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The Huguenots, the Protestant Interest, and the War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-1714


Laurence H. Boles

By 1700, the Protestants of Europe, above all the Calvinists (Reformed), felt threatened anew by Roman Catholicism. Activists, especially Huguenot émigrés, pleaded to friendly rulers to restore Protestantism in France and to protect it in the Holy Roman Empire as aims in their wars against Louis XIV. This activism peaked during the War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-1714, but to no avail. The peace of 1713-1715 brought only token gains for the continental Protestant interest; both the Allied and the Bourbon powers were absorbed in such secular concerns as state sovereignty, dynasticism, collective security, and trade. The activists were victims of the maturing European states system and of their own archaic world-view.


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Preface By 1700, many Huguenot and other Protestant leaders believed that their religion would soon be destroyed throughout much of continental Europe. Louis XIV had revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and continued his expansionism north and east of France. Huguenots had fled to England, Ireland, the Dutch Republic, and Brandenburg-Prussia, and with Vaudois refugees from Savoy, to the Palatinate, Wiirttemberg, and Switzerland. The 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, ending the Nine Years War, alarmed Protestant activists; its "religion clause" legitimized Roman Catholicism exclusively in French-conquered territory restored to the Holy Roman Empire. The War of the Spanish Succession was exploited by Huguenot emigre activists to persuade England and the Dutch Republic to restore the Protestant religion in France, insisting that its rescue and Allied war aims were interdependent. However, as the war approached its conclusion, the Protestant interest no longer enjoyed the support of the Maritime Powers, the victim of the disparate interests of the belligerents and the preoccupation of Allied statesmen with secular issues. While the dynastic, territorial, and military aspects of this crucial period have been amply fathomed by scholars, particularly the Protestant succession in Great Britain and Ireland, the literature exploring the relationships between those struggles and the defense of contemporary Protestantism, especially on the Continent, is notably sparse. This work endeavors to explain how the threats perceived by Huguenot emigre and other Protestant advocates were evaluated, and in the end discarded, amid the course and outcomes of the War of the Spanish Succession. I hope...

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