Who are the Huguenots?

Huguenots were French Protestants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (mostly Lutherans who had fled France to Switzerland and returned as Calvinists). Most were members of the Reformed Church established by John Calvin in France beginning in 1555. The basis of their creed was Scripture as the rule of faith through guidance by the Holy Spirit. They also believed in predestination, salvation by faith apart from works, and the Church as consisting of all confessed believers. They denied the Catholic doctrines of intercession by the saints, purgatory, oral confession, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and indulgences, as well as being highly iconoclastic. They accepted only two of the sacraments -- Baptism and the Lord's Supper. In the sixteenth-century French Wars of Religion (1562-98), thousands of Huguenots were slain by French Catholics organized as the "Holy League." Ultimately, the Huguenots won the war through a territorial compromise and with the accession of one of their leaders, Henry of Navarre, to the king of France (Henry IV) in 1594, although he converted to Catholicism for political reasons. The term "Huguenot" is of questionable origin and was initially a derisive name which was banned in the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which allowed public freedom of worship to the Huguenots in specified cities, as well as freedom of press and full civil and political rights. In 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked by King Louis XIV and the Huguenots were forced to emigrate in large numbers to neighboring countries, as well as to American colonies. In 1787, the Edict of Toleration restored civil liberties to the Huguenots. Although French Protestants preferred to be called R�form�s (reformed), the name Huguenots later became an honorary one and today they still make up a small faction of French Protestantism (over a half million members).

The name Huguenots (eigenots, cerca 1550) may have originated from the German Eidgenossen, "confederates" (specifically, cospirators bound together by oath). It is also believed to have originated from Hugues Besan�on, leader of one of the confederate parties in Geneva, Switzerland, opposed to annexation to Savoy. Another theory is that it came from the local nickname for the Protestants of Tours, who were believed to meet nightly near the gate of the mythical King Huguet (or Hugon), whose spirit, like themselves, could only go out at night. Yet another origen is that Protestants who met to study the Bible in secret were called Huis Genooten, (Flemish, "house fellows").

        "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30)

British Isles GenWeb - Cambridgeshire Genealogy - Huguenots and Walloons

"First we must identify a Walloon. A Walloon is a member of a French speaking people of Celtic descent inhabiting southern and southeastern Belgium and adjacent regions of France. Walloon is also the French dialect of these people. Huguenot was the name given in the 16th and 17th centuries to a French Protestant who followed the beliefs of Calvin. By 1561 there were 2,000 Calvinist churches in France and the Huguenots had become a political faction that seemed to threaten the state. Persecution followed and brought numbers to England as refugees during Tudor times, and the Crypt of Cantebury Cathedral was assigned to them as a place of worship in 1550. Those who remained during the French Wars of Religion fought eight civil wars against the Catholic establishment and triumphed when, by the Edict of Nantes in 1598, Henry IV gave them liberty of worship and a 'state within a state'. Their numbers grew, especially among merchants and skilled artisans, until they were again persecuted. The centre of their resistance in 1627 was La Rochelle, which the Richlieu government had to besiege for over a year before capturing it. In 1685 the Edict was revoked; many thousands of Huguenots fled to England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Brandenburg, some settling as far away as North America and the Cape of Good Hope. All these places were to benefit from their skill in craftmanship and trade, particularly as silk-weavers and silversmiths, the taking an important part in the development of the manufacture of silk, velvet and linen..."

Christian History Institute - Issue #93: Huguenots: Driven out of France

"Late in the 17th century, France declined from being the most powerful and rich nation in Europe to a country pressed to hold its own against powerful foes. Possibly, just possibly, one event above all helps explains this decline. On October 18, 1685, King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. In doing so, he drove hundreds of thousands of his best citizens abroad. The Edict of Nantes was a promise of religious toleration. It was granted in 1598 to the French Protestants known as Huguenots after years of civil wars. The Calvinist Huguenots came into being around 1550 when preachers brought Bibles to France from Switzerland. The growth of this reform movement in Gallic lands was astonishingly rapid. Within five years the new church held its first synod. Within a century it boasted a million and a half adherents. Conflict seemed inevitable from the start. The Roman Catholic church was concerned at its loss of control over souls; the government feared Protestant demands for local rule. The government's concerns certainly appeared justified when powerful nobles such as the Cond�s attempted to employ Protestant strength for their own political advancement against the powerful Guise family. War began in 1562 when a number of Huguenots were massacred by the Guises in a church at Vassy. The Huguenots were only a twentieth of the total French population, yet fought so fiercely they were able to win concessions from the Roman Catholic majority. In 1572 a peace was arranged."

History Learning Site - Cardinal Richelieu and the Huguenots

"Cardinal Richelieu was born in September 1585 and died in December 1642. Richelieu dominated the history of France from 1624 to his death as Louis XIII�s chief minister, succeeding Luynes who died in 1621. Richelieu is considered to be one of the greatest politicians in French history. Richelieu�s time in office is dominated by his campaign against the Huguenots, the modernisation of the military in France, especially the navy, and involvement in the Thirty Years Wars. As an ardent Roman Catholic, Richelieu detested the Huguenots. However, in his grand scheme to elevate the international status or France, he was willing to tolerate them as long as they were loyal to France. Richelieu, in this sense was willing to turn a blind eye to the Huguenots freedom to worship. However, the Huguenots did not show loyalty. They were frequently associated with rebellion and disloyalty and this Richelieu could not tolerate. By 1624, when Richelieu was appointed Chief Minister, the Huguenots had 8 "circles" in the south of France and a commander-in-chief with an army. They had created provincial assemblies and a general assembly � they were essentially a republic within a monarchy! To Richelieu this was a "political monstrosity" which could not be tolerated. His views were shared by the d�vots who were becoming more and more influential at court. The Huguenots viewed Richelieu appointment with great concern. Richelieu worked on the logic that France needed international respect in Europe. He wanted France to be respected abroad and an attractive ally which could bring in much needed funds via military alliances. Any French involvement in European affairs might have given the Huguenots the freedom to expand in southern France. For Richelieu wishes to succeed, France needed internal stability and security. The Huguenots threatened this � hence the need to attack them..."

The Huguenots of France and Elsewhere

"The site of french protestant genealogy."

The Huguenot Foundation of South Africa

"Louis XIV (the Sun King, 1643-1715) began to apply his motto l'�tat 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. 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 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. 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 sscale emigration individual Huguenots such as Fran�ois Villion (1671) and the brothers Fran�ois 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."

Huguenot Historical Society

"Huguenot Street, a National Historic Landmark, is the site of a collection of colonial and early National period stone houses owned and operated as historic house museums by the Huguenot Historical Society in the Village of New Paltz, New York. Originally the home of a group of French Protestants who fled northern France because of political and religious persecution, the town was founded in 1677 after the purchase of nearly 40,000 acres along the Wallkill River from the native Esopus Indians. Three of the houses, the Bevier-Elting, Jean Hasbrouck and Abraham Hasbrouck Houses, whose original portions were built in the 1680s, are furnished and interpreted as they would have appeared in the 18th century."


"This is the Web portal for English-speaking descendants and researchers of French Protestant refugees in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries."

The Huguenot Society of America

"The Huguenot Society of America was founded in 1883 by the Reverend Alfred V. Wittmeyer, Rector of the French Huguenot Church in New York City, l'Eglise du Saint Esprit, for the following purposes: First: To promote the cause of religious freedom and to perpetuate the memory of the Huguenot settlers in America. Second: To commemorate the principal events in the history of the Huguenots, and to this end: To discover, collect, and preserve existing monuments, memorabilia, and documents relating to Huguenot history and genealogy; To gather a library composed of obtainable books, manuscripts, pamphlets, pictures, and other material relating to Huguenot history and genealogy; To cause to be prepared and delivered before the Society lectures on matters relating to Huguenot history and genealogy; To cause to be prepared and published books, monographs and pamphlets or other publications relating to Huguenot history and genealogy; To award fellowships, scholarships, and prizes for essays, orations, and other compositions on subjects relating to Huguenot history and genealogy. Third: To support, when practicable, Huguenot causes, enterprises, and institutions in other countries. Fourth: To promote and encourage social intercourse between its members and between it and other Huguenot societies."

The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland

"In 1885 the Society was founded by directors of the The French Hospital (founded in 1718) to promote the publication and interchange of knowledge about the Huguenots in Great Britain and Ireland, a good deal of which, over the passage of time was unknown to many of their descendants. They also aimed to form a bond of fellowship of those who, whether or not of Huguenot descent, respect and admire the Huguenots and seek to perpetuate their memory. The Society holds four meetings a year in central London at which a paper on a Huguenot subject is read, later published annually in the Society's 'Proceedings'. The meetings provide members with the opportunity to socialise and meet other people with interests in common."

The Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia

"Huguenots began coming to Virginia as early as 1620. In 1700, four ships arrived at the mouth of the James River and the Rappahannock, east of present-day Richmond, Virginia. French Huguenots, having fled religious persecution, had lived in England and done services for the king. They were granted lands in the New World for a permanent home where they had the freedom to worship as they pleased. West of Richmond, many founded a colony on the site of a village deserted by the Monacan Indians. This is a society of the descendants of that colony and French Protestants who came to Virginia before 1786. The society headquarters and library are located beside the Manakin Episcopal Church on the original glebe lands in Manakintown."

Huguenot Society of South Carolina

"The Huguenot Society of South Carolina, established in 1885, is dedicated to the preservation of the history and genealogy of the members of the Protestant Reformation which took place in France during the 16th century. The origin and history of the French Huguenots is a fascinating and compelling account of Protestant religious persecution. The Society maintains a library offering resources for historical research and tracing of Huguenot ancestry. A qualified librarian/archivist, genealogist and registrar are available to offer assistance. Members of the Society as well as the public are invited to use the library facility during business hours. A minimal fee is charged for use of the library by non-members. The object of the Society is: First, To perpetuate the memory and to foster and promote the principles and virtues of the Huguenots. Secondly, To publicly commemorate at stated times the principal events in the history of the Huguenots. Thirdly, To discover, collect and preserve all existing documents, monuments, etc., relating to the genealogy or history of the Huguenots of America in general, and to those of South Carolina in particular. Fourthly, To gather by degrees a library for the use of the Society, composed of all obtainable books, monographs, pamphlets, manuscripts, etc., relating to the Huguenots. Fifthly, To cause statedly to be prepared and read before the Society, papers, essays, etc., on Huguenot history or genealogy and collateral subjects."

Le Poulet Gauche - The Wars of Religion, Part I

"The religious wars began with overt hostilities in 1562 and lasted until the Edict of Nantes in 1598. It was warfare that devastated a generation, although conducted in rather desultory, inconclusive way. Although religion was certainly the basis for the conflict, it was much more than a confessional dispute. "Une foi, un loi, un roi," (one faith, one law, one king). This traditional saying gives some indication of how the state, society, and religion were all bound up together in people's minds and experience. There was not the distinction that we have now between public and private, between civic and personal. Religion had formed the basis of the social consensus of Europe for a millenium. Since Clovis, the French monarchy in particular had closely tied itself to the church -- the church sanctified its right to rule in exchange for military and civil protection. France was "the first daughter of the church" and its king "The Most Christian King" (le roy tres chretien), and no one could imagine life any other way..."

Lisburn Historical Society - The Huguenots of Lisburn

"The Huguenots of Lisburn, The Story of the Lost Colony, by E. Joyce Best... The Huguenots came to the Lisburn area in the seventeenth century and, whilst their contribution to society in other parts of Ireland has been well documented by historians, their part in the development of Lisburn has largely been forgotten. Perhaps the best known Huguenot to come to Lisburn was Louis Crommelin, who was encouraged to settle here in 1698 by King William III and to expand and develop the linen industry in this town. Many other Huguenot families settled in Lisburn, both earlier than Crommelin and later; they started to arrive in the 1660s, encouraged by the policies of the Lord Lieutenant, the Marquis of 0rmonde, towards settlers after the ravages of the Cromwellian period. This book by Joyce Best brings to life many of those families, many now forgotten or assimilated through marriage in earlier generations. Over many years it has been a labour of love for Mrs Best and her husband, Bill DuBourdieu Best, a descendant of one of those settlers. It is with pleasure that the Lisburn Historical Society now presents this work as a somewhat belated contribution towards the recognition of the influence of the Huguenots in the early history of Lisburn."

Orange Street Congregational Church, London

"In London there is a Huguenot Church in Soho and the well-known Orange Street Congregational Church in Leicester Square has long been associated with the Huguenots. This powerful steadfast, loyal and faithful people who have upheld Protestant Truth throughout their history has left its mark. They may not receive as much attention as other Reformers because not so much is written about them. Some people are put off by the point in their history when some for political reasons as we have seen in this study, defected to the Roman Catholic Church. That was a minority, the remainder have given us much to remember."

The National Huguenot Society

"The Huguenots were French Protestants who were members of the Reformed Church established in France by John Calvin in about 1555, and who, due to religious persecution, were forced to flee France to other countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Protestant Reformation began by Martin Luther in Germany about 1517, spread rapidly in France, especially among those having grievances against the established order of government. As Protestantism grew and developed in France it generally abandoned the Lutheran form, and took the shape of Calvinism. The new "Reformed religion" practiced by many members of the French nobility and social middle-class, based on a belief in salvation through individual faith without the need for the intercession of a church hierarchy and on the belief in an individual's right to interpret scriptures for themselves, placed these French Protestants in direct theological conflict with both the Catholic Church and the King of France in the theocratic system which prevailed at that time. Followers of this new Protestantism were soon accused of heresy against the Catholic government and the established religion of France, and a General Edict urging extermination of these heretics (Huguenots) was issued in 1536. Nevertheless, Protestantism continued to spread and grow, and about 1555 the first Huguenot church was founded in a home in Paris based upon the teachings of John Calvin. The number and influence of the French Reformers (Huguenots) continued to increase after this event, leading to an escalation in hostility and conflict between the Catholic Church/State and the Huguenots. Finally, in 1562, some 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassey, France, thus igniting the French Wars of Religion which would devastate France for the next thirty-five years."

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia - Huguenots

"A name by which the French Protestants are often designated. Its etymology is uncertain. According to some the word is a popular corruption of the German Eidgenossen (conspirators, confederates), which was used at Geneva to designate the champions of liberty and of union with the Swiss Confederation, as distinguished from those who were in favour of submission to the Duke of Savoy. The close connection of the Protestants with Geneva, in the time of Calvin, might have caused this name to be given to them a little before the year 1550 under the form eigenots (or aignots), which became huguenots under the influence of Hugues, Bezanson Hugues being one of their chiefs. Others have maintained that the word was first used at Tours and was applied to the early Lutherans, because they were wont to assemble near the gate named after Hugon, a Count of Tours in ancient times, who had left a record of evil deeds and had become in popular fancy a sort of sinister and maleficent genius. This name the people applied in hatred and derision to those who were elsewhere called Lutherans, and from Touraine it spread throughout France. This derivation would account for the form Hugonots, which is found in the correspondence of the Venetian ambassadors and in the documents of the Vatican archives, and for that of Huguenots, which eventually prevailed in the usage of Catholics, conveying a slight shade of contempt or hostility, which accounts for its complete exclusion from official documents of Church and State. Those to whom it was applied called themselves the R�form�s (Reformed); the official documents from the end of the sixteenth century to the Revolution usually call them the pr�tendus r�form�s (pseudo-reformed). Since the eighteenth century they have been commonly designated "French Protestants", the title being suggested by their German co-religionists, or Calvinists, as being disciples of Calvin."

Religious Movements Homepage: Huguenots

"The Protestant Reformation, begun by Martin Luther in the early 16th century in Germany, soon found its way to France. Fueled by the protests of Luther against the abuses of the Catholic Church, Protestantism grew rapidly in a country stringently ruled by a Catholic king and government. The reign of Francis I (1515-47) began the persecution of Protestants in France. By 1521 Lutheran ideas had sufficiently infiltrated France and they were condemned at the Sorbonne. Under Henry II (1547-59) the attack intensified with the formation of government policy which allowed for the trial and execution of heretics. Many Protestants fled France in the 1540's and 1550's for assylum in Geneva; here they were strongly influenced by John Calvin. Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (which he beautifully translated from his own Latin to French) formed the basis for Reform thought. In 1555 a Reformed church was officially, if secretly, founded in Paris; it was supported by the Genevan Compagnie des Pasteurs (Company of Pastors) which sent qualified ministers from Switzerland to France . The developing Protestant population, though called "Lutheran" in denegration by Catholics, was thoroughly Calvinist in theology . Huguenots, as they began to be called, grew in number, meeting secretly but heavily proselytizing . As their size increased so also did the persecution. The first large scale riot of Catholics against Protestants took place in 1557. Huguenots were viewed as seditious by the government desperately fighting the invading Hapsburgs of Spain . After the end of the Hapsburg-Valois wars, Henri II (now having more time on his hands) escalated the persecution of the Huguenots calling for arrests, executions, and even neighbor-on-neighbor surveilance . After Henri's death, a period of moderation was established by Catherine d'Medici (regent for Charles IX), allowing for much greater governmentaltoleration . But the Duke of Guise helped create a climate of Catholic intoleration which led to the Massacres at Vassy and Sens in 1562..."

Wikipedia - Huguenots

"The Huguenots may be traced to the pro-reform and Gallican Catholics, like Jacques Lefevre. Later they were followers of the Lutheran movement, and finally, Calvinists. They shared John Calvin's fierce reformation beliefs which decried the priesthood, sacraments and doctrines of the Catholic Church. They were believers that salvation is an act of God as much as was creation, and thus that the elect were fit for salvation only because of God's predestined mercy toward them. This dual emphasis on creation and salvation, and God's sovereignty over both, is thought by some to be a cornerstone principle for their developments in architecture, textiles and other mercantiles. Above all, they were known for their fiery criticisms of worship as it was performed in the Roman Catholic Church. They believed the ritual, images, saints, pilgrimages, prayers, and hierarchy of the Catholic Church were useless to help anyone toward redemption. The Christian faith is to be lived out in a strict and godly life, in obedience to biblical laws, out of gratitude for God's mercy - not in performing rituals and obsession with death and the dead. As other Protestants also believed at the time, they thought that the Roman church needed to be radically cleansed of its impurities, and that the pope represented a worldly kingdom which sat in mocking tyranny over the things of God, and was ultimately doomed. Rhetoric like this became more fierce as events unfolded, and stirred up the hostility of the Catholic establishment."

        "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah -- how he appealed to God against Israel: 'Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me'? [1 Kings 19:10, 14] And what was God's answer to him? 'I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' [1 Kings 19:18] So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:1-6)

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