The Politics of Religion in Early Modern France

The Politics of Religion in Early Modern France

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Religion in Early Modern France
    Book Description:

    Rich in detail and broad in scope, this majestic book is the first to reveal the interaction of politics and religion in France during the crucial years of the long seventeenth century. Joseph Bergin begins with the Wars of Religion, which proved to be longer and more violent in France than elsewhere in Europe and left a legacy of unresolved tensions between church and state with serious repercussions for each. He then draws together a series of unresolved problems-both practical and ideological-that challenged French leaders thereafter, arriving at an original and comprehensive view of the close interrelations between the political and spiritual spheres of the time.The author considers the powerful religious dimension of French royal power even in the seventeenth century, the shift from reluctant toleration of a Protestant minority to increasing aversion, conflicts over the independence of the Catholic church and the power of the pope over secular rulers, and a wealth of other interconnected topics.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-21046-0
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    For much of the ‘long’ 1680s, which coincided roughly with the reign of Pope Innocent XI (1676–89), the French monarchy and the papacy were in open conflict. The clash itself was originally sparked by a royal edict of 1673 extending for the first time to the dioceses of southern France: therégale, which consisted of certain financial and patronage rights, temporal and spiritual, that escheated to the crown during episcopal vacancies. It appeared to most observers, leading figures within the French church included, that the edict was not worth fighting over; it was a matter of Louis XIV rationalising...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Religion of King and Kingdom
    (pp. 17-42)

    In early 1560, the French monarchy suddenly entered a long period of crisis and diminished authority, of which an early casualty was the policy of repressing heresy that had been pursued with increasing intensity during the previous twenty years. It now offered an amnesty to its Protestants, thereby provisionally decriminalising heresy. Yet at that juncture – and indeed for many years thereafter – few on either side of the widening religious divide could imagine that the pre-1560 principle of ‘one faith, one king, one law’ would not be reinstated.¹ In acting as it did, the monarchy moved into unfamiliar territory,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Disputes and Settlements
    (pp. 43-63)

    The complex process whereby Henri IV became a Catholic king offered the prospect of civil peace but, equally, it could have sparked further conflicts across France. If peace was to be restored, it would require the right combination of luck and good judgement; it was an agenda with many offshoots, to which much of the reign of Henri IV was – and needed to be – devoted. Dealing with the different and sometimes directly opposed expectations of confessional groups certainly tested the political skills of the king, his ministers and other advisers. It was fortunate that not all problems needed...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Gallican Stirs
    (pp. 64-85)

    France entered the new century as the one country in Europe where the familiar maxim ofcuius regio, eius religiowas officially disregarded. One of the decisions that turned it on its head was Henri IV’s own conversion, since it was the prince who had to adopt the religion of his subjects – or at least of the vast majority of them. The ensuing politico-religious situation was not built on a broad consensus, as we have seen; within both the Catholic and Protestant communities, it was still considered unnatural, even scandalous. The frequent emphasis on the provisional, temporary character of...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Dévot Impulse
    (pp. 86-111)

    At the close of the wars of religion, the royal insistence onoublianceneeded to extend well beyond the acts of violence or persecution committed by Catholics and Protestants against each other if it was to be successful. Paradoxically, this was a consequence of the clemency with which Henri IV dealt with those forces that had opposed him, a policy that excluded purges, lawsuits, or punishment for all but a tiny handful of extremists.¹ The vast majority of office-holding Leaguers and their families were not subsequently disturbed or disadvantaged by their recent political affiliations, especially as the local settlements negotiated...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Richelieu Effect
    (pp. 112-132)

    For as long as the dramatic reversals of political fortune associated with the Day of the Dupes of November 1630 captured the imagination of posterity, they were remembered as the moment when thedévotsfailed to impose their view that the French monarchy should determine its relations with other European powers in accordance with religious principles. Such a challenge had only gradually emerged in the world of the post-Reformation and the Thirty Years War, when confessional differences hardened and sharpened divisions over alliances, dynastic marriages and relations with neighbouring states generally.

    In this regard, France’s predicament was far from unique....

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Fiscal Nexus and its Ramifications
    (pp. 133-155)

    The controversies considered so far over the proper relations between church and monarchy – in which conceptions about the papacy and its authority were often a critical mediating element – were not confined to university disputations, lawsuits or printed treatises. Even when they initially arose in such ways, the ensuing debates could mobilise the attention and intervention of royal ministers, church leaders, theologians and high-ranking magistrates at critical moments. The same was true of another participant encountered briefly in the preceding chapters: the assemblies of clergy. In view, however, of the increasingly important role it played in mediating and defining...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Obedient Rebels? The Protestants from Nantes to Nîmes
    (pp. 156-180)

    It would be all too easy to imagine that France’s Protestant churches and population of the early seventeenth century were distant spectators to the controversies or conflicts discussed in the three preceding chapters. However, their presence – and the challenges that it posed – was never far from the minds of those who engaged in such exchanges. In addition, some of the leading Protestant intellectuals were vigorous critics of Bellarminian ideas, and keen supporters of their fellow Protestant king, James I, especially in connection with the oath of allegiance he imposed on English Catholics.¹ Participation in these controversies could not...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Jansenist Dilemmas
    (pp. 181-205)

    By the late 1630s, it probably seemed that the embers of the different politico-religious conflicts examined so far had virtually burned out. Under a determined and vigilant cardinal-minister, Richelieu, who had got his hands on the levers of the power of both church and state to an unprecedented degree, an undeniable mastery of events was restored by comparison with the previous decades, when such crises tended to brew up unexpectedly, often escalated, and then defied orderly resolution. Thus, as we saw, the publication in 1639 of Pierre Dupuy’s comprehensive treatise on the gallican liberties elicited relatively few responses – apart...

  13. CHAPTER NINE A New Gallican Age?
    (pp. 206-226)

    When nicolas pavillon, bishop of Alet, wrote his ‘open’ letter to Louis XIV in August 1664 to protest against the persecution of Port-Royal’s nuns, he began, as we saw, by criticising him for overstepping the boundaries of royal authority. Claiming that Jansenism was a phantom that did not exist, Pavillon declared that it was the Augustinians’ commitment to defending the independence of the church that had attracted his support. The choice of such an initial point of criticism is significant, and it did not go unheeded at the time. When Pavillon’s letter was referred by the king to theparlement...

  14. CHAPTER TEN A Huguenot Half-century
    (pp. 227-251)

    By comparison with the sound and fury of the Jansenist and gallican disputes, the experiences of France’s Protestants during the decades after they finally lost their political and military power in the late 1620s seem both harder to pin down and less noteworthy. The extended mid-century from 1630 to about 1680 could compete neither with the fortitude displayed by the generation which defended the cause at La Rochelle in the 1620s, nor with the tragic but often heroic resistance, in very changed circumstances, to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes of the 1680s and later. Sandwiched between these two...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN To Fontainebleau and Beyond
    (pp. 252-276)

    By the time Louis XIV finally extricated himself, in early 1679, from the Dutch war, which had not proved to be the expected militarypromenade, France was on the verge of an era in which it accumulated more conflicts over religion than at any time since the end of the previous century. It was not alone in this regard since, despite the Westphalian settlement and its supposed expulsion of religion from international politics at least, religious questions made something of a comeback within inter-state relations during the 1680s, especially in the neighbouring British Isles and the Holy Roman Empire. This...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE Enemies Within?
    (pp. 277-298)

    The last decades of Louis XIV’s reign were confronted with not just one type of religious problem, even if that of the Protestants was quite different in scale and nature from the others that the regime encountered. A thin-skinned sensitivity towards anything smacking of dissent or resistance had gradually set in, which in turn made the regime increasingly likely to use a heavy hand in its dealings with those attracting its disapproval. A liberal use oflettres de cachetexiled to many parts of France an unprecedented number of individuals whose religious views were deemed unorthodox or their conduct suspect....

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 299-307)

    Within a week of Louis XIV’s death, the regent, Philippe d’Orléans, wrote to France’s ambassador in Rome: ‘we live in a country where we pass from one extremity [of power] to another without a middle station, and in which one cannot spend too much time on winning people’s hearts’.¹ He was alluding to the political danger that a prolonged regency represented, and knew full well that France had regularly experienced the sudden transition from a position of political strength to various degrees of instability or powerlessness during the minority of an under-age king. In the event, by comparison with the...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 308-350)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 351-368)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 369-380)