The Conversion of Henri the Fourth: Politics, Power and Religious Belief in Early Modern France

Overview

"Paris is worth a Mass." So said Henri IV on his conversion to Catholicism, according to cynics, and the motives behind the act have been the stuff of history ever since. The Conversion of Henri IV reclaims the religious significance of this momentous event in the development of the French monarchy and early modern political culture. Michael Wolfe offers an in-depth account of the political, diplomatic, and theological dimensions of the 1593 conversion of the Protestant Henri de Navarre. Where others have emphasized the ideological aspects of the ...
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Overview

"Paris is worth a Mass." So said Henri IV on his conversion to Catholicism, according to cynics, and the motives behind the act have been the stuff of history ever since. The Conversion of Henri IV reclaims the religious significance of this momentous event in the development of the French monarchy and early modern political culture. Michael Wolfe offers an in-depth account of the political, diplomatic, and theological dimensions of the 1593 conversion of the Protestant Henri de Navarre. Where others have emphasized the ideological aspects of the conflict sparked by the conversion, Wolfe situates the controversy within contemporary ideas about confessional change and practice, as well as the historical traditions that defined what it meant to be French. Using pamphlets, sermons, letters, and memoranda, he traces the conversion crisis as it unfolded in the minds of the king's subjects and as it affected their loyalties and actions during the last religious wars. In this analysis, the public response to Henri IV's conversion reveals a great deal about contemporary notions of personal piety and the Church, political ideals and the state, as well as social identity and obligations. Joining the history of mentalite with that of political and religious behavior, Wolfe also pays close attention to the impact of military and political developments. This approach helps explain the fundamental role of Henri IV's conversion in the establishment and acceptance of Bourbon absolutism in the last two centuries of the ancien regime. While not denying the political importance of Henri IV's conversion, this book underscores the profound religious implications of the event. It puts religion back into the Wars of Religion and thereby enhances our understanding of the rise of the early modern French state.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674170315
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1993
  • Series: Historical Studies
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 The Search for God 6
2 Into the Maelstrom 22
3 To Convert a King 44
4 Piety and Politics 66
5 The Fight for the King's Faith 88
6 The Move to Convert 115
7 The Conversion at St. Denis 134
8 The Catholic King and Pacification 159
Conclusion 188
Abbreviations 194
Notes 195
Bibliography 237
Index 247
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