A name by which the French Protestants are often designated. Its etymology is uncertain. According to some the word is a popular corruption of the German Eidgenossen (conspirators, confederates), which was used at Geneva to designate the champions of liberty and of union with the Swiss Confederation, as distinguished from those who were in favour of submission to the Duke of Savoy. The close connection of the Protestants with Geneva, in the time of Calvin, might have caused this name to be given to them a little before the year 1550 under the form eigenots (or aignots ), which became huguenots under the influence of Hugues , Bezanson Hugues being one of their chiefs. Others have maintained that the word was first used at Tours and was applied to the early Lutherans, because they were wont to assemble near the gate named after Hugon, a Count of Tours in ancient times, who had left a record of evil deeds and had become in popular fancy a sort of sinister and maleficent genius. This name the people applied in hatred and derision to those who were elsewhere called Lutherans, and from Touraine it spread throughout France. This derivation would account for the form Hugonots , which is found in the correspondence of the Venetian ambassadors and in the documents of the Vatican archives, and for that of Huguenots , which eventually prevailed in the usage of Catholics, conveying a slight shade of contempt or hostility, which accounts for its complete exclusion from official documents of Church and State . Those to whom it was applied called themselves the Réformés (Reformed); the official documents from the end of the sixteenth century to the Revolution usually call them the prétendus réformés (pseudo-reformed). Since the eighteenth century they have been commonly designated "French Protestants ", the title being suggested by their German co-religionists, or Calvinists , as being disciples of Calvin.
French Protestantism received from Calvin its first organization and the form which has since become traditional; but to Luther it owed the impulse which gave it birth. That the ideas of these two Reformers were to a certain degree successful in France was due in that country, as elsewhere, to the prevailing mental attitude. The Great Western Schism, the progress of Gallican ideas, the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, and the war of Louis XII against Julius II had considerably weakened the prestige and authority of the papacy. The French clergy, owing to the conduct of many of its members, inspired but little respect. After the Pragmatic Sanction (1438) the episcopal sees became the object of ceaseless rivalry and contention, while too many of the bishops ignored their obligation of residence. In spite of some attempts at reform, the regular clergy languished in inactivity, ignorance, and relaxation of discipline, and all their attendant imperfections. The humanism of the Renaissance had created a distaste for the verbose, formalistic scholasticism, still dominant in the schools, and had turned men back to the cult of pagan antiquity, to naturalism, and in some cases to unbelief. Other minds, it is true, were led by the Renaissance itself to the study of Christian antiquity, but, under the influence of the mysticism which had shortly before this become current as a reaction from the system of the schools and the philosophy of the literati , they ended by exaggerating the power of faith and the authority of Holy Scripture . It was this class of thinkers, affected at once by humanism and mysticism, that took the initiative, more or less consciously, in the reform for which public opinion clamoured.
Their first leader was Lefèvre d'Etaples, who, after devoting his early life to the teaching of philosophy and mathematics, became when nearly sixty years old an exegete and the editor of French translations of the Bible . In the preface to his "Quincuplex Psalterium ", published in 1509, and in that to his commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul , published in 1512, he ascribes to Scripture an almost exclusive authority in matters of religion, and preaches justification by faith even to the point of counting good works as naught. Furthermore, he sees in the Mass only a commemoration of the one Sacrifice of the Cross. In 1522 he published a Latin commentary on the Gospels, the preface to which may be regarded as the first manifesto of the Reformation in France. Chlitoue, Farel, Gérard Roussel, Cop, Etienne Poncher, Michel d'Arande rallied around him as his disciples. Briçonnet, Bishop of Meaux, constituted himself their protector against the Sorbonne, and called them to preach in his diocese. None of these men, however, intended to carry their innovations to the point of breaking with the Church ; they meant to remain within it; they accepted and they sought its dignities. Lefèvre became Vicar-General to Briçonnet; Gerard Roussel was made a canon of Meaux, then by papal appointment Abbot of Clairac, and eventually Bishop of Oloron; Michel d'Arande became Bishop of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux ( Triscastrinensis ). Their aim, for the time being, was only to "preach the pure gospel ", and thereby lead the people back to the genuine religion of Christ, which, as they said, had been corrupted by the superstitions of Rome. They were powerfully aided in their undertaking by Margaret, Queen of Navarre, who favoured both them and their ideas ; she was their advocate with her brother Francis I, and, when necessary, their protectress against the Sorbonne.
This learned body soon began to feel concern at the progress of the new ideas. Its syndic, Beda, was a man of narrow mind, of violent and sometimes ill-timed zeal, but of profound convictions, clear insight, and undeniably disinterested aims. Under his guidance the Sorbonne, aided only by the Parliament, took the lead in the struggle with heresy, while the king hesitated between the parties or changed his attitude according to his political interests. Since 1520 the writings of Luther had been spreading in France, at least among the educated, and his books were selling in Paris by hundreds. On 15 April, 1521, the faculty of theology formally condemned Luther's doctrines. Stimulated by this faculty and armed by the pope with special powers for the suppression of heresy, the Parliament of Paris was preparing vigorous measures against Lefèvre d'Etaples, but the king interfered. When Francis I was imprisoned at Madrid, the Parliament, on which the queen-regent placed no restraint, inaugurated in 1523 sanguinary measures of repression; not a year passed but some heretic was arrested and scourged or burned. The most famous of the victims in these early times was Louis de Berquin, a nobleman of Artois and a friend and councillor of the king; several Lutheran writings were found in his possession. At this energetic action of the Parliament the Meaux group took fright and scattered. Briçonnet retracted and wrote pastorals against Luther. Lefèvre and Roussel escaped to Strasburg or to the dominions of the Queen of Navarre. Chlitoue wrote against Luther, Farel rejoined Zwingli in Switzerland. But all this time Lutheranism continued to spread in France, disseminated chiefly by the students and professors from Germany. Again and again the king complained in his edicts of the spread of heresy in his kingdom. Since 1530 there had existed at Paris a vigorous group of heretics, recruited principally from the literary men and the lower classes, and numbering from 300 to 400 persons. Some others were to be found in the Universities of Orléans and Bourges ; in the Duchy of Alencon where Margaret of Navarre, the suzerain, gave them licence to preach, and whence the heresy spread in Normandy ; at Lyons, where the Reformation made an early appearance owing to the advent of foreigners from Switzerland and Germany ; and at Toulouse, where the Parliament caused the arrest of several suspects and the burning of John of Cahors, a professor in the faculty of law.
After condemning the works of Margaret of Navarre, who was inspired with the new ideas, the Sorbonne witnessed the banishment of Beda and the appointment of Cop to the rectorship of the University of Paris, although he was already suspected of sympathizing with Lutheranism. At the opening of the academic year, 1 November, 1533, he delivered an address filled with the new ideas. This address had been prepared for him by a young student then scarcely known, whose influence however upon the French Reformation was to be considerable; this was John Calvin. Born in 1509 at Noyon in Picardy, where his father was secretary of the bishopric and promoteur to the chapter (an ecclesiastical office analogous to the civil office of public prosecutor), he obtained his first ecclesiastical benefice there in 1521. Two years later he went to study at Paris, then to Orléans (1528) and to Bourges for the study of law. At Bourges he became acquainted with several Lutherans — among others his future friend Melchior Wolmar, professor of Greek. His cousin Olivetan had already initiated him into their ideas ; some of these he had adopted, and he introduced them into Cop's rectorial discourse. This address called forth repressive measures against the two friends. Cop fled to Switzerland, Calvin to Saintonge. The latter soon broke with Catholicism, surrendered his benefices, for which he received compensation, and towards the end of 1534 betook himself to Basle in consequence of the affair of the "placards" — i.e. the violent manifestos against the Mass which, by the contrivance of the Lutherans, had been placarded in Paris (18 October, 1534), in the provinces, and even on the door to the king's apartments. Francis I, who until then had been divided between his will to meet the wishes of the pope and the expediency of winning to himself the support of the Lutheran princes of Germany against Charles V, made up his mind to defer on this occasion to the demands of the exasperated Catholics. In the January following he took part in a solemn procession during the course of which six heretics were burned; he let the Parliament arrest seventy-four of them a Meaux, of whom eighteen were also burned; he himself ordered by edict the extermination of the heretics and of those who should harbour them, and promised rewards to those who should inform against them. But before the end of the year the king reversed his policy and thought of inviting Melanchthon to Paris. It was at this juncture that Calvin entered upon his great role of leader of French Protestantism by writing his "Institutio Christianae Religionis" (Institutes of the Christian Religion), the preface to which, dated 23 August, 1535, took the form of a letter addressed to Francis I. It was published in Latin (March, 1536), and was at once an apology, a confession of faith, and a rallying signal for the partisans of the new ideas, who were no longer Catholics and were hesitating in their choice between Luther, Zwingli, and the other chiefs of the Reformation. Calvin became famous; many Frenchmen flocked to him at Geneva, where he went to reside in 1536, making that city the home of the Reformation. Thence his disciples returned to their own country to spread his writings and his ideas, and to rally old partisans or recruit new ones. Alarmed at their progress, Francis I, who had just concluded a treaty with the pope (June, 1538), thenceforward took a decidedly hostile attitude towards Protestantism, and maintained it until his death (31 March, 1547). In 1539 and 1540 the old edicts of toleration were replaced by others which invested the tribunals and the magistrates with inquisitorial powers against the heretics and those who shielded them. At the instance of the king the Sorbonne drew up first a formula of faith in twenty-six articles, and then an index of prohibited books, in which the works of Dolet, Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin appeared; the parliaments received orders to prosecute anyone who should preach a doctrine contrary to these articles, or circulate any of the books enumerated in the index. This unanimity of king, Sorbonne, and Parliament, it may be said, was what prevented the Reformation from gaining in France the easy success which it won in Germany and England. The magistrates were everywhere extremely zealous in enforcing the repressive edicts. At Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble, Rouen, Bordeaux, and Angers, numbers of heretics and hawkers of prohibited books were sent to the stake. At Aix the Parliament passed a decree ordering a general massacre of the descendants of the Waldenses grouped around Mérindol and de Cabrieres, its enforcement to be suspended for five months to give them time for conversion. After withholding his consent to this decree for five years the king allowed an authorization for its execution to be wrung from him, and about eight hundred Waldenses were massacred — an odious deed which Francis I regretted bitterly until his death. His successor, Henry II, vigorously maintained the struggle against Protestantism. In 1547 a commission — the famous Chambre Ardente — was created in the Parliament of Paris for the special purpose of trying heretics ; then in June, 1551, the Châteaubriant Edict codified all the measures which had previously been enacted for the defence of the Faith. This legislation was enforced by the parliaments in all its rigour. It resulted in the execution of many Protestants at Paris, Bordeaux, Lyons, Rouen, and Chambéry, and drove the rest to exasperation. The Protestants were aided by a certain number of apostate priests and monks, by preachers from Geneva and Strasburg, by schoolmasters who disseminated the literature of the sect ; they were favoured at times by bishops — such as those of Chartres, of Uzès, of Nîmes, of Troyes, of Valence of Oloron, of Lescar, of Aix, of Montauban, of Beauvais ; they were supported and guided by Calvin, who from Geneva — where he was persecuting his adversaries (e.g. Cartellion), or having them burnt (e.g. Servetus) — kept up an active correspondence with his party. With these helps the Reformers penetrated little by little into every part of France. Between 1547 and 1555 some of their circles began to organize themselves into churches at Rouen, Troyes, and elsewhere, but it was at Paris that the first Reformed church was definitely organized in 1555. Other followed — at Meaux, Poitiers, Lyons, Angers, Orléans, Bourges, and La Rochelle. All of these took as their model that of Geneva, which Calvin governed; for from him proceeded the impulse which stimulated them, the faith that inspired them; from him, too, came nearly all the ministers, who put the churches into communication with that of Geneva and its supreme head. It lacked only a confession of faith to ensure the union of the churches and uniformity of belief. In 1559 there was held at Paris the first national synod, composed of ministers and elders, assembled from all parts of France ; it formulated a confession of faith, drawing inspiration from the writings of Calvin.
From this moment the French Reformation was established; it had its creed, its discipline, its organization. Of the forty articles of its creed those alone are of interest here which embody the beliefs peculiar to the Huguenots. According to these, Scripture is the rule of faith, and contains all that is necessary for the service of God and our salvation. The canonical books of which it is formed (all those in the Catholic canon except Tobit , Judith , Wisdom , Sirach , Baruch , and 1 and 2 Maccabees ) are recognized as such not by the common consent of the Churches, but by the internal testimony and persuasion of the Holy Spirit, Who causes us to discern them from other ecclesiastical books. The three symbols of the Apostles, of Nicaea, and of St. Athanasius are received as conformable to Holy Scripture .
Man fallen through sin has lost his moral integrity; his nature is utterly corrupt, and his will captive to sin. From this general corruption and condemnation only those are rescued whom God has elected of His pure bounty and mercy in Jesus Christ without consideration of their works, leaving the others under the said condemnation in order that in them His justice may be manifested. We are reconciled with God by the one sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered on the Cross, and our justice consists entirely in the remission of our sins assured to us by the imputation of the merits of Christ. Faith alone makes us sharers in this justice, and this faith is imparted to us by the hidden grace of the Holy Spirit ; it is bestowed, not once for all merely to set us upon the way, but to bring us to the goal; the good deeds done by us do not enter into the reckoning as affecting our justification. The intercession of the saints, purgatory, oral confession, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and indulgences are human inventions. The institution of the Church is Divine; it cannot exist without pastors authorized to teach; no one should live apart from it. The true Church is the society of the faithful who agree to follow the word of God and the pure religion which is based thereon. It ought to be governed, in obedience to the ordinance of Christ, by pastors, guardians, and deacons. All true pastors have the same authority and equal power. Their first duty is to preach the Word of God ; their second to administer the sacraments. The sacraments are outward signs and assured pledges of the grace of God. There are only two: Baptism and the Supper, in which, by the hidden and incomprehensible power of His Spirit, Jesus Christ, though He is in Heaven, spiritually nourishes and vivifies us. In Baptism, as in the Supper, God gives us that which the sacrament signifies. It is God's will that the world be governed by laws and constitutions; He has established the various governments; these therefore must be obeyed.
This profession of faith, the elements of which are borrowed from Calvin's "Institutio Christianae Religionis", evidently takes for its basis Luther's principal doctrines, which are however here more methodically expounded and more rigorously deduced. The Huguenots added to the Lutheran theories only the belief in absolute predestination and in the certainty of salvation by reason of the inamissibility of grace. They also deviated from Lutheranism in the organization of their church (which is not, as with Luther, absorbed in the State) and in their conception — obscure enough indeed — of the sacraments, in which they see more than the empty and inefficacious signs of the Sacramentarians, and less than ceremonies conferring grace, the Lutheran conception of a sacrament.
The discipline established by the Synod of 1559 was also contained in forty articles, to which others were very soon added. The primary organization with its successive developments may be reduced substantially to this: Wherever a sufficient number of the faithful were found, they were to organize in the form of a Church, i.e. appoint a consistory, call a minister, establish the regular celebration of the sacraments and the practice of discipline. A church provided with all the elements of organization was an église dressée ; one which had only a part of these requisites was an église plantée . The former had one or more pastors, with elders and deacons, who composed the consistory. This consistory was in the first instance elected by the common voice of the people; after that, it co-opted its own members; but these had to receive the approbation of the people. Pastors were elected by the provincial synod or the conference after an inquiry into their lives and beliefs, and a profession of faith ; imposition of hands followed. The people were notified of the election, and the newly elected pastor preached before the congregation on three consecutive Sundays ; the silence of the people was taken as an expression of consent. The elders, elected by those members of the Church who were admitted to the Supper, were charged with the duty of watching over the flock, jointly with the pastor, and of paying attention to all that concerned ecclesiastical order and government. The deacons were elected like the elders; it was their office to administer, under the consistory, the alms collected for the poor, to visit the sick, those in prison, and so on.
A certain number of churches went to form a conference. The conferences assembled at least twice a year. Each church was represented by a pastor and an elder; the function of the conference was to settle such differences as might arise among church officers, and to provide generally for all that might be deemed necessary for the maintenance and the common good of those within their jurisdiction. Over the conferences were the provincial synods, which were in like manner composed of a pastor and one or two elders from each church chosen by the consistory, and met at least once a year. The number of these provincial synods in the whole of France was at times fifteen, at other times sixteen. Doctrines, discipline, schools, the appointment of pastors, erection and delimitation of parishes fell within their jurisdiction. At the head of the hierarchy stood the national synod, which, in so far as possible, was to meet once a year. (As a matter of fact, there were only twenty-nine between 1559 and 1660 — on an average, one every three years and a half). It was made up of two ministers and two elders sent by each provincial synod, and, when fully attended, it had (sixty or) sixty-four members. To the national synod it belonged to pronounce definitively upon all important matters, internal or external, disciplinary or political, which concerned religion.
The complement of these various institutions was the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. In 1528 Lefèvre d'Etaples had already completed a translation from the Vulgate, making use of Jean de Rely's already existing translation, but suppressing the glosses. His translation was improved by going back to the original texts in the four editions which appeared successively before the year 1541. But the first really Huguenot version was that of Olivetan, a relation of Calvin's. It was called the "Bible de Sevrieres" — the Sevrières Bible — from the locality where it was printed. For the protocanonical books of the Old Testament it goes to the Hebrew; for the deuterocanonical, it is in many places content with a revision of Lefèvre's text. Its New Testament is translated from the Greek. Calvin composed its preface. In 1540 there appeared an edition of it revised and corrected by the pastors of Geneva. Again there appeared at Geneva, in 1545, another edition in which Calvin had a hand. A more thorough revision marks the editions of 1553, 1561, and 1563, the last two with notes taken from Calvin's commentaries. Finally, Olivetan's text, more or less revised or renewed by Martin and Osterwald, became the permanent basis of the Bibles in use among French Protestants.
It was from Calvin, too, and from his book "La forme des prières et des chants ecclésiastiques" (1542), that the Huguenot liturgy was taken. Like Luther's, it embraces the suppression of the Mass, the idea of salvation by faith, the negation of merit in any works, even in Divine worship, the proscription of relics and of the intercession of saints ; it attaches great importance to the preaching of God's word and the use of the vernacular only. But the breach with Catholicism is much wider than in the case of Luther. Under pretext of returning to the earliest ecclesiastical usage, Calvin and the French Protestants who followed him reduced the whole liturgy to three elements: public prayers, preaching, and the administration of the sacraments. In the Divine service for Sunday prayers were either recited or chanted. At the beginning there was the public confession and absolution, the chanting of the Ten Commandments or of psalms, then a prayer offered by the minister, followed by the sermon and a long prayer for princes, for the Church and its pastors, for men in general, the poor, the sick, and so on. Besides these, there were special prayers for baptism, marriage, and the Supper, which last was under certain circumstances added to the Divine service.
The history of French Protestantism may be divided into four well-defined periods: (1) A Militant Period, in which it is struggling for freedom (1559-98); (2) the Period of the Edict of Nantes (1598-1685); (3) the Period from the Revocation to the Revolution (1685-1800); (4) the Period from the Revolution to the Separation (1801-1905).(1) Militant Period
The organization of their discipline and worship gave the Huguenots a new power of expansion. Little by little they penetrated into the ranks of the nobility. One of the principal families of the kingdom, the Coligny, allied to the Montmorency, furnished them their most distinguished recruits in d'Andelot, Admiral Coligny, and Cardinal Odet de Chatillon. Soon the Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d'Albret, daughter of Margaret of Navarre, professed Calvinism and introduced it into her dominions by force. Her husband, Antoine de Bourbon, the first prince of the blood, appeared at times to have gone over to the Huguenots with his brother the Prince de Condé, who, for his part, never wavered in his allegiance to the new sect. Even the Parliament of Paris, which had so energetically carried on the struggle against the heresy, allowed itself to become tainted, many of its members embracing the new doctrine. It was necessary to deal severely with these; many were imprisoned, Antoine du Bourg among others. But at this point Henry II died, leaving the throne to a delicate child of sixteen. Nothing could have been more advantageous for the Huguenots. Just at that time they formed a numerous group in almost every district of France. Certain provinces, such as Normandy, contained as many as 5000 of them; one day 6000 persons at the Pré-aux-clercs, in Paris, sang the Psalms of Marot which the Huguenots had adopted; Basse-Guyenne, it was said, had seventy-six organized churches. Two years later, Bordeaux counted 7000 of the Reformed; Rouen, 10,000; mention is made of 20,000 at Toulouse, and the Prince de Condé presented a list of 2050 churches — which, it is true, cannot be identified. The papal nuncio wrote to Rome that the kingdom was more than half Huguenot; this was assuredly an exaggeration, for the Venetian ambassador estimated the district contaminated with this error at not the one-tenth part of France ; nevertheless it is evident that the Huguenots could no longer be regarded as a few scattered handfuls of individuals, whose case could be satisfactorily dealt with by a few judicial prosecutions. Organized into churches linked together by synods, reinforced by the support of great lords of whom some had access to the councils of the Crown, the Calvinists thenceforward constituted a political power which exerted its activity in national affairs and had a history of its own.
After the accession of Francis II, and through the influence of the Guises, who were all-powerful with the king and strongly devoted to Catholicism, the edicts against the Huguenots were rendered still more severe. Antoine du Bourg was burned, and a royal edict (4 September, 1559) commanded that houses in which unlawful assemblies were held should be razed and the organizers of such assemblies punished with death . Embittered by these measures, the Huguenots took advantage of every cause for discontent afforded by the government of the Guises. After taking counsel with their theologians at Strasburg and Geneva, they resolved to have recourse to arms. A plot was formed, the real leader of which was the Prince de Conde, though its organization was entrusted to the Sieur de la Renaudié, a nobleman of Périgord, who had been convicted of forgery by the Parliament of Dijon, had fled to Geneva, and had there become an ardent Calvinist. He visited Geneva and England, and scoured the provinces of France to recruit soldiers and bring them together about the Court — for the plan was to capture the Guises without, as the conspirators said, laying hands on the king's person. While the Court in order to disarm Huguenot hostility was ordering its agents to desist from prosecutions, and proclaiming a general amnesty from which only preachers and conspirators were excepted, the Guises were warned of the plot being hatched, and thus enabled to stifle the revolt in the blood of the conspirators who were assembling in bands about Amboise, where the king was lodged (19 March, 1560). The resentment aroused by the severity of this repression and the appointment as chancellor of Michel de L'Hôpital, a magistrate of great moderation, soon led to the adoption of less violent counsels; the Edict of Romorantin (May, 1560) softened the lot of the Protestants, who had as their advocates before the "Assembly of Notables" (August, 1560) the Prince de Conde, the chancellor L'Hôpital, and the Bishops of Valence and Vienne.
The accession of Charles IX, a minor (December, 1560), brought into power, as queen regent, his mother Catharine de' Medici. This was fortunate for the Huguenots. Almost indifferent to questions of doctrine the ambitious regent made no scruple of granting any degree of toleration, provided she might enjoy her power in peace. She allowed the Conde and the Coligny to practice the reformed religion at court, and even summoned to preach there Jean de Mouluc, Bishop of Valence, a Calvinist scarcely concealed by his mitre. At the same time she ordered the Parliament of Paris to suspend the prosecutions, and authorized Huguenot worship outside of the cities until such time as a national council should have pronounced on the matter. An edict promulgated in the month of April, while prohibiting religious manifestations, set at liberty those who had been imprisoned on religious grounds. In vain did the Parliament of Paris try to suspend the publication of this edict; a judiciary commission composed of princes, high officers of the Crown, and members of the Royal Council, granted the Huguenots amnesty on the sole condition that they should in future live like Catholics. In the hope of bringing about a reconciliation between the two religions Catharine assembled Catholic prelates and Huguenot ministers at the Conference of Poissy. For the latter Théodore de Bèze spoke; for the former, the Cardinal of Lorraine. Each party claimed victory. In conclusion the king forbade the Huguenots to hold ecclesiastical property, and the Catholics to interfere with Huguenot worship. In January, 1562, the Huguenots were authorized to hold their assemblies outside of the towns, but had to restore all property taken from the clergy, and abstain from tumults and unlawful gatherings. This edict, however, only exasperated the rival factions; at Paris it occasioned disturbances which obliged Catharine and the Court to flee. The Duke of Guise, on his way from Lorraine to rejoin the queen, found at Vassy in Champagne some six or seven hundred Huguenots holding religious worship (1 March, 1562), which according to the Edict of January they had no right to do, Vassy being a fortified town. Their singing soon interfered with the Mass at which the Duke of Guise was assisting. Mutual provocations ensued, a quarrel broke out, and blood was shed. Twenty-three Huguenots were slain and more than a hundred wounded.
Forthwith, at the call of the Prince de Conde, there began the first of the civil wars called the "wars of religion". The Huguenots rose, as they said, to enforce respect for the Edict of January, which the Duke of Guise was trampling under foot. Everywhere the mutual animosities found vent in acts of violence. Huguenots were massacred in one place, monks and religious in another. Wherever the insurgents gained the mastery, churches were sacked, statues and crosses mutilated, sacred utensils profaned in sacrilegious burlesques, and relics of saints cast into the flames. The most serious encounters took place at Orléans, where the Duke of Guise was treacherously assassinated by a Huguenot. The assassin Poltrot de Méré declared that he had been urged on by Bèze and Coligny. Finally, although Conde and Coligny had not been ashamed to purchase support from Queen Elizabeth of England by delivering Havre over to her, the victory remained with the Catholics. Peace was established by the Edict of Amboise (19 March, 1563), which left the Huguenots freedom of worship in one town out of each bailiwick ( bailliage ) and in the castles of lords who exercised the power of life and death ( haute justice ). Four years later there was another civil war which lasted six months and ended in the Peace of Longjumeau (23 March, 1568), re-establishing the Edict of Amboise. Five months later hostilities recommenced. Conde occupied La Rochelle, but he was killed at Jarnac, and Coligny, who succeeded to his command was defeated at Moncontour. Peace was made in the following year, and the Edict of Saint-Germain (8 April, 1570) granted the Huguenots freedom of worship wherever their worship had been carried on before the war, besides leaving in their hands the four following refuges — La Rochelle, Montauban, La Charite, and Cognac.
On his return to Court, Coligny found great favour with the king and laboured to win his support for the revolted Netherlands. The marriage of Henry, King of Navarre, with the king's sister, Margaret of Valois, soon after this brought all the Huguenots lords to Paris. Catharine de' Medici, jealous of Coligny's influence with the king, and it may be in collusion with the Duke of Guise who had his father's death to avenge on the admiral, plotted the death of the latter. But the attempt failed; Coligny was only wounded. Catharine, fearing reprisals from the Huguenot's, suddenly won over the king and his council to the idea of putting to death the Huguenot leaders assembled in Paris. Thus occurred the odious Massacre of St. Bartholomew, so called from the saint whose feast fell on the same day (24 August, 1572), Admiral Coligny being slain with many of his Huguenot followers. The massacre spread to many provincial towns. The number of victims is estimated at 2000 for the capital, and 6000 to 8000 for the rest of France. The king explained to foreign courts that Coligny and his partisans had organized a plot against his person and authority, and that he (the king) had merely suppressed it. Thus it was that Pope Gregory XIII at first believed in a conspiracy of the Huguenots, and, persuaded that the king had but defended himself against these heretics, held a service of thanksgiving for the repression of the conspiracy, and commemorated it by having a medal struck, which he sent with his felicitations to Charles IX. There is no proof that the Catholic clergy were in the slightest degree connected with the massacre. Cries of horror and malediction arose from the Huguenot ranks; their writers made France and the countries beyond its borders echo with those cries by means of pamphlets in which, for the first time, they attacked the absolute power, or even the very institution of royalty. After St. Bartholomew's the Huguenots, though bereft of their leaders, rushed to arms. This was the fourth civil war, and centred about a few fortified towns, such as La Rochelle , Montauban, and Nîmes. The Edict of Boulogne (25 June, 1573) put an end to it, granting to all Huguenots amnesty for the past and liberty to worship in those three towns. It was felt that the rising power of the Huguenots was broken — that from this juncture forward they would never again be able to sustain a conflict except by allying themselves with political malcontents. They themselves were conscious of this; they gave themselves a political organization which facilitated the mobilization of all their forces. In their synods held from 1573 to 1588 they organized France into généralités , placing at the head of each a general, with a permanent council and periodical assemblies. The delegates of these généralités were to form the States General of the Union, which were to meet every three months. Special committees were created for the recruiting of the army, the management of the finances, and the administration of justice. Over the whole organization a "protector of the churches" was appointed, who was the chief of the party. Conde held this title from 1574; Henry of Navarre after 1576. It was, so to say, a permanently organized revolt. In 1574 hostilities recommenced; the Huguenots and the malcontents joined forces against impotent royalty until they wrested from Henry, the successor of Charles IX (30 May, 1574), by the Edict of Beaulieu (May, 1576) the right of public worship for the religion, thenceforth officially called the prétendue reformée , throughout France, except at Paris and the Court. There were also to be established chambers composed of equal numbers of Catholics and Huguenots in eight Parliaments; eight places de sureté were to be given to the Huguenots; there was to be a disclaimer of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the families which had suffered from it were to be reinstated. These large concessions to the Huguenots and the approbation given to their political organization led to the formation of the League, which was organized by Catholics anxious to defend their religion. The States-General of Blois (December, 1576) declared itself against the Edict of Beaulieu. Thereupon the Protestants took up arms under the leadership of Henry of Navarre, who, escaping from the Court, had returned to the Calvinism which he had abjured at the time of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew . The advantage was on the Catholic side, thanks to some successes achieved by the Duke of Anjou, the king's brother. The Peace of Bergerac, confirmed by the Edict of Poitiers (September, 1577), left the Huguenots the free exercise of their religion only in the suburbs of one town in each bailiwick ( bailliage ), and in those places where it had been practised before the outbreak of hostilities and which they occupied at the current date.
The national synods, which served to fill up
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