The Church in Geneva, Switzerland, under the wise direction of Calvin and Viret helped organize the French Reformed Church. As converts increased, so did the attacks by the Roman Catholic Church and their adherents close to the royal court. The massacre of Protestants at Vassy triggered a series of eight “French Wars of Religion” beginning in 1562 and lasting to 1629. Massacres of Protestants took place in a number of cities in France, until an effective military resistance was formed, and the Protestants fought back to defend their families and property. The paramount leader of the Huguenots was the Admiral of France, Gaspard de Coligny. A seemingly endless series of bloody wars followed the template of the French government hiring armies of mercenaries, who occasionally won but couldn’t be paid on time. A truce would be signed, the soldiers cut loose to fend for themselves, another treaty signed. In 1572 a cabal of Catholic conspirators assassinated Coligny and murdered hundreds of Protestants in Paris under a safe-conduct pass from King Charles IX, who died two years later. The wars resumed under King Henry III for the fifteen years of his reign, until his assassination by a Dominican Friar.
The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which lasted several weeks in 1572, resulted in the deaths of anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 Huguenots at the hands of the Catholics
The throne then came to Henry of Navarre, a Protestant, who converted to Roman Catholicism to become King Henry IV, the first of the line of Bourbon monarchs of France. In 1598, to unite the Kingdom and terminate the seemingly endless wars against the Huguenots, The Edict of Nantes was issued on April 13th, granting a measure of religious freedom to the French Protestants and concomitant political freedoms as well. The truce was an uneasy one, for the Catholic Church still determined to exterminate the Protestants, caused occasional fighting and retaking of Calvinist strongholds in the country. Henry escaped several attempted assassinations by Catholic factions until they finally murdered him in 1610. The new king, Louis XIII, renewed fighting against the Huguenots until only two towns were still held by the Protestants, La Rochelle and Montauban. They were eventually taken by siege, and the Edict partially restored in the aftermath.