Huguenot refugees

From Jerripedia
Jump to: navigation, search


Huguenot refugees


A famous painting of a Huguenot and his Catholic lover on
the eve of St Bartholomew's Day by Jersey artist Millais

It is estimated that Jersey and Guernsey may have provided new homes to several thousand Huguenots who fled religious
persecution in France from the 16th century onwards, although
by no means all of them became permanent residents


The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France (or French Calvinists). Protestants in France were inspired by the writings of John Calvin in the 1530s and the name Huguenots was already in use by the 1560s. By the end of the 17th century, roughly 200,000 Huguenots had been driven from France during a series of religious persecutions. They relocated primarily in England, Switzerland, Holland, the German Palatinate, and elsewhere in Northern Europe, as well as to what is now South Africa and to North America.

The Channel Islands were also an attractive destination - they spoke French, and were sympathetic to the protestant refugees. Refugees flooded in from nearby Normandy, but also from much further afield, as friends followed families already established in the islands.

Two phases

There were two periods which saw the most significant numbers of refugees leaving the country. The first wave was following the Massacre of St Bartholomew in 1572, and the second was following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Some refugee families stayed in the islands, but many used it as a temporary refuge, before emigrating further afield (such as the New World), or as a safe haven until religious tolerance in France improved.


In what became known as the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 24 August – 3 October 1572, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris. Similar massacres took place in other towns in the weeks following. The main provincial towns and cities experiencing the Massacre were Aix, Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyon, Meaux, Orleans, Rouen, Toulouse, and Troyes. Nearly 3,000 Protestants were slaughtered in Toulouse alone. The exact number of fatalities throughout the country is not known. On 23–24 August, between about 2,000 and 3,000 Protestants were killed in Paris and between 3,000 and 7,000 more in the French provinces. By 17 September, almost 25,000 Protestants had been massacred in Paris alone. Outside of Paris, the killings continued until 3 October. An amnesty granted in 1573 pardoned the perpetrators.

St Bartholomew's Day Massacre by Francois Dubois

Edict of Nantes

In 1598, Henry of Navarre, having succeeded to the French throne as Henry IV, issued the Edict of Nantes. The Edict established Catholicism as the state religion of France, but granted the Protestants equality with Catholics under the throne and a degree of religious and political freedom within their domains. The Edict simultaneously protected Catholic interests by discouraging the founding of new Protestant churches in Catholic-controlled regions.

With the proclamation of the Edict of Nantes, and the subsequent protection of Huguenot rights, pressures to leave France abated. However, enforcement of the Edict grew increasingly irregular over time, and it was increasingly ignored altogether under Louis XIV. Louis imposed dragonnades and other forms of persecution for Protestants, which made life so intolerable that many fled the country. The Huguenot population of France dropped to 856,000 by the mid-1660s. The greatest concentrations of Huguenots at this time resided in the regions of Guienne, Saintonge-Aunis-Angoumois and Poitou. Many fled to Jersey and Guernsey from these areas.

Louis XIV acted more and more aggressively to force the Huguenots to convert. At first he sent missionaries to convert them, backed by a fund to financially reward converts to Catholicism. Then he imposed penalties and closed their schools and excluded them from favorite professions. Escalating the attack, he tried to forcibly re-Catholicize the Huguenots by the employment of armed dragonnades to occupy and loot their houses. In 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes and declared Protestantism to be illegal in the Edict of Fontainebleau, resulting in another exodus of Huguenot refugees.


From this time their presence in the islands is well documented because they were required formally to renounce Roman Catholocism in a procedure known as Abjuration. Records of those who undertook these abjurations in Jersey from 1685 onwards were published in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise in the late 19th century.

Some of the Huguenot refugees were professionals - several surgeons are included in the list; some were wealthy merchants, whereas others were humble labourers. Some children were sent away on their own, by parents whose circumstances did not allow them to flee, but who were terrified that their children would be taken from them and placed in Catholic convents. A number of clergymen were among the refugees, and several obtained appointments as Rectors and Ministers in Guernsey, Jersey and Sark, although they were not always popular.

Abjurations in Jersey

The list of abjurations has been sorted alphabetically by surname, but it is important to note that sometimes a wife was listed under her married name and sometimes under her maiden name, so site users looking for a particular name should search the surname column but also pay attention to the notes.


See also

Personal tools
other Channel Islands
contact and contributions

Please support Jerripedia with a donation to our hosting costs