Front Page Titles (by Subject) 79.: On the Conversion of Henry IV - Judgments on History and Historians
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79.: On the Conversion of Henry IV - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On the Conversion of Henry IV
Once Henry IV had, through Henry III’s death, become king not only of the Huguenots but also of the Catholic royalists, his conversion had to come as well; he was being crowded.
He was, above all, a king and a Frenchman; the rest had to follow. After 1560 the Huguenots were an armed political party like any other.
The possibility of a Gallican patriarchy was a mere dream at that time; Henry IV was no Henry Tudor and did not live on an island; the Tridentine Counter Reformation with its positive zeal was already flooding ’round all religious relationships.
Added to this was the general exhaustion, including that of the Huguenots. Gabrielle d’Estrées was converted, too, and after the end of 1591 Henry’s own mind must have been made up. His ministres courtisans [courtier ministers] must intentionally defend the Huguenot faith only weakly in disputations. Even Duplessis-Mornay let himself be involved in a matter of conversion (to what extent was he really beguiled?). Sully later even boasts of having done his share for conversion. The written dissuasions of Beza, the spiritual adviser of Gabriel d’Amour and others, were in vain, as were those of d’Aubigné who wanted to make the king understand in conversation that it was “better to be king in a corner of France and to serve God and be surrounded with loyal servants than … etc.”
Henry IV took Catholic instruction, i.e., a six-hour conversation, and on July 25, 1593, ceremoniously renounced heresy at St. Denis. Crowds of Parisians looked on, in spite of Mayenne’s order to close the gates and the declaration of nullity by the papal legate.
Despite his best inner intentions in favor of the Huguenots, henceforth there existed in Henry an ill-feeling against them and their complaints. At the same time, however, he had to take care of them, since now there were various new attacks on them. Sully remained a Protestant, possibly out of arrogance; in general Henry IV very much desired the conversion of others.
The absolution by Clement VIII tore apart the Spanish plans for world hegemony. This had been counseled by San Filippo Neri, Baronius, the Jesuit general Francesco Toledo (although a Spaniard), the government of Venice, and others.
Before the Edict of Nantes there were in France over a hundred terre chiuse [closed lands] and about a thousand parrochie e monasterii [parishes and monasteries]. Catholic ritual had ceased entirely.
The Edict of Nantes was a necessary and unavoidable confirmation of a state of truce in which all factions were to be included.
To be sure, it marks the beginning of the decline of French Protestantism; its fruitfulness ceases. It exists notoriously as a minority and delimited, and must remain so, but at the same time it must greatly burden itself with secular, political affairs, now methodically and perpetually. In this it remains at an increasing disadvantage with the henceforth very bigoted governments and the clergy.
A paradox: the greatest boon for the Huguenot community was not the Edict of Nantes, but its revocation.