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My preceding post summarised the influence that Huguenots had on English society and culture.

Today’s looks at a generational example of how the descendants of Huguenots continued the same tradition. Sir Samuel Romilly was one such example.

Although children and grandchildren of Huguenots absorbed the value of education and hard work, some found that their faith began to wane. This is probably not surprising, given that, by this time, the Age of Enlightenment was in full flow and secularism became more popular.

In his article ‘England’s “First Refugees”‘, historian Dr Robin Gwynn cites the story of Samuel Romilly for whom the eponymous street in London’s Soho is named. Romilly was born in nearby Frith Street.

Before we come to Gwynn’s account of Romilly’s thoughts about his heritage, Wikipedia describes his origins:

Romilly was … the second son of Peter Romilly, a watchmaker and jeweller. His grandfather had emigrated from Montpellier after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and had married Margaret Garnault, a Huguenot refugee like himself, but of a far wealthier family. Samuel served for a time in his father’s shop; he was well-educated, becoming a good classical scholar and particularly conversant with French literature. A legacy of £2000 from one of his mother’s relations led to his being articled to a solicitor and clerk in chancery with the idea of qualifying himself to purchase the office of one of the six clerks in chancery.

Romilly went on to have a radical influence on English law:

In 1808, he managed to repeal the Elizabethan statute which made it a capital offence to steal from the person … in 1812 he had repealed a statute of Elizabeth I making it a capital offence for a soldier or a mariner to beg without a pass from a magistrate or his commanding officer. In 1813 he failed to pass a law which would have abolished corruption of blood [prohibiting inheritance from a criminal] for all crimes, but in the following year he tried again and succeeded (except for treason and murder). Also in 1814 he succeeded in abolishing hanging, drawing and quartering.

In addition to the learned circles in which he mixed locally, Romilly also had many influential friends in France with whom he exchanged ideas. These helped to affect his view of the law. His reputation was such that he became highly popular in political circles and was knighted. He served as Solicitor General and as a Whig MP for three different constituencies on the Sussex coast.

He also helped William Wilberforce and other fellow MPs to abolish slavery in 1807:

The trade was abolished by a resounding 283 to 16. According to Thomas Clarkson, it was the largest majority recorded on any issue where the House divided. Romilly felt it to be “the most glorious event, and the happiest for mankind, that has ever taken place since human affairs have been recorded.”

Now to Gwynn’s information about Romilly and his ancestors:

His great-grandfather, a landowner at Montpellier, had remained in the south of France after the Revocation, but continued to worship in Protestant ways within the security of his own home, and brought up his children as Protestants. It was Samuel’s grandfather, Etienne, who became a refugee in 1701, at the age of seventeen. He went to Geneva for the specific purpose of receiving Communion, and there decided not to return home but to go instead to London. Only then did he inform his family of his decision, but his father accepted the situation and sent money to him from France which helped him establish himself as a wax-bleacher in Hoxton, It is typical of first-generation refugees to marry others of their own kind, and Etienne married Judith de Monsallier, the daughter of another Huguenot immigrant.

Samuel Romilly’s father, Peter, was apprenticed to a Frenchman in the City, a jeweller named Lafosse. In due course Peter[,] too[,] married the daughter of a refugee, Margaret Gamault, so Samuel was brought up in surroundings which retained strong Huguenot influences.

Samuel Romilly later recalled attending church twice on Sundays. His father Peter alternated these visits between the Anglican parish church and the French church of which he was a member. Peter was also intent on practising charity, which Samuel noted held more importance for his father than religious practice.

Samuel had poor impressions of the French church, parts of which sound as if they could have been written yesterday:

Most of the descendants of the refugees were born and bred in England, and desired nothing less than to preserve the memory of their origin; and their chapels were therefore ill-attended. A large uncouth room, the avenues to which were narrow courts and dirty alleys, and which, when you entered it, presented to the view only irregular unpainted pews and dusty plastered walls; a congregation consisting principally of some strange-looking old women scattered here and there, one or two in a pew, and a clergyman reading the service and preaching in a monotonous tone of voice, and in a language not familiar to me, was not likely either to impress my mind with much religious awe, or to attract my attention to the doctrines which were delivered.

His impressions of attending French school were no better.

With regard to organised religion, he seems to have been ambivalent. On the one hand, he continued to attend the aforementioned French church as an adult and was delighted when John Roget became pastor there. He and Roget became close friends, to the extent that Samuel’s sister Catherine married the minister.

However, John appears to have died at a young age. His and Catherine’s son, Peter Mark Roget (1779 – 1869), remained close to his uncle Samuel. Peter Roget, incidentally, was a physician, then after retirement, compiled the first Roget’s Thesaurus. Such detailed list-making helped him to combat depression. His son John Lewis Roget and grandson Samuel Romilly Roget expanded his work. You can find out more about Peter Mark Roget here; he also invented the slide rule. He was also the secretary for the Royal Society for 21 years and invented a pocket chessboard.

With the loss of his clergyman brother-in-law John, it is possible that Samuel Romilly drifted further away from the faith. John might have had some part to play as well. It was he who introduced Samuel to Rousseau’s work. That said, it appears that Samuel continued to attend church, at least occasionally. As an MP, he recorded in his diary (Memoirs of the Life of Sir Samuel Romilly, Volume 2, p. 301):

Oct. 25. After Church, and after I had sat in court, I went to Bishop Auckland, and passed the rest of the day there. 

Although he admired the concept of the French Revolution, he was highly critical of its atheistic nature. Spartacus Educational explains:

In 1790 he published a pamphlet Thoughts on the probable influence of the French Revolution on Great Britain. Rose Melikan, has argued: ” … His own indoctrination in Anglicanism and French Calvinism had not inspired a very profound dedication to organized religion. He felt that the French anti-clericalism, however, was both unreasonable and likely to presage further persecution.” Romilly later admitted that the French Revolution produced “among the higher orders… a horror of every kind of innovation”.

Romilly continued his father’s charitable efforts by serving as a director of the French Protestant Hospital in London.

It is unfortunate that, upon hearing of the death of his beloved wife on the Isle of Wight, he secluded himself in a room in his house in Russell Square, London, and slit his throat. His aforementioned nephew Peter Roget — still traumatised by his father’s and wife’s premature deaths — attended to his uncle in his final moments on October 29, 1818. Although Wikipedia states Romilly is buried in a family vault in Radnorshire, Wales, Find A Grave’s biography by Iain MacFarliane states that he is buried in his wife Anne’s hometown of Knill, Herefordshire, in St Michael’s and All Angels churchyard.

There are more examples of Huguenots and their descendants who similarly changed society and culture in dramatic ways. I’ll take a closer look at their stories in August 2015, God willing.

For now, here is Dr Gwynn’s summary of this particular generation in England:

by and large it was the members of his – the third – generation of refugees who were the last to show any profound awareness of the Huguenot character of their families. In 1787 those Protestants who remained in France finally won toleration, and shortly afterwards special rights were offered to Huguenot descendants who might wish to return there. Very few of those who had crossed the Channel can have been tempted, for assimilation was complete. What had been French had become British.

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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.

Rapid assimilation

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

to

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.[2]

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.

My past two posts — here and here — looked at Huguenots settling in South Africa, thanks to the efforts of the Netherlands and the Dutch East India Company.

Other Huguenots found European countries more to their liking, among them England and the Channel Islands. 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).

This timeline describes the long persecution of French Protestants. Some were allowed to settle in England under Edward VI’s and Elizabeth I’s reigns in the 16th century. Elizabeth I also helped to finance the Huguenot effort in France, as did Germany (see item 9 of the timeline).

After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685, opinion among powerful Frenchmen was divided. Whilst many lauded Louis XIV’s decree, General Vauban sounded the alarm regarding the Huguenot flight four years later in 1689:

80,000 to 100,000 people had left;

30 million livres (‘pounds’, their currency at the time) went with them, in cash;

France’s high-end craftsmanship and luxury goods industry — a lucrative source of exports — were ruined with their departure;

8,000 to 9,000 sailors had defected, ‘the best in the kingdom’;

10,000 to 12,000 soldiers along with 500 to 600 officers had deserted, ‘more warlike’ than those of the countries to which they had escaped — potentially putting France in grave danger in her ongoing conflicts, especially with England.

In England, suspicions grew over James II’s seeming support of Louis XIV. Noblemen, politicians and everyday people believed James II was trying to stamp out the Protestant faith. The establishment’s opposition to his reign led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the accession of William of Orange (Dutch) to the throne. My post explains (emphases mine):

In order to bring England back to the Catholic Church, James II increased his standing army to 40,000 men.  Innkeepers who refused to accommodate Army officers lost their licences.  He also used the newly developed post office as a means of spying on dissenters.  He also ensured that local government officials supported him and filled Parliament with men who were onside.

A number of Christians in England — mostly Protestants, but even a number of Catholics — opposed this illiberal approach.  So, too, did the prominent political parties at the time, the Whigs and the Tories.  Together, they managed, despite the lack of instant communication we know today, to build a network to oppose James II’s reforms.  This revolt, known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688, was less bloody than the subsequent French revolution of 1789 (in which revolt against the monarchy and the Church featured prominently).  Nonetheless, it was marked by intense and violent popular uprisings which culminated in an Anglo-Dutch military invasion which saw William of Orange become King of England …

The Glorious Revolution was short, ending the following year.   Yet, it paved the way for the Acts of Union in 1707, readying the country for the Industrial Revolution and the building of the British Empire.  England became a modern, liberal state by becoming a constitutional monarchy, which effectively did away with the notion of the divine right of kings.  Parliament created a Bill of Rights which, among other things, guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right of petition and abolition of cruel and unusual punishments.

During this time, the island of Jersey, close to the French mainland as are the other Channel Islands, was a popular first port of call and, for some, final destination for fleeing Huguenots.

Jersey still retains a French flavour and combines the best of France and British influence.

In 1985, the Société Jersiaise commemorated the 300th anniversary of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. To assemble the most history as possible of their Huguenot families, they called on a number of sources, including the Huguenot Society of London. They also invited guest speakers, including some from France, to talk about this period of history. As Marguerite Syrvet explains in her article (linked above):

Stories of evacuation, escape by sea, deportation, helped us to recreate the circumstances of those earlier migrations. Escape routes, safe houses, trusted guides, information by word of mouth or on scraps of paper led to La Rochelle or Granville, recognised ports of escape. 

She describes two stories of refugees. Louis Moquet, who died in 1789, related his to his grand-daughter Marie Chevalier. Since then, it has stayed in the family:

A native of Poitou, Moquet was forced to wander from place to place to avoid his enemies: ‘The persecutions in France against the French Protestants constrained him to fly for refuge to the island of Jersey. Having been married by a Protestant minister, he was in danger of being sent to the galleys for life. His wife was taken from him and placed in a convent, where she remained eighteen months. Whilst there she gave birth to a child who died soon after. One of the nuns, moved with compassion, promised to help her to escape, provided she would not discover it.

Mrs Moquet made this known to her husband in Jersey who went over to Granville. With the assistance of friends she escaped in the night and, having joined her husband, went over with him to Jersey. Louis prospered and was appointed ‘distributor of the Royal Bounty to Protestant refugees’.

The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland explains more about this Royal Bounty. They add that it can be useful for those tracing their Huguenot heritage. That said, they advise that people know in advance roughly where in England or the Channel Islands one’s ancestors lived.

Ironically, given the history above, James II instituted the Royal Bounty in 1686, the year after the Revocation of the Treaty of Nantes. The Royal Bounty continued through the reign of George III.

In 1804, Parliament ruled that the Bounty be paid to existing pensioners only. The last Huguenot pensioner died in 1876, as did the Bounty.

An English Committee managed the funds which they delegated to the French Committee made up of prestigious and well-respected Huguenots to distribute accordingly. An Ecclesiastical Committee was in charge of donating funds to poor Huguenot clergymen.

Distributions were made to the following categories of Protestant refugees: Noblesse or People of Quality, the Bourgeoisie or People of the Middling Sort and the Common People. Bounty records often are good with the first two groups but less so with the last. Some receipts of people signing for money have also been preserved. This is why the Bounty documentation can be helpful to genealogists.

Returning to Jersey by way of Marguerite Syvret’s article, she tells of another true Jersey story, related to Charles Dickens which he included in an 1853 edition of his journal, Household Words. It involves Magdalen Lefebvre whose great-granddaughter, in turn, related it to Dickens:

Farmer Lefebvre lived in Normandy on a small, self-sufficient estate producing honey, vegetables, poultry and livestock to feed his family; sheep, hemp and flax to provide wool, linen and fine thread to clothe them. On a rare visit to the market at Avranches to purchase a cow he learnt of the Revocation and its implications. His wife was an invalid unable to travel, but lest their infant daughter, Magdalen, be taken from them to a convent, they arranged for her to be sent to Jersey. Wrapped in a mattress half concealed in sackcloth and a load of straw, the child was taken by horse and cart to Granville and entrusted to the owner of a fishing smack with apples and pears for Jersey, where the orchard crops had failed.

With her went a trunk containing her unfinished trousseau begun at her birth by her mother and made with fine spun thread from home grown flax. Willing hands took her from Jersey to London to be brought up by maiden aunts.

The schoolchildren of Jersey took part in an essay-writing competition concerning the island’s Huguenot influence. One essay quoted the Victorian author and civic reformer, Samuel Smiles, a Scot who was raised as a Reformed Presbyterian. Although he discontinued religious practice as an adult, he blended Calvinist values into his works, the most famous of which is Self-Help. Of Jersey and the Huguenots, Smiles wrote:

Although the refugees for the most part regarded the Channel Islands as merely temporary places of refuge … a sufficient number remained to determine the Protestant character of the community and completely to transform the islands by their industry; since which time Jersey and Guernsey, from being among the most backward and miserable places on the face of the earth, have come to be recognised as among the most happy and prosperous.

They continue to be so today and prove to be delightful holiday destinations. Those who are able to live there permanently are blessed indeed.

More will follow tomorrow on the Huguenots in England.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/90/South-Africa_Johannesburg_Botanical_Garden-011.jpg/800px-South-Africa_Johannesburg_Botanical_Garden-011.jpg

Yesterday’s post looked at the Huguenot migration to South Africa. The plaque of their family names (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia) is located in the Johannesburg Botanical Garden.

The Huguenot Society of South Africa has a page with a list of family names and describes their history in the country.  H C Viljoen, the author of the article, tells us that not all the original names survive today because offspring were daughters.

Viljoen describes the Dutch East India Company’s offer to the persecuted French-speaking Protestants. The Dutch were primarily Calvinist and saw like-minded co-religionists in the Huguenots. That meant their worship and values would be the same. However, the Dutch knew of their expertise in a number of fields which made them attractive candidates to settle in South Africa.

Huguenot families could bring only a minimum of possessions on board. The Dutch East India Company was interested in increasing the number of farms in South Africa. The Company’s plan was to focus initially on wheat and sheep farming. They gave interested Huguenots land, implements, seed and/or livestock free of charge. Any harvest or proceeds from livestock or meat sales would go to the Company as reimbursement. The Company thought that crops and livestock would bring in income more reliably than viticulture (growing grapes for wine and vinegar), which came later.

With regard to wine, the number of vines grew quickly, from 100 in 1655 to 1.5 million by 1700. Successive generations of growers have improved growing and production methods to create a superior product known around the world. A number of the estates still bear their original French names. Viljoen writes:

The De Villiers brothers in particular arrived at the Cape with a reputation for viticulture and oenology. Through the years the De Villiers brothers planted more than 40 000 vines at the Cape.  They moved from the original farm allocated to them (which they named La Rochelle) to finally settle on individual allottments near Franschhoek with the names Bourgogne, Champagne and La Brie.

Franschhoek, incidentally, translates as ‘French Corner’.

Those Huguenots who did not pursue agriculture agreed with the Company to pursue a trade or profession, e.g. medicine, teaching, carpentry, hat-making.

Viljoen makes an important point regarding Huguenot assimilation into Afrikaner society, one which today’s immigrants might do well to keep in mind (emphases mine):

The Huguenots did indeed leave a direct and indirect legacy in South Africa. They did not continue to live as an separate, clearly identifiable subgroup. Already early in the eighteenth century they were assimilated by the rest of the population at the Cape as a result of both political measures and their minority numbers.  But despite their relatively small numbers, they nevertheless left an indelible mark on and made a valuable contribution during the early years of the settlement at the Cape of Good Hope to various areas – economy, education, technology, agriculture, culture, church life, religion, etc. 

HuguenotMemorialMuseum.jpgTo honour their memory, South Africans have erected several monuments. The two most prominent are the Huguenot Memorial Museum and the Huguenot Monument (pictured at right, courtesy of Wikipedia). Both are in Franschhoek.

The Monument’s Wikipedia entry (click this link then on the monument picture for an expanded view) explains the symbolism behind the design:

The monument was designed by J.C. Jongens, completed in 1945 and inaugurated by Dr. A.J van der Merwe on 17 April 1948.

The three high arches symbolize the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On top of the arches is the sun of righteousness and above that, the cross of their Christian faith.

The central female figure, created by Coert Steynberg, personifies religious freedom with a bible in her one hand and broken chain in the other. She is casting off her cloak of oppression and her position on top of the globe shows her spiritual freedom. The fleur-de-lis on her robe represents a noble spirit and character.

The southern tip of the globe shows the symbols of their religion (the Bible), art and culture (the harp), the agriculture and viticulture (the sheaf of corn and grape vine) and industry (spinning wheel).

The water pond, reflecting the colonnade behind it, expresses the undisturbed tranquility of mind and spiritual peace the Huguenots experienced after much conflict and strife.

It is a fitting tribute to a deserving people.

We can learn much from the Huguenot example in being responsible, faithful Christians.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/af/thumb/7/75/Maria_van_Riebeeck.jpg/320px-Maria_van_Riebeeck.jpgIt is estimated that 250,000 Huguenots lost their lives in France during the Wars of Religion.

Another 250,000 fled to countries which were tolerant with regard to religious practice. Among them were the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, the American colonies, England and South Africa. (The 17th century English civil servant and diarist Samuel Pepys married a Huguenot.)

The Huguenots brought with them industriousness and integrity which served them well in their new host countries.

The Huguenot Society of South Africa tells us that on October 3, 1685, three weeks before Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes on the 22nd, the Dutch East India Company invited interested Huguenots to sail to South Africa to forge a new life for themselves, principally in farming.

Dutch settlers were already in South Africa, as was one Huguenot lady pictured above — Maria de la Quellerie — who had arrived on April 6, 1652. She was married to a Dutch ship’s commander, Jan van Riebeeck. Together, they established and ran a refreshment post for incoming ships at the Cape of Good Hope. They left the Cape 10 years later and moved eastward.

The next Huguenot to arrive on the Cape was François Villion (Viljoen) in October 1671. He is considered to be the first Huguenot refugee in South Africa.

It is interesting that the Dutch East India Company’s first invitation to Huguenots in 1685 and 1686 held little interest. Only three men took up the offer: Jean de Long (de Lange) and his family in 1685 and brothers Guillaume and François du Toit the following year.

When the Dutch East India Company renewed their invitation in 1687, more Huguenots took up the offer. By 1689, 175 had settled in South Africa. By 1729, this number had increased to 279 living at the Cape of Good Hope.

The offer to sail and settle lasted until 1707, although Huguenots continued to seek a new life in South Africa for several more years. This page from the Huguenot Society of South Africa has a list of ships which sailed during this period.

The Dutch were careful in planning where the new settlers would live. They purposely placed their farms in a majority of Dutch ones. This was to prevent the French from banding together and conspiring against the Dutch government as well as lessening the possibility of loyalty to France. Although the latter seems doubtful, given the persecution of the Huguenots, stranger things have happened in the course of history.

The Dutch assigned the Huguenots to Table Valley, Stellenbosch and the Berg River valley, namely between Franschhoek (‘French Corner’) and Wellington. Those living in Stellenbosch were allowed to retain as minister the clergyman who had sailed with them, the Revd Pierre Simond. They worshipped in the Stellenbosch church where they could hold French-language services. By 1691, they were allowed to form their own congregation and have their own church building. The present Huguenot thatched roof church is located in Paarl. In the early 1700s, Simond wrote the first literary and theological work of the Cape of Good Hope. It was published in Amsterdam in 1704: Les Veilles Afriquaines ou les Pseaumes de David mis en vers François (‘The Africa night watches or the Psalms of David in French verse form’).

The following Huguenots were among the early settlers:

Josue Cellier (Cilliers, Cillié)  –  farmer, wine maker and carpenter
Daniel Nortier and Jacques Pinard  –  carpenters
Daniël Hugot and André Gaucher (Gouws)  –  ironsmiths
Francois Villion & Estienne Bruére (Bruwer)  –  wagon makers
Durand Sollier & Jean Cloudon  –  cobblers
Paul Roux  –   teacher
Isaac Taillefert  –  hatter and successful farmer
Jean Prieur du Plessis, Jean Durand, and Paul le Fébre  –  medical practitioners
Gideon le Grand   –  medical practitioner, dentist, and barber

Life was challenging for the French settlers. They struggled with a new climate, terrain, flora and fauna. Farmers had to till virgin soil and build their farms from scratch. The newcomers’ relationship with the Political Council was also uneasy.

Fewer Huguenots arrived after 1700. Consequently, it was not long before French ceased being used. In fact, the Dutch authorities banned it from official communications in 1707.

This list shows a number of Huguenots who married Dutch settlers. Some of them made their surnames more in line with the Dutch: Pinard became Pienaar, Manié became Manje, Mézel became Mijsaal, Prévost became Provo and Villion became Viljoen. That said, it is still common today to have a French first name. The name of retired Springboks player Francois Pienaar illustrates this perfectly.

Despite their early difficulties, the Huguenots proved themselves to be responsible citizens and hard workers. Their farmers, in particular, helped to establish what we recognise today as characteristic products of South Africa: delicious fruit and quality wines.

Tomorrow’s post looks more at Huguenot life in South Africa.

Huguenot mereaux mereux2My past two posts concern the history of the Huguenots — early French Protestants.

The first explains their early history and the second looks at their escape to the uncolonised New World. The third recapped how they lived and worshipped, particularly in light of persecution.

The posts below describe what happened in the late 17th century, which drove many Huguenot families to leave France for England, the Netherlands, Prussia and South Africa where they could worship and work in peace.

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes — the Edict of Fontainebleau

It was only after the French Revolution when they received the full rights and protections of other Frenchmen:

When the Huguenots finally became part of French society

After so many left, taking with them craftsmanship which other Frenchmen could not reproduce as well, France lamented her treatment of Protestants. By then, it was too late. Although some Huguenots returned, the situation could not be recovered.

Today, only a few hundred thousand Protestants live in France.

 

Huguenot mereau mereux1My past two posts concern the history of the Huguenots — French Protestants.

The first explains their early history and the second looks at their escape to the uncolonised New World.

Those who stayed behind in France were often the victims of persecution. They prayed diligently and worked hard. They chose occupations which involved detail and care, including fine tableware, luxury fabrics and watchmaking.

Where worship was concerned, the méreau, one side of which is pictured at left, was necessary if they were to participate in church life. The coin indicated a church member of good standing and had to be shown to the elders of the congregation when attending services.

Find out more about the Huguenots at the links below:

The Huguenot méreau

Life as a Huguenot in France

La Rochelle and the French Wars of Religion

More on the Huguenots next week.

Yesterday’s entry reprised part of my 2013 posts on the history of the early French Protestants, known as the Huguenots — worth reading before continuing.

To escape persecution in their home country and open up new trading posts, the most enterprising Huguenots sailed for the New World in the 16th century. They settled parts of it before the Portuguese and the English took over.

You can read more about their intrepid journeys and experiences at the links below:

The Huguenots in 16th century St Kitts

The Huguenot settlements in 16th century Brazil

The Huguenot settlement in 16th century South Carolina

The Huguenots in sixteenth-century Florida

Tomorrow’s post features more about those who stayed behind in France.

Cross of LanguedocIn 2013, I devoted most of the month of August to writing about the Huguenots: early French Protestants.

Many Huguenots had to leave France; others were persecuted. Some gave their lives for their faith during the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre which took place around the saint’s feast day, August 24, 1572.

One of their distinctive crosses is at left, courtesy of The National Huguenot Society in the United States.

For new readers and those who missed this series last year, the following posts will help to explain the history of these devout and industrious French men and women:

The origins of the word ‘Huguenot’

Notes on the Reformation (with regard to the Huguenots)

A Huguenot timeline

St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

The Huguenot Cross

More to follow tomorrow.

If you missed yesterday’s post on the 16th century Huguenot settlement in present-day South Carolina, it’s worthwhile reading before continuing with their story in Florida.

As the Florida story opens, keep in mind that the Huguenots arrived there in 1562 before sailing for what is now the Sea Islands in Port Royal Sound in South Carolina. Jean Ribault and his men did not settle in Florida, although they did explore some of the St John’s River — what he had called the May River — and coastal features whilst sailing northward.

By 1564, Ribault was lying low in England, seeking refuge as a Huguenot. Meanwhile, in his home country, King Charles IX wished to send another ship to Florida. He called on René Goulaine de Laudonnière to lead the expedition.

It is possible he chose Laudonnière because he had been second in command in Charlesfort under Jean Ribault. Therefore, he already knew the region. As Ribault was in England, Laudonnière was the next best choice. In addition to colonisation, part of the objective of the trip was also to give Huguenots safe haven.

Laudonnière was a nobleman and member of the Huguenot merchant class. It is unclear where he was born and raised. Some say it was near the town of Laudonnière, the family seat of the Goulaine family, near the busy port of Nantes. Other historians claim he came from further south in Poitou, near the port of Sables d’Olonne.

Charles IX gave Laudonnière 50,000 crowns, three ships and 300 Huguenot colonists. Laudonnière set sail from Le Havre on April 22, 1564. He and his men arrived at the mouth of the May (St John’s) River on June 22 that year.

Laudonnière first renewed his acquaintance with the Saturiwa Indians — a branch of the larger Timucua tribe. As I said yesterday:

It’s important to remember that here, as well as in Brazil and on St Kitts, the French treated the Indians with kindness.

That remained largely true in Florida, until later, when the Indians were angry that the French had demanded too many provisions from them. The settlers also met with an unknown tribe, and tensions quickly appeared.

Fort Caroline, 1564

After befriending the Indians, Laudonnière and his crew then sailed north to what is now Jacksonville, Florida. There they established the colony of Fort Caroline, named for Charles IX.

Life in the new colony was arduous. The Frenchmen went hungry. Some of the men staged a mutiny and destroyed one of the ships. Laudonnière was able to subdue the rebellion by executing the ringleaders.

Interestingly, amongst all he had to do in Florida, Laudonnière had not forgotten an important detail from Charlesfort up north. That was the rescue of the young man Guillermo Rouffi. Laudonnière had found out that Rouffi never sailed back to France with the last of the Charlesfort settlers and decided to bring him back to the new colony in Florida.

In January 1565, Laudonnière sent a ship to Port Royal Sound to search for Rouffi. However, no one knew that Rouffi left the settlement with the invading Spanish six months earlier. One wonders what happened to him.

Meanwhile, Laudonnière and his colonists had expected Jean Ribault to return to France and then Florida, stocked with supplies. However, France’s involvement in wars at home and abroad prevented him from sailing at the appointed time. He did not arrive until August 28, 1565.

During the intervening months, Laudonnière was ready to abandon Fort Caroline. In addition to the aforementioned mutiny, other of his men became pirates and attacked Spanish ships in the Caribbean. On the mainland, another Timucua tribe, the Utina, clashed with the French.

When Ribault arrived, he assumed governorship of Fort Caroline. Laudonnière was unhappy with this arrangement and arranged to return to France. Ribault’s 800 settlers, which included women and children, rebuilt and repaired the fort’s dilapidated buildings.

Spanish attack, 1565

Just weeks later, a Spanish expedition led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived at the behest of Philip II to drive out the French, just as they had further north in Port Royal Sound in 1564. Spain believed they held claim to the lands their explorer Juan Ponce de León — he of the fountain of youth — had discovered in 1513.

Ribault was aware of the Spanish presence and sailed with most of Fort Caroline’s soldiers to Saint Augustine on September 10, 1565. They encountered a strong tropical storm.

On the morning of September 20, Menéndez and his men attacked Fort Caroline. Despite the same raging tropical storm that Ribault encountered, they managed to capture the settlement. One hundred thirty-two Frenchmen died; another 45 escaped. Around 50 women and children were held hostage. Menéndez quickly renamed the colony Fort San Mateo and set out looking for the escapees.

Ribault’s and Laudonniere’s whereabouts

Meanwhile, Ribault and his men were washed ashore near what is now Daytona Beach. The storm had destroyed their ships and many of the men had drowned. The survivors began walking the coastline and soon fell into Spanish hands at Matanzas Inlet. In accordance with Philip II’s edict, all Huguenots who refused to recant their ‘heresy’ were to be executed. The Spanish took them behind a sand dune and killed them using swords. Ribault — a Huguenot — was among those who met their death. The Catholics and a group of musicians on Ribault’s ships were allowed to live.

You might be wondering what happened to Laudonnière, as he was left at Fort Caroline when Ribault set sail for St Augustine. Laudonnière was among the escapees during the Spanish attack.  He managed to make his way to the mouth of the May (St John’s) River, where Ribault’s son had anchored three ships.

From there, Laudonnière and Ribault’s son set sail for Europe, however, Laudonnière arrived alone — in Wales. From Wales, it is thought that he travelled overland via Bristol and London to the coast, where he was able to cross the Channel and arrive in Paris around December 1565.

Once back in France, Laudonnière maintained a low profile, although he did write his memoir of Florida, L’histoire notable de la Floride, contenant les trois voyages faits en icelles par des capitaines et pilotes français (‘The notable history of Florida, containing the three voyages made by French captains and pilots’), published in 1586, 12 years after his death in 1574.

What happened to the Huguenots at Fort Caroline

Menéndez killed most of the settlers at Fort Caroline and hanged their bodies from trees. By way of explanation, he erected an inscription which read:

Not as Frenchmen but as Lutherans.

Calling Protestants ‘Lutherans’ — regardless of their religious preference — was still widespread practice at the time on the part of Catholics.

When this news reached France, both Catholics and Huguenots were outraged. The French court complained to the Spanish court. Spain responded by granting Menendez and his men honours and recognition.

Avenging the massacre at Fort Caroline

One French Catholic who was so outraged that he decided to take action against the Spanish was Dominique de Gourgue.

Gourgue came from a prominent family near Bordeaux. He served in several conflicts and had been captured by the Spaniards in 1557.  He also travelled to Brazil and the West Indies, although it is unclear whether he was among the Huguenot expeditions there. In any event, once he left his military service and expeditions behind, the Guise family — leaders of the Catholic League — employed him against the Huguenots.

Regardless, Gourgue’s dislike of the Spanish outweighed any animosity he had towards Huguenots.

He sold everything he had and even enlisted the financial help of his brother Antoine to purchase three small ships. He recruited men on the premise that, together, they would sail to Cuba.

This they did. Once they arrived in Cuba, Gourgue revealed his primary intent: to sail to San Mateo (formerly Fort Caroline) and avenge the deaths of their fellow countrymen. He met with no objection.

In 1568, the tiny fleet arrived near San Mateo. Gourgue was quick to first make friends with and enlist the help of the Timacuan tribes the French knew earlier: the Saturiwa and the Tacatacuru.

Gourgue and his men — including the Indians — then attacked San Mateo. They killed the Spanish colonists and — just as Menéndez had with the Huguenots — hanged their bodies from trees with a similar style of inscription:

Not as Spaniards but as murderers.

Upon his return to La Rochelle in 1568, Gourgue met with a mixed reaction. The governor of Bordeaux, his home city, gave him a warm welcome. However, the French court, worried about reprisals from Spain, distanced itself from Gourgue.

He went to live in obscurity and poverty in the northern city of Rouen, until the French court decided to employ him in 1572 by giving him command of a ship. Ironically, he went on to command the largest vessel against the Huguenots at the Siege of La Rochelle.

Later in 1592, the Portuguese claimant to that country’s throne, Don Antonio de Crato, enlisted Gourgue’s help by putting him in charge of that country’s fleet against Philip II of Spain. Whilst on the way to Portugal, Gourgue died. Dom de Crato died in Paris three years later, unable to ever become king of Portugal, a position Philip II continued to hold.

End of the 2013 series on the Huguenots

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