In 1598, French canons fell momentarily silent. The Edict of Nantes, in the limited liberties it gave to French Huguenots, brought the bitter civil wars of religion to a fragile close. Meanwhile, the Treaty of Vervins ended hostilities between France and Spain. The end of conflict proved, however, to be a double-edged sword for the upper ranks of the French nobility – the noblesse d’épée. Although constant warfare had placed a considerable burden on the highest echelons of the nobility, it was from military service to the king that the pride and status of this elite had conventionally been derived. Soldiering had, moreover, gained all the greater importance once ministerial and household positions in the king’s service began to be opened up to the lower elite orders – the bureaucratic noblesse de robe – in the later sixteenth century. With peace therefore came the removal of an edifying occupation and a failsafe means by which loyalty to the king could be demonstrated and – of central import for the upper French elite – differentiation from inferior nobles asserted. In turn, the economic and social crisis which scholarship has long identified as having faced the upper nobility in this period was rendered all the more acute. 1