Charles IX 1560 – 1574
French Wars of Religion 1562 – 1598
A political struggle between noble houses exacerbated a growing sense of hostility between the French Calvinist Protestants, called Huguenots, and Catholics. When men acting on the orders of the Duke of Guise massacred a Huguenot congregation in 1562, a civil war erupted.
Several wars were fought in quick succession, in 1572 the fifth war was triggered by massacres of Huguenots in Paris and other towns on 23-24 August 1572, the eve of Saint Bartholomew’s Day (Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy).
This was traditionally believed to have been instigated by Catherine de Medici, mother of King Charles IX. The massacre took place five days after the wedding of the king’s sister Margaret to the Protestant Henry III of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France). This marriage had attracted many of the wealthy and prominent Huguenots into a largely Catholic Paris.
The wars ended after the Edict of Nantes on 13 April 1598, which granted religious toleration to Huguenots.