Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Huguenots

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Huguenots

Article excerpt

The Huguenots BY GEOFFREY TREASURE YALE, 488 PAGES, $3 5

In many ways, France's first Protestants, the Huguenots, were "more puritan than the (English) Puritans" in both doctrine and morals. Although they were never able to make France a Calvinist country (as their coreligionists did in Scotland and elsewhere), they did in the 1560s and 1570s attract between 7 and 10 percent of the French population, including a slight majority of the nobility, as well as seven of the 114 Catholic bishops.

Geoffrey Treasure, a retired senior master at Harrow School in England, has produced a long, detailed, immensely readable study of the Huguenots, clearly aimed at a wider potential audience than academics. Knotty questions and complex details are usually relegated to the endnotes.

The Huguenots were able forcibly to resist the attempts of crown and Church alike to suppress them, and then to win a broad degree of religious toleration, unequalled anywhere else in Europe but Poland, through the Edict of Nantes in 1598. There followed a half-century or more during which the Huguenots enjoyed a broad measure of prosperity, respect, and even acceptance in Catholic France.

Louis XIV's revocation of the edict in 1685 was followed by a massive flight of some 200,000 Protestants from France, and renewed persecution at home met with a sustained guerilla uprising in the rural area of the Cévennes in the early years of the eighteenth century, which diverted French military forces at a critical moment from their struggle against foreign enemies. …

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