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  • Writer's picturejoyce hampton

Lockdown – a modern incarceration

We have all experienced during this last year periods of great restraint in our lives, such as limitations on when we leave home, where we go and who we meet with to name but a few. All of these and other restrictions has made me focus on how Huguenots had to cope with the limitations on their lives and so this is the topic of my latest blog, which I hope you will enjoy.

In January 1688 following two years of living a fugitive existence in which he suffered great hardship, one Huguenot eventually took the decision that he and the rest of the family must also flee their homeland rather than face the continuing brutality and theft imposed upon them for refusing to renounce their faith. Escape abroad was not without its own dangers, however, as it was unlawful for Huguenots to leave the country. Penalties imposed upon those emigrating abroad were severe with the head of the household being sentenced to the galleys for life, and a fine of 3,000 livres for anyone assisting a Huguenot to escape.

Interestingly, this same ordonnance governing all contracts for the sale of properties of those of the ‘reformed’ faith was, within one year of the date of their emigration, declared null and void, which led to many formerly Protestant estates being seized and sold indiscriminately.

Many experienced the horror of imprisonment because of their Huguenot beliefs. The most famous Huguenot female to suffer imprisonment was Marie Durand, but during her imprisonment sixteen other young women perished whilst imprisoned in the same grim citadel with her.

Marie had been born in 1712 in the hamlet of Bouchet du Pransles, in the Vivarias region of France.

She was welcomed into the world by her brother Pierre and her proud parents Etienne and Claudine Durand. Marie and her brother were to grow up in a world post Revocation, therefore without the

freedom to choose freely how they should live and most importantly practice their faith.

Louis XIV of France was relentless in his pursuit of tracking down and either forcing compliance or punishing Huguenots for refusal to accept Catholicism and when Marie refused to abjure her faith, she was taken to Aigues Mortes, in southern France and imprisoned there in the Tour de Constance. She was to languish there for 38 years and her story of courage and determination to stand fast to her faith was to inspire later enerations.

She had scrawled on the wall within her prison just one word – RESISTEZ.

During World War II when parts of France was under the nominal control of Marshall Petain and his puppet Government which included the Cevennes area of France, a region where once the Huguenots had retreated to so they could continue to practice their faith in secret.

These descendants banded together to save thousands of Jewish children from transportation to the death camps.

One of these brave bands was led by a local Pastor, Andre Trocmé who took his inspiration from the fine example of Marie Durand, and he inspired his followers with Marie’s defiant word – RESISTEZ.

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