The Huguenots were Protestants, whereas the official religion in France was Roman Catholic. It is thought that in the 17th century, over one million French people had embraced the Protestant religion (out of a population of 15 million). There were a number of battles between Protestants and Catholics in various parts of the country.

Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France

The King, Louis XIV, thought that it was his mission to return France to 100% Catholicism, and to do this he sought to pressure those of his subjects who had embraced Protestantism to convert. He signed the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, within which Protestants were forbidden to enter many professions, such as law or medicine, and could not become a midwife, or engage in the printing or selling of books.

Other oppressions followed…the most serious came from the ‘Dragonnades’, where a company of soldiers would be sent to occupy a known Huguenot familyʼs household, where they bullied the family and took, or ate, everything they had and made their lives a misery in order to force them to convert.

Huguenot pastors were ordered to leave the country, whereas ordinary Protestant families were forbidden to leave on pain of death, condemnation to the galley ships or life imprisonment.

King Louis XIV hoped that this would force them to convert back to Catholicism. However, many of them were true to their faith and sought freedom elsewhere going to Holland, England, Germany, Switzerland ….and further afield, to such countries as South Africa and the United States.

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