French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion were eight wars that were fought in France in the 16th century between Catholics and Protestants (also known as "Huguenots"). In all of the wars until 1585, the Catholics were supported by the French kings.
The first war started in 1562, when the Protestant Prince of Condé, Louis de Bourbon, fled Paris with his supporters and captured the city of Orléans. His army was defeated by the Catholics at the Battle of Dreux in December, and the Catholics placed Orléans under siege. During the siege, a Huguenot killed the Catholic leader, Duke Francis of Guise. A peace treaty was signed in March, ending the first war.
The second war began in 1567, when the Prince of Condé tried to kidnap King Charles IX in an incident known as the "Surprise at Meaux." Condé put Paris under siege, but the Catholics attacked his army and defeated him. The Protestants and the Catholics raised large armies, but there were no more major battles. In March 1568, another peace treaty was signed.
The third war began in 1568, when Condé and his ally, Gaspard de Coligny, suspected that the Catholics would try to murder them. They went south and raised an army. A Catholic army, led by the king's brother, Henry of Valois, who would later become Henry III of France, attacked them and won a victory at Jarnac. At the Battle of Jarnac, Condé was captured and executed. Coligny, now the leader of the main Protestant army, fought another battle against the Catholics at Moncontour. This battle, one of the deadliest of the era, was another Protestant defeat. Many of the Protestants withdrew into the fortress town of Saint Jean d'Angély, and the Catholics besieged them there. While the Catholics besieged Saint Jean d'Angély and lost thousands of troops, Coligny joined forces with the Protestant Count of Montgomery and his army. The Protestants marched across France and, in June 1570, defeated the Catholics at the Battle of Arnay-le-Duc. The Catholics, running out of money, made a peace treaty with the Protestants.
In 1572, the fourth war broke out when the Catholics, led by Henry of Valois and Henry of Guise, the son of Duke Francis, who was killed during the first war, killed Coligny and thousands of other Protestants during the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Many Protestant survivors fled to La Rochelle, one of the main centres of Protestantism in France. The Catholic army put La Rochelle under siege but could not conquer the city. After losing thousands of soldiers, the Catholics agreed to a peace treaty. Between the fourth and the fifth wars King Charles IX died and his younger brother, Henry, became King Henry III.
In 1574, the fifth war began. The Catholic monarchy faced an alliance between the Protestants and a new group, known as the "Malcontents," Who were were Catholic noblemen who opposed the policies of the monarchy and wanted religious toleration for the Protestants. In 1575, King Henry III's younger brother, Francis, known as the Duke of Alençon, joined the Malcontents and raised an army. Henry III gave up and in 1576 agreed to a peace treaty with the Malcontents and Protestants. Called the Peace of Beaulieu, gave a lot of land and money to the Duke of Alençon and to the Malcontents. Many of the Malcontents, including Alençon, were satisfied and became loyal to the King and the Catholics again.
In late 1576, the sixth war began. The Protestants no longer had as many allies and lost the important cities of La Charité and Issoire. However, the King did not have enough money to continue the war and so the war ended in 1577.
The seventh war began in 1580 when Henry of Navarre, the most important Protestant leader, attacked the Catholic city of Cahors. He conquered the city, but the Catholics captured the Protestant city of La Mure later that year. In November 1580, another peace treaty was signed.
In 1584, the Duke of Alençon died. King Henry III was the only living son of King Henry II (reigned from 1547 to 1559), and the next man in line to become king was the Protestant Henry of Navarre. Many Catholics wanted King Henry III to disown Henry of Navarre and to make someone else the heir to the throne because were scared of a Protestant becoming king, but Henry III refused.
In 1585, the Catholics, led by Henry of Guise, raised an army and forced King Henry III to outlaw Protestantism in France. The war that followed, the eighth war, is also known as the "War of the Three Henrys" and is named after King Henry III, Henry of Guise, and Henry of Navarre. Even though Henry III and Henry of Guise were on the same side in 1585, many Catholics feared that Henry III secretly wanted Henry of Navarre to be the next king. In 1588, the supporters of Henry of Guise, known as "Leaguers," chased King Henry III out of Paris. In 1589, afraid that Henry of Guise wanted to take the throne from him, Henry III had him murdered, fled to the Protestant army, and joined forces with Henry of Navarre. Charles of Mayenne, Henry of Guise's brother, became the leader of the Leaguers.
The Royal-Protestant army defeated the Leaguers at the Battle of Senlis and surrounded Paris. Before they could capture the city, King Henry III was killed by a Leaguer but named Henry of Navarre as his heir. Henry of Navarre, now Henry IV of France, defeated Leaguer armies at the Battle of Arques (1589) and the Battle of Ivry (1590) but could not completely defeat the Leaguers on the battlefield. In 1593, King Henry IV converted to Catholicism.
After six more years of fighting, the Leaguers gave up, and the war ended. Henry IV pardoned most of those who had fought against him, and made a settlement allowing Catholics and Protestants to practice their faith within certain limits.