The First Huguenot War, 1562-1563

Since the sudden death of King HENRI II., in France two noble factions contended over political influence; as the Guise faction opted for radical Catholicism, the uncompromising implementation of the Tridentine reform, the other faction Calvinism, the affair took on the character of a religious (confessional) conflict. In 1560, King FRANCIS II. died, succeeded by his brother CHARLES IX., a child of 10; his mother CATHERINE DE MEDICI attempted to restore royal control, her followers made up the third faction, moderately Catholic, but not committed to the Tridentine Counterreformation.

On March 1562 Duke FRANCIS DE GUISE, leader of the radical Catholic party, ordered the MASSACRE OF VASSY, the murder of unarmed Huguenots who at that time attended religious service. The event marks the beginning of the First Huguenot War. On March 16th Duke Francis entered Paris triumphantly. Catherine de Medici sided with the Duke de Guise; the Huguenot party entered into an alliance with England (September). Orleans, held by the Huguenots, was besieged. On December 19th the Huguenot army, lead by CONDE and COLIGNY was defeated by Duke Francis, MONTMORENCY and their Catholic forces in the BATTLE OF DREUX. On February 24th 1563, Duke Francis died of his wounds. The TREATY OF AMBOISE of March 19th 1563 ended the war, granting the Huguenots religious toleration in their strongholds.

Timeline France under Charles IX., from Renaissance Amboise, in French
The Wars of Religion, from Le Poulet Gauche
The Battle of Dreux, from Le Poulet Gauche
Protestantism in France from the Death of Francis I. (1547) to the Edict of Nantes (1598), from History of Protestantism by J.A. Wylie, 1878; online book
Premiere Guerre 1561-1563, from Protestants de Monflanquin sous l'Ancien Regime, 1518-1789, in French
DOCUMENTS Ambroise Pare, Journeys to Diverse Places (1537-1569) posted by Bartleby - Great Books Online; on Battle of Dreux, 1562
REFERENCE David Potter (ed., trsl.) : The French Wars of Religion, Selected Documents, New York : St. Martin's 1997

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 2nd 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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