religious ideas affected thepolitical spectrum of Europe as well. The teachings of Jean Calvin took root inFrance, especially in the southern regions. This clashed with groups of staunchCatholics.
Great amounts of people, including many of the nobility, converted toCalvinism, and they were known as Huguenots. These people clashed violentlywith the loyal Catholic contingency of the population. This religious strife wasalso heightened by political instability. With the reign of Francois I, the power ofthe king expanded. This shook the ingrained balance of power between thenobles and the king.
Beforehand, the king relied mainly on the nobles formilitary and financial support through taxes. The diminishing importance of thenobility increased political tension, especially since the last Valois kings wereweak and ineffective. The religious tensions between the stauchly Catholicfactions and the Huguenots and the political tensions between the king and thenobility provoked the civil wars throughout the sixteenth century. The political tension originated in during the time of Francois I.Order now
Heexpanded the king’s authority and jurisdiction, and lessened Rome’s influenceon the Catholic Church inside France. The strengthened power of the monarchymaintained the stability of the state provided that it was ruled by an able king. Francois I was competent enough to rule France efficiently, however thefollowing kings were unable to preserve balance. This was in part due to thequarrels of the nobility. The nobility resented the extension of the power of themonarchy, and rival factions attempted to control the king.
These factions weresplit along religious difference and family ties. The four main families involved inthe intrigue and fighting were the Guises, the Montmorencys, the Bourbons, andthe Valois. The Guises were fanatic Catholics who had intermarried into theroyal family over the years. The Guises were headed by Louis, the Duke ofGuise, and later his son Henri, Duke of Guise. They hated the Huguenots andmade every attempt to eradicate them. The Bourbons headed the Huguenotsand were led by Henri of Navarre, later Henri IV.
They were also supported bythe princes of Conde. The Montmorency family was Catholic and allied with theGuises at various points. However Gaspard de Coligny, who was rumoured tohave killed Louis, Duke of Guise, was a Protestant convert from theMontmorency family. The Valois family was the royal family of France. Duringthis period the three sons of Henri II who became king, Francois II, Charles IX,and Henry III, were all influenced mainly by their mother, Catherine de Medici,whose scheming ways caused a great deal of intrigue between the noblefamilies.
These weak kings were continually influenced by rival families andtheir mother. This instability and fighting eroded royal power, and the fightingwas due to power and religious struggles. As the conflicts between the noble families grew worse, the religioustension increased also. Charles IX made what he felt was an attempt to helpalleviate the conflict between the Huguenots and Protestants by marrying hissister, Margaret of Valois, a Catholic, to Henri of Navarre, the leader of theHuguenots. Catherine de Medici, a fervent Catholic, albeit a sinful one,arranged for all the Huguenots to come to Paris to join in on the weddingcelebrations. The night of the wedding, Catherine de Medici conspired with theGuise family to slaughter the Huguenots in what is known as the St.
Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The Catholics murdered several thousandProtestants and this led to increased enmity between factions. The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was a result of the power struggles of the noblesand royalty played out according to their religious platforms. The culmination of the clashes over religion and power was in the War ofthe Three Henries. This was a power struggle between the Henri III, Henri ofNavarre, and Henri, Duke of Guise.
It began with Henri III allying himself withNavarre and the Montmorency family against Guise because he had tried totake over the monarchy to drive out the Huguenots. Then Henry III switchedalliances to join Guise against Navarre when Catherine de Medici, his motherwith whom he always complied, signed a treaty with Guise to end religioustoleration for the Huguenots. However, when the Duke of Anjou, the king’s onlyliving brother and formerly the Duke of Alencon, died which made Henri ofNavarre heir to the throne. This enraged Guise and the Catholic League, sothey attempted to name Cardinal Bourbon as heir. This caused Henri III toreconcile with Navarre and assassinate Henri of Guise. His death deflated themilitant Catholics power, and Henri of Navarre ascended the throne as Henri IV.
The French people would not tolerate a Huguenot ruler, so he changed hisalready questionable faith to Catholicism. “Paris is worth a mass. ”The religious and political struggles were finally put to an end with theascension of Henri IV. He strengthened the monarchy and expanded its powerand authority. His solidification of the authority of the monarchy wouldeventually lead to the absolute rules of Louis XIII through Louis XVI.
Heestablished Catholicism as the official state religion, but offered limited religioustoleration through the Edict of Nantes. The original struggles for power betweenthe nobility and the monarchy were diffused with the solid rule of Henri IV. Thereligious struggles also diminished through the establishment of religioustoleration. The political struggles were closely related to the religious strifebecause the various factions were based on religion. Religion fueled the discordbetween the different political camps.
The religious fighting through politcalalliances and families caused the dissension and fighting in France.