In 1985, we observed the tercentenary of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.1 The Edict represents the recognition, according to specified conditions, of a Calvinist minority within the state and society of France. But it should be realized that the Edict revoked in 1685 was no longer that of 1598, which had undergone a protracted process of emasculation. Its withdrawal was not a sudden act of juridical violence, though it might be considered a counterproductive error. This is already to pose a number of problems and questions about the Huguenots and the nature of the Edict, its permanency, and the extent to which that minority had thereby been accepted. Acceptance cannot be ensured by legislation, and permanency proves to be a slippery conception: something lasting, or intended to last indefinitely; durable but not eternal; nothing lasts for ever. There were always conflicting opinions as to how long it could, would or should last.2 The Huguenots’ own restless efforts to obtain additional concessions did not suggest finality. For them their Edict was still a mere beginning. This all points to the existence of problems, and to instability and change. Furthermore, like everything else the Huguenots themselves had changed. Those who suffered the Revocation were quite unlike the bellicose aristocratic faction of the 1590s.3


Foreign Policy General Assembly Corporate Body Religious Liberty Slippery Conception 
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  1. 1.
    The Edict of Fontainebleau, 17 October 1685, really extended to all France conditions which already obtained m many parts. Charles Drion, Histoire chronologique de l’église Protestante de France jusqu’à la révocation de l’édit de Nantes, 2 vols. (Paris, 1855), 2:268–72.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Edict of Nantes was qualified as “irrevocable,” which meant that it could only be revoked by another registered edict. Both parties are said to have seen it from the start as transitory and unstable. Emile-G. Léonard, “Le Protestantisme français au XVIIe siècle,” Revue historique, 200October- December 1948): 155; Joseph Faurey, L’Edit de Nantes et la question de tolérance (Paris, 1929), 51.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The changing social composition of the Huguenots is a major subject. The main lines of these changes have been indicated by Léonard, “Le Protestantisme français,” 164–65.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    A. Poirson, for example, in his monumental history of Henry’s reign, asserts that the Edict was not abused under Henry IV; this is patently false. He does not, however, say that the Edict was a good thing but rather that it was more derogatory to the power of the crown than the treaties with the Catholic League. Histoire du règne de Henri IV, 4 vols. (Paris, 1862–67), 2:521; F.-T. Pencils also asserts that the Edict brought Henry the support of the Huguenots. L’Eglise et l’état en France sous le règne de Henri IV et la régence de Marie de Médicis, 2 vols. (Paris, 1873), 1:143Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    This assumption of good relations may have derived in part from the fact that Huguenot theory came to support the crown, while resistance theories were adopted by the Catholics. Nevertheless, the Huguenots did resist. Harmut Kretzer, “Remarques sur le droit de résistanée des Calvinistes français au début du XVIIè siècle,” Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français (hereafter BHHPF), 123 (1977): 59–60.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Schybergson, “Le duc de Rohan et learti Protestant 1610–1622,” BHSPF, 29 (1880): 52. He also mentions their venomous propaganda (ibid., 53).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    P. Beuzart, “L’Édit de Nantes, création ou aboutissement,” BHSPF, 91 (1942), has compared the Edict of Nantes with the edicts of pacification. Janine Garrisson, L’Edit de Nantes et sa révocation. Histoire d’une intolérance (Paris, 1985), 17, has most recently made this point. See also, N. M. Sutherland, The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition (New Haven and London, 1980), 334–72, where all the edicts are analyzed.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Léonard, “Le Protestantisme français,” 166, 170, 173, 174. The abiding position of the clergy was made clear at the estates general 0 1614–15. They did not categorically demand the revocation of the Edict until 1665. Pierre Blet, Le Clergé de France et la monarchie. Etude sur les Assemblées du Clergé de 1615 à 1666, 2 vols. (Rome, 1959), 1:99ff., 2:342ff., 378ff.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The Edict was twice renewed under Louis XIV: 8 July 1643 and 21 May 1652, which restored the Edict and all subsequent regulations in the Huguenots’ favor registered by the parlements. Blet, Le Clergé de France, 2:346, 350; Léonard, “Le Protestantisme français,” 169. The Declaration of 21 May 1652 was revoked on 11 January 1657. A règlement of 2 April 1666 codified in fifty-nine articles all the changes to the Edict since 1643 and was amplified on 1 February 1669. On 21 January 1669 and 4 July 1679 the (judicial) chambres de l’édit were suppressed. The Edict was eroded by a very large number of regulations relating, in particular, to the prohibition of the cult and the demolition of churches (temples); also to the exclusion of Protestants from offices, professions and occupations, and to the harassment of pastors. Drion, Histoire chronologique, 2:8–272 passim.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Elisabeth Labrousse, “Une foi, une loi, un roi?” La Révocation de I’Édit de Nantes (Paris and Geneva, 1985), 41–42, relates the Declaration of 21 May 1652 to Mazarin’s need for an English alliance.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Léonard, “Le Protestantisme français,” 168–69, points out that, excluded from offices in spite of their eligibility, the Huguenots made themselves indispensable in the financial milieu, and could not safely be alienated.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    One should perhaps distinguish between persecution, juridically speaking, and ill-treatment through a negative interpretation of the Edict. Roland Mousmer, L’Assassinat d-’Henri IV (Paris, 1964), 133, said that, strictly applied, the Edict would become “un instrument de combat et d’étouffement.” English translation by Joan Spencer (London, 1973).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    The kirig had reason to fear a further Huguenot rebellion, which underlines the point that the Huguenots were not a defeated faction. The Venetian ambassador stressed the king’s need to conciliate them. Bergey de Xivrey, Recueil des lettres missives de Henri IV, 9 vols. (Paris, 1844–76), 4:825–26, 11 August 1597, Henry to the duc de Piney-Luxembourg, ambassador in Rome; 896, 11 January 1598, Henryo La Chastre; 947, 2 April 1598, Henry to the constable; Calendar of State Papers Venetian, 1592–1603, p. 301, 9 December 1597, Contanni to the doge.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    The Edict of Nantes was so described. Sutherland, The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition, is based op the successive edicts. The texts, excluding the Edict of Nantes, have been printed by A. Stegmann, Edits des guerres de religion (Paris, 1979).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    For the pope’s benefit Henry explained: “La partie de ceux de contraire religion est encore trop enracinée… et trop forte puissante dedans et dehors (l’étatj pour estre mise à non chaloir,” quoted by Faurey, L’Edit de Nantes, 25, 27, 28.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    This argument—no further necessity—was indeed made in the preamble to the Edict of Fontainebleau, 17 October 1685.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    N. M. Sutherland, “The Edict of Nantes and the Protestant State,” Annali della Fonuazione italiana per la storia amministrativa, 2 (1965): 199–235, shows how the Edict was extorted. Confusion on this point still colors judgements of the Edict itself. René Taveneaux recently declared that the difference between Nantes and previous edicts was that “le roi a désormais la possibilité de proclamer sa volonté et de la faire appliquer.” Le Catholicisme dans la France classique 1610–17/5, 2 vols. (Paris, 1980), 1:24–5. The form and content of the Edict alone negate the first proposition. Long ago the Jesuit historian Gabriel Daniel roundly declared that the manner in which the Edict was obtained was alone sufficient to justify its revocation. Histoire de France, 10 vols. (Paris, 1729), 10:212. To the Catholics the Edict was a truce. Jean Orcibal, Louis XIV et les protestants (Paris, 1951), 29.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Over the centuries there has been a chorus of praise and admiration, even rose-tinted sentimentality such as “une oeuvre incomparable de tolérance sincère et charmante.” Léonard, “Le Protestantisme français,” 154; Gustave Fagniez, Le Père Joseph et Richelieu, 2 vols. (Paris, 1894), 1:380; N. Weiss, “Quelques jugements sur l’edit de Nantes,” BSHPF, 47 (1898).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    The Edict of Nantes is printed in various old works, including Élie Benoist, Histoire de l’édit de Nantes, 5 vols. (Delft, 1693–95), 1:Recueil, 62–98. It is now most readily available in Mousnier, L’Assassinat, 294–334.Google Scholar
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    This point is stressed and illustrated by Georges Pagès, “Les Paix de religion et l’édit de Nantes,” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, n. s., 5 (1936): 410–13.Google Scholar
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    Poirson, an early major work, may have been responsible for starting this confusion. He wrote: “L’Edit de Nantes leur laissa deux espèces d’assemblées: les assemblées pour cause de religion… et les assemblées politiques,” citing articles thirty-four of the second set, and eighty-two of the first set—which said the exact opposite. His further observations on the subject of assemblies are garbled and contradictory. Histoire du règne de Henri IV, 1:368–69. This error has been widely repeated. For example, according to Perrens, L’Eglise et l’état, 1:135, 148, Henry permitted the Huguenots “en quelque sorte une République dans l’état,” including assemblies, which is quite misleading. Léonard, `Le Protestantisme français,“ 155, 166, is contradictory and also misleading. Assemblies were prohibited, but ”par l’édit le Protestantisme devenait… un corps politique privilégié….“ By 1629, he said, the Huguenots were deprived of political privileges. Pierre Blet, ”Le Plan de Richelieu pour la réunion des Protestants,“ Gregorianum, 48 (1967): 101, also said that the Grace of Mais removed ”la forceolitique.“ A.D. Lublinskaya, French Absolutism: The Crucial Phase, 1620–1629 (Cambridge, 1968), 156, refers to political privileges having been obtained among many others. W.J. Stankiewicz, Politics and Religion in Seventeenth-Century France, 2nd ed. (Westport, Conn., 1976), 63, 112, states that the Edict included the right to political assemblies. Pagès, ”Les Paix de religion,“ 407, asserts that the Huguenots later obtained the right to hold assemblies with the king’s permission. Faurey, L’Edit de Nantes, 31, however, correctly refers to assemblies having been ”reconstituées maigre l’interdiction formelle de l’édit.“ The point has also recently been made by Jean-Pierre Babelon, Henri IV (Paris, 1982), 686. Even the very precise historian Mousnier, L’Assassinat, 131–32, is not very clear on this matter. He says that the Huguenots received ”une organization politique et une armee,“ although in principle article eighty-two forbade any political organization. The inference appears to be that permission in the brevet to appoint a temporary council of ten at Saumur, and the military guarantees, amounted to a political organization. He later says, p. 139, that general assemblies, in principle held every three years, were in fact held more frequently. This is not so, and the origin of the triennial point is undisclosed. Most recently, Garrisson, L’Edit de Nantes, 17, 22, described the privileges of the Edict as political, while her analysis shows that they were not. Even Elisabeth Labrousse, Une foi, une loi, un roi?” 93, said that the Edict “instaurait une sorte d’état dans l’état,” whereas it actually sought to abolish the “state” refounded in 1594. That it failed to do so does not affect the juridical point.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sutherland, “The Edict of Nantes,” 200, 214–17; L. Anquez, Histoire des assemblées politiques des réformés de France (Paris, 1859), 15ff., 207ff., 228ff., 340ff., 448; Gordon Griffiths, Representative Government in Western Europe in the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 1968), 254–97.Google Scholar
  23. Pagès, “Les Paix de religion,” 406, states that the ecclesiastical organization was only implicitly recognized by article forty-three of the second group, whereas it is explicitly recognized m article thirty-four. The Edict of Poitiers, 1577, had also contained two sets of articles, sixty-four general plus forty-eight so-called secret articles.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Anquez, Histoire des assemblées, 160–66, indicates that there were sixty-four garrison towns, five royal free cities, not garrisoned, and seventy-five places particulières. The numbers are both approximate and variable. Under the Edict of Poitiers, Henry III had undertaken to pay for troops to guard eight places de sûreté for six years. The principle was therefore established.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Mousnier, L’Assassinat, 128–29, is quite precise about the juridical classification of these documents. In submitting to the parlement the articles of 2 May, Henry explained that he had accorded certain further articles that he wished to carry “pareille force et vertu… que nostre édit.” This would appear to distinguish between the Edict “proper” and other articles, at the same time as giving them equal validity. F.A. Isambert, Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, 29 vols. (Paris, 1829–33), 15:170. There is apparently no record that they were ever registered, 200 n. 1.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sutherland, “The Edict of Nantes,” passim.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    There was some controversy in 1605 as to whether the brevet had run from 1598 or 1600. It remained uncertain whether it expired in 1606 and 1610 or 1608 and 1612. Anquez, Histoire des assemblées, 430, 432.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Yves de La Brière, “Comment fut adopté et accepté l’édit de Nantes,” Etudes, 99 (1904, suite): 44ff.; Mousnier, L’Assassinat,132, refers to “de véritables explosions de rage”; Frederic J. Baumgartner, “The Catholic Opposition to the Edict of Nantes, 1598–1599,” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renais-sance, 40 (1978): 525–36.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Tayeneaux, Le Catholicisme, 1:24, states, precisely, that it was a Huguenot charter, and Perrens, L’Église et l’état, 1:135, that it was an excessive charter setting them up as they wished to be. They showed no signs of satisfaction.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    According to Perrens, L’Église et l’état, 1:136, Catholicism was restored to one hundred cities and 1,000 parishes—approximately, no doubt. The retention of church property by those who had acquired it was undoubtedly one reason for continued resistance.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Where and when the Huguenots were strong, they also resisted the Catholic restitution. See, for in-stance, Robert Sauzet, Contre réforme et réforme catholique en Bas-Languedoc. Le Diocèse de Nîmes au XVlle siècle (Paris, 1979), 192, 195, 199.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
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  33. 33.
    This suggests a temporary, if not a brief arrangement.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
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  35. 35.
    This struggle can be followed in Anquez, Histoire des assemblées, 172ff.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
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  37. 37.
    The Edict was not submitted to the parlement until after the departure of the legate in September 1598, and then the king had to accept amendments which the Huguenots in turn resisted. It was registered in Paris on 25 February 1599; Grenoble, 27 September 1599; Dijon, 12 January 1600; Toulouse, 19 January 1600; Bordeaux, 1600; Aix and Rennes, 11 and 23 August 1600; Rouen, 1609. Anquez, Histoire des assemblées, 174–83, 187–91; Mousnier, L’Assassinat, 135. Mousnier also prints Henry’s masterly discours au parlement, 7 January 1599, 334–37.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Anquez, Histoire des assemblées, 186. The députation générale proved to be lasting. Drion, Histoire chronologique, 2:161, refers to a single deputy m May 1681.Google Scholar
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  40. 40.
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  43. 43.
    The assembly of Châtellerault, 16 June 1597 (reconvened at Saumur, November 1599–31 May 1601) partially coincided with the Biron conspiracy. Another assembly of Châtellerault in 1605 occurred in the same year as the Bouillon conspiracy. Under Louis XIII the assembly of Grenoble, July 1615, which removed to Nimes and La Rochelle, coincided with Condë s second rebellion and supported him.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Marie de Medici declared all assemblies illegal, not because they had previously been lawful but because illegal provincial assemblies were widespread. Benoist, Histoire de l’édit de Nantes, 2:Recueil, 25–27, 24 April 1612, déclaration sur les assemblées, which referred to article eighty-two of the Edict of Nantes and the ordonnance of 1606. They were again declared illegal on 11 July 1612, in 1617, 1618 and by the Peace of Montpellier, 1622. Ibid., 45–47; Anquez, Histoire des assemblées, 255.Google Scholar
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  47. 47.
    This was not recognized by Taveneaux, Le Catholicisme, 1:24, who sees the Edict as having been successful on account of the restoration of monarchical power. This hardly accounts for the hostage towns; if anything it was the restoration of monarchical power which destroyed the Edict.Google Scholar
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  54. 54.
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    Lublinskaya, French Absolutism, 214–15. The non-restoration of church property was, of course, contrary to the Edict.Google Scholar
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    Provision for the demolition of fortifications and the retention of certain hostage towns were contained in subsequent brevets of 24 and 25 October 1622. Anquez, Un Nouveau chapitre, 19–21.Google Scholar
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    This clause in the Peace of Montpellier has given rise to a widespread supposition that assemblies had previously been legal.Google Scholar
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    Probably the best general account from the Huguenot point of view is in Anquez, Un Nouveau chapitre, but it ends in 1626.Google Scholar
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    Clearly, in a religious sense, Richelieu deprecated heresy. Restrictive measures against the Huguenots occurred during the rest of his ministry and the reign of Louis XIII. Drion, Histoire chronologique, 2:8ff.; Blet, “Le Plan de Richelieu,” 100–129; “Mémoire adressée à Richelieu par le ministre Philippe Codur,” BHSPF, 39 (1890), a plan to break up the Protestant ecclesiastical organization and reunite the Huguenots to the Catholic Church. The project was revived in 1645. Faurey, L’Edit de Nantes, 32; Fagniez, Le Père Joseph, 385, 428–35. Fagniez even suggests that Richelieu would not have been averse from a patriarchate, not unlike the Cardinal of Lorraine in 1561.Google Scholar
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    The Huguenots were capable of realizing that Richelieu needed peace. Besides, in January or February 1625, he offered to pardon Rohan and Soubise, planning to employ Rohan in north Italy and Soubise against Genoa. This indicates that Richelieu was not straining to complete the destruction of the Huguenots in battle. Anquez, Un Nouveau chapitre,130–31; Benoist, Histoire de l’édit de Nantes, 2:Recueil, 77, 25 January 1626, declaration against Soubise and offer of pardon.Google Scholar
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    Adams, “The Road to La Rochelle,” 425. An Anglo-French alliance was concluded in May 1625. A declaration of 5 August 1627 refers to the failure of the recent—marnage—treaty with England, her assault on the Ile de Ré, assistance to Soubise and attempts to raise further Protestant rebellion. All this, it was claimed, had nothing to do with religion and Soubise was declared a rebel and destituted. Benoist, Histoire de l’édit de Nantes, 2:Recueil, 87–90. Geoffrey Parker, The Thirty Years’ War (London, 1984), 71–81.Google Scholar
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    Article two: “nous ne pouvons que nous ne désirons leur conversion.”Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1988

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  • N. M. Sutherland

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