Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

The Edict of Nantes, granted by King Henry IV in 1598, gave religious freedom to the French protestants after the disastrous French Wars of Religion. Almost a century later in 1685, the edict was revoked by king Louis XIV, his grandson. The revocation was justified in an interesting way. Louis XIV said in his revocation document that the edicts granted by Henry IV (a converted protestant) were for “maintaining the tranquillity of his kingdom and for diminishing mutual aversion between the members of the two religions.” He said that Henry’s primary motive was not to promote Protestantism, but to help foster tranquillity that would make it easier for the protestants to convert back to Catholicism. He did not see the revocation of the Edict of Nantes as a reversal of the work of his predecessors, but as a continuation. According to Louis (speaking in the Royal “we”): “our endeavors have attained their proposed end, inasmuch as the better and the greater part of our subjects of the said R.P.R. [Religion Prétendue Réformée, the French protestants] have embraced the Catholic faith.” The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was considered by Louis XIV to be the last step in turning France back into a Catholic country, not the first step in turning around Henry IV’s policy of toleration.

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