THE EDICT OF NANTES

Excerpts:

Henry, By the Grace of God, King of France, and Navarre, To all Present, and to Come, greeteth. Among the infinite Mercies that God hath pleased to bestow upon us, that most Signal and Remarkable is, his having given us Power and Strength not to yield to the dreadful Troubles, Confusions, and Disorders, which were found at our coming to this Kingdom, divided into so many Parties and Factions, that the most Legitimate was almost the least, enabling us with Constancy in such manner to oppose the Storm, as in the end to surmount it, reducing this Estate to Peace and Rest; For which, to Him alone be given the Honour and Glory, and us the Grace to acknowledge our obligation, in having our Labours made use of for the accomplishing so good a work, in which it hath been visible to all, that we have not only done what was our Duty, and in our Power, but something more than at another time, would (peradventure) have been agreeable to the Dignity we now hold; as in not having more Care, than to have many times so freely exposed our own Life. And in this great concurrence of weighty and perillous Affairs, not being able to compose all at one and the same time, We have chosen in this order, First to undertake those who were not to be suppressed but by force, and rather to remit and suspend others for some time, who might be dealt with by reason, and Justice: For the general difference among our good Subjects, and the particular evils of the soundest parts of the State, we judged might be easily cured, after the Principal cause (the continuation of the Civil Wars) was taken away, in which we have, by the blessing of God, well and happily succeeded, all Hostility and Wars through the Kingdom being now ceased, and we hope he will also prosper us in our other affairs, which remain to be composed, and that by this means we shall arrive at the establishment of a good Peace, with tranquility and rest, (which hath ever been the end of all our vows and intentions) as all the reward we desire or expect for 80 much pains and trouble, as we have taken in the whole course of our Life. Amongst our said affairs (towards which it behooves us to have patience) one of the principal hath been, the many complaints we received from divers of our Provinces and Catholick Cities, for that the exercise of the Catholick Religion was not universally re-established, as is provided by Edicts or Statutes heretofore made for the Pacification of the Troubles arising from Religion; as also the Supplications and Remonstrances which have been made to us by our Subjects of the reformed Religion, as well upon the execution of what hath been granted by the said former Laws, as that they desire to have some addition for the exercise of their Religion, the liberty of their Consciences and the security of their Persons and Fortunes. . . . For this cause, acknowledging this affair to be of the greatest importance, and worthy of the best consideration, after having considered the papers of complaints of our Catholick subjects, and having also permitted to our Subjects of the Reformed Religion to assemble themselves by Deputies, for framing their complaints, and making a collection of all their Remonstrances; and having thereupon conferred divers times with them, viewing the precedent Laws, we have upon the whole judged it necessary to give to all our said Subjects one general Law, Clear, Pure, and Absolute, by which they shall be regulated in all differences which have heretofore risen among them, or may hereafter rise, wherewith the one and other may be contented, being framed according as the time requires: and having had no other regard in this deliberation than solely the Zeal we have to the service of God, praying that he would henceforward render to all our subjects a durable and Established peace. Upon which we implore and expect from his divine bounty the same protection and favour, as he hath alwayes visibly bestowed upon this Kingdom from our Birth, during the many years we have attained unto, and give our said Subjects the grace to understand, that in observation of this our Ordinance consisteth (after that which is their duty toward God and us) the principal foundation of their Union, Concord, Tranquility, Rest, and the Re-establishment of all this Estate in its first splendor, opulency and strength. . . .

6. And not to leave any occasion of trouble and difference among our Subjects, we have permitted and do permit to those of the Reformed Religion, to live and dwell in all the Cities and places of this our Kingdom and Countreys under our obedience, without being inquired after, vexed, molested, or compelled to do any thing in Religion, contrary to their Conscience, nor by reason of the same be searched after in houses or places where they live, they comporting themselves in other things as is contained in this our present Edict or Statute.

7. We also permit to all Lords, Gentlemen and other Persons, as well inhabitants as others, making profession of the Reformed Religion, having in our Kingdom and Countreys under our obedience, high Justice as chief Lord (as in Normandy) be it in propriety or usage, in whole, moiety, or third part, to have in such of their houses of the said high Justice or Fiefs, as abovesaid (which they shall be obliged to Nominate for their principall residence to our Bayliffs and chief Justice each in their jurisdiction) the exercise of the said Religion as long as they are Resident there, and in their absence, their wives or families, or part of the same. And though the right of Justice or whole Fief be controverted, nevertheless the exercise of the said Religion shall be allowed there, provided that the abovesaid be in actual possession of the said high Justice, though our Attorney Generall be a Party. We per mitting them also to have the said exercise in their other houses of high Justice or Fiefs abovesaid, so long as they shall be present, and not otherwise: and all, as well for them, their families and subjects, as others that shall go thither.

8. In the Houses that are Fiefs, where those of the said Religion have not high Justice, there the said Exercise of the Reformed Religion shall not be permitted, save only to their own Families, yet nevertheless, if other persons, to the number of thirty, besides their Families, shall be there upon the occasion of Christenings, Visits of their Friends, or otherwise, our meaning is, that in such case they shall not be molested: provided also, that the said Houses be not within Cities, Burroughs, or Villages belonging to any Catholick Lord (save to Us) having high Justice, in which the said Catholick Lords have their Houses. For in such cases, those of the said Religion shall not hold the said Exercise in the said Cities, Burroughs, or Villages, except by permission of the said Lords high Justices.

9. We permit also to those of the said Religion to hold, and continue the Exercise of the same in all the Cities and Places under our obedience, where it hath by them been Established and made publick by many and divers times, in the Year 1586, and in 1597, until the end of the Month of August, notwithstanding all Decrees and Judgments whatsoever to the contrary. . . .

16. Following the second Article of the Conference of Nerat, we grant to those of the said Religion power to build Places for the Exercise of the same, in Cities and Places where it is granted them. . . .

27. To the end to reunited so much the better the minds and good will of our Subjects, as is our intention, and to take away all complaints for the future; We declare all those who make or shall make profession of the said Reformed Religion, to be capable of holding and exercising all Estates, Dignities, Offices, and publick charges whatsoever, Royal, Signioral, or of Cities of our Kingdom, Countreys, Lands, and Lordships under our obedience, notwithstanding all Oaths to the contrary, and to be indifferently admitted and received into the same, and our Court of Parliament and other Judges shall content themselves with informing and inquiring after the lives, manners, Religion and honest Conversation of those that were or shall be preferred to such offices, as well of the one Religion as the other, without taking other Oath of them than for the good and faithful service of the King in the exercise of their Office. . . .


from Roland Mousnier. The Assassination of Henry IV (New York, 1973), 316-347