What is the Meaning of the Huguenot Cross?

The design of the Maltese Cross is a religious symbol of Christianity, and was particularly popular in France when the national (and Catholic) emblem of the fleur de lys was included. Hence Henri III’s use of this pattern as the badge of his (heavily Catholic) Order of the Saint Esprit in 1578: an order which he established to gain the much-needed loyalty of (Catholic) Church and State when he acceded to the French throne. Subsequent French rulers (not, I think, Napoleon) continued to award the order to a chosen few among their subjects

Huguenot Cross
Huguenot Cross

It appears that crosses of this kind continued to be manufactured in 17th-century France, their exact form varying from place to place, but their Catholic connotation makes it unlikely that many were brought to the British Isles at the Revocation. Indeed, I’ve been unable to find any trace of a ‘Huguenot Cross’ in Tessa Murdoch’s The Quiet Conquest. In 1830, however, the Order of the Saint Esprit was abolished (together with its badge’s association with a Catholic monarchy), and the symbolic cross with the dove of the Holy Spirit became more widely acceptable. This is indicated by the fact that, in sympathy with the pro-Huguenot sentiments of the nineteenth century, the cross has since been adopted by Huguenot organisations on an international scale.

Nevertheless, when I first joined The Huguenot Society of Great Britain & Ireland, twenty years ago, the only Huguenot Crosses to be found were those on sale in the form of brooches or pins. The Society had its own badge. The final word may well be with Vol 22 of the Society’s PROCEEDINGS (1974) p. 368, which declares that ‘there is little definitely known about the early history of the Huguenot Cross. No precise answer can be given as to when, where, and by whom they were used.’

Elizabeth Randall, Fellow of the Huguenot Society and Hon. Editor of Proceedings.

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