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The Huguenots

The Huguenots, officially called the Hu-Gnosticorum began in the sixteenth century, where the word Huguenot came to designate French Calvinist Protestants, members of the Reformed Church established in France by John Calvin in about 1555. Calvin diverged from Catholic doctrine in the rejection of papal authority and in the individual's right to interpret scriptures; thus placing the Huguenots in conflict with both the Catholic Church and the King of France.

The Protestant Huguenots grew sufficiently in numbers in the late 1500s to become a political force. Incidents of conflict between Catholics and Protestants in France included the affair des Placards, where, in the night, protesters put up grossly irreverent signs all over Paris, and even on the door to the King's chambers. This was followed strict repression of heresy: Huguenots were burned to cleanse Paris, and a General Edict urging their extermination was issued in 1536. The Huguenots were largely French or Walloon, dwellers in the Rhine Valley north of Strasburg.

However, Huguenot strength continued to grow. In 1562, the Duke of Guise passed a barn, within the city walls of Vassey, in which he found about 300 Huguenots holding a service. The Duke and his men attacked the Huguenots, killing some 1200 people, and setting off the Wars of Religion, which would continue on and off and on until 1598. Incidents such as the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, in 1572, when the murder of Admiral Coligny and other Huguenot leaders at a royal wedding incited the killing of an estimated 2000 Huguenots in Paris, and another 6000-8000 outside the city, forced Huguenots to flee to the British Isles and other European countries.

The Wars of Religion finally came to an end when Henry of Navarre, the first Protestant King of France succeeded to the throne. Even though he had to convert to Catholicism for the sake of peace in France, Henry signed The Edict of Nantes in April, 1598, outlining the social and political rights of the Protestants. The persecution of the Huguenots in France began anew , and a second great wave of Huguenot emigration began, when Louis XIV revoked the Edit of Nantes in 1685. This lasted until the Promulgation of the Edict of Toleration in November, 1787, which partially restored the civil and religious rights of Huguenots in France.

Huguenots in England

In England, the Huguenots started the trades of paper making, book publishing, glass blowing, clothiers, rug making, and many more. Many Huguenots rose to high office and became members of the Peerage, including the Earls of Radnor, and the Earls of Clancarty.

The first Huguenot names appeared in England after the 16th century, when this group of French Protestants began to leave France to seek refuge in Protestant countries. The Huguenots flooded into Protestant England in the 17th century, when religious persecution intensified at home. The Huguenots, who possessed great commercial and industrial skills, settled in English manufacturing towns, where they were instrumental to the production of crystal, paper, cutlery, watches, and precision instruments. After they were welcomed into England, Huguenot names began to appear in increasingly large numbers in documents such as the Curia Regis Rolls, The Pipe Rolls the Hearth Rolls, the Treaty of Limerick, parish registers, baptismals and tax records.

The Huguenots were fervently loyal to the Crown during the era of Cromwell. They were overwhelmingly Methodist, and were supporters of the "Glorious Revolution" which led to the long series of Jacobite uprisings by the supporters of the Catholic King James II. Many of the Huguenots signed undertakings to remain Protestant and migrated to Ireland to settle on lands confiscated from Catholics during the Plantation of Ulster.

Today people from such places as Germany, The Netherlands, the British Isles South Africa and North America bear the distinctive surnames of the Huguenots of France.


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