Huguenot crossThe Huguenots, under renewed persecution in France following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, devised a later way of identifying themselves to others in addition to the méreau (merit token).

The Huguenot Cross was created by a Reformed minister, the Revd Andrew Mailhet, who lived in Languedoc in the south of France. It is sometimes called the Languedoc Cross. (The illustration comes courtesy of The National Huguenot Society.)

It started to be worn a few years after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which occurred in 1685.

If the design looks familiar, Mailhet adapted it from the Maltese Cross. The National Huguenot Society tells the story, beginning with older history from the Huguenot Society of South Africa:

The Huguenot cross was designed and first manufactured by a certain Mystre of Nîmes in 1688. It has as its predecessor the badge of the Hospitaler Knights of St John of Jerusalem also known as the Knights of Malta, a religious and Crusader order founded in Jerusalem in the 7th century AD. In 1308 they occupied the island of Rhodes after the collapse of the Crusader states, and in 1530 formed the order of the Knights of Malta after Rhodes was surrendered to the Ottoman Turks. They lived for 4 centuries on the island of Malta, hence the name Maltese Cross for the central part. (The Maltese Cross is generally associated with fire and is the symbol of protection of fire fighters in many countries).”

“Other predecessors of the Huguenot Cross include the so-called Languedoc Cross, and the order decoration of the Order of the Holy Spirit which Henry III established on December 31st, 1578.

Mailhet’s design incorporates the dove, symbolising the Holy Spirit, at the base of the cross. This is to illustrate the Holy Spirit’s role and guide as counsellor of the Church. Henry IV of Navarre — a Huguenot who became a Catholic when he was made King of France — wore a similar insignia from the Order of the Holy Spirit. It was he who instituted the Edict of Nantes in 1598 which granted Protestant civil and religious liberties.

The Huguenot Cross is gold with French blue trim and is worn on a white ribbon. The National Huguenot Society explains the symbolism of the design:

  • The insignia consists of an open four-petal Lily of France — reminiscent of the Mother Country of France — in which each petal radiates outward in the shape of a “V” to form a Maltese Cross. The four petals signify the Four Gospels. Each petal, or arm, has at its outside periphery two rounded points at the corners. These rounded points are regarded as signifying the Eight Beatitudes.
  • The four petals are joined together by four fleur-de-lis, also reminiscent of the Mother Country of France. Each fleur-de-lis has has three petals. The twelve petals of the four fleur-de-lis signify the Twelve Apostles.
  • An open space in the shape of heart is formed between each fleur-de-lis and the arms of the two petals with which it is joined. This shape — a symbol of loyalty — suggests the seal of the great French Reformer, John Calvin.

The Society says that more descendants of Huguenots are wearing the cross and that other variations exist.