About the Huguenots

(Dr. Schärfe,  4th Supplement, June 1984)



The persons in France who changed in the middle of the 16th century in finally very large number to the Calvinist Protestantism and who had established immediately communities denoted themselves as "Huguenots".  Very early also families of the high nobility, among other things the house bourbon, joined them.  After 2 years fighting they reached a strongly restricted toleration of their faith by means of the friendly regent Katharina of Medici through the Edict of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1562).

The cruel break of this Edict by the duke of Guise caused the Huguenots to fight against with changing success during eight bloody, so-called “Huguenot Wars” (1562 -1598).  They had reached 1576 finally almost the same rights as the Catholic church. 

The newly forming holy League supported by the pope, however, caused 1585 the undecided king Henry III. to cancel again all rights of the Huguenots in the Edict of Nemours, to forbid their religious services and to request them to return to the Catholicism or to emigrate.  His successor Heinrich IV., even former Huguenot and only because of country reasons again converted, reorganized 1598 in the Edict of Nantes their position in the state and made them to equal citizens, that were allowed to exercise also highest government velvets.  Because of their high ethical and moral claims, they performed often excellent work, antagonized however unscrupulousness and cruelty. 

Richelieu operating France to the European great power was hindered by their influence thus provided that they lost their political position.  In the Edict of Nîmes (1629) all special political rights were taken from them, their security places were transformed into open cities, however their religious freedom was conserved. 

Louis XIV. further restricted their freedom and rights and finally released 1685 the Edict of Fontainebleau.  This edict confirmed especially the depressions practised since 1661 for example by Dragonades, i.e. forced quartering of, by order badly depriving troops.  It forbid the reformed type confession, expelled reformed type clergymen of the country, threatened however the emigration of layman with heavy punishments.  Nevertheless hundred thousands fled to Great Britain, into the Netherlands and into the Calvinist territories of the empire.