History - 6. Edicts

1. How the Huguenots got their name
2. Summary of their history from Calvin to the Great Elector of Brandenburg
3. The Huguenots in France - the French Reformation
4. The French Reformer John Calvin
5. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day - the first pogrom in modern times
6. From the Edict of Nantes 1598 to the Edict of Fontainebleau 1685
7. The Flight of the Huguenots
8. Maps

The Edict of Nantes (1598)

Henry IV
Henry IV

The edict which Henry IV promulgated in Nantes in 1598 offered the Reformed Protestants of France a relatively safe social life and limited freedom of worship.

It was intended to be perpetual, end the Wars of Religion for good and restore peace and internal order to France.

The edict was the written expression of a compromise between the Catholic religion of the state and the confession of a significant minority of the French population.

A peaces of limited duration

95 articles assured the Huguenots freedom of conscience and the exercise of Reformed Protestant services where they had been held in 1597 and on the estates of the noblemen. An amnesty for past brutalities was declared.

The Huguenots were eligible for all offices of state. For the education of Reformed ministers academies could be set up. In Catholic regions, at court and in Paris no Protestant worship was allowed. The Catholics throughout the kingdom were also accorded rights.

The Edict of Nantes did not bring lasting peace. After the death of Henry IV in 1610 and the fall of the Protestant citadel of La Rochelle (1628) in the reign of Louis XIII (1601-1643) the Protestants, who had once been a state within the state; were a threatened minority.

Edict of Fontainebleau (1685)

Louis XIV
Louis XIV

The number of restrictions placed on professions, church worship, office-holding and family life multiplied especially after the accession of Louis XIV to the throne in 1643. Further limitation of the religious rights of the Huguenots between 1643 and 1680, followed by the "dragonnades" which allowed the billeting of dragoons (booted missionaries) in the houses of Huguenots to secure their conversion by force made their situation intolerable.

The campaign came to a head with the Edict of Fontainebleau which Louis XIV signed on 18th August 1685.

Louis XIV (1638-1715) was following the same goal as his grandfather Henry IV. His aim was the restoration of "one king, one faith, one law". He wished to reign over a united France as an absolute monarch.

New laws

The eleven articles of the Edict of Fontainebleau revoked the ruling of the Edict of Nantes. It laid down that:

  • all Reformed churches were to be destroyed (1-3)
  • all Reformed ministers were to convert to the Catholic religion or leave France within 2 weeks
  • those ministers willing to abjure their Protestant faith were to receive an increase in their salary by one third
  • ministers could be trained as lawyers (4-6)
  • the children of Protestants were to be baptised and educated as Catholics
  • Protestant schools were forbidden (7-8)
  • Huguenots were forbidden to leave France
  • Protestants who had left the kingdom before the promulgation of the edict were allowed to return and retrieve their property within 4 monts, provided they adjured their Protestant faith (9-10)
  • Protestants who had remained in France would be allowed to stay without disadvantages as long as they refrained from holding public services ... till God enlightened them like the others (11)


The article of the Edict of Fontainebleau which expressly forbade emigration could not prevent 170,000 Huguenots leaving their beloved homeland and fleeing to the neighbouring Protestant countries.

Edicts for download (scanned originals turned to PDF-format)

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