Updated: Oct 4, 2022
A mediator on holiday in Grenoble, I wanted to discover the options, the decisions and the conflicts that presented themselves to the people living there. I strongly believe that, to end a conflict, a mediation accord doesn't have to be perfect. At some point, negotiations must end and life resume its course. Grenoble lies at the feet of French Alps, at the former frontier between France and the Duchy of Savoy. François de Bonne, future duke of Lesdiguières, is ever present in Grenoble: his imposing residence and gardens, a street in the city centre, a high-school and even one of the oldest rugby stadiums in France are named after him. During the wars between Huguenots (Protestants) and Catholics, in the late 16th century, the city swung between allegiance to the “overly conciliatory” king and to the intransigent Holy League. Lesdiguières, leader of the Huguenots of the region, brought the hesitant city back into the royal fold in 1590. He then fortified and embellished Grenoble, giving it the allure of a capital city well prepared to receive its king under La Porte de France.
In September 1599, the Parliament of Grenoble registered the Edict of Nantes. Huguenots now enjoyed religious tolerance and sought to regain their place as citizens. But it seemed that the newly acquired freedoms were not entirely put into practice. The assembly of reformed churches held in Grenoble in 1615 considered withdrawing from the city in protest, thus breaking the law. As representative of the king, Lesdiguières warned the assembly of the dire consequences of such a decision.
“We must measure ourselves against what we can and not against what we want, against what we can and not against what we consider to be due to us…”, he advised the assembly (Actes et correspondance du connétable de Lesdiguières, Volume 2, p. 85). An advice that is also useful in mediation. Striving for the perfect mediation agreement may be too much, both financially and emotionally. A good enough mediation agreement is most of the time better than no agreement.
P.S. Historians note that Lesdiguières anticipated the weakening of the Huguenot party. He himself converted to Catholicism in 1622, at 78, in order to become constable, the (last) Commander-in-Chief of the French Army. The Edict of Nantes would be revoked by Louis XIV in 1685, forcing Huguenots into exile or hiding. In 1999, a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification resolved the fundamental conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The World Communion of Reformed Churches (which includes French churches with Huguenot roots) adopted the Declaration in 2017.