League or Holy League, in French history, organization of Roman Catholics, aimed at the suppression of Protestantism and Protestant political influence in France. It was foreshadowed as early as 1561 by the formation of the triumvirate of Anne, duc de Montmorency; François, 2d duc de Guise (see under Guise, family); and Marshal Saint-André. After the outbreak of the Wars of Religion (see Religion, Wars of), local and provincial leagues were formed. Finally, when the Protestants, or Huguenots, won unprecedented concessions at the Peace of Monsieur (1576), a declaration calling for a national League of Catholics was issued by Henri, 3d duc de Guise. King Henry III, fearing the ambitious Guise, proclaimed himself its head. A Huguenot uprising soon followed. After a successful campaign that enabled him to withdraw some of his previous concessions to the Huguenots, Henry III dissolved (1577) the League. It was revived in 1585, soon after the Protestant Henry of Navarre (later King Henry IV) had become the heir presumptive to the throne. Having taken up arms, Guise forced the king (July, 1585) to issue an edict for the conversion or exile of Protestants and the exclusion of Henry of Navarre from the succession. In the war that followed (the War of the Three Henrys), the League and the king were technically allied, but the League assumed the right to dictate, forcing the king to leave Paris (1588) and to renew his previous concessions. This dictation led Henry to order the assassination of Henri de Guise, who was succeeded at the head of the League by his brother Charles, duc de Mayenne. After the accession (1589) of Henry IV, the League controlled all the large cities, including Paris, and had the active support of Philip II of Spain, who sent Alessandro Farnese to Mayenne's aid. It split into two factions, however, over the question of Spanish interference, and it was weakened by Henry's military successes. Henry's victory at Ivry (1590), his abjuration of Protestantism (1593), and his entry into Paris (1594) brought the League's organized resistance to an end, and by 1598 the last important League member had submitted to Henry. For the Holy League in Italian history, see Holy League.
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