Understanding the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes from the Perspective of the French Court

  • Elisabeth Labrousse
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées/International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 125)


Few political decisions have roused historians to such a swift condemnation, indeed such a unanimous censure as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, signed at Fontainebleau on 17 October 1685. At the time, however, the Revocation was greeted in France with widespread and unsolicited enthusiasm. Its partial failure—creating as it did more problems than it solved—caused disappointment and slowly led the public to question its legitimacy. Ensuing generations perceived the Edict of Fontainebleau and the anti-Protestant policies which it consecrated as an enormous error and a serious political misjudgment. Such an attitude is too well-known to merit consideration here.


Supra Note Protestant Church Capital Sentence Pyrrhic Victory Eternal Salvation 
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  1. 1.
    Religion prétendue réformée,“ that is, ”self-styled reformed religion,“ the legal term in France that was somewhat disparaging.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Such as Henri Martin or Ernest Lavisse, not to say Jules Michelet.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Or “whose the region, his the religion.” In France it could also be expressed as “Une foi, une loi, un roi” (“one faith, one law, one king”)—in any given territory, one religion only.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Louis Maimbourg (1610–86), for many years a Jesuit, wrote many popular history books, among them histories of Lutheranism and Calvinism. See Elisabeth Israels Perry, From Theology to History: French Religious Controversy and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (The Hague, 1973 ).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    They were no more than 6 percent of the total population of the kingdom.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    This date is New Style, used on the continent. England used Old Style, ten days behind the continent.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    This daughter of Henry IV of France had been married to Charles I of England and allowed to stay Roman Catholic. She had a certain influence on her husband, which proved disastrous to himGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    The Didcipline of the Reformed Chruches of Frane, composed in the sixteeth century, established in detail rules of organization.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Émile-G. Léonard, Histoire générale du protestantisme,3 vols. (Paris, 1961). There is an English edition, 2 vols. (London, 1965–67).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    In fact, they were lukewarm and slow: see Jean Orcibal, Louis XIV et les protestants (Paris, 1951), 139–47.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Desert wilderness“—a biblical allusion—was used to describe both the clandestine meetings and the clandestine reorganization of the French Reformed Churches. The meetings took place in open air, as far as possible from villages where the local authorities—in particular, the Catholic curé (the chief parish priest)—could be aware of the meeting.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    The hero of a book by Alfred Jarry, described in a grotesque and half surrealistic fashion as a ferocious tyrant.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Débonnaireté chrétienne.“Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cf. supra note 10.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Soldiers—often dragoons—were forcibly lodged in Protestant households, which were obliged to feed them; those unwelcome and ruinous guests were incited to use every harassment to obtain from their hosts the recanting of their religious particularism.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    A “pastoral” letter of the bishops, who considered the Protestants in their respective dioceses as their lost sheep. As bishops and intendants jointly addressed themselves to the consistories, the negative answer was to be worded with great caution, not to appear as a subversive resistance to the civil authorities.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    The principal tax.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cf. Louis XIV, Mémoires pour l’instruction du Dauphin, ed. Charles Dreyss, 2 vols. (Paris, 1860), 2: 95.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Labrousse

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