrys ended with Duke Henry
of Nevarre beginning the Bourbon
Dynasty as Henry
IV of France after he converted to Catholicism
to soothe the situation. Also, King Henry
IV of France issued the Edict
of Nantes in 1598, which gave Huguenots
religious rights. The same year, he signed the Treaty
of Vervins that required Philip
II of Spain, an exponent of the Catholics,
to remove his troops from France.
Later that year Philip
II of Spain died, leaving the Catholics
without a powerful aid. The Wars of Religiom thus ended.
de Medici's son, Francois,
Duke of Anjou, joined the Protestants with an army of his own, a treaty was
made that gave the Huguenots
freedom of worship throughout the country and legal equality with Catholics.
The Catholic League
The treaty was greeted with consternation by the powerful Duke of Guise, a
fanatical Catholic with designs on the throne of France who, as head of the House
of Guise, formed the Catholic League (aka the Holy League). The League's
objective was to exterminate the Huguenots, to confine the King in a monastery,
and place the Duke of Guise on the throne of France. The League was sanctioned
by the Pope and backed by the Catholic King Philip
II of Spain.
The power of the Catholic League was such that King
Henri III of France cancelled the treaty and as a result peace lasted only a
few months before the civil war continued. Following the death of the king's
brother, Francois, and the King's own subsequent assassination, Henri of
Navarre, the de-facto leader of the Protestant movement, became the rightful
king of France. However, the Catholic forces, with support from Catholic Spain,
gathered against his ascension to the throne.
After numerous successful battles against superior Catholic forces and the
Spanish, a feared and yet revered Henri of Navarre recognized that the majority
of the French people were loyal Catholics and that as king he could do far more
for Protestantism than he ever could by waging war. As such, in 1593 he publicly
converted to Roman Catholicism. The following year Henri of Navarre was crowned
IV of France in Chartres
The Duke of Mayenne, a brother of the Duke of Guise, was commander of the
armed forces of the Catholic League. After King
Henri III, had his brother murdered in December of 1588, the Duke of Mayenne
became head of the Catholic League. Although Mayenne and other members of the
House of Guise had murdered, tortured and wreaked havoc on the lives of many
French citizens, for the sake of the country King
Henri IV bought peace with him and in January of 1596 a treaty was signed
that put an end to the League. Parlement refused to ratify the treaty, but King
Henri exercised his power and ordered them to register it.
A highly popular and effective ruler, with the Catholic League dissolved, in
1598 Henri IV issued the Edict
of Nantes that granted partial religious freedom to the French Protestants.
While far from equality of religions, the Edict of Nantes was enough to put an
end to the series of religious wars between Catholics and Protestants that
devastated France from 1562 to 1598.
Henry II of France
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
"This article is licensed under the
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long as the entire work (including additions) remains under this
license", and provide a link to http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html.
Henri II (1519-1559),
a member of the Valois
Dynasty, was King of France
Born March 31, 1519 in the Royal Château at Saint-Germain-en-Laye,
France, the son of François
I and Claude
de France, his marriage was arranged to Catherine
de Medici (1519-1589) on October
when both were 14 years old.
He was crowned king, on July
in the cathedral at Reims,
his reign marked by wars with Austria,
and the persecution of the Protestant Huguenots.
Henri II severely punished them, burning them alive or cutting out their
tongues for speaking their Protestant beliefs. Even someone suspected of being
was imprisoned for life.
Henri II was an avid hunter and participant in jousting tournaments. On
July 1, 1559, during a match to celebrate a peace treaty with his longtime
enemies, the Hapsburgs
of Austria and to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to King Philip
II of Spain, King Henri's eye was pierced by a sliver from a shattered
lance that penetrated the brain. He suffered terribly, passing away on July
10, 1559 and was buried in a cadaver
tomb in Saint
He was succeeded by his son, Francis
II. Henri II's death resulted in the next forty years in France being
filled with turbulence as his sons and other claimants to the French crown
fought for power.
II, (January 19, 1544 - December 5, 1560)
- Elisabeth de France, (April 2, 1545 - October 3, 1568)
- Claude, (November 12, 1547 - February 21, 1575)
- Louis, (February 3, 1549 - October, 1549)
- Charles-Maximilien (Charles
IX), (June 27, 1550 - May 30, 1574)
- Edouard Alexandre (Henri
III), (September 19, 1551 - August 2, 1589)
de Valois, (May 14, 1553 - March 27, 1615)
- Hercule (François), Duke of Alençon and Anjou, (March 18, 1555 - June
- Jeanne, (June 24, 1556 - June 24, 1556) (Twin - died at birth)
- Victoire, (June 24, 1556 - August, 1556) (Twin - died at two months)