The Reformed Church
and the king (1630-1660)

Why was the Protestant reaction to the oppressive methods used by Louis XIV so timid ? The explanation can be mostly found in their idolatrous submission to the king.

An idolatrous submission to the king

  • Louis XIV © S.H.P.F.

After the peace treaty of Alès (1629), the Protestants lost their political party : they were dependent on the king’s good will without any other assurance besides his word that he would respect the Edict of Nantes.

However, unlike in the early years of Louis XIII’s reign (1610), most trusted the king due to Luther’s doctrine, according to which power is directly transmitted from God to the Prince. They acknowledged the divine right of the monarch.

During Louis XIV’s reign, the Reformed theologians proved themselves more loyal to the monarchy than did the Catholics. In the same way, during La Fronde (1649-1653), the Protestants remained faithful to the king.

The divine right of the monarch was overstated and carried to an extreme by some people, distorting Calvin’s doctrine and verging on idolatry. Indeed in 1656, the representatives of the Reformed Church addressed the young Louis XIV in these terms : “we apply our religious principles to politics. We believe that no subject can ever deserve anything from his monarch.”

Harmful consequences

This state of mind led the Reformed Protestants to conform to the decisions made by the monarch, to refrain from rebelling even when their temples were threatened of destruction. Some did not change their minds until after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Bibliography

  • Books
    • CARBONNIER-BURKARD Marianne et CABANEL Patrick, Une histoire des protestants en France, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1998

Associated notes

  • Protestant "places of safety"

    The “places of safety”, strongholds in the hands of governors and granted to the Reformed, met religious and military requirements.
  • The "Dragonnades" (1681-1685)

    A “Dragonnade” was the forced lodging of dragoons, the king’s soldiers, in Huguenot homes. The latter were looted and mistreated until they renounced their faith.
  • The conversion policy (1660-1685)

    While the edict was “rigorously” enforced, the Catholic Church used peaceful means to prompt Protestants to convert. These included the proposal of financial means.
  • The Catholic re-conquest (1600-1660)

    Due to the Trente Council, the Catholic Church gathered strength and launched a campaign of peaceful re-conquest meant to prevail over the Protestant “heresy”. It resorted to three different means :...
  • A seeming lull (1630-1660)

    After the Alès peace treaty, Richelieu tried to get the Protestants back into the Catholic Church. Under the rule of Mazarin, because of the necessities of France’s foreign policy and...
  • The last religious wars (1621-1629)

    Under Louis XIII, in the wake of the Béarn case, the Protestants rebelled against the king. After their defeat, they lost their political assemblies and their strongholds and as a...
  • Protestantism under the rule of the Edict of Nantes

    The Edict of Nantes, granting the French Protestants freedom lasted nearly a century. But it was gradually torn apart first when political and military privileges were removed, then when their...

Associated tours