Louis XIV and the Edict of Nantes

  • J. Orcibal

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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Notes

  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
  2. 1.
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  3. 2.
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  4. 3.
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  6. 5.
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  8. 6.
    The contradictions within the edict have been stressed by C. de Rulhière, Eclaircissements historiques sur les causes de la révocation de l’Edit de Nantes, i (no place of publication, 1788) p. 13. For the Protestant attitude seeGoogle Scholar
  9. 6.
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  13. 9.
    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
  14. 9.
    P. Ceyssens in Bulletin de l’Institut historique belge de Rome, xi (1969) 157–264; cf. also Tabaraud, Histoire critique p. 202.Google Scholar
  15. 10.
    A good source of information are the letters addressed to A. Rivet in November and December 1642 by Daillé and Sarrau: Correspondance du P. Marin Mersenne, xi, ed. P. Tannery and J. De Waard (Paris, 1971) pp. 168, 293, 297, 361 f. Grotius’ attitude to religion has been studied by Levesque de Burigny; and, more recently, byGoogle Scholar
  16. 10.
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  17. 10.
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  18. 27.
    Dreyss (ed.) Mémoires I, p. 206; C. Rousset, Histoire de Louvois, III (Paris, 1863) p. 434; my Louis XIV et les Protestants p. 98 ff.Google Scholar
  19. 28.
    See E. Haag, La France protestante, ry (Paris, 1859) p. 377.Google Scholar
  20. 31.
    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
  22. 37.
    E. Spanheim, Relation de la Cour de France (Paris, 1883) pp. 5–9, 25 fl. For Louis’ passion for glory see also my Louis XIV et les Protestants p. 96; Dreyss (ed.), Mémoires, x p. 289;Google Scholar
  23. 37.
    P. Goubert, L’avènement du Roi-Soleil, 1661 (Paris, 1967) pp. 58 f, 135, 140–1, 143–4, 147, 150.Google Scholar
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  25. 53.
    The ‘news at hand’ of 23 June 1685 (E. Griselle, ‘Avant et après la Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes’, Societé de l’histoire du Protestantisme française, Bulletin historique et littéraire (1907) p. 271) is confirmed by the despatches of the nuncio Ranuzzi himself: see L. O’Brien, Innocent XI and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (Berkeley, 1930) p. 65; by the despatches of Cardinal d’Estrées to Louis XIV of 10, 17 and 24 July 1685, see A.A.E., C.P., Rome, vol. 294, ff. 168r, 177v-79r, 188r; by Louis’ answer of 3 August 1685, ibid., f. 175v; and the letter of Abbé Servient of 14 August 1685, ibid., vol. 297, f. 191v. For echoes of the audiences see the Venetian dispatches of 20 and 27 June, 4, 11 and 18 July 1685 in B.N., MS. Italien 1897, ff. 185, 198, 208, 219, 227.Google Scholar
  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
  27. 58.
    L. L. Bernard, ‘Foucault, Louvois and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes’, Church History (1956) 26–40, attributes all responsibility to Foucault.Google Scholar
  28. 60.
    J. Dubourdieu, Lettres de quelques protestants pacifiques (no place of publication, 1685) p. 1ff. For Aubert de Versé being of the same opinion, see my Louis XIV et les Protestants p. 98, n. 32.Google Scholar
  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.
    L. B. Proyart, OEuvres complètes (Paris, 1819) ss, pp. 105–7. Mémoires de F. T. de Choissy (ed. M. F. A. de Lescure) n (no place of publication, 1888) pp. 175–7 differs, but it would seem that his account has been influenced by later happenings. For the danger of armed revolt see Mercure galant Jan 1706, and my Louis XIV et les Protestants p. 112, n. 7.Google Scholar
  31. 129.
    Fr Puaux, ‘De la responsabilité de la Révocation’, Revue Historique (1885) 242.Google Scholar

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© The Macmillan Press Ltd 1976

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  • J. Orcibal

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