FRANCE 1494-1559

At the beginning of this period, France was the most powerful of the European states. This power was concentrated, to a considerable extent, in the hands of the monarchy; and it is, therefore, clear that the manner in which French kings chose to wield their strength was inevitably a vital factor in the life of Europe. For the first half of the sixteenth century down to 1559, to be exact the strength of the monarchy continued to grow within France, in relation to the other forces in French society. This strength was used by the kings in dealing with two problems, which will engage our attention in this chapter: the problem of the Hapsburgs, with whom the French crown was constantly at war, and the problem of the French Protestants, or Huguenots, whose activities began and became increasingly significant during this period.

The growth of the French monarchy had begun during the Middle Ages; medieval kings of France had demonstrated that the institutions of feudalism were capable, in strong hands, of supplying the basis for an effective centralized government. France had been blessed with many strong kings; and, for the most part, they had lived long enough to be succeeded on the throne by sons who were already mature men and thus able to carry on their fathers' policies without interruptions. In this way France had been largely spared the experience of regencies, always a source of potential danger in hereditary monarchies. The royal domain had grown in the course of centuries from the small holdings of Hugh Capet in 987, which consisted of not much more than the region around Paris, until it included the bulk of modern France. The last of the great feudal principalities, Brittany, was acquired after the death of the last duke in 1488 by warfare and by the marriage of the heiress of Brittany, Anne, to two successive French kings, Charles VIII and Louis XII.

The Hundred Years' War had for a time interrupted the growth of monarchical power, but in the long run had strengthened it. To enable the monarch to defend his realm more successfully, he was given the power to raise troops on his own authority as well as levy taxes for their support. This power was retained after the war was ended. It gave the French kings, at the beginning of modern times, two of the most important and characteristic attributes of the modern nation.

In the realm of thought, as well as in that of institutions, there were factors that contributed to the strength of the monarchy. The experience of the Hundred Years' War had helped to create a spirit of patriotic devotion among Frenchmen. From as early as the thirteenth century the writings of the legists, experts in the Roman law, had been elaborating the theoretical basis of monarchical power. At a more popular level, there had been developing the theory of the divine right of kings: the doctrine that the king is the earthly representative of God and that his word is not to be questioned or resisted. Medieval political theories had included the concept of a divine sanction for monarchy, but they had found a place for resistance to tyrannical acts that is, acts which violated divine or natural law. The theory of the divine right of kings went further and prescribed obedience to all the acts of a king, who could not be judged by his subjects or any earthly authority, but only by God.

As in other countries, so in France, by the beginning of the sixteenth century the merchant class, dominant in the cities, had undergone a change in its attitude toward the royal power. Whereas at an earlier period these men were capable of resisting the king in behalf of the liberties of their cities, they now favored the royal power and were willing to cooperate with the kings to keep in check the aspirations of the city masses.

The group of courts known as parlements had contributed to the growth of monarchical power. There were eight of these by the start of the sixteenth century, of which the most important was the Parlement of Paris, the supreme court of appeal in France and the most important tribunal in the country. The resemblance to the English word parliament is somewhat deceptive; these bodies were law courts, not legislative chambers. Their members were judges who had purchased their offices; this "venality" of offices helped to make them hereditary. The members of these courts belonged to the "nobility of the robe," as distinguished from the older feudal, military nobles, the "nobility of the sword." In fact, the parlements had helped to support the royal power in its conflict with the older nobility as well as with the church.

In one respect the parlements had what might be thought of as a political function: They had the right to register the king's edicts before they took effect. Since these edicts, or laws, were issued by the king on his own authority, the right of registration provided the only constitutional check on his law-making powers. However, the king had the prerogative of appearing personally in the parlement and holding a "bed of justice," which compelled the registration of the edict in question.

The Estates-General in France consisted of the clergy, or First Estate; the nobility, or Second Estate; and the Third Estate, which in theory represented all the rest of the population but, in fact, stood for the interests of the merchant and professional classes in the cities. There were also local estates in some of the provinces, especially those that had been annexed to the crown in relatively recent years. The first two estates were the privileged classes; the Third Estate was the unprivileged middle class and peasants. The bulk of the taxes were paid by the unprivileged classes; the clergy and nobles, collectively very wealthy, paid far less than their proportionate share. This was a source of weakness for the royal revenue as well as a potential cause of social discontent. There was also a difference in the rate of taxation between different parts of the country, so that it might be said that there were both vertical and horizontal inequities in the French tax structure.

For the collection of some taxes, the French government resorted to corporations of tax-farmers, who paid the crown a lump sum for the privilege of collecting the taxes and keeping the proceeds. The results of this system were that the taxpayers were oppressed and the government was cheated.

There was no effective accounting system for the revenues of the crown, and so a large amount of money destined for the treasury never got there, but remained in the pockets of officials who handled it along the way. Consequently, although France was a country of great wealth, the resources of the nation were available only to a very limited degree for the pursuit of royal policies. This is only one example of an important fact of early modern history: The rising nation-states, with their growing needs, were trying to pay increasing expenses on the basis of the fiscal arrangements of the feudal period. As a result, it was normal for them to be short of money and to resort to expedients that made matters worse, such as the debasing of the coinage.

In its relationship with the church, the French monarchy had also managed to assert its authority. The struggle between Boniface VIII and Philip the Fair is one incident showing the ability of the French crown to resist successfully the claims of the papacy. During the "Babylonian Captivity" of the fourteenth century, the succession of French popes at Avignon was susceptible to the influence of the French king; and during the Great Schism that followed, the dependence of the Avignon popes on the French was increased because of the loss of much of their obedience to their rivals in Italy. At one point during the Great Schism, the French officially withdrew their allegiance from both popes, an act of extraordinary independence.

This self-assertion of the French crown in its dealings with the papacy had been accompanied by the growth of the so-called Gallican tradition of independence of the French church itself toward Rome. From the University of Paris, home of the greatest theological school in Europe, there came strong support for the conciliar idea. The conciliar movement gave the French church an opportunity to extract good terms from the pope, who needed support in his struggle with the Council of Basel. The result was the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges of 1438, an agreement between the French clergy and the pope. It asserted the superiority of general councils over popes, gave to the local chapters the authority to elect bishops and abbots in the French church, forbade appeals to Rome, and canceled most money payments to the pope. What payments remained were to have the status of free gifts.

This document governed the relations of the French church with Rome most of the time until 1516. In that year, Francis I, who was in Italy as a conqueror, reached a new agreement with Leo X, called the Concordat of Bologna. Through this treaty the king acquired the right to make appointments to the upper clergy. The right to collect annates from the French church was restored to the pope. Henceforth, the kings of France effectively controlled the church, and this fact removed one possible inducement to carry out a reformation on the English model in the sixteenth century. The authority Henry VIII gained only by breaking away from Rome was already in the hands of the French kings while still in communion with Rome.

From the standpoint of French spiritual life, however, the results of the Concordat of Bologna were less happy. The kings used their mastery of the church to reward their favorites and servants with bishoprics and abbacies, and thus the upper clergy did not give spiritual leadership. The system also helped to bring the split between the upper and lower clergy and the bitterness of the latter, which rankled until the revolution.

There were elements of weakness in the French monarchy. During the reigns of Francis I and Henry II, in the first half of the sixteenth century, royal expenses were far greater than the money available to meet them. As a result, the crown had to resort to measures that were in themselves undesirable, such as selling parts of the royal domain and, perhaps most serious of all, selling offices. Under Francis I, the sale of offices provided a regular part of the royal revenue, and before the end of the sixteenth century all offices were sold. This was the only way to secure for the crown a share of the wealth of the middle class, but it had bad effects, such as the hereditary character of offices and a great increase in their number. In the growing body of officeholders the kings were setting up an obstacle to their own power, which was never suppressed.

Although the kings had been winning a gradual ascendancy over the great nobles, the latter were by no means happy in this state of dependence. Some of them came from families that earlier had been virtually independent rulers, and such memories died hard. In any situation where the crown was weakened, these great nobles were waiting to take advantage of the opportunity to reassert their former power. Of all the classes in France, they were perhaps the least touched by the patriotic spirit, and did not scruple to resist the king.

Meanwhile, the conflict between the French and the Hapsburgs was becoming a fixture in European politics, the first great international rivalry in modern history and one of the most enduring. The story of the struggle for Italy from 1494 to 1515 has been told in a previous chapter. After his victory at Marignano in 1515, Francis I, master of Milan, enjoyed a period of dominance in northern and central Italy, which enabled him to make peace with the Swiss and the pope, who had opposed him. Henceforth, Franco-Swiss relations were uniformly good, and the French habitually recruited mercenary troops from the Swiss cantons. With the pope, Francis made the Concordat of Bologna, referred to above. With the young Charles I, who came to the Spanish throne in 1516, Francis made a peace, which was not destined to last long.

In the imperial election of 1519, Francis put himself forward as a candidate to succeed Maximilian I. When his rival, Charles I of Spain, was elected Emperor Charles V, a complex of territories came into the hands of the Hapsburg power that virtually enclosed France on all her land borders. Thus, geography compelled the French to become enemies of the Hapsburgs.

There were many areas of conflict. Francis was established in Milan and northern Italy, Charles in Naples and Sicily. Charles hoped to regain the duchy of Burgundy, which had belonged to his great-grandfather, Charles the Bold, and which had been absorbed into the French monarchy by Louis XI. Throughout all the vicissitudes of the struggle, the French position in Italy steadily deteriorated, while Charles was never able to regain Burgundy. During the years after Marignano, Francis was deprived of almost all of his Italian holdings and even had to meet an invasion of France. In the invasion, Charles had as allies Henry VIII of England and Constable Bourbon, one of the great French nobles whom Francis had antagonized and thereby driven into Spanish service. The invasion took place in 1524, and was successfully repulsed. Francis then returned to Italy and besieged Pavia. Here a great battle took place in 1525 on February 24, the birthday of Charles V in which the French were utterly defeated and Francis made prisoner.

The prisoner was taken to Spain, where he was compelled in 1526 to sign the Treaty of Madrid. In it Francis gave up Burgundy, relinquished his claims in Italy and Flanders, and promised to reinstate Bourbon and to marry Charles's sister Eleanor. His two sons were to remain as hostages for the fulfillment of the terms, and Francis promised to return to captivity if he failed to carry out his agreements. It is unlikely that Francis ever intended to carry out the treaty. In any event, he violated it as soon as he was free.

Charles's growing supremacy in Italy brought into action the forces of the balance of power, and in 1526 there was formed another Holy League, the League of Cognac. In addition to the pope, Clement VII, some of the other Italian states, and the French, it included in its membership Henry VIII of England. The troops of Charles V included a good many German Lutheran mercenaries, or Landsknechte, and were led by the renegade French noble the Constable Bourbon. By 1527, these troops, long unpaid, entered Rome. The death of Bourbon in the attack on the city released the soldiers from whatever restraint he might have been able to impose, and Rome was put to the sack. For eight days the troops, with nothing to check their barbarity, pillaged, raped, destroyed, and committed acts of iconoclasm and sacrilege, in which the German Lutherans no doubt took the lead.

By 1528 the French were again driven out of Italy, and in 1529 Francis I and Charles V signed the Peace of Cambrai. Francis once more gave up his claims in Italy and Flanders, but this time Charles renounced the duchy of Burgundy, which had been awarded to him in the Treaty of Madrid in 1526. The French princes whom Charles had been holding as hostages were to be released for a payment of two million gold crowns, and Francis once more promised to marry Charles's sister, Eleanor. This time the marriage did take place, and Eleanor entered France as queen in 1530.

Francis did not give up his Italian ambitions. He maintained his alliances with the pope, the English, the German Protestants, and even the Turks. In 1535, the duke of Milan, Francesco Maria Sforza, died. He owed his position to Spanish support, and on his death Charles's troops occupied Milan, while Francis claimed it for his second son. He also claimed Piedmont for his mother, Louise of Savoy, and invaded it in 1536. Charles retaliated with an unsuccessful invasion of France. In 1538 the Truce of Nice left Francis in possession of Piedmont, with Charles holding Milan. Charles had promised Milan to a younger son of Francis, but instead gave it to his own son, Philip.

Francis resumed the war in 1542 and thereby exposed France to invasion by Charles and Henry VIII. The French, to offset this danger, won a great victory in the Piedmont. The Peace of Crpy, in 1544, required that each side give up all its conquests since the Truce of Nice, and more or less restored the status quo.

Thus, when Francis I died in 1547, the Italian policy of France, after over half a century of fighting, had resulted chiefly in strengthening the hold of Spain. On the other hand, the duchy of Burgundy was securely in possession of the French kings, in spite of Charles's desire to regain possession of it. Flanders remained a battleground, where the rival ambitions of France and Spain constituted a standing threat to the tranquillity of the native population and a constant source of concern to the English.

The failure of French ambitions in Italy was on the whole probably a source of strength to the French kings; it forced them to turn their attention from adventures in distant lands to the more feasible and necessary task of extending the French borders. After Francis's death, this process was resumed. The conflict with Charles was continued by Henry II, son and successor of Francis. In 1551 he attacked without a declaration of war. In the same year he made a treaty with Duke Maurice of Albertine Saxony, a Lutheran, in which he promised to help the German Lutherans in their struggle with Charles in return for the imperial cities of Cambrai, Metz, Toul, and Verdun. These acquisitions promised a material strengthening of the French border. The French policy of alliance with Protestant states in the endeavor to check Hapsburg power did not prevent severe persecution of Protestants within France.

The war continued for several years. Before it was over, Charles V abdicated as king of Spain in 1556, and was succeeded by his son, Philip II. Through his wife, Mary Tudor, Philip involved England in the war on the Spanish side. In 1557 the Spanish won a great victory over the French at St. Quentin, and in the following year defeated the French again at the battle of Gravelines. Meanwhile, in 1557 the French took Calais, the last English possession on the Continent.

In 1559 peace was made. By the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrsis, the French renounced their Italian claims but gained Calais, Metz, Toul, and Verdun. In other words, Philip II compensated France at the expense of England and the empire. Mary Tudor had died in 1558, and that left Philip conveniently free to marry Elizabeth of Valois, daughter of the French king, as stipulated by the treaty. To celebrate the marriage, great festivities were held in Paris, and Henry II himself took part by breaking a lance with one of his nobles in a joust. The event proved fatal. Henry was accidentally injured and died a few days later, leaving his widow, Catherine de' Medici, and several sons whose weakness helped to reverse, for the rest of the century, the growth of the French monarchy.

Thus the year 1559 marks a turning point. Spain was now the master of Italy, and the French, though they did not abandon the Italian dream, had officially renounced ambitions there. The growth of monarchical power in France was temporarily checked. To complicate all these matters further, there was the growing problem of the Reformation in France.

In France the relationship between the Renaissance and the beginnings of the Reformation is closer than in some other places. There was, as we have seen, a group of scholars and thinkers, greatly influenced by humanism and especially by Erasmus, who were already, in the years before the Reformation, engaging in bold speculation on religious matters and discussing reform of the church. The most important and influential figure among these was Jacques Lefvre d'taples. Among those whom he influenced were Guillaume Brionnet, bishop of Meaux, and the princess Marguerite d'Angoulme, sister of Francis I. Brionnet was a reformer who came from a family of pluralists. Among his father, his brother, and himself, they held five dioceses, two archbishoprics, and three abbeys. Louis XII and Francis I employed him at the Curia in Rome, from which he returned in 1518. On his return he set out to reform his diocese. He recalled absentee priests and divided the diocese into thirty-two sections, each of which was provided with a preacher. He expressed strongly his opposition to all abuses in the religious and moral life. However, he met with such strong opposition that his program did not succeed, and he found most of his friends and co-workers going over to the side of the Reformation, a step which he himself refused to take.

Marguerite d'Angoulme, queen of Navarre, represents the currents of humanism, mysticism, and religious reform. She listened to Lefvre and corresponded with Brionnet. She was affected by the new learning of the Renaissance, she knew Italian literature, enjoyed Plato, and had his dialogues translated. A careful student of the Bible, she had an undogmatic ideal of religion, which rejected many aspects of medieval Catholicism. She was opposed to scholasticism and the supernatural powers of the priesthood and indifferent to the Mass. She refused to worship the Virgin and the saints and was impressed by the importance of faith for justification, the uselessness of works, and man's absolute dependence on God. In spite of these ideas, so close to those of the reformers, she did not become a Protestant. At her court there were daily discussions of the Bible; she gave refuge to men whose views got them into trouble with the Sorbonne: Lefvre, Calvin, and the poet Marot.

She was an important writer and produced comedies and pastorals with a Christian message. Her Mirror of a Sinful Soul (1531) is a mystic work, which teaches the powerlessness of man to achieve good by himself. God can do it in us by love. The soul must reach God by immolating itself. To gain life, men must die to the flesh. Marguerite herself knew the experience of mystic ecstasy and love of God. Another side of her personality is shown in her reading of Rabelais and in her unfinished Heptamron, modeled on Boccaccio's Decameron. (See Chapter 20).

The ideas of Luther and Zwingli found a reception in France at an early date. By 1519, there were people in Paris who were sympathetic to the Reformation. However, the Sorbonne, consulted in 1521 on the subject of Luther, condemned him as a heretic, and in the same year the Parlement of Paris ordered his books to be burned. The Sorbonne regarded even Erasmus and Lefvre as heretics, and in 1523 it struck at them by condemning all versions of the Bible except the Vulgate. No l Bda, syndic of the Sorbonne, was one of Erasmus's foremost enemies. Louis de Berquin, who had translated works of Erasmus into French, was imprisoned by the Sorbonne in 1523, and in 1529 he was burned for heresy.

In the early years of his reign, Francis I's attitude toward the Reformed ideas fluctuated between sympathy and persecution. His difficulties in foreign affairs from 1523 to 1526, which included an invasion of France and culminated in the king's imprisonment and the Treaty of Madrid, made it necessary to gain the support of Parlement and the Sorbonne. Therefore, Louise of Savoy, the king's mother and regent during his imprisonment, concurred in the suppression of heretical books and the appointment by Parlement of a commission to find and punish heretics. On the king's return, however, he at first favored the reform, and even appointed Lefvre as tutor to his son. In 1528, when a statue of the Virgin was mutilated, he ordered persecutions. Four years later, eager for an alliance with the German Protestants and with England, where Henry VIII was pursuing an antipapal policy, he changed again, favored reform once more, and in the royal palace of the Louvre listened to evangelical sermons.

In 1534 there occurred the famous "Affair of the Placards." These placards, attacking the Mass, were posted in various places in Paris and elsewhere, one even being found on the door of the king's bedchamber. This caused renewed persecution; many heretics were burned, and others fled the country. It was at about this time, as we have seen, that Calvin left Paris. In 1535 it was decreed that death would be the penalty for all heretics and concealers of heretics.

Although Francis I's policy changed again after this because of his desire for alliance with the German Protestants, he became more and more consistently a persecutor of heretics. In 1538 he entered his worst period of persecution, with the Edict of Fontainebleau extending and clarifying earlier measures. In 1542 43, the Sorbonne began to issue a list of prohibited books, and the printing and selling of Protestant works was forbidden in France. In 1545 came the terrible destruction of the Waldensians in Provence, in which twenty-two villages were destroyed, some three to four thousand persons massacred and executed, and seven hundred men sent to the galleys. In 1546, the "Fourteen of Meaux" were burned at Paris. The early victims of persecution in France were primarily artisans and other persons from the humbler ranks of society.

Although the ideas of Erasmus and of Luther had been influential, it was by now clear that the Reformation in France would be Calvinist. Calvin took a special interest in the fate of his fellow countrymen. He dedicated the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536 to Francis I, and in his dedicatory letter tried to persuade the king to cease from persecuting the Protestants. Calvin prepared French versions of the Institutes, and supplied from Geneva preachers for the communities of his followers in France. Geneva became a place of refuge for persecuted French Protestants who escaped. These French Calvinists were called Huguenots, a word of doubtful origin. Like Calvinists everywhere, they were united and strengthened by a clear-cut set of doctrinal beliefs, a systematic form of church organization and worship, and an unquenchable conviction of being God's anointed. The number of Huguenots constantly increased. Priests, monks, and schoolmasters were among the converts, and used the opportunities afforded by their positions to spread the Word.

All of this had to be done secretly, especially in the reign of Henry II. In his ferocious persecution of heretics, he resembled his enemy Philip II of Spain. In 1547, the year he came to the throne, he established in the Parlement of Paris a special chamber for the trial of heresy. It soon came to be known as the chambre ardente ("burning chamber") because of the character of its activity. In 1551 the comprehensive Edict of Chateaubriand dealt with matters of heresy. All public careers were closed to Protestants. No petitions for mercy from Protestants were to be allowed, and magistrates who were too lenient were made subject to prosecution. Bible reading was forbidden, as were arguments on religious matters. Informers were to receive a large share of the goods of condemned persons, and those who refused to inform were to be punished. Teachers were to be watched, and the printing of books regulated. No books from Protestant countries could be brought into France, and no books could be printed in the country that had not been approved by the theological faculty that is, the Sorbonne. The printing of anonymous books was prohibited.

Not even these severe measures satisfied the king, because some of the judges of the Parlement were too lenient for him. In 1557, he issued the Edict of Compigne, which gave jurisdiction over heresy cases to the civil courts and forbade the judges to inflict any penalty except death. Until the year of Henry's death, however, he was still faced with cases of unwelcome leniency in the courts and among the magistrates. Many French Catholics were opposed to the persecution. In 1559 Henry even had some judges of the Parlement of Paris arrested for their tendency to defend the Protestants.

In spite of all attempts at repression, the Huguenots became even more numerous and active. The prisons reserved for Protestant prisoners overflowed. In 1555 the Huguenots began to organize their church; before then there had been solitary students or small groups worshipping together. Now they adopted the Calvinistic form of church government. Each congregation had a pastor who preached, administered the sacraments, and presided over the consistory of elders and deacons. By 1567, Geneva had sent 120 pastors to the churches in France. Meetings of the congregations were, of course, held in secret, and often resulted in numerous arrests and executions.

In 1559 in Paris, a conference representing fifty Protestant churches adopted a confession of faith based on one drawn up by Calvin two years earlier. They also adopted a Book of Discipline, which established for the whole country a Calvinistic form of organization, with an ascending hierarchy of representative assemblies but with no church being allowed to claim any primacy over others. A group of congregations was under a Colloquy, over these were Provincial Synods, and for the whole country a General or National Synod.

By 1559, when Henry II was killed, the Protestants were, therefore, numerous, militant, and well organized. The unexpected death of the king left France in the hands of a number of parties and factions whose relationships largely determined the course of French history for the remainder of the sixteenth century. The king's widow, Catherine de' Medici, a Florentine and niece of Pope Clement VII, had not been loved by her husband, who had had as his mistress the famous Diane de Poitiers. With Henry's death, Catherine became a figure of great political importance, and the French scene was to be largely affected by her dominating passions: ambition for her children and a lust for political power. She was a woman of intelligence and ability but without fixed principles. She was likely to be governed by considerations of expediency and momentary advantage rather than by long-range considerations. In religious matters she was not fanatical and was perhaps inclined toward a policy of toleration for the Huguenots.

Three of her sons ruled. As Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III they were the last Valois kings of France. These three kings had in common their lack of character and their inability to control the situation. Their weakness at a time of national crisis aggravated the tragedy through which France had to pass before peace and order were restored. A fourth son, Francis, duke of Alenon and later of Anjou, was eager to do something spectacular, and became involved in the affairs of France, England and the Netherlands without contributing anything useful to the situations.

The Huguenots, under the influence of the nobles who were becoming leaders of their movement, were adopting the character of a political party and forming a military organization. Some of the Huguenot nobles were sincerely religious; others were motivated largely by the desire to regain the powers their ancestors had lost to the crown. Thus they took advantage of a revolutionary situation to reverse the long-term trend of French history toward a strengthening of the monarchy.

Among the great Huguenot nobles, the most highly placed were Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre, and his brother the prince of Cond. As Bourbons they were princes of the blood, related to the royal family. Neither of them was the ideal Huguenot leader. Antoine was a person of weak character, without a really firm commitment to the Protestant cause. His wife, Jeanne d'Albret, was a much stronger and more sincere Huguenot. Their son, Henry, was later to become King Henry IV. Cond was a better leader, a good military man, but restless for power and immoral in his private life.

The noblest of the Huguenot leaders was Gaspard de Coligny, who held the rather deceptive title of admiral of France. He and his two younger brothers, who had also been converted to the Protestant faith, were nephews of Anne de Montmorency, constable of France, the highest military officer in the country and chief adviser to Henry II. The constable, unlike his nephew, had remained Catholic. In character and in devotion to the cause, Coligny stands head and shoulders above the other Huguenot leaders. His adherence to the new religion was based on sincere conviction rather than self-seeking or political expediency.

The crown had to deal with the Huguenots and a faction led by the Guise family, originally from Lorraine. Charles, cardinal of Lorraine, was wealthy and able, and his brother Francis, duke of Guise, was a distinguished soldier who had fought in Italy and had recently won Calais from the English. Their sister Mary, widow of James V of Scotland, was serving as regent for her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots. The latter was the bride of the new king, Francis II, who succeeded his father, Henry II, in 1559. The aims of the Guises were dictated partly by their immense pride and ambition and partly by their unswerving and possibly even fanatical adherence to the Catholic faith. In their relentless hatred for Protestantism and their determination to extirpate it completely, they often went beyond the desires of more moderate Catholics.

The three families of Bourbon, Guise, and Montmorency were the greatest of the noble families in France, and the conflicts among them, especially between the Guise and Bourbon interests, combined with and intensified the religious struggle. The influence and connections of these families extended throughout the country and helped to spread the conflict. In France, therefore, as everywhere else, the religious issue became inextricably tangled up with a complex of political and personal motivations, the struggle for power and influence, the desire to rule the state.

During the second half of the sixteenth century, the financial condition of France was precarious. The war with Spain had brought about in 1557 and 1558 a sort of speculative boom because of the high interest rate the king was prepared to pay on his short-term war loans. Like Philip II, who went bankrupt in 1557, Henry II was forced to default on his debts, and the bubble burst. All of this helps to explain why France and Spain made peace in 1559. At the death of Henry II, the French crown had debts of over forty million livres and an income of about twelve million. Much of this income never reached the crown.

Against this rather ominous background of political, personal, and religious rivalry and financial instability, the tragedy of the religious wars was about to be enacted. The so-called Conspiracy of Amboise showed the growing tension between the great factions. The young king was dominated by the Guise family, and this aroused the resentment of Cond, who became the central figure in a plot to seize the king, the duke of Guise, and the cardinal of Lorraine at Amboise in March 1560. No harm was to come to the king, but the Guise brothers were to be killed if they attempted to resist. The conspiracy failed; one result was the killing of many Huguenot prisoners. However, the conspiracy itself was not primarily a Huguenot rising. The Huguenots, for the most part, had remained obedient to the advice of Calvin, who was opposed to rebellion against the constituted authorities. The savage persecution the Guises were carrying out, however, was forcing the Huguenots to consider armed resistance in spite of Calvin's principles. Thus, when Cond planned a second rising, more of the Huguenots joined him. This plot also failed, and Cond was taken prisoner. Had it not been for the death of the young king Francis II in 1560, Cond would have been executed.

Even before the second conspiracy, the bitter hatred that was felt everywhere for the Guises had impelled the Queen Mother to assert herself and assume the controlling power in the state. This meant the adoption of a policy of religious toleration. On the death of Francis II, his younger brother, only ten years old, became king as Charles IX, and Catherine de' Medici secured the regency for herself, thus becoming the real ruler of the country. The result was that the Guise faction was deprived of its power, Cond was released, and the principal advisers to the regent were Constable Montmorency and Antoine de Navarre.

The meeting of the Estates-General at Orlans in December 1560, a few days after the death of Francis II, was the first such meeting since 1484. The chancellor, Michel de l'Hpital, in his opening speech on behalf of the government, proposed a policy of toleration. He urged that religious peace should be maintained and that the religious problem be held in abeyance until a general council of the church should meet.

Catherine de' Medici continued to adhere to a policy of toleration as a temporary expedient. She hoped eventually to bring about a compromise that would unite Catholic and Protestant in one church. To this end she called a meeting at Poissy in 1561. At this Colloquy of Poissy the chief representative of Protestantism was Beza, Calvin's chief lieutenant at Geneva and himself a Frenchman by birth. The cardinal of Lorraine was the chief Catholic spokesman. The failure of the meeting was a foregone conclusion. The differences between the two sides were of such basic importance that no compromise was possible.

In December 1561, Antoine de Bourbon went over to the Catholic side. In the following month, Catherine issued the Edict of January in another attempt to solve the religious problem. While it forbade public worship by the Huguenots within the walls of towns, it permitted such worship outside the walls and private worship within. The importance of this edict was that it gave legal recognition to the Huguenots for the first time. It also allowed meetings of their consistories and synods with the permission of the magistrates, which they were told to grant. Unfortunately, as was to be the case with similar measures in the following years, such concessions managed to exasperate the Catholics without satisfying the Huguenots.

The incident that actually began the civil wars was the so-called Massacre of Vassy, which occurred on March 1, 1562. While passing with some of his troops through Vassy, a town in the northeastern part of the country near the Marne, the duke of Guise found a group of Huguenots conducting illegal worship in a barn. There followed a conflict between the congregation and Guise's men in which more than one hundred Huguenots were wounded and several killed. The incident set off a wave of similar ones in other places with reprisals from the Huguenots, who broke into Catholic churches, destroyed images, and so forth.

Now the sides formed for civil war, with the duke of Guise and Constable Montmorency leading the Catholic forces, while Cond and Coligny were at the head of the Huguenots. Both sides tended to look to foreign countries for aid. The Huguenots looked to Elizabeth I of England, who was happy to weaken the French monarchy provided she could do it without too great cost or too serious involvement. The Catholics looked to Philip II, whose desire to defend the faith was combined with a passion for the aggrandizement of Spain. Catherine de' Medici now became the head of the Catholic party and hostile to the Huguenots.

On February 18, 1563, the duke of Guise, who was besieging Orlans, held at the time by the Protestants, was assassinated. His widow and his son, Henry, who now became duke, held Coligny responsible for the deed, though probably falsely. Their desire for revenge is part of the background of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre nine years later.

The Peace of Amboise in March 1563 brought a temporary settlement along lines that were to become, with modifications, more or less standard during the years of renewed conflict and repeated truce that followed. The distinction between liberty of conscience and liberty of worship appeared. Liberty of conscience was to be unrestricted; what this meant was that nobody was to be compelled to attend Catholic services. Freedom of worship for Huguenots was, however, severely limited. Public worship was allowed to them only in towns where it had already been held, and it could be carried on in one town in each bailliage, a traditional division. No public worship was to be permitted in Paris. The nobles, however, could worship privately wherever they were.

The French Wars of Religion lasted for over three decades, and it would be tedious and unnecessary to relate the course of these wars in detail here. Both the Catholics and Huguenots were guilty of barbarities toward one another. Neither party could win a really decisive victory, a fact which is a tribute to the tenacity of the Huguenots, who were apparently never more than a fairly small minority of the French population. It must be remembered that the Huguenots were not fighting for toleration as we would understand it; to them their cause was that of the truth, and there could only be one truth. Therefore, it was their aim to make their religion the only one officially recognized in France. Though the majority of Frenchmen might oppose them, the Lord, they confidently believed, was on their side, and they were fighting His battles.

France was being torn apart. As a consequence, there began to appear a party known as the politiques, comprised of both Catholics and Protestants, who put the interests of their country above the victory of either religious confession. They were, therefore, willing to purchase peace at the price of toleration. This outlook appealed to Catherine de' Medici, who tried to bring about reconciliation by arranging a marriage between her daughter Marguerite and Henry of Navarre, who had become the titular leader of the Huguenots by the time of the marriage in August 1572.

In the meantime, the young king, Charles IX, who became twenty in 1570, was becoming increasingly anxious to shake off his mother's domination and assert himself by some outstanding deed. He was attracted to the idea of striking a blow against Spain in the Netherlands, where revolt had started, and in this he was encouraged by Admiral Coligny, who became his chief adviser in 1571. These developments inevitably displeased Catherine. She saw her power over her son threatened, and she feared the prospect of a war with Spain. The method she adopted for getting out of this dilemma was political assassination. Coligny was the target and the perfect instrument was at hand in the Guise family, which still blamed him for the assassination of Duke Francis.

Catherine picked an extremely inopportune time to attempt the execution of her scheme. On August 18, her daughter and Henry of Navarre were married, and to celebrate the event, prominent Huguenots from all over the country were in Paris. It was in these potentially explosive circumstances that Catherine provoked the Guises to attempt the murder of Coligny. At best, this is what appears to have happened. On August 22, somebody fired a shot at Coligny, which wounded him but did not endanger his life. There was great indignation among the Protestant leaders assembled in Paris, and King Charles IX was determined to track down the would-be murderers of his friend. The Guise family was, of course, immediately suspected.

Catherine was in a desperate dilemma. Any investigation of the crime would be likely to implicate her. To avoid this, she hit on the plan of a general slaughter of Protestants. It was easy to get the support of the Guises and of her son Henry, duke of Anjou. The king remained to be convinced, and at first was reluctant. His character was not, however, strong enough to resist the pressure to which he was subjected, and in the end he broke down and consented.

Early in the morning of St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24, 1572, at the sound of the tocsin, the slaughter began. Coligny was killed in his bed under the personal supervision of the duke of Guise. A number of Huguenot nobles who were sleeping in the Louvre, supposedly under the king's personal protection, were murdered at the king's order. Huguenots of all classes throughout the city were killed by the ordinary people of Paris. From the capital the slaughter spread to the provinces, where it went on for several days. Estimates of the number of victims vary, although all agree that there were thousands of them. The duke of Sully, a prominent Huguenot, estimated the number at seventy thousand which at least one distinguished historian of our own time accepts. Others suggest a lower figure, such as three or four thousand in Paris and as many more in the provinces.

Throughout Europe people were horror-struck at the news. Protestants, as in England, were confirmed in their belief of an international Catholic conspiracy, and wondered if their turn would come next. Many Catholics were dismayed, but some were not. Philip II of Spain was pleased. Pope Gregory XIII had a medal struck to commemorate the happy event, and congratulated the king and Queen Mother for their signal contribution to the triumph of Christianity. As for Charles IX, it is said that he was haunted by the deed, that his sleep was disturbed by horrible visions, and that his premature death in 1574 may have been hastened by his remorse. Catherine seems not to have suffered any pangs. For diplomatic purposes, however, she had to concoct some more or less plausible explanation. Thus it was officially stated that the crown had been forced to defend itself against a Huguenot conspiracy.

Because of his connection with the royal family, Henry of Navarre was spared. He had to become a Catholic, and was actually more or less a prisoner at court. The Huguenots, though deprived of their leaders, were far from crushed. Instead, amazingly, they continued to offer a stiff resistance. With the loss of the murdered nobles, the popular element became more prominent in the movement, and the ministers assumed leadership.

The massacre marked a turning point in the development of Huguenot political theory. The political ideas of the Huguenots, which are of great importance, are discussed more fully in Chapter 21.

In 1573, Henry, the duke of Anjou, was elected king of Poland. On May 30, 1574, Charles IX died at age twenty-four, and Henry abandoned his Polish throne to become Henry III of France. He was one of the strangest of Catherine's children. He aroused a great deal of unflattering comment by his predilection for effeminate and dissipated companions, his mignons, on whom he lavished large sums that the monarchy could not afford. Much of their time was spent in revelry, in which the king took an active part, often disguised in women's clothing. These periods alternated for Henry, with spells of religious devotion and repentance, in which he would weep and scourge himself before returning to his revels. At one time he developed a great affection for poodles, on which he spent a great deal of money. With all of this, he was at the same time a man of intelligence and ability, and sometimes devoted himself to his duties. This never lasted long, however, and his neglect further weakened the crown, as his eccentric behavior helped to undermine its prestige, already dangerously dwindling. Thus in his reign, anarchy and disintegration continued.

In 1584 Henry III's one surviving brother died. Since Henry III had no children and was clearly not going to have any, this raised the question of the succession to the throne. The nearest relation was Henry of Navarre, but he was a Protestant. To prevent the accession of a heretic, the Guise family took the lead in forming a Holy League in alliance with Spain. Its purpose was to wipe out heresy in France and in the Netherlands. As a sort of stopgap, the old cardinal of Lorraine was recognized as king of France in the event of the death of Henry III. The League spread throughout the country. Its chief center was in Paris, and it was joined by most of the great towns and by most provinces in the north and center of France. In Paris a similar organization had sprung up independently, known as the Sixteen, from the leaders of the sixteen sections of the city. The king tried to persuade Henry of Navarre to become a Catholic, but for the time being he refused.

When the League raised an army, Henry III in 1585 revoked all edicts that granted toleration, prohibited public worship by Huguenots, banished their ministers, and gave Protestants the choice of becoming Catholic or leaving the country in six months. The result was a renewal of the war. Pope Gregory XIII, in the meantime, issued a bull declaring Henry of Navarre a heretic and, therefore, unable to succeed to the throne, and releasing his vassals from their allegiance.

The War of the Three Henrys Henry III, Henry of Guise, and Henry of Navarre followed. The extreme Catholic faction, headed by the Guise family, retained its distrust of the king, who was increasingly losing his grip on events. In July 1588 the king was compelled by the Edict of Union to turn over virtually all power to Guise. When the Estates-General met at Blois in October, King Henry III found that it was dominated by the League and opposed to him. The king struck back by having Guise assassinated at Blois in December. Many other members of the Guise party were arrested and executed, including the cardinal of Guise, the duke's brother. This increased the hostility felt toward the king by Paris and much of the country. The duke of Mayenne, the oldest surviving brother of the duke of Guise, became the head of the Paris government; and the Sorbonne declared Henry's subjects absolved from their allegiance to him.

The king now had to fall back on the support of Henry of Navarre, who assured him of his loyalty. The two concluded a truce for a year. As the League, with its foreign connections, was alienating most Frenchmen, the reconciliation of the two Henrys was widely welcomed by politiques and moderate Catholics. Together the two men and their forces marched on Paris. However, on August 1, 1589, a monk, Jacques Clment, stabbed the king. Before his death, he declared Henry of Navarre his successor. The death of Henry III saved Paris for the time being, because his forces did not remain to besiege the city, and Henry of Navarre was left with the job of fighting his way to acceptance as king of France. The key to this recognition was Paris, and the devotion of its inhabitants to the Roman church made his job a difficult one.

On August 4, 1589, Henry of Navarre issued a declaration in which he undertook to maintain Catholicism as the religion of France and make no innovations. He promised to submit to instruction by a general or national council, to deprive nobody of dignities or offices held under the late king, to appoint no Protestants to vacant offices for six months, and to grant no new privileges to the Protestants. This brought him the recognition of most of the Catholic nobles, but most of the country remained in revolt against him. Philip II became the real leader of the League, and hoped to see his daughter Isabella on the French throne. He tried to have himself declared protector of France, an ambition that was opposed even by many members of the League party. The duke of Mayenne, the nominal head of the League, hoped to become king himself, and for that reason was unfriendly to Philip's aims. Meanwhile, the League declared the cardinal of Bourbon king of France as Charles X.

In September 1589 Henry of Navarre won the battle of Arques and took most of Normandy. In October and November he tried unsuccessfully to take Paris. Meanwhile, most of the Protestant states of Europe had recognized him as king of France; in November Venice followed suit. Pope Sixtus V hoped for Henry's conversion, so that he could be used to balance the power of Philip II. Meanwhile, Henry continued his campaign to reduce the country to obedience, winning many successes. At Ivry, in March 1590, he won a great victory over Mayenne; though here, as at Arques, his forces were outnumbered.

In May Henry appeared once more before Paris and invested the city. His siege was so close that there were said to be thirteen thousand deaths from starvation, followed afterwards by thirty thousand more from fever. There may even have been cases of cannibalism. The city was saved by Spanish intervention. From the Netherlands, Philip sent Alessandro Farnese, duke of Parma, to raise the siege and provision the city. Parma was the best general of the age, perhaps the only one who could be considered a match for Henry. He succeeded in his mission, and Henry was again thwarted. After Parma's return to the Netherlands, Philip sent so many soldiers from the Low Countries to France that Parma had to face the Dutch rebels with insufficient troops. As a result the rebels under Maurice of Nassau were able to take the offensive. Thus the affairs of the various parts of Europe reacted constantly upon one another.

Henry of Navarre, like his opponents, had the aid of foreign powers. In 1591 and 1592, with an army composed largely of English, Swiss, Germans, and later some Dutch, he undertook to besiege Rouen in Normandy. His success here would, he hoped, make him master of France and even force Paris to acknowledge him. Once again he was frustrated by Parma, who raised the siege and returned to the Netherlands, after suffering heavy losses. The great general died in December 1592.

Meanwhile, Henry of Navarre announced that he had determined to receive instruction in the Catholic faith. To gain his kingdom, he was willing to abjure the Protestant faith and become a Catholic. He did not come to this decision lightheartedly, whether or not he ever said, as is commonly supposed, "Paris is worth a Mass." No doubt he would have preferred to remain a Protestant and still be king, if this had been possible. But it was not. The Huguenots were still a small minority of the French population probably less than one-tenth and a very unpopular one. Henry was essentially a politique, putting the welfare of France above confessional considerations.

On July 25, 1593, at the church of St. Denis, Henry was received into the Roman communion by the archbishop of Bourges. Although the pope Clement VIII did not yet recognize him, his conversion did help him in winning the allegiance of his people. Many towns now submitted to him, a step no doubt made easier by the generous terms the king granted. These included a complete amnesty for past resistance to him, confirmation of the privileges of the towns, a promise to neither build citadels nor to destroy those already in existence, exemption from extraordinary taxation, and large gifts of money to their governors. In February 1594, Henry of Navarre was crowned Henry IV at Chartres, and in March entered Paris. He was now, in fact, the king of France.

His difficulties were not completely ended. In 1594 an attempt was made on the king's life by the pupil of a Jesuit. There were also a few holdouts against Henry's accession among the more intransigent Leaguers, and he proceeded to reduce them to obedience. He had a remarkable lack of vindictiveness, and once they submitted he made no attempt to punish them. Since their resistance was encouraged by Philip II, Henry decided to strike at the one source of his troubles by declaring war on Spain in 1595.

In the same year negotiations with the pope, Clement VIII, for Henry's absolution came to a successful conclusion. In return for his reception into the church, Henry agreed to introduce the decrees of the Council of Trent into France as far as was consistent with public tranquillity. This meant, in effect, that the doctrinal decrees were accepted but the disciplinary ones were not; the king remained firmly in control of the Gallican church. His new relationship with Clement VIII enabled him to secure an annulment of his marriage to Marguerite of Valois, from whom he had long been separated and who had borne him no children. In 1600 he was married to Marie de' Medici.

In 1596 he secured an alliance with England and the Dutch against the common enemy, Spain. The exhaustion of both the French and the Spanish led to the Peace of Vervins of 1598, restoring the status quo as established by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrsis of 1559. The English and the Dutch continued the fight, calling Henry's conduct treachery.

Henry IV was now able to devote himself to the solution of the two great problems of his distracted country: economic settlement and religious peace. To this task he brought qualities of character and personality that made him the most popular of all French kings and one of the founders of the modern greatness of France. Perhaps his most appealing qualities were his courage and his friendliness. Henry was a soldier; most of his life had been lived in the saddle. His men could always count on finding his white plume in the forefront of the battle. He was never aloof but easy of access and genuinely interested in the welfare of his subjects. He enjoyed mingling with ordinary people in taverns and in their homes, and could talk to them easily and without embarrassment. He was not the sort of king who spent long hours at his desk; he was physically active and restless and liked to move about. Much of his public business was done as he paced back and forth discussing affairs of state with his advisers. He was not much of a reader, but he had a quick and penetrating intelligence. He understood things readily and made his decisions quickly and with sound judgment. He bore no grudges and was without bitterness over past injuries, but at the same time he was quick to forget past favors and thus not always grateful. He was capable of lying and deceit, and could break his promises if he thought it necessary.

He was irresponsible, to put it mildly, in his relations with women. He did not love either of his wives, and sought solace in other relationships. He had his illegitimate children reared along with his children by Marie de' Medici.

In his attitude toward government, Henry IV was authoritarian. He said, "I wish to be obeyed." He believed that the king was responsible only to God and to his own conscience. However, he preferred to persuade, if possible, rather than command. His methods of governing were informal and personal; he had a small group of advisers whom he consulted irregularly. During his reign it was not easy for new men to get established at court, because Henry preferred the advice of his old fighting companions. There was a large royal council, which functioned chiefly in the realm of justice; and there were four secretaries, one of whom had to countersign each act of the king.

Though Henry was authoritarian in tendency, it is too early to speak of centralization in French government and administration. Even under normal conditions of peace and order, the local communities towns and parishes of France were largely self-governing. The chief support of the royal power throughout the country came from the judges who administered the king's justice. These judges, however, were local people who bought and inherited their positions, and they could not be counted on to put the interests of the king above their own. During the civil wars, the breakdown of the monarchy and the royal administration had given to local officials almost complete independence of the crown. The nobles had become accustomed to the independence they had acquired during the wars, and there had grown up a system of clientage, with lesser nobles attaching themselves to great lords a sort of feudal revival.

The economic and financial condition of France was appalling. Here too, as in the case of government and administration, the abuses that prevailed even under the best conditions had been compounded by the effects of the wars. We have already noted that the system of privileged classes, and of farming the taxes, together with inadequate accounting procedures, deprived the crown of a great deal of its rightful revenue. During the wars, taxes had become harmful as the country lost its capacity to pay them. In some areas, this contributed to a complete breakdown of commerce and industry. Communications had also broken down on roads and rivers. Then there were cases of famine within a town while not far off crops were rotting in the fields. Some lands, devastated by troops and by brigands and oppressed by the excessive size of the taille, were going out of cultivation. The royal treasury was empty and the debt was huge.

Henry IV was personally very much interested in the economic reconstruction of the country. For his chief adviser in this field he chose an old friend, the duke of Sully. Sully did not attempt a thorough reorganization of the finances of the country; the system was too solidly entrenched for that, and the need for immediate revenue too pressing. He strove with great success, however, to improve the accounting system, to levy taxes in a fair and economical manner, to check the abuses of the tax-farmers, and, thereby, to build up the treasury. Many useless offices were abolished. He was so successful that the government was able to meet its expenses, pay off the debt, and build a surplus in the treasury. He put the roads into excellent condition, cleaned the rivers, drained swamps, and began a system of canals to unite the Mediterranean, the Bay of Biscay, the English Channel, and the North Sea. Sully believed in concentrating on the revival of agriculture. All arrears of the taille prior to 1597 were forgiven, and the amount payable each year was reduced. He abolished export duties on grain and wine, thus opening foreign markets to French farmers. He believed that France should buy manufactured goods from abroad. The king, however, was more interested in building up French industry and trade, and encouraged the making of silk, cloth of gold, and the Gobelin tapestries, which became famous. Soon France had a flourishing export trade. All of these measures were taken under strict governmental supervision and regulation.

The problem of the Huguenots was equally pressing. Henry IV, so recently a Huguenot himself, had promised the continuation of Protestant worship where it was already being carried on, and had declared that Protestants were eligible to hold all public offices all this until there should be a general settlement. However, the Huguenots were disturbed by the provisional nature of these privileges, by the king's renunciation of the faith, and by the hostility displayed by the parlements. They began to strengthen their organization and to become, more even than before, a state within the state.

Their relations with Henry IV became so strained that he had reason to fear the resumption of civil war. As his position in France grew stronger, however, the Huguenots grew more ready to negotiate with him. Thus both parties were ready for an agreement, and this took the form of the Edict of Nantes of 1598. This famous edict granted complete liberty of conscience and of private worship throughout France. Public worship was permitted wherever it had been carried on in 1596 and 1597, in two towns in each of the traditional divisions of France (bailliage and snchausse), in a couple of hundred other towns, and in several thousand noble castles. Worship in Paris could be carried on only privately by nobles at court, and there was to be no public Protestant worship within five leagues (fifteen miles) of the city. Huguenots were granted full civil rights and the protection of the laws, access to all public careers, and admission to all schools, universities, and hospitals. The parlements were to have special chambers to try cases involving Protestants, in which there were to be Protestant judges. There was to be one Protestant judge in the Parlement of Paris, but in the other parlements, the chambers would be composed of an equal number of Catholic and Protestant judges. By a provision not technically a part of the edict, the king granted the Huguenots about seventy towns of their own, some of which were to be garrisoned by troops paid by the king, who also paid the governors of these strongholds. This grant was made for eight years and renewed several times.

Thus the Huguenots had solidified their position as a state within the state. Henry IV allowed them to keep their provincial and general assemblies and to maintain two representatives at court to present their grievances. Until his assassination in 1610, he watched over the interests of the Huguenots and permitted the establishment of a Huguenot church closer to Paris than five leagues.

It should be added that the Protestants never did enjoy all the privileges accorded them theoretically by the edict. Their garrisons were not paid regularly by the king, their rights of worship were not in practice granted in all the places to which they were legally entitled, and ways were found to counteract the influence of Protestant judges in the courts. After the death of Henry IV, their position deteriorated steadily until Louis XIV revoked the edict in 1685.

Nevertheless, the Edict of Nantes was a landmark in the history of religion, because it recognized in principle the possibility of two religious confessions living under one government as loyal subjects. Indeed, the Huguenots were to prove among the most loyal and useful subjects of the kings of France.