The Edict of Nantes, issued on 13 April 1598, by Henry IV of France,
granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots)
substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. In
the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity. The Edict
separated civil from religious unity, treated some Protestants for the
first time as more than mere schismatics and heretics, and opened a path
for secularism and tolerance. In offering general freedom of conscience
to individuals, the Edict offered many specific concessions to the
Protestants, such as amnesty and the reinstatement of their civil
rights, including the right to work in any field or for the State and to
bring grievances directly to the king. It marked the end of the
religious wars that had afflicted France during the second half of the
The Edict of St. Germain promulgated 36 years before by Catherine de Medici had granted limited tolerance to Huguenots, but was overtaken by events, as it was not formally registered until after the Massacre of Vassy on 1 March 1562, which triggered the first of the French Wars of Religion.
The later revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685 by Louis XIV, the grandson of Henry IV, drove an exodus of Protestants, and increased the hostility of Protestant nations bordering France.
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