The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in Rouen

  • Gerald Cerny
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idees International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 107)


Rouen’s Huguenot population fluctuated widely between the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Reformed religion was locally sanctioned, and the final quarter of that century, when it was disestablished. The most reliable, current demographic study fixes the number of Protestants at 4,000 in 1600,1 or about 6.67 percent of Rouen’s total population. When Rouen attained its largest number of inhabitants in the seventeenth century around 1640, the maximum number of Calvinists probably increased to around 5,500.2


Seventeenth Century Attorney General Religious Toleration Individual Conscience Religious Worship 
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  1. 1.
    See esp. Jean-Pierre Bardet, Rouen aux XVIIe et XVIIesiècles. Les mutations d’un espace social, 2 vols. (Paris, 1983), I, 217. Bardet, who is director of the French Laboratoire de Démographie historique and secretary-general of the Société de Démographie historique, arrived at this figure by statistical study of Rouen Protestants’ civil status (marriages, baptisms, and burials). The Mémoire de maîtrise by Anne-Marie Reysz, “Les protestants rouennais au XVIIe siècle 1631-1685. Aspects démographiques”(Université de Paris VIII, 1975), was unavailable for my examination. Samuel Mours, “Essai sommaire de géographie du protestantisme réformé français au XVIIe siècle,” BSHPF, CXI (1965), 310-11, and idem, “Le protestantisme en France au XVIIe siècle,” 64, fixed the number of Rouen Calvinists between 6,000 and 7,000. Jean Bianquis estimated that in 1640 there were 7,500 Protestants comprising approximately one-tenth of Rouen’s total population (La Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes à Rouen. Essai historique [Rouen, 1885], vii). Mours cited 59,000 Protestants for the whole of the province of Normandy (Le protestantisme en France au XVIIe siècle, 86, n. 4); elsewhere he cited a total of 54,000 Huguenots in Normandy (Les Eglises réformées en France. Tableaux et cartes [Paris, 1958], 162). Cf. the exaggerated estimate made by Emile Lesens: “On évalue à 180,000 le nombre des protestants de la Normandie, et à 20,000 ceux compris dans la généralité de Rouen, nous pensons ne pas être au dessus de la vérité” (“Notice,” in Philippe Le Gendre, Histoire de la persécution faite à l’Eglise de Rouen sur la fin du dernier siècle, 2nd éd. [Rouen, 1874], xix-xx).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bardet, Rouen aux XVIIeet XVIIIesiècles, I, 217.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mours, Le protestantisme en France au XVIIesiècle, 64; see also Lesens, “Notice,” xxi.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Emile Lesens, “La colonie protestante hollandaise, les Flammands, Hambourgeois et habitants des pays circonvoisins à Rouen au XVIIe siècle d’après les registres de l’ancienne Eglise de Rouen,” BCHEW, 1st ser. (1892), 205-07 (list of resident Hollanders, 207–18). Henri Basnage de Beauval married Marie Amsincq, daughter of André Amsincq, a naturalized citizen from Hamburg, who was a “great sugar refiner” and elder in the Consistory of the Rouen Reformed Church (Bianquis, La Révocation de I’Edit de Nantes à Rouen, xxxviii).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bardet, Rouen aux XVIeet XVIIIesiècles, I, 243, 218, 244, 276, 325, 269-288; II, Tables 13, 105, 107, 142, 176.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Histoire de la persécution, 70; see sketch and architectural rendering f. 156.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bianquis, La Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes à Rouen, xxi.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For a list of the names of the principal Rouen Protestant bookdealers and printers, see Lesens, “Notice,” xix, n. 1.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Francis Garrisson, “Un 350e anniversaire, avril 1598-1948. L’Edit de Nantes,” BHSPF, VC (1948), 51. Unfortunately, Garrisson’s magisterial doctoral dissertation written for the Faculté de Droit, Université de Paris, was only published in part as Essai sur les commissions d’application de l’Edit de Nantes, I: Règne de Henri IV(Paris and Montpellier, 1950) [his original manuscript doctoral dissertation also included an analysis of the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV]. See esp. his “Introduction: La Paix de Nantes (avril 1598),” ibid., 9-55, for an examination of the legislative texts of the Edict of Nantes and its two brevets.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Léonard, HGP, II, 145.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Texts of the four separate documents are to be found in Benoist, Histoire de I’Edit de Nantes, I, (62)-(98); Haag, FP, X, 226-334; Roland Mousnier, L’assassinat de Henri IV(Paris, 1964), 294-334. See also Garrisson, Essai sur les commissions d’application de l’Edit de Nantes, 11-12; Nicola M. Sutherland, The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition (New Haven and London, 1980), 370-72, 328-32.Google Scholar
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    Léonard, HGP, II, 148; also Garrisson, Essai sur les commissions d’application de l’Edit de Nantes, 31-34.Google Scholar
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    Léonard, HGP, II, 148.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    The Peace of Alais (1629) did not violate the “fundamental and irrevocable law” of the Edict of Nantes; it merely revoked the royal letters patent that temporarily granted Huguenots both military strong-holds and state funds for their up-keep.Google Scholar
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    P. Beuzart, “L’Edit de Nantes. Création ou aboutissement?” BSHPF, XCI (1942), 16, 17-21.Google Scholar
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    Léonard, HGP, II, 149.Google Scholar
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    Beuzart, “L’Edit de Nantes,” 23.Google Scholar
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    Léonard, HGP, II, 149.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
  20. 20.
  21. 21.
    This hope proved to be illusory. The Edict of Nantes merely recognized and rigidly stabilized Huguenot gains as of 1598. The Edict became, in fact, a stranglehold when changes in Huguenot demography led to the construction of new churches in southern France in violation of the accord of 1598.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    For a study of Protestantism in Rouen between 1550-1600, see Philip Benedict, Rouen during the Wars of Religion (Cambridge, England, 1980). By 1561 Benedict found that Rouen had a Protestant population of around 15,000 or about 15-20 percent of the city’s inhabitants. The number of Calvinists declined during the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day and especially after 1589, when the Holy League seized Rouen. Rouen Protestants were able to regroup themselves only after Henri IV occupied the city in 1594.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    During the Wars of the Fronde, Protestants were permitted to worship in a private house in the Rouen Saint-Sever quarter for a period of six months (Bianquis, La Révocation de I’Edit de Nantes à Rouen, xx-xxi).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Floquet, Histoire du Parlement de Normandie, VI, 1-13.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Le Gendre, Histoire de la persécution, 1.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Léonard, HGP, II, 312.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    “II avoit paru les vingt dernières années qu’il a été debout un prodigieuse quantité d’Arêts & Déclarations qui avoient peu à peu ruiné tous nos privileges” (Histoire de la persécution, 3).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Bianquis stated that outright destruction of Reformed churches in Normandy began as early as 1629-52 but increased especially after 1656 for “les prétextes le plus futiles” (La Révocation de F Edit de Nantes à Rouen, xxii).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Floquet, Histoire du Parlement de Normandie, VI, 26-27.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Decrees dated January 23 and 26, 1647 (ibid., VI, 27-28).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ibid., VI, 28-30.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bardet, Rouen aux XVIIeet XVIIesiècles, I, 217; cf. Bianquis, La Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes à Rouen, xv-xvi, who cited a decrease from 7,500 to 4,400.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Mémoires historiques et politiques de Louis XIVpour le Dauphin, son fils, in Oeuvres de Louis XIV (Paris and Strasbourg, 1806), I, 84-89. See Jean-Louis Thireau, Les idées politiques de Louis XIVGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    See among others John B. Wolf, Louis XIV(New York, 1968), 133-98, 357-401; Jean Orcibal, Louis XIV et les protestants (Paris, 1951); Daniel Robert, “Louis XIV et les protestants,” XVIIesiècle, 76-77 (1967), 39-52. Daniel Robert has singled out several modifications in the practical application of the “grand design.” Robert finds that its execution went through three phases: 1661-69 limitation of the applicability of the Edict of Nantes without its abolition, 1669-78 abatement of harassments following the conversion of Turenne, and the third and final phase, the “tragedy” of 1678-85. Cf. Ruth Kleinman, “Changing Interpretations of the Edict of Nantes: The Administrative Aspect, 1643-1661,” French Historical Studies, X (1978), 541-71, who examined the disposition of Huguenot cases in the Conseil des dépêches. Kleinman’s conclusion is that Mazarin followed a policy of expediency: he favored Huguenots when necessary and appeased French Roman Catholics when possible in accordance with domestic pressures and the requirement of foreign policy. Following the death of Mazarin, Kleinman discovered a marked change in 1661, both in the unprecedented number of unfavorable decisions affecting Huguenots reached by the Conseil des dépêches and in Louis XIV’s attack upon the corporate existence of the Huguenot religious minority.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Floquet, Histoire du Parlement de Normandie, VI, 49-57.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ibid., VI, 39-40.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ibid., VI, 40-41; Le Gendre, Histoire de la persécution, 4.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    See “Mémoire de ce qui s’est passé à Rouen en suite de l’enregistrement de la déclaration du roy qui veut que les catholiques aient un banc dans les temples de ceux de la R.P.R. Document inédit, 1683,” BSHPF, III (1855), 60-62.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    After his emigration to Rotterdam, Le Gendre became celebrated as the author of numerous sermons and especially for his two works: La vie de Pierre Tomines, sieur du Bosc, ministre de Caen (Rotterdam, 1694), 2nd ed. (Amsterdam, 1716); and the Histoire de la persécution faite à l’Eglise de Rouen sur la fin du dernier siècle (Rotterdam, 1704). In a preliminary review prior to the publication of the latter work, the HOS (June 1703), art. xiii, 285-86, noted: “Mr. le Gendre en donne ici une histoire fort circonstanciée. Il peint l’injustice de toutes ses couleurs, & n’éparne point aux Persécuteurs les noms qu’ils se sont attirez.”Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Le Gendre named the following as party to the machinations that brought down the Grand-Quevilly Church: Père François Liesse, parish priest of Saint-Eloy; the parish priest of Saint-Martin “du bout du Pont”; the Society of Jesus in Rouen, especially the monk Daudran, who was named as one of the overseers of the Huguenot church; Président d’Amfreville, of the Parlement of Normandy and spokesman for the Jesuits; the attorney general of the Parlement of Normandy; and the following counsellors of the Rouen Parlement: Fauvel de Touvens, Costé de Saint-Suplis, Grainville, and Busquet (Histoire de la persécution, 5-8). Persecution of the Rouen pastors was intermittent. In 1674, Etienne Le Moyne was imprisoned (see P. Bayle to V. Minutoli, July 12, 1674, in Bayle, OD, IV, 577). Out of the tribulations of the Rouen Reformed Church Henri Basnage de Beauval was to write his Tolérance des Religions.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Le Gendre dated the first procedure against him and Basnage on April 29, 1684 (Histoire de la persécution, 10).Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    The widow of Jacob Huë de Montaigu, Marie-Magdeleine Samborne, abjured her Protestant faith in front of the priests of the parish church of Notre-Dame on January 14, 1682. Her children Gabriel, Marie-Magdeleine, and Anne abjured their Calvinist religion on May 12, 1683, in front of the bishop of Bayeux.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    It was Henri Basnage de Franquenay who drew upon his experience in the Parlement of Rouen to advise Le Gendre and Jacques Basnage that they had every right to accept Ester Hue at their sermons in accordance with article 39 of the decree of February 1, 1669. This decree had been confirmed several times, most recently in 1683 by the Parlement of Normandy (Le Gendre, Histoire de la persécution, 12-13).Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Le Gendre dated the actual interrogation as having taken place on December 11, 1684. ibid., 11).Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    See “Arrest de la Cour de Parlement, rendu le dernier Janvier 1685 contre les Relaps & qui ajourne les Ministres de la R. P. R. en comparence personnelle.…,” ibid., 101-08.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ester Huë was abducted and placed in the Maison des Nouvelles Catholiques. Similar instances of this nature had previously occurred. “Mais rien ne s’étoit fait avec tant d’éclat & tant de violence que l’enlèvement d’Ester Huë qui fut conduite par les juges mêmes dans la prison” ibid., 22).Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Floquet, Histoire du Parlement de Normandie, VI, 80.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    The court reporter was highly indignant with the attorney general for the delay. He reproached him for all to hear at the Rouen bar: “Que son zèle êtoit trop lent: qu’il devoit avoir déjà fait raser plus de six Temples, dans la province: que cependant celuy de Quevilli, qui sous ses yeux se trouvoit encore debout” (Le Gendre, Histoire de la persécution, 38).Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Printed by Le Gendre, ibid., 51-52.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Factum pour Philippe le Gendre & Jacques Basnage Ministres de la Religion Prétendue Reformée à Quevilly, Défendeurs contre Monsieur le Procureur Général, Demandeur [Rouen, May 30, 1685]; reprinted by Le Gendre, Histoire de la persécution, 109-32. Copies of the original 8 pp. Factum aie deposited in the Bibliothèque Wallonne, Amsterdam, and in the Bibliothèque de la Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme français in Paris.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    The children of the late Roger Marchand, whose widow became a Catholic on June 1, 1678, and the Du Havre children, whose mother converted to Catholicism on May 2, 1683 (Le Gendre, Histoire de la persécution, III). 52 Ibid., 132.Google Scholar
  52. 53.
    Ibid., 64-65.Google Scholar
  53. 54.
    “Arrest du Parlement de Rouen qui ordonne la Démolition du Prêche de Quevilly,” ibid., 133-54.Google Scholar
  54. 55.
    “Les Juges n’en peuvent alléguer d’autre cause que leur passion & leur haine, qu’ils ont couvert de l’autorité du Roy. S’ils avoient quelque ordre de Sa Majesté, ils l’auroient produit; il paroîtroit dans le veu des Pièces. Le Président & le Raporteur pouvoient avoir des Lettres du Père de la Chaise, ou de l’Archevesque de Paris; ou moins voulurent ils le persuader a leurs Confreres pour les attirer dans leurs sentiments” (ibid., 67). Le Gendre concluded: “C’est une injure faite a Sa Majesté que l’on ne saudroit souffrir” (loc. cit.).Google Scholar
  55. 56.
    Ibid., 71.Google Scholar
  56. 57.
    The text of the royal patent is printed by Bianquis, La Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes à Rouen, xxxv-xxxvi. Bianquis noted that Jacques Basnage’s wife was not pregnant when the couple emigrated to Holland; the nurse in question (“nommée Le Fèvre”) who accompanied the couple was, in reality, Jacques Basnage’s sister, Madeleine Basnage, wife of Paul Bauldri (ibid., xxxvi). Cf. supra, ch. 1, n. 97. The patent granted by the intendant Marillac is dated October 12, 1685; that of Le Brument, who was in charge of the Admiralty in Rouen is dated October 15, 1685.Google Scholar
  57. 58.
    Délibérations du Conseil municipal de Rouen, 1671-1693, fols. 282-84, Bibliothèque Municipale, Rouen.Google Scholar
  58. 59.
    See “Huguenots et protestants. Poursuites exercées contre les Huguenots et les protestants en 1685,” MS 405, Bibliothèque Municipale, Rouen; Bianquis, La Révocation de VEdit de Nantes à Rouen, xlii-cii; Théodore Muret, “Les dragonnades à Rouen,” in A travers champs. Souvenirs et propos divers (Paris, 1858), II, 268-340.Google Scholar
  59. 60.
    See “Répertoire numérique des affaires et biens des religionnaires fugitifs,” MSS TT 264 [Rouen], xii, fols. 203-08, Archives Nationales, Paris.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., xxi, fols. 936-47; xxiv, fols. 962-82.Google Scholar
  61. 62.
    See incomplete list published by Francis Waddington, Le protestantisme en Normandie depuis la Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes jusqu’la fin du XVIIesiècle, 1685-1797 (Paris, 1862), 18-19; Emile Lesens, “Liste des protestants de Rouen qui ont été persécutés à la Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes et dans les années qui l’ont précédé et suivi,” in Bianquis, La Révocation de l’Edit de Nantes à Rouen, 1-88.Google Scholar
  62. 63.
    It is to be noted that, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Henri Basnage de Franquenay retained his post as an avocat in the Parlement of Normandy and experienced no persecution, although he was listed as an “obstinate Protestant” and a “recalcitrant Huguenot.” He retired only when the decree of November 6, 1685, denied Protestants the right to sit in Parlement. For a time he lived undisturbed on his estate near Pavilly. He died a resident of Rouen on October 20, 1695, without being forced to abjure his Calvinist faith (Floquet, Histoire du Parlement de Normandie, VI, 171-72; Olivier, “Le célèbre jurisconsult Henry Basnage,” 375-76; Haag, FP, II, 7).Google Scholar
  63. 64.
    Waddington, Le protestantisme en Normandie, 22.Google Scholar
  64. 65.
    Lesens, “Notice,” xxi.Google Scholar
  65. 66.
    Bardet, Rouen aux XVIIe et XVIIIesiècles, I, 218.Google Scholar
  66. 67.
    See Douen, La Révocation de VEdit de Nantes à Paris; Mours, Le protestantisme en France au XVIIesiècle, 137-97; Léonard, HGP, II, 350-71.Google Scholar
  67. 68.
    Mours’s estimate of the 2,500 Rouen Huguenots in refuge did not take into consideration the emigration from Rouen which began in the middle of the seventeenth century; his figure represents only the last “wave” of emigrants leaving Rouen between 1684-90. My own calculation, based upon Bardet’s study, is that a total of approximately 3,650 Huguenots emigrated from Rouen between 1656-98. In all, some 160,000-180,000 French Protestants emigrated. 20,200 alone went into refuge from the province of Normandy. Of the total from France, 50,000-60,000 went to reside in the United Provinces; 40,000-50,000 sought refuge in England; 30,000 resided in the Germanies, with 25,000 of this number in refuge in Brandenburg; 22,000 found haven in Switzerland; and 10,000 crossed the Atlantic Ocean to make their homes in the North American colonies (Mours, Les Eglises réformées, 170, 176-77). Cf. Jon Butler, The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1983), who used census and other lists to arrive at the more reasonable figure of about 1,500 and certainly no more than 2,000 Huguenot refugees in the English North American colonies.Google Scholar
  68. 69.
    See “Etat des nouveaux convertis de la ville de Rouen,” MS C997, Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime, Rouen. This document can be dated around 1698 and lists a total of 1,647 “New Converts” from the proscribed Reformed religion.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht. 1987

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  • Gerald Cerny

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