An event that became one of the key anniversaries in the history of the Huguenots - 22 October.
On the 22nd October 1685, The Edict of Fontainebleau, more commonly known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV was published and resulted in persecution of the Huguenots; leading to 400,000 men, women and children fleeing France to other countries. So how did this repressive and backwards step in the history of France come about?
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes became law after a series of repressive measures against Protestants and the Reformed Church in France had been applied to Huguenots in order to persuade them to recant their reformed faith. This anti-Reformation policy by King Louis XIV had been encouraged by his ministers who were trying to bring about religious unity in his kingdom, in other words a return to Catholicism of all citizens.
However, this policy needed some additional methods of persuasion and so various measures were implemented such as the use of Dragoons and the enforced lodging of these soldiers in Protestant homes, with the freedom to loot and bully as they chose. The acts of the Dragoons became known as Dragonnades and the harsh reputation of these soldiers often preceded them. The poor terrorised Huguenots and their families recanted their faith in large numbers but not all Huguenots bowed to the pressure put upon them to abjure their faith, many chose to leave their homeland as their lives became increasingly intolerable a few years before the Revocation as they could see the metaphoric writing on the wall.
Faced with this situation, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes with the Edict of Fontainebleau. This new Edict forbade religious practice for the Protestant Reformed Church and stipulated that all their church buildings should be pulled down. Pastors had to recant or go into exile. The children of Huguenots were removed from their parents and placed with Catholic families to be raised in the old faith and the Huguenot parents were expected to pay for their childrens upkeep. Many chose to emigrate, even though it was forbidden, rather than
The Edict of Fontainebleau aroused violent outbursts in France, the Catholics approved of it but abroad, the means used to implement it triggered muted disapproval or indignation.
The Protestants who remained in France were called the “new converts” and had to comply with Catholic religious practice, that is: attend Mass, have their children baptised and receive Extreme Unction when dying.
Many new converts kept on practicing their Reformed religion within their own family circle, in private gatherings or in secret meetings held in the open air or remote areas, often they wore simple white smocks as they lived in rural areas and because of their garb they became known as Camisards. When Huguenots were caught, repression was harsh: men were often were faced with prison or the galley whereas women would often be imprisoned or forced into a convent.