The Ardeche Region of France - October 2008 Albon, St. Pierreville, St. Sauveur
Ardèche borders the northwestern edge of Provence, west of the Drôme département. Short History of Ardeche: The region (called Vivarais before the French Revolution) prospered in the decades before 1562, growing tobacco and making silk after mulberry trees were planted in the region. Joining Calvinist Geneva, Ardèche embraced Protestantism starting in 1534. During the Wars of Religion in 1562-1598, Ardèche was the battleground between Protestant Geneva (and Lyon) to the north and Catholic Languedoc to the south. Their prosperity enabled the Vivarais burghers to challenge Catholic Paris and endure many attacks and eight major battles. A Catholic-Protestant truce was declared in 1598 with the Edict of Nantes. It lasted 87 years. During this period, the Vivarais had more than 75 Protestant churches and five permanent garrisons. But in 1629, Paule de Chambaud, daughter of Huguenot lord Privas, chose a Catholic to wed, Vicomte de l'Estrange, a supporter of Protestant persecution by Cardinal Richelieu. Privas stood his ground and the land of Benjamin de Rohan, duc de Soubise, was torched by the army of Louis XIII. After that, one-fifth of the Viverais Protestants left France. Louis XIV in 1685 revoked the Edict of Nantes, outlawing Protestantism and sending dragoons to subdue them Peace was not restored for 30 years, during which time another 50,000 Ardèche Protestants left France, many going to Switzerland, while others remained and converted to Catholicism. The French Revolution adopted a Declaration of Human Rights, leaving Protestants free to practise their faith, but by the early 19th century, the Ardèche included only 34,000 Protestants out of a population of 290,000. The Ardèche name (after the river that runs through it) was assigned when the 83 departments were created after the French Revolution, on March 4, 1790. Count François Antoine de Boissy d'Anglas and other Protestant Ardèchois supported the early revolution, but withdrew support during the Reign of Terror, when - in 1794 - a guillotine was kept busy with the execution of former moderate supporters of the revolution at Privas. With the Napoleonic period, the Ardèche became again more prosperous. Its population grew from 273,000 in 1793 to 388,000 in 1861. The silkworm industry boomed in Ardèche until 1855, when disease affected the worms and competition from China undermined the industry's profitability.