Religious war in France: causes, stages, consequences

French religious wars went with little interruptions from 1562 to 1589. The main parties to the conflict were Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants). The result of numerous wars was the change of the ruling dynasty, as well as the consolidation of the right to free religion.


The bloody religious war in France between Catholics and Protestants began in 1562. She had several superficial reasons and deep causes. In the 16th century, French society split into two irreconcilable camps - Catholic and Protestant. The new doctrine penetrated the country from Germany. His supporters advocated the rejection of certain norms of the Catholic Church (the sale of indulgences, posts, etc.).

The most popular Protestant trend in France was Calvinism. Its adherents were called Huguenots. The centers of this teaching were scattered all over the country, which is why the religious war in France was so significant.

King Francis I became the first monarch to try to stop the spread of a new heresy. He ordered the confiscation of the Huguenot writings, with the help of which the Catholics were agitating. For kings, encroachment on customary faith was an encroachment on their own authority. This is how Valois reasoned, because of which the religious war began in France.

The infringement of the rights of Huguenots

The successor of Francis Henry II even more zealously undertook the eradication of Protestantism in his country. In 1559, the Kato-Cambresis Peace Treaty was signed, which put an end to the long Italian Wars. After that, the king and his army were released. Now, at last, free resources have sprung to power, which they could throw at the struggle against heresy. In his next edict, Henry II threatened the disobedient with burning at the stake. But even these gestures of the state had no effect on the spread of Calvinism. By 1559 in France there were 5 thousand communities in which the adherents of this doctrine lived.

With the accession to the throne of the young King Francis II, all the provincial parliaments established fire chambers. So called extraordinary judicial bodies, which dealt with the cases of Protestants. These institutions were overseen by Giza, the powerful relatives of the boy king. The beginning of religious wars in France and most of their bloody events lies on their conscience.

Amuaz plot

Giza (the brothers Francois and Charles) were hated by many nobles - one because of their despotism, the other because of their religious position. Aristocrats, dissatisfied with the relatives of the king, soon after the establishment of the fire chambers organized a conspiracy. These nobles wanted to take prisoner of the young Francis and demand from him the right of religious choice (that is freedom of conscience).

The plot was disclosed on the eve of execution. Francis and his escorts fled to Amboise. Nevertheless, the conspirators did not abandon their plans and tried to seize the king by force right in this city. The plan failed. Many nobles died in battle, others were executed afterwards. Those events of March 1560 were the occasion, because of which a religious war broke out in France.

The War Begins

Just a couple of months after the failed conspiracy, Francis II died because of his poor health. Throne passed to his brother Charles IX, during the reign of which the beginning of religious wars in France began. The year 1562 was marked by the massacre of the Huguenots in Champagne. The Duke of Guise with his army attacked unarmed Protestants who peacefully performed worship. This event signaled the outbreak of a large-scale war.

The Huguenots, like the Catholics, had their own leaders. The first of these was the prince Ludovic de Conde of the Bourbon family. After the incident in Champagne, he captured several cities, making Orleans the mainstay of the Protestant resistance to power. The Huguenots concluded an alliance with the German principalities and England, the countries where they fought the same way with Catholic influence. The involvement in the civil confrontation of external forces aggravated the religious wars in France even more. Years were required for the country to exhaust all its resources and, bleeding, finally came to a peace agreement between the parties.

An important feature of the conflict was that there were several wars. The bloodshed then began, then stopped, then resumed. So, with small interruptions, the war went from 1562 to 1598 years. The first stage ended in 1563, when the Huguenots and Catholics concluded the Amboise Peace. According to this treaty, Protestants received the right to practice their religion in certain provinces of the country. The parties came to an agreement thanks to the active mediation of Catherine de Medici, the mother of three French kings (Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III). Over time, she became the protagonist of the conflict. The Queen Mother is most known to the modern inhabitant thanks to the classic historical novels of Dumas.

The Second and Third War

Giza was dissatisfied with concessions to the Huguenots. They began to seek Catholic allies abroad. At the same time, in 1567, Protestants, like several years before, tried to capture the king. The incident, known as a surprise in Mo, ended in nothing. The authorities summoned the leaders of the Huguenots, Prince Conde and Count Gaspar Coligny, to court. Those refused to come to Paris, which served as a signal for the resumption of bloodshed.

The reasons for the religious wars in France were that the intermediate peace treaties, which implied little concessions to the Protestants, did not satisfy either side. Because of this insoluble contradiction, the conflict resumed again and again. The second war ended in November 1567 due to the death of one of the leaders of the Catholics - the Duke of Montmorency.

But only a few months later, in March 1568, the firing and the death cries of the soldiers resounded on the fields of France. The third war was mainly held in the province of Languedoc. Protestants nearly took Poitiers. They managed to cross Ron and force the authorities to make concessions again. The privileges of the Huguenots were expanded according to the Saint-Germain Treaty, signed on August 15, 1570. Freedom of religion was established throughout France, except for Paris.

Marriage of Henry and Margo

In 1572, the culmination of religious wars in France. The 16th century knew many bloody and tragic events. But, perhaps, none of them could compare with Bartholomew's night. So in the historiography was called the massacre of Huguenots, arranged by Catholics. The tragedy occurred on August 24, 1572, on the eve of the day of the apostle Bartholomew. Today, scientists give different estimates of how many Protestants were killed at that time. Calculations give a figure of about 30 thousand people - a magnitude unprecedented for their time.

The massacre was preceded by several important events. Since 1570, religious wars in France have briefly ceased. The date of the signing of the Saint Germain Peace Treaty was a holiday for the exhausted country. But the most radical Catholics, including the powerful Giza, did not want to recognize this document. Among other things, they were against the appearance at the royal court Gaspar Coligny - one of the leaders of the Huguenots. The talented admiral enlisted the support of Charles IX. The monarch wanted to join the Netherlands with the help of the commander. Thus, political motives triumphed over religious ones.

Ekaterina Medici also for a while cooled her ardor. The treasury had little money to conduct an open confrontation with the Protestants. Therefore, the Queen Mother decided to use diplomatic and dynastic methods. The Paris court agreed on the terms of the marriage between Marguerite Valois (daughter of Catherine) and Henry of Navarre - another leader of the Huguenots.

Bartholomew's Night

The wedding was to be celebrated in Paris. Because of this, a large number of Huguenots - supporters of Henry of Navarre - arrived in the predominantly Catholic city. The mood in the capital was the most explosive. Commoners hated Protestants, accusing them of all their troubles. At the top of the government there was no unity in relation to the upcoming wedding.

The marriage took place on August 18, 1572. After 4 days, Admiral Coligny, who was traveling from the Louvre, was fired from a house belonging to the Gizam. It was a planned attempt. The leader of the Huguenots was wounded, but survived. However, what happened was the last straw. Two days later, on the night of August 24, Catherine de Medici ordered the massacre of the Huguenots, which had not yet left Paris. The beginning of religious wars in France amazed contemporaries with its cruelty. But what happened in 1572 was not compared to the previous horrors of battles and battles.

Thousands of people died. Gaspard Coligny, the day before miraculously escaped death, said goodbye to life one of the first. Henry of Navarre (future King Henry IV) managed to survive only thanks to intercession at the court of his new relatives. Bartholomew's Night was an event that broke the course of the conflict, known in history as religious wars in France. The date of the crackdown on the Huguenots was marked by the loss of many of their leaders. After the horrors and chaos in the capital, about 200,000 Huguenots fled the country, according to various estimates. They moved to German principalities, England and Poland, to be as far from the bloody Catholic authorities as possible. Valois's actions were condemned by many rulers of the time, including Ivan the Terrible.

Continuation of the conflict

The agonizing Reformation and religious wars in France led to the fact that the country had not known peace for many years. After the St. Bartholomew's Night, the point of no return was passed. The parties have ceased to seek a compromise, and the state has once again become a victim of mutual bloodshed. The fourth war ended in 1573, but in 1574 King Charles IX died. He did not have an heir, so his younger brother, Henry III, arrived in Paris, and before that he had been an autocrat of Poland for a short time.

The new monarch again brought the irrepressible Gizov to himself. Now the religious wars in France, briefly, resumed again, due to the fact that Henry did not control some regions of his country. Thus, for example, the German Count of Palatinate, who came to the rescue of local Protestants, invaded Champagne. Then came the moderate Catholic party, known in historiography as "dissatisfied." Representatives of this movement advocated the establishment of religious tolerance throughout the country. They were joined by a large patriotically minded nobility, tired of an endless war. In the Fifth War, "dissatisfied" and Huguenots acted as a united front against Valois. Giza again broke both. After that, many "dissatisfied" were executed as state traitors.

The Catholic League

In 1576, Henri de Guise established the Catholic League, which, in addition to France, included Jesuits, Spain and the Pope. The aim of the alliance was the final defeat of the Huguenots. In addition, on the side of the league were aristocrats, who wanted to limit the power of the king. Religious wars and absolute monarchy in France during the second half of the 16th century were the main factors influencing the course of the history of this country. Time has shown that after the victory of the Bourbons the power of the kings only increased, despite the efforts of the nobles to limit it under the pretext of fighting against Protestants.

The Catholic League unleashed the Sixth War (1576-1577), following which the rights of the Huguenots were markedly limited. The center of their influence has moved to the south. The universally recognized leader of the Protestants was Henry of Navarre, after the wedding of which once there was a massacre at the Varfolomeevsky night.

King of a small kingdom in the Pyrenees, belonging to the Bourbon dynasty, became the heir of the entire French throne because of the childlessness of the son of Catherine de Medici. Heinrich III did not really have offspring, which put the monarch in a delicate position. According to dynastic laws, his next male relative must have inherited it. Ironically, he became Henry of Navarre. First, he also came from Louis the Saint, and secondly, the applicant was married to the sister of the monarch Margaret (Margot).

War of the Three Henry

The dynastic crisis led to the war of three Henrykhs. Between themselves fought namesakes - the King of France, the King of Navarre and the Duke of Guise. This conflict, which lasted from 1584 to 1589, was the last in a series of religious wars. Henry III lost the campaign. In May 1588 the inhabitants of Paris rebelled against him, after which he had to flee to Blois. The Duke of Guise arrived in the capital of France. For several months he was actually the ruler of the country.

To somehow resolve the conflict, Guise and Valois agreed to hold a General Staff meeting in Blois. The duke who arrived there fell into a trap. Guardsmen of the king killed Giza himself, the guard, and later his brother. The treacherous act of Henry III did not add to his popularity. The Catholics turned away from him, and the pope cursed at all.

In the summer of 1589, Henry III was stabbed by a Dominican monk Jacques Clement. The murderer was able to obtain an audience of the King with false documents. When the Guardsmen parted before Henry, the monk unexpectedly plunged into that stylet. The assassin was torn to pieces. But Henry III died of the injury. Now nothing prevented the King of Navarre from becoming the ruler of France.

Edict of Nantes

Henry of Navarre became king of France on August 2, 1589. He was a Protestant, but in order to gain a foothold on the throne, he accepted Catholicism. This act allowed Henry IV to receive a remission of sins from the Pope for his former "heretical" views. The first years of reign the monarch spent fighting with his political rivals who also claimed power throughout the country.

And only after his victory Heinrich in 1598 issued the Edict of Nantes, which enshrined free religion throughout the country. Thus ended the religious wars and the strengthening of the monarchy in France. After more than thirty years of bloodshed in the country came the long-awaited peace. Huguenots received new rights and impressive grants from the authorities. The outcome of the religious war in France was not only to end the prolonged conflict, but also to centralize the state in the reign of the Bourbon dynasty.

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