Civil wars and aristocratic propaganda in France and Moldavia during the sixteenth century: a comparative approach


Project abstract 

This project approaches a topic at the border between political history and cultural history: namely, the problem of political propaganda carried out by aristocratic factions within a civil war context, exploring its forms, the circumstances it manifested itself, the motivations of the main authors and beneficiaries, and the doctrines this propaganda gave voice to. The outbreak of a civil war was always accompanied by attempts at justification, found in the propaganda of the parts in conflict, and this propaganda provides a revealing picture of an epoch’s political culture. The aristocracy was, almost always, the leading element (and the most visible) in the civil wars from the chosen period, but, culturally attached to a political model which valued first and foremost the preservation of existing order, was also the most eager to justify its disruptive actions.
The chosen period, the sixteenth century, is one where political propaganda becomes particularly active, due to the printing press making possible the spread of ideas at an unprecedented scale. But the sixteenth century is also the period when the most profound religious shift in European history, the Reformation, takes place, which stimulated a radical reexamination of existing traditions, with a deeply transformative effect upon European political theories.
The chosen geographical area is France, which had been the scene, between 1562 and 1598 of one of the most violent religious civil wars of that era, and Moldavia, which did not go through similar religious struggles, but where we witness a powerful deterioration of the political stability, especially after 1538.


The objective of the project is to provide a historical and doctrinal perspective on one of the primary sources most neglected in the history of sixteenth-century French political thought, that of the aristocratic manifestos, proclamations and letters as vehicles of ideology. The study of these sources will complement the existing historiography on the political literature and popular propaganda during the French Wars of Religion and will lead to the emergence of a more complete picture of the ideological struggles and of the circulation of ideas during the respective period. The project will also make original contributions to the study of conflict and ideology in sixteenth-century Moldavia by breaking new theoretical and methodological ground, through a comparative analysis of the continental dimension of sixteenth-century civil war and the intercultural nature of Christian political thought.

The Project team

  • CS III dr. Andrei Constantin SĂLĂVĂSTRU [Project manager]
  • Lect. dr. Ioan-Augustin GURIȚĂ
  • CS III dr. Sorin GRIGORUȚĂ

Dissemination of scientific results:

► Scientific articles

1.Andrei Constantin Salavastru, „Sacred Covenant and Huguenot Ideology of Resistance: The Biblical Image of the Contractual Monarchy in Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos” , Religions | Free Full-Text |(

2. Andrei Constantin Salavastru, „The Biblical Image of the Providential Ruler in the Protestant Propaganda on the Eve of the French Wars of Religion”, Religions | Free Full-Text |(

3. Andrei Constantin Salavastru, „The doctrine of lawful rebellion in the princely proclamations of the French Wars of Religions”, Analele Stiintifice ale Universitatii „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” din Iasi (Serie Noua). Istorie2021, 67: 151-164; Full-Text (

4. Sorin Grigoruta, „A slujit domniei mele cu dreptate şi cu credinţă. Câteva consideraţii privitoare la Andrei, hatmanul lui Petru vodă Şchiopul”, Analele Stiintifice ale Universitatii „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” din Iasi (Serie Noua). Istorie, 2021, 67: 165-188; Full-Text (
5. Andrei Constantin Salavastru, „The Justificative Discourse of Louis de Condé during the Second and Third Wars of Religion (1567-1568)”, Argumentum. Journal of the Seminar of Discursive Logic, Argumentation Theory and Rhetoric2021, 20 (1): 33-58; A Salavastru (
6. Ioan-Augustin Gurita, Inter regulam doctrinae et acceptationem. Some Reflections regarding the Church’s Fidelity to the Prince in the second half of the 16th Century Moldavia, Classica et Christiana 2022, 17 (2), 657-675,

7. Andrei Constantin Salavastru, Calvinist Notions of Resistance and Huguenot Noble Propaganda: The Justificative Texts of Louis de Condé during the First War of Religion, Chrétiens et Sociétés XVIe-XXIe siècles, 2022, 29: 165-194;

8. Ioan-Augustin Gurita, Contribuţii la biografia unui ierarh din Moldova veacului al XVI-lea: Nicanor, mitropolitul Sucevei, Anuarul Institutului de Istorie „A.D.Xenopol”, 2002, 59: 67-82.

9. Andrei Constantin Salavastru, “Les malcontents” and the “monarchomach” treatises: the propaganda of aristocratic revolt and the ideology of popular sovereignty, Historical Research (submitted, under review)

10. Andrei Constantin Sălăvăstru, Ioan-Augustin Guriță, Sorin Grigoruță, „Noble Revolt and Regicide in Sixteenth-Century Europe: Justification and Practice of Rebellion in France and Moldavia”, History of European Ideas, (submitted, under review).

11. Andrei Constantin Sălăvăstru, From Ahab to “Vilain Herodes”: Biblical Models of Evil Kings in Catholic Anti-Royalist Propaganda during Charles IX (1560–1574) and Henry III (1574–1589). Religions 2023, 14, 344. Religions | Free Full-Text | From Ahab to “Vilain Herodes”: Biblical Models of Evil Kings in Catholic Anti-Royalist Propaganda during Charles IX (1560–1574) and Henry III (1574–1589) (

  • Andrei C. Salavastru, Ioan-Augustin Gurita, Sorin Grigoruta (eds.), Power, Aristocracies and Propaganda: Forms of Legitimizing and Challenging Rulership in France and Moldavia (16th-17th Centuries), Konstanz: Hartung-Gorre Publishers, 2023, 247 p, ISBN 978-3-86628-767-9,

► Conferences and scientific events

  • Conferința Proiectului TE-2019-0499: ”Ideology and Noble Propaganda in Early Modern Europe, during the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Centuries: Forms of Legitimizing and Challenging Rulership”, 12-13 noiembrie 2021, Iași, Programul conferinței (.pdf)

1. Salavastru Andrei Constantin, „The Doctrine of Lawful Rebellion in the Princely Proclamations of the French Wars of Religion”, The Renaissance Society of America Virtual 2021, 13-15 aprilie, 20-22 aprilie 2021 (online event).
The 67th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (Virtual) (

2. Salavastru Andrei Constantin, „Calvinist Notions of Resistance and Huguenot Noble Propaganda during the First Decade of the French Wars of Religion”, Tenth Annual Reforc Conference on Early Modern Christianity 6-8 May 2021 (hybrid event)
Tenth Annual REFORC Conference on Early Modern Christianity – REFORC

3. Andrei Constantin Salavastru, „The Biblical Image of the Providential Ruler in the Huguenot Propaganda on the Eve of the French Wars of Religion”, Simpozionul Internațional „Explorări în tradiția biblică românească și europeană” Ediţia a X-a (online), 3-5 iunie 2021.
Asociaţia de Filologie şi Hermeneutică Biblică din România (

4. Sorin Grigoruta, „Frânturi din istoria politică a Moldovei (sfârșitul secolului al XVI-lea)”, Conferința anuală a Institutului de Istorie „A.D.Xenopol” din Iași, Editia a II-a, 4-6 iunie 2021.
program_iunie2021.pdf (

5. Ioan-Augustin Guriță, „Some remarks regarding Antonio Maria Graziani’s connections with Moldavia”, Conferinta Internationala „Eastern Romanity and Italy from Antiquity to the 20th century (third edition)”, Roma, 18-19 Octombrie 2021, Eastern Romanity and Italy from Antiquity to the 20th century (third edition)
6. Ioan-Augustin Guriță, „Contribuţii la biografia unui ierarh din Moldova veacului al XVI-lea: Nicanor, mitropolitul Sucevei”, Sesiunea de comunicări a profesorilor şi cercetătorilor cu ocazia Zilelor Universitatii „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” din Iasi, 29-30 octombrie 2021 (online), Program-zilele-univ.-oct.-2021-final.pdf (
7. Ioan-Augustin Gurita, „Inter regulam doctrinae et acceptationem: The Fidelity of the Church to the Prince in the Second Half of the 16th Century Moldavia”, Conferinta Internationala XII Convegno Romeno-Italiano: Tradizione e innovazione tra antichità classica e cristianesimo, Bari-Iaşi, 13-15 decembrie 2021;
8. Salavastru Andrei Constantin, „Les Malcontents” and the “Monarchomach” Treatises: Between Mixed Monarchy and Popular Sovereignty„, 17th Lumen International Conference: Rethinking Social Action. Core Values in Practice, 2-4 iunie 2022 (online), Program | – 17th LUMEN International Scientific Conference (
9. Salavastru Andrei Constantin, „‘Vilain Herodes’: The Biblical Image of the Evil King in Anti-Royalist Propaganda during the French Wars of Religion”, Simpozionul Internaţional „Explorări în tradiţia biblică românească şi europeană” Editia a XI-a (16-18 iunie 2022), Asociaţia de Filologie şi Hermeneutică Biblică din România (
General Overview of Results:

This project has analyzed the aristocratic propaganda in France immediately before and during the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598) as it was expressed through the manifestos, proclamations and letters issued by the noble leadership of the rebellious factions. The project has studied, for this purpose, the justificative corpus of texts issued by Louis de Condé in 1562 and 1567-1568, the proclamation of the “malcontents” from 1574-1575, Navarre’s declaration from 1585, but also the texts addressed by the Protestant pastors in 1557-1562 to the members of the royal family and the aristocrats they could they could be favorable to them, and the „monarchomach” tracts published after 1572. The overall conclusion is that this propaganda tried to maintain a deferential tone towards the Valois monarchy, despite the reality on the ground, and constantly refused to acknowledge that these revolts could have been directed against the king. Since, during the sixteenth century, public opinion had accrued an increasing importance, the rebellious faction understood how crucial it was to justify their action and persuade the respective public opinion of the righteousness of their cause. In order to achieve this goal, this propaganda constantly emphasized the fact that the revolt served the cause of the public good and sought to remedy the troubles afflicting the kingdom of France, that it was not carried out merely for the benefit of its leaders and, instead, enjoyed wide support. Since this rebels operated in a political environment where the king was the source of all legitimacy and, as members of the high aristocracy, were particularly beholden to the traditional aristocratic ethos of loyalty towards the king, they presented their enterprise as directed only against ill-intentioned members of the king’s circle and in a way which could allow a reconciliation between them and the king, by co-opting the latter to support their cause and agree with their demands. Despite some common features with the more radical propaganda coming from the lower ranks of the rebellious factions (such as the “monarchomach literature”), like the insistence on a right of revolt in order to correct injustice, the aristocratic leadership of these revolts took care to distance themselves from this radical texts and never embraced the notion that a tyrannical king could be overthrown ­­– not even that a king of France could actually be a tyrant.

Carrying out a similar analysis of the noble ideology of revolt in sixteenth-century Moldavia, and of the existing corpus of sources, we could see that, even in a less consolidated monarchy like the Moldavian, there was a similar concern for the justification of revolt. This can be explained by the fact that there was a common Christian mentality of politics, which exercised a pervasive regulative function over the political thought and actions of the ruling class in any Christian polity and which always frowned upon the possibility of revolt against a lawful ruler. On the other hand, the revolts of the Moldavian boyars were taken from the beginning to their most extreme consequence, ending up with the slaying of the overthrown ruler, if the latter did not manage to save himself by fleeing outside the country. This happened because the paradoxical notion of a revolt as a way of restoring a broken relationship between a monarch and his aristocracy, which was dominant in France, did not actually exist in Moldavia. There were no ideological doubts from the boyars that a ruler they were revolting against actually was a tyrant, who had to be overthrown and killed; and this even more so since foreign interventions and the imposition of rulers without the consent of the native political class contributed to the degradation of the prestige of the Moldavian monarchy.

Funding authority: Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI) (


Project code: PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2019-0499

Contract nr.  TE 57/2020

Time frame: 15.09.2020 – 14.09.2022

Approved budget: 389.900,00 lei

Project Manager: CS III dr. Andrei Constantin SĂLĂVĂSTRU