Antoine Marcourt and the Affair of the Placards
Was there one single first event that turned France’s Catholic majority against their Huguenot brethren for good? Probably not, but the Affair of the Placards came close. The day was October 17th, 1534. Since Protestant thought had exploded into France there was no stopping it, and suddenly people who had never felt comfortable in the Catholic Church, people who wanted the ability to choose, ignored the danger so they might cry their liberty to the world. How much liberty they had, of course, was mostly in their imaginations. King Francis I took a rather unusual ecumenical approach at first. Yet when mysterious pro-Protestant bulletins cropped up all over Paris and in other venerable cities, many knew that such a thing had seldom if ever been done before.
The posters were not exactly delicate. They discussed certain practices of Catholicism with no sugarcoating and no regret, using the “power of the people,” the printing press, to do something new in the eyes of the world. The Catholics of Paris had already been wary of “allowing” so many Protestants in such close quarters, and now Protestant treatises could be found on every corner! The Huguenots wished that they might bring others to their faith and that the Catholic authorities would “wake up” and realize the errors with which 16th century church hierarchy was filled.
No such luck.
Instead of being praised for their tenacity in a world of broadening horizons and bold declarations of faith, the Huguenots were censured. The “tip of the iceberg” came when King Francis discovered a placard on the door of his bedchamber, which doubtless led to some desperate scrambling to find more suitable bodyguards. Up until this point a good many Frenchmen, though disgusted by Protestants teachings, might have believed that the Huguenots were basically harmless. After the Affair of the Placards, public opinions plummeted, and suddenly the Protestants were seen as dangerous vessels of political and religious deviance. Even those uninvolved with the event felt the repercussions.
Many Huguenots were rounded up and burned. I am uncertain if only the people involved were treated thusly or if a few of them had the unfortunate distinction of being Protestants at a time when Huguenots were so utterly hated. The man most likely responsible for the placards was a minister named Antoine Marcourt. He could not have known that his escapades would urge King Francis to publish the Edict of Fontainebleau of 1540. This edict punished all French Protestants for the actions of a few. Gone were the Huguenots’ dreams that, full of new thought and personal courage, they could change the world. Interestingly enough, another Edict of Fontainebleau was published in 1685. This, too, shattered the Huguenots’ rights, reducing them as enemies of the state and opening them up to torture, imprisonment, and death.
It was a sad trend which would continue until 1787, two hundred and eighty-seven long years after the Affair of the Placards.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved