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HUGUENOTS. "Huguenot" was the pejorative name given to Calvinist French Protestants by their Catholic opponents in the sixteenth century. The etymology of the word is obscure and contested. Henri Estienne (Latin Stephanus) was among several contemporaries to attribute it to the name given around 1560 to Protestants in Tours, after the neighborhood and city gate in which they held their religious services. Estienne may well have been correct, but an alternative derivation from Eidgenossen ('Confederates') that had become Eigenotz, or the supporters of the Swiss Protestant canton of Bern against the supporters of Catholic Savoy in the factional politics of Geneva in the 1530s, is still widely accepted. French Protestants preferred to call themselves l'église réformée, 'the Reformed church', and the French crown normally referred to them officially as "those of the so-called Reformed religion" after 1560.

French Protestantism emerged from the deeper wells of biblical humanism, reforming Gallicanism, inflected Lutheranism, and religious heterodoxy. But, under the influence of persecution, many Protestants were exiled to Strasbourg, Basel, and Geneva, which is where John Calvin established himself permanently from 1541. Increasingly in the 1550s, the influence of Calvin's writings and the model of the Genevan church came to exercise a dominant impact upon French-speaking Protestants, first among the communities of exiles in the Rhineland and elsewhere and then, from 1555 onward, in France itself. The Genevan Company of Pastors (Compagnie des Pasteurs) began to train and dispatch a limited number of ministers back to France in response to a deluge of requests from particular communities. In this period, French Protestantism became, in its theology and organization, irreducibly Calvinist. Although there had been at least one earlier gathering of French churches in 1557, the first generally recognized synod of the French Protestant church took place secretly in Paris in 1559. The delegates endorsed the "Confession of Faith" and "Discipline" which, taken together, provided a constitution and a creed for the Reformed communities. In church organization, this meant that the powers, selection, and responsibility of church officers (the familiar elders, pastors, deacons, and doctors of the Genevan new order) were vested in individual churches in the form of a consistory, composed of these officials and often made up of its notability. A contrary view, that power be vested in the congregation at large, still found its echoes in the documents of 1559, but they were gradually eliminated from Huguenot thought and practice in the course of the 1560s, culminating in the modifications at the synod of La Rochelle in 1571. Thereafter, the Confession and Discipline proved enduring statements of what the Huguenots stood for over the next two centuries. For their opponents, however, the movement was defined by the Huguenot Psalter, the Genevan metrical translation begun by Clément Marot and completed by Théodore de Bèze, Calvin's successor in Geneva, and by the French vernacular Bible, most notably the Neuchâtel Bible, originally translated by Pierre Robert Olivétan (French Olivier, Latin Olivetanus) and the basis for all subsequent French Protestant Bibles (including the Geneva Bible) in the sixteenth century.

French Protestantism found itself at what would be the height of its influence in the early 1560s. The political circumstances of a royal minority and regency, and the emergence of powerful protectors at court, especially Gaspard III de Coligny (15191572) and his cousin, a younger prince of the blood, Louis I de Bourbon, prince of Condé (15301569), assisted the chaotic and dramatic growth in Protestant numbers in these years. In March 1562, Coligny is supposed to have presented a list of the 2,150 churches then extant in France to the regent Catherine de Médicis. His figure may, however, have been exaggerated, and later historians can only document the existence of around 1,2001,250 churches in this decade, or less than 4 percent of the Catholic parishes of the kingdom. If we allow for 1,500 communicating members of each church, we arrive at an adult Protestant population of under two million, perhaps not far from 10 percent of the total population of the French kingdom. These churches were, however, unevenly distributed, reflecting on the one hand its literate, urban constituency and, on the other, its seigneurial heartland. Although there were many Reformed churches in Normandy, they remained quite widely scattered through the rest of northern France. Only south of the Loire, and especially in the crescent of communities stretching from La Rochelle through the southern provinces of Guyenne, Languedoc, and Dauphiné to Geneva, would there be a critical mass sufficient to provide an enduring basis for the forthcoming military struggle against the French crown.

That struggle was sustained and grueling. The Huguenots mobilized the resources of the churches in the early civil wars and seized royal revenues and ecclesiastical wealth in order to fund their campaigns. The civil wars lasted off and on from 1562 to 1598, and then again from 1622 to 1629. Without their naval strength off the Atlantic coast, mercenary German reinforcements, and the leadership of their most skilful "protector," Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV, king of France (ruled 15891610), they would probably not have succeeded in winning the limited degrees of toleration that the French crown reluctantly conceded them in edicts of pacification that culminated in the pacification of Nantes (April 1598), modified by the peace of Alais (1629). From the early civil wars, however, the antipathy of the Catholic majority in France toward the Huguenots was manifested by aristocratic feud and sectarian hatred. Both culminated in the famous St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (August 1572) in Paris, an event that was mirrored in a score of provincial cities in the following weeks. The experience permanently eroded Protestant support, especially in northern France. It also cemented the emerging defensive and stoic mentality of French Protestantism, in which earlier persecution (recalled in successive and enlarged editions of Jean Crespin's famous French martyrology, the Histoire des martyrs [1554]) became the pattern of the way in which God repeatedly tested his faithful French elect.

The sixteenth-century Catholic perception of Huguenot political engagement has created an enduring view that they were republicans, determined to resist monarchical authority, who sought to establish a federal state in France after the model of the Swiss cantons or the emerging Dutch Republic. In reality, the basis for Huguenot "resistance theory" was laid among Protestant refugee reformers from a variety of backgrounds and found its echoes later in the sixteenth century among Catholics who were themselves similarly at odds with French monarchical authority. And, although French Protestants had a political assembly that met on an irregular basis to provide credibility to its military and financial organization, it was never the basis for a republican movement. In reality French Huguenots continued to adhere to the principles of monarchy, even though they preferred (like many of their Catholic counterparts) to see it in less than absolutist terms. Their great spokesman and one-time advisor to Henry IV, Philippe Duplessis Mornay, repeatedly defended his coreligionists against those who accused them of wanting to set up a "state within a state," to "diminish royal authority," or "establish a democracy." A comparable distillation, that the Huguenots stood for the principle of religious toleration, has also to be seen as something of a retrospective myth, born of the inevitable apologetic of a minority religious movement and incarnated by the Enlightenment and liberal nineteenth-century historiography.

The Edict of Nantes granted French Protestants limited rights of worship, access to royal offices, legal redress before special royal courts (known as chambres de l'édit or 'Chambers of the Edict'), and rights to establish their own academies. Royal letters (brevets) accompanying the edict granted subsidies for their troops, pastors, and schools and allowed them to garrison certain towns. The brevets were not maintained beyond 1629, and the terms of the edict were interpreted by royal officials in an increasingly restrictive way, especially after 1661, until the edict was revoked by Louis XIV in the Edict of Fontainebleau (October 1685). Of the 873 pastors remaining in France at that time, about 140 abjured; but the remainder chose to defy the edict and take up exile in the Dutch Republic (43 percent), Switzerland (27 percent), England (23 percent) and Germany (7 percent). More surprising to the authorities was the degree of illegal emigration of lay Huguenotslatest estimates suggest a figure of around 200,000. The Huguenot diaspora made the revocation a European phenomenon and cemented the French Protestant sense of a separate identity. The cultural and economic influence of the exiled Huguenots was far from negligible, spreading beyond Europe to colonial North America and the Dutch colonies, even if it has sometimes been exaggerated. Protestantism survived underground in eighteenth-century France and was once more officially tolerated on the eve of the Revolution.

See also Bèze, Théodore de ; Bible ; Calvin, John ; Calvinism ; Coligny Family ; Condé Family ; Gallicanism ; La Rochelle ; Lutheranism ; Martyrs and Martyrology ; Nantes, Edict of ; Reformation, Protestant ; Resistance, Theory of ; St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre ; Wars of Religion, French .


The Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Français, and the equivalent British Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland are an indispensable starting point for all those wishing to trace their Huguenot ancestry.

Benedict, Philip. The Faith and Fortunes of France's Huguenots, 16001685. St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Aldershot, U.K., and Burlington, Vt., 2001.

Butler, Jon. The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1983.

Garrisson, Janine. Les Protestants au XVIe siècle. Paris, 1988.

Gray, Janet. "The Origin of the Word Huguenot." Sixteenth Century Journal 14, no. 3 (1983): 349359.

Greengrass, M. The French Reformation. Oxford, 1987.

Gwynn, Robin D. Huguenot Heritage: The History and Contribution of the Huguenots in Britain. London, 1985.

Kingdon, Robert McCune. Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France, 15551563. Travaux d'humanisme et renaissance, vol. 22. Geneva, 1956.

. Geneva and the Consolidation of the French Protestant Movement, 15641572. Travaux d'humanisme et renaissance, vol. 92. Geneva, 1967.

Léonard, Émile G. A History of Protestantism. Edited by H. H. Rowley. 2 vols. London, 19651967.

Magdelaine, Marie, and R. von Thadden, eds. Le refuge huguenot (16851985). Paris, 1985.

Prestwich, Menna, ed. International Calvinism, 15411715. Oxford, 1985.

Wolff, Philippe, ed. Histoire des protestants en France, de la réforme àlarévolution. Toulouse, 1977.

Mark Greengrass

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The nickname given to the French Protestants who followed the teachings of John calvin. During the wars of religion the term referred to a militant political party. The Huguenots were the most revolutionary of 16th-century Protestants.

Origin of the Term. The official name given to the Huguenots before the French Revolution was the "pseudo-reformed" (les prétendus réformés ); after the revolution it was "French Protestants" or "Calvinists." The etymology of the term "Huguenot" is hazy. According to one view it may derive from the German Eidgenossen (confederates, conspirators), which in Geneva became eiguenotz a popular term for those rebelling against authority. By coincidence the Genevan conspirators who revolted (c. 152024) against the Duke of Savoy and advocated union with the Swiss confederation were called "huguenots," after one of their leaders, Hugues Besançon, or Bezanson. According to another view the word hugonot was a local term, which in 1552 was used at Tours with reference to adherents of the reformed religion who gathered at night near the tower named after the legendary King Hugon. Still another legend has it that "King Hugon" was a nocturnal spirit in whose existence the inhabitants of Tours believed. Mockingly they called the Calvinists the disciples of Hugon or huguenaux. The term was in common use after the Conspiracy of Amboise, which occurred in 1560.

Doctrine and Organization . Both the doctrine and the organizational structure of Calvinism matured between 1510 and 1559. The pioneer brain of French reform was Jacques lefÈvre d'Étaples, the author of Quincuplex Psalterium (1509) and of a Latin version of the Epistles of St. Paul (1512). In his commentary on the latter Lefèvre stated that the Scriptures are the chief authority in religious matters. After 1520 the writings of Luther gave the French reform movement a strong impulse. In 1535 appeared a revised version of Lefèvre's Bible by Pierre olivÉtan; and in March 1536, Calvin's Institutio Christianae Religionis (see institutes of cal vin), the most systematic exposition of Protestant doctrine. The book taught glorification of and obedience to God as the chief ends of man. It served as a declaration of faith, a justification for the new doctrine, and a program for the new Protestant adherents. The Institutes won Calvin many followers and helped to establish his leadership of the reform at Geneva, when he went to live there in the same year. His reform program soon proved too extreme for the Genevans and he and his associate William Farel were expelled from the city in 1538. Despite these fits and starts, Calvin and Farel returned to Geneva in 1540 and began to mold the city into a disciplined outpost of their reformed teaching. Throughout the 1540s and 1550s they were able to wrest important powers from the town council, despite the frequent vocal opposition of some of the town's most prominent families. By the 1550s, most of the components of Geneva's theocracy were in place: Christian ministers and magistrates shared power in a consistory that met regularly to discipline moral infractions and to insure purity of teaching and uniformity of belief and practice. At the same time Geneva became an important missionary training ground for the movement. The town's population doubled, swelled by students, disciples, and Protestant refugees from throughout Europe. Eventually these missionaries would carry Calvinist teaching back to their homelands.

Persecution. From the onset of his work as a reformer, Calvin had longed for the conversion of France and his missionary efforts at Geneva cannot be understood outside of his attempt to establish a Protestant Church in his native land. As the movement grew in France, so did the monarchy's desire to destroy heresy. Francis I (151547), who at first assumed an ambivalent attitude, decided in favor of persecution and passed a series of edicts to that end (1539, 1540, 1542, 1543). In 1545 the Sorbonne published a list of 65 condemned books, which included the works of Calvin, Luther, and Melanchton. Toward the end of Francis' reign persecution was encouraged by both the king and the Paris parlement (the chief organ of justice). Between 1544 and 1547 many were martyred in Toulouse, Rouen, Grenoble, Bordeaux, and Paris. Provence became the scene of a large-scale massacre of the Vaudois Protestants in which 3,000 died. The effort of Henry II (154759) to systematize persecution consisted of appointing a special commission of the Paris parlement (chambre ardente ) in 1547 to try heretics and of codifying in 1551 (Edict of Chateaubriand) all the previous enactments against them. But persecution proved ineffective. By 1555 Paris had its first Reformed church. In 1559 the first national synod, representing 72 churches, met at Saint-Germain and organized a National Evangelical Church. A confession of faith and disciplinary rules, as prescribed by Calvin, were drawn up (see confessions of faith protestant). Furthermore Calvin's compact organizational structure was adopted for the Church. The constitution prescribed the method of appointment of ministers and lay elders (grouped in the consistory), by whom each congregation was governed. Consistories were linked by the colloquy, or district assembly. Higher up the scale was the provincial synod; still higher was the national synod, conisting of two ministers and two elders for each province (see reformed churches).

Political Influence. After 1559 Calvinism came into the open, and for 70 years the Reformed Church played an important political role. Individual churches sought the protection of the nobility. The military and political organization of the party took shape. The leadership of the Huguenot organization was assumed by a president, known as the protector of the churches; the Huguenot system of laws extended to administration, justice, commerce, finance, and war. Military and ecclesiastical organization were closely related to each other. Thus, to conform with the military organization established in November, 1561 in the Provinces of Bordeaux and Toulouse, the congregation had its captain, the colloquy had its colonel, and the province had its general. After 1572 the religious elements in the Huguenot camp were dominated by the military and political factions; significantly, its religious organization was conducive to political separation. The final organizational structure did not come into being until 1611 (Assembly of Saumur).

During the short reign of Francis II (155960) persecution of the Huguenots was intensified by the Dukes of guise. Chambres ardentes were established under the local parlements; heresy was punishable by death, banishment, and confiscation. But the Huguenot ranks were strengthened by many nobles, like Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and the Dukes of Bourbon and condÉ, who became the party leader. (The Huguenot party remained mainly aristocratic until the end of the 16th century; then the character of its membership changed to include more "popular" elements, particularly middle-class towns-people.) The conspiracy of Amboise (1560), initiated by Louis I, Prince of Condé, against the Guises, ended in failure. Under Charles IX (156074) and the regency of the Queen Mother catherine de mÉdicis, a policy of compromise and concession was sought (inspired by Chancellor Michel de l'Hôpital). At the States-General of the same year Coligny tried to promote a program including a national council under the king to settle religious matters. The results were the suspension of persecution and the convening of a special religious conference of all beliefs in 1561 (see poissy, conference of). The chief spokesmen for the Catholics were Louis II de Guise, Cardinal de Lorraine, and for the Huguenots, Theodore beza. Other main participants included peter martyr vermigli and the Jesuit Diego laÍnez. No agreement resulted from the debates. The next step was taken by the government: the edict of January 1562, was a measure of toleration introduced by de l'Hôpital. Its intention was to grant the Huguenots civic status and the right to worship outside the towns; the Huguenot nobles were given the privilege of organizing religious rites on their own estates. But the attempts of de l'Hôpital and Catherine to bring peace were ineffective. The Guises strongly opposed the policy of conciliation, and both sides prepared for war. The massacre of Vassy (March 1, 1562) began the thirty years' war.

Wars of Religion. In the next two decades there were seven wars and the Massacre of st. bartholo mew's day (1572). Among the many leading Huguenots killed were Anthony de Navarre (first war), Louis I Condé (third war), and Coligny (St. Bartholomew); victims on the Catholic side were Marshal de St. André (first war), Francis, Duke of Guise (first war), and Constable Anne de Montmorency (second war). During the second decade the Huguenot organization was so strengthened and unified that it resembled a state within the state. Wherever they held power, the Huguenots imposed a rigid rule, which demanded obedience to their code and included censorship and severe penalties. They cultivated their own way of life and educational institutions (e.g., five academies: Montauban, Saumur, Nîmes, Montpellier, Sedan). The Holy league, which emerged in 1576 to meet the need for an alliance outside the monarchy and to make the counter reformation more effective, took the Huguenot organization as its pattern.

The Huguenots participated in the battle of ideas that accompanied the wars of religion; they were noted for vigorous political pamphleteering. Among the outstanding Huguenot books were: François Hotman's Franco-Gallia (1573), a defense of limited popular monarchy; Vindiciae contra tyrannos (1579), a classical work of the Huguenot monarchomach theory that justified the right to rebel against a tyrant; and Mémoires de l'Estat de France, edited by Simon Goulart (1576), a massive collection of materials relating to political theory.

The wars of religion were marked by an abundance of short-lived treaties and ineffective edicts. The socalled intervals of "peace" (Amboise, 1563; Longjumeau, 1568; Saint-Germain, 1570) were no more than truces. Measures intended to bring peace and order alternated with enactments revoking rights and privileges. The only measure of note (introduced before the Edict of nantes) was the Edict of Beaulieu, or of "Monsieur"(1576), which was revived the following year, after the Peace of Bergerac, as the Edict of Poitiers. Although it brought no essential change, it implied broad religious libertya remarkable achievement but a compendium of edicts previously passed.

Edict of Nantes. The Edict of Nantes did not result from a true spirit of tolerance but from a number of political factors. These included the decline of the Guises; the rise to power of Henry de Navarre (a Huguenot who, upon the death of Francis, Duke of Alençon, Catherine's youngest son, became heir to the throne in 1854); and the growing influence of the politiques (include Navarre), who were anxious to end hostilities and put a stop to foreign influence.

Unlike its predecessors, the Edict of Nantes was to remain in effect, at least nominally, for 87 years. From the beginning, however, its fate was precarious. Despite genuine efforts to carry out its provisions, it was never applied in its entirely because French society was not ready to adopt its principles and was therefore unwilling to aid their application.

The relative sense of security enjoyed by the Huguenots ended with the assassination of henry iv in 1610. The reign of his son, Louis XIII (161043), saw the end of their political hopes. The Huguenot organization reached its peak at the Assembly of Saumur (1611), where final form was given to the representative system. In the religious sphere the existence of consistories, colloquies, and provincial and national synods was confirmed. In the political sphere, corresponding provincial councils, circles assemblies, and general assemblies were provided. The provincial councils, although known before Saumur, did not meet regularly before 1611; it was then that their continuous history began, to be interrupted after the fall of La Rochelle in 1629. Although not all the decisions made at Saumur were carried into full effect, the problem of extending political activities was taken up at La Rochelle in 1621. A provisional Protestant republic was then created, following the manifesto Ordre et Réglement Général, which gave a pattern for an autonomous organization. France was subdivided into eight departments, each to be headed by a governor general (chef général ) concerned with justice, finances, and the militia. La Rochelle was given a supreme court with the powers of an emergency tribunal.

In 1615 three Huguenot provincesLanguedoc, Guigenne, and Poitourose under the leadership of Henry de Condé (the party's spokesman, although not a Huguenot) against the Regent Marie de' Médicis as a protest against her pro-Spanish policy. Henry, Duke of Rohan, the official protector of the Huguenots, also took up arms. Hostilities ended with the Treaty of Loudun (May 3, 1616), which extended for six years the use by the Huguenots of their strongholds ("places of surety").

In 1620 another rising took place following restitution to the Catholic bishops of their property in Béarn after absorption of the latter by France. (Catholic worship was reintroduced to Béarn by Henry IV when he abjured Protestantism.) The revolt was led by Rohan and his brother Soubise. It ended with the Peace of Montpellier (Oct. 18, 1622), which confirmed the Edict of Nantes but forbade political assemblies without royal authorization and left the Huguenots only two "places of surety": La Rochelle and Montauban. Hostilities were started again in 1625 by Soubise, who first seized the Isle of Ré and then Oléron. Cardinal richelieu brought the war to a temporary end in February 1626. He needed internal peace in order to set out on an expedition to deal with the Mantuan succession and undertook no action until 1627.

Policy of Richelieu. In 1627, in accordance with his design to destroy the Huguenot partya matter of raison d'état since the Huguenots constituted a threat to the central governmentRichelieu launched a full-scale assault against La Rochelle, defended by Jean Guiton who was ineffectively aided by the English. (There were abortive attempts by the fleet of George Villiers, the duke of Buckingham, to support the beseiged city.) Richelieu entered La Rochelle on Oct. 30, 1628; he then led his forces against Rohan, took Privas, and beseiged Alais. Rohan capitulated, and Richelieu dictated the terms of the Peace of Alais (June 1629). The Huguenots lost their "places of surety" and became politically subservient to the state. Although the Edict of Nantes was reaffirmed in the sense that their liberty of conscience was preserved, the Huguenot party was in reality doomed.

Until his death in 1643 Richelieu refrained from active oppression of the Huguenots and created a fairly strong impression of being tolerantan impression that persisted during his lifetime because events moved against his proselytizing plans (comprised in the Plan Codur). Richelieu accepted toleration of the Huguenots as a temporary political expedient, even as he ultimately aimed to eliminate the Huguenot minority. Richelieu had destroyed the Huguenots politically, not in order to assure their survival in the religious sphere but in order to make their religious practice at a later stage difficult and, much later, impossible. His political will was executed with great accuracy. Jules mazarin entirely, and louis xiv to a large degree, continued his policy. (The revocation of the Edict of Nantes probably reflected Richelieu's intentions quite accurately.)

Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Persecution was begun again by Louis XIV (16611715) after Cardinal Mazarin's death (1661). The rights enjoyed by the Huguenots were gradually withdrawn; after 1680 the government resorted to brutal dragonnades, or quartering troops in Huguenot households, in order to force conversions. On Oct. 18, 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked, causing massive Huguenot emigration (between 200,000 and 300,000 left France). During Louis XIV's War of the Spanish Succession there was a Huguenot uprising in the Cevennes by the camisards (170204), led by Jean Cavalier. In 1724 the revocation of the Edict of Nantes was confirmed. The situation did not change until 1787, when by the Edict of Toleration partial equality of rights was reestablished (except the right to hold public office) and marriages and baptisms in the Protestant faith were declared valid. The Calvinists were granted full equality by the Napoleonic code.

Bibliography: General. j. viÉnot, Histoire de la réforme française, 2 v. (Paris 192634). e. lÉonard, Histoire générale du Protestantisme, 2 v. (Paris 1961). r. stÉphan, L'Epopée huguenote (Paris 1945); Histoire du Protestantisme français (Paris 1961). a.j. grant, The Huguenots (London 1934). Calvin and Geneva. r. n.c. hunt, Calvin (London 1933). a. bossert, Calvin (Paris 1906). r. m. kingdon, Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France (Geneva 1956). j. a. f. puaux and l. a. sabatier, Études sur la révocation de l'édit de Nantes (Paris 1886). w. j. stankiewicz, "The Edict of Nantes in the Light of Mediaeval Political Theory," Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London 19 (1955) 8291. Particular reigns. j. e. neale, The Age of Catherine de Medici (new ed. London 1957). l. romier, Catholiques et Huguenots à la cour de Charles IX (Paris 1924). w. j. stankiewicz, "The Huguenot Downfall: The Influence of Richelieu's Policy and Doctrine," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 99 (1955) 146168. j. orcibal, Louis XIV et les Protestants (Paris 1951). Problem of toleration. j. lecler, Toleration and the Reformation, tr. t. l. westow, 2 v. (New York 1960). a. j. grant, "The Problem of Religious Toleration in XVIth Century France," Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London 13 (192329). w. j. stankiewicz, "Intoleranz im Frankreich des XVI. Jahrhunderts," Der Deutsche Hugenott 23 (1959), tr. from the English by m. goetz; "Rationalismus gegen Thenlogic: der Bayle-Jurieu Streit ueber die Toleranz," ibid. 22 (1958), tr. from the English by m. goetz. r. h. bainton et al., Castellioniana (Leiden 1951). j. a. f. puaux, Les Précurseurs français de la tolérance au XVIIe siècle (Paris 1881). h. robinson, Bayle the Skeptic (New York 1931). Political and social thought. e. armstrong, "The Political Theory of the Huguenots," English Historical Review 4 (1889) 1340. j. e. acton, "The Protestant Theory of Persecution," Essays on Freedom and Power (Boston 1948). s. j. brutus, A Defence of Liberty against Tyrants, tr. w. walker (London 1924), see introduction by h. j. laski. e. barker, "A Huguenot Theory of Politics: The Vindiciae contra tyrannos, " in his Church, State and Education (pa. Ann Arbor 1957). w. f. church, Constitutional Thought in Sixteenth-Century France (Cambridge, MA 1941). g. j. weill, Les Théories sur le pouvoir royal en France pendant les guerres de religion (Paris 1892). j. a. f. puaux, Les Défenseurs de la souveraineté du peuple sous le règne de Louis XIV (Paris 1917). r. lureai, Les Doctrines politiques de Jurieu, 16371713 (Bordeaux 1904). p. hazard, The European Mind, 16801715, tr. j. l. may (New York 1963). g. h. dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (New York 1947). w. j. stankiewicz, Politics and Religion in Seventeenth-century France (Berkeley 1960). p. benedict, The Huguenot Connection (Philadelphia 1981). r. kingdon, Myths about the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, 14721576 (Cambridge, MA 1988). r. mentzer, Blood and Belief (West Lafayette, IN 1994). e. perry, French Religious Controversy and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (The Hague 1973).

[w. j. stankiewicz]

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Early French Protestants. The migration of French Protestants to America was closely tied to the religious climate in France. The Edict of Nantes, promulgated in 1598 and revoked in 1685, guaranteed limited religious toleration for Protestants. Even before the Edict of Nantes, however, some individuals close to the government realized that Protestants might be in danger. As early as the 1560s French Huguenots looked to the New World as a potential area for settlement. Unfortunately, they chose places claimed by Spain and were thus seen as threats by the Spanish. In 1562 a small group built Charles fort on what is now Parris Island, South Carolina, but abandoned the site shortly thereafter. In 15641565, 900 Huguenots tried to establish a colony near what is now Jacksonville, Florida. They were discovered and routed by a Spanish fleet, thus ending French Protestant attempts to set up their own separate colonies. Those who came to America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, after toleration was abolished, would join already ongoing English colonies.

Revocation. In 1589 Henry of Navarre, a Protestant, became a Roman Catholic and was then crowned Henry IV of France. That same year he tried to protect his Protestant subjects by giving them some limited freedoms through the Edict of Nantes, but French Protestantism was not really safe, especially after Henry died. During the seventeenth century Protestants faced growing restrictions and by 1675 outright suppression. Many had already converted to Roman Catholicism. Louis XIV brought an official end to French Protestantism when in 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes and sent troops to Protestant villages. Ministers were forced either to convert or leave. By the time Louis XIV died in 1715 there were few Protestants in France. Most had become Catholics, at least outwardly, while maybe some 160,000 fledno official figures were kept. Emigrés went first to Protestant countries in Europe: German principalities, the Netherlands, and England. In these places the exiles found life hard and sometimes, as in England, encountered prejudice. Perhaps because of these problems, most of those who would migrate to America came from the Huguenot communities in England.

Northern Colonies. The Huguenots were not the first French Protestants to settle in the northern colonies. In New Amsterdam the first settlers had been Walloons, French speakers from what is now Belgium. A small number of families from the Channel Islands, which lie between France and England, had also come to New England. But the real French migration began after 1680. New England had perhaps 200 Huguenot men, women, and children in 1700. New York had a larger population, one capable of creating a French church, the Eglise Françoise à la Nouvelle York, in 1688. By 1695 there were about 800 French Huguenots in New York, some 300 of which probably lived in New York City.

Southern Colonies. As in the northern colonies, there were some small clusters of French speakers such as those in Manakin, Virginia, but the majority stayed together in larger groups. South Carolina provided a home for French Protestants in the South, and by 1697 there were 450 in that colony. About 45 percent lived in Charleston, and the rest populated three settlements in the countryside. Immigration to South Carolina was not an accident. The Carolina proprietors advertised their colony in pamphlets, boasting that for salubrity of Air, Fertility of Soyl, for the Luxuriant and Indulgent Blessings of Nature, [travelers accounts] justly rendered Carolina Famous. Perhaps it was this kind of tract, translated into French, that lured Pierre Giton to leave Germany with his mother, brother, and sister, and after stops in Amsterdam and London, board a ship for Charleston. South Carolina proved to be not quite the paradise promised. His mother and brother died of disease within a year and a half. The sister recalled sickness, pestilence, famine, poverty, and hard labor, yet in the end she survived and apparently prospered. The establishing of French churches in the colony must have helped to ease the transition from Europe to America.

Assimilation. The Huguenots were among the first ethnically discrete groups to migrate to the British colonies, but they did not keep their French identity for long. Those, such as Philip LAnglois, who lived in Salem, Massachusetts, with few other Frenchmen around him, Anglicized their names: Philip LAnglois became Philip English. In both New York and South Carolina, Huguenot cohesion had eroded by 1710. Both men and women married non-Huguenots and joined other churches, especially the Church of England. New Yorkers elected the wealthy Huguenot Stephen De Lancey assistant alderman as early as 1691. His family would become one of the most powerful in eighteenth-century New York, with James De Lancey serving as both a supreme court justice and lieutenant governor. In South Carolina some Huguenots such as Jean Boyd and Benjamin God in sat in the Commons House of Assembly, South Carolinas house of representatives. In 1710 the merchant Isaac Masyck asked the colonys governor to be his daughters godfather. By the time of the American Revolution, Huguenots were known by their French names, but in most other ways they were no different from English colonists.


Jon Butler, The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983);

Joyce D. Goodfriend, Before the Melting Pot: Society and Culture in Colonial New York City, 16641730 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992).

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Huguenots (hyōō´gənŏts), French Protestants, followers of John Calvin. The term is derived from the German Eidgenossen, meaning sworn companions or confederates.


Prior to Calvin's publication in 1536 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a reform movement already existed in France. Despite persecution, the movement grew. Under King Henry II reprisals became more severe. Nevertheless, in 1559, the first French national synod was held, and a Presbyterian church modeled on Calvin's reform in Geneva was founded. The adherence of a large number of the nobility to the movement gave it political meaning and added fuel to persecution.

Wars of Religion and the Edict of Nantes

The conspiracy of Amboise (1560; see Amboise, conspiracy of) during the reign of King Francis II inflamed both Roman Catholic and Protestant sentiment. This, along with political rivalry, particularly among the Bourbons and the Guises, precipitated the Wars of Religion (1562–98; see Religion, Wars of). Despite such heavy blows to the Huguenots as the massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day (1572), the formation of the Catholic League (see League), and the intervention of Spain (1589–98) against the Protestant heir to the throne, the Bourbon Henry IV, the Protestants were ultimately victorious. Their success was due largely to their unity under such admirable leaders as Louis I de Condé (see under Condé, family), Gaspard de Coligny, Jeanne d'Albret, and her son, Henry IV.

In 1598, Henry IV, by issuing the Edict of Nantes (see Nantes, Edict of), established Protestantism in 200 towns, proclaimed freedom of worship, and allowed substantial political independence. During the next 50 years, more and more skilled artisans and members of the bourgeoisie became Huguenots, who thus constituted one of the most industrious and economically advanced elements in French society.


In the reign of King Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu decided to suppress Protestant political privileges. An uprising (1621–22) against the introduction of Catholicism in Béarn was put down by Richelieu, and the Protestants lost all the strongholds given to them under the Edict of Nantes, except Montauban and La Rochelle. Led by Henri de Rohan and Benjamin de Soubise, the Huguenots revolted again in 1625 and in 1627. La Rochelle was captured (1628) by Richelieu after a 14-month siege, during which King Charles I of England attempted to send some aid to the Protestant defenders. The Peace of Alais (1629) stripped the Huguenots of all political power but assured them of continued religious tolerance.

Cardinal Mazarin continued Richelieu's policy, but King Louis XIV, urged by the French Catholic clergy, moved to suppress the dissident religion. Conversion was encouraged; the Edict of Nantes was interpreted in the strictest way possible; and dragoons were quartered in the homes of Huguenots (see dragonnades). Finally, in 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked.

This act had disastrous results. Entire provinces were depopulated as countless Huguenots fled to England, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and America. The only important fragment of Huguenots left in France was in the Cévennes, where the war of the Camisards (1702–10) broke out. In 1787, Louis XVI allowed the Huguenots tolerance, and in Dec., 1789, the revolutionary National Assembly restored their civil rights. Full religious freedom was not attained until church and state were separated in 1905.


See history by H. M. Baird (6 vol., 1879–95); G. A. Rothrock, The Huguenots (1979); N. M. Sutherland, The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition (1980); R. D. Gwynn, Huguenot Heritage (1985); G. Treasure, The Huguenots (2013).

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Huguenot was the popular term for French Protestants—the men and women who formed the French Reformed Church—from the mid-sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. The word's origins are unclear and contested. Opponents initially used it as a slur. Only gradually did Huguenot become the accepted designation for a French Calvinist. The Reformation had an early, forceful impact on France, and by the 1550s the Calvinist or Reformed tradition dominated. Reformed Protestantism, inspired by the Frenchman John Calvin and his ecclesiastical reorganization of the francophone city of Geneva, spread quickly throughout the realm. The growth of the Huguenot community provoked strong Catholic and monarchial reaction. Religious warfare erupted in 1562 and the turmoil devastated France for nearly forty years.

In addition to the clash of Catholic and Protestant armies, the assassination of individual political leaders and less calculated outbreaks of collective violence—deadly riots and vicious massacres—underscored the intense and bitter enmity surrounding these rivalries. The most famous incident was the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of August 24, 1572. Huguenot nobles had gathered in Paris for the marriage of their leader Henry of Navarre to the king's sister. The king and queen mother seized the occasion to rid themselves of political and religious opponents. Zealous Parisian Catholics soon transformed the purge into carnage as they butchered thousands of Huguenots. The constant warfare and brutality did not cease until 1598 with the king's proclamation of the Edict of Nantes. The royal legislation established structures for promoting peaceful coexistence between Catholics and Protestants.

The Huguenots were never more than a minority. At their height during the 1560s they may have amounted to 10 percent of the population. This initial growth did not survive the Saint Bartholomew's Massacre; afterwards Huguenot ranks thinned considerably. By the close of the sixteenth century they were no more than 7 to 8 percent of the French populace. Their strength further eroded in the seventeenth century. When Louis XIV finally revoked the Edict of Nantes in October 1685, the Huguenot community was 800,000 to 1 million persons.

The options for French Protestants after 1685 were limited and demanding. Some individuals were extraordinary in their resistance. For most, however, open defiance and the prospect of prison, the galleys, or execution were unattractive. The vast majority converted to Catholicism, if insincerely. About one-fifth of Huguenots—150,000 to 200,000—chose exile in the Swiss cities, various German states, the Netherlands, British Isles, and eventually North America, South Africa, Scandinavia, and Russia.

Many Huguenots who remained in France began to assemble secretly in the désert (wilderness), a moving biblical image that emphasized their tenacity. Women assumed an especially strong role. They led clandestine worship complete with prayers, scriptural readings, and the singing of psalms. Some women endured agonizing confinement. Those arrested at illicit religious assemblies were incarcerated in Catholic hospitals and nunneries. Women judged to have committed more serious offenses went to prison, where they often remained forgotten for decades. Finally, a few young women, and in time men, turned to prophesy, becoming anguished voices crying out to protest their oppression.

The prophesying movement spread and eventually turned violent as the more zealous adherents sought to wreak God's retribution on their Catholic oppressors. The murderous, protracted revolt of the Camisards—so designated for the simple white shirts that the insurgents wore—began in 1702. Protestants carried out acts of vengeance, such as murdering priests and burning churches. They also waged organized guerrilla warfare. Royal troops responded with further repression and reprisals. The fighting dragged on for eight years and led to the death of many Protestants and Catholics.

Although the active persecution of Huguenots gradually abated, the restoration of their civil status occurred only with the Edict of the Toleration in 1787 and the French Revolution two years later. In the end the ordeal of the désert became the heroic age for French Protestants. The memory of the eighteenth-century persecution and attending diaspora has eclipsed earlier struggles in shaping collective identity and goes to the very meaning of Huguenot.

SEE ALSO Catholic Church; Massacres; Persecution


Diefendorf, B. (1991). Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mentzer, R. A., and A. Spicer, eds. (2002). Society and Culture in the Huguenot World, 1559–1685. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Van Ruymbeke, B., and R. Sparks, eds. (2003). Memory and Identity: Minority Survival among the Huguenots in France and the Atlantic Diaspora. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Raymond A. Mentzer

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HUGUENOTS. The term "Huguenot," of unknown origin, was first applied to French Calvinists during the religious struggles of the sixteenth century. Henry IV granted religious toleration to his Protestant subjects by the Edict of Nantes (1598), but Louis XIV revoked it in 1685. During periods of persecution, approximately 300,000 French Protestants fled to Prussia, Switzerland, Holland, England, and the Dutch and English colonies. Fewer than 3,000 Huguenot refugees arrived in America before 1710. In America, the label Huguenot came to refer more broadly to French-speaking Calvinists, whether French, Swiss, or Walloon.

Attempted Huguenot settlements in Florida and South Carolina in 1562 and 1564 failed. In 1623, Huguenots, largely Walloons, settled New Amsterdam. Peter Minuit, the first director general of New Netherland, was a Walloon, and Jean Vigne, the first white child born on Manhattan Island, was French and probably Huguenot. Fort Orange (Albany), Kingston, and New Paltz in New York were Huguenot settlements. Some 200 or 300 Huguenot families came to Boston after Louis XIV's Dragonnades, which persecuted Protestants by billeting unruly soldiers in their homes.

After 1685, increasing numbers of Huguenots came to America, settling in Rhode Island, in Hartford and Mil-ford in Connecticut, and in New Rochelle, New York. They mingled with other settlers in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, where they were called Dutchmen and confused with German settlers. In Virginia, the first of the "French Protestant Refugees," as the name appears officially in Virginia records, was Nicholas Martiau. He arrived before 1620 and is the earliest known Virginia ancestor of George Washington. The shipload coming to of Manakintowne on 23 July 1700, and two more shiploads in the same year, made up the largest single settlement of Huguenots in America. King William Parish was set aside for them, but this group with its local church and pastor was absorbed into the Church of England. The parishioners soon intermarried with the English people of the colony.

Huguenots began coming to South Carolina in 1670, played a large part in the settlement of Charleston in 1680, and by 1687 had established four settlements largely or wholly French: Jamestown on the Santee River, the "Orange Quarter" on the Cooper River, Saint-John's in Berkeley County, and Charleston. In 1732, 360 French-Swiss Protestants settled Purysburg on the Savannah River, and in 1764 the last French colony was founded, New Bordeaux in Abbeville County.

Traditionally, historians have emphasized the rapid assimilation of the Huguenots into American society, linguistically, religiously, and economically. The most recent interpretations are more circumspect. While the Huguenots did indeed learn English, conform to Anglicanism, and contract exogamous marriages, such behavior may better be described as acculturation, in that Huguenot values influenced the evolution of the dominant Anglo-American culture. The process of assimilation may also have been more gradual than earlier historians believed. Huguenots transacted public business in English but continued to use French in private correspondence through most of the eighteenth century. Among merchant families, exogamous marriages served to maintain and expand their place within the Atlantic commercial network known as the Protestant International. Calvinist religious practices persisted despite conformity, giving a low-church tone to the Church of England.

The late nineteenth century witnessed a revival of Huguenot ethnicity as exemplified in the creation of Huguenot heritage societies and the adoption of a Huguenot flag (a Maltese cross and dove against a blue background). In Charleston at the end of the twentieth century, Huguenot descendants continued to take pride in their Huguenot church, the only one still in existence in America.


Bosher, John F. "Huguenot Merchants and the Protestant International in the Seventeenth Century." William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 52 (January 1995): 77–102.

Butler, Jon. The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Van Ruymbeke, Bertrand. "The Huguenots of Proprietary South Carolina: Patterns of Migration and Settlement." In Money, Trade and Power: The Evolution of South Carolina's Plantation System. Edited by Jack P. Greene, Rosemary Brana-Shute, and Randy J. Sparks. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.


James ElliottWalmsley

See alsoNew Amsterdam ; Walloons .

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Huguenots, a term of uncertain origin, were French-speaking (and some Walloon-speaking) protestants of Calvinistic temper, who fled from two centuries of persecution to seek asylum and freedom of worship in countries more sympathetic to Reformation practices. After the St Bartholomew's Day massacre (1572), the first wave of refugees to Britain were received at already established French churches in London, Canterbury, and Norwich, but hopes that their exile would be short soon faded. Relative quiet in France lasted only until 1661, when there commenced a steady erosion of privileges, culminating in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), after which the trickle of emigrés became a flood, then a torrent. Some 40,000–50,000 Huguenots are estimated to have settled in England, the majority in London (those associated with the silk trade around Spitalfields, professional families in Leicester Fields/Soho) but other communities in East Anglia, the south/south-west, and at Edinburgh; 10,000 are estimated to have settled in Ireland.

A distinct minority element, but deriving much support from their close-knit communities and their faith, they proved highly-motivated, productive, and a considerable economic asset to their new host nation, though sympathetic acceptance was not universal, since their craft innovations and competition were sometimes resented. Involvement in clothing and textiles (especially silks), luxury trades like goldsmithing, watchmaking, glassware, and cabinetry, and the introduction of white paper were complemented by professional expertise in law, banking and insurance, education, and the armed forces, and contributions to the arts and sciences, and freemasonry. Integration and assimilation generally took several generations, though a few refugees migrated on to America. Today only one French church remains in London, but Huguenot names such as Courtauld and Olivier are familiar to all, and Huguenot descendants retain great respect for their forebears.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Huguenots. (poss. from the name Hugues, or Swiss Eidgnosse, ‘confederate’). French Calvinists. As Calvinism spread rapidly in France during the 1540s, so persecution increased, especially under Henry II (1547–59). On his death, a more confused political situation ensued, leading to civil war. Militant Catholics (above all the family of the Guises) refused compromise: the massacre of St Bartholomew's Day (1572) was made the more repugnant by the fact that Protestant leaders had been invited to Paris to celebrate the marriage of a Huguenot leader, Henry of Navarre, to a Catholic, Margaret, sister of Charles IX. The reconciliation which that event might have introduced was nevertheless brought near by the accession of Henry, who turned Catholic to gain the throne (hence the saying of himself or perhaps of his minister Sully, ‘Paris vaut bien une messe’, ‘Paris is well worth a mass’). He ended the civil war, and by the Edict of Nantes, in 1598, he extended toleration to the Huguenots. In 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked. The ensuing Camisard revolt persisted for twenty years, but again was suppressed with great violence. The differing groups were largely united in 1938 in the Reformed Church of France.

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Huguenots French Protestants who arose in Roman Catholic France during the Reformation and suffered persecution. In 1559, a national synod of Huguenot congregations adopted an ecclesiastical structure highly influenced by John Calvin. During the Wars of Religion (1562–98), Huguenots continued to face persecution and thousands died. Henry IV, a Huguenot, came to the throne in 1589 and, despite adopting the Roman Catholic faith in 1593, promulgated the Edict of Nantes (1598) that recognized Catholicism as the official religion but gave Huguenots certain rights. In 1685 Louis XIV revoked the edict, and thousands of Huguenots fled France. In 1789, their civil rights were restored and the Code Napoléon (1804) later guaranteed religious equality.

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HuguenotMano, piano •Arno, boliviano, Bolzano, Carnot, chicano, guano, Kano, llano, Locarno, Lugano, Marciano, Marrano, meccano, oregano, Pisano, poblano, Romano, siciliano, soprano, SukarnoRenault, steno, tenno •techno • Fresno • Pernod •ripieno, volcano •albino, bambino, beano, Borodino, Borsalino, cappuccino, casino, chino, Comino, concertino, Filipino, fino, Gino, keno, Ladino, Latino, Leno, maraschino, merino, Monte Cassino, Navarino, neutrino, Pacino, palomino, pecorino, Reno, San Marino, Sansovino, Torino, Trevino, Valentino, vino, Zenominnow, winnow •Llandudno • Gobineau • domino •Martineau •lino, rhino, wino •tonneau • Grodno •Livorno, porno •Mezzogiorno •cui bono?, kimono, Mono, no-no, phono •Bruno, Gounod, Juneau, Juno, Uno •Huguenot • pompano •Brno, inferno, journo, Salerno, Sterno