Religious Settlements Of Europe 1500

Religious Settlements Of Europe (1500’s) Essay, Research Paper

Robert Parmar

[I got an A on this essay]

In 16th and 17th century Europe, France, England, the Holy Roman

Empire, and the Netherlands all underwent religious and political upheaval. One

consequence of this unrest was the igniting of the Thirty Years War, which

spanned much of Central Europe. Along the way, religious settlements were

declared to cease religious conflict: the Edict of Nantes, the Elizabethan

Settlement, the Peace of Augsburg, and the Peace of Westphalia. The question

is, were they truly religious in nature, or merely for political reasons? Also, why

did the religious settlements in France and England create strong, centralized

governments, while weakening the monarchical power in the German states and

the Netherlands?

After Henry VIII declared the break with Roman Catholic Church, the

religious state of England between Catholic and Protestant shifted left and right.

Henry had left England a Catholic nation, yet Edward I (r. 1547-1553), his son,

converted it to Protestantism. Then, Mary Tudor (r. 1553-1558) quickly revert-

ed it to Catholicism, and also executed several hundred Protestants. When her

sister Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603), England was finally religiously stable. She had

taken a path in-between the Protestantism and Catholicism state. Elizabeth

believed “people could believe whatever they wanted as long as they were quiet

about it.” She presented the Elizabethan Settlement which “required outward

conformity to the Church of England and uniformity in all ceremonies.” All had

to attend the church (if not, the convicted would be fined). This settlement

helped build a stronger government in England because both Protestant and

Catholic would be acceptable so there would be no conflict. If there was no

conflict the country would be more unified and centralized. The Elizabethan

Settlement was for religious purposes only. (p. 463)

From 1559 to 1589, France was engaged in civil war and violence mobs.

The weak kings who ruled during this time were “the seeds from which the

weeds of civil war sprang.” Francis II (r. 1559-1560), who died after 17 months,

Charles IX (r. 1560-1574), and Henry III (r. 1574-1589) all had inadequate

leadership. Protestants and Catholics were in constant mob with each other. On

the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, August 24, 1572, Protestant and Catholic

violently mobbed, causing chaos and mayhem all over Paris. This event sparked

the War of the Three Henrys: Henry of Guise (Catholic), Henry of Navarre

(Protestant), and King Henry III. At the end of war, Henry of Navarre was the

only one to survive, and was crowned King Henry IV (r. 1589-1610). He

wanted mostly a strong and united France, so he declared a settlement called the

Edict of Nantes (1598), which “granted to Huguenots liberty of conscience and

public worship in two-hundred fortified towns.” The French settlement, as with

the English settlement, cleared a path for a stronger, peaceful, and more

centralized nation. Both were successful in doing this, and both were religious

in nature. (pp. 492-493)

The Holy Roman Empire had felt “an uneasy truce had prevailed,” since

the Peace of Augsburg (1555) was passed. This settlement had given recogni-

tion to the independent power of German princes. However, this doctrine

further pushed the idea of an impaired government. The settlement stated that

the religion of a principality depended on the faith of the prince. Also, the

settlement recognized only Lutherans and Catholics. So, when Calvinist princes

came to rule, the Lutherans felt this was a violation of the Augsburg principles.

So, the nation started to break up and form two parts; the Catholic League

(1609) and Protestant (1608). When Ferdinand of Styria came to rule, he closed

some Protestant churches in Bohemia. On May 23, 1618, Protestants hurled two

of Ferdinand’s officials out of a 70-foot high castle window on the Bohemian

Estates. They survived, but the “Defenestration of Prague” marked the

beginning of the Thirty Years’ war. As the war progressed, much of German

land was burned, looted, and destroyed. This destruction of agriculture led to

commercial and financial ruin. In October 1648, peace was achieved by the

signing of the “Peace of Westphalia.” The most accurate description of the

effect of this peace can be explained in the following paragraph:

“The treaty recognized the sovereign, independent authority of the

German princes. Each ruler could govern his particular territory and make war and

peace as well. With power in the hands of more than three hundred princes, with

no central government, courts, or means of controlling unruly rulers, the Holy

Roman Empire as a state was effectively destroyed.”

With the end of the war, the northern German states remained Protestant, the

southern states, Catholic. So, the German States was always divided, before and

after the war. The Peace of Westphalia, which was solely for political gain, did

little for the strength of the Holy Roman Empire. (p 499, 503).

Life in Europe in the 16th and 17th century was a turbulent one, both

religiously and politically. In England, religions were constantly being reverted.

In France, religions were always conflicting. Yet, in the end, both countries

were made stronger and more peaceful, religiously, than they previously were.

The Holy Roman Empire, however, was unfortunate enough to be divided at the

start. The settlement that was made up was political in nature, so it gave more

recognition to the princes than to the people. Then, the Thirty Years War had

ravaged the land, ruining agricultural commerce. In the end, the German states

had not gained a thing, they had actually lost a great deal of resources. One

could conclude that religious settlements apply to the people and the nobility.

Therefore, everyone is fairly treated and there is a minimal amount of conflict.

The political-religious settlements, however, apply mainly to political leaders

and their gain. Therefore, the people aren’t recognized and the treaty has little or

no positive effect.


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