The French Wars of Religion & The Thirty Years War

The second-to-last unit of the available history units (more out soon, we’re assured) was concerned with the French Wars of Religion, and the Thirty Years War. We’d been warned about the Thirty Years War, and the incomprehensibility thereof, but in the event, I found it easy enough to get a grip on. I may criticise Merriman on other fronts, but this chapter was one of his better ones, and I felt I had a reasonable idea of the material. A map helped, of course.

The French Wars of Religion, though. The switching of sides. The similar names. The three Henries. The prince who renamed himself after his own older brother. The question of what the Montmorencies actually did to be noted as one of the three great families. And very much the way in which Henry of Navarre maneuvered himself onto the throne, changing religion whenever it seemed convenient.

I had to draw myself some diagrams, stare at maps, and remember repeatedly that Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon wasn’t siding with the majority of the House of Bourbon. It took some serious poking around in other sources to work out that Henry of Navarre’s claim to the throne wasn’t through his marriage to Henry III’s sister Margaret, but via his position as head of the House of Bourbon. I have not yet worked out what made Henry of Guise think he could get the throne, if indeed he thought he could.

But overall, the whole period is clearer in my head than any other part of the course so far, precisely because it was difficult. Interesting.

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