John Calvin (1509 - 1564)
Huguenots were French
were members of the Reformed Church which
was established in 1550 by the reformer John Calvin.
The origin of the name Huguenot is
uncertain, but dates from approximately 1550 when it was used in court
cases against "heretics" (dissenters from the Roman Catholic Church).
There is a theory that it is derived from the personal name of Besançon
Hugues, the leader of the "Confederate Party" in Geneva, in combination
with a Frankish corruption of the German word for conspiratoror confederate: eidgenosse. Thus, Hugues plus eidgenot becomesHuguenot,
with the intention of associating the Protestant cause with some very
O.I.A. Roche, in his book The
Days of the Upright, a History of the Huguenots, writes that
"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 Huisgenooten, or "house
fellows," while on the Swiss and German borders they were termed
Eidgenossen, 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."
nickname and even abusive name it's use was banned in the regulations
of the Edict of Nantes which Henry IV (Henry of Navarre, who himself
earlier was a Huguenot) issued in 1598. The French Protestants
themselves preferred to refer to themselves as "réformees" (reformers)
rather than "Huguenots".
It was much later that the name "Huguenot" became an honorary one of
which their descendants are proud.
A general edict which encouraged the extermination of the Huguenots was
issued on January 29th, 1536 in France. On March
1st, 1562 some 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassy, France.
This ignited the the Wars
of Religion which would rip apart, devastate, and bankrupt
France for the next three decades.
St. Batholomew's night massacre, 1572
the infamous St Bartholomew
Massacre of the
night of 23/24 August, 1572 more than 8 000 Huguenots, including
Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, Governor of Picardy and leader and
spokesman of the Huguenots, were murdered in Paris.
Catharina de Medici
happened during the wedding of Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot, to
Marguerite de Valois (daughter of Catherine de Medici), when thousands
of Huguenots converged on Paris for the wedding celebrations. It
was Catherine de Medici who persuaded her weakling son Charles IX to
order the mass murder, which lasted three days and spread to the
countryside. On Sunday morning August 24th, 1572 she personally walked
through the streets of Paris to inspect the carnage. Henry of Navarre's
life was spared when he pretended to support the Roman Catholic 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
the good Henry) of France.
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
morning of the day that he received the confirmed news, the pope held a
consistory and announced that "God had been pleased to be merciful".
Then with all the cardinals he repaired 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 kingdom (of France) of the Huguenot
September 1572 a procession of thanksgiving took place in Rome, and the
pope, in a prayer after mass, thanked God for having "granted the
Catholic people a glorious triumph over a perfidious race" (gloriosam
de perfidis gentibus populo catholico loetitiam tribuisti).
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
medal struck representing an exterminating angel smiting the Huguenots
with his sword, the inscription reading: Hugonottorium strages
France itself, the French magistracy
ordered the admiral to be burned in effigy and prayers and processions
of thanksgiving henceforth on each recurring 24th August, out of
gratitude to God for the victory over the Huguenots.
The Huguenot free cities were lost
one after the other after they were
conquered by the forces of Cardinal Richelieu, and the last and most
important stronghold, La
Rochelle, fell in 1629 after a siege lasting a
Henry of Navarre, former Huguenot, later
||The Edict of Nantes was signed by Henry IV on
April 13th, 1598, which brought an end to the Wars of
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, however, the persecution of the
"dissenters" resumed in all earnestness under the guidance of Cardinal
Richelieu, whose favourite project was the extermination of the
Henry IV's weakling sun, Louis the
Thirteenth, refused them the privileges which had been granted to them
by the Edict of Nantes; and, when reminded of the claims they had, if
the promises of Henry the Third and Henry the Fourth were to be
regarded, he answered that "the first-named monarch feared
them, and the latter loved them; but I neither fear nor love them."
Richelieu, who persecuted the Huguenots with
of the life of galley-slaves in France is given in Jean Marteilhes's Memoirs
of a Protestant, translated by Oliver Goldsmith, which
describes the experiences of one of the Huguenots who suffered after
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
XIV (the Sun
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 October
1685. The large scale persecution of the Huguenots resumed. Protestant
churches and the houses of "obstinates" were burned and destroyed, and
their bibles and hymn books burned. Emigration was declared illegal.
Many Huguenots were burned at the stake. Many Huguenots who did not
find their death in local prisons or execution on the wheel of torture,
were shipped to sea to serve their sentences as galley
slaves, either on French galley ships, or sold to Turkey as
Every Huguenot place of worship was
to be destroyed; every minister who refused to conform was to be sent
to the Hôpitaux
de Forçats at
Marseilles and at Valance. If he had been noted for his zeal he was to
be considered "obstinate," and sent to slavery for life in such of the
West-Indian islands as belonged to the French. The children of Huguenot
parents were to be taken from them by force, and educated by the Roman
Catholic monks or nuns.
Scenes like these were common during the
persecution of the Huguenots in France during the sixteenth and
least 250 000 French Huguenots fled to countries such as Switzerland,
Germany, England, America, the Netherlands, Poland and South Africa,
where they could enjoy religious freedom. As many were killed in France
itself. Between 1618 and 1725 between 5 000 and 7 000 Huguenots reached
the shores of America. Those who came from the French speaking south of
Belgium, an area known as Wallonia,
are generally known as Walloons (as
opposed to Huguenots)
in the United States and elsewhere.
The organised large scale emigration
of Hugenots to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa occurred during
1688 - 1689. However, even before this large scale emigration
individual Huguenots 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. Most of them settled in an area
now known as Franschhoek ("French Corner"), some 70 km outside Cape
Town, where many farms still bear their original French names.
A century later the promulgation of
the Edict of Toleration on 28 November 1787 partially restored the
civil and religious rights of the Huguenots in France.