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The Huguenots were French Protestants or, to be more precise, French Calvinists or Presbyterians.
Hostility continued to grow and in 1562 a number of Huguenots were massacred at Vassy in North Eastern France. This marked the start of the Wars of Religion which were to devastate France for thirty-five years.
In 1598, Henry IV of France signed the Edict of Nantes which ended the Wars of Religion and gave French Protestants freedom to practise their religion (in particular places and under certain conditions). It also guaranteed them a number of military strongholds which they lost in 1629, after the siege of La Rochelle.
In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. He expelled the Protestant clergy and declared that the rest of the Huguenot population was to remain in France and become Catholic. Those who stayed were forced to convert, although large numbers continued to practise their faith in secret, at home or in clandestine assemblies in remote places. Others left the country illegally to seek a new life abroad in a Protestant country.
Many Huguenots fled France illegally in the years after the Revocation. The refugees went mainly to neighbouring Protestant states such as Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain, as well as Ireland. Smaller numbers moved on to settlements in the European colonies of America and South Africa.
Produced by Donal Flanagan
First broadcast October 21st 1985
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