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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

The first war (1562-1563)

The Wars of Religion are traditionally said to have started on 1 March 1562. On that day, a group of Catholic soldiers led by the duc de Guise massacred a group of Protestants at Vassy in Champagne, touching off a series of bloody civil wars that would engulf the kingdom of France for the next four decades.

The first war – which was triggered by the events at Vassy as well as other massacres, particularly at Sens and Cahors – really got underway when Condé, at the head of the Hungenot faction, took up arms. His troops captured a number of cities and towns, both in the south (Valence, Grenoble, Nîmes, Montpellier, Béziers, Montauban and Castre, among others) and in the north (Lyon, Tours, Blois, Caen, Dieppe and Rouen, where Henri's father, Antoine de Bourbon, was killed). The first war, by its characteristics, prefigured all the others – there were very few full-scale battles, and combats was generally limited to laying siege to cities and the occasional skirmish. The only battle of any size, which was fought at Dreux on 19 December 1562, was won by François de Guise's Catholic troops. The Edict of Amboise, which was signed on 19 March 1563, brought the first war to an end and gave both sides a respite that lasted nearly four years.

Related multimedia

Title: Map of the first War of Religion (1562-1563)

Map of the first War of Religion (1562-1563)
Map of the first War of Religion (1562–1563) Source: Arlette Jouanna, Histoire et dictionnaire des guerres de Religion, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1998. The map presents :Royal troops ; Huguenot troops ; Foreign intervention; Battle ; Siege; Edicts of pacification ; Protestant offensive

Title: Battle of Dreux

Battle of Dreux, december 1562
© AD Eure-et-Loir
Battle of Dreux, engraving, late 16th c. Cote: 7Fi24, Coll. Jusselin, no. 24

Title: Battle of Dreux

Battle of Dreux
© Archives nationales
Battle of Dreux, engraving by Tortorel and Perrissin

Title: The Peace of Île-aux-Bœufs

The Peace of Île-aux-Bœufs (near Orléans)
© RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda
Negotiations between the leaders of the Protestant and Catholic factions (the prince de Condé and the connétable de Montmorency) in the presence of Catherine de Médicis.
The Peace of Île-aux-Bœufs (near Orléans), March 1563, engraving by Frans Hogenberg after Tortorel et Perrissin, 16th c. Musée national du château de Pau

Title: Louis de Bourbon

Louis de Bourbon, prince de Condé
© BnF
Louis de Bourbon, prince de Condé, engraving by Thomas de Leu, late 16th c. Département des estampes et de la photographie de la BnF
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