Holy League (1576)

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Procession of the Holy League in Paris 1590, Carnavalet Museum

The Holy League ( French Sainte Ligue ), also Catholic League ( Ligue catholique ), was a 1576/77 or 1584–1593 existing association of French Catholic nobles, initially under the leadership of Henri I. de Lorraine, 3rd Duc de Guise , the took sides against the French Calvinists ( Huguenots ) during the Huguenot Wars .

However, not only religious backgrounds ( counter-reformation ) were decisive for the establishment of the league in 1576. In addition to the goal of reversing the concessions to the Huguenots in the Edict of Beaulieu , which were felt to be too extensive , there was also a restoration of the earlier influence of the House of Guise on the royal house and the weakening of the central power in France a motive. King Henry III tried to lead this movement and took up fighting ( Sixth Huguenot War ), but was abandoned by the Estates General . After the Peace of Bergerac , he dissolved the Holy League in September 1577.

However, this was revived when the heir to the throne of Henry III, Franz von Alençon , died in 1584 and, according to Salian inheritance law, the Huguenot Heinrich von Navarra took first place in the line of succession. The league presented an alternative candidate with the Cardinal von Bourbon and made a pact with Philip II of Spain. Now the league was no longer a pure aristocratic party, but a movement backed by the bourgeoisie, especially from Paris. However, Duke Heinrich von Guise went too far when he gave the king an ultimatum in January 1588, instigated a popular uprising in May and forced him to settle a month later. The attempt to decisively weaken the league by assassinating the Duke of Guise, however, was unsuccessful. On the contrary, King Henry III. was murdered in 1589 by the monk Jacques Clément , incited by league propaganda . The league could not prevent the Huguenot Henry of Navarre from becoming his successor as Henry IV, but continued to fight him as best they could. It was not until Henry IV converted to Catholicism in 1593 that the influence of the Holy League waned.


  • Elie Barnavi: Le Parti de Dieu. Étude sociale et politique des chefs de la Ligue parisienne 1584–1594. (= Publications de la Sorbonne, NS Récherches. Vol. 34). Nauwelaerts, Brussels / Leuven 1980, ISBN 2-85944-017-8 .
  • Arlette Jouanna: Le devoir de révolte. La noblesse française et la gestation de l'état moderne, 1559–1661. Fayard, Paris 1989, ISBN 2-213-02275-5 , chapter Autour de la Ligue. La confessionnalisation des stratégies nobiliaires. Pp. 180-211.
  • Helmut G. Koenigsberger: League, league discipline and loyalty to the prince . In: Paolo Prodi (ed.): Faith and Eid. Loyalty formulas, creeds and social disciplining between the Middle Ages and modern times (=  writings of the Historical College. Colloquia . Volume 28 ). Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-486-55994-X , p. 173–178 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Jean-Marie Constant: La Ligue. Fayard, Paris 1996, ISBN 2-213-59488-0 . (Review)
  • Robert Descimon, José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez: Les ligueurs de l'exil. Le refuge catholique français après 1594. (= Époques). Champ Vallon, Seyssel 2005, ISBN 2-87673-425-7 .

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