French Wars of Religion (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: At issue: Status of French Calvinists (Huguenots). Result: Victory for Henry IV; formal religious settlement.
The French Wars of Religion resulted from both political rivalries and religious divisions. After the death of King Henry II in 1559, his widow, Queen Catherine de’ Medici, tried to preserve an independent monarchy for her young sons while the noble families of Guise, Montmorency, and Bourbon competed for domination of the royal government.
Although the Guise and many other nobles remained Catholic, a number of prominent nobles converted to Calvinism. These included Gaspard II de Coligny, a nephew of Anne, duke of Montmorency, as well as the Bourbon prince Louis I de Bourbon, prince de Condé and later his nephew Henry of Navarre (Henry IV). By the 1560’s, Huguenots were a sizable minority concentrated in the west, south, and Normandy. In the years preceding the first war, the queen tried to play off the opposing noble factions against each other while implementing a policy of limited toleration until religious differences could be resolved.
The massacre of Huguenots at Vassy by François de Lorraine, second duke of Guise, in March, 1562, led to military preparations and the outbreak of war. During the first three wars, Huguenot forces, although outnumbered, were generally on the offensive. Their leaders justified their military...
(The entire section is 1005 words.)
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