Who were the Huguenots?

The Huguenots were French Protestants, who were members of the Reformed Church established by John Calvin about 1550. The origin of the word Huguenot is disputed. It was used as a nickname first in Geneva, Switzerland, where many had fled from France.

A General Edict urging extermination of the Heretics (Huguenots) was issued 29 January 1536. On 1 March 1562, some 1200 Huguenots were slain at Vassey, France. This ignited the Wars of Religion which would rip apart, devastate, and bankrupt France for the next three decades. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew in which thousands of Huguenots were killed took place on 24 August 1575.

The Edict of Nantes, signed by Henry IV on 13 April 1598, ended the French Wars of Religion. The Huguenots were allowed free exercise of their religion in 20 specified towns in France.

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, signed by Louis XIV on 22 October 1685, increased persecutions of the Huguenots again. At least 200,000 French Protestants fled France to friendly nations, such as Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and Britain. Between 1618 and 1725 about 5000 to 7000 Huguenot refugees reached the shores of America. The largest concentration was in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina.

The Promulgation of the Edict of Toleration, 28 November 1787, partially restored the civil and religious rights of the Huguenots in France.