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Who were the French Huguenots?

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Quick Answer

The French Huguenots were a group of Protestants who flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were followers of John Calvin and belonged to the Reformed Church.

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Full Answer

The Huguenots became a political force during the reign of Henry II as France's Catholic government began to persecute them. The powerful Guise family became the Huguenots' main enemy.

When Catherine de Medici came to power during the regency of her son, Charles IX, she allied herself with the Duke of Guise. Together, they are believed to have plotted the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre on August 24, 1572. Thousands of Huguenots were killed during this massacre.

However, Catherine's son Henry III feared the power of the Guise family, so he had the Duke and his brother assassinated. When Henry III was assassinated, Henry of Navarre became King of France. Though he became a Catholic, he issued the Edict of Nantes, which gave the Huguenots political freedom.

The Huguenots began to lose this freedom during the reign of Louis XIII and completely lost their right to worship under the reign of Louis XIV, who rescinded the Edict of Nantes. Because of this, many Huguenots fled France for England, the Netherlands, Prussia and North America.

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