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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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CHAPTER 5 The Camisard Rebels And the Allies: The Stakes of Strategy Since before the Edict of Nantes of 1598, the Protestants of France had for the greater part inhabited an inverted arc ranging across southern France from La Rochelle and the Bay of Biscay on the west eastward to Dauphine and the western Alps. Throughout the seventeenth century the most-volatile and ideologically-potent sector of this Protestant "crescent" of France was far and away the province of Languedoc, especially during its first three decades.' The Huguenots of Languedoc, which lay along the west bank of the Rhone River and stretched from the Cevennes Mountains southward to the coast of the Mediterranean, enjoyed an unusually-high degree of physical security, hope, and sense of legitimacy, particularly in the rugged uplands of the northern half of the province. They lived far from the heartland of French royal authority, a grace shared by their Roman Catholic neighbors, among whom they still lived on relatively placid terms as late as the start of the personal reign of Louis XIV in 1661.2 Languedoc was one of the few provinces of France to retain its estates, guardians of the immunities of its constituted social and ecclesiastical bodies. However, by the late seventeenth century the Languedoc ian Protestants' perceptions of security were based more on historical memory and illusion than on reality. 3 Earlier in the century, the Huguenots of Languedoc had been especially reactive to perceived threats to their liberties during the first half of the reign...

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