Edict of Versailles

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Edict of Versailles signed by Louis XVI in 1787

The Edict of Versailles, commonly known as the Edict of Tolerance, was an official act that gave non-Catholics in France the right to openly practice their religions as well as legal and civil status, which included the right to contract marriages without having to convert to the Catholic faith. The edict was signed by Louis XVI on 7 November 1787, and registered in the parlement of the Ancien Régime on 29 January 1788. Its successful enactment was due to persuasive arguments by prominent French philosophers and literary personalities of the day, including Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, by Americans such as Benjamin Franklin, and especially by the joint work of Guillaume-Chrétien de Malesherbes, minister to Louis XVI, and Jean-Paul Rabaut Saint-Etienne, spokesman for the Protestant community in France.[1]

Henry IV of France (1589–1610) had initially granted Huguenots a significant amount of freedom to practice their faith when he signed the Edict of Nantes (13 April 1598). These rights were revoked by Louis XIV with the Edict of Fontainebleau (18 October 1685), also known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Enforcement of the revocation relaxed under the reign of Louis XV, however it remained law for 102 years. Under the Edict of Versailles, Catholicism continued as the state religion of the Kingdom of France although its decrees effectively nullified the Edict of Fontainebleau offering relief to non-Catholic worshippers – Calvinist Huguenots, Lutherans, and Jews alike. The most notable exception was in Metz, where actions by the parlement of Metz explicitly excluded certain rights for Jews within its domain, such as drafting of lists of grievances, that did not apply to coreligionists elsewhere.

While the Edict of Versailles did not legally proclaim freedom of religion across France – this took two more years, with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789 – it was an important step in pacifying religious tensions and it officially ended religious persecution in France.

References[edit]

  • Baird, Henry Martyn. History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France. Kila, MT: Kessinger, 2006
  • Kuiper, B. K. The Church in History. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995
  • Martyn, W. Carlos. A History of the Huguenots. Ann Arbor: Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library, 2005
  • Sutherland, N. M. The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.

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