The Problem of Tyrannicide in the Monarchomach and Leaguer Political Discourse During the Reigns of Charles IX (1560-1574) and Henry III (1574-1589)


The French Wars of Religion saw the problem of tyranny and the ways to address it take the center stage in French political thought: until this period, it could have remained a subject of abstract speculation, but that was no longer the case in the tumultuous years between 1562 and 1598. Confronted with a hostile central government, both the Huguenots and the Catholic League were forced to think of concrete steps to be taken in order to remove an unsuitable (“tyrannical”) king and of a way to justify and legitimize such a radical measure. For this purpose, the Huguenots and the Catholic League removed the ultimate sovereignty in a kingdom from the person of the king to the people as represented by its magistrates and assemblies, who could depose an incorrigible tyrant. Yet, there was a final and decisive action someone could take in order to be rid of a tyrant, namely, slaying him, but, in this, the positions of the Huguenots and of the Catholic League diverged: the former rejected this option, the latter accepted it. This paper aims to analyze the manifestations of the concept of tyrannicide in the ideology of resistance devised by the Huguenots and Catholics during the reigns of Charles IX (1560-1574) and Henry III (1574-1589), while trying to answer why the latter were willing to accept an action which was so antithetical to the sacredness surrounding kings in sixteenth-century France and to their own Catholic faith.

Keywords: tyranny, tyrannicide, french wars of religion, Huguenots, Catholic League

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