Edict of Nantes  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Edict of Nantes (sometimes spelled Edict of Nantz) was issued on April 13, 1598 by Henry IV of France to grant the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. The main concern was civil unity, and the Edict separated civil from religious unity, treated some Protestants for the first time as more than mere schismatics and heretics, and opened a path for secularism and tolerance. In offering general freedom of conscience to individuals, the edict offered many specific concessions to the Protestants, such as amnesty and the reinstatement of their civil rights, including the right to work in any field or for the State and to bring grievances directly to the king. It marks the end of the religious wars that tore apart the population of France during the second half of the 16th century.

Revocation

The Edict remained unaltered in effect, registered by the parliaments as "fundamental and irrevocable law", with the exception of the brevets, which had been granted for a period of eight years, and were renewed by Henry in 1606 and in 1611 by Marie de Médecis, who confirmed the Edict within a week of the assassination of Henry, stilling Protestant fears of another St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. The subsidies had been reduced by degrees, as Henry gained more secure control of the nation. By the peace of Montpellier in 1622, concluding a Huguenot revolt in Languedoc, the fortified Protestant towns were reduced to two, La Rochelle and Montauban. The brevets were entirely withdrawn in 1629, by Louis XIII, following the Siege of La Rochelle, in which Cardinal Richelieu blockaded the city for fourteen months.

During the remainder of Louis XIII's reign, and especially during the minority of Louis XIV, the implementation of the Edict varied year by year, voiced in declarations and orders, and in case decisions in the Council, fluctuating according to the tides of domestic politics and the relations of France with powers abroad.

In October 1685, Louis XIV, the grandson of Henry IV, renounced the Edict and declared Protestantism illegal with the Edict of Fontainebleau. This act, commonly called the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had very damaging results for France. While the wars of religion did not re-ignite, as many as 400,000 Protestants chose to leave France, most moving to Great Britain, Prussia, the Dutch Republic, Switzerland and the new French colonies in North America. Huguenots also settled in South Africa. This exodus deprived France of many of its most skilled and industrious individuals, who would from now on aid France's rivals in Holland and England. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes also further damaged the perception of Louis XIV abroad, making the Protestant nations bordering France even more hostile to his regime. Upon the revocation of the edict, Frederick Wilhelm issued the Edict of Potsdam, which encouraged Protestants to come to Brandenburg.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Edict of Nantes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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