Yesterday’s post covered the Huguenot influence on the Channel Islands, Jersey in particular. It also looked at General — or Marshal — Vauban’s statistics on the wealth, expertise and military training the Huguenots were taking from France.
Religious persecution can have a profound effect on the nation of origin — in this case, France — and the new host nation for refugees, the second most popular of which was England.
Dr Robin Gwynn — author, historian and retired professor — deplores our late 20th century loss of history, particularly that of the Huguenots. In 1985, he told the Christian Science Monitor of his astonishment that a 1978 volume covering the period between 1658 and 1714 has no mention of the French Protestants who fled to Britain, principally England.
Gwynn was referring to Crown and Court by J R Jones. Jones, by way of reply to the Monitor, said he thought the Huguenots were little more than a footnote. Jones is not alone. A contemporary of his, Professor John Kenyon of St Andrew’s University in Scotland, is equally dismissive of this large wave of immigrants — approximately 50,000 people in a country with a population of a little over 5 million during Louis XIV’s reign. Afterward, the Huguenots continued to migrate to England. By the mid-18th century, 500,000 had arrived.
Gwynn says that the Huguenots’ influence on English society should not be forgotten:
They knew that in the 19th century. If you read [the English historian] Macaulay, he was well aware of the Huguenot input. In 1900, you couldn’t possibly have written a history of Stuart England without mentioning the Huguenots. But in the 1980s you can.
The Monitor explains:
In England, Huguenots were spread across a range of classes, although they were mainly urban in origin. Their mark was left on painting, sculpture, acting, teaching, and medicine.
Moreover, the Huguenots seem to have forced on England a greater degree of religious tolerance …
Not to mention their fine goods manufacture: silk weaving, lace trims, furniture, jewellery, silversmithing and watchmaking.
The Monitor then cites two important details which prove that Vauban was right about the Huguenots’ departure weakening France militarily and economically:
Huguenot presence in the English Army became a significant factor in the eventual defeat of Louis XIV.
In finance, too, the Huguenots were prominent: They provided 10 percent of the initial capital for the Bank of England, and six of the original governors, including the chairman, were Huguenots.
Gwynn developed his interest in the French Protestants because his mother was the first official researcher for the Huguenot Society of London. She also wrote the standard book on the history of the Huguenots in Ireland.
Incidentally, Gwynn spoke at the 1985 tercentenary commemorations of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in Jersey, the subject of my previous post.
I have found his summaries of his research and his books to be not only informative but fascinating to read. The following information comes from his article for History Today called ‘England’s “First Refugees”‘. (The transcribed article has several glaring punctuation and spelling errors.)
As I wrote yesterday of countries which welcomed the Huguenots:
These nations, among others, were known to the French as pays du Refuge. In fact, the word refugié (refugee) is hardly a new one. It came about with the escape of the Huguenots from France and was first coined in 1681 (see p. 4 of the PDF, a talk by historian Robin Gwynn).
Gwynn tells us this was often shortened to rés.
Popularity of England — and London
England proved a popular destination, second only to the Netherlands. The Huguenots’ faith would be well received with freedom of practice unhindered.
Most who fled to England were highly skilled craftsmen or learning the trades, as a number of poorer Huguenots were among them. Others were in the main professions — e.g. law, medicine. A few Protestant noblemen also made a new home for themselves. Whatever the status, literacy was good to strong as was assimilation into society.
The English — then as now — were fond of French merchandise, particularly at the upper end of the scale. Therefore, Huguenots gravitated to London, found a French congregation, met its members and secured work through it. Whilst not all made a fortune, they were at least nearly guaranteed to make a living and support a family. A number of Huguenot charities were in existence which helped, too.
Huguenots coming from French seaports often preferred to settle along or near the southern and southwest coast from Kent to Bristol.
Further north, they were fewer. The markets were not as favourable as London’s, although Chester and Edinburgh both had small Huguenot settlements.
Reaction of the English
Then — as now — there was a natural suspicion of the French, based on longstanding history dating back to the Norman Conquest. Those in lesser positions of work also feared that the new arrivals would take their jobs.
As Gwynn says:
The appearance of so many people fleeing government action abroad had no previous parallels in English history … Not until the nineteenth century can any other swell of refugees be said to compare remotely with the Huguenots.
However, nearly everyone — from whatever social class they came from — understood that the Huguenots were being mercilessly persecuted in France by a Catholic king. Public opinion soon changed to a more empathetic and welcoming one.
The first sign of Huguenot assimilation was in their surnames. Depending on the clerk who was processing paperwork upon their arrival, it happened sooner rather than later:
‘Lacklead’ has a Scottish, ‘Bursicott’ a West Country air; they are what Englishmen made of de la Clide and de Boursaquotte when they first encountered those Huguenot names.
That said, as in South Africa, a number of Huguenot surnames survive today:
names like Bosanquet, Courtauld, Dollond, Gambier, Garrick, Minet, Portal, Tizard. A few, such as de Gruchy, Le Fanu, Lefevre, Lefroy or Ouvry, still immediately strike one as of foreign origin.
Some Hugenot families anglicised their family names themselves from:
Andrieu, Boulanger, Barbier, de la Croix, Forestier, Reynard, Le Cerf, Mareschal, Le Moine, de la Neuvemaison, de la Pierre, Blanc and Dubois
Andrews, Baker, Barber, Cross, Forrester, Fox, Hart, Marshall, Monk, Newhouse, Peters, White, Wood.
One man who did so was the famous actor David Garrick’s grandfather — also named David. Wikipedia tells us (emphases mine):
Garrick’s grandfather, David Garric, was in Bordeaux in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was abolished, revoking the rights of Protestants in France. David Garric fled to London and his son, Peter, who was an infant at the time, was later smuggled out by a nurse when he was deemed old enough to make the journey. David Garric became a British subject upon his arrival in Britain and anglicised the name to Garrick.
Gwynn says the Huguenots settled in to English society relatively quickly with the following result:
The number of Huguenots who sought refuge in England was so large, in relation to a national population of perhaps five and a half million at the end of the seventeenth century, that assimilation and intermarriage mean that most English readers of this journal will have some Huguenot blood in their veins.
Allegiance to England
The Huguenots maintained their good social and religious reputation in England. In addition, their contribution to commerce and intellectual life won them friends among the English.
The Huguenots also felt an allegiance to their new host country. As I mentioned above, they fought with the English to defeat Louis XIV. They also opposed Bonnie Prince Charlie:
[W]hen the Young Pretender appeared in 1745, the Huguenots were quick to come forward with loyal addresses promising men for service against him.
Their loyalty never waned, even through successive generations.
Tomorrow’s post examines the life of Samuel Romilly, a descendant of Huguenots. London’s eponymous street in Soho is named after him.