were the Huguenots?
A general edict which
encouraged the extermination
of the Huguenots was issued on January 29th, 1536 in France. On March
1562 some 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassy,
France. This ignited
the the Wars of
would rip apart, devastate, and bankrupt France for the next three
Huguenots were French Protestants
who were members of the Reformed Church which was
1550 by John Calvin. The origin of the name
Huguenot is uncertain,
but dates from approximately 1550 when it was used in court cases
"heretics" (dissenters from the Roman Catholic Church). As nickname and
even abusive name it's use was banned in the regulations of the Edict
Nantes which Henry IV (Henry of Navarre, who himself
a Huguenot) issued in 1559. The French Protestants themselves preferred
to refer to themselves as "réformees" (reformers)
much later that the name "Huguenot"
became an honorary one.
Bartholomew Massacre of the night of 23/24 August,
1572 more than
8000 Huguenots, including Admiral
Gaspard de Coligny, Governor of Picardy and leader and
the Huguenots, were murdered in Paris. It happened during the wedding
Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot, to Marguerite de Valois (daughter of
de Medici), when thousands of Huguenots converged on Paris for the
When the first rumours
of the massacre reached
the Vatican in Rome on 2 September 1572, pope Gregory XIII was jubilant
and wanted bonfires to be lit in Rome. He was persuaded to wait for the
official communication; the very morning of the day that he received
confirmed news, the pope held a consistory and announced that "God
been pleased to be merciful". Then with all the cardinals he
to the Church of St. Mark for the
Te Deum, and prayed and ordered
prayers that the Most Christian King might rid and purge his entire
(of France) of the Huguenot plague.
Catherine de Medici who persuaded
her weakling son Charles IX to order the mass murder, which lasted
days and spread to the countryside. On Sunday morning August 24th, 1572
she personally walked through the streets of Paris to inspect the
Henry of Navarre's life was spared by pretending to support the Roman
faith. In 1593 he made his "perilous leap"and abjured his faith in July
1593, and 5 years later he was the undisputed monarch as King Henry IV
(le bon Henri, the good Henry) of France.
On 8 September
1572 a procession of thanksgiving
took place in Rome, and the pope, in a prayer after mass, thanked God
having "granted the Catholic people a glorious triumph over a
race" (gloriosam de perfidis gentibus populo catholico
XIII engaged Vasari to paint scenes in one of the Vatican apartments of
the triumph of the Most Christian King over the Huguenots. He had a
struck representing an exterminating angel smiting the Huguenots with
sword, the inscription reading: Hugonottorium strages (Huguenot
conspirators). In France itself, the French magistracy ordered the
to be burned in effigy and prayers and processions of thanksgiving on
recurring 24th August, out of gratitude to God for the victory over the
of Nantes was signed by
Henry IV on April 13th, 1598, which brought an end to the Wars of
Henry IV, himself a
(as Henry of Navarre)
Huguenots were allowed to practice
their faith in 20 specified French "free" cities. France became united
and a decade of peace followed. After Henry IV was murdered in 1610,
the persecution of the "dissenters" resumed in all earnestness under
guidance of Cardinal Richelieu. The Huguenot free cities were lost one
after the other after they were conquered by the forces of Cardinal
and the last and most important stronghold,
La Rochelle, fell in
1629 after a siege lasting a month.
Richelieu, who relent-
lessly persecuted the
Protestant churches and
the houses of "obstinates"
were burned and destroyed, and their bibles and hymn books burned.
was declared illegal. Many Huguenots were burned at the stake.
XIV (the Sun King, 1643-1715)
began to apply his motto
l'état c'est moi (I am the state)
and introduced the infamous Dragonnades - the billeting of dragoons in
Huguenot households. He began with a policy of une foi, un
loi, un roi
(one faith, one law, one king) and revoked the Edict of Nantes on 22
1685. The large scale persecution of the Huguenots resumed.
these were common during
the persecution of the Huguenots in France during the sixteenth and
on picture above for
At least 200
000 French Huguenots fled
to countries such as Switzerland, Germany, England, America, and South
Africa, where they could enjoy religious freedom. Between 1618 and 1725
between 5000 and 7000 Huguenots reached the shores of America.
large scale emigration of
Hugenots to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa occurred during 1688
- 1689. However, even before this large scaale emigration individual
such as François Villion (1671) and the brothers François
and Guillaume du Toit (1686) fled to the Cape of
Good Hope. In 1692
a total of 201 French Huguenots had settled at the Cape of Good Hope.
of them settled in an area now known as Franschhoek ("French Corner"),
some 70 km outside Cape Town, where many farms still bear their
later the promulgation of the
Edict of Toleration on 28 November 1787 partially restored the civil
religious rights of the Huguenots in France.