Forcing French Catholicism: Noble Conversion and Reeducation after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM
Iowa Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Elizabeth Churchich, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Forcing French Catholicism : Noble Conversion and Reedcuation after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 is often interpreted as both the high and the low point of Louis XIV’s power, serving as a demonstration of the long term consequences of such absolute control.  This interpretation rests heavily on the physical violence of enforcement within France and the mass emigration of French Protestants, but ignores the attempts at social control and refashioning of the Protestant community that accompanied these efforts.  In this paper, I explore this aspect of the Revocation through the Protestant family of the Duc de la Force, whose conversion was a priority for Louis XIV immediately following the Revocation.  The pressure exerted on this family through personal correspondance, ministerial influence and eventual forced reeducation and incarceration, both in convents and in prisons, demonstrates the extent of royal investement in Protestant conversions as outward signs of the health of the kingdom and its society.   Such efforts were particularly important among the old French nobility, of which the Caumont La Force family was a part, emphasazing the coercion and authoritative interaction present in Louis XIV’s relationship with the nobility in the 1680s.  This focus on noble conversions and reeducation following the Revocation clearly shows the importance of social homogeneity and control to Louis XIV in this period, and forces a reconsideration of the place of the Revocation within the absolutist narrative.

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