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How important was Henri IV's handling of the issue of religion in the establishment of a settled kingdom by 1598?

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Introduction

How important was Henri IV's handling of the issue of religion in the establishment of a settled kingdom by 1598? When Henri IV came to the throne he inherited a series of serious issues and difficulties that destabilised the crown, such as a huge debt, the after-math of civil war and religious rivalries. Following the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 that saw 6000 people killed in 6 days and 10000 more in the weeks after, growing divisions between Catholics and Protestants were being established. Henri also needed to address the religious situation because Huguenots had now become very distrustful of the crown, as the main targets of the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre had been Protestant Huguenot's and Calvinists. This tension was increasing the vulnerability of the crown. It was therefore very important for Henri to try and reunite the French people in order to settle the kingdom. When Henri came to the throne he was a Protestant king trying to rule a Catholic country, in order to re-assert his authority over a country in disarray from civil war he needed his capital city. ...read more.

Middle

This conversion was also very important because after his crowning in 1594, Paris opened its gates to him and the surrender of the Catholic League looked to be imminent. So now, not only did he have control of his capital city, which was important for his reassertion of authority, therefore stabilising the kingdom, but his main opposition could now not contest him so very well. Some Huguenots also recognised that his conversion had been for political reasons (much like his marriage to Marguerite de Valois) rather than a conversion of conviction. So, he managed to unite his people by presenting with a common enemy; Spain who, up until 1593 had been funding the Catholic League in their campaign against Henri. The Spanish had caused great problems for Henri and the stability of his kingdom because they had aided the Catholic League in campaigns against him. To present his kingdom with the Spanish as a common enemy meant that the Catholics and Protestants in France stopped seeing each other as enemy so the uncertainty of civil war was reduced. ...read more.

Conclusion

This edict enabled Henri to try and reduce the animosity between Catholics and Protestants without making the crown vulnerable. For instance, Huguenots had to abide by the laws of the land, they could not set up their own courts. This was to reduce the risks of a separate state of Huguenots being set up that would risk the authority of the crown. Henri had to be very tactful in dealing with religion because he did not have the money to be able to deal with another outbreak of civil war. He also had to be careful because the authority of the crown had been severely damaged by civil war and countries such as Spain were willing to take advantage of its vulnerable position by funding the main opponents to Henri's reign; the Catholic League and so he had to try and reunite the French people to reduce the threat of invasion by Spain which would seriously unsettle the kingdom. Henri's timing and his dealings with religion were ultimately very important in stabilising the crown and kingdom because he managed to address the problem even if not solving it completely, without causing civil war and by 1598 the kingdom was much more settle than the one he inherited in 1589. ...read more.

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