Henry VI: A Change In Religious Faith

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Henry VI (also Henry of Navarre), is known for his abrupt change in religious faith, from Calvinism to Catholicism, ending the French Wars of Religion and consolidating France into a unified nation. After the death of the Duke of Anjou, Catherine de Médicis youngest son, Henry of Navarre became the next person in line after the reigning of Henry III. Henry of Navarre, a Protestant Calvinist, posed a threat to the Catholic rule of France. This provoked the creation of the Catholic League, a group of Catholic powers “held together by one common goal: to prevent the monarchy of the ‘Most Christian King’ from falling into the hands of a heretic.” (Holt 123) In response, Henry “abjured his Calvinist faith and recognized the Catholic religion as…show more content…
To illustrate an example, Henry’s parents were immensely devoted and sympathetic to the Calvinist faith, consequently, he was raised as a Calvinist (Stearns 6: 141-143). It was only natural that he would stay loyal and devoted to his own faith, despite his conversion to Catholicism. Furthermore, this mode of execution is seen again in the issue of the Edict of Nantes in 1598. Henry IV gave tolerance to the French Huguenots and permitted the practice of their religion within certain limits, yet Henry, now established as a powerful Catholic ruler, could have easily rid France of Huguenots, satisfying the desires of the Catholic League as well as his newly developed faith in Catholicism. There was a greater benefit politically if he had considered the interests of both religious parties, therefore, that was the route that Henry IV selected, rather than the one in line with his religion. Furthermore, the decision of converting religions was an act of desperation. Henry “believed that force, if not, persuasion, could secure his throne. But three and a half years of [campaigning] failed to overcome his League enemies, and by early 1593 it was clear that Henry, if he wished ever to rule a unified France, had to convert to Catholicism.” (Dickerman 1-2) To Henry, if he did not seize this throne, the Catholic League would eventually elect a Catholic ruler and most likely, result in his inevitable execution. Henceforth, his utilization of religion by converting to Catholicism brought him the trust and respect of the mass French population, fulfilling his political interests by crowning him King. All of these acts can be characterized as an act of a politique, a person who holds national unity and political interests of greater importance than the satisfaction of religious absolutism. As can be seen, that was who Henry IV was, a politique who
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