Huguenots in Banking
Although most of the Huguenots who came to British shores to escape the forces of Louis XIV arrived with few possessions and little money, there were some aristocrats and successful merchants who managed to bring significant riches.
One example is Etienne Seignoret, a silk merchant and a member of the parish of the French Protestant Church of Threadneedle Street, who is noted as having a fortune of £90,000 in 1700 (almost £6 million today) and another, David Bosanquet – ancestor of the TV newsreader Reggie Bosanquet – left £100,000 in his Will in 1732.
This new money was very welcome, as it could be used to set up businesses. In contrast, the wealth owned by the English aristocracy was tied up in lands and properties, so it could not be so easily invested.
These merchants made an important contribution to the setting up of the Bank of England in the 1690s (whose first Governor, Sir John Houblon, was a Huguenot) and also contributed to war against Louis XIV’s France in the last decade of the seventeenth century.
The Huguenot’s talent for commerce extended to more than banking. They were the forerunners and influenced so much of what we now know as the insurance and stockbroking business.