The King of France Becomes Catholic: July 25, 1593
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By 1589, France had undergone over 40 years of religious struggle and war. Though its people were mostly Catholic, France also had a large population of Protestants who were followers of John Calvin. Many Frenchmen had gone to Calvin in Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. From Geneva, the French Calvinists had returned to France to spread their “reformed” religion.
The kings of France had made it difficult, however, for Protestantism to spread in the kingdom. Though King Francis I (Emperor Charles V’s old enemy) supported the Lutheran princes in Germany, he was vigorous in trying to stamp out Calvinism in France. Francis’s son, King Henry II, had carried on his father’s work. Throughout France the king was aided by magistrates who tried those teaching heretical doctrines and sentenced those convicted of heresy to be burned at the stake.
Yet, despite the efforts against them, the French Protestants increased in number and in power. Beginning in 1547, they began organizing churches in the major French cities, including Paris. It was in Paris in 1559 that Protestant French ministers formed a national church based on the teachings of John Calvin. These French Calvinists, called Huguenots, attracted members of the nobility—including Jeanne d’Albret, the queen of Navarre, and her husband, Antoine de Bourbon. The Huguenots thus had the backing of men of wealth and power. (more…)