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Calvinist Notions of Resistance and Huguenot Noble Propaganda:

The Justificative Texts of Louis de Condé
during the First War of Religion
Notions calvinistes de résistance et noble propagande huguenote : Les textes justificatifs de Louis de Condé pendant la première guerre de religion
Andrei Constantin Sălăvăstru
p. 165-194

Résumés

La Réforme a d'abord mis l'accent sur le devoir d'obéissance à l'égard de l'autorité politique légitime. Tout pouvoir vient de Dieu, ont insisté Luther et Calvin, en se basant sur l'injonction paulinienne de Romains 13. Mais cette recommandation a toujours été assortie d'une importante mise en garde : Il faut obéir à Dieu avant tout dirigeant terrestre, et les fidèles ne peuvent pas exécuter des ordres qui contreviennent à la loi de Dieu. Dans de telles circonstances, la désobéissance était permise et même requise, mais cela ne signifiait pas qu'il fallait prendre les armes contre l'autorité transgressive. Sous la pression des événements, Luther et Calvin revinrent sur leurs positions apparemment intraitables et firent preuve d'une plus grande souplesse : la résistance active contre des dirigeants légitimes était autorisée si certaines procédures légales étaient respectées. En ce qui concerne la possibilité d'une rébellion en France, Calvin insiste sur le fait qu'une telle action doit être menée par le premier prince du sang, Antoine de Bourbon. Lorsque la première rébellion huguenote éclate en 1562, c'est un prince de sang, non pas Antoine, mais son frère cadet Louis de Condé, qui se retrouve en première ligne - une situation inévitable dans une société où seuls les ordres supérieurs possèdent l'autorité politique et sociale nécessaire pour légitimer les rébellions. Face à l'exercice du pouvoir de la monarchie française de la Renaissance fondé sur la persuasion, les princes et les nobles huguenots cherchent à justifier leurs actions et, à ce titre, émettent leur propre propagande “officielle”, par le biais de proclamations et de lettres - une propagande qui mêle les préoccupations calvinistes aux idées plus traditionnelles de révolte nobiliaire. Cet article vise à examiner les idées politiques exprimées dans ces textes et leur lien avec la conception réformée de la résistance de Calvin et le radicalisme populaire émergent qui deviendra, dans les années 1570, une doctrine “monarchomaques” à part entière.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 * This work was supported by a grant of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization, CNCS (...)
  • 2 Stuart Carroll, Blood and Violence in Early Modern France, Oxford and New York, Oxford University P (...)

1When the Reformation started to make inroads in France, the authorities reacted with alarm : first, the Sorbonne, which in 1521 condemned Luther’s teachings, while defending the sacraments, and the Parlement of Paris, which forbade the printing of Lutheran literature ; then, belatedly, the French monarchy itself. Possibly sympathetic to the humanist ideas about reforming the Catholic Church, Francis I was slow to acknowledge the upheaval which the Reformation was causing in Europe and would cause in France as well. The turning point was the so-called « Affair of the placards » from 1534, when, on the night of 17-18 October, broadsheets containing a scathing attack on the Mass were posted in several French cities and even on the door of the king’s chamber at the royal castle at Amboise. This event was a direct challenge to royal authority – something the Reformers understood very well –, and, as a result, repression began in earnest. Calvin was amongst those forced to leave France in the aftermath of this event. This did not stop him from dedicating his Institutes of the Christian Religion to Francis I. Just like Luther in Germany, Calvin kept professing the utmost respect for lawful authority, an attitude that was motivated both by ideology and by self-interest. He understood very well how dangerous it would have been to antagonize the political authorities and, furthermore, he always imagined the conversion of France as taking place through the conversion of the kingdom’s most influential persons – first and foremost, the king and the royal family. This conviction stayed with Calvin until his death and it shaped his attitude with respect to the growing Reformed Church in France. At the same time, Calvin did start to make some provisions for resistance against « ungodly » authorities, especially in his later years, both as a result of the unremitting hostility of the French monarchy and due to pressure from the more militant adherents of the Reformed Church in France. In the opinion of Quentin Skinner, Calvin never elaborated a « clear and unequivocal theory of revolution », but he did take into consideration « the possibility of justifying resistance to lawful magistrates »1. Despite Calvin’s initial professions of obedience, there was an inherently seditious undercurrent within Calvinist doctrine : after all, the Reformers were actually rebelling against the constituted authorities of the Catholic Church and, in a society where governmental and ecclesiastical structures were so closely intertwined as in sixteenth-century Europe, challenging the Church meant also challenging the secular authorities. Moreover, as Stuart Carroll has pointed out, « Calvinists’ belief in the righteousness of their cause and their antipathy for the abominations of popery ran counter » to their claims of obedience and Calvin himself « personified the contradictory impulses of his teachings »2. In a late addition to his Institutes, Calvin accepted the possibility that resistance could be justified if it was carried out by the lawful magistrates of a realm. He cited the historical examples of the Spartan ephors, Roman tribunes and Athenian demarchs as the kind of magistrates who could oppose the ungodly impulses of the government. Theodore Beza, Calvin’s closest disciple, had made a similar point in a tract of 1555, entitled « On the Authority of the Magistrate in the Punishment of Heretics ». Conceived as an answer to Castellion’s criticism of Servetus’ execution by the authorities of Geneva for heresy, the tract also argued that legitimate magistrates had the right to defy their superiors in matters of religion and he cited the contemporary example of Magdeburg, which had rebelled against emperor Charles V on such grounds. For both Calvin and Beza, the key aspects of resistance were legitimacy and just cause. Private individuals were never permitted to engage in resistance and the only legitimate reasons for such action were religious : the defense of the law of God and of His faithful against impious tyrants.

2The French Wars of Religion were soon going to put Calvin and Beza’s theories to the test. When Henry II died in July 1559, as a result of a tourney accident, this event provided the French Protestants with a significant opening. Henry II had just made peace with Spain with the specific purpose of directing all his efforts towards the eradication of heresy in France. Since his legitimacy was undisputable, the lawfulness of the repression could not really be contested. But Henry II was succeeded by a young son, Francis II, who was dominated by his uncles by marriage, François de Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine. The new regime was equally willing to continue Henry II’s policy of persecution, but, in the long term, it proved unable to do so vigorously. On the other hand, the Protestants now had solid grounds on which to challenge the government, arguing that the Guises had usurped royal authority. Protestant propaganda insisted on two issues : the Guises’ status as foreigners and the king’s minority, which, in their opinion, made him unable to choose his own royal council. The Protestants began agitating for the summoning of the Estates General, according to them the only institution entitled to make decisions on the matter of the royal government while the king was a minor. In the words of Philip Benedict,

  • 3 Philip Benedict, « The Wars of Religion, 1562-1598 », p. 150-151, in P. Mack (ed.), Renaissance and (...)

as early as August 1559, Protestant ministers and publicists began to advance a legal argument that gained wide support despite its rather dubious foundation, namely that kings were subject to the oversight of a regency council established by the Estates General and princes of the blood until they reached their full majority at age 25. Calvin accepted the claim and urged the first prince of the blood, Antoine of Navarre, to assert his rights in this regard, believing him to be favourably inclined towards the Reformed cause3.

  • 4 Arlette Jouanna, Le Devoir de révolte : la noblesse française et la gestation de l’État moderne (15 (...)
  • 5 In a very recent work, published in 2020 – Season of Conspiracy: Calvin, the French Reformed Church (...)

3However, if such hopes failed, some Reformed leaders were prepared to go further : with Antoine of Navarre not meeting the expectations placed in him by the Huguenots, Theodore Beza, in a letter to Bullinger of 12 September 1559, alluded to the possibility of a tyrannicide in the tradition of Antiquity, by evoking the figure of Scaevola4. Many Protestant nobles were prepared to do just such a thing in order to address the problem of the Guises. A group of Protestant nobles thus organized a plot to kidnap the king, in order to remove him from under the influence of his uncles. At least according to his assertions afterwards, Calvin remained aloof from the whole enterprise. In a letter to Coligny written after the event, in April 1561, he insisted that such action was justified only if it was led by the princes of the blood, joined by the Parlements. But, despite Calvin’s cautious attitude, there is a good chance that other prominent Reformed religious figures, such as Theodore Beza and Antoine Chandieu, were actually involved in the conspiracy5.

  • 6 Nicolas Le Roux, Le Roi, la cour, l’état : de la Renaissance à l’absolutisme, Seyssel, Champ Vallon (...)
  • 7 For an excellent account of the activity of Simon Vigor and other popular preachers in Paris, see B (...)
  • 8 Arlette Jouanna, La France du xvie siècle 1483-1598, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2009, (...)
  • 9 Hugues Daussy, « Protestants et politiques au xvie siècle : état de la recherche et perspectives », (...)
  • 10 Denis Crouzet, Dieu en ses royaumes : une histoire des guerres de religion, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, (...)

4After the Amboise conspiracy, tensions remained high, despite the death of Francis II, which pushed the Guise brothers away from power. All attempts by the new government, led by Catherine de Medici as regent for her young son Charles IX, to calm the situation (culminating in a colloquium held at Poissy in September 1561 between Catholic and Reformed theologians) came to naught. Nicolas Le Roux has argued that the failure of the colloquium led to a redefinition of the king’s duties. Abandoning his attempts at inter-confessional mediation, the king decided, from now on, to focus his efforts on the civil area ; he no longer sought to eradicate heresy, as demanded by his coronation oath, but rather to punish rebels6. Le Roux’s interpretation seems too radical though, as it would have come into conflict with centuries of tradition which underlined the king’s duty to protect the Catholic faith. It was not the view of an important segment of the Catholic population either, both high and low, who, through the voice of popular preachers such as Simon Vigor, constantly warned the king not to fail in his duty to God7. What characterized the politics of the monarchy after Poissy was ambiguity : while forced to accept the de facto existence of a Protestant community in France and abandon attempts at repression, the Crown kept asserting its Catholicism, insisting that it had never consented to the existence of two religions in France and that all the edicts of pacification were merely temporary expedients. Indeed, even when issuing edicts favorable to the Protestants, the Crown never denied its duty to suppress heresy ; it merely acknowledged the reality that it was impossible to perform this task without doing irreparable harm to the kingdom and expressed its hope that God would bring about the restoration of religious unity at some point in the future. Besides, the dissociation between religious dissent and political disobedience was one that few were prepared to make at that time, despite the Reformers’ protestations of fidelity. Calvin and other Protestants may have insisted on their political loyalty, but no amount of casuistry could disguise the fact that obedience to God came first and it could push them into conflict with a monarchy still joined at the hip with a Catholic Church that the Huguenots despised. Calvin’s own attitude on the matter seemed to lean more and more towards favouring the right of resistance. In some sermons preached during the years 1560-1562, he claimed that those princes trying to push their people towards idolatry lost ipso facto their right to hold royal office8. Hugues Daussy speaks of two trends emerging in the Huguenot political literature during this period. One, the sole which could be publicly supported at this time, tried to demonstrate that the practice of a different religion than that of the prince did not imply disobedience and, therefore, the Huguenots could still be considered loyal subjects. A second one raised the crucial point that a choice might have to be made between obedience to an ungodly prince and obedience to God9. Denis Crouzet argues that, in 1562, the conflict in play was between two conceptions of monarchical power : an ideal of absolute power which the Catholic hardliners rallied behind and which they struggled against during the troubles of the League, and a project of mixed monarchy, controlled more or less by the nobility. The Catholic polemicists emphasized that the Calvinists wanted to alter the royal power and the former posed as the defenders of the legitimacy of the royal state against those who wanted to undermine it by destroying the unity of faith upon which its survival depended10. It is questionable, though, whether that was actually the case. The Catholics did indeed try to draw the monarchy onto their side, but that does not imply at all a conception of absolute monarchy. On the contrary, they were not shy in emphasizing that the king had a duty to God to destroy heresy and, consequently, had no right to provide heretics with relief through edicts of pacification. Suppression of heresy does not imply absolute power, because, in carrying out this task, the king was merely fulfilling God’s command. The fact that the edicts of pacification favorable to the Huguenots were, in the opinion of the Catholic preachers, null and void actually suggests that their conception of the monarchy was that of a limited royal power. In fact, it was not so different from the opinion of Calvin and Beza, who similarly envisioned the monarchy as limited by divine law and susceptible to being resisted and even overthrown if it transgressed God’s will.

  • 11 Janine Garrisson, Les Protestants au xvie siècle, Paris, Fayard, 1988, p. 256.
  • 12 Robert J. Knecht, Hero or Tyrant? Henry III, King of France, 1574-1589, Farnham and Burlington, Ash (...)

5The predictable civil war broke out in March 1562, over a massacre perpetrated at Vassy by the retinue of François de Guise against a group of Huguenot worshippers. Making use of the organizational structure of the Reformed churches established in France, the Huguenots started to mobilize their forces and Louis de Condé, the most prominent Huguenot nobleman, took charge of the rebellion. This swift reaction on the part of the Huguenots to the events at Vassy was possible because the Huguenot movement had already set up a military organization. For instance, the provincial synod of Clairac, held in November 1560, decided to place each synodal province under the protection of two military chiefs, while each colloquium appointed one colonel and each church a captain. Thus, in the words of Janine Garrisson, « the cadres of this emerging army were already in place »11. By recruiting armed forces on their own authority, the Huguenots were actually committing an act of sedition and, therefore, they were giving substance to the accusations made by their enemies, especially since these recruitments started well before the events at Vassy and, thus, it was harder to depict them as an act of self-defense. However, Condé and his allies would portray these military efforts as part of a campaign to assist the king. The circumstances surrounding the beginning of the hostilities favoured this approach, as Catherine de Medici initially seemed to seek an agreement with Condé, to whom she wrote four times in March. Condé, though, made a serious tactical mistake by failing to act swiftly. This provided the triumvirs leading the Catholic reaction (François de Guise, the constable Anne de Montmorency and the marshal of Saint-André) with the opportunity to seize the royal family at Fontainebleau and bring them back to Paris. According to Robert Knecht, « Catherine blamed the Huguenots for her plight », a fact which might explain her later actions. Thus, « ridiculing the suggestion that she and her family were prisoners, she assumed leadership of the Catholic party under the tutelage of the Triumvirs »12.

Condé’s First Proclamation
and the Theme of the Captive King

  • 13 The text, entitled Déclaration faicte par M. le Prince de Condé, pour monstrer les raisons qui l’on (...)
  • 14 Mémoires de Condé ou recueil pour servir à l’histoire de France, contenant ce qui s’est passé de pl (...)
  • 15 Ibid., p. 223.
  • 16 Ibid., p. 223.
  • 17 Hugues Daussy, « Les Huguenots entre l’obéissance au roi et l’obeissance à Dieu », p. 58-59, Nouvel (...)
  • 18 A. Jouanna, La France du xvie siècle, op. cit., p. 398.
  • 19 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit., Tome 3, p. 231-232.

6The Huguenot propaganda issued after the commencement of hostilities sought to prove that the revolt was anything but that. Condé began the war with a significant handicap : he had lost possession of the king and his mother to his opponents, the so-called Catholic triumvirate. In a society where the monarchy was the main source of political legitimacy, this meant the triumvirs were able to portray the Huguenots as rebels against the king. However, the Huguenot propaganda tried to turn this into an advantage. The action of the triumvirs was depicted by Condé, in a proclamation issued on 8 April 156213 at Orléans, – which the Huguenots had seized on 2 April –, as an act of treason and lèse-majesté. Condé was fully aware of the delicate position he and his associates were in : by taking up arms first, they were vulnerable to charges that they were breaking the king’s peace. Such an action had to be clearly justified and Condé acknowledged this obligation openly in the text of his proclamation. He could not avoid admitting that the Huguenots were acting by their « private authority » and he invoked the only reason that could provide a basis for such a decision, namely « the public interest which required a certain and prompt remedy »14. This invocation of the public good was conjoined with the aristocratic concern for preserving one’s honor, as the second goal of the proclamation was to refute the « calumnies » of the Guise clan. Condé’s entire argument revolved around the issue of the Edict of January, mixing Calvinist concerns with traditional noble ideas about revolt. The Edict was of vital importance for the fate of the Reformed Church in France and its undermining by radical Catholics raised fears that the latter were intending to « exterminate all the Churches which called themselves of the new religion »15 ; something which Condé referred to in his text. Rising up to defend the implementation of the Edict basically meant fighting to defend the Reformed Church, which was consistent with the justification provided by Calvin for rebellion against lawful authorities and was something of which the latter definitely approved. However, for Condé and the nobles involved, this argument was not sufficient, because they were not only addressing a Calvinist audience : they were directing their words at the entire French public opinion, which was less likely to be impressed by religiously motivated arguments. For this purpose, the Edict had to be cast as a measure taken after following all legal procedures and which served the well-being of the whole kingdom, not just that of the Protestant community. In the words of Condé, it was formulated with the « advice of the best and most notable chosen assembly which the king could pick »16. The implication of this assertion was that the Edict received the consent of the French political community, as evidenced by the participation, in the respective deliberations, of what could be termed as « the most sanior pars » of the French polity. Therefore, its legitimacy could not be called into doubt, because it was not an arbitrary act, but instead it conformed to the tradition that the king could enact major pieces of legislation only with the advice and consent of his subjects. The obvious consequence is that this absolves the Huguenots of the charge of sedition and instead redirects this accusation against the Guises and their allies, whose actions, in defiance of the king and of the lawfully issued edicts of the kingdom, are portrayed in total contrast with those of the Huguenots. But, at the same time, the proclamation goes further in its description of the Edict of January, by claiming that the edict’s intended outcome had been « the public peace of the kingdom ». Hence, it was not a partisan matter, but something which was in the interest of the whole realm. By hoping that the edict would not last and by actively trying to bring about that outcome, the Guises were casting themselves as enemies of the public good and fomenters of war. To give further credence to his accusations against his opponents, Condé insists on their disrespectful attitude towards the king and the queen-mother, an attitude which sometimes turns into open defiance and might even prejudice the king’s sovereign rights : this attitude thus becomes evidence of the triumvirs’ long-held nefarious intentions, and the seizure of the royal family at Fontainebleau is cast as part of a plot of the radical Catholics to prevent the implementation of the peace. Condé argued that the triumvirs

had seized the royal family by force and constrained its will. According to Hugues Daussy, far from being an act of disobedience, « the action of Condé and the Huguenots becomes thus a struggle to free the king from his moral and physical captivity, an undertaking in the service of the king himself »
17. It was a necessary point to make, because the king was believed to embody in his person the good of the realm and was the guarantor of public peace. No political program could be safely implemented without the participation or at least the consent of the king, as indeed Protestant propaganda itself testified through its insistence on co-opting the monarchy in their numerous texts urging the religious reform of the kingdom. In the words of Arlette Jouanna, the theme of the captive king « was not a mere rhetorical artifice » ; instead, it testified to the « force of the monarchical principle » where « legitimacy cannot be anywhere else but with the king » – if the triumvirs secured for themselves the physical presence of the king, the Protestants were left to try to invoke the king’s moral support18. The text takes great pains to emphasize that the triumvirs had to deploy force in order to secure the person of the king – which makes a stark contrast with the respectful attitude of the Protestants, who limited themselves to merely pleading their cause in front of the king and the queen-mother. By depicting the king as a victim, Condé was also absolving him of the blame for the crimes of the triumvirs : « cruelties » and « outrages » were the distinctive marks of the tyrant. For the Protestants, to have acknowledged that the king could have given his assent to such actions would have opened up an uncomfortable discussion about tyranny which the Protestants were not yet fully prepared to engage in. The most remarkable thing about Condé’s proclamation is its neutral tone towards the Catholic Church, so different from that of the pastors who, previous to the wars, had been castigating it for its abuses. The Protestant desire to convert the whole of France, which had been openly publicized in many pieces of propaganda before, is treated as having never existed and the triumvirs’ open goal of « preserving the Roman Catholic Religion » is considered phony. Any proselytizing intent is absent in Condé’s text and the status-quo seems to be a satisfying solution for him, since « those of the Reformed Church are content to live in the obedience and under the protection of the king, according to the last Edict of January »19.

  • 20 Robert M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France 1555-1563, Geneva, Libra (...)
  • 21 J.H.M. Salmon, Society in Crisis: France in the Sixteenth Century, London, Methuen, 1979, p. 142.
  • 22 H. Daussy, « Les Huguenots entre l’obéissance au roi et l’obeissance à Dieu », Art. cit., p. 60.
  • 23 Penny Roberts, Peace and Authority during the French Religious Wars c. 1560-1600, Houndmills, Palgr (...)
  • 24 David Bryson, Queen Jeanne and the Promised Land: Dynasty, Homeland, Religion and Violence in Sixte (...)
  • 25 Jules Racine St-Jacques, L’Honneur et la foi : le droit de résistance chez les réformés français (1 (...)

7Condé’s argument was given credence by the letters written by Catherine de Medici in March 1562, where she asked for the former’s support ; letters reinforcing the unfavorable impression made by the forcible removal of the royal family from Fontainebleau to Paris by François de Guise. The regent subsequently tried to dispel the notion of the royal family’s captivity, but that did not dissuade Condé and the Huguenots, who made full use of the respective letters in their propaganda campaign20. This was extremely important since the issue was by no means clear cut, for despite Condé’s claims, there were Protestants who still doubted the legality of this enterprise and those doubts had to be dispelled by more tangible proof than a declaration, no matter how skilfully worded. Thus, sixty pastors attended a second synod at Saintes where Condé’s manifesto and the letters sent to him by Catherine de Medici satisfied most of the doubters21. The argument was also reiterated by lesser members of the Huguenot nobility, such as the Prince of Soubise, the Huguenot governor of Lyon. According to Soubise, not only had the actions of the Catholic triumvirs not received the support of the king, in reality, the king and the queen-mother were actually hoping that their subjects would disobey the illegal orders issued by the triumvirs22. Soubise was not the only one to echo Condé’s arguments : the Huguenots of Maine were also quick to point out « the contrast between the behaviour of the loyal and obedient Protestant leadership and that of the Catholic nobles holding the crown captive »23. Jeanne d’Albret also echoed Condé’s argument in a private letter addressed to the Viscount of Gourdon. David Bryson ascribes her motives to a desire to make it possible for Gourdon to use her argument for military recruiting purposes and to her sensitivity to the scruples which nobles like Gourdon might have ; the latter having aligned themselves with the Huguenot cause, while still owing allegiance to the Crown of France24. In the opinion of Jules Racine St-Jacques, the Protestant nobility explained its discontent by pretending to defend the ancient constitution of the kingdom against the usurpation of the throne threatened by the Guises. With Catherine de Medici unable to protect him effectively, Charles IX became a victim of the Guise clan and his captivity was only the most visible aspect of a Catholic plot aiming at subverting the kingdom of France. Therefore, according to this argument, the Huguenots were merely fulfilling the traditional duty of all loyal nobility, namely, the defense of the fundamental laws of the kingdom and the protection of the young king25.

  • 26 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 258.
  • 27 Ibid., p. 259.
  • 28 Donald R. Kelley, The Beginning of Ideology: Consciousness and Society in the French Reformation, C (...)
  • 29 Sylvie Daubresse, « Le Parlement du Paris et l’édit du 17 janvier 1562 », Revue Historique 1998, no(...)

8Condé’s proclamation of 8 April 1562 was followed three days later by a treaty of association signed by himself, Coligny and the most important of his noble allies. Here, the aims of the rebellion were stated to be « the honor of God, the peace of the kingdom and the freedom of the king »26. Condé tried to conflate the dangers threatening the Huguenots with some presumed dangers threatening the whole kingdom. The text declares that the purpose of the triumvirs was « to destroy together with the true religion the greatest part of the nobility and of the third estate »27. Thus, the cause of the beleaguered Protestantism became the cause of the whole kingdom, at least of those still loyal to the king. For Condé, to free the king also meant ensuring freedom of conscience for the Protestants, because a free king could not go back on his word and cancel the Edict of January, especially since the edict was issued respecting all legal forms. In the words of Donald Kelley, « Condé was no innovator, certainly no revolutionary, and was operating within the institutional structure of the monarchy ». Kelley describes the treaty of association between Condé and the most prominent rebel nobles as « a feudal-sounding sort of social compact », which « extended beyond this feudal elite and included, as the text proclaimed, members of all estates » and it was « furthermore in accord not only with conscience and true religion but also with the ‘‘liberty’’ of the king and the peace of the kingdom »28. There is a stronger Calvinist undertone in this text than in the previous manifesto of 8 April : the Reformed religion is referred to as « true religion » and the text constantly emphasizes the « honor of God » as the primary goal of the Huguenot alliance. This is pretty much consonant with Calvin’s own attitude on the matter : since the object of this alliance was both religious and in accord with the natural right of self-defense, its actions could not be otherwise but sanctioned by God. It is interesting, though, that this tract acknowledged that the edict of January and this association would be valid only until the king reached the age of majority. In other words, the Edict did not represent a permanent law, something that its opponents had constantly tried to demonstrate. It certainly opened up the theoretical possibility that the king might not renew the edict or that he might not acknowledge the lawfulness of the Huguenot association. The Parlement of Paris itself insisted on this point repeatedly. In a letter from 21 April 1562, it reminded Condé that he had a duty to obey the king in all circumstances and that all edicts of pacification were provisional, while pointing out that the Edict of January had failed in its purpose of preserving peace, thus justifying the Parlement’s opposition to it29.

The War of Words of the Spring of 1562

  • 30 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 273-279.
  • 31 Tatiana Debbagi Baranova, Coups de libelles, op. cit., p. 131
  • 32 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 281-283
  • 33 Ibid., p. 312-315
  • 34 Ibid., p. 320.
  • 35 Hugues Daussy, Le Parti huguenot : chronique d’une désillusion (1557-1572), Geneva, Librairie Droz, (...)
  • 36 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 322.
  • 37 Ibid., p. 332.
  • 38 Tatiana Debbagi Baranova, Coups de libelles, op. cit., p. 133-134.
  • 39 Sylvie Daubresse, Le Parlement du Paris ou la voix de la raison (1559-1589), Geneva, Librairie Droz (...)

9During the spring of 1562, the Huguenots’ military strategy focused on the capture of major towns, especially those controlling key communication routes. Orléans, the headquarters of the revolt and the place from where Condé issued his justifications, was a strategic point on the Loire, and, amongst the other positions seized by the Huguenots, Rouen, on the Seine, and Lyon, on the Rhône, were the most significant. Many of these successes, like Rouen’s capture on 15 April, were not achieved by forces under the command of Condé himself, but were the work of Huguenot elements within those towns. At the same time as these events were unfolding, other manifestos were being issued as part of a propaganda battle between the Huguenots and the Catholic triumvirs. Condé’s declaration having been submitted to the Parlement of Paris on 13 April 1562, the Duke of Guise and the Constable of Montmorency (who were also there at that time, having brought the king’s letters patent which asserted that the Edict of January remained in force) took the opportunity to rebut the charges against them. The constable claimed that « no one took up arms without permission from the king », while Guise insisted that the massacre of Vassy was actually an act of self-defense, carried out to save the « honor and the lives of his wife and children », adding that he had sent word to Condé that « neither him, nor any of his wished to offend anyone for the cause of religion »30. In letters patent from 17 April 1562, which « appealed to all nobles to assemble in arms in order to protect the king against the rebels », the queen suggested, in turn, that Condé was not a willing participant in this rebellion31. Condé’s arguments were also rejected by the king and the queen themselves in a letter addressed to the Duke of Württemberg, on 17 April 1562. The letter stated that « nobody thought of forcing the consciences » of the Reformed ; that the Edict of January which « allowed them to worship God according to their consciences » was still valid ; that nobody had brought « prejudice to the authority, power and freedom which was owed » to the king ; and that he had arrived to Paris « of his own free will »32. Then, on 21 April 1562, the Parlement of Paris sent a letter to Condé, calling the « reports » that the king and the queen were prisoners, « malicious ». The letter invoked the presence at Court of Antoine de Navarre and of the Cardinal de Bourbon as evidence to the contrary, and pointed out that edicts of toleration such as the one issued at Saint-Germain were provisory, all the while implying that Condé himself might have been deceived by evil advice33. On 25 April 1562, Condé published a second declaration. Once more, it represented a profession of loyalty towards the « captive » king and a long accusation against the triumvirs, especially Guise. It was likely triggered by the rebuttals against his first declaration, but the stated motive was the concern that « his answers and reasons [...] were not faithfully reported to her majesty, the queen »34. Contrary to the opinion of the Huguenot pastors, who claimed that the deaths of Henry II and Francis II had been a divine punishment, Condé’s second declaration depicts these two kings as victims of the Guises’ pernicious influence. The thesis of the captive king and queen is deployed by Condé in order to explain his refusal to attend Court, despite being invited personally by the queen-mother. Under the power of the triumvirs, the queen was unable to guarantee his security. The novelty of this text is the inclusion of Antoine de Bourbon amongst the triumvirs’ captives. Condé addresses thus the major constitutional loophole in his previous argument. With both the king, the queen and the first prince of the blood unable to assert their will, Condé remained the highest ranking individual in the kingdom who still retained his freedom and, therefore, the only one entitled to lead the struggle against Guise and his allies35. If the triumvirs paid no heed to the king’s and the queen’s commands and, moreover, constrained their will, then the former could rightfully be considered as having usurped the royal authority. The religious motivation, although pushed into the background, is still present in this second declaration : the main goal of the triumvirs is declared to be « the ruin of the greatest part of the nobility and those of other estates who belonged to the Reformed Religion »36. However, at the same time, the safety of the Protestants is constantly conflated with the well-being of the entire kingdom. As a result, the resistance against tyranny on religious grounds envisioned by Calvin and Beza is depicted in Condé’s text as a pacification campaign of the kingdom. Even though, in practice, his forces were recruited on a clearly partisan basis, consisting mostly of Huguenots, Condé’s appeal is addressed to « all good and loyal subjects of this Crown »37. If the resistance was not directed against the king and no Calvinist religious reform was openly envisioned, then the adherence of Catholics to the cause was theoretically possible. With this, Condé’s propaganda comes pretty close to the inclusivity of the monarchomach literature of the 1570s : no criticism is aimed at the king yet, but religious moderation is a feature of both. Obviously, there is a constant concern for the safety of the Reformed Church, but this concern is always defensive and part of a greater goal, the deliverance of the kingdom. This second declaration was sent to the Parlement of Paris as well, accompanied by a letter from the prince – an action which, according to Tatiana Debaggi Baranova, represented an attempt to compel the Parlement to act as arbiter in the conflict38. The Parlement reminded Condé once more that the edicts were provisional and could be modified ; it also justified its previous reluctance to register the Edict of January with the argument that the « edict did not provide enough guarantees for the maintenance of peace and it was not published until proper assurances with regard to public tranquillity were given ». The Parlement’s answer reflected moderate Catholic opinion at that time as well as the opinion of the royal government itself : the purpose of the edict was not to bring about religious change, but to ensure public peace. Even if the edict was not respected, the king’s subjects were not entitled to resort to arms ; it was the responsibility of the king alone to provide a remedy39.

  • 40 H. Daussy, Le Parti Huguenot, op. cit., p. 300.
  • 41 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 385.
  • 42 Ibid., p. 385.

10A third text, Les moyens de pacifier le trouble qui est en ce Royaume, envoyez à la Roine par Monsieur le Prince de Condé, was published at the beginning of May 1562. Much shorter than the previous two proclamations, this work outlined the terms of a possible cessation of hostilities. As pointed out by Hugues Daussy, the publication of this text took place in the context of negotiations between the two sides after the previous capture of Orléans by the Protestants, negotiations which, until then, had yielded no results, because of the fundamental differences between the triumvirs and Condé40. This text could be considered an appeal by Condé to public opinion – since the secret negotiations with his adversaries were clearly failing – in order to prove his willingness to lay down his arms and under what terms. For this to happen, the Edict of January had to be restored, although Condé admitted once more than the respective edict was only temporary, until « the decision of a good and free Council or until the king reached the age when he could rule himself, so that the prince would submit to his will and receive his command »41. The idea of a « free council » determining the fate of the religious controversy was one dear to Protestant religious leaders, but, by this expression, what was meant was a council outside Italy and free of papal influence. In such circumstances, Calvin, Beza and the other pastors had no doubt that the Reformed truth would prevail. Whether Condé shared this optimism is less clear ; but what is clear is that he was not ready yet to countenance the possibility of opposing the king himself even for religious reasons. The text includes a striking statement that definitely would not have met with Calvin and the pastors’ approval : that « if his Majesty will not find it good to allow them to live according to the Reformed religion which they belonged to, then they will humbly and obediently ask of him permission to retire elsewhere »42. This assertion represents a denial of the core Calvinist ideas about resistance, which insisted that even a legitimate king had to be opposed if he persecuted the Church. It is likely that Condé inserted it in the text in order to mollify the royal family and never actually intended to follow through (although this option of self-imposed exile would be brought up again during the June negotiations, but without getting anywhere). On the one hand, it stands in contradiction with previous statements regarding the defense of the Reformed faith (albeit against the triumvirs, not against the king himself), but, on the other, it suggests a state of mind less concerned with the overall fate of the Reformed Church in France – something which would become painfully obvious to the Huguenot religious leaders on the occasion of the Peace of Amboise.

  • 43 Ibid., p. 389.
  • 44 Ibid., p. 389-390.
  • 45 Ibid., p. 396-397.
  • 46 Ibid., p. 398.
  • 47 Ibid., p. 402.
  • 48 Ibid., p. 403.
  • 49 Ibid., p. 404-405.
  • 50 H. Daussy, Le Parti Huguenot, op. cit., p. 302.

11Condé doubled down on 19 May 1562, in a specific response to a manifesto issued on 4 May 1562 by the triumvirs, where the latter requested nothing less than the complete outlawing of the Reformed religion in France. Reminding the king of his coronation oath, which compelled him to protect the Catholic Church and repress heresy, the triumvirs tried to impress upon the king and the queen the necessity of suppressing the Reformed faith both on a moral and political basis. By alluding to the king’s conscience, they tried to suggest that his salvation might be imperilled by a benevolent policy towards the Protestants. This spiritual concern was explicitly linked to the self-interest of the kingdom, by pointing out that religious diversity would confuse « all divine, human and political order » and disrupt « all empires, monarchies and republics »43. Therefore, the king was advised to declare, through a « perpetual edict », that he would not « authorize, approve or allow in his kingdom any diversity of religion » ; that all officials must profess the Catholic faith, on pain of losing their offices (but not their lives or goods, unless they were guilty of sedition) ; that all clerics must do the same or lose their benefices ; and all destroyed or damaged churches must be restored44. According to the triumvirs, only the King of Navarre, as « lieutenant-general of his majesty », was authorized to maintain armed forces within the kingdom and all others (meaning Condé) must lay down their arms. Just like their opponents, the triumvirs took care to emphasize that the purpose of all these provisions was « the good and peace of the kingdom » and they proclaimed their willingness, once their requests were accepted, to retire not just to their homes, but even into « permanent exile ». According to Condé’s retort, the main cause of the conflict had nothing to do with religious differences : it was instead the result of the political ambitions of the triumvirs. The destruction of the Reformed faith, which the triumvirs constantly threatened, was, he claimed, merely a path to their ultimate goal, which was the usurpation of royal authority45. This was a common theme of noble propaganda, which was reiterated later by the camp of Henry de Navarre in their polemics with the Catholic League. Condé goes as far as to suggest that the physical safety of the queen-mother was in danger because of the triumvirs. At that time, the queen had already rejected the notion that she and the king were prisoners, yet to maintain the fiction that he was fighting to protect the king, Condé had to find a way to disprove the queen’s statements and he did that by stating openly that she was « in danger of being strangled in her bed »46. If the Edict of January was issued respecting all legal procedures, the legislative demands of the triumvirs clearly did not meet the same standards. For not only, Condé argued, had the triumvirs attempted to extort concessions from the king by force, the edict they demanded was intended to be perpetual, thus basically becoming a fundamental law, and it lacked the wide consultation which had characterized the Edict of January. By trying to impose the principle that only the Roman Church « would be recognized in France and those of the Reformed religion would be forbidden to preach and minister »47, the triumvirs were also acting contrary to the decisions of the Estates General. The picture thus drawn by Condé is one that pits the triumvirs against most of the French polity, which was not entirely in accordance with the truth, but it allowed Condé to depict his struggle as not only for the sake of the king, but one in defense of the whole traditional French mode of governance. This mode was traditionally viewed as based on persuasion and consent : the « most Christian king » could not actually be imagined as having to coerce his people or ignore their opinions. However, the triumvirs behaved exactly in this manner : lacking the legitimacy and charisma of the king, they could only resort to force and deceit. Condé also points out that such an extreme demand, the outlawing of the Reformed faith, cannot be put into practice without a civil war that would destroy the kingdom48. « Chasing a religion out of a kingdom »49, in the words of Condé, was a decision which only an adult king, with the advice of the Estates, could make. This sheds some light on Condé’s previous assertion that the king could banish Protestantism out of the kingdom, which seemed a submission to royal authority that Calvin, Beza and the pastors could never have agreed with. Certainly, Calvin would have bristled at the suggestion that any human authority could decide the fate of the Reformed faith : but, on the whole, the Protestant religious leaders seem to have believed strongly that a « free » assembly could never yield an outcome unfavorable to the Reformation. It was probably an echo of the conciliar tendencies of the previous century and of the long-held conviction that the General Council of the Church (one not under papal influence, in the opinion of the Protestants) could never fail to establish the truth. The Estates of Orléans and Pontoise from 1560 and 1561 had been, overall, sympathetic to the Protestant cause and to Huguenot political demands during the first wars of religion, and had always included the summoning of the Estates General, from which they hoped to receive a solution favorable to their interests. In the opinion of Hugues Daussy, « Condé moved the religious conflict onto political ground by emphasizing the contempt displayed by the associated Catholics regarding the decisions based on wide consultation and taken at the demand and on the advice of the Estates General and the assembly brought together by the queen-mother and the king at Saint-Germain in January 1562 ». Condé « presented himself as the protector of the people », while the confessional dimension of his Response was placed third, when it evoked the predictable reaction of the Protestants50.

The Confessionalization of Condé’s Discourse in the Summer of 1562

  • 51 Alphonse de Ruble, Antoine de Bourbon et Jeanne d’Albret, Paris, Adolphe Labitte, 1886, Tome 4, p.  (...)
  • 52 Ibid., p. 254-256. The arrival of Philip II’s letter is not mentioned by Jules Delaborde, who, inst (...)
  • 53 J. Delaborde, Gaspard de Coligny, op. cit., p. 121. It is worth pointing out that Catherine de Medi (...)
  • 54 Alphonse de Ruble, Antoine de Bourbon et Jeanne d’Albret, op. cit., p, 259-270.
  • 55 H. Daussy, Le Parti Huguenot, op. cit., p. 303-304.
  • 56 Ibid., p. 304.
  • 57 Cristopher Ellwood, The Body Broken: The Calvinist Doctrine of the Eucharist and the Symbolization (...)
  • 58 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 526.
  • 59 Ibid., p. 550.
  • 60 Ibid., p. 553-554.

12In June 1562, both sides entered into negotiations, which would prove to be completely fruitless because of their intractable positions. After the main Catholic army, led by the King of Navarre, together with the triumvirs, set out on 1 June 1562 to meet the Huguenot forces, the queen made an attempt to avoid the impending clash and requested a meeting with Condé, which took place on 9 June 1562, near Beauce, in the presence of the King of Navarre himself, who commanded the queen’s escort. The queen offered « to authorize Protestant worship and to issue a general amnesty for all rebels, excepting the officers of the king ». In return, she asked Condé to lay down his arms and give back the churches and the towns the Huguenots had seized. Condé’s terms, on the other hand, were the departure of the triumvirs from Court, the enforcement of the Edict of January and the simultaneous disbandment of the two armies51. The mistrust between the interlocutors was palpable during the meeting, and Condé’s caution was interpreted as being, at times, downright insulting for the queen. The effects of the previous propaganda were also keenly felt. The queen emphasized the Huguenots’ position as rebels – thus rejecting Condé’s denials that this was not the case – as a reason why they should be prepared to make the most significant concessions and she took Condé’s claim that « the affairs of the Huguenot party were decided by two councils, with twenty and, respectively, a hundred members, and approved by a popular assembly » as an admission that the prince was « a prisoner and without liberty » – a complete inversion of the situation which the Huguenots tried to depict in their propaganda, that of a « captive king and queen ». The negotiations were supposed to resume the next day, yet Condé did not arrive. Instead, the queen was informed through a messenger that the rebels would accept an agreement only on the basis of the proposals put forward by Condé during their first meeting. While the two armies maneuvered, a new sequence of negotiations was planned, following two letters Condé wrote on 13 June to the queen and his brother, Antoine de Navarre, where Condé expressed his regret for the failure of the previous negotiations. A new meeting was arranged between the two brothers on 21-22 June. According to Alphonse de Ruble, an agreement was about to be reached, but was scuttled at the last moment by the arrival of a message from Philip II promising the island of Sardinia to Antoine52. Still, the discussions reopened on the initiative of the queen, to whom Condé sent a message on 24 June, signed by all the Huguenot leaders, which specified that, once the triumvirs had left the Court, Condé would deliver himself as a hostage of the queen and the King of Navarre, and that the Huguenots would obey all their commands. This message was favorably received by the queen and peace seemed close at hand when a new meeting took place on 27 June. Two days later, Coligny and several other Huguenot noblemen joined Condé at the site of negotiations, yet the discussions once again started to flounder because of the problem of the Edict of January, whose preservation the queen declared to be impossible, much to the surprise of the Huguenots, who were not willing to yield on this matter53. The possibility of Condé and other Huguenot leaders leaving France was also raised, although the accounts of the queen and the Huguenots on this matter diverge on several points. According to the former, this solution was used as a threat by the Protestants, which the queen tried to resist ; according to the latter, it was just an imprudent remark from Condé, but one which the queen immediately seized upon and she tried to persuade her interlocutors to follow through with it. Whatever the truth, the Huguenot council which assembled at Orléans decided to reject the queen’s conditions. The news that the triumvirs had stopped at Châteaudun served them as pretext, allowing them to claim that the triumvirs’ departure from Court had been feigned all along54. As the hopes for a peaceful resolution of the conflict started to fade away, Condé’s argument also started to take on a more confessional tone, because, as Hugues Daussy points out, he « greatly needed the support of the foreign Protestant princes, in whose eyes the sincerity of his faith must seem without reproach »55. On 5 July 1562, a new text was published at Orléans, described by Daussy as a « veritable profession of Reformed faith, which forcefully proclaimed the determination of the prince to defend the true religion ». According to Daussy, the main reason for this shift was to « reassure his German allies of the sincerity of his engagement » and disprove the accusations of his enemies, who charged him with « atheism » and « anabaptism »56. These last two accusations were sensitive issues for all Protestants, including Calvin and Beza themselves. In fact, one of Calvin’s stated reasons for writing his Institutes was to counter the misidentification of the Reformed faith with the more radical and anarchic anabaptism57. This time, there was much less talk of rescuing the king. The cause for which Condé had taken up arms was stated to be the defense and, even more extraordinarily, the promotion of the Reformed faith. The text includes the usual request for « freedom of conscience », but « establishing the reign of Jesus Christ the Son of our Lord »58 is also added at the end amongst the goals pursued by Condé and his associates. True, on the face of it, this statement does not seem to imply anything controversial. No good Catholic could have disagreed with it, but the issue was that Catholics and Protestants had fundamentally different interpretations of what « establishing the reign of Christ » meant. For Calvin and Beza, this obviously meant the advancement of the Reformed faith, which, in their opinion, was the inescapable duty of any pious magistrate. The change of tone is visible as well in the next texts issued by Louis de Condé. Thus, on 18 July 1562, a text attacking a number of magistrates of the Parlement of Paris – who were considered by the Huguenots as too influenced by the triumvirs and, therefore, unsuitable to pass judgement on Condé and his allies – pointed out that the goal of Huguenots was « to preserve the honor of God and the purity of His worship, the freedom of the king, the queen his mother and the public peace »59. As such, the enemies of the Huguenots were themselves « enemies of God, of the Majesty of the king and of the public peace » and, by fighting against Condé, they were actually « waging war against the Majesty of the king », at the instigation of the Cardinal of Lorraine60. Like in the previous texts, the cause of the Huguenots is assumed to be just, but it is interesting that the triumvirs are, for the first time, cast as enemies of God in a direct manner and not just by implication, thus proving the unworthiness of their motives and goals. It is a threatening statement, due to its Biblical implications, where the « enemies of God » are always brought down and meet an undignified end. This text could be seen as a sign of the radicalization of the religious struggle and as an ominous portent of what would befall many of the leaders involved in the war. When François de Guise was assassinated the following year, was not this the just fate of someone who had defied God’s will, from the point of view of the Huguenots ? Still, it has to be pointed out that the attitude towards the king remains the same : if the cause of the Huguenots is just and, thus, approved by God, the king could only be on their side as well, regardless of his physical presence in the Catholic camp. Even though some polemical texts of the pastors had previously brought up the « spiritual tyranny » of impious princes who persecuted the faithful, the Huguenot noble propaganda of the first war was clearly not willing to consider the possibility that the king of France could be on the side of injustice, in other words, a tyrant.

  • 61 Ibid., p. 584.
  • 62 Ibid., p. 583.
  • 63 Ibid., p. 588.
  • 64 Ibid., p. 584.
  • 65 Ibid., p. 590.
  • 66 Ibid., p. 591.
  • 67 Ibid., p. 591-592.

13On 8 August 1562, a remonstrance was addressed to the queen-mother, as a retort to the decision of the Parlement of Paris on 27 July to declare Condé and his allies rebels. In this document, the Duke of Guise and his adherents are once again referred to as « enemies of God and persecutors of His Church »61, which is another clear indication of the greater confessionalization of Huguenot political discourse. The cause for which the Huguenots have taken up arms is described as « the service of the king and the preservation of his greatness », but also the support of the edicts « concerning the holy freedom and peace of the Reformed Churches which exist in this kingdom »62. In Condé’s argument, « honor of God » and « public good » are joined together, while the defining characteristics of the triumvirs are described as « violence and tyranny ». While still respectful of the king, it is clear that the language of Condé directed against his adversaries of equal rank has become more and more threatening. In his first texts, he had advanced the suggestion that both he and the triumvirs could lay down their arms and retreat to their estates at the same time. It was a useful rhetorical strategy in order to emphasize the peaceful nature of the Huguenots and the justice of their cause and a nod towards a concept of war as being just only as a last resort. However, in time, the range and seriousness of the accusations directed against the Guises became such that any peaceful resolution of the conflict which entailed an accommodation between the Huguenots and the ultra-Catholic faction was called into doubt. The Guises being guilty of « tyranny » immediately raises the specter of the usurpation of power – which Condé alludes to when reminding the queen of her alleged capture – and of the punishments reserved for such an offence. Condé uses in his text, for the first time, the previous messages of the queen, messages which allegedly asked for his support, and refers to her appreciative words towards both the prince and Coligny in order to provide material evidence for the legality of his actions. The key purpose of this argument was to delegitimize the position of the triumvirs : their accusations against Condé were directly contradicted by the queen’s own statements about the leaders of the Huguenots, therefore their actions could not have been sanctioned by the royal authority63. But Condé’s text insists not only on the just motivation of their cause, but also on the behavior of the Huguenot leaders and their troops, which could have a redemptive quality if legal arguments were not sufficiently persuasive, especially when contrasted with that of their opponents. On one side of the conflict, there was, he argued, a profound respect for the laws of war and of the kingdom ; on the other, a complete disregard for both, and a propensity for shedding « innocent blood ». What is particularly interesting, though, is that this text is the closest Condé gets to the views of the pastors, by including an allusion that the purpose of the Huguenots could be « to establish the pure worship of God in the kingdom »64 and charging the Duke of Guise with « divine lèse-majesté » for « having sworn war to the Son of God, His Word and to those who preserve it »65 and « conspiring to abolish the preaching of the Gospel »66. It is important to emphasize that Condé, unlike the pastors, does not urge the king to convert to the Reformation : such a demand could have caused significant damage to his relationship with the king, which Condé did not consider broken. Condé’s change of tone could be tied, though, to the alleged « corruption » by Guise and his allies of the Parlement of Paris, which was supposed to be the highest seat of justice in the kingdom, but, which due to the nefarious Guise influence, had become a source of inequity67. In Condé’s view, the Parlement was complicit in the designs of Guise, which represented a betrayal of the most basic principles of justice and of the king’s trust. Condé’s attack on the Parlement was thus the opening salvo in a long history of Huguenot criticism of this institution, which culminated in François Hotman’s Francogallia. Since the Parlements (and not just the one of Paris), despite some initial sympathy on the part of some of their members for the Reformation, had rapidly purged themselves of such views and had become hotbeds of anti-Protestantism, the Huguenots would constantly try to dismiss their importance, while putting their hopes in the Estates General. In the circumstances of 1562, the attitude of the Parlement of Paris provided Condé with the necessary evidence to argue that all ordinary recourses to justice were closed to the Huguenots and resorting to war was the only option left. The argument advanced in this paper is that besides the need to seek help from the foreign Protestant princes, the Parlement’s actions were the main reason for the confessionalization of Condé’s discourse in the summer of 1562. If human justice was denied to him, then Condé could only seek recourse to God’s justice. Hence, the references in the text to Guise as the enemy of God ; the emphasis on the defense of the Reformed Church in theological terms (namely, the expressed intent to protect « the preaching of the Gospel » and not just the physical safety of the Huguenots) ; and the appeals to divine law.

The Discours from 1 October 1562 and the role of the Estates General

  • 68 Robert J. Knecht, Catherine de’ Medici, London and New York, Routledge, 2014, p. 90.
  • 69 Mack P. Holt, The French Wars of Religion, 1562-1629, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University (...)
  • 70 Mémoires de Condé ou recueil pour servir à l’histoire de France, contenant ce qui s’est passé de pl (...)
  • 71 Ibid., p. 33.

14During the summer and early autumn of 1562, the Huguenots found themselves on the defensive, with the royalist armies trying to retake the towns which the Huguenots had captured during the spring. Both Spain and the pope sent troops to assist in the Catholic cause ; on 20 September, Condé’s envoys signed the Treaty of Hampton Court with Elizabeth I of England, which gave her the port of Le Havre (to be exchanged for Calais after eight years), in return for troops and money68. And both sides recruited German mercenaries. Overall, though, the Huguenots suffered reverses, losing first Blois and Tours, then Poitiers and Angoulême, then Bourges on 31 August 1562, while Rouen was besieged69. In this context, a new justificatory text was published on 1 October 1562, entitled Discours des moyens que monsieur le prince de Condé a tenus pour pacifier les troubles qui sont à présent en ce royaume : par lequel l’innocence dudict seigneur prince est véritée, et les calomnies et impostures de ses adversaires clairement descouvertes. It is a lengthy piece which reiterates many of the arguments already presented by Condé and his associates, but it also presents some interesting innovations. The text testifies to the centrality of the Estates General in Condé’s political thought. While the triumvirs’ seizure of the king was, he stated, their gravest crime, their contempt towards the Estates, which guaranteed the protection of the Huguenots, was just as treacherous70. The guilt of the triumvirs was twofold, because not only had they usurped royal authority, they also consorted with the foreign enemies of the kingdom in order to advance their own designs. With respect to this point, it could be said that Condé was disingenuous, because the Huguenots themselves had also been guilty of contacts with foreign powers, namely England and the German Lutheran princes – and this was a point Condé tried to address in this text. On this matter, he comes close to the argument from Vindiciae, contra tyrannos, connecting the legitimacy of seeking aid abroad to the justice of the cause. In his words, « it is much more excusable to receive strangers in this kingdom to defend it from misfortunes »71. This was not a policy with which the Huguenot leaders were extremely comfortable at the time, as proven by their participation after the war, in 1563, in the recapture of Le Havre from English occupation. However, despite this, they would resort to foreign alliances more and more in later wars.

  • 72 Ibid., p. 8.
  • 73 Ibid., p. 9.

15There is a constant sacrificial dimension in Condé’s rhetoric, with its emphasis on his forbearance ; suffering the insults and threats of his enemies and even willing to put his own life at risk for the sake of finding a possible resolution to the conflict. This is an essential element of Condé’s argument, because it turns the leader of the Huguenots into a Christ-like figure, while also representing a nod towards the Augustinian and Thomistic conceptions of the just war. Basically, the Huguenot propaganda emphasized that Condé had taken up arms only as a last resort – and only to defend a greater cause, the safety of the kingdom and of the king, not to avenge some personal grievance. But the text is the closest to the monarchomach theories amongst the entire corpus of 1562 because of the significance it attaches to the authority of the Estates General. The latter institution is presented as the ultimate decision-maker and the guarantor of public peace, albeit only during the minority of the king. Since the Edict of January was, according to Condé, « found and decided to be expedient and necessary for the conservation of the kingdom and the public peace » by the « assembled Estates »,72 it had to be obeyed, even if it ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of the time, that two religions could not coexist within the same polity. The statement was historically incorrect, because the Estates of Pontoise did not, in fact, approve the Edict of January. However, it was still a statement which obviously could not have met with the approval of Calvin or the Huguenot pastors. For them, the magistrate’s duty was to impose the pure worship of God, yet Condé acknowledges the possibility of an institution which could disregard such theological considerations and adopt a neutral stance with respect to religious differences. It is true that, for Condé, there were not actually « two contrary religions », since Protestantism was only « reformed according to the purity of the Gospel and cleansed of the idolatries and abuses which were introduced by the ministers of the Roman Church »73. However, that does not change the crux of the matter : for the Catholics, the Reformation was heresy, for Calvin, the Roman Church was idolatry and no compromises were possible without abandoning the eschatological pursuit of the triumph of God’s Church. In this, Condé’s theory of rebellion was in direct opposition to Calvin’s own : for Calvin, the inferior magistrate could and should have rebelled in order to defend the faith, but this action was envisaged as a stage towards the final success of the Reformation. For Condé, in contrast, the goal of rebellion was the defense of religious co-existence in itself. He cited the pope’s toleration of the Jews, the interim of Charles Quint, and the Ottoman Empire’s lenience towards Christians as successful examples of this policy. In this context, the conception of a political authority such as the Estates General which could overrule religious considerations was no longer surprising because political goals were once again held to take precedence over the religious fervor of the pastors.

  • 74 Ibid., p. 18.
  • 75 Ibid., p. 22-23.
  • 76 Ibid., p. 31.
  • 77 Ibid. p. 34-35.

16In this declaration, Condé makes two fundamental claims which would shape the entire aristocratic ideology of the Huguenot rebellion and, to a certain extent, even that of the Monarchomachs. First, he insists on the fundamental role of the Estates General in the government of the kingdom and, by this, he gets the closest he would ever be to the concept of a popular sovereignty. He does not go as far as to substitute the king with the Estates as the ultimate locus of sovereignty in the kingdom, like the monarchomach would do. The Estates exercise this level of power only during the minority of the king, when they bear the responsibility of determining the composition of the government. The notion of tutorship, which would play such an important part in Vindiciae, contra tyrannos, is used to describe this relationship between the Estates and a boy king : the former are « like tutors of minor kings » and it is in this capacity that they deliberate and make decisions on public affairs. But Condé inserts in his declaration the notion that, during the king’s minority, royal authority « legitimately devolves to the people, from whom it took its origins and its first foundation »74. At the time of this declaration, Condé’s legal position was more precarious than in the spring, because both the queen and his own brother, Antoine de Navarre, had manifested their support for the triumvirs. In order to counter this setback, Condé’s solution was to invoke the authority of the Estates, in addition to the usual rhetoric about their will being constrained by the triumvirs, to reject the queen and Navarre’s right to annul the edict of January75. This, it could be argued, is the reason for Condé’s insistence on the Estates General in this declaration, for with both the queen and the king of Navarre clearly arrayed against him, he needed a stronger argument than the usual thesis about the « captivity » enforced by the Catholic triumvirs. Additionally, the Estates also provide a perfect alternative and counterpoint to the authority of the Parlement of Paris, which, in Condé’s opinion, had been pushed by the Cardinal of Lorraine into disobedience, by its opposition to the registration of the Edict of January76. In addition, its own legitimacy had been debased by giving free reign to the unruly mob, thus denying its own raison d’être, the promotion of justice in the kingdom77. If the Parlement of Paris proved hostile to the Huguenots and to Condé personally, then all this did not matter much if the Parlement’s claim of being the supreme court of justice and even the « Senate » of France could be undermined. The Estates General were the perfect tool for this task : against the decisions of the Parlement of Paris stood those of the Estates. Therefore, the charge of sedition which the Parlement laid at Condé’s feet could be thrown back at it.

  • 78 Ibid., p. 19.
  • 79 Ibid., p. 28.

17The second important claim made by Condé in this declaration was that religion was separated from sedition,78 an equivalence which most Catholics had constantly insisted upon and which both Francis I and Henry II had maintained in their previous edicts on the matter. This was an argument which would dominate Huguenot political thought well past the Wars of Religion and on which Condé and the pastors were in agreement. The pastors argued that the Protestants could be good subjects, but maintained at the same time that the king could and should convert to the Reformation, and in this text we can find the only clear statement from Condé along these lines. When addressing the religious charges against the Huguenots, in particular those of atheism and anabaptism (charges which Calvin had always indignantly rejected), Condé points to the Reformed Confession of Faith, which had been debated and signed by him in the presence of the king and of the entire royal family. He asserts that « he is always ready to risk his life in order to preserve the worship of God, not desiring anything but to see it restored and reestablished in this kingdom, according to the purity of His Gospel, and purged of the errors, superstitions and abominations which had been introduced in it, and that God will do this grace to our young king, to give him the true knowledge of His Word and will, to bless his scepter and youth, and chase away from him all atheists, libertines and others who wish to corrupt him »79. The statement is, indeed, radical, but it is misleading to see in it an adherence to the cause of the pastors and a serious intention to convert the royal family. It should be seen, rather, as a text specifically addressed to the German Protestants and meant to strengthen Condé’s own Reformed credentials.

18Conclusions

  • 80 Robert M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France 1555-1563, p. 69.
  • 81 Robert M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Consolidation of the French Protestant Movement, 1564-1572: A Con (...)

19While Condé did not embrace Calvin’s view of resistance on purely theological grounds, the latter’s attitude towards Condé’s rebellion was wholly different from his reservations expressed with respect to the Amboise affair. In the words of Robert Kingdon, « that everything depended on a violent coup engineered by nobles who lacked any legal right to interfere with the regency was apparently the factor that bothered Calvin most of all », because « the Bourbon princes had the legal right to try to suppress the Guise regency, the conspirators did not ». As a result, « when Conde himself publicly raised the standard of revolt, though actually on much slimmer legal grounds than those of the Conspiracy, Calvin supported the Huguenot cause without a murmur of protest »80. Theodor Beza, his right-hand man, became personally involved in the rebellion and acted as Condé’s secretary. However, there is an important divergence between the right to resistance imagined by Calvin and Beza and that professed by Condé and his associates. For Calvin and Beza, religion was the only legitimate reason for a rebellion ; for Condé it clearly was not, it was not even always acknowledged as the most important. This difference was not merely academic : it had an important effect on the Reformed churches in France, which manifested itself during the negotiations for the Peace of Amboise. Kingdon speaks of the formation of two factions within the Protestant movement ; one led by Condé and comprising most of the nobility, the other consisting of the religious figures of the movement, headed by Theodore Beza, and some sympathetic nobles such as Gaspard de Coligny. In Kingdon’s description, « the party of Condé was willing to make substantial concessions in return for peace », while « the party of the pastors pleaded for better terms, even at the risk of continued fighting »81. The key point was the fate of the Edict of January, as the Peace of Amboise was overall less favourable to the Reformed religion than the former, while granting numerous privileges to the Huguenot aristocracy. While Condé was able to impose on the Huguenot party the acceptance of the Peace of Amboise, the Reformed clergy gave ground only reluctantly and did not hide their discontent.

  • 82 J. Racine St-Jacques, op. cit., p. 111-112.

20It can be concluded that there is a significant difference between the propaganda issued by, or in the name of, the high-ranking nobles of the Huguenot party and that of the pastors. Just like Calvin and Beza in their early pronouncements on the subject of resistance and like the monarchomach tracts of the 1570s, this propaganda was concerned, first and foremost, with the idea of legality. Resistance was legitimate only if it was lawful – on this all agreed. But Calvin and Beza determined this lawfulness independently of the king : resistance is judged in accordance with divine law, first and foremost, and, second, in accordance with the immemorial laws of the kingdom. In their political thought, the king was only one piece in the constitutional structure of the kingdom and, however reluctantly, they did cast him as the main potential antagonist in their doctrines of resistance. This is a step the aristocratic leadership of the Huguenot party refused to countenance. At no point did they acknowledge that they were in rebellion against the king of France. Condé and his allies chose to operate ideologically within a political structure with the king at its apex. Jules Racine St-Jacques speaks of two distinct messages : a theological discourse and a discourse of noble honor, with the former developing out of the latter, in a transition from the defense of the faith to the defense of the public good. However, this justification of Protestant violence was itself a form of radicalization, both political and ideological, because it was based on constitutionalist principles and in the name of noble honor, thus representing a step away from the Calvinist notion of earthly power82.

21Also, unlike in the monarchomach writings, there is no concept of popular sovereignty in the above-mentioned texts. Naturally, Condé and his associates rejected the idea of unlimited royal power and they insisted constantly on the necessity of advice and consent when royal edicts are issued. But, while the monarchomachs envisioned the Estates General as the repository of a sovereign power above the king, in the name of the people, the Huguenot aristocracy operated, consciously or not, within the ideological sphere of a limited monarchy, where power was shared. This was obviously a natural consequence of the restraint displayed by the Huguenot nobles with regard to the king. Basically, the Huguenot nobility envisioned their insurrections not as a challenge to the monarchy in the name of God, as did Calvin and Beza, nor in the name of the people, as the monarchomach texts would do after 1572, but rather as a way of restoring their relationship with the king – a relationship severed as a result of external factors.

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Notes

1 * This work was supported by a grant of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization, CNCS/CCCDI – UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2019-0499, within PNCDI III

Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought: The Age of Reformation, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 192.

2 Stuart Carroll, Blood and Violence in Early Modern France, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 268.

3 Philip Benedict, « The Wars of Religion, 1562-1598 », p. 150-151, in P. Mack (ed.), Renaissance and Reformation France 1500-1648, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 147-175.

4 Arlette Jouanna, Le Devoir de révolte : la noblesse française et la gestation de l’État moderne (1559-1661), Paris, Fayard, 1989, p. 131.

5 In a very recent work, published in 2020 – Season of Conspiracy: Calvin, the French Reformed Churches and Protestant Plotting in the reign of Francis II (1559-1560) –, Philip Benedict argued that Calvin’s alleged distancing from the Amboise conspiracy was a result of his effort to hide his role in the affair after its failure. In Benedict’s words, “if Calvin and the other Genevan pastors did not baldly lie (...), they at the very least engaged in lawyerly evasion” and he bases this assertion on some obscure sources from Calvin’s correspondence which failed to attract the proper attention of the French historiography and on the testimonies of a Huguenot named Gilles Triou, arrested at Lyon after an aborted attempt to take over the city, later that year, attempt which Philip Benedict considered to have been part of a “single, larger conspiratorial undertaking that continued even after the Lyon mission was called off at the last minute”. Season of Conspiracy, Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society Press, 2020, p. 5. While Benedict provides a persuasive argument, the fact that Calvin’s involvement remained secret and was never acknowledged is significant: secret backing is not the same thing as open support and intrigues no one – except for a handful of conspirators – knows about, have no bearing upon ideological developments, for which wide dissemination of ideas is essential. Also, it needs to be taken into account the fact that Calvin kept urging Antoine of Bourbon, throughout 1560, to take the lead in an action aiming to remove the Guise brothers from power – something which would have completely altered the character of the Amboise conspiracy –, and it is perfectly possible that he might have deluded himself about Antoine’s commitment to the Protestant cause. The sort of uprising which Calvin would have envisioned when the Amboise conspiracy was in its early stages was different from what the conspiracy actually turned out to be and from which Calvin hurried to distance himself in the aftermath – and not just because it failed.

6 Nicolas Le Roux, Le Roi, la cour, l’état : de la Renaissance à l’absolutisme, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 2013, p. 151.

7 For an excellent account of the activity of Simon Vigor and other popular preachers in Paris, see Barbara Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 145-158.

8 Arlette Jouanna, La France du xvie siècle 1483-1598, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2009, p. 411.

9 Hugues Daussy, « Protestants et politiques au xvie siècle : état de la recherche et perspectives », p. 16-17, Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français, 2004, no 150, p. 15-32.

10 Denis Crouzet, Dieu en ses royaumes : une histoire des guerres de religion, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 2008, p. 289.

11 Janine Garrisson, Les Protestants au xvie siècle, Paris, Fayard, 1988, p. 256.

12 Robert J. Knecht, Hero or Tyrant? Henry III, King of France, 1574-1589, Farnham and Burlington, Ashgate, 2014, p. 13.

13 The text, entitled Déclaration faicte par M. le Prince de Condé, pour monstrer les raisons qui l’ont contrainct d’entreprendre la defense de l’authorité du Roy, du gouvernement de la Royne, et du repos de ce Royaume, was printed at Orléans by Eloi Gibier. According to Tatiana Debbagi Baranova, François Hotman and Theodore Beza, who were near Condé at that time, contributed to the writing of this declaration. Tatiana Debaggi Baranova, À coups de libelles : une culture politique au temps des guerres de religion (1562-1598), Genève, Droz, 2012, p. 127.

14 Mémoires de Condé ou recueil pour servir à l’histoire de France, contenant ce qui s’est passé de plus mémorable dans le royaume, sous le règne de François II. Et sous une partie de celui de Charles IX. Où l’on trouvera des preuves de l’histoire de M. de Thou : augmentés d’un grand nombre de pièces curieuses, qui n’ont jamais été imprimées, London, Claude du Bosc Guillaume Darrés, 1743, Tome 3, p. 222.

15 Ibid., p. 223.

16 Ibid., p. 223.

17 Hugues Daussy, « Les Huguenots entre l’obéissance au roi et l’obeissance à Dieu », p. 58-59, Nouvelle Revue du xvie siècle, 2004, no 22, p. 49-69.

18 A. Jouanna, La France du xvie siècle, op. cit., p. 398.

19 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit., Tome 3, p. 231-232.

20 Robert M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France 1555-1563, Geneva, Librairie Droz, 2007, p. 107-108.

21 J.H.M. Salmon, Society in Crisis: France in the Sixteenth Century, London, Methuen, 1979, p. 142.

22 H. Daussy, « Les Huguenots entre l’obéissance au roi et l’obeissance à Dieu », Art. cit., p. 60.

23 Penny Roberts, Peace and Authority during the French Religious Wars c. 1560-1600, Houndmills, Palgrave MacMillan, 2013, p. 111.

24 David Bryson, Queen Jeanne and the Promised Land: Dynasty, Homeland, Religion and Violence in Sixteenth-Century France, Leiden and Boston, Brill, 1999, p. 145-146.

25 Jules Racine St-Jacques, L’Honneur et la foi : le droit de résistance chez les réformés français (1536-1581), Geneva, Librairie Droz, 2012, p. 64.

26 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 258.

27 Ibid., p. 259.

28 Donald R. Kelley, The Beginning of Ideology: Consciousness and Society in the French Reformation, Cambridge and London, Cambridge University Press, 1983, p. 256.

29 Sylvie Daubresse, « Le Parlement du Paris et l’édit du 17 janvier 1562 », Revue Historique 1998, no 299, p. 515-547.

30 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 273-279.

31 Tatiana Debbagi Baranova, Coups de libelles, op. cit., p. 131

32 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 281-283

33 Ibid., p. 312-315

34 Ibid., p. 320.

35 Hugues Daussy, Le Parti huguenot : chronique d’une désillusion (1557-1572), Geneva, Librairie Droz, 2015, p. 299.

36 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 322.

37 Ibid., p. 332.

38 Tatiana Debbagi Baranova, Coups de libelles, op. cit., p. 133-134.

39 Sylvie Daubresse, Le Parlement du Paris ou la voix de la raison (1559-1589), Geneva, Librairie Droz, 2005, p. 104-105.

40 H. Daussy, Le Parti Huguenot, op. cit., p. 300.

41 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 385.

42 Ibid., p. 385.

43 Ibid., p. 389.

44 Ibid., p. 389-390.

45 Ibid., p. 396-397.

46 Ibid., p. 398.

47 Ibid., p. 402.

48 Ibid., p. 403.

49 Ibid., p. 404-405.

50 H. Daussy, Le Parti Huguenot, op. cit., p. 302.

51 Alphonse de Ruble, Antoine de Bourbon et Jeanne d’Albret, Paris, Adolphe Labitte, 1886, Tome 4, p. 244-246.

52 Ibid., p. 254-256. The arrival of Philip II’s letter is not mentioned by Jules Delaborde, who, instead, considered Navarre’s proposal to have been a ruse, because, while it imposed the departure of the triumvirs from Court, it also demanded the surrendering of Condé as a hostage. Jules Delaborde, Gaspard de Coligny, amiral de France, tome 2, Paris, Fischbacher, 1881, p. 118.

53 J. Delaborde, Gaspard de Coligny, op. cit., p. 121. It is worth pointing out that Catherine de Medici greeted the Huguenot captains by thanking them « for having taken up arms in her defense » – which goes to show how the Huguenot propaganda could shape the official discourse, according to circumstances. Catherine’s apparent acceptance of the Huguenot rhetoric occurred when a peace agreement seemed likely – and it would accordingly shift to denials of the same rhetoric when negotiations seemed to go poorly. Since sedition was regarded as the most serious crime and it carried severe legal and ideological consequences, the best way to facilitate an eventual reconciliation was to simply deny that any sedition actually took place.

54 Alphonse de Ruble, Antoine de Bourbon et Jeanne d’Albret, op. cit., p, 259-270.

55 H. Daussy, Le Parti Huguenot, op. cit., p. 303-304.

56 Ibid., p. 304.

57 Cristopher Ellwood, The Body Broken: The Calvinist Doctrine of the Eucharist and the Symbolization of Power in Sixteenth-Century France, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 145.

58 Mémoires de Condé, op. cit.,Tome 3, p. 526.

59 Ibid., p. 550.

60 Ibid., p. 553-554.

61 Ibid., p. 584.

62 Ibid., p. 583.

63 Ibid., p. 588.

64 Ibid., p. 584.

65 Ibid., p. 590.

66 Ibid., p. 591.

67 Ibid., p. 591-592.

68 Robert J. Knecht, Catherine de’ Medici, London and New York, Routledge, 2014, p. 90.

69 Mack P. Holt, The French Wars of Religion, 1562-1629, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p, 54-55; James Westfall Thompson, The Wars of Religion in France 1559-1576: The Huguenots, Catherine de Medici and Philip II, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1909, p. 153-166

70 Mémoires de Condé ou recueil pour servir à l’histoire de France, contenant ce qui s’est passé de plus mémorable dans le royaume, sous le règne de François II. Et sous une partie de celui de Charles IX. où l’on trouvera des preuves de l’histoire de M. de Thou : augmentés d’un grand nombre de pièces curieuses, qui n’ont jamais été imprimées, London, Claude du Bosc et Guillaume Darrés, 1743, Tome 4, p. 2-4.

71 Ibid., p. 33.

72 Ibid., p. 8.

73 Ibid., p. 9.

74 Ibid., p. 18.

75 Ibid., p. 22-23.

76 Ibid., p. 31.

77 Ibid. p. 34-35.

78 Ibid., p. 19.

79 Ibid., p. 28.

80 Robert M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France 1555-1563, p. 69.

81 Robert M. Kingdon, Geneva and the Consolidation of the French Protestant Movement, 1564-1572: A Contribution to the history of congregationalism, Presbyterianism, and Calvinist Resistance Theory, Geneva, Librairie Droz, 1967, p. 149-150.

82 J. Racine St-Jacques, op. cit., p. 111-112.

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