Attention!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Huguenots

Additional Links

originally a nickname applied to the partisans of the Reformation in France. The origin of this word is rather obscure. Some derive it from Huguon, a word applied in Touraine to persons who walk at night in the street-the early French Protestants, like the early Christians, having chosen that time for their religious assemblies. Others derive it from a faulty pronunciation of the German Eidgenossen, signifying confederates, on account of the connection between the French Protestants and the Swiss confederates. who maintained themselves against the tyrannical attempts of Charles III, duke of Savoy, and were called Eignots. Others derive it from the part which the French Protestants took in sustaining Henry IV, the descendant of Hugues Capet, to the throne of France against the Guises. Another derivation is from the subterraneous vaults in which they held their assemblies, outside the walls of Tours, near a gate called Fourgon, an alteration from feu Hugon. This last derivation is strengthened by the fact that they were originally called "Huguenots of Tours." Still others derive it from the name of a very small coin of the time of Hugues, to denote the vile condition of the Protestants. Thus the distinguished German philologist, Prof. Mahn, of Berlin, in his Etymologische Untersuchungen auf dem. Gebiete der Romanischen Sprachen, gives no less than fifteen supposed derivations, but inclines himself to the opinion that the word Huguenot was originally applied as a nickname to the early French Protestants, and that it was derived from Hughues, the name of some heretic or conspirator, and was formed from it by the addition of the French diminutive ending ot, like Jacot, Margot, Jeannot, etc.

At the very commencement of the Reformation in Germany, adherents of the cause of the Reformers sprang up in France, then under the government of Francis I. Under the powerful support which these French Reformers found in Margaret of Navarre, sister of the king, as early as 1523 Melchior Wolmar, a Swiss, preached the Gospel in the south of France, and Lutheran societies, at this time calling themselves Gospellers (q.v.), were organized by Gerhard Roussel and Jacob Lefevre. (See FABER).

The circulation of Lefevre's New Testament by the thousand throughout France by peddlers from Switzerland, where copies were printed by Farel (q.v.), still further increased the number of the Reformers, and finally led to the promulgation of al ordinance by the Sorbonne, obtained from the king, for the suppression of printing (Feb. 26, 1535). In 1533, Calvin (q.v.), who had been invited to Paris by the rector of the University, began to preach the new doctrines in that and other cities, and by his efforts greatly furthered the success of the French Protestants, who now began to be known by the name of Huguenots. Indeed, so numerous had they become, that to exterminate, if possible, by force, their doctrine before it should spread further, the Church resorted, by consent of the king, in 1545, to a massacre in the Vaudois of Province, which was accompanied by horrors impossible to describe. The new-view religion, however, made rapid progress in spite of all persecutions and men of rank; of learning, and of arms ranged themselves in its defense. "The heads of the house of Bourbon, Antoine, duke of Vendome, and Louis, prince of Conde, declared themselves in its favor. The former became the husband of the celebrated Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre, daughter of the Protestant Margaret of Valois, and the latter became the recognized leader of the Huguenots. The head of the Coligny family took the same side. The Montmorencies were divided; the Constable halting between the two opinions, waiting to see which should prove the stronger, while others of the family openly sided with the Reformed. Indeed, it seemed at one time as if France were on the point of turning Protestant." The Huguenots had become strong enough to hold a synod as early as 1559, and in 1561 cardinal De Sainte-Croix becoming alarmed, wrote the pope, "The kingdom is already half Huguenot," while the Venetian ambassador Micheli reported to his government that no province in France was free from Protestants.

The Roman Catholic clergy, in influence at court, now decided to drive Henry II to a more determined opposition against the Huguenots by assuring him that his life was threatened. Cardinal de Lorraine, the head of the Church in France, declared to him that, "if the secular arm failed in its duty all the malcontents would throw themselves into this detestable sect. They would first destroy the ecclesiastical power, and the royal power would come next." The immediate consequence was a royal edict, in 1559, declaring the crime of heresy punishable by death, and forbidding the judges to remit or mitigate the penalty. The fires of persecution, which had for a time been smoldering, again burst forth. The provincial Parliaments, at the instigation of the Guises, established Chambres ardentes for the punishment of Protestants; and executions, confiscations, and banishments became the order of the day throughout France. The death of Henry II, and the accession of Francis II, did not modify in the least the existing state of affairs. More violent measures, even were taken, none of which succeeded in eradicating the great eyesore of the adherents of the prevalent Church, whose office had now become that of the executioner and hangman. The Protestants could endure these persecutions no longer, and resolved on open revolt. Protected by Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre, by the Condes, the Colignys, and also by such Romanists as were politically opposed to the Guises, the Huguenots formed a strong opposition. Having chosen Louis de Conde for their leader, they decided, Feb. 1, 1560, at Nantes, to address a petition to the king, and, in case it were rejected, to put down the Guises by force of arms, capture the king, and make the prince of Conde governor of the kingdom. The carrying out of this plan was entrusted to Georges de Barri de la Renaudie, a nobleman from Perigord. The conspiracy, however, was discovered through the treachery of count Louis de Sancerre, and the court was removed to Amboise. Some of the Huguenots followed it in arms, whence the whole affair became known as the conspiracy of Amboise. They were defeated, however, by the forces of the Guises, and 1200 of them, taken as prisoners, were executed. The Guises now aimed at the introduction of the Inquisition in France; but, at the instigation of the noble chancellor l'Hô pital [see Hô pital], the king gave to Parliament, by the edict of Romorantin, in May, 1560, the right of deciding in matters of faith, leaving, however, to the bishops the privilege of discovering and pointing out heretics.

During the minority of Charles IX, who ascended the throne Dec. 5, 1560, a boy only ten years old, the strife between the parties which divided the court became more violent, as the chancellor de l'Hô pital, on the assembling of Parliament in Dec. 1560, had exhorted men of all parties "to rally round the young king; and, while condemning the odious punishments which had recently been inflicted on persons of the Reformed faith, announced the intended holding of a national council, and expressed the desire that henceforward France should recognize neither Huguenots nor papists, but only Frenchmen." Catharine de Medicis, the regent, who regarded it to her interest to balance the power of the two parties so as to govern both more easily, seconded the views of the chancellor. The two princes of Conde, who had been prisoners at Lyons after the affair of Amboise, were liberated. Antoine de Navarre was made constable of France, and a new edict was published in July 1561, which granted full forgiveness to the Huguenots, who, it was stated, were no longer to be designated by such nicknames. Finally, a conference was appointed (Sept. 3) for both parties to meet with a view to conciliation.

This conference is famous in history as the Conference of Poissy (q.v.). The Cardinal de Lorraine led the Roman Catholic theologians, but was signally defeated, especially by the arguments of Theodore Beza. The Huguenots, emboldened by their success, now adopted the Calvinistic Confession, and, thus united Tose more strongly against Romanism, counting among their friends Catharine herself, who had been forced to their side by the machinations of the Guises. January 17, 1562, a royal edict was issued, guaranteeing to the Protestants liberty of worship. The Guises and their partisans now became exasperated. On Christmas day, 1562, about 3000 Protestants of Vassy, in Champagne, met for divine worship, and to celebrate the sacrament according to the practices of their Church. Vassy was one of the possessions of the Guises, and the bishop of Chalons complaining to Antoinette de Bourbon, an ardent Roman Catholic, she threatened the Huguenots, if they persisted in their proceedings, with the vengeance of her son, the duke of Guise. Undismayed by this threat, the Protestants of Vassy continued to meet publicly, and listen to their preachers, believing themselves to be under the protection of the law, according to the terms of the royal edict. On March 1, 1563, while the Huguenots of Vassy, to the number of about 1200, were again assembled for divine worship in a barn as they had shortly before been deprived of their churches by Catharine who made this concession to Antoine de Navarre, in order to secure her support, still leaving them, however, free to assemble in the suburbs and in the country on the estates of noblemen they were attacked by a band of armed men, led by the duke of Guise, and massacred. For an hour they fired, hacked, and stabbed amongst them, the duke coolly watching the carnage. Sixty persons of both sexes were left dead on the spot, more than two hundred were severely wounded, and the rest contrived to escape. After the massacre the duke sent for the local judge, and severely reprimanded him for having permitted the Huguenots of Vassy to meet. The judge entrenched himself behind the edict of the king.

The duke's eye flashed with rage, and, striking the hilt of his sword with his hand, he said, "The sharp edge of this will soon cut your edict to pieces" (Smiles, Huguenots, p. 48; comp. Davila, Histoire des Guerres civiles de France, 2, 379). This massacre was the match applied to the charge ready to explode. It was the signal to Catholic France to rise in mass against the heretics, and to Protestant France a warning for their lives. An army of Roman Catholics gathered, at the head of which were the duke of Guise, the constable of Montmorency, and marshal St. Andre, who seized the king and the regent under pretence of providing for their safety, proclaimed the Huguenots, who had at the same time been gathering at Orleans under Conde, rebels, and sent an army against them. Thus began the first war of the Huguenots. September 11, 1562, the royal troops, after much bloodshed, took Rouen, and December 19 a battle was fought at Dreux, in which, after a terrible struggle, the Protestants yielded. One of the leaders of the Romanists, marshal St. André, fell in battle; another, the constable of Montmorency, was made prisoner by the Huguenots, and the leader of the latter in turn fell into the hands of the Guises. An exchange of prisoners, however, was immediately affected. The duke of Guise now marched against Orleans, but was assassinated in his own camp, Feb. 18, 1563, before he had been able to attack this great stronghold of the Protestants. The queen mother, realizing the loss which the Romanists, to whose side she had been forced by policy, had sustained in the death of the duke of Guise, and informed of a threatened invasion of the English on the coast of Normandy, concluded the peace of Amboise, March 19, by which the Protestants were again granted the privileges of the edict of 1562, with several additions. The armies now united, and made common cause against the English. As soon, however, as Catharine thought herself able to dispense with the aid of the Huguenots, whom she both feared and hated, and on whose destruction she was resolved, she again restricted the privileges conceded them in the edict of Amboise, formed a close alliance with Slain for the extirpation of heresy, and made attempts to secure the imprisonment, and death if possible, of Conde and of the admiral Coligny (q.v.). The Huguenots now became alarmed, and their leaders adopted the resolution, Sept. 29,1567, to secure, at the castle of Morceaux, the king's person, in whose name Catharine de Medicis was acting. The court, having received information of this decision, fled to Paris. Conde immediately followed, and, laying siege to the city, opened the second war of the Huguenots. After a siege of one month, Conde and the constable Montmorency met for battle, November 10, 1567, at St. Denis. Here 2700 Huguenots fought against no less than 20,000 royal troops. But so well did the Huguenots maintain their ground, that the victory was undecided.

The superior force of the royal troops led Conde to fall back into Lorraine, where he was re-enforced by 10,000 German warriors, under prince John Casimir. Conde with these forces now threatened Paris (Feb. 1568), and Catharine, in her fright, at once offered a treaty of peace, which was contracted at Longjumeau March 27, 1568, re-establishing the terms of the treaty of Amboise generally known as the petite paix (little peace) of Longjumeau. Notwithstanding this treaty, which both parties seem to have signed only because they felt under compulsion, Catharine continued all manner of persecutions against the Protestants. "The pulpits, encouraged by the court, resounded with the horrid maxim that faith need not be kept with heretics, and that to massacre them was just, pious, and useful for salvation" (De Thou, Vie de Coligny, p. 350). In less than three months more than 3000 Protestants were either assassinated or executed. L'Hô pital, the friend of peace, and the upholder of the rights of all citizens without distinction of creed, who had become obnoxious to Rome and her adherents, was dismissed or forced to resign, and the seizure of Conde and Coligny resolved upon. Fortunately, however, for the Protestants, some of the royal officers were unwilling to be instruments in the massacre likely to ensue upon such an act, and Conde and Coligny received warning to flee for their lives. Rochelle, one of the strongholds of the Protestants, which had baffled all the attacks and plans of Catharine, was open to receive them, and thither they consequently directed their steps for safety, closely pursued by the royal blood-hunters. Measures had also been planned for entrapping the other leading Protestants, but they all failed in the execution. "The cardinal of Chatillon, an adherent to the Protestant cause, who was at his see (Beauvais), escaped into Normandy, took the disguise of a sailor, and crossed over to England in a small vessel, and there became of great service to the Protestant cause by his negotiations. The queen of Navarre, warned in time by Coligny, also hastened to Rochelle with her son and daughter, contributing some money and four thousand soldiers. The chiefs-in-general took the defensive, and immediately raised levies in their different provinces. The guerrillas maintained by these persons kept the Catholic army in full employment, and preserved Rochelle from a general attack till proper measures had been taken for its defense." Catharine, outwitted in her diabolical attempts, now resolved to cajole the Huguenots into submission, and to this end published an edict declaring the willingness of the government to protect the Protestants in future, as well as to render them justice for the past. But so completely was this edict at variance with her conduct that it passed unnoticed. Enraged at this, she now promulgated several edicts against the Protestants, revoking every edict that had ever been published in their favor, and forbade, under the penalty of death, the exercise of any other religion than the Roman Catholic. This sudden revocation of all former edicts made her acts a public declaration that she was resolved on a war of religion, and the Huguenots, fortified in their strongholds, and with assistance, which they had obtained from Germany and England, now began the third religious war.

On March 13,1569, the two contending armies met in battle at Jarnac, near La Rochelle, in which the Catholics, headed by the duke of Anjou, later Henry III, defeated the Protestants, making prince Conde a prisoner, whom they afterwards, on recognition in the camp, murdered in cold blood. The Protestants being thus left without a leader, the command was entrusted to Coligny. But the admiral, ever unselfish in his motives, finding that the army had become greatly dispirited by their recent reverses, urged Jeanne D'Albret, queen of Navarre, to give them her son as princely leader. She at once hastened to Cognac, where the army was encamped, and presented her son, prince Henry of Beam, afterwards Henry IV, then in his 16th year, and Henry, son of the lately fallen Conde, still younger, as the leaders of the cause, under the guidance of Coligny. Having obtained further re-enforcements from Germany, the Huguenots now laid siege to Poitiers, but on Oct. 3, 1569, were again defeated in a battle at Moncontour. Still sustained by means from England, Switzerland, and Germany, the Huguenots were enabled to take Nimes in 1569, to free prince Henry of Navarre and the eldest Henry of Conde in La Rochelle, to beat the royal army at Luqon and Arnay-le- Duc in 1570, to besiege Paris, and, finally, to dictate (Aug. 8, 1570) the terms of the peace of St. Germain-en-Laye, by which they were to hold La Rochelle, La Charitd, Montauban, and Cognac for two years, and were guaranteed liberty of worship outside of Paris, equality before the law, admission to the universities, and a general amnesty. "Under the terms of this treaty, France enjoyed a state of quiet for about two years, but it was only the quiet that preceded the outbreak of another storm."

Having failed to crush the Protestants in the open field Catharine, now sought to accomplish her object by treachery and by a general massacre. In her artful wav she contrived a marriage between her own daughter Margaret of Valois, sister of the king, and Henry of Beam, king of Navarre, the proclaimed leader of the Huguenots. Jeanne d'Albret, the mother of Henry of Beam, and even the admiral Coligny, heartily concurred in the projected union, in the hope that it would be an important step towards a close of the old feud; but many of the Protestant leaders mistrusted Catharine's intentions, especially after her late attempt to assassinate Coligny, and they felt inclined to withdraw. None the less, as the preparations for the royal nuptials were in progress, the Reformers took courage, and resorted in. large numbers to Paris to celebrate the great, and to them so promising, event. Catharine now felt that her favorable moment had come. On the day after the marriage, which had been celebrated with great pomp, and was followed by a succession of feasts and gayeties, in which the principal members of the nobility, Protestant as well as Romanist, were participating, and while the fears of the Huguenots were completely disarmed, a private council was held by Catharine and the king, in which it was decided that on a given night all the Protestants should be murdered, with the exception of Henry of Beam and the young prince of Conde. For the head of Coligny the king offered a special price of 50,000 crowns; but the attempt made upon his life failed to prove fatal to Coligny, and the hypocritical Charles even professed sorrow for the injury he sustained. (See COLIGNY).

The night of August 24, 1572, was appointed for the massacre. About twilight in the morning of the 24th, as the great bell of the church of St. Germain was ringing for early prayers, to open the festival of St. Bartholomew's day, Charles, his mother, and the duke of Anjou sat in a chamber of the palace to give the signal for the massacre. A pistol-shot fired from one of the windows of the palace called out 300 of the royal guard, who, wearing, to distinguish themselves in the darkness, a white sash on the left arm and a white cross in their hats, rushed out into the streets, shouting "For God and the king!" and commenced the most perfidious butchery recorded in history. The houses of the Huguenots were broken in, and all who could be found murdered, the king himself firing from his windows on those who passed in the street. Some 5000 Huguenots, among them their great and noble leader, the admiral Coligny (q.v.), were thus killed in Paris; while many Roman Catholics met with the same fate at the hands of personal enemies, under the plea of their being inclined to Protestantism. The next day orders were sent to the governors of the provinces to follow the example of the capital. A few only had the manliness to resist this order, and in the space of sixty days some 70,000 persons were murdered in the provinces. (See BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY).

Those who escaped took refuge in the mountains and at La Rochelle. Henry of Navarre was compelled to sign a recantation. The prince of Conde became a Roman Catholic, and Charles IX declared in Parliament that Protestantism was extinct in France. "Catharine de Medicis wrote in triumph to Alva (the ignominious commander of Philip's troops in the Netherlands), to Philip II of Spain, and to the pope, of the results of the three days' dreadful work at Paris. When Philip heard of the massacre, he is said to have laughed for the first and only time in his life. Rome was thrown into a delirium of joy at the news. The cannon were fired at St. Angelo; Gregory XIII and his cardinals went in procession from sanctuary to sanctuary to give God thanks for the massacre. The subject was ordered to be painted, and a medal was struck to celebrate the atrocious event, with the pope's head on one side, and on the other an angel, with a cross in one hand and a sword in the other, pursuing and slaying a band of flying heretics. The legend it bears, Ugonottorum Strages, 1572,' briefly epitomizes the terrible story." The festival of St. Bartholomew was also ordered to be yearly celebrated in commemoration of the event. Not satisfied with these demonstrations at Rome, Gregory sent cardinal Orsini on a special mission to Paris to congratulate the king His passage was through Lyons, where 1800 persons had been killed, the bodies of many of whom had been thrown into the Rhone to horrify the dwellers near that river below the city (Smiles, Huguenots, p. 60).

Although deprived so suddenly of their leaders, and greatly weakened by the slaughter of great numbers of their best and bravest men, the Protestants gathered together in their strong places, and prepared to defend themselves by force against force. "In the Cevennes, Dauphiny, and other quarters, they betook themselves to the mountains for refuge. Ill the plains of the south fifty towns closed their gates against the royal troops. Wherever resistance was possible it showed itself." Thus opened the fourth war of the Huguenots. The duke of Anjou, at the head of the Romanists, marched against the forts in the hands of the Huguenots. He attacked La Rochelle, but was repulsed, and obliged to retire from the siege, after losing nearly his whole army. The duke of Anjou becoming king of Poland, peace was concluded June 24, 1573, and the Protestants received as security the towns of Montauban, Nimes, and La Rochelle, besides enjoying freedom of conscience, though not of worship, throughout the kingdom. Charles IX falling ill, the so-called Conspiration des politiques was formed by the Huguenots, with a section of the Roman Catholic nobility, to depose the queen and the Guises, and to place on-the throne the chief of the Romanists, the duke of Alen9on, the youngest son of Catharine and of Francis II, who, from political motives, made common cause with the Huguenots. The leaders made arrangements with Henry of Navarre and the prince of Conde, Protestant princes, for the humiliation of Austria, and only a premature rising of the Protestants defeated the plan. Some of the conspirators were executed, D'Alenuon and Henry of Navarre were arrested, and Conde fled to Germany, where he returned to Protestantism, saying that his abjuration had been obtained from him by violence.

The fifth war' of the Huguenots began under Henry II, the former duke of Alenlon, who became king of France in 1574. In this war the Roman Catholics lost several strong towns, and were repeatedly defeated by the Huguenots. The prince of Conde returned to France with- a German army under the orders of John Casimir, and in March 1576, was joined by the duke of Alen9on, who was at enmity with the king. In the south, Henry:of Navarre was making rapid progress. The court became alarmed, and finally concluded the peace of Beaulieu, May 8, 1576, granting the Huguenots again a number of places of security, and freeing them from all restrictions in the exercise of their religion, also the promise to indemnify the German allies of the Huguenots for the war expenses. The Guises, thus frustrated in their political designs, instigated the inhabitants of Peronne, under the leadership of Humieres, to organize an association called the Holy League (q.v.), in 1576, for the defense of the interests of Romanism. The league rapidly increased, was supported by the king, by Spain, and the pope, and finally led to the sixth war of the Huguenots. The states, however, refusing to give the king money to carry it on, and the Roman Catholics being divided among themselves, the peace of Bergerac was signed in September, 1577. The conditions were the same as on the former occasions; but Catharine, in her anxiety to diminish the growing power of the Guises, entered into a private treaty with Henry of Navarre (at Nerac), and thus the Protestants were put in possession of a few more towns.

The seventh war of the Huguenots, called at court the Guerre des amoureux, was occasioned by the Guises, who instigated the king to demand back the towns given to the Protestants as securities, and to violate the treaty in various ways. Conde answered by taking Lafé re in November 1579, and Henry by taking Cahors in April, 1580. The duke of Anjou intending to employ the royal forces in the Netherlands, and the Huguenots having met with several disastrous encounters with the Romanists, peace was concluded again at Flex, Sept. 12, 1580, and the Huguenots were permitted to retain their strongholds six years longer. A comparatively long interval of peace for France now followed.

But when the duke of Anjou (formerly of Alenaon) died in 1584, leaving Henry of Navarre, a Protestant, heir presumptive to the throne, the "Holy League" sprang again into existence under the influence of the adherents of the Guises, the strict Roman Catholic members of the Parliament, the fanatical clergy, and the ultra conservative party. The states, especially the sixteen districts of Paris (whence the association also took the name of Liguze des Seize), took an active part in it. Henry, duke of Guise, finally concluded a treaty with Spain, signed at the castle of Joinville January 3, 1585, creating a strong opposition to the succession of Henry of Navarre to the throne, and aimed even against Henry III, who seemed inclined to favor his brother-in-law. At the same time the Guises sought, though not altogether successfully, the approbation of pope Gregory XIII to the declaration of cardinal of Bourbon as heir to the throne, under the pretense that, as a faithful Catholic, he would aid his Church in extirpating heresy.

The real object of the duke of Guise, however, in proposing so old an incumbent for the throne, was to obtain for himself the crown of France, which seemed by no means a chimerical attempt, as he had received strong assurances of support from Spain. With the assistance of soldiers and funds sent him by his Spanish ally, the duke succeeded in taking several towns, not only from the Huguenots but also from the king. Henry III, hesitating to send an army against the duke of Guise promptly, was finally obliged to sign the edict of Nemours, July 7, 1585, by which all modes of worship except that of the Roman Catholic Church were forbidden throughout France. All Huguenot ministers were given one month, and the Huguenots six months, to leave the country, and all their privileges were declared forfeited. Though put under the ban as heretics by pope Sixtus V, Henry of Navarre and the prince of Conde prepared to resist the execution of the royal edict by force of arms. With the aid of money from England, and an army of 30,000 men sent from Germany, they took the field in 1587, and began the eighth war of the Huguenots, called also, from the names of the leaders, the war of the three Henrys. The Huguenots gained the battle of Contras, Oct. 8.1587, but were subsequently defeated, and their German allies were obliged to leave the country. The duke of Guise was left master of the field. He was not slow to grasp the power of the state, and obliged the king to sign the edict of reunion of Rouen, July 19, 1588, for the forcible submission of the Huguenots, and the exclusion of Henry of Navarre from the succession to the throne. The king, to whom it now became evident that the duke of Guise's aim was to secure the throne for himself, feigned acquiescence in the demand, called a Parliament at Blois in order to gain time, and there caused both of the Guises to be murdered (Dec. 23, 1588). Both Protestants and Roman Catholics were indignant at this act of treachery; the Parliament denounced the king as an assassin,' and Charles of Guise, duke of Mayenne, who had escaped the massacre, made himself master of several provinces, marched on Paris, and took the title of lieutenant general of the kingdom.

Catharine having died in 1589, Henry III made a treaty with Henry of Navarre, but was himself assassinated in the camp of St. Cloud by the monk Jacques Clement, August 1, 1588. Henry of Navarre, a Protestant in belief, now succeeded to the throne under the title of Henry IV. His first step was to conquer for himself the possessions which had been wrested from his kingdom by the league and the Spaniards. But finding that he could obtain security of life and permanent possession of his dominion only by becoming a Roman Catholic, he abjured the faith of his fathers in the church of St. Denis, July 25, 1593. The duke of Mayenne, supported by Spain still continued the war against the king, but the latter having obtain I ed absolution from the pope in 1595, notwithstanding the efforts of the Jesuits, who had sold their influence to Spain, many forsook the league to join the royal standard, and the duke of Mayenne was finally obliged to make peace with the king. On April 15, 1598, Henry IV granted to the Protestants, for whom he ever cherished great affection, the celebrated Edict of Nantes (q.v.), consisting of ninety-one articles, by which the Huguenots were allowed to worship in their own way throughout the kingdom, with the exception of a few towns; their ministers were to be supported by the state; inability to hold offices was removed; their poor and sick were to be admitted to the hospitals; and, finally, the towns given them as security were to remain in their hands eight years longer. Pope Clement VIII became enraged at the concessions, and wrote Henry that "a decree which gave liberty of conscience to all was the most accursed that had ever been made." His influence was also used to induce Parliament to refuse its approval to the edict, but it was finally registered in spite of Romish craftiness, Feb. 25, 1599.

After repeated attempts upon the life of the king, who had made himself especially obnoxious to the Jesuits, he was eventually assassinated by Ravaillac May 14, 1610. Henry's second wife, Mary of Medicis, and her son Louis XIII, still a minor, now assumed the government. The edicts of toleration were by them also ratified; but, notwithstanding this public declaration on their part, they were practically disregarded and violated. When prince Henry II of Conde rose against the king in Nov. 1615, the Protestants sided with him. By the treaty of London, May 4, 1616, their privileges were confirmed; but, at the instigation of the Jesuits, a new edict of 1620 restored Roman Catholicism as the official religion of Beam, and decided that the Huguenots should be deprived of their churches. The latter resisted, headed by the princes of Rohan and Soubise, and the war commenced anew (in 1621), but this time proved unfavorable to the Protestants; yet at the peace of Montpellier, Oct. 21,1622, the edict of Nantes was confirmed, and the Protestants only lost the right of holding assemblies. In 1622, Louis XIII called Richelieu, whom the pope had lately created cardinal, to his councils. The power of the chancellor once firmly established, he determined to crush the Huguenots, whose destruction he considered essential to the unity and power of France, not so much on account of their religion, as on account of their political influence at home, and particularly abroad. He accordingly paid little attention to the stipulations of the treaty which the king had made with the Huguenots, and provoked them to rebellion by all possible means.

In 1625, while the government was involved in difficulties in Italy, the Protestants improved the opportunity and rose in arms. Their naval force, under Soubise, beat the royal marine in several engagements, and cardinal Richelieu found himself under the necessity of offering conditions of peace, which this time the Protestants very unwisely refused to accept. The cardinal now resolved to reduce La Rochelle, their stronghold. A powerful army was assembled and marched on the doomed place, Richelieu combining in himself the functions of bishop, prime minister, and commander-in-chief. The Huguenots of Rochelle defended themselves with great bravery for more than a year, during which they endured the greatest privations. But their resistance was in vain; even a fleet which the English had induced Charles I to send, under the command of the duke of Buckingham, to their assistance, was defeated off the Island of Rhé, Nov. 8, 1627. On the 28th of Oct. 1628, Richelieu rode into Rochelle by the king's side, in velvet and cuirass, at the head of the royal army, after which he proceeded to perform high mass in the church of St. Margaret, in celebration of his victory (compare Smiles, Hug. p. 118). The loss of La Rochelle was the deathblow to the Huguenots as a political power. As it was followed by the loss of all their other strongholds, Nismes, Montauban, Castres, etc., they were now left defenseless, and entirely dependent on the will of their conqueror. Richelieu, however, acting in a wise and tolerant spirit, refrained from pushing the advantages which he had gained to extremes, and advised the publication of an edict which should grant the Protestants freedom of worship, no doubt actuated to this course by considerations of state policy, as he had just entered into a league with the Swedes and Germans, and needed the good-will of his Protestant subjects as much as that of the Romanists. June 27, 1629, peace was concluded at Alais, and in the same year an edict followed, called "the Edict of Pardon," granting to the Protestants the same privileges as the edict of Nantes, with exception of their strongholds, which were demolished, they ceasing to have political influence, and becoming distinguished as a party only by their religion. The reign of Louis XIII closed in 1629, and his successor, Louis XIV, as well as cardinal Mazarin, the successor of Richelieu, who had died a short time before Louis, confirmed to the Protestants the rights and privileges granted them; and although they suffered from a gradual defection of nobles, who, finding them no longer available for purposes of faction, now rejoined the old Church, they nevertheless enjoyed comparative freedom from persecution.

The death of Mazarin in 1661 forms another epoch in the history of the Protestants. New edicts were published, intended to damage their financial interests, and to become impediments to the free exercise of their religion. Thus, in 1662, an edict forbade them to inter their dead except at daybreak or at nightfall. Another decree in 1663 excused new converts from payment of debts previously contracted with their fellow-religionists. In 1665 their children were allowed to declare themselves Roman Catholics-if boys, at fourteen; if girls, at twelve years of age; parents either to continue to provide for their apostate children, or to apportion to them a part of their possessions. In 1679 it was decreed that converts who- had relapsed into Protestantism should be banished, and their property confiscated. In 1680 Huguenot clerks and notaries were deprived of their employments, intermarriages of Protestants and Roman Catholics' were forbidden, and the issue of such marriages declared illegitimate, and incapable of succession. In 1681, to strike terror to the hearts of the Protestants, a royal declaration granted the right to Huguenot children to become converts at the age of seven years. "The kidnapping of Protestant children was actively set on foot by the agents of the Roman Catholic priests, and their parents were subjected to heavy penalties if they ventured to complain. Orders were issued to pull down Protestant places of worship, and as many as eighty were shortly destroyed in one diocese. The Huguenots offered no resistance. All that they did was to meet together and pray that the king's heart might yet be softened towards them. Blow upon blow followed. Protestants were forbidden to print books without the authority of magistrates of the Romish communion. Protestant teachers were interdicted from teaching anything more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Such pastors as held meetings amid the ruins of the churches which had been pulled down, were compelled to do penance with a rope round their necks, after which they were to be banished the kingdom. Protestants were prohibited from singing psalms on land or water, in workshop or in dwellings. If a priestly procession passed one of their churches while the psalms were sung, they must stop instantly, on pain of fine or imprisonment to the officiating minister." In short, from the pettiest annoyance to the most exasperating cruelty, nothing was wanting on the part of the "most Christian king" and his abettors. The intention apparently was to provoke the Huguenots into open resistance, so as to find a pretext for a second massacre of St. Bartholomew.

In 1683, Colbert, who had been Louis's minister for several years, and who, convinced that the strength of states consisted in the number, the intelligence, and the industry of their citizens, had labored in all possible ways to prevent the hardships which Louis, led by his mistress, Madame de Maintenon, and his Jesuit confessor, Pere la Chaise, was inflicting on the Protestants, was removed by death. Military executions and depredations against the Protestants now began throughout the kingdom. "Pity, terror, and anguish had by turns agitated their minds, until at length they were reduced to a state of despair. Life was made almost intolerable to them. All careers were closed against them, and Protestants of the working class were under the necessity of abjuring or starving. The mob, observing that the Protestants were no longer within the pale of the law, took the opportunity of wreaking all manner of outrages on them. They broke into their churches, tore up the benches, and, placing the Bible and hymn-books in a pile, set the whole on fire; the authorities usually lending their sanction on the proceedings of the rioters by banishing the burned-out ministers, and interdicting the further celebration of worship in the destroyed churches" (Smiles, Huguenots, p. 135-6). Bodies of troops which had been quartered upon the Protestants to harass them, now made it a business to convert the Protestants.

Accompanied by Jesuits, they passed through the southern provinces, compelling the inhabitants to renounce their religion, demolishing the places of worship, and putting to death the preachers. Hundreds of thousands of Protestants, unwilling to renounce their religion, fled to Switzerland, the Netherlands, England, and Germany. In vain was it attempted to restrain this self-expatriation by cordons along the borders. Many Protestants also made an insincere profession of Roman Catholicism. These, on the slightest appearance of relapse, were put to death. On October 23, 1685, Loutis at last revoked the edict of Nantes. This revocation enacted the demolition of all the remaining Protestant temples throughout France; the entire proscription of the Protestant religion; the prohibition of even private worship under penalty of confiscation of body and property; the banishment of all Protestant pastors from the kingdom within fifteen days; the closing of all Protestant schools; the prohibition of parents from instructing their children in the Protestant faith; the obligation, under penalty of a heavy fine, of having their children baptized by the parish priest, and educating them in the Roman Catholic religion; the confiscation of the property and goods of all Protestant refugees who failed to return to France within four months; the penalty of the galleys for life to all men, and of imprisonment for life to all women detected in the act of attempting to escape from France. "Such were a few of the dastardly and inhuman provisions of the edict of Revocation. It was a proclamation of war by the armed against the unarmed a war against peaceable men, women, and children-a war against property, against family, against society, against public morality, and, more than all, against the right of conscience." But when we take into consideration the private character of the king, how completely he was controlled by abandoned women and their friends, the Jesuits, who both feared and hated Protestantism, because, if successful, it would have been a death-blow to their own wicked association, we cannot wonder that great was the rejoicing of the Jesuits on the revocation of the edict of Nantes," and that "Rome sprang up with a shout of joy to celebrate the event," and that "Te Deums were sung, processions went from shrine to shrine, and the pope sent a brief to Louis, conveying to him the congratulations and praises of the Romish Church."

The edict of Revocation was carried out with rigor; and but one feeling now possessed the minds of the Reformed, to make their escape from that devoted land. Disguised in every form which ingenuity could suggest, by every outlet that could anywhere be made available, through every hardship to which the majority were most unaccustomed, the crowd of fugitives pressed forward eagerly from their once dearly-loved country. It is impossible to estimate with accuracy the number of the refugees. Sismondi (Hist. de France) computed that the-total number of those who emigrated ranged front 300,000 to 400,000, and he was further of opinion that a like number perished in prison, on the scaffold, at the galleys, and in their attempts to escape; and Weiss (in his History of the French Protestant Refugees) thinks the number no less than 300,000 of those who departed the French kingdom. Vauban wrote, only a year after the Revocation, that France had lost 60,000,000 of francs in specie, 9000 sailors, 12,000 veterans, 600 officers, and her most flourishing manufactures; and Fé nelon thus described the last years of the reign of Louis XIV: "The cultivation of the soil is almost abandoned; the towns and the country are becoming depopulated. All industries languish, and fail to support the laborers. France has become as but a huge hospital without provisions." The hospitable shores of England, which had long before this period furnished an asylum to the fugitive Huguenots, were now eagerly sought, and the Huguenots met with kindness and assistance from the English government. To Holland, also, and to Denmark, the best talent of the land, the most skilful artisans, directed their steps, and many great branches of industry of France, by the folly of a king who had taken his mistress as his first state counselor, received their deathblow. The industry of some places was for a time completely prostrated. Indeed, more than a century really passed before they were restored to their former prosperity, "and then only to suffer another equally staggering blow from the violence and outrage which accompanied the outbreak of the French Revolution." In fact, this last terrible event may justly be considered not only as a providential retribution, but likewise a natural penalty for the civil wrongs inflicted upon the Protestants, since these cruel measures exiled from the country a large part of its piety and intelligence, by which alone that catastrophe might have been averted.

From the vicinity of Nismes, where the Huguenots had always been very numerous, thousands, unwilling either to abjure their faith or to leave their native country, betook themselves to the mountains of the Cevennes, and continued the exercise of their religion in secret. These, and the mountaineers of the Cevennes, among whom sprang up a sect which displayed a remarkable fanatical enthusiasm, under the name of Camisards (q.v.), finally commenced to wage war against the royal forces, which was called the War of the Cevennes, or the Camisard War. It was successfully carried on until 1706, when, in consequence of the war of succession with Spain, they were allowed a respite, the royal troops being otherwise employed. Their number now rapidly augmented, especially in Province and Dauphiny, and thus, notwithstanding all the persecutions which the Protestants had suffered, about two millions continued to adhere to their religion (Charles Coquerel, Hist. des Eylises du Desert, Par. 1841, 2 vols.).

A partial repose which the Huguenots now enjoyed for more than ten years greatly increased their numbers, especially in Province and Dauphiny; but in 1724, Louis XV, who had ascended the throne in 1715, at the instigation of the ever-conspiring Jesuits, issued a very severe ordinance against them. The spirit of the age, however, was too much opposed to persecution to suffer the edict to work the mischief intended. The governors of several provinces tolerated the Protestants, and as early as 1743 they resumed their assemblies in the mountains and woods, and celebrated their Mariages du desert. In 1744 new edicts were issued against them, requiring upon those who had been baptized or married in the desert (as it was called) a repetition of the rite by the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. Even the Roman Catholics themselves soon became loud in opposition against these violent measures, and the persecution gradually ceased. Men like Montesquieu and Voltaire successfully advocated mild treatment, and it must be conceded that the Protestants owed much of the toleration they afterwards met with to Voltaire's treatise on the subject, written in 1763, and to his procuring the release of John Calas (q.v.). Their position was still further improved on the accession of Louis XVI to the throne (1774). In 1787 an edict was issued (which the Parliament, however, registered only in 1789) by which the validity of Protestant baptisms and marriages was recognized, though subject to some purely civil regulations; they were given cemeteries for the burial of their dead, were allowed to follow their religion privately, and granted the rights of citizenship, with the exception of the right of holding any official position.

After the breaking out of the French Revolution in 1789, a motion was made in the General Assembly to admit the Protestants to equal rights with the Roman Catholics: this motion was at first rejected, but finally carried. A decree of 1790 restored the Protestants to the possession of all the rights and property they had lost subsequently to the revocation of the edict of Nantes. The "Code Napoleon" placed the-Protestants equal in their civil and political rights with the Roman Catholics, as, in fact, they had already been for more than fifteen years; and though, after the restoration of the Bourbons, especially in 1815 and 1816, the priests succeeded in exciting the populace of the department of the Gard to rise and murder the Protestants, the authorities conniving at the crime, still they remained equal to the Roman Catholics in the eye of the law. The spirit of persecution, however, continued, though in a somewhat weaker form, both among the people and the government of the Bourbons, even in that of the Orleans family, though, after the July Revolution of 1830, the reformed charter of France had proclaimed universal freedom of conscience and of worship, a principle which was reasserted in 1848. (For the present state of Protestantism in France, (See FRANCE). )

The descendants of the Huguenots long kept themselves a distinct people in the countries to which their fathers had fled, and entertained hopes of a return to their country; but as time passed on these hopes grew fainter, while by habit and interest they became more united to the nations among whom it fell to their lot to establish a new home. The great crash of the first Revolution finally severed all the ties that bound them to their native land. They either changed their names themselves by translating them, or they were changed by the people among whom they resided by mispronunciation. Thus, in England, "the Lemaltres called themselves Master; the Leroys, King; the Tonneliers, Cooper; the Lejeunes, Young; the Leblancs, White; the Lenoirs, Black; the Loiseaus, Bird. Thenceforward the French colony in London no longer existed. At the present day, the only vestige of it that remains is in the Spitalfields district, where a few thousand artisans, for the most part poor, still betray their origin, less by their language than by their costume, which bears some resemblance to that of the corresponding class in Louis XIV's time. The architecture of the houses they inhabit resembles that of the workmen of Lille, Amiens, and the other manufacturing towns of Picardy.

The custom of working in cellars, or in glazed garrets, is also borrowed from their original country" (Weiss, p. 283, 284). In our own country also, where the Huguenots settled at an early day, their descendants may be found, particularly in New York, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas; and, as in England, they have become naturalized, and their names have been changed, until it has become difficult to recognize them. "Their sons and grandsons, little by little, have become mingled with the society which gave a home to their fathers, in the same way as in England, Holland, and Germany. As their Church disappeared in America, the members became attached to other evangelical denominations, especially the Episcopal, Reformed Dutch, Methodist, and Presbyterian. The French language, too, has long since disappeared with their Church service, which used to call to mind the country of their ancestors. French was preached in Boston until the close of the last century, and at New York the Huguenot services were celebrated both in French and English as late as 1772. Here, at the French Protestant church, which succeeded the Huguenot years since, the Gospel was preached in the same language in which the prince of French pulpit orators, Saurin, used to declare divine truth two centuries ago. The Huguenot church at Charleston, South Carolina, alone has retained in its primitive purity, in their public worship, the old Calvinistic liturgy of its forefathers. The greater part of the exiled French families have long since disappeared, and their scattered communities have been dissolved by amalgamation with the other races around them. These pious fugitives have become public blessings throughout the world, aid have increased in Germany, Holland, and England the elements of power, prosperity, and Christian development. In our land, too, they helped to lay the firm corner- stones of the great republic whose glory they most justly share" (G. P. Disosway, The Huguenots in America, as Appendix to Harper's edition of Smiles's Huguenots, p. 442). See Beza, Hist. des Eglises reform mees en France (Antw. 1580, 3 vols); Thuane, Historia sui temporis (Paris, 1620, and often, 7 vols.); Davila, Storia delle guerre civili di Francia (Venice, 1630); St. Aignon, De el'tat des Protestants en France (Paris, 1808; 2nd ed. 1818); Lacretelle, Histoire de France pendant les guerres de la religion (Paris, 1814,1815,4 vols.); Benoit, Histoire de l'Edit de Nantes (Delft, 1693, 2 vols.); Rulhiere, Eclaircissements historiques sur les causes de la Revocation de l'Edit de Nantes (Par. 1788, 2 vols.); Court de Gebelin, Hist. des troubles des Cevennes (Villefranche, 1760, 2 vols.); Browning, Hist. of the Huguenots (London 1828, 2 vols.) Brockhaus, Conversations-Lexikon, 8. 129 sq.; Pierer, Universal Lexikon, 8:583 sq.; Weiss, History of the French Protestant Refugees; Coquerel, Histoire des Eglises du desert (Paris, 1857, 2 vols. 8vo) Felice, Histoire des Protestants de France; Peyrat, Histoire des Pasteurs du Desert (Paris, 2 vols. 8vo); Crowe, History of France (London, 1867,1869, 5 vols.); Smiles, The Huguenots (3rd edit. London, 1869); London Rev. July, 1855 Chambers, Cyclop. 5, 450 sq. For special biographies, Haag, La France Protestante (Par. 8 vols. 8vo)} Michelet. Louis XIV et la Revocation de l'Edit de Nantes (Paris, 1860, 8vo); Michelet, Guerres de Religion (Par. 1857, 8vo); Drion,. Histoire Chronol. de l'Eglise Protestante de France (2 vols. 12mo); Smedley, History of the Reformed Religion in France (London, 1827, 3 vols.); Athanase Coquerel fits, Les Forcats pour la obi (Paris, 1868). (J. H. W.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Huguenots'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/huguenots.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
Next Entry
Hugues