The Huguenot wars

In France, in the 16th century, the reformation led to the break-up of society into two religious camps: Catholics and Protestants (also known as Huguenots) .This Mutual Intolerance led to a French civil war which in the period between 1562 and 1598 resulted in 8 wars expanded.


The First War (1562-1563)

On 1 March 1562, the Huguenots gathered in Wassy (Champagne) in a barn for a service. The approaching Duke François de Guise created a veritable bloodbath among the assembled people, killing around 80 men and women. At this massacre the Prince of Condé called the Huguenots to arms and occupied on 2 April 1562 Orleans. The incident in Wassy thus became the reason for the civil war.

The call to arms quickly spread throughout France. On December 19, 1562 met at Dreux, the two armies under the leadership of Louis de Condé for the Huguenots and Anne de Montmorency for the Catholics to each other.
Montmorency was able to win the victory, which prompted Duke François de Guise on February 5, 1563 to besiege the occupied by the Protestants Orléans. De Guise was killed in the siege of a murder carried out by the Protestant Poltrot de Méré.

The regent of the young king Karl IX. Katharina de Medici subsequently brokered the ceasefire, ending the first war on March 19, 1563, as Amboise's peace wing.


Die religiösen Bekenntnisse in Europa um 1580

The religious confessions in Europe around 1580



The second war (1567-1568)

Due to the growing influence of the Cardinal of Lorraine on King Charles IX. The Protestants feared reprisals against them and prepared the kidnapping of the king. However, this operation, called "Meaux Maul", which took place from 26 to 28 September 1567, proved a failure as the king was warned and was able to flee to Paris with the help of the Swiss Guard.

Almost at the same time, the Protestants in the south of France took several cities, with terrible atrocities on both sides. Louis de Condé continued his Protestant forces, took the city of Saint-Denis and remained on the heels of the Catholic army. On 10 November 1567 then it came to Saint-Denis to battle, which ended in a draw and Anne de Montmorency was fatally injured.

On March 23, 1567, after long negotiations, the peace edict of Longjumeau vereibart, which only again let the Peace Senate of Amboise come into force.



The third war (1568-1570)

The third war was characterized mainly by the interference and connection of both parties to the conflict with foreign countries. Thus, in the Netherlands occupied by Spain, there was an uprising of the "Geusen" against Spanish rule, which was punished with a terrible retribution of the Spanish King Philip II against the Protestant Walloons and Flemings. In France, this process caused outrage and sympathy of the Protestants for their Dutch brothers in faith, so that a treaty of support was concluded between them and England joined with financial help.

On the side of the Catholics, however, there were alliances between the Catholic French, Spain, the Pope and the Duke of Tuscany.

Especially the south of France was now marked by heavy battles, such as in Poitou, Saintonge and Guyenne. At the Battle of Jarnac, the Protestant army commander Louis de Condé was killed on March 13, 1569. The Catholic force under the leadership of Anjou, the future King Henry III, however, achieved some victories as in the Battle of Moncontour on October 3, 1569.

The army command of the Protestants took over now Coligny, who led his army north to La Charité -sur- Loire and in June 1570 an important victory at Arnay-le-Duc.

The newly concluded peace treaty promised the Protestants some concessions this time. So King Charles IX. in the edict of Saint-Germain on August 8, 1570 religious tolerance and secured the Protestants for 2 years 4 security places in La Rochelle, Cognac, La Charité-sur-Loire and Montauban.


For the next two years peace could be kept, until the marriage of Henry of Navarre and Marguerite of Valois, the sister of Charles IX, which took place on 18 August 1572. In addition to the nobility of the Catholics, almost the entire Protestant leadership was invited to the festivities. Among them was Admiral Coligny, on whom an assassination attempt was carried out on August 22, which he survived badly injured. The incident intensified the tensions between the two parties, with the result that on the night of 23-24 August the Crown Council convened to initiate the annihilation of the leaders of the local Protestants. As a result, Admiral Coligny was murdered in the hospital bed and all over Paris, Protestant nobles were killed. However, the killings quickly got out of control, so that in the so-called "Bartholomäusnacht", which lasted several nights until August 29, about 4,000 Protestants were killed alone in Paris. Until October, the killings spread around Paris, which resulted in the deaths of 10,000 Protestants. Henry of Navarre and his cousin Henri de Condé, both also Protestants, were spared because of their blood, but had to convert to Catholicism.


Die blutige Bartholomäusnacht des Jahres 1572, gemalt von François Dubois (1529–1584)

The bloody Bartholomew's Night of the year 1572, painted by François Dubois (1529-1584)



The Fourth War (1572-1573)

Due to the continuing violence, many Protestants were forced to leave France and emigrated to Switzerland, the Netherlands or England. Only in the west and south of France they remained and continued to wage a bitter war against the Catholics.

In Nîmes and Montauban they were able to drive out the royal garrisons, but their stronghold La Rochelle itself was in turn besieged by royal troops in October 1572 in return. The city had to surrender on June 21, 1573, whereupon King Charles IX. issued a new peace bill. The edict of Boulogne came into force on July 11, 1573, circumcised the rights of the Protestants after the former edict of Saint-Germain again and gave them only 3 security places where they were allowed to hold their worship. These cities were La Rochelle, Nîmes and Montauban.



The fifth war (1574-17576)

The fifth war was characterized predominantly by political struggles rather than real struggles. Although the Catholics and the Protestants still military conflicts such as the Battle of Dormans from 10 October 1575, but could not prevail. In addition, died on May 30, 1574 King Charles IX. at a pulmonary tuberculosis. His successor was his brother Henry III. This had to deal as king with the newly founded movement of the "discontented". This movement, whose leader Duke François d'Alençon was the youngest son of the ruling royal family of Valois, was an association of members of both parties who sought a solution to the conflict not in the military but in the political sphere.

King Henry III. therefore agreed to the proposal of his brother François and issued on 6 May 1576 the Edict of Beaulieu, which granted the Protestants fundamental cultural freedom (with the exception of Paris), increased the number of security places to 8 and in each of the 8 Supreme Provincial Courts (Parlements ) Admitted a special court, which was equally occupied with Protestant and catholic judges ("half-divided chambers") and was responsible for all processes.



The sixth war (1576-1577)

That of Henry III. The enacting Edict of Beaulieu met with the Catholics in particular vigorous resistance to complete rejection. Also, the General Assembly, which was convened in December 1576 to Blois, pronounced unanimously against the edict and demanded its cancellation. This resistance made the conflict flare up again. However, due to financial difficulties on both sides, a new peace treaty had to be negotiated on September 14, 1577, which was issued as an edict by Poitiers on October 17, 1577.



The Seventh War (1579-1580)

From November 1579 there was again local conflict between Catholics and Protestants. So Henri de Condé took the city of La Fère on the side of the Catholics. In return, Henry of Navarre took the city of Cahors for the Protestants. From November to December 1580 peace negotiations were carried out by King Henry III. was issued on 24 December 1580 as Peace of Fleix. This edict confirmed the Edict of Poitiers, but the Protestants had to leave 6 of their 8 security seats again.



The eighth war (1585-1598)

The death of François d'Alençon on June 10, 1584, the youngest and last brother of the reigning King Henry III., The succession of the childless king was passed to Henry of Navarre as First Prince of Blood. The idea of having a Protestant king in the near future made the Catholic League resort to desperate means. Thus, their leader Henri de Guise forced the king to sign a decree that, as a treaty of Nemours of July 7, 1585, the Protestants had the choice to renounce their faith or to leave the country within six months. Most Protestants then emigrated.

Henry of Navarre then mobilized his troops and let them again draw against the Catholics. So he won the battle of Coutras on 20 October 1587 and dominated the south of France, the north, however, was firmly in the hands of the Catholic League.

In Paris, incidentally, a bourgeois Catholic League developed on 12 May 1588 against King Henry III. rebelled. He was able to flee to Blois on the "Day of the Barricades", from where he started negotiations with the Catholic League.
Threatened by the growing power of the Guises family clan and fearing a coup d'etat, Henri de Guise and his brother Louis, the Cardinal of Lorraine, had Henri de Guise murdered during Christmas. Subsequently, Heinrich moved the pages and moved together with the Protestant Henry of Navarre and his troops to Paris to expel the local bourgeois league from Paris.

On August 2, 1589 Henry III. Victim of an assassination attempt by monk Jacques Clément, member of the bourgeois league in Paris. Thus, the throne still went to Henry of Navarre, who became king of France as Henry IV.

In May 1593 Henry IV.v was converted to Catholicism and instructed accordingly. However, he avoided an approach to the bourgeois league. Nevertheless, he moved after his royal consecration on March 22, 1594 as king in Paris. Now it was time to eradicate the Catholic League. For this he had already declared war on Spain in 1594, as the troops of Philip II supported the league in France.

With the Edict of Nates, which the king issued on April 30, 1598, he ended the French Civil War and ordered the religious tolerance. The Reformed worship was permitted wherever it was committed in 1597, and the Protestants gained access to all offices and dignities.

On 2 May 1598, the war with Spain was ended by the Treaty of Vervins and with the Duke of Mercœur, who had pacted as Bretagne's military governor with the Spaniards, the last Ligist subjugated his King Henry IV.




Interesting to know:
The origin of the word Huguenots is still not clear. The researchers assume, however, that this was initially an insult to the Protestants.






You can find the right literature here:


St. Bartholomew's Eve: A Tale of the Huguenot Wars

St. Bartholomew's Eve: A Tale of the Huguenot Wars Paperback – May 19, 2019

The hero, Philip Fletcher, is a right true English lad, but he has a French connection on his mother's side. This kinship induces him to cross the Channel in order to take a share in that splendid struggle for freedom known as the Huguenot wars. Naturally he sides with the Protestants, distinguishes himself in various battles, and receives rapid promotion for the zeal and daring with which he carries out several secret missions.

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The Wars of Religion in France 1559-1576

The Wars of Religion in France 1559-1576 Paperback – July 4, 2015

The Wars of Religion in France 1559-1576 covers the history of the wars between the French Catholics and Huguenots.

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The French Religious Wars 1562–1598

The French Religious Wars 1562–1598 (Essential Histories) Paperback – June 25, 2002

The eight French Wars of Religion began in 1562 and lasted for 36 years. Although the wars were fought between Catholics and Protestants, this books draws out in full the equally important struggle for power between the king and the leading nobles, and the rivalry between the nobles themselves as they vied for control of the king. In a time when human life counted for little, the destruction reached its height in the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre when up to 10,000 Protestants lost their lives.

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