Israel's Stragglers Re-join the Main Body
The story of the Huguenots is inevitably linked with that of the
Reformation because the Huguenots were a product of the Reformation. The
name was given to the French Protestants, but it is often applied to the
Flemings who also were Protestants and refugees, at the same time as the
Huguenots. The origin of the name is uncertain; one suggestion is that
it is derived from the French word Huguon meaning one who
walks by night. Other suggestions are that it is derived from the German
word Eidgenossen, meaning confederate, or from the name
Hugues, a Genevese Calvinist.
Great impetus was given to the Reformation by the invention of
printing. Bibles had previously been produced by hand and it had taken
an expert about ten months to make a copy, with the result that there
were very few copies. The first record of a Bible being printed is that
of Gutenberg who started printing them in Mainz about 1455. This was
known as the Mazarin Bible and had 641 leaves, the language being Latin.
Gutenberg, with his partner Schoeffer, kept the process secret. However,
their printing establishment at Mainz was destroyed by the archbishop
and the printers were scattered over Europe, taking their knowledge with
them. Printing then started at many places. The Bible was the book which
was mostly printed; it was also translated into a number of languages.
It was the present of a printed Bible which inspired Luther.
At this time the Papacy was in a parlous spiritual state, the popes
having political power as well as religious status. St. Peter's was
being rebuilt and, to raise money Pope Leo X sold indulgences. These
were pardons costing different amounts depending on the gravity of the
sin: thus sin was commercialised. A rascally monk named Tetzel travelled
about selling indulgences and making the wildest promises about
forgiveness of sins in order to raise money. It was these indulgences to
which Luther objected. Whilst Luther led the Reformation in Germany, it
was Zwingli who inaugurated it in Switzerland and he was followed by
Calvin, a refugee from France. Calvin established himself at Geneva,
which at that time was a city state under the King of Savoy and outside
the Swiss Confederacy.
In France the Protestants adopted Calvin's teaching from Geneva: the
movement spread very rapidly and alarmed the Pope. The King of France,
Charles IX, succeeded to the throne when he was only a boy of ten, and
was under the domination of his mother, Catherine de Medici, who acted
as regent. There were three main parties in France: the Guises who were
ardent Roman Catholics, the Bourbons who were Protestant, and the
Montmorencies who were part-Catholic and part-Protestant.
At Vassey, in Champagne, the local Protestants met regularly and held
services. Unfortunately, Vassey was in the territory of the Guises, who
threatened the Protestants if they continued to hold their services. The
Protestants ignored the threats and, meeting in a barn on March 1, 1562,
they were attacked by troops led by the Duke of Guise and a massacre
followed. This was the spark which touched off the trouble and it was
followed by massacres at many places throughout France.
A civil war started and continued until 1570, when a peace was
signed. At first the Prince of Conde was the Protestant leader: he was
joined by Admiral Coligny, who later took the lead. Catherine de Medici
seems to have supported the Huguenots at first. However, after attending
a meeting at Bayonne with the Duke of Alva, minister of Philip II of
Spain, who was an ardent Roman Catholic, she seems to have changed over
completely to the support of the Roman Catholics. A marriage was later
arranged between Catherine's daughter, Margaret, and the Huguenot leader
Henry of Navarre. As the Pope would not grant a dispensation for the
wedding to be celebrated in a Roman Catholic church, Catherine forged a
dispensation and the wedding took place in Notre Dame.
St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre
Many Huguenots imagining themselves safe, gathered for the wedding.
However, on the following day, a massacre was planned: this terrible St.
Bartholomew's Day tragedy, which has never been forgotten, was carried
out on August 24, 1572. The wedding guests were the first to be
slaughtered, and among them was Admiral Coligny, the Huguenot leader.
The Pope was delighted at the news, but when the French Ambassador
called at the English Court, he found Elizabeth in mourning and departed
in shame. After this there was widespread fighting in France, especially
in the Centre and South West.
The terrible massacre of 1572 is vividly reflected in this painting
by Calderon of Huguenots fearing for their lives. Courtesy:
The Mansell Collection
In our own country (England) where, as just mentioned Elizabeth was
Queen, Huguenot refugees from France and Flemish refugees from Flanders
were coming to England in thousands, to escape the persecution. The King
of France tried to stop this flood of refugees but was quite powerless.
Eventually the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth and this brought plots to
assassinate her by people who thought it no sin to kill an
excommunicated person. Mary, Queen of Scots, used by the Roman
Catholics, was no doubt concerned in this; eventually to be tried for
treason and executed.
The climax of this tragedy was the Armada. The records show that one
of the underlying ideas behind this was to suppress heresy in England as
witness the fact that the Spanish fleet carried many priests,
inquisition officers and equipment. It seems that the French and Flemish
Protestants were mainly of the merchant and craftsmen class. As a
result, the refugees who arrived here brought little material wealth,
having escaped with just what they were able to carry away. But they
brought their skills and crafts and these were invaluable, both to
themselves and to the country of their adoption.
Previously, wool had been produced in Britain and sent over to the
Continent to be dyed and woven into cloth. Attempts had
previously been made to persuade dyers and weavers to settle here and a
few had already done so. Now these people came over in large numbers and
set up their trades. In 1561 a large number of Flemings landed near Deal
and also near Sandwich and were given assistance. Others landed at
Harwich, Yarmouth, Dover and other places. Many moved on to London,
Norwich, Maidstone, Canterbury and other centres.
The immigration from various parts of France and Flanders continued
for many years. Cloth-makers came from Antwerp and Bruges, lace-makers
from Cambray, glass-makers from Paris, stuff-weavers from Meaux,
shipwrights from Dieppe and Havre. Steel-makers from the neighbourhood
of Liege started the manufacture of steel at Newcastle and Sheffield.
Potters from Delft instituted pottery. Many merchants set up business in
the City of London and prospered. It will be of interest to British
Israelites to learn that Flemish weavers settled at Glastonbury in 1549.
A census of immigrants, living at Dover at this time, showed that of
seventy-eight refugees, two were preachers of God's Word; three were
physicians and surgeons; two were advocates; two esquires; three were
merchants; two were schoolmasters; thirteen were drapers, butchers and
other trades; twelve were mariners; eight weavers and wool-combers;
twenty-five were widows and makers of bone; two were maidens; one the
wife of a shepherd; one a gardener and one a nondescript male. It is of
interest to note that the immigrants seem to have introduced
market-gardening into this country and that salads were almost unknown
here before they came. Examples of Flemish names which still persist
are: Walker, Stocker, Murch, Maynard, Raymund, Rochett and Kettle.
Others with French names changed them to the English equivalent or
modified them after a few generations, thus l'Oiseau became Bird, Le
Jeune became Young, Le Fevre became Smith, Le Noir became Black and Le
Coque became Cox.
Huguenots settled in Ireland especially in Ulster but they do not
seem to have spread to Scotland in any great numbers. They were
protected by Queen Elizabeth and her policy was followed by the Stuarts.
During the reign of Charles I, however, Bishop Laud tried to compel them
to conform to the English liturgy and, as most were Calvinists, a number
left England for Holland. However, this restriction ended after a few
years and many of these people returned to this country.
Churches were set aside for the refugees. At Southampton a Church of
St. Julian, called God's House, was founded in Winkel Street near the
harbour. Detailed records of this Church extending up to 1797 were
formerly available in Somerset House and no doubt these records still
exist. In Canterbury Cathedral the Walloons were granted a permit to use
the Under-Croft or Crypt, first as a weaving shed, then as a school, and
finally as a church. A church of great interest to the British Israel
movement was called Leicester Fields and is now called Orange Street
Chapel (in Orange Street, London).
In France the persecution continued, although in 1598 the Edict of
Nantes gave the Huguenots some toleration for a while. But the edict was
largely ignored after the death of Henry IV, who was the Henry of
Navarre mentioned above. La Rochelle, a Huguenot stronghold on the
Atlantic coast, was besieged. Charles I sent the Duke of Buckingham from
England with troops to assist the Huguenots, but he failed dismally and
La Rochelle fell in 1628.
War against the Huguenots was now carried on by Cardinal Richelieu;
the Huguenots ceased to be a political party and were distinguished only
by their religion. Despite all the persecution the Huguenots still
carried on some industry in France. Silk was manufactured with great
success at Tours and Lyons, paper was manufactured, and bleached cloth
and sail-cloth were made in Brittany and elsewhere.
During the reign of Louis IX, an enlightened minister, named Colbert,
who had constructed the Languedoc Canal connecting the Bay of Biscay
with the Mediterranean, appreciated the value of the Huguenots to the
economy of France and secured some toleration for them and even
persuaded some to return. However, after Colbert's death matters again
took a turn for the worse.
In October 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked; this sounded the
death-knell of the Huguenots in France. They were now subjected to an
even more terrible persecution; their remaining churches were destroyed
and they were prohibited from teaching the Protestant faith to their
children. Probably the greatest hardship was the quartering of troops on
Protestant families; these troops gave the families a terrible time
unless they turned Catholic.
Huguenots were prohibited from leaving France and were severely
punished if detected in escape, men being sent to the galleys and women
imprisoned, for life. Despite this, a large number succeeded in
getting out of France along escape routes, such as over the Vosges into
Germany, over the Jura mountains into Switzerland and hidden in barrels
or among the cargoes of English ships. Many of them settled on the
Continent, in Germany and in Scandinavia; others crossed the Atlantic to
America and a number settled in Cape Colony, which is now rich in their
descendants. However, the majority settled in England and Holland.
It is necessary to consider what was happening at this time in the
Netherlands. Charles V, who became Emperor of the Holy Roman
Empire in 1519, inherited the Netherlands and Spain, the Netherlands at
that time including present-day Holland and Belgium. Margaret, Duchess
of Savoy, had previously ruled over the Netherlands and when she died,
Charles appointed his own sister Mary in her place. He appointed Rene of
Chalons, Prince of Holland, as Stadtholder of Holland, Zealand and
The House of Orange
Chalons is in France to the South of Rheims whilst Orange was a small
independent state in the South of France, north of Avignon, which in
Roman times had been an important district. In The National
Message for April 1969 Helene van Woelderen showed that the
people of Orange were of Israelitish origin and that the House of Orange
is Israelite, although the territory of Orange subsequently passed into
The title, Prince of Orange, was an ancient one and came to Rene
through a succession which included Bertrand de Beaux, Raymond de Beaux
and others. Four years after his appointment as Statdtholder, Rene died,
leaving his territory to his cousin William of Orange-Nassau, who is
often referred to as William the Silent: he had been brought up in the
Court of the Emperor Charles V. When the Emperor died, Philip II became
King of Spain and his territory included the Netherlands. A strong Roman
Catholic, he sent the Duke of Alva with Jesuit priests to suppress
heresy in the Netherlands. A terrible time followed and parts of the
southern Netherlands, now Belgium, which up to then had been a rich
industrial region, were impoverished. Antwerp, which had been a busy
port of a hundred thousand inhabitants, nearly ceased to exist.
William of Orange-Nassau took refuge for a while in Germany and bands
of Dutch, known as 'the Beggars', harassed the Spaniards by sea and
land. Eventually, led by William and helped by mutinies among the
Spanish troops, the country was freed, but this took some years: the
details can be followed in Dutch history. An attempt was made to unify
the Netherlands, but this did not succeed and the country split into two
states which we know as Holland and Belgium: the one Calvinist and the
other Catholic. Holland became a republic, with the Princes of Orange as
Stadtholders, and continued so until 1815 when Prince William VI of
Orange was made king to become King William I of Holland. In 1890 there
was no male successor to King William III and the Queen, Emma, was made
regent until her daughter came of age, to become Queen Wilhelmina in
1898. In England the last of the Stuart kings, James II, was an ardent
Roman Catholic and tried to restore the Roman religion. As a result of
his policy there was the abortive rebellion by Monmouth and the
prosecutions under the notorious Judge Jeffries. Eventually Prince
William III of Orange was asked to oppose James, his wife Mary being a
daughter of James and in the line of succession, whilst William's mother
was a daughter of Charles I.
William landed at Torbay with an army which was largely Huguenot and
included three French Huguenot regiments and a squadron of French
Huguenot cavalry and, moving to London, gained support. James, finding
that the country was turning against him, fled to France. From there,
with the help of the French king, Louis XIV, he landed in Ireland, being
welcomed in that country, which was largely Roman Catholic, with the
exception of Ulster where the Protestants took refuge asking help from
William. He had difficulty in providing assistance as most of his
Huguenot troops had been disbanded when James fled. As a result,
Huguenots were recalled from Switzerland and Holland and sent to
England, where they were re-embodied into Huguenot regiments and hurried
At first the troops in Ulster were under the command of Marshal
Schomberg, a veteran who had been dismissed from the French Army because
he was a Protestant. Later, William himself took over the command. The
deciding event was the Battle of the Boyne, which was a great victory
for the Protestants of Ulster over the French and Irish troops under
James. The battle, at which Schomberg was killed and William wounded,
was fought on July 1, 1690, and is celebrated by the Orange Society on
July 12 each year, this being the date on which the Baffle of Aughrim
was fought. It can clearly be seen what a tremendous debt this country
owes to the Huguenots and Flemings and how much it has benefited from
the skills and crafts they brought with them. They formed the basis of
industrial England. We still benefit from them and from their
descendants still among us. It should also be remembered that the
Huguenot persecution was one of the main causes of the French
Revolution, because France by this lost the middle class which gave it
stability and a good economy. Thus France did not go unpunished. We must
pay tribute to these gallant people who underwent so much for their
faith based so whole-heartedly on the Bible. They were surely people of
the House of Israel whom the prophet Amos tells us would be 'sifted
among all nations' and they were brought to the 'Isles' which was to be
their place of refuge.
When we consider what the Huguenots endured we can realise how well
and truly we have been protected in this land which the prophets call
'the Isles' and 'the North and the West', and which has more recently
been called 'England's green and pleasant land'.