The French Wars

1562-1572

Summary

The French wars (also known as the French Wars of Religion) was a conflict between the French Protestants, the Huguenots, and the Roman Catholics. It was triggered by the spread of Calvinism and started when a powerful Medici ruler showed toleration towards the Huguenots and angered a Roman Catholic family which then massacred a congregation of Huguenots. Throughout the course of ten years there were three wars and heavy losses

Cause

  • John Calvin created a distinct form of Protestantism for the French which many nobles began to embrace as well as ordinary citizens, both who were tired of the Vatican rule.

  • The Vatican, having just lost power over England with the rise of the Church of England, urged the French King Henri the II to end the Protestant movement.

  • In 1559 King Henri died, and his son Francois, dauphin of France, married Mary Queen of Scots. The new queen appointed her uncle Francois, Duke of Guise to a position of power.

  • Catherine de Medici, the Queen mother, was a Catholic as well as the real ruler throughout her three sons reign. In 1562 she granted the Huguenots some religious rights in order to soothe tensions, and because she wanted to keep her family in power, the Catholic Guise family did not like this.

  • The Wars of religion openly began following the assassination of nearly 100 Huguenots by Francois, Duke of Guise.

Course

  • 1st war-Louis de Bourbon, prince of Conde, calls Protestants to arms following the massacre by Francois Duke of Guise of the Huguenots. War quickly spreads, and following many acts of savagery from both side, including a siege to the city Orleans, and the assassination of Francois Duke of Guise.

  • 2cd war- The Huguenots leaders, threatened by the Catholic influence on King Charles IX (second son of Henri II and Catherine de Medici) by the Cardinal of Lorraine, planned to take hold of the King by force. He was warned of this however and managed to escape to Paris under Swiss protection. This act lead to a spread in violence throughout France, with the Protestants capturing many towns in Southern France and on September 30th, Saints Michels Day, in Nimes the massacre of Catholics by the Nimes Protestants. Negotiations began and the treaty of Longjumeau was signed, regaining some rights for the Protestants, rights that faded quickly.

  • 3rd war-Began just 5 months after the signing of the treaty of Longjumeau, The Catholics enjoyed early victories in the war, but nearing its end the Protestants were more victorious. Influenced by foreign countries more than the previous conflicts, with England siding with the Protestant and the Pope and Spain siding with the Catholics. Protestants won the battle of Arnay-le-Duc. King Charles was a key figure in the treaty which allowed the Protestants much more religious freedom, because he wanted to remain in power and end the conflict.

Key Figures and Groups

Huguenots
  • A.K.A. French Protestants
Suffered persecution for their faith.
Were shown toleration by Catherine Medici (Which angered Roman Catholics)
Catholics
  • Guise Family

Grew angry about toleration of Huguenots by Medici

Massacred a congregation of Huguenots

  • Henri II (French king)
Persecuted the Hugeunots
Catherine Medici
An important ruler and part of the Medici family
Granted Edict of Toleration to the Huguenots in an attempt to soothe tension in France

Outcome

  • The 1st war (1562-1563) Louis de Bourbon, prince of Conde, calls Protestants to arms and war quickly spreads, and following many acts of savagery from both side, including the assassination of Francois Duke of Guise, negotiations began on March 19th 1563, but even after the physical conflict ceased, tensions never ended.

  • The 2nd war (1567-1568) The Huguenots leaders, threatened by the Catholic influence on King Charles, once again waged war through the country. After a year of massacres and horrid attacks, negotiations began, and on March 23rd the treaty of Longjumeau was signed ending the war.

  • The 3rd war (1568-1570) beginning just 5 months after the signing of the treaty of Longjumeau, The Catholics enjoyed early victories in the war, but nearing its end the Protestants were more victorious, resulting in the peace treaty that allowed religious tolerance and freedom for the Huguenots in August of 1570.

Significance

The treaty that was created at the end of the war gave the Huguenots countrywide freedom to worship and practice their religion.

This treaty also granted the French Protestants with legal equality to the Catholics and reduced the amount of persecution they faced as well as improved the value of their lives.