The French wars of religion, 1562–1629.
By Mack P. Holt. (New Approaches to
European History, 8.) Pp. xiv+239 incl. 9 maps and 7 figs. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995. £30 (cloth), £10.95 (paper).
0 521 35359 9; 0 521 35873 6
Reformation in La Rochelle. Tradition and change in early modern
Judith Pugh Meyer. (Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance, 298). Pp.
incl. frontispiece, 9 figs and 21 tables. Geneva: Droz, 1996. 2 600 00115
A city in conflict. Troyes during the French wars of religion.
By Penny Roberts. (Studies
in Early Modern European History.) Pp. xi+228. Manchester–New York:
Manchester University Press, 1996. £40. 0 7190 4694 7
One king, one faith. The Parlement of Paris and the religious
reformations of the sixteenth
century. By Nancy Lyman Roelker. (A Centennial Book.) Pp. xiii+543.
Berkeley–Los Angeles–London: University of California Press,
£50 ($65). 0 520 08626 0
When the French king Henri III appeared before the Parlement
Paris to enregister the Edict of Nemours on 18 July 1585, he was
greeted with a eulogistic harangue from the first president of the
parlement, Achille de Harlay. This was, he told the king, a true lit
justice, in which the king was united and reconciled with his people
a godly union around the one, true and Catholic religion. He went on to
remind the king that it was twenty-five years ago to the month that the
first edict of Catholicity had been promulgated. In the intervening period,
the parlement had never accepted the principle behind the adventure of
religious pluralism attempted in the various edicts of pacification with
Protestant minority. They had only enregistered them under the duress of
‘the explicit command of the king’ and the ‘urgent
necessity of the times’,
judging all such measures ‘contrary to the tranquility of your state’,
against the law of God. One observer recorded that the king wept during
this speech. But these were not tears of joy, for this edict (which obliged
the Protestant minority to abjure or depart the realm within months) had
been forced upon him by the duke of Guise and the Catholic League. At
a stroke it unwound the painfully slow efforts of the French monarchy to
rebuild its authority on the basis of a royally imposed religious pluralism.
The king appeared before his parlement to reap what rewards he could
from a measure that also advertised his faiblesse. Like the more
for the decommissioning of a royal yacht, these were the ways a monarch
used to express the politically impossible. For us they are an important
reminder of the passions that gripped French politics during its painful
and bloody reformation and how sophisticated we must be in their
interpretation. The four works under consideration here are very disparate
– a socio-institutional study, an up-to-date, interpretative textbook,
two case-studies in the urban reformation. Their only common thread is
that they represent the variety of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ (in the French
denomination) scholarship on the wars of religion.