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Edict of Toleration

The Edict of Toleration, better known as the Edict of Saint-Germain from the chateau where it was promulgated, was issued by Catherine de Medici in January 1562. It gave limited tolerance to French Huguenots.

It was among her first moves as Regent, after the death of Francois II the previous month, and consistent with Catherine's maneuvering, attempted to steer a middle course between Protestants and Catholics, in order to strengthen royal dominion.

Without threatening the privileged position of the Catholic Church in France, the Edict recognized the existence of the Protestants and guaranteed freedom of conscience and private worship. It forbade Huguenot worship within towns (where conflicts flared up too easily) but permitted Protestant synods and consistories.

Within a matter of weeks, the Vassy massacre (March, 1562) opened the first religious war, which fact alone was a victory for the fanatical Guise policy and a defeat for that of Catherine.