The Huguenots, French Protestants, became the center of political and religious quarrels in France between 1500 and 1600. Important people such as Anthony King of Navarre, Louis I de Bourbon de Conde, and Admiral Gaspard de Coligny were Huguenots. They were named the Huguenots by the French Roman Catholics. The name, Huguenots, is believed to be from Besancon Hugues, a Swiss religious leader. The Huguenots were the followers of John Calvin's teachings, and they belonged to the Reformed Church. As the Huguenots became a large part of the influential political group in France, the Catholic government persecuted them more and more. Catherine de Medicis, Queen Mother of France, had once encouraged the Huguenots, but now was in conflict with the Huguenots over their rising power. Catherine, with her ruthless tactics, planned with the help of Duke of Guise, a massacre of Huguenots. The massacre was carried out on August 24, 1572 in the early morning of St.
Bartholomew's Day. In Paris on that day 10,000 Huguenot people were murdered. The Huguenots blamed France for the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day and started a civil war over the event.
A twist in fate helped the future of the Huguenots. For Henry IV was in a delicate position with his public, over the assassinations of Duke of Guise and his brother, the cardinal, which forced him to alie with Henry of Nevarre a Huguenot. Later after Henry IV got assassinated himself; Henry of Nevarre inherited the French throne in 1589. Henry, then being in rule, decided that the best way to keep the peace and be a successful king, is to become a Catholic. This also was good, for the capitol of France, Paris, was mostly Catholic. Henry did not go far from his roots, remembering the Huguenots and protecting their interests with the Edict of Nantes, in 1598. This Edict gave the Huguenots the right to worship and the right to establish churches in certain areas. It also gave them the same civil right as the Catholics, which was to be able to fortify and protect 100 Huguenot areas. Therefore the Huguenots formed a type of Protestant Republic within the Catholic Kingdom.
During the reign of Louis XIII, the Huguenots lost most of their political freedom. They were still allowed the same religious freedom but they were not allowed to fortify their Protestant areas. This was for Louise XIII minister, Cardinal Richelieu, wanted to prevent the Huguenots from taking the royal power without inducing another civil war. The Huguenots lived under these changes until 1685, when Louis XIV rebuked the whole Edict of Nantes, which lost all the rights for the Protestants to practice their religion. Louis did this for he was a strong Catholic, and he only saw the Protestants as a problem and a threat for power. The Huguenots were then heavily persecuted forcing many to leave to England, Prussia, Netherlands, and America.
For the Huguenots who did not leave, they lived under those extreme conditions until shortly before the French Revolution, when the laws began to slacken off them in 1789. However they never fully gained back their religious and political rights until the Constituent Assembly in 1791. The Constituent Assembly gave equal rights to Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.