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The Huguenots (French pronunciation: [yɡno]; English: /ˈhjuːɡənɒt/, /huːɡəˈnoʊ/) were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France (or French Calvinists) from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Since the eighteenth century, Huguenots have been commonly designated "French Protestants", the title being suggested by their German co-religionists or "Calvinists". Protestants in France were inspired by the writings of John Calvin in the 1530s and the name Huguenots was already in use by the 1560s. By the end of the 17th century, roughly 200,000 Huguenots had been driven from France during a series of religious persecutions. They relocated primarily in England, Switzerland, Holland, the German Palatinate, and elsewhere in Northern Europe, as well as to what is now South Africa and to North America.



Used originally as a term of derision, the derivation of the name Huguenot remains uncertain. Various theories have been promoted. The nickname may have been a French corruption of the German word Eidgenosse, meaning a Confederate, perhaps in combination with a reference to the religious leader and politician Besançon Hugues (died 1532). Geneva was John Calvin's adopted home and the center of the Calvinist movement. In Geneva, Hugues was the leader of the "Confederate Party", so called because it favoured an alliance between the city-state of Geneva and the Swiss Confederation. This theory of origin has support from the alleged fact that the label Huguenot was first applied in France to those conspirators (all of them aristocratic members of the Reformed Church) involved in the Amboise plot of 1560: a foiled attempt to transfer power in France from the influential House of Guise. The move would have had the side effect of fostering relations with the Swiss. Thus, Hugues plus Eidgenosse became Huguenot, a nickname associating the Protestant cause with some unpopular politics.[1]

Like the first hypothesis, several others account for the name as being derived from German as well as French. O.I.A. Roche writes in his book The Days of the Upright, A History of the Huguenots that "Huguenot" is

"a combination of a Flemish and a German word. In the Flemish corner of France, Bible students who gathered in each other's houses to study secretly were called Huis Genooten ('housemates') while on the Swiss and German borders they were termed Eid Genossen, or 'oath fellows', that is, persons bound to each other by an oath. Gallicized into 'Huguenot', often used deprecatingly, the word became, during two and a half centuries of terror and triumph, a badge of enduring honor and courage."

Some disagree with dual linguistic origins, arguing that for the word to have spread into common use in France, it must have originated in the French language. The "Hugues hypothesis" argues that the name can be accounted for by connection with Hugues Capet king of France,[2] who reigned long before the Reform times. He was regarded by the Gallicans and Protestants as a noble man who respected people's dignity and lives. Frank Puaux suggests, with similar connotations, a clever pun on the old French word for a covenanter (a signatory to a contract).[3] Janet Gray and other supporters of the theory suggest that the name huguenote would be roughly equivalent to little Hugos, or those who want Hugo.[2]

In this last connection, the name could suggest the derogatory inference of superstitious worship; popular fancy held that Huguon, the gate of King Hugo, was haunted by the ghost of Le roi Huguet (regarded by Roman Catholics as an infamous scoundrel) and other spirits, who instead of being in purgatory came back to harm the living at night.[4] It was in this place in Tours that the prétendus réformés ("these supposedly 'reformed'") habitually gathered at night, both for political purposes, and for prayer and singing the psalms.[5] With similar scorn, some suggested the name was derived from les guenon de Hus (the monkeys or apes of Jan Hus).[6][7] While this and the many other theories offer their own measure of plausibility, attesting at least to the wit of later partisans and historians, if not of the French people at the time of this term's origin, "no one of the several theories advanced has afforded satisfaction."[8]

Reguier de la Plancha (d. 1560) in De l'Estat de France offers the following explanation as to the origin:

The origin of the name is curious; it is not from the German Eidegenossen as has been supposed. Reguier de la Plancha accounts for it as follows: — "The name huguenand was given to those of the religion during the affair of Amboyse, and they were to retail it ever since. I'll say a word about it to settle the doubts of those who have strayed in seeking its origin. The superstition of our ancestors, to within twenty or thirty years thereabouts, was such that in almost all the towns in the kingdom they had a notion that certain spirits underwent their Purgatory in this world after death, and that they went about the town during the night, striking and outraging many people whom they found in the streets. But the light of the Gospel has made them vanish, and teaches us that these spirits were street-strollers and ruffians. At Paris the spirit was called le moine bourré; at Orleans, le mulet odet; at Blois le loup garon; at Tours, le Roy Huguet; and so on in other places. Now, it happens that those whom they called Lutherans were at that time so narrowly watched during the day that they were forced to wait till night to assemble, for the purpose of praying to God, for preaching and receiving the Holy Sacrament; so that although they d'd frighten nor hurt anybody, the priests, through mockery, made them the successors of those spirits which roam the night; and thus that name being quite common in the mouth of the populace, to designate the evangelical huguenands in the country of Tourraine and Amboyse, it became in vogue after that enterprise."[9]

Early history and beliefs

Persecution of the Waldensians in the Massacre of Mérindol in 1545.

The availability of the Bible in local (vernacular) languages was important to the spread of the Protestant movement and the development of the Reformed church in France, and the country had a long history of struggles with the papacy by the time the Protestant Reformation finally arrived. Around 1294, a French version of the Scriptures was prepared by the Roman Catholic priest, Guyard de Moulin. The first known translation of the Bible into one of France's regional languages Arpitan or Franco-Provençal, had been prepared by the 12th century pre-reformer, Peter Waldo (Pierre de Vaux).[10] Long after the sect was suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church, the remaining Waldensians, now mostly in the Luberon region of France, sought to join William Farel, John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation, and Olivetan published a French Bible for them. A two-volume folio version of this translation appeared in Paris, in 1488. Many of those who emerged from secrecy at this time were slaughtered by Francis I in 1545 in the Massacre of Mérindol.[11]

Other predecessors of the Reformed church included the pro-reform and Gallican Roman Catholics, like Jacques Lefevre (c. 1455–1536). The Gallicans briefly achieved independence for the French church, on the principle that the religion of France could not be controlled by the Bishop of Rome, a foreign power.[12] In the time of the Protestant Reformation, Lefevre, a professor at the University of Paris, prepared the way for the rapid dissemination of Lutheran ideas in France with the publication of his French translation of the New Testament in 1523, followed by the whole Bible in the French language, in 1528. William Farel was a student of Lefevre who went on to become a leader of the Swiss Reformation, establishing a Protestant government in Geneva. Jean Cauvin (John Calvin), another student at the University of Paris, also converted to Protestantism. The French Confession of 1559 shows a decidedly Calvinistic influence.[13] Sometime between 1550 and 1580, members of the Reformed church in France came to be commonly known as Huguenots.

Criticisms of the Catholic Church

Above all, Huguenots became known for their harsh criticisms of doctrine and worship in the Catholic Church from which they had broken away, in particular the sacramental rituals of the Church and what they viewed as an obsession with death and the dead. They believed the ritual, images, saints, pilgrimages, prayers, and hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not help anyone toward redemption. They saw Christian life as something to be expressed as a life of simple faith in God, relying upon God for salvation, and not upon the Church's sacraments or rituals, while obeying Biblical law.

Like other religious reformers of the time, they felt that the Catholic Church needed radical cleansing of its impurities, and that the Pope ruled the Church as if it was a worldly kingdom, which sat in mocking tyranny over the things of God, and was ultimately doomed. Rhetoric like this became fiercer as events unfolded, and eventually stirred up a reaction in the Catholic establishment.

The Catholic Church in France opposed the Huguenots, and there were incidents of attacks on Huguenot preachers and congregants as they attempted to meet for worship.[14] The height of this persecution was the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. The Huguenots, retaliating against the French Catholics, frequently took up arms, even forcibly taking a few Catholic cities. Many Catholic monuments and shrines were destroyed in this action, a result of the Huguenots' iconoclasm.

Reform and growth

Huguenots faced persecution from the outset of the Reformation; but Francis I (reigned 1515–1547) initially protected them from Parlementary measures designed for their extermination. The Affair of the Placards[15][16] of 1534 changed the king's posture toward the Huguenots: he stepped away from restraining persecution of the movement.

Huguenot numbers grew rapidly between 1555 and 1561, chiefly amongst nobles and city dwellers. During this time, their opponents first dubbed the Protestants Huguenots; but they called themselves reformés, or "Reformed." They organised their first national synod in 1558, in Paris.[17]

By 1562, the estimated number of Huguenots had passed one million, concentrated mainly in the southern and central parts of the country. The Huguenots in France likely peaked in number at approximately two million, compared to approximately sixteen million Catholics during the same period. Persecution diminished the number of Huguenots. Close to 70,000 Huguenots were killed during St. Bartholomew's Day massacre alone,[18] and many times that amount before and after. Many fled from France to Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, and England.

Wars of religion

As the Huguenots gained influence and displayed their faith more openly, Roman Catholic hostility to them grew, even though the French crown offered increasingly liberal political concessions and edicts of toleration.

In 1561, the Edict of Orléans declared an end to the persecution, and the Edict of Saint-Germain of January 1562 formally recognised the Huguenots for the first time. However, these measures disguised the growing tensions between Protestants and Catholics.

Civil wars

These tensions spurred eight civil wars, interrupted by periods of relative calm, between 1562 and 1598. With each break in peace, the Huguenots' trust in the Catholic throne diminished, and the violence became more severe, and Protestant demands became grander, until a lasting cessation of open hostility finally occurred in 1598.

The wars gradually took on a dynastic character, developing into an extended feud between the Houses of Bourbon and Guise, both of which—in addition to holding rival religious views—staked a claim to the French throne. The crown, occupied by the House of Valois, generally supported the Catholic side, but on occasion switched over to the Protestant cause when politically expedient.

The French Wars of Religion began with a massacre at Vassy on 1 March 1562, when dozens[4] (some sources say hundreds[19]) of Huguenots were killed, and about 200 were wounded.

The Huguenots transformed themselves into a definitive political movement thereafter. Protestant preachers rallied a considerable army and a formidable cavalry, which came under the leadership of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. Henry of Navarre and the House of Bourbon allied themselves to the Huguenots, adding wealth and holdings to the Protestant strength, which at its height grew to sixty fortified cities, and posed a serious threat to the Catholic crown and Paris over the next three decades.

St. Bartholomew's Day massacre

An Eyewitness Account of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre by François Dubois (1790 - 1871).

In what became known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 24 August – 3 October 1572, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris. Similar massacres took place in other towns in the weeks following. The main provincial towns and cities experiencing the Massacre were Aix, Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyon, Meaux, Orleans, Rouen, Toulouse, and Troyes.[20] Nearly 3,000 Protestants were slaughtered in Toulouse alone.[21] The exact number of fatalities throughout the country is not known. On the 23–24 August, between about 2,000[22] and 3,000[23][24] Protestants were killed in Paris and between 3,000[25] and 7,000 more[26] in the French provinces. By 17 September, almost 25,000 Protestants had been massacred in Paris alone.[27][28] Outside of Paris, the killings continued until the 3 October.[27] An amnesty granted in 1573 pardoned the perpetrators.

Edict of Nantes

Henry IV, as Hercules vanquishing the Lernaean Hydra (i.e. the Catholic League), by Toussaint Dubreuil, circa 1600.

The pattern of warfare, followed by brief periods of peace, continued for nearly another quarter-century. The warfare was definitively quelled in 1598, when Henry of Navarre, having succeeded to the French throne as Henry IV, and recanted Protestantism in favour of Roman Catholicism, issued the Edict of Nantes. The Edict established Catholicism as the state religion of France, but granted the Protestants equality with Catholics under the throne and a degree of religious and political freedom within their domains. The Edict simultaneously protected Catholic interests by discouraging the founding of new Protestant churches in Catholic-controlled regions.

With the proclamation of the Edict of Nantes, and the subsequent protection of Huguenot rights, pressures to leave France abated. However, enforcement of the Edict grew increasingly irregular over time, and it was increasingly ignored altogether under Louis XIV. Louis imposed dragonnades and other forms of persecution for Protestants, which made life so intolerable that many fled the country. The Huguenot population of France dropped to 856,000 by the mid-1660s, of which a plurality lived in rural areas. The greatest concentrations of Huguenots at this time resided in the regions of Guienne, Saintonge-Aunis-Angoumois and Poitou.[29]

Montpellier was among the most important of the 66 "villes de sûreté" that the Edict of 1598 granted to the Huguenots. The city's political institutions and the university were all handed over to the Huguenots. Tension with Paris led to a siege by the royal army in 1622. Peace terms called for the dismantling of the city's fortifications. A royal citadel was built and the university and consulate were taken over by the Catholic party. Even before the Edict of Alès (1629), Protestant rule was dead and the ville de sûreté was no more.

By 1620 the Huguenots were on the defensive, and the government increasingly applied pressure. A series of small civil wars that broke out in southern France between 1610 and 1635 were long considered by historians to be regional squabbles between rival noble families. New analysis shows that these civil wars were in fact religious in nature, remnants of the French Wars of Religion that largely ended with the Edict of Nantes in 1598. Small wars in the provinces of Languedoc and Guyenne show Catholic and Calvinist groups using destruction of churches, iconoclasm, forced conversions, and the execution of heretics as weapons of choice.

Edict of Fontainebleau

Louis XIV acted more and more aggressively to force the Huguenots to convert. At first he sent missionaries to convert them, backed by a fund to financially reward converts to Catholicism. Then he imposed penalties and closed their schools and excluded them from favorite professions. Escalating the attack, he tried to forcibly re-Catholicize the Huguenots by the employment of armed dragonnades (soldiers) to occupy and loot their houses. In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and declared Protestantism to be illegal in the Edict of Fontainebleau.

The revocation forbade Protestant services, the children were to be educated as Catholics, and emigration was prohibited. It proved disastrous to the Huguenots and costly for France. It precipitated civil bloodshed, ruined commerce, and resulted in the illegal flight from the country of about 180,000 Protestants, many of whom became intellectuals, doctors and business leaders in Britain as well as Holland, Prussia and South Africa. 4000 went to the American colonies. The English welcomed the French refugees, providing money from both government and private agencies to aid their relocation. Those Huguenots who stayed in France became Catholics and were called "new converts."[30]

After this, Huguenots (with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 1,000,000[3]) fled to surrounding Protestant countries: England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Prussia — whose Calvinist Great Elector Frederick William welcomed them to help rebuild his war-ravaged and underpopulated country. Following this exodus, Huguenots remained in large numbers in only one region in France: the rugged Cévennes region in the south, from which a group known as the Camisards revolted against the French crown in the early 18th century.


In their countries of refuge, Huguenots fostered a distinctive French Protestant identity that enabled them to remain aloof from the culture of their host society. In all cases Huguenots asserted themselves as a self-confident minority, convinced of the superiority of their language and culture, and believed themselves to be privileged in this world as in the next.[31]

Early emigration

Etching of Fort Caroline.

The first Huguenots to leave France seeking freedom from persecution went to Switzerland and to the Netherlands. A group of Huguenots was part of the French colonisers who arrived in Brazil in 1555. A couple of ship with around 500 people arrived at the Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro today, and settled in a small island. A fort, named Fort Coligny, was built to protect them from attack from the Portuguese troops and Brazilian natives. The settlement was an attempt to establish a French colony in South America. The fort was destroyed in 1560 by the Portuguese who captured part of the Huguenots. The Catholic Portuguese threatened the prisoners with death penalty if they did not convert to Catholicism. The Huguenots of Guanabara, as they are now known, produced a declaration of faith to express their beliefs to the Portuguese. This was their death sentence. This document, the Guanabara Confession of Faith, became the first Protestant confession of faith in the whole of the Americas.

A group of Huguenots under the leadership of Jean Ribault in 1562 ended up establishing the small colony of Fort Caroline in 1564, on the banks of the St. Johns River, in what is today Jacksonville, Florida. The colony was the first attempt at any permanent European settlement in the present-day continental United States, but the group survived only a short time. In September 1565, an attack against the new Spanish colony at St. Augustine backfired, and the Spanish wiped out the Fort Caroline garrison.

South Africa

Individual Huguenots have settled at the Cape of Good Hope from as early as 1671 with the arrival of François Villion (Viljoen).

On 31 December 1687 the first organised group of Huguenots set sail from Holland to the Dutch East India Company post at the Cape of Good Hope.[32] The largest portion of the Huguenots to settle in the Cape arrived between 1688 and 1700, thereafter the numbers declined and only small batches arrived at a time.[33]

The Huguenot Monument of Franschhoek.

Many of these settlers chose an area that was later called Franschhoek, (Dutch for French Corner), in the present-day Western Cape province of South Africa. A large monument to commemorate the arrival of the Huguenots in South Africa was inaugurated on 7 April 1948 at Franschhoek.

The official policy in the Western Cape was to fuse the Hugenot community and the Dutch community into one. When Paul Roux, the pastor who arrived with the main group of Hugenots died in 1724, the Dutch administration, as a special concession, permitted another French clerk to take his place "for the benefit of the elderly who spoke only French".[34]

Many of the farms in the Western Cape province in South Africa still bear French names. There are many families, today mostly Afrikaans-speaking, whose surnames bear witness to their French Huguenot ancestry. Examples of these include: Blignaut, de Klerk (Le Clercq), de Villiers, du Plessis, Du Preez (Des Pres), du Toit, Franck, Fouche, Fourie (Fleurit), Gervais, Giliomee (Guilliaume), Gous / Gouws (Gauch), Hugo, Jordaan (Jurdan), Joubert, Labuschagne (la Buscagne), le Roux, Lombard, Malan, Malherbe, Marais, Minnaar (Mesnard), Nel (Nell), Nortje (Nortier), Pienaar, Rossouw Rousseau, Taljard (Taillard), TerBlanche, Theron, Viljoen (Villon) and Visagie (Visage).[35] The wine industry in South Africa owed a significant debt to the Huguenots, many of whom had vineyards in France.

North America

In 1562 French naval officer Jean Ribault led an expedition to the New World that founded Fort Caroline as a haven for Huguenots in what is now Jacksonville, Florida. Trying to keep control of La Florida, Spanish soldiers killed Ribault and many of his followers near St. Augustine in 1565.

Barred by the government from settling in New France, many Huguenots sailed to North America and settled instead in the Dutch colony of New Netherland (later incorporated into New York and New Jersey); as well as Great Britain's colonies, including Nova Scotia. A number of New Amsterdam's families were of Huguenot origin, often having emigrated as refugees to the Netherlands in the previous century. In 1628 the Huguenots established a congregation as L'Église française à la Nouvelle-Amsterdam (the French church in New Amsterdam). This parish continues today as L'Eglise du Saint-Esprit, part of the Episcopal (Anglican) communion, and welcoming Francophone New Yorkers from all over the world. Services are conducted in French for a Francophone parish community, and members of the Huguenot Society of America.

Jean Hasbrouck House (1721) in New Paltz.

Huguenot immigrants founded New Paltz, New York. They built what is now the oldest street in the current United States of America with the original stone houses, which is a National Historic District. They also founded New Rochelle, New York (named after La Rochelle in France). Louis DuBois, son of Chretien DuBois, was one of the original Huguenot settlers in this area.[36] In 1692 Huguenots settled on the south shore of Staten Island, New York in 1692. The present-day neighbourhood of Huguenot was named for those early settlers.

Some Huguenot immigrants settled in Central Pennsylvania. They assimilated with the predominately Pennsylvania German settlers of the area.

In 1700 several hundred French Huguenots went to the colony of Virginia, where the English Crown had promised them land grants in Lower Norfolk County. When they arrived, they were offered instead land 20 miles above the falls of the James River, at the abandoned Monacan village known as Manakin Town, now in Powhatan County. Some settlers landed in present-day Chesterfield County. On 12 May 1705, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act to naturalise the 148 Huguenots still resident at Manakintown. Of the original 390 settlers there, many had died, others lived outside town on farms in the English style, and others moved to different areas.[37] The Huguenot Memorial Bridge across the James River and Huguenot Road were named in their honor, as were many local features, including several schools, including Huguenot High School. With their neighbors, through the 18th and 19th century, descendants of the French migrated west across the Appalachian Mountains into the West of what became Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and other states.

French Huguenot Church in Charleston, SC

In the early years, many Huguenots also settled in the area of present-day Charleston, South Carolina. In 1685, Rev. Elie Prioleau from the town of Pons in France was among the first to settle there. He became pastor of the first Huguenot church in North America in that city. The French Huguenot Church of Charleston, which remains independent, is the oldest continuously active Huguenot congregation in the United States. Founded in 1628, L'Eglise du Saint-Esprit in New York is older, but it left the French Reformed movement in 1804 to become part of the Episcopal Church.

Most of the Huguenot congregations (or individuals) in North America eventually affiliated with other Protestant denominations with more numerous members, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Reformed Churches, the Reformed Baptists, and the Mennonite Church. The Huguenots adapted quickly and often began to marry outside their immediate French communities fairly rapidly, which led to their assimilation. Their descendants in many families continued to use French first and surnames for their children well into the nineteenth century, as they tried to keep some connection to their heritage. Assimilated, the French made numerous contributions to United States economic life, especially as merchants and artisans in the late Colonial and early Federal periods. For example, E.I. du Pont, a former student of Lavoisier, established the Brandywine gunpowder mills, which produced material for the American Revolutionary War.

Paul Revere was descended from Huguenot refugees, as was Henry Laurens, who signed the Declaration of Independence for South Carolina; Jack Jouett, who made the ride from Cuckoo Tavern to warn Thomas Jefferson and others that Tarleton and his men were on their way to arrest him for crimes against the king; and a number of other leaders of the American Revolution and later statesmen. The last active Huguenot congregation in North America worships in Charleston, South Carolina, at a church that dates from 1844. The Huguenot Society of America maintains Manakin Episcopal Church in Virginia as an historic shrine with occasional services.

The Netherlands

Some Huguenots fought in the Low Countries alongside the Dutch against Spain during the first years of the Dutch Revolt (1568-1609). The Dutch Republic rapidly became a haven of choice for Huguenot exiles. Early ties were already visible in the "Apologie" of William the Silent, condemning the Spanish Inquisition, which was written by his court minister, the Huguenot Pierre L'Oyseleur, lord of Villiers.

Louise de Coligny, daughter of the murdered Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligny, married William the Silent, leader of the Dutch (Calvinist) revolt against Spanish (Catholic) rule. As both spoke French in daily life, their court church in the Prinsenhof in Delft held services in French. The practice has continued to the present day. The Prinsenhof is one of the 14 active Walloon churches of the Dutch Reformed Church.

The ties between Huguenots and the Dutch Republic's military and political leadership, the House of Orange-Nassau, which existed since the early days of the Dutch Revolt, explains the many early settlements of Huguenots in the Dutch Republic's colonies, such as around the Cape of Good Hope in South-Africa and New Netherland in North America.

Stadtholder William III of Orange, who later became King of England, emerged as the strongest opponent of king Louis XIV after the French attacked the Dutch Republic in 1672. William formed the League of Augsburg as a coalition to oppose Louis and the French state. Consequently, many Huguenots saw the wealthy and Calvinist Dutch Republic, which led the opposition to Louis XIV, as the most attractive country for exile after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They also found many French-speaking Calvinist churches there.

After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the Dutch Republic received the largest group of Huguenot refugees, an estimated total of 75,000 to 100,000 people. Amongst them were 200 clergy. Many came from the region of the Cévennes, for instance, the village of Fraissinet-de-Lozère.[38] This was a huge influx as the entire population of the Dutch Republic amounted to ca. 2 million at that time. Around 1700, it is estimated that nearly 25% of the Amsterdam population was Huguenot. In 1705, Amsterdam and the area of West-Frisia were the first areas to provide full citizens rights to Huguenot immigrants, followed by the Dutch Republic in 1715. Huguenots intermarried with Dutch from the outset.

One of the most prominent Huguenot refugees in the Netherlands was Pierre Bayle. He started teaching in Rotterdam, where he finished writing and publishing his multi-volume masterpiece, Historical and Critical Dictionary. It became one of the 100 foundational texts of the US Library of Congress.

Some Huguenot descendants in the Netherlands may be noted by French family names, although they typically use Dutch given names. Due to the Huguenots' early ties with leadership of the Dutch Revolt's leadership and their own participation, some of the Dutch patriciate are of part-Huguenot descent. Some such Huguenot families have kept alive various traditions, such as the celebration and feast of their patron Saint Nicolas, similar to the Dutch Sint Nicolaas (Sinterklaas) feast.

Britain and Ireland

Huguenot weavers' houses at Canterbury

An estimated 50,000 Protestant Walloons and Huguenots fled to England, about 10,000 of whom moved on to Ireland. In relative terms, this could be the largest wave of immigration of a single community into Britain ever.[39] A leading Huguenot theologian and writer who led the exiled community in London, Andrew Lortie (born André Lortie), became known for articulating Huguenot criticism of the Holy See and transubstantiation.

Of these refugees, upon landing on the Kent coast, many gravitated towards Canterbury, then the county's Calvinist hub, where many Walloon and Huguenot families were granted asylum. Edward VI granted them the whole of the Western crypt of Canterbury Cathedral for worship. This privilege in 1825 shrank to the south aisle and in 1895 to the former chantry chapel of the Black Prince, where services are still held in French according to the reformed tradition every Sunday at 3pm. Other evidence of the Walloons and Huguenots in Canterbury includes a block of houses in Turnagain Lane where weavers' windows survive on the top floor, and 'the Weavers', a half-timbered house by the river (now a restaurant - see illustration above). The house derives its name from a weaving school which was moved there in the last years of the 19th century, resurrecting the use to which it had been put between the 16th century and about 1830. Many of the refugee community were weavers, but naturally some practised other occupations necessary to sustain the community distinct from the indigenous population, this separation being a condition of their initial acceptance in the City. They also settled elsewhere in Kent, particularly Sandwich, Faversham and Maidstone - towns in which there used to be refugee churches.

The French Protestant Church of London was established by Royal Charter in 1550. It is now at Soho Square.[40]

Huguenot refugees flocked to Shoreditch, London in large numbers. They established a major weaving industry in and around Spitalfields (see Petticoat Lane and the Tenterground),[41] and in Wandsworth, where their gardening skills benefited the Battersea market gardens. The Old Truman Brewery, then known as the Black Eagle Brewery, appeared in 1724. The fleeing of Huguenot refugees from Tours, France had virtually wiped out the great silk mills they had built.

At the same time other Huguenots arriving in England settled in Bedfordshire, which was (at the time) the main centre of England's Lace industry. Huguenots greatly contributed to the development of lace-making in Bedfordshire, with many families settling in Cranfield, Bedford and Luton.

Some of these immigrants moved to Norwich which had accommodated an earlier settlement of Walloon weavers; they added to the existing immigrant population which made up about a third of the population of the city.

Many Huguenots settled in Ireland during the Plantations of Ireland. Huguenot regiments fought for William of Orange in the Williamite war in Ireland, for which they were rewarded with land grants and titles, many settling in Dublin.[42] Some of them took their skills to Ulster and assisted in the founding of the Irish linen industry, particularly in the Lisburn area. Numerous signs of Huguenot presence can still be seen with names still in use, and with areas of the main towns and cities named after the people who settled there, for instance the Huguenot District in Cork City. There is also a French Church in Portarlington, County Laois which dates back to 1696, and was built to serve the new Huguenot community.

Germany and Scandinavia

Obelisk commemorating the Huguenots in Fredericia, Denmark

Huguenots refugees found a safe haven in the Lutheran and Reformed states in Germany and Scandinavia. Nearly 44,000 Huguenots established themselves in Germany, particularly in Prussia where many of their descendents rose to positions of prominence. Several congregations were founded, such as the Fredericia (Denmark), Berlin, Stockholm, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Emden.

Around 1700, a significant proportion of Berlin's population was French-speaking, and the Berlin Huguenots preserved the French language in their church services for nearly a century. They ultimately decided to switch to German in protest against the occupation of Prussia by Napoleon in 1806-07.

Prince Louis de Condé, along with his sons Daniel and Osias, arranged with Count Ludwig von Nassau-Saarbrücken to establish a Huguenot community in present-day Saarland in 1604. The Count was a supporter of mercantilism and welcomed technically skilled immigrants into his lands regardless of their religious persuasions. The Condés established a thriving glass-making works which provided wealth to the principality for many years, and other founding families created enterprises including textiles and other traditional Huguenot occupations in France. The community and its congregation remain active to this day, with many of the founding families still present in the region. Members of this community emigrated to the United States in the 1890s.

In Bad Karlshafen, Hessen, Germany is the Huguenot Museum and Huguenot archive. The collection includes family histories, a library, and a picture archive.


The exodus of Huguenots from France created a brain drain, as many Huguenots had occupied important places in society, from which the kingdom did not fully recover for years. The French crown's refusal to allow non-Catholics to settle in New France may help to explain that colony's slow rate of population growth compared to that of the neighbouring British colonies, which opened settlement to religious dissenters. By the time of the French and Indian War, there was a sizeable population of Huguenot descent living in the British colonies, many of whom participated in the British conquest of New France in 1759-60.[43]

Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg invited Huguenots to settle in his realms, and a number of their descendants rose to positions of prominence in Prussia. Several prominent German military, cultural, and political figures in subsequent history, including poet Theodor Fontane,[44] General Hermann von François,[45] the hero of the First World War Battle of Tannenberg, and famed U-boat captain Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière,[46] trace their ancestry to the Huguenot refugees from France. The last Prime Minister of the (East) German Democratic Republic, Lothar de Maizière,[47] is also a scion of a Huguenot family.

The persecution and flight of the Huguenots greatly damaged the reputation of Louis XIV abroad, particularly in England; the two kingdoms, which had enjoyed peaceful relations prior to 1685, became bitter enemies and fought against each other in a series of wars (called the "Second Hundred Years' War" by some historians) from 1689 onward.

End of persecution and restoration of French citizenship

Persecution of Protestants continued in France after 1724, but ended in 1787 with the Edict of Toleration. Three years later, during the French Revolution, Protestants were finally granted full citizenship.

The 15 December 1790 Law stated : "All persons born in a foreign country and descending in any degree of a French man or woman expatriated for religious reason are declared French nationals (naturels français) and will benefit from rights attached to that quality if they come back to France, establish their domicile there and take the civic oath." This might have been, historically, the first law recognising a right of return.

Article 4 of the 26 June 1889 Nationality Law stated : "Descendants of families proscribed by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes will continue to benefit from the benefit of the 15 December 1790 Law, but on the condition that a nominal decree should be issued for every petitioner. That decree will only produce its effects for the future."

Foreign descendants of Huguenots lost the automatic right to French citizenship in 1945 (by force of the ordonnance du 19 octobre 1945, revoking the 1889 Nationality Law)."Ordonnace du 19 octobre 1945" also states in article 3 " This application does not however affect the validity of past acts by the person or rights acquired by third parties on the basis of previous laws."

In the 1920s and 1930s, members of the extreme-right Action Française movement expressed strong animus against Protestants, as well as against Jews, and freemasons - all three being regarded as groups supporting the French Republic, which Action Française sought to overthrow.

Protestants in France today number about one million, or about two percent of the population.[48] They are most concentrated in Alsace, in southeastern France and the Cévennes region in the south.



A number of French churches are descended from the Huguenots, including:

United States




The Huguenot Cross

The Huguenot cross is the distinctive emblem of the Huguenots (croix huguenote).[50] It is now an official symbol of the Eglise des Protestants reformé (French Protestant church). Huguenot descendants sometimes display this symbol as a sign of reconnaissance (recognition) between them.

See also


  1. History: The origin of the name Huguenot' The Huguenot Society of America
  2. 2.0 2.1 Janet G. Gray, "The Origin of the Word Huguenot", Sixteenth Century Journal 14 (1983), 349-359
  3. 3.0 3.1 Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed, Frank Puaux, Huguenot
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Catholic Encyclopedia, Antoine Dégert, 1911, Huguenots
  5. "Who Were the Huguenots?", The National Huguenot Society
  6. Bibliothèque d'humanisme et Renaissance, by Association d'humanisme et renaissance, 1958, p217
  7. William Gilmore Simms, The Huguenots in Florida; Or, The Lily and the Totem, 1854, p. 470
  8. George Lunt, "Huguenot - The origin and meaning of the name", New England Historical & Genealogical Register, Boston, 1908/1911, 241-246
  9. De l'Estat de France 1560, by Reguier de la Plancha, quoted by The Cape Monthly (February, 1877) No. 82 Vol. XIV on page 126|The Cape Monthly at the Internet Archive
  11. Hanna, William (1872). The wars of the Huguenots. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers. p. 27. Retrieved 7 Sep. 2009. 
  12. The Word Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought, Margaret Ruth Miles, 2005, Blackwell Publishing, pg 381
  13. John Calvin, tr. Emily O. Butler. "The French Confession of Faith of 1559". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  14. margaret kilner. "Huguenots". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  15. L'affaire des placards, la fin de la belle Renaissance
  16. "18 octobre 1534 : l'affaire des placards". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  17. "Catholic Encyclopedia: Huguenots". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  18. "This Day in History 1572: Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  19. A History of the Reformation, by Thomas Martin Lindsay, 1907, p190 "six or seven hundred Protestants were slain"
  20. Parker, G. (ed.) (1994), Atlas of World History, Fourth Edition, BCA (HarperCollins), London, pp. 178;
  21. Chadwick, O. (1977), The Reformation, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, pp. 162;
  22. Alastair Armstrong: France 1500-1715 (Heinemann, 2003) pp.70-71;
  23. Parker, G. (ed.) (1998), Oxford Encyclopedia World History, Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-860223-5 hardback, pp.585;
  24. Chadwick, H. & Evans, G.R. (1987), Atlas of the Christian Church, Macmillian, London, ISBN 0-333-44157-5 hardback, pp. 113;
  25. Alastair Armstrong: France 1500-1715 (Heinemann, 2003) pp.70-71
  26. Moynahan, B. (2003) The Faith: A History of Christianity, Pimlico, London, ISBN 0-7126-0720-X paperback, pp.456;
  27. 27.0 27.1 Partner, P. (1999), Two Thousand Years: The Second Millennium, Granda Media (Andre Deutsch), Britain, ISBN 0-233-99666-4 hardback, pp. ;
  28. Upshall, M. (ed.) (1990), The Hutchinson Paperback Encyclopedia, Arrow Books, London, ISBN 0-09-978200-6 paperback;
  29. Benedict, Philip (1991). The Huguenot Population of France, 1600-1685: The Demographic Fate and Customs of a Religious Minority. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society. p. 8. ISBN 0871698153. 
  30. John Wolf, Louis XIV, ch 24; Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, "Escape from Babylon." Christian History 2001 20(3): 38-42. Issn: 0891-9666 Fulltext: Ebsco
  31. Susanne Lachenicht, "Huguenot Immigrants and the Formation of National Identities, 1548-1787," Historical Journal 2007 50(2): 309-331,
  32. Botha, Colin Graham. The French refugees at the Cape. p. 7. Retrieved 21 Jul. 2009. 
  33. Botha, Colin Graham. The French refugees at the Cape. p. 7. Retrieved 21 Jul. 2009. 
  34. Walker, Eric (1968). "Chapter IV - The Diaspora". A History of Southern Africa. Longmans. 
  35. Ces Francais Qui Ont Fait L'Afrique Du Sud. Translation: The French People Who Made South Africa. Bernard Lugan. January 1996. ISBN 2-84100-086-9'
  36. William Heidgerd, The American Descendants of Chrétien Du Bois of Wicres, France Part One, The DuBois Family Association, New Paltz, NY: Huguenot Historical Society Inc., 1968, A-3
  37. "Huguenots in Manakintown" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  38. Ghislain Baury, La dynastie Rouvière de Fraissinet-de-Lozère. Les élites villageoises dans les Cévennes protestantes à l'époque moderne d'après un fonds documentaire inédit (1403-1908), Sète: Les Nouvelles Presses du Languedoc, 2010
  39. "Premium content". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  40. "French Protestant Church of London". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  41. Bethnal Green: Settlement and Building to 1836, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 91–5 Date accessed: 21 May 2008
  42. The Irish Pensioners of William III's Huguenot Regiments
  43. "Cooperative religion in Quebec. | Journal of Ecumenical Studies (March, 2004)". 2004-03-22. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  44. Steinhauer, Harry. Twelve German Novellas, p.315. University of California Press, 1977. ISBN 0-520-03002-8
  45. Pawly, Ronald. The Kaiser's Warlords, p.44. Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-84176-558-9
  46. Miller, David. U-boats, p.12. Brassey's, 2002. ISBN 1-57488-463-8
  47. Leiby, Richard A. The Unification of Germany, 1989-1990, p.109. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999. ISBN 0-313-29969-2
  48. "France". 2004-01-01. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  49. "Huguenot Half Dollar". Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  50. croix huguenote

Further reading

External links