Edict of Versailles
The Edict of Versailles, commonly known as the Edict of Tolerance, was an official act that gave non-Catholics in France the right to openly practice their religions as well as legal and civil status, which included the right to contract marriages without having to convert to the Catholic faith. The edict was signed by Louis XVI on 7 November 1787, and registered in the Parlement of Paris of the Ancien Régime on 29 January 1788. Its successful enactment was due to persuasive arguments by prominent French philosophers and literary personalities of the day, including Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, the Duc de Choiseul, by Americans such as Benjamin Franklin, and especially by the joint work of Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, minister to Louis XVI, and Jean-Paul Rabaut Saint-Étienne, spokesman for the Protestant community in France.
Henry IV of France (1589–1610) had initially granted Huguenots a significant amount of freedom to practice their faith when he signed the Edict of Nantes (13 April 1598). These rights were revoked by Louis XIV with the Edict of Fontainebleau (18 October 1685). Enforcement of the revocation relaxed under the reign of Louis XV, but it remained law for a century. Under the Edict of Versailles, Roman Catholicism continued as the state religion of the Kingdom of France, but relief was offered to non-Catholic worshippers – Calvinist Huguenots, Lutherans, and Jews alike. Considering the long-standing dominance of this religion, restrictions were still placed on non-Catholics around the country, keeping the outliers of the time behind the scenes at the workplace and in educational settings, so as not to misrepresent the Kingdom. The most notable example of these restrictions was in Metz, where actions by the Parlement of Metz explicitly excluded certain rights for Jews within its domain, such as drafting of lists of grievances, that did not apply to coreligionists elsewhere.
While the Edict of Versailles did not proclaim freedom of religion across France, which would occur with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789, it was an important step in pacifying religious tensions and officially ended religious persecution in France.
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- Édit de Versailles (7 novembre 1787), transcription of the original text, in French