The Fourth Huguenot War, 1572-1573

By 1572, Huguenot COLIGNY had established himself as the main adviser to King CHARLES IX. A wedding was held between MARGOT, sister of Charles IX., and Huguenot King HENRI OF NAVARRA, the future King Henri IV. of France, a political wedding with the purpose to openly show the reconciliation between the Huguenots and the royal camp.
Coligny's position was not as secured as he believed; an assassin, sent out by King mother CATHERINE DE MEDICI (who wanted to regain political influence) seriously wounded Coligny. On the night of the wedding, the Huguenots in Paris, unarmed (many of them wedding guests), much of them Huguenot nobility, were slaughtered in an event that entered the history books as the ST. BARTHOLOMEW DAY'S MASSACRE (Aug. 24th 1572). King Henri of Navarra saved his life only by converting to Catholicism. Coligny, already severely wounded, was defenestrated. With him died an estimated 3,000 persons in Paris alone, c. 8,000 all over France.

The city of La Rochelle, in response to the massacre, refused to admit the royal governor and withheld the payment of taxes. King Charles IX. in November issued a declaration of war; a royal army under the command of the King's brother, Duke Henri of Anjou (the future King Henri III), laid siege to the port city, from the land side. As Duke Henri lacked a fleet, La Rochelle was regularly resupplied. The siege thus was ineffective; on the royal side it was costly in terms of money and men. On July 6th 1573 the siege was terminated, without the city having been taken. Already on July 1st, in the EDICT OF BOULOGNE, Charles IX. had granted freedom of Huguenot confession in La Rochelle, N..res and Montauban.
The candidacy of Duke Henri of Anjou for the Polish throne, strongly promoted and financed by his mother, Catherine de Medici, had provided a distraction, which had reduced the willingness of King Charles IX. to continue a costly war which did not seem to lead to a result any time soon.

Timeline France under Charles IX., from Renaissance Amboise, in French
The Wars of Religion, 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
Quatrieme Guerre 1568-1570, from Protestants de Monflanquin sous l"ancien Regime, 1518-1789, in French
REFERENCE David Potter (ed., trsl.) : The French Wars of Religion, Selected Documents, New York : St. Martin's 1997
Video : Queen Margot, 1994, rated R, in French, English subtitles

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 3rd 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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