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“Rather French than Subject to the Prince of Orange.” The Conflicting Loyalties of the Utrecht Catholics during the French Occupation (1672-73)

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The French occupation of Utrecht (1672-73) provides us with an interesting case through which to study different regimes of religious coexistence and their effects on interconfessional relationships. I argue in this article, on the basis of diaries, letters, pamphlets, consistorial records and edicts of the city council, that the French occupier, in granting the Catholics freedom of worship, contributed to a hardening of interconfessional relationships, by provoking conflicts about rituals and the use of churches. The occupation brought a new pattern of coexistence: whereas in the United Provinces, the Reformed Church enjoyed a monopoly over religious expression in the public sphere and other faiths were tolerated by connivance, during the occupation both the Catholic and the Reformed faiths had official recognition and were practiced publicly. Another reason to study the occupation is that it allows us to learn more about the political affiliation of Catholics: did they support the French? Did they consider that Louis XIV would restore them to political and religious supremacy, as prophecies seem to suggest? The answers to these questions vary. Whereas the Catholic clerics generally supported the French king, lay people seem to have been disappointed, as the French did not treat them differently from the Reformed inhabitants: for example, everyone had to pay the same taxes. All in all the occupation reveals the crystallization of confessional identities and the difficulty of coexistence when different faiths had the same rights.

Affiliations: 1: Swiss National Science Foundation / VU University Amsterdam, Faculteit der Letteren, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, NL-1081 HV Amsterdam;, Email:


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