The Politics of Piety situates the Franciscan order at the heart of the religious and political conflicts of the late sixteenth century to show how a medieval charismatic religious tradition became an engine of political change. The friars used their redoubtable skills as preachers, intellectual training at the University of Paris, and personal and professional connections with other Catholic reformers and patrons to successfully galvanize popular opposition to the spread of Protestantism throughout the sixteenth century. By 1588, the friars used these same strategies on behalf of the Catholic League to prevent the succession of the Protestant heir presumptive, Henry of Navarre, to the French throne. This book contributes to our understanding of religion as a formative political impulse throughout the sixteenth century by linking the long-term political activism of the friars to the emergence of the French monarchy of the seventeenth century. By 1594, the resistance mounted by the Franciscans and other members of the League to Navarre's succession secured his conversion. Navarre's conversion marked the triumph of the Franciscan and League conception of the French body politic. Equally importantly, it laid the religious foundations for the absolutist policies of the Bourbon monarchs of the seventeenth century as these rulers made religious unification a priority of royal policy. The success of the friars and other preachers of the League in mounting opposition to the monarchy during the Wars of Religion convinced these rulers that political stability and strong monarchical authority lay in religious unity. Megan C. Armstrong is Assistant Professor of Early Modern Europe in the History Department of the University of Utah.
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