La mémoire protestante de la Saint-Barthélemy en France : du témoignage à l’histoire nationale

How did Protestants view the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre? During the sixteenth century, it was most commonly evoked as a case of premeditated royal treason or a conspiracy organized by the pope and the Kingdom of Spain. A virtually immediate history was constituted, notably in the form of martyrology, exposing the names of the victims and their private accounts of the events. Protestant contemporaries of the Massacre never did produce a noteworthy and original account for constructing a specific memory of the events (d’Aubigné’s Les Tragiques are left aside); they devoted themselves primarily to the political redefinition of the monarchy. During the seventeenth century, the Reformed were on the defensive and therefore forced to “forget” the history of the Wars of Religion, including the Massacre. Beginning in the second half of the eighteenth century, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre gradually became a reference shared by the great majority of the nation. It was especially non-Protestants (Voltaire) who occupied themselves with its commemoration in their newest battles, against fanaticism, tyranny, and intolerance. The Huguenots seized on this view, which integrated them into the collective memory of the nation as a whole. As such, they were able to reassume, within this new perspective, their own recollection of the Massacre and to participate in the existing historiographical debates without passion.