- Edict of Nantes
- The Edict of Nantes, issued by King Henry IV in 1598, granted tolerance to Protestants in France. The Reformation in France grew in the 1550s and began to penetrate the ranks of the nobility, most significantly the Coligny family. However, under Francis II increasingly harsh measures were enacted to suppress the HUGUENOTS, as Protestants were termed in France. one edict in 1559, for example, decreed that houses in which unlawful (Protestant) assemblies were held would be leveled and those responsible executed. There was some relief during the reign of Charles IX, but for three decades France became embroiled in a series of civil wars. Each side scored significant victories at different times and places. The most horrendous incident was the notorious St.Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572, when almost 100,000 Protestants were killed in one week; many others were imprisoned. Many survivors went into exile.In 1598, King Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes, which had the effect of granting French Protestants a high degree of toleration. Protestants allowed Catholics to repossess property they had lost and reestablish Catholicism in places that had been under Protestant control. The Huguenots were granted the right to practice their faith wherever they lived at that time and were allowed to attend state-owned universities and hold public office. The government granted them support out of the public treasury similar to that the Roman Catholics enjoyed. The edict brought most fighting to an end for a period, though a number of local conflicts over property and worship facilities ensued, and the Catholic Church did launch an aggressive proselytization campaign aimed at returning Protestants to the fold.During the time of Cardinal Richelieu (who became prime minister in 1624), Hugenots found political access cut back, and they lost their right to hold public office. Their position then took a decided downturn under Louis XIV In 1660, he forbade them to hold a national synod, the first of a set of orders that began to whittle away at the Edict of Nantes. In 1685, the Edit of Nantes was formally revoked. Protestants were barred from gathering for public worship, even in their homes. Protestant pastors were banished from France, and Protestant children ordered to be baptized as Catholics and sent to Catholic schools. A significant number of Protestants left the country; those who remained formed an underground movement that was strongest in the southern half of the country.Over the next century, a more tolerant attitude grew among the public, and in 1787 a new Edict of Toleration granted non-Catholics the right to practice their faith unmolested. It included the right to be legally married before a magistrate and to have the births of children officially recorded. While not specifically part of the new edict, from that time Protestant churches were again open for public worship.Further reading:■ Euan Cameron, The European Reformation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991)■ Barbara B. Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris (New York/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991)■ Robert M. Kingdon, Myths about the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres, 1572-1576 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988)■ George A. Rothrock, The Huguenots: A Biography of a Minority (Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1979).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.