Transcript for Episode 427: Huguenot Heritage in France

Table of Contents for this Episode

Category: French History

Discussed in this Episode

  • Catherine de Medici
  • Duc de Guise
  • Wars of Religion
  • Saint Barthélemy's Day Massacre
  • Protestant cities like Montpellier and Montauban
  • Dragonades
  • Reformed Church
  • Protestant Temples


[00:00:16] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 427 quatre cent vingt-sept.

[00:00:23] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy and news related to travel to France.

[00:00:36] Today on the podcast

[00:00:36] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about Huguenot Heritage in France. The arrival of the new Protestant religion created lots of frictions all over France. We discuss memorial places for Protestants in France, The Saint Bartholomew massacre, the Edict of Nantes and things that will help you better understand what happened around the Huguenots all over the country.

[00:01:06] Annie Sargent: Now, these Huguenots, a lot of them immigrated to Germany and to the Americas. So it’s possible that many of you listening have Huguenot ancestry. You learn what they went through, why they left, and where you can go learn more about their history.

[00:01:24] Bootcamp spots opened up

[00:01:24] Annie Sargent: I have an important announcement to make. Four bootcamp members cannot come for various reasons. This means that four spots have opened up. If you are interested, email me and I’ll give you all the details. It’s going to be first come, first serve again for this one, because it’s hard for me to reserve stuff if you’re not sure if you’re coming or not.

[00:01:52] Annie Sargent: But the preparations for the bootcamp are going great. I’ve been trying restaurants this morning, I was meeting with a restaurant where we’re going to do our Apéro dînatoire the first night. It’s going to be fun. Today I also talked toLangue Onze who’s going to put on the language school portion of this. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

[00:02:11] Podcast supporters

[00:02:11] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap App and you can browse all of that at my boutique

[00:02:31] Annie Sargent: And there is a newsletter to go along with this podcast. Right now I don’t email very much, but when I email it’s always something important. You can sign up for the newsletter at

[00:02:45] After the episode

[00:02:45] Annie Sargent: And for the magazine part of the podcast, after my chat with Elyse, I want to help you understand why places get so crowded sometimes, why some places never seem to have that problem and why crowds are going to be back very soon.

[00:03:02] Annie Sargent: I’ll also talk about visiting Paris in January, the weather, the exhibits, the restaurants, and the overall feeling of being in Paris in January.


[00:03:22] Annie and Elyse

[00:03:22] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse.

[00:03:23] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie.

[00:03:24] Annie Sargent: We have a fantastic episode today about the Huguenots and kind of a brief history of the Huguenots and also the places of memory that you can visit today if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

[00:03:39] Annie Sargent: So just to remind our listeners, Calvin was born in 1509, right? So the protestant reformation happened all through the 1500s and we’re going to talk about things that started in the 1500s and really kept going until not that long ago.

[00:03:58] We have a predisposition to hate

[00:03:58] Annie Sargent: It’s a fact, I think, that human nature is such that we always find a way to hate other people for one thing or another. It’s going to be because of their color. It’s going to be because of their religion, because they are too fat, too skinny, because they have a handicap, because they’re not pretty enough. God knows what. But we, it’s human nature that we find objections about other people. And if you read history you will find, what Elyse is going to explain today, we’re going to see a lot of times when they were hated just because people hate.

[00:04:40] Elyse Rivin: Because people hate.

[00:04:41] Annie Sargent: Yes. And nowadays, we even see stuff like people find it okay to hate one another over politics. What? So I think it’s really important when we raise our kids to try to make it clear to them that it’s natural for humans to have feelings of discrimination against other people, but it’s also very good to fight those things.

[00:05:05] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:05:05] It’s just crazy how much discrimination goes on in everyday life when there’s no need.

[00:05:11] The Protestant Reformation and the Huguenots

[00:05:11] Annie Sargent: Anyway, let’s talk about the history and let’s see what happened in France around the Protestant Reformation and the Huguenots. Elyse did most of the work on this, so the floor is yours Elyse.

[00:05:23] Elyse Rivin: The floor is mine. Well, the Huguenots. I think that there are probably a lot of people out there listening to us, whether they’re in the United States or Canada, or even Australia, who may in fact have some ancestors who were what are called Huguenots.

[00:05:40] Who are the huguenots?

[00:05:40] Elyse Rivin: So the term huguenots, interestingly enough is a generic term for Protestants that came from France. And most of them, sadly, because of this very longstory, did emigrate to other parts of the world, but in France, the people who are Protestant that come from families that belonged to this original Protestant church are basically part of what is called the Reformed Church in France. They don’t call themselves Huguenots.

[00:06:08] Annie Sargent: Right. Yeah. That’s not a word we use today. It’s always a historical word.

[00:06:12] Elyse Rivin: It’s a historical word. And interestingly for me, just as a personal note, I am not a huguenot, I am not Protestant, but my husband is, and it is very interesting to me to understand a little bit more of the history of his own family, because I’ve heard references to things that go back very far and I’ve never really quite understood them until I started doing the research for this podcast.

[00:06:39] Elyse Rivin: And I am so fascinated by this whole story.

[00:06:44] Annie Sargent: Right. I grew up in the South of France and there are lots of people around me where I know that they’re protestants. Doesn’t make any difference really nowadays, but it was huge, it was a hugemarker. Yes, yes. Long ago.

[00:06:59] Elyse Rivin: Yes. So the story begins, if we want to call it that, basically in the very beginning of the 1500s. We did a wonderful podcast on Cathars, the Cathar who were in the southwest of France in the 1200s. And if you remember, there was a kind of tragic, very tragic ending to their existence.

[00:07:17] Luther

[00:07:17] So now we have 300 years later. What has happened in Europe and not just in France, is that there are these reformists who want to change things that are going on in the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church has dominated for over a thousand years, and the first person to do anything is Luther, who was a German, and who in fact had been a monk. And who was revolutionary in that he wanted to change a lot of the things in the hierarchy of the Church and also some of the things in the dogma.

[00:07:53] Elyse Rivin: But for him, who he posted this very famous paper on the doors of a church in 1515, he was mostly concerned about the power of the Church and the idea that Rome could dictate to everybody. But also one of the things that he started to talk about, which is what came to pass with Calvin in France, was the idea that up until the 1500s, the Bible was written in Latin, and even if you were a literate person, if you were an educated person, unless you studied to be a priest, you had really no idea what was going on.

[00:08:32] Elyse Rivin: I mean, let’s face it, the priest could basically say whatever they wanted and they did all of the ceremonies in Latin, which of course I know that still exists actually in some churches.

[00:08:41] Jean Calvin: The conceptor of French Protestantism

[00:08:41] So there was a level of obscurantism, which is really one of the things that they were fighting against. And in France there was this man and we just mentioned him, Jean Calvin. He was born in a town called Noyon, which is in the Champagne region. And interestingly enough, he grew up in a typical Roman-Catholic family.

[00:09:00] But he was interested in theology as an intellectual discipline. And his father sent him, originally he was supposed to go into the priesthood, but in fact his father decided, and his father could decide for him, his father decided to send him to law school because it was prestigious, it was for upper middle class families and it would gain him a much nicer living, and also give him a more normal life than going into the priesthood.

[00:09:25] Annie Sargent: Makes sense to me.

[00:09:26] Elyse Rivin: Makes sense, right? So what happened was that this young man, this is Jean Calvin, he studied in Orleans, which is apparently where one of the major law schools were. And then did some of his studies in Tour and then spent a little bit of time in Strasbourg. And Strasbourg at the time was part of Alsace, which was German. It was not part of France.

[00:09:46] Elyse Rivin: And it was there that he discovered the writings and the thinking of Luther and a few other major philosophers who were trying to modify and reform the Roman Catholic Church. And he became really interested in this. He became a lawyer, but he decided to study theology as well.

[00:10:07] Elyse Rivin: And in the course of his studies, he came to some conclusions and ideas of his own about what would be good reforms of the Roman Catholic Church.

[00:10:19] Annie Sargent: Right. And there was plenty that he could, you know, go after, but he really spoke to the people around him, he was very good at getting people’s attention.

[00:10:29] Calvin actually, he wrote a work, I don’t know exactly what you would call it in English, but he spent a number of years, he’s still a young man,

[00:10:37] I think he’s in his late twenties, he wrote a work called The Institution of the Christian Church, in which he talks about the fact that the Bible should be in French so that everyone has access to it, and they should understand what’s being said and they can make their minds up about the basically the stories themselves. But also that certain dogma, and we’re not going to go into the dogma of the Church, it’s really, really complicated. And personally, I’m not sure I really understand all of it. But basically, one of the basic concepts that became part of the Reformed Church in France was that the person had direct contact with God, and even though you have the Christ and the Saint Esprit, you can forego going through the priest and going through confession and all of this other thing.

[00:11:25] Elyse Rivin: And also there was a lot of revolt against the power and the financial power of Rome and the Pope, which of course was bleeding people a lot in places like France.

[00:11:37] Annie Sargent: Right. So you just used the term there, you said Saint Esprit and that’s the Holy Ghost.

[00:11:42] Elyse Rivin: That’s the Holy Ghost. Calvin wrote this volume, and he got himself into trouble. And because it was really a new idea, interestingly enough, one of the first places that his book was published was in the city of Tour, which I’m sure many of you have heard of, and certainly many of you have actually already been to. And it was in the Loire Valley because he had studied in Orleans and did some of his studies at Tour, that the works started to circulate first.

[00:12:08] Elyse Rivin: But it got him into trouble, and so he had to go to Strasbourg, which again, was not really part of France at the time, because that’s where many people were actually starting to move out of the Catholic Church and move into this new version of Christianity.

[00:12:25] Elyse Rivin: And from there he went to Geneva, which was one of the first places where a large part of the population moved out of Catholicism into this new church. He stayed there for a few years. He wrote some more works. He became a pastor, he became a Protestant minister, and from Geneva, he went back to France and he became very famous.

[00:12:49] Elyse Rivin: And as Annie just said, he was very accessible. And his writing was understandable to people, and he created this movement that became extremely important.

[00:13:01] Elyse Rivin: From basically the 1520s on, the upper class and the class of skilled guild workers, interestingly enough, people that were jewelry makers, watchmakers, cloth makers, all of the what are called the artisans, the guilds that were really highly skilled people, all of these people who were largely literate, they were the ones that started moving into this new church.

[00:13:28] Marguerite, the King’s sister

[00:13:28] Elyse Rivin: At the time in the early 1500s, the King was François I. François I was of course a Catholic king. But one of his sisters, Marguerite, she converted to Protestantism, and she was the Duchess of Berry. Which is kind of north center of France. And so in the city of Bourges, which was one of the places that she had a palace, the people, because she was the duchess of the area, they followed suit and they started converting and going to this new religion.

[00:14:01] Elyse Rivin: But going to the religion didn’t mean going to a church because there weren’t any churches.

[00:14:06] Annie Sargent: Right, so they didn’t have any buildings. It wasn’t like the Catholic Church that had all these cathedrals and marvelous places everywhere. They just met in people’s homes or perhaps outside on public places.

[00:14:18] Protestants are pushed outside the walls of the city

[00:14:18] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. In fact, what happened was, by the time we get to the 1550s, there are so many people in the Northeast, the center and the South of France, more than perhaps on the western side, that are moving away from the Roman Catholic Church and moving into this new Reformed Church, that the King and the King’s Court, which is worried that it’s going to also influence the political power. Because the reality is that the religion and the political power are not that easy to separate at any given time, and especially at the time of the Kings in France. They decide that it’s time to start making laws to forbid the Protestants from doing certain things. And one of the things they do, and this is still the 1500s, so most of the cities are walled cities, is they make a law that says that the Protestants, if they’re going to get together to sing and pray, they cannot do it inside the cities. They have to be outside the walls of the cities.

[00:15:17] Elyse Rivin: So a lot of them start gathering together outside, they don’t even have any buildings that they can use and they do their prayers out in the open because they are basically chased out of the cities.

[00:15:32] Annie Sargent: Wow. That’s just crazy. Just because they want, see, again, prejudice is a natural thing. If you don’t fight it, it’s just going to happen.

[00:15:42] Elyse Rivin: It’s just going to happen. And of course, one of the things that really is important to understand is that just like with the Cathar 300 years before, this is a huge threat to both the monarchy and the money they get, because they are in collusion all the time with the Roman Catholic Church and of course through the Church itself, because they’re going to lose influence and they’re going to lose a lot of money at the same time.

[00:16:07] Elyse Rivin: So for many, many years, all through the rest of the 1500s until the 1598 and the signing of The Edict of Nantes, the Protestants have to either meet in secret or they have to meet outside the walls of the cities. Of all the cities, basically in the entire country.

[00:16:25] Elyse Rivin: One of the very first places in, ironically to build a,and they call them temples, by the way, in France, they do not call them churches.

[00:16:33] My guess is that it’s a reference back to the original Bible, to the Old Testament, which they consider to be very important anyway. And also to distinguish themselves from the Catholics who of course, go to the churches and the cathedrals. So the Protestants, one of the first places they built a temple was in the Champagne area.

[00:16:53] Annie Sargent: And that one was allowed, so there were allowances in some places.

[00:16:58] The War of Religions

[00:16:58] Elyse Rivin: By the middle of the 1500s, the problem is that the more they are important and influent, and since they are the upper middle class and a lot of the nobility, the more there is a problem. And of course, problems lead to fighting and fighting is really what happens. And all of this leads to an event, which is called in France, The War of Religions. Which is really, when you go into the details about it, it’s probably of all of the different terrible wars, up into the before the 20th century, this is probably far worse than even anything that happened in the French Revolution. Because you have families that are torn apart that begin to hate each other because some of the people move on to this new religion.

[00:17:48] Elyse Rivin: And you have a lot of the nobility, and of course, since you have a lot of the first cousins of the king decided to become protestant, honestly, honestly, I don’t know enough about some of them, like the Coligny family to know whether becoming Protestant was an excuse to try and take over the throne, or whether the fact that they became Protestant became a source of discrimination against them.

[00:18:12] Elyse Rivin: You know, it’s kind of like, I’m not sure which came first, to be quite honest.

[00:18:16] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Who knows? We don’t know enough about the details.

[00:18:19] The Medici Family

[00:18:19] Elyse Rivin: But in the end, this is what happened. We have the Queen, the regent, she was the widow of Henry II, who died very suddenly. Her name was Catherine De Medici. She was a very interesting woman.

[00:18:31] She obviously wanted to be queen. We’ve had this story happen before, some of you know, like with Eleanor of Aquitaine, but she had a whole bunch of children. She had four sons and a daughter named Margaret. Her daughter Margaret, was married of to Henry IV, king of Navar who comes into our story a little bit later. But her sons, she had four sons, and when her husband, the King Henry II died, they were destined to be king basically in order of their age.

[00:18:58] Elyse Rivin: Of course, you know, the oldest one would be king and then the others, well they had would duke this or prince that, but theoretically, they were never going to see the throne, but for various reasons, which are another whole story, one after another of them died. The first one died, then the second one, and then the third one, who was actually her favorite son.

[00:19:20] Elyse Rivin: And he actually was sick. He may have had syphilis, who knows, but whatever. He didn’t live very long. And when he died, she became what is called, the regent, which meant that since her last son was not old enough, really, she took over the running of the country, but her prime minister was a man, you should all go, boo now, named Richelieu.

[00:19:42] Elyse Rivin: He was really very, very brilliant, very conniving. He was a cardinal and he was also the prime minister and he basically ran the country and she hated him, but she had to go along with a lot of what he said. And she was trying to convince Richelieu and the council that hung out in the court, that the best policy that France could have would be to allow the Protestants to practice their religion and to keep the peace. Because she understood enough about politics, she was a smart enough woman. She could sense that if the hostilities between the Catholics and the Protestants continued. And there was a faction of the royal family that was fanatic Catholics who really wanted to try and eliminate all of the new Protestants that were converting all over France. She warned them that if that happened, there would be a civil war. And if there was a civil war, France would lose everything. It would lose its prestige. It would lose its economy. It would lose its position as the richest and most important country in Europe.

[00:20:56] The Dukes of Guise family

[00:20:56] Annie Sargent: Right. You don’t want war, it doesn’t help anybody, really. It creates poverty all around and anybody who thinks for five seconds can figure that out, but obviously lots of people don’t.

[00:21:08] Elyse Rivin: Lots of people don’t. And so in this story, we have a part of the royal family, and this is the family of the Dukes of Guise.

[00:21:17] Elyse Rivin: Another boo out there, please.

[00:21:19] Elyse Rivin: This is really the bad guys. Really. The Guise were actually, it’s a kind of fascinating story. The Guise were first cousins and what they call royal blood. They were really fighting to take over the throne. They felt that they were part of the legitimate family that should be taking up the throne. After all, the sons of Catherine de Medici basically disappeared, one after the other.

[00:21:41] Elyse Rivin: They were traditionalist, fanatic Roman Catholics. And they hated, absolutely hated the Protestants, and they hated anybody who associated with the Protestants. They were not exactly what you call nice tolerant people.

[00:21:57] Elyse Rivin: And they plotted. And they plotted. And they managed to create basically almost a private army. And they started behind Catherine de Medici’s back planning attacks on some of the nobility that had converted to Protestantism.

[00:22:14] 1562 – Religious War Begins with the Massacre de Wassy in Champagne

[00:22:14] Elyse Rivin: And one of the first things that happened was a massacre in the year 1562 in a town called Wassy, in the Champagne area.

[00:22:24] Elyse Rivin: A lot of this actually started again in the Champagne area. The Duke de Guise, there were several brothers, but the one who was the one we’re talking about, I’m not even sure I remember his first name. He was traveling through the Champagne area with his family and with his private army, when they came across a group of Protestants who were praying and singing in this small town called Wassy in the Champagne area.

[00:22:50] Elyse Rivin: Not too far from Reims actually.

[00:22:52] Elyse Rivin: And they stopped.

[00:22:53] Elyse Rivin: And when he heard that they were singing these songs, he realized they were Protestants, and this is 1562. Now, this has already been over 50 years that there have been Protestants, there are approximately a few million people in the country that have converted but are not allowed to have their own temples, they are not allowed to have a legal place to worship, even though occasionally there are local governors that give them some space that’s a safe space and everything. And he sends his soldiers to tell this group that are meeting in a barn. So they’re not out in the field. They are doing something that is absolutely legal.

[00:23:30] Elyse Rivin: They’re actually having a service inside a building that’s inside the walls of this little town called Wassy. And he sends his soldiers to tell them that they’re not allowed to do this, that they have to stop.

[00:23:41] Elyse Rivin: And whatever happens, it degenerates and his soldiers kill everybody.

[00:23:46] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and that’s what set off the Wars of Religion.

[00:23:50] Elyse Rivin: The beginning of The Wars of Religion. And the Dukes of Guise, they basically organize a powerful group of people and an army and this becomes a split even in the royal family about what to do and how to take this on because they were extremely powerful and extremely wealthy.

[00:24:09] Elyse Rivin: And so from 1562 on, we have what is called the War of Religions, which really lasts until 1598. That is with the signing of The Edict of Nantes.

[00:24:24] Annie Sargent: Right. So it’s important to keep in mind that in a lot of places in France, there were decisions made to tolerate the Protestants. And so you had some towns where this was tolerated, and you had some towns where this was not, and you had it all, you know, crescendoed into the Wars of Religion. But there was a lot of things happening. We’re trying to simplify, to give you the big picture kind of thing.

[00:24:54] The St Barthélemy Day Massacre

[00:24:54] Elyse Rivin: So the next big massacre, which is the one that everybody learns about in the school books, and actually there are more movies made about this than probably any other part of this wholehistory, is The St Barthélemy Day Massacre in Paris, which is 10 years later in 1572.

[00:25:11] Elyse Rivin: Between the two dates in this period of 10 years, there are groups of royals and nobles who are a little bit more moderate and intelligent and try to bring together groups of clergy from the Roman Catholic Church and from the Reformed Church. And one of the people who tries to make this huge colloque of these two groups is Catherine de Medici, who is still around.

[00:25:36] There are approximately 200 Roman Catholics and 40 Protestant clergy who meet in this gathering. There is some slim hope that they can come to some kind of reconciliation.

[00:25:49] Elyse Rivin: Interestingly enough, the idea was if they could agree on the theological points, which seems to be kind of silly because the whole idea of being Protestant was that they don’t agree anymore on certain theological points.

[00:26:00] Protestant Cities like Montpellier and Montauban

[00:26:00] Elyse Rivin: But in the end, they walk out of this meeting as it happens often when two boring groups try to get together and make peace. The fighting continues. And as Annie just mentioned, by this time, by the middle of the 1500s, you have certain cities that are in fact majority Protestant.

[00:26:20] Elyse Rivin: One of them is Montpellier, which is a very important city with a huge university in the 1500s. Another is Montauban, which is a smaller city not far from where we are in Toulouse. Another city that is totally or almost totally Catholic is here, Toulouse where we are right now. What happened was that, partly because some of the nobles and the leaders were influenced one way or the other, that of course did have an influence on a lot of the people. So you have this kind of division going on in the country where you have cities that are mostly Catholic, cities that are mostly Protestant, and the hostility must have been something you could cut with a knife.

[00:27:00] The dragonade

[00:27:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it was terrible. And on top of all this, you had the dragonades. There is so much to this history that it’s really complicated, but it really created a lot of problems for the French kings because you cannot have a prosperous country if people are constantly massacring one another. It just doesn’t work.

[00:27:20] Elyse Rivin: It doesn’t work. So in 1572, The St Barthélemy Day Massacre, a group of Protestants, some of the upper leaders of the new church, which of course, was not called Protestant, was called a Reformed Church under Calvin,invited to Paris for a meeting, a discussion in the hopes of trying to create a more peaceful atmosphere. And they were ambushed by the soldiers, the dragonade, and the soldiers of the Dukes of Guise, and most of these noblemen and clergy were in fact assassinated on the streets of the city. And when the word came out that these Protestants were being slaughtered in the space of two weeks, the same thing happened in all the major cities in France.

[00:28:09] Elyse Rivin: The year 1572 is the blackest year in the history of all of this, because you have every single major city that basically did the same thing.

[00:28:20] Elyse Rivin: Toulouse, they chased out every Protestant of the city, they pushed them out the walls, they recuperated their property.

[00:28:27] Elyse Rivin: Montauban, Montpellier, they chased out whoever was Catholic. They didn’t kill them all necessarily, but they exiled them. They exiled them. And so what happens is all of a sudden, you have this uprooting of people all over the country.

[00:28:42] A great emigration

[00:28:42] Elyse Rivin: And Calvin, interestingly, who by this time has moved permanently to Geneva and he lives the rest of his life, in fact, in Geneva, he actually wrote a paper that was distributed telling the Protestants of France to leave. He said, actually said, there’s no point in staying, this is not going to make a difference, it’s not going to get any better, go to the Pays-Bas, to Holland where it’s been, they’re Protestant now, go to Western Germany, come to Switzerland, go to England, leave.

[00:29:13] Elyse Rivin: And this was very, in a sense this was very dramatic because in fact, in the space of a few years, over a million people fled France. And among the people who left were the upper class, the educated class, the people who were literate, the craftspeople who had high skills, and it ruined the economy of France in the middle of the 1500s.

[00:29:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah. I heard somewhere that the city of Berlin was pretty much founded by a ton of Huguenots who left France because they couldn’t take it anymore, but for obvious reasons. And so they just took as much of their stuff as they could bring and they went somewhere else and they brought their knowledge and their connections and just started up somewhere else.

[00:30:05] Annie Sargent: So yeah, it was a huge loss for France and it’s just awful what they did.


[00:30:10] Elyse Rivin: It was awful. It was pretty bloody. We have a moment of peace and reconciliation. By destiny, by fate, there is this young man named Henry IV, who is in fact married to Margaret, the sister of all of these kings who die one after the other. And by blood, by blood because his father was one of the first cousins of the King, they were the part of the Bourbon family. He’s actually next in line to be king.

[00:30:40] Elyse Rivin: And of course, De Guise did not like this because they claimed that they should be next in line. But Henry, in order to become king, he is a Protestant. His mother was a Protestant. His entire family was one of the first families at the beginning of the 1500s to confer to the new religion.

[00:30:58] Henry IV and The Edict of Nantes

[00:30:58] Elyse Rivin: And in order to be king, he has to become a Catholic, because you cannot be king in France. It’s just how it works. right? So, you know, I don’t think, I don’t know if we’ve actually talked about him a lot, but this is the man who is quoted theoretically as saying, a kingdom is worth a conversion.

[00:31:19] Elyse Rivin: We did talk about him some when we did an episode about Pau, yeah, because he was from that area. So Henry IV becomes king in 1589. And he is responsible for the signing of this document called, The Edict of Nantes, which interesting enough, was absolutely not signed in Nantes, but let’s call that.

[00:31:40] And it is a document that gives religious freedom and total religious freedom to the Protestants in France. It means that they can create their temples, it means that they have houses of worship, they don’t have to hide anymore, and it’s basically a peace treaty between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants.

[00:32:00] The war starts again

[00:32:00] Elyse Rivin: What happens is that in 1610, 21 years later, Henry IV is assassinated. He is killed by a man named Ravaillac, who was a fanatic Catholic, who had been basically given an impetus to do this by the Guise family. He’s assassinated in Paris in a carriage as he’s going from one place to another. And what happens is that the fighting starts all over again. And the worst of it is that it’s his son who becomes king, who is Louis XIII.

[00:32:35] Elyse Rivin: Brought up by not his dad, but by his mother, Marie De Medici, who is a fervent Catholic, who is responsible for the continuation of the war of religion in spite of the fact that The Edict of Nantes is still considered to be in power.

[00:32:52] Annie Sargent: Right. So yes, Louis XIII was a piece of work, and he was, he should have known better. But he did not.

[00:33:04] Annie Sargent: And his reaction was to just let’s squish them some more and let’s eradicate this, whatever poison, whatever he considered the Protestants to be. It’s really interesting to me that it’s often the people who have the least problems with a certain group that hate them the most.

[00:33:23] There weren’t that many problems with the Protestants, it’s not like the Protestants were causing havoc, they were just not allowed. And of course, if you force people to go underground, they’re going to do it and they’re going to put their foot down and become even more entrenched.

[00:33:39] Annie Sargent: Yes. It’s just a stupid way to handle it. Not only that, but it is a fact that not every part of the protestant population, but a majority of the people who by the late 1500s had become members of this Reformed Church, were in fact essential to the economy. They were middle class people and upper class people. Of course, other poorer people followed in if they had a ruler who influenced them, because that is often the way it goes.

[00:34:06] Elyse Rivin: But it really, it was a major part of the population that made the economy function. They were all of the craftspeople, all the artists. In Toulouse, where the majority of the people were always Catholic, it was the Protestants who were the class of people who helped run the city because they were the upper class merchants.

[00:34:25] French cities put under siege by Louis XIII partly due to religion

[00:34:25] Elyse Rivin: And this was true in many places. Now, what happened was that in the 1600s because of Louis the 13th, you have cities. The entire city of Montpellier was destroyed in 1622. Montauban was attacked in a siege that lasted for almost a year and a half, and La Rochelle was under siege for 13 months in 1628. All of this is still theoretically illegal because The Edict of Nantes exists. But they ignored it.

[00:34:59] They ignored it. And Louis XIII and his army, under Mazarin were really, I have to say, you know, I’ve read books and I’ve seen some actual movies that talk about this. It was as bad as some of the worst things that happened in World War II. It really was.

[00:35:15] Elyse Rivin: And this is their Code Citoyen. Now, this is the members of the same family. This is French people. This kind of hatred is just absolutely unbelievable when you think about it.

[00:35:24] Annie Sargent: I mean, it was a civil war based on religion, and we went through this a long, long time ago, but you still have groups of, I mean, if you’re not Christian, if you are a Muslim for example, and you look at the difference between Protestant and Catholic, you probably think, well, there’s not that much difference.

[00:35:43] Annie Sargent: Like, you know, relax, people. Right? But they didn’t, they just didn’t. They just got hysterical about minor differences that they shouldn’t have cared about.

[00:35:53] The Edict of Nantes is revoked

[00:35:53] Elyse Rivin: So in 1685, basically at the end of the 17th century, they finally revoke The Edict of Nantes. And it really means that for the next hundred years until the French Revolution, there is no tolerance or religious freedom.

[00:36:09] Elyse Rivin: And so what happens is that the Protestants either leave or they reconvert back to Catholicism, which a lot of them did, or they do what interestingly enough happened with the Jews in Spain and Portugal, the Ladinos, is that they pretend to be reconverted back to Catholicism, but secretly they practice the Protestant religion because they are no longer allowed to do it in public.

[00:36:34] L’affaire Calas in Toulouse

[00:36:34] It’s really quite amazing. And this lasts until the time of the French Revolution. There were a couple of examples of terrible scandals. One of them is a case that happened here in Toulouse of a merchant who’s accused of killing his son in the middle of the 17th century because he wanted to convert to Catholicism.

[00:36:52] People believed things like this. They believed that there were these murders going on just because somebody was not obeying certain rules of the religion. The devastation probably helped a lot in the reaction of the French Revolution to everything connected to the Church. But by the end of the 1500s, out of a country of 18 million, it is estimated that 8 million were protestants.

[00:37:17] That’s a huge amount.

[00:37:19] And it is estimated that a couple of million left the country, which is also a lot.

[00:37:26] Why they came to be called Huguenots

[00:37:26] Elyse Rivin: Nobody really knows for sure why they came to be called the Huguenots. There are lots of theories. If you go online, you’ll see lots of things, something about a word that comes from German and Alsace, a lot of different things.

[00:37:38] Elyse Rivin: This is mine. This is the one I like most. I like this one, so that’s the one I’m going to tell you. But who knows which is the right. In the early 1500s when there were groups of Protestants or reformed Christians, who were not allowed to have a place to worship in the city of Tours on the Loire Valley, they went outside and they sang and did their prayers next to the Tour Hugon, which is a huge medieval tower from the early part of the middle ages.

[00:38:09] Annie Sargent: Why not? That’s a good story.

[00:38:11] And apparently, the other Touraine, the other people who lived in Tours referring to them, not necessarily in a nice way, but in a derogatory way, refer to them as those Huguons nots.

[00:38:24] Elyse Rivin: Huguenots, the people who are, those crazy people singing and praying next to the tour of Hugon, in Tours. So for whatever reason, they came to be called the Huguenots. And that is the name really more associated to this day with those who have left France.

[00:38:42] The Huguenot Cross

[00:38:42] Elyse Rivin: There is a special cross that people who were Protestant wear in France and it is called the Huguenot Cross. And I’m sure Annie’s going to put a picture of it in with the show notes.

[00:38:52] Annie Sargent: I will.

[00:38:52] Elyse Rivin: She will. And it is interesting because it was not invented until after the revocation of The Edict of Nantes but it was created by a jeweler in the city of Nîmes, which was a very important Protestant city and still is. And it’s based on the long duck cross, it’s associated with the south of France, but with some symbolism attached to it. And it became very popular to where specifically after the French Revolution in the 19th century and in the 20th century, it is a fact thatyou will still see people walking around wearing it, and it’s noticeably different from the typical Latin Cross.

[00:39:27] Elyse Rivin: So to this day, you will still see people, and I think it’s a way of saying, I am Protestant, you know, now I’m in a world where it’s okay for me to show that.

[00:39:36] Museums on the History of Protestants in France

[00:39:36] Elyse Rivin: There are several museums. One of them is in La Rochelle, one of them sounds very, very interesting, but I have not been to, it’s called the Museum of the Desert in a small town in the Hérault area, which is not far from Nîmes.

[00:39:50] Annie Sargent: We should go.

[00:39:51] Elyse Rivin: We should go and see it. There’s a museum in Orthez, which is in the Aquitaine area, Musée Jeanne d’Albret, and she was the mother of Henry IV, and she was a very important person as a woman in the Protestant church, which is another reason why a lot of the women converted because they had more influence and something to say in the Protestant Church.

[00:40:12] Elyse Rivin: And then there are several that are actually in the Alps, one close to Grenoble and one in the Vivarais area which is a beautiful part of the Alps. There are a couple of châteaus that you can visit that are associated with the history. You can also go to see boo, the history of the Guise at the, their château and Saumur, but if you go, remember, they’re the bad guys. They’re not the good guys, you know.

[00:40:37] Elyse Rivin: And if you go to Bourges, which is a very interesting little city in the center of France that has few very famous, beautiful buildings from the Renaissance era…

[00:40:47] Annie Sargent: And a wonderful women’s basketball team.

[00:40:49] Elyse Rivin: And a wonderful women’s basketball team. Believe it or not, that is where Calvin’s pulpit is.

[00:40:56] Elyse Rivin: That’s from his period of being a preacher in France. It’s actually part of the palace of the Marguerite de Navarre, who was the Duchess of Berry and who had her palace in Bourges.

[00:41:08] Elyse Rivin: So there are places you can go, there’s also a Protestant museum in Paris. There are things to see. If you go to places like La Rochelle or Aigues-Mortes, you have other places that are part of the dramatic history.

[00:41:23] Elyse Rivin: Montpellier still has the second Theological School of Protestantism. There’s one in Paris and one in Montpellier.

[00:41:29] Elyse Rivin: And of course now that Alsace is part of France, it’s a little bit different. But a lot of the people who now live in Alsace actually are descendants of the Huguenots who went over to the other side,to Germany at the time.

[00:41:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah, if you go to Aigues-Mortes, it’s interesting because if you visit the Ramparts, which you should do, La Tour de Constance is one of the main towers there.

[00:41:52] Annie Sargent: It was used to imprison Huguenots for a long time. And Marie Durant is kind of the symbol of all of these people that were in prison, many of them women. They would imprison women in that, awful, awful tower, who were about to give birth. Marie Durant was in prison, I think for 37 years. It’s insane what they, the level of cruelty that they went to just because of religion.

[00:42:19] Annie Sargent: You know, it’s unbelievable.

[00:42:20] Annie Sargent: When a country has a horrible history like this, it’s really important to face up to it and just learn about it and just say, look, it’s human nature. We can be really rotten to one another, even within our own country, so let’s try and not do that anymore, because everybody would be happier.

[00:42:38] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, just a couple of more just numbers. Right now it, right now, we’re talking to everybody in 2022, it is estimated that there are approximately 3 million Protestants in France out of a population of 66 million.

[00:42:53] Annie Sargent: Right, so it’s nothing.


[00:42:54] Elyse Rivin: It’s absolutely nothing. And interestingly enough, the largest concentrations of Protestants are in the Alsace Franche-Comté, which is because it’s close to Geneva. It’s the kind of the Juras area and in Languedoc and Occitania and the Cevennes region, which is a very beautiful region to visit anyway, north of Nîmes.

[00:43:12] Elyse Rivin: And Nîmes is one of the few places that has two Protestant temples. It’s called the Big Temple and the Small Temple. There’s another one in Montpellier. And Montpellier and Nîmes have Protestant cemeteries that you can actually see, because for so long the Protestants were not allowed to be buried anywhere except on private land. And some of those cemeteries were actually eventually destroyed. But there are a few of these cemeteries that you can still visit.

[00:43:41] Annie Sargent: Right. So I’m going to put a list. You came prepared with a list of all these places, and the show notes for this episode will have all of that.

[00:43:49] Are you a descendant of Huguenots?

[00:43:49] Annie Sargent: I link as much as possible to these museums and things like that. And if you are a descendant from the Huguenots, you definitely want to pay attention to these things and pay tribute to the terrible things that they went through and I’m sorry. I don’t know if my ancestors were involved in any of this, probably not. Not likely. My ancestors at the time were in southern Spain.

[00:44:11] Annie Sargent: So, but who knows? They might have been involved in kicking out muslims or Jews or some other, you know, everybody’s ancestors were involved in some sort of hating of one sort or another and we should just, you know, move on, acknowledge it and move on.

[00:44:28] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much, Elyse, that was really interesting.

[00:44:30] Elyse Rivin: Thank you, Annie.

[00:44:31] Elyse Rivin: It was actually fascinating.

[00:44:33] Annie Sargent: Well, yeah, it’s fascinating. And besides, you have a connection with your husband.

[00:44:36] Elyse Rivin: Oh yes I do. Yes. Well, my husband is a huguenot, or his family is, and they were part of, they were important people in the 19th century and in the early 20th century in the history of Protestantism.

[00:44:49] Elyse Rivin: And honestly, having done the research for this podcast, I can now go back and talk to them more about it and understand a little bit more of where they’re coming from.

[00:44:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Merci Elyse.

[00:45:01] Elyse Rivin: Merci Annie.

[00:45:02] Annie Sargent: Au revoir

[00:45:02] Elyse Rivin: Bye.


[00:45:10] Thank you, patrons

[00:45:10] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing that. You can see them at Thank you patrons for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for many years, you are amazing.

[00:45:28] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Rebecca Thomas, Connie Myers, and Nathalie Seguin. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.

[00:45:41] This week, I published a short video of my visit to Paris, giving tips for enjoying the Eiffel Tower area. And I also took a lot of photos and I need to share some of them with my patrons.

[00:45:53] Annie Sargent: If you are preparing a trip to France and listening to as many episodes as you can to get ready, keep listening to the podcast because that’s a great way to do it. Search the website as well. There’s a lot of back episodes that should be of interest to you.

[00:46:08] Itinerary Consult Services

[00:46:08] Annie Sargent: You can also hire me to be your itinerary consultant. Here’s how it works. You purchase the service on Then you fill out a document to tell me what you have in mind. We make a phone appointment and we chat for about an hour, and then I send you a document with the plan we discussed. And it’s always fun to talk to my listeners about their trip to France and give them tips that I think make their trips better.

[00:46:36] Remember, my time is always booked up several weeks in advance, so pay attention to the date on the page, the date is on the only page where you can book this. So even though it’s kind of a moving target, usually people have a pretty good idea when I’ll be able to talk to them.

[00:46:52] Annie Sargent: And it’s best to book this sooner rather than later because I had to refund somebody this week because it was too tight. It was just too tight.

[00:47:01] GPS self-guided tours on the VoiceMap app

[00:47:01] Annie Sargent: Anyway, if you cannot talk to me because I’m all booked up, you can still take me in your pocket by getting my GPS self-guided tour on the VoiceMap app. I’ve got six tours and they are designed to show you around different iconic neighborhoods of Paris, Ile de la Cité, le Marais, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés, Latin Quarter, and my newly released Eiffel Tower tour.

[00:47:28] Annie Sargent: Actually, it’s called Paris’s Iron Lady, A walking tour from the Trocadero to the Eiffel Tower. This is my shortest tour yet, but it packs a lot of goodness. I think. My idea is that lots of people take selfies around the Trocadero, lots of professional photographers also take their clients around the Trocadero and different places around there for fantastic photos. So why not combine the two and show you around the best photo spots and tell you also about the history of the tower at the same time?

[00:48:03] Annie Sargent: So if you want to get great photos, let me tell you, I mean, it’s also in the tour, but let me tell you right now, because it’s what you need. You need a good selfie stick unless your arms are freakishly long and a good cell phone really. And you need to show up at sunrise, because the 30 minutes and or 40 minutes some days around sunrise are really fantastic with the light.

[00:48:29] Annie Sargent: So that’s how you do it. And there are some spots that are way better than others, and I point them all out in the tour, obviously.

[00:48:38] How about taking one of my tours in French?

[00:48:38] Annie Sargent: This is a tour that I’m trying to produce in French as well. I’m hoping to get that done very quickly. I’ll tell you more when it comes out, hopefully, hopefully soon, but oh, my days are so crowded, you wouldn’t believe it.

[00:48:54] Travel question of the week

[00:48:54] For the travel question of the week, let’s talk about crowds for a minute. There are places in Paris that get freakishly crowded. They’re fine one minute and unbearable very soon after.

[00:49:07] Annie Sargent: These are the places where busloads of visitors get dropped off, like the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Giverny is like that, but anywhere there is bus parking, you know you’re going to be in trouble at some point with lots of crowds.

[00:49:21] Annie Sargent: And this is not just in Paris, Mont Saint Michel is like that, the lavender fields in Provence are like that in season. Carcassonne is like that. Any popular place in France that has convenient bus parking. And you know, Chinese visitors love a tour bus, and when Chinese tour operators organize a trip, they normally send several busloads. And I don’t know how many tour operators there are in China, but a lot. So it feels like sometimes a whole cruise ship is emptying into a small town or village.

[00:49:59] Annie Sargent: Now, for now, Chinese visitors are not back. At least not the ones that come by the busloads, but they’ll be back soon. The other thing that has happened is that, and you know this is going to be even bigger than Chinese folks coming back, is that like the rest of the world, French people went through a pandemic that had us locked down in place for a full year.

[00:50:22] Annie Sargent: Once vaccinations made it possible for us to get out a little bit, with masks and all the restrictions that we had, we started going places not far from home, right? Because that’s the places we could get to. And lots of people thought, oh my God, we have some great things right here in France right next to me, I didn’t know it was there.

[00:50:42] Annie Sargent: And French people and Europeans in general are out in force in France. My last few trips to Strasbourg and Paris, I heard lots of German, lots of Spanish, lots of Italian, and I think 2023 is going to be a very busy travel season.

[00:51:02] Feedback from supporters

[00:51:02] Annie Sargent: I got some funfeedback this week that I want to read. Nancy Pincombe Docksai wrote me an email that says:

[00:51:09] Annie Sargent: Dear Annie, I recently heard one of your fans explain her inability to master French after 10 years of classes. It would be a relief for some of your listeners to learn that most hearing impairment prevents learning a foreign language and playing a musical instrument.

[00:51:31] Annie Sargent: I’ll never forget the moment a doctor explained the link and understanding why all my efforts had failed despite being very successful in all areas of life.

[00:51:43] Annie Sargent: And she’s very right. If you have a hearing impairment, it might make it impossible for you to learn a foreign language, until you get the hearing impairment treated somehow with hearing aids or whatever.

[00:51:55] Annie Sargent: On another subject, I wanted to thank you for continually educating people on France, its culture, customs, beauty and history.

[00:52:02] Annie Sargent: Dedicated to being a traveler, my husband Ron and I will be leaving April 23rd for one week in Paris, followed by six weeks in Brittany. Our itinerary was developed based on your recommendations and I wanted to thank you so much for your help. I promise to send photos.

[00:52:21] Annie Sargent: Well, thank you so much, Nancy. I hope you have a wonderful time.

[00:52:25] This week in French News

[00:52:25] Annie Sargent: This week in French news, we’ve had two strike days over the possible changes of retirement age in France. Both strike days were heavily followed and the changes the government are proposing are unpopular to say the least. But Macron has the vote in Parliament, so I think it’ll pass. We’ll see.

[00:52:46] Annie Sargent: In France, they have 50 days to vote on a law and Macron has the votes, like I said. They presented this law to Parliament 10 days ago, so they will continue to strike and try and put pressure on the government for another 40 days. So by early to mid April, things should have calmed down, I hope that there won’t be lots of strikes in May when the bootcamp is happening, because we’ll need the train. I mean, I’ll find something else if we need to. But I really hope that we can take the train because that’s the whole idea is to teach people how to be independent and travel independently in France without a car.

[00:53:25] Personal update / Visiting Paris in January

[00:53:25] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week, I want to tell you about visiting Paris in January. First thing I want to mention is that Paris gets cold. Okay? It’s cold. It’s not Minnesota of course, but after spending a few hours outside, your fingers and your face are going to get cold. Plan on spending time inside of cafes and inside of museums. Churches, they get some heating, but not that much so, just plan on shorter days and plan on spending some time inside.

[00:53:55] Annie Sargent: There are visitors in Paris in January, but it’s nothing like the rest of the year. It’s really quiet. I was on the Trocadero and near the Eiffel Tower quite a bit for my tour, and the lines were always short.

[00:54:08] Annie Sargent: So if you’re coming in January, there are a lot of things you don’t need to reserve in advance, really. The restaurants might be able to get to a table on the same day. You can probably get tickets for that museum that you want using their app on the same day as well. What you do need to plan in advance is tickets to special exhibits, especially if they’re about to move on.

[00:54:31] Annie Sargent: Now, if you like art, you’ll never be bored in Paris because museums put on such great shows. I was very lucky that Patricia had booked all these shows for us to go see, and they were fantastic. I was pleasantly surprised by the redo of the Cluny Museum as well. It’s a great place and I definitely recommend that you go if you’re in Paris.

[00:54:54] Annie Sargent: I recorded a whole episode with Elyse about this, and it’ll come out soon, so I’ll keep it at that. Paris is great in January, but be prepared for the cold weather because it either froze or was near freezing every day I was there.

[00:55:08] Annie Sargent: Show notes and the full transcript for this episode are on, the numeral. Transcripts are fantastic. Use the website, search the website, there’s so much there.

[00:55:22] Annie Sargent: And you can help your Francophile friends plan their visit to France, share an episode with them and let them decide for themselves if this is helpful stuff or not.

[00:55:33] Next week on the podcast

[00:55:33] Next week on the podcast, an episode about taking the train in France for the first time. Now, I know a lot of you would like to experience the train in France, but you’re worried about details, and we are going to go through all the details and all the things you need to know. It’s really going to make a big difference. So stay tuned for that.

[00:55:52] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.

[00:56:04] Copyright

[00:56:04] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2022 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial, No Derivatives license.

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Category: French History