Describe the social conflicts in seventeenth century France between the nobility, huguenots, middle class, and peasantry.

Expert Answers

Want to remove ads?

Get ad-free questions with an eNotes 48-hour free trial.

Try It Free No Thanks
thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Bourbon family who were Huguenots (Protestants) had a major conflict with the Guise family who were Catholics, with both families clamoring for power after the death of King Henry II. The conflict between the two religious groups raged on with major loses on both sides. This continued until Henry of Navarre was crowned Henry IV, but after he had converted from Protestantism to Catholicism. Henry IV, however, issued the Edict of Nantes, which sought to protect the Huguenots' religious freedoms.

Later, Henry IV was assassinated by a Catholic and was succeeded by Louise XIII, but because he was still young at the time, his mother took over leadership responsibilities. She was incompetent and the responsibility of leading France passed on to Cardinal Richelieu. The Cardinal’s objectives brought him in direct conflict with the country’s nobility. He destroyed their castles and disbanded their armies. The movement against the nobility led to the Fronde rebellion. The nobility failed to secure support from the middle class and the peasants and the rebellion was unsuccessful.

The nobility enjoyed many privileges and wielded overwhelming authority over property. The peasants were only accorded an opportunity to work on the land by paying the nobility. In this regard, the nobility would escape paying taxes and this burden would befall the peasants. The peasants who formed the third estate were not involved in the functions of the state and this privilege was a preserve of the first estate and some members of the bourgeoisie (middle class). The bourgeoisie aspired to political power, which brought them in sharp conflict with the nobility. Leading up to the French Revolution, members of the bourgeoisie finally banded together with the peasants to oust the nobility.