On October 22, 1685, King Louis XIV had the Edict of Nantes revoked and replaced it with the repressive Edict of Fontainebleau. This royal decree made the persecution of Huguenots a state policy and started the decline of Protestantism in France. This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time period.
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The Edict of Nantes 1598
The Edict of Nantes was a royal decree signed by King Henry IV on April 13, 1598. The aim of the decree was to unite the kingdom which had been wracked by the Wars of Religions since 1562. It granted the Huguenots the freedom of conscience, as well as the freedom to worship in Protestant towns except in Paris or in areas near the city.
The Huguenots would then allow the Catholics to worship in Protestant towns without fear of harassment. Huguenots were also allowed to hold public offices, as well as elect their own representative in the Parliament. The state itself would pay the pastors with an annual grant, and allow them to maintain their own strongholds.
The Edict gave limited freedom to Protestants, but Pope Clement VIII and much of France’s Roman Catholic clergy did not rejoice when it was issued. Queen Elizabeth I, the Protestant queen of England, became furious, while Spain’s Philip II was happy with the issuance of the decree.
The Edict of Fontainebleau 1685 (Revocation of the Edict of Nantes)
The Edict of Nantes was ratified “perpetual and irrevocable,” but the irrevocable part was only valid during Henry’s lifetime. He died on May 14, 1610, and his son, Louis XIII, succeeded soon after his father’s assassination. A devout Catholic, it was not long before Louis moved to undo his father’s legacy.
Catholics were still the overwhelming majority in 17th-century France. The influential Marie de’ Medici (Louis XIII’s mother) herself was a devout Catholic, so it was no wonder that many clauses of the Edict were not enforced. Huguenot rebellions flared up once again in 1620, and tensions continued until the signing of the Peace of Ales in 1629. Cardinal Richelieu, Louis’s chief minister, disregarded some clauses of the Edict of Nantes and offered what was left to the Huguenots in exchange for amnesty.
The persecution and economic repression of the Huguenots intensified during the reign of King Louis XIV. The king forbade them from working in certain professions, while the salaries of their pastors went unpaid. The authorities also closed down Huguenot schools and churches. They were not allowed to construct new churches while existing ones were soon demolished. The Huguenots were also forbidden to move anywhere within their own homeland.
The king also sent dragoons to live in Huguenot houses and harass the families so they would be forced to convert to Catholicism. It didn’t take long for many Huguenots to give in to pressure and convert. Others, meanwhile, chose to leave France for New France, Switzerland, Germany, England, and Protestant-friendly European states than forsake their beliefs. On October 22, 1685, King Louis XIV made his anti-Huguenot stance an official state policy by having the Edict of Nantes revoked and replaced with the Edict of Fontainebleau.
Picture by: Henry IV – Grands Documents de l’Histoire de France, Archives Nationales, Public Domain, Link
Cathal, J. Nolan. Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650-1715: An Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Long, Kathleen P. Religious Differences in France: Past and Present. Kirksville: Kirksville, Mo., 2006.
“Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, October 22, 1685.” Internet History Sourcebooks. Accessed August 30, 2017. https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/1685revocation.asp.
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