Regarding our new IEG open access publication “On site, in time” here is Thomas Weller’s article on Nantes, in which he focuses on the issues of religious freedom and slavery.
Cross-posted from: http://en.ieg-differences.eu/on-site-in-time/thomas-weller-nantes/
The Edict of Nantes
Peace by Edict (constellations)
On April 13th, 1598 in the city of Nantes, King Henry IV of France signed a document ending a series of religious wars that had devastated the country and brought the French monarchy to the point of ruin. In the form of Calvinism, Protestantism had been attracting increasing numbers of followers in France by the mid-16th century. These Huguenots, as they were called, were persecuted by the Catholic Church and the French Crown. Intensified by a dynastic crisis after the death of King Henry II (1559) the conflict escalated to a veritable civil war. One of the bloody climaxes of this more than 30-year struggle was the so-called St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), in which between 3,000 and 4,000 Protestants died in Paris alone.
The Edict of Nantes
When Henry of Navarre, the Huguenot military leader, succeeded the murdered Henry III to the throne, the conflict appeared again to worsen. Only after the new king converted to Catholicism in 1593 and was accepted by the Catholics was the path open to a peaceful solution to the conflict. Five years later, Henry IV guaranteed his erstwhile fellow Protestants a series of privileges that henceforth would ensure a non-violent coexistence for the two Christian confessions under the protection of the Crown.
Confessional Division and Political Unity (differences)
With the Edict of Nantes, which in large part resembled earlier so-called pacification edicts, France’s confessional division was reinforced. The ideal of religious unity in the commonwealth was sacrificed in the name of political unity. Although the document was in fact the result of negotiations between the warring parties, it took the form of a royal amnesty. Thus the Edict’s legal form made it in principle revocable, even though its text called it “perpetual” and “irrevocable”. On this basis, it was possible to pacify the violent conflict for nearly 100 years and establish rules for the coexistence of Catholics and Protestants that were accepted by both sides.