If you are researching your Huguenot roots the Huguenot Library can help. It holds a wide range of material, including a vast collection of printed books and unique manuscripts, together with family research files, the Quarto Series and much more. It is available to visit at the National Archives in Kew. To make an appointment or for further information email: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: 020 7679 2046, or visit: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/a/A13531768 The Huguenot Society also provides tips, guides and references to help you research your Huguenot ancestors: www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/family.html If you want professional research to be undertaken on your behalf please contact The Society of Genealogy by emailing: email@example.com
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A méreau coin, or communion token, was distributed to parishioners deemed worthy of taking communion. During the Huguenot persecution, they acted like a password to exclude infiltrators who may have wished to spy on the congregation.
Each reformed Protestant parish had its own design, often fairly naïve in style. The méreaux, or communion tokens, were kept by the anciens or elders, and distributed by them to those parishioners considered worthy of approaching the Lord's table - i.e. to take communion. This would not have been a weekly occurrence, and the méreaux would have been collected up by the anciens afterwards.
In times of persecution, like a password, they served to exclude infiltrators who may have wished to spy on a congregation, especially during the period of the église du désert, when services were being held clandestinely out of doors. They were withheld from a parishioner under censure for some misdemeanour, and not returned until the church consistory was convinced that person had mended their ways.
In some cases, there is evidence that a méreau was withheld if a parishioner had consistently not paid his quarterly contribution towards the minister's salary, or towards poor relief for the community. Méreaux sometimes served therefore as a disciplinary tool, a kind of temporary excommunication, as well as a means of protecting a congregation.
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
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.