Louis XIV and the Edict of Nantes

  • J. Orcibal


Even if the Edict of Nantes of 1598 seems, in historical perspective, to be the French equivalent of the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, it is important to note that to contemporaries it represented a definite novelty: whereas religious and political unity had been closely identified until then, the edict imparted a federal character to the French state.1 Like those of Beaulieu (6 May 1576) and Poitiers (September 1577),2 the Edict of Nantes recognised the weakness of the central power, unable to make either party lay down its arms without the guarantee of places where it could worship in security according to its own religious choice. Mayenne, Joyeuse and Mercoeur were won over by such concessions between January 1596 and March 1598, and on 13 April 1598 Henri IV had to grant his former co-religionists the Edict of Nantes before proceeding to make peace with Spain, the Empire and Savoy at Vervins on 2 May. The use in the edict of the terms ‘perpetual’ and ‘irrevocable’ denoted the intention — sincerely held by Henri IV — of not resorting to force, but it did not imply the abandonment of hopes of achieving religious unity within the state.


Scriptive Character Imperial Edict Draft Project Protestant Pastor Protestant Leader 
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  1. 1.
    E. G. Léonard has compared it to the Anglo-Scottish connections at the accession of James I: Revue Historique (1948) 155 ff, 166. The situation in Poland, with semi-independence for the nobility, should also be borne in mind: see A. Jobert, ‘La tolérance religieuse en Pologne au XVI° siècle’ in Studies in onore di E. Le Gatto e G. Mayer (Florence, 1969) pp. 337–43; andGoogle Scholar
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  3. 2.
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    A. Rébelliau, Bossuet, historien du protestantisme, 3rd ed. (Paris, 1909) pp. 9, 11; and my Louis XIV et les Protestants p. 13, n. 14. The most effective opposition came from the ‘devout’ party: see my Origines du jansénisme ni (Paris, 1948) p. 143 ff, and the François Hallier letters of December 1640 and, in particular, that of 20 January 1645, published byGoogle Scholar
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    See E. Haag, La France protestante, ry (Paris, 1859) p. 377.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 91; Dreyss (ed.), Mémoires, I, p. 155 ff; u, pp. 232, 418; Paul Sonnino, Louis XIV’s Views of the Papacy, 1661–1667 (Berkeley, 1966) pp. 15, 22, 28.Google Scholar
  21. 32.
    See, in particular for the plan of Daguesseau, Rulhière, Eclaircissements historiques, pp. 62–6; Tabaraud, Histoire critique, pp. 207–8; P. Gachon, Quelques préliminaires de la Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes en Languedoc, 1661–1685 (Toulouse, 1899) pp. lxxx—lxxxv; and my Louis XIV et les Protestants, pp. 32–7, 40.Google Scholar
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  25. 53.
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  26. 54.
    There is a version of ‘Nouvelles ecclésiastiques’ in a damaged, undated letter of Fouquet, B.N., MS. Fr. 23,498, f. 26. It should be noted that Fouquet, who was passionately opposed to the Jesuits, incriminated not only Maimbourg but the whole company. Cf. B.N., MS. Italien 1897, f. 184ff, despatch of 20 June 1685. On the chancellor’s anti-Huguenot views see P. Blet, ‘Le conseil du Roi et les protestants de 1680 à 1685’, Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Chartes cxxx (1972) 159ff, and on his son’s rivalry with the archbishop of Paris, Spanheim, Relation de la Cour de France p. 248.Google Scholar
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  29. 77.
    See Louis’ letter of 21 Sep 1685 in E. Esmonin, Etudes sur la France du XVII’ et XVIII’ siècles (Paris, 1964) p. 360. Cf. the letters of pastor Claude of 7, 21 Sep and 12 Oct printed in E. O. Douen, La Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes it Paris, s (Paris, 1894) p. 568ff.Google Scholar
  30. 85.
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  31. 129.
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© The Macmillan Press Ltd 1976

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  • J. Orcibal

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