Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lord Robert Ryves III 1490–1551

Lord Robert Ryves III

BIRTH 03 AUG 1490  Blanford Of Shaftesberg, Dorset, England

DEATH 11 FEB 1551  Damory Castle,Blandford,Dorsetshire,England

When Lord Robert Ryves was born on August 3, 1490, in Dorset, England, his father, Lord, was 25 and his mother, Lady, was 23. He married Joan in 1514. They had three children during their marriage. He died on February 11, 1551, in Castle, Dorset, England, at the age of 60, and was buried in Blandford Forum, Dorset, England.

Life Story Family

Life Story Map

Life Story Events

  • 3 AUG



    Lord Robert Ryves was born on August 3, 1490, in Dorset, England, to Lady Agnes Jane Sewell, age 23, and Lord Robert France Ryves, age 25.

  • 1514

    AGE 24


    Lord Robert Ryves married Joan in 1514 when he was 24 years old.

  • ABT


    AGE 24

    Birth of Daughter

    His daughter Agnes was born in 1514 in England.

  • AFT


    AGE 24

    Birth of Daughter

    His daughter Ms. Ryves was born in 1514 in England.

  • ABT


    AGE 24

    Birth of Son

    His son John was born in 1514 in England.

  • 1545

    AGE 55

    Randleston Manor

    The following is from the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT: The manor of Iwerne Courtney or Shroton was acquired in 1545 by Robert Ryves of Blandford, Dorset, and it remained with his descendants until 1781. The old manor house stood in the north-west corner of the park, adjacent to the parish church of St Mary. This house was demolished in the early 18th century, and in 1753 a new house was constructed for Thomas Ryves, possibly to his own design. The park was developed in the 1760s and 1770s as a setting for this new house. When the estate was sold in 1781, it was purchased by Peter William Baker, agent to Mr Portman of Bryanston, Dorset. LOCATION, AREA: Ranston is situated at the southern end of the village of Iwerne Courtney, about 5.5 kilometres north-west of Blandford Forum. The site, which occupies about 52 hectares, is divided by the A350 road which leads north from Blandford to Warminster. This road forms, in part, the southern boundary of the site, while to the north-west the boundary is formed by the village street of Iwerne Courtney. Elsewhere the site adjoins agricultural land from which it is divided by a variety of fences and hedges. Ranston lies in the undulating valley of the River Iwerne, which flows from north to south through the site. To the west of the house the ground rises gently, while to the east the valley side is steeper. To the south the Ranston estate adjoins that of Stepleton House
    • Randleston Manor
  • 1545

    AGE 55

    Ranston Castle Rives Family home

    Large purchased from Henry VIII by Robert Ryves and his wife, Joan, 1,600 acres. Picture from "Hutchins History of Dorset Vol. IV P.95 See also "Reliques of the Rives" by Childs
    • Ranston Castle Rives Family home
  • ABT


    AGE 59

    Death of Daughter

    His daughter Agnes passed away in 1549 in England at the age of 35.

  • ABT


    AGE 59

    Death of Son

    His son John passed away in 1549 in England at the age of 35.

  • 11 FEB


    AGE 60

    Death of Father

    His father Lord Robert France passed away on February 11, 1551, in Dorset, England, at the age of 86.

  • 1551

    AGE 61

    Ryves Hatchment

    • Ryves Hatchment
  • 11 FEB


    AGE 60


    Lord Robert Ryves died on February 11, 1551, in Castle, Dorset, England, when he was 60 years old.

  • Burial

Life Story Events

About Robert Ryves
Notes in by John Rive Childs state that Robert Ryves was a part of Henry the VIII's Court. He or his father, also Robert, came from the Normandy area of France. He was granted lands and also bought lands in the Dorset, Damory Castle, Blandford, England. He may have had as many as four sons and nine daughters.
Called Robert of Blandford in Dorsetshire, England.
Burried in the old church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Blandford "between the pillars of the chancel in the north isle (yle?)
Robert Ryves was a French Huguenot who emigrated to England in 1545 from Languedoc area of France and purchased Randleston (Ranston Castle) and 1600 acres of land in Dorsetshire, England. Three years later he purchased Damory Court. Both properties were near the village of Blandford in Dorset. His wife's name was Joan. They had one son (John) and two daughters.
An article about Hugenots is at the end of this portrait

Robert Ryves probably represents the second generation in England. From his time (1490-1551) to well into the 19th century the English family gave its full and representative compliment of public men to the British nation and Empire.

Of some fifty-six members of the the family who attained manhood during the five generations succeeding the death of Robert, five had knighthood confirmed upon them; one became Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Dorset; one, speaker of the Irish House of Lords; one, Warden of New College, Oxford; one, an Alderman of London; three, High Sheriffs; one, Mayor of Shaftesbury; one, Town Clerk of Woodstock; and one, Steward of the University of Oxford.

Of eight who are known to have entered tile service of the Church, two became Chaplains to James l; another, Chaplain to Charles I and Charles Il, and Dean of Windsor. Others served as Archdeacon, Canon, Vicar, and Rector.

Six are known to have followed the law, including an Advocate General to Charles l, a Kings attorney General of Ireland, and two Masters of the Bench of the Middle Temple.

Six are known to have served actively in the Royal Army and Navy under the respective titles of Admiral, Vice Admiral, Major General, Brigadier General, Colonel, Major, Captain and Lieutenant.

Of the first six generations, ten are known to have been highly successful merchants, with four engaged in international shipping commerce in the wool trade.

Of the first six generations, twenty four, or almost one-half attended Oxford University, where ten were entered at New College, eight at Hart Hall, two each at Wadham and Queens, and one each at Corpus Christi and Christ Church. Eleven were students of Winchester College and fifteen are known to have pursued the study of law at the Inns of Court where an almost exclusive preference was shown for the middle temple.

The influence of Robert Ryves in encouraging education and loyal service to Church and Crown is indisputable. Robert Ryves was an avid supporter of four churches in the Blandford Parish area, which included Blandlbrd Parish Church as well as Fifehead Neville, Shroton at Ewerne Courtney and Child Okeford. His support of Blandford Parish Church was undoubtedIy substantial as indicated by his being granted permission to construct a Ryves Chapel and crypt within Blandford Parish Church.

With a proven and consistent record of service to God, Church and Crown, the Ryves family and their descendants, are deserving of having a replacement plaque identfying the family crypt within their original Church of Worship in Dorset County embodied in a memorial to Robert Ryves.

Born in Blandford Forum, Dorset, England. Died 11 Feb 1551 in Damory Castle in Blandford, and was buried 11 Feb 1551 in the old church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Blandford Forum, which was destroyed by fire in 1731. Joan died 12 Dec 1560, also in Damory Castle, and was buried in December of 1560 in Blandsford Church. Nobleman, armiger, and high member of the court of Henry VIII.

In 1545, Robert purchased the 1600 acre estate of Randleston (Ranston). In 1548, he obtained the beautiful Damory Court in Blandsford Forum from the Duke of Somerset. In 1546, his friend King Henry VIII granted, in letters patent, the manor of Milton and the “messuage” of Luscombe (Lyssecomb) in Dorset to Robert. He also held diverse lands in the East Orchard district of Dorset County. In addition to his Dorsetshire estates, Robert held lands in North Cheriton and Pointington, County Somerset.


Custom Field:<_FA#> Aft. 11 Feb 1550/51Blandford Church, Dorsetshire, EnglandBrøderbund WFT Vol. 1, Ed. 1, Tree #4414, Date of Import: Mar 18, 1996Brøderbund WFT Vol. 1, Ed. 1, Tree #4414, Date of Import: Mar 18, 1996@S48000@Date of Import: Jan 7, 2002Brøderbund WFT Vol. 1, Ed. 1, Tree #4414, Date of Import: Mar 18, 1996@S11451@Date of Import: Feb 15, 2001Brøderbund WFT Vol. 1, Ed. 1, Tree #4414, Date of Import: Mar 18, 1996

REFN: 16384

1. Robert Reve, Rive, Ryve, Ryves, Rives b. 1490 d. Feb 11, 1551 Earliest known Progenitor of Rives Family. Armiger and substantial land owner. Seat at Damory Court, Blandford Forum, Co. Dorset, England. Robert was of Anglo-Norman descent. At the time of his death Robert Rives was a member of the noble class and peer of King Henry VIII's Court. Robert possessed a coat of arms and held considerable estates in Dorset and Somerset.

In 1545 Robert purchsed the 1600 acre estate of Randleston [Ranston].
In 1548 he obtained Damory Court in Blandford Forum from the Duke of Somerset.
In 1546 King Henry VIII granted the premises of the manor of Milton, and the messuage called Luscombe [Lyssecomb] in Dorset, to Robert in letters patent. He also held divers lands in the East Orchard of Dorset. In addition to the lands in Dorsetshire he held lands in North Cheriton and Pointington, Co. Somerset.
Robert died in 1551 and was buried in the old church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Blandford Forum, which was destroied by fire in 1731.
m. Joan d. Dec 4, 1560
John Ryves b. 1514
Agnus Ryves
Ranston Estate - February 2001
Ranston is located 5 miles northwest of the town of Blandford Forum in Dorset County, England. Ranston Houseand Park are on the site of a small hamlet (shown as another Iwerne) in the Doomsday Book. The ancient manor was known as Randolfston, later shortened to Ranston. Half a mile beyond Stepleton the road from Blandford to Shaftesbury passes another finely timbered park, lying in the hollow between Hambledon Hill and the western slopes of Cranborne Chase. The house stands below the road, on the left-hand side, with east and west views up the hills which close in on either hand. Ranston now consists of little more than the house; it is a tithing of Shroton, a village also know as Iwerne Courtenay, a little distance to the north. The name is a contraction of Randolfston, an intermediate form, Randleston, occurring in the sixteenth century.
Anciently held by the de Bruyns, the manor was acquired in 1545 by Robert Ryves of Blandford, and it remained with his descendants until 1781. It was then bought by Peter William Baker, the agent of Mr. Portman of Bryanston, whom he assisted in the development of the Portman estate in Marylebone, giving his name to Baker Street. On his death in 1814 he was succeeded by a cousin, Sir Edward Littlehales, who took the Baker name.
"Here lyeth the body of Robert Ryves who departed this life 11th day of February anno 1551." The Ryves Coat of Arms is engraved on the tomb stone.
Arms—Argent, on bend cotizel, sable, three lozenges ermine.
Crest A grey hound sejant sable: bezante. collared or.
(Hutchins History of Dorset BIandford, Dorsetshire, England
Dr. George Ryves, son of John Rives, born about 1559, one of the illustrious scholars of his day, in England. Entered Winchester College in 1574 as of Blandford Dorsetshire. Rector of Blandford St. Mary's church, Dorset 1.589. He died at Oxford May 31, 1613.
"George Ryves, D. D. Warden of New College 1559 — Vice Chancelor, 1601 and afterwards Warden of Winchester College."
Wood (Life and Times, vol. iv, p, 173) recounts that on 31 July 1610 at 9 A.M., the first stone of Wadham College at Oxford was laid by the Vice Chancellor, Dr. (George) Ryves, of New College, who made an elegant oration in Latin in praise of the work and its founders.
2His chief title to more than casual notice, however, rests in the fact that he was one of the translators of the King James Authorized Version of the Bible, more specifically, overseeing the translation of the New Testament (6 ) as appears from a letter addressed on April 19, 1609, by the Bishop of Winchester to Sir Thomas Lake, chief secretary to King James I, as follows:
"After my verie harty commendations whereas doctor Ryves Warden of the new Colledge in Oxford and one of the overseers of that part of the New Testament which is there translated out of Greek and Mr. Nicholas Love Scholemaster of Winchester are willing with my allowance to exchange some of their livings being of my patronage that they may lay them near together and more commodious to the rest of there livinges and there is no let to the performance thereof but his majestie's pleasure signified by his letters to the late Bishop of London now Bishop of Canterbury that the next benefice of my gifte and of 20 pounds or above in the King's bookes that shall fall voyde should be reserved for some of those that are employed in the translation of the Bible I doe not conceive that his Majesty's meaning thereby was to bar the men from exchanging their livings otherwise permitted by the lawes but that such livings as fell voyd should be reserved for the translators. I shall hartely thank you if you will take opportunity to know his majesty's pleasure therein and obteyn his letters to signifie to me his princely pleasure. The men are both of good desert, the one imployed in the oversight of the translation and the other toke to small paynes indoing his duetie both for the enterteinement of his majestie and the prince when they were at Winchester." (State Papers, Jas. I., Vol, xii, No. 73) .
Dr. George Ryves was one of the "privileged persons" taxed by the Vice Chancellor and others of the University of Oxford in 7 James I (1610) in an amount of 20 shillings for lands.
He appears as a taxpayer also in 1611 (Lay Subsidy Roll, 163 /437) . He left no will and Hutchins is the authority for his death without issue.
6* "The Authorized Version of the Bible was begun in 1605 and completed in 1611. Dr. George Ryves no doubt served on one of the six original committees        which met at Oxford for the purpose of organizing the work of translation."
Anthony Woods Antiquitates Oxoniensis—publish-ed 1674 in England records: "Elisa Ryves wrote the "Hermit of Snowden" and some popular translations from the French." She died in 1697 and is buried at Blandford. (Hutchins)
"Thomas Ryves, or as he styles himself in his Latin writings, "Rivius' 8th son of John Ryves of Damory." There is little doubt that the Rives were Hugenots who, for this reason, took refuge in England some time prior to 1545, as French history records the persecutions of the Hugenots and Calvinists during and after that time, culminating in the massacre of 30,000 Hugenots on St. Bartholomew's day August 22, 1572. The Rives have always been known for their love of Liberty and Independence.
The Rives came over with the Cavalier emigration1649-1659 and settled on the James River in Virginia.
The name Rives
The name Rives is pronounced "Reeves."
Many of the English "Reeves" families derived their name from the Reeve or Shire Reeve (Sheriff). Some have made the assertion that this is the case with the Rives family of Dorset. However, the evidence strongly suggests that the Rives of Dorset were of Norman descent, and the name is of French derivation and most likely from the family's place of origin.
The Rives of Dorset were consistently recorded as Rives, Ryves and sometimes as Reve, Rive or Ryve. From the early records it is evident that the ancient family freely exchange the "y" and "i" in the name Rives or Ryves. That is, they considered the "y" and "i" to be equal. Many times individuals would be recorded as Rives, Ryves and even Reve within the same record. The recordings as Reve lead us to believe that this was the original pronunciation of the name. That Ryves or Rives is of French derivation is susceptible to proof from the pronunciation. The "i" in "Rives" as also the "y" in "Ryves," is pronounced as the French "i," like the English double "e" in "Reeves." The final "s" was originally silent. At some point, the name was Anglicized in part to pronounce the "s" and avoid its loss.
Surnames came to England with the Norman Conquest in 1066. Prior to that, surnames were virtually unheard of. The Norman surnaming convention did not allow a son to use his father's surname during the father's lifetime. The eldest son may succeed to the father's surname, but the younger sons rarely would. This made adoptive surnames necessary. The most common type of surname assumed was that of the person's chief domain or place of origin. I am convinced this is the case with the Rives of Dorset.
A Rivus and Rivis is Latin for a stream, channel, or dyke. The modern day term "rives" (pronounced reve) in French literally means river bank. There are two villages in the south of France that bear the name Rives, one in the department of Lot-et-Garonne and the other in Herault. One of these villages was a chief manufacture of swords used in the crusades, now it is better known for a high grade of paper that also bears the Rives name.
There are many records of families by the name of Rives in France prior to and at the same time of the Rives in Dorset. The following are but a few examples. In the book "Rives & Reaumont - Au Moyen Age" by Philippe Chanaron, a time line (1020 to 1308) is given for a feudalistic house that controlled a region in the south of France. The lords of this region were known as "de Rives" (of Rives). A Rives family was recorded as part of an inquisition held by the Catholic Church, between 1318 and 1325 in the small village of Montaillou, located along the Pyrenees mountains.
The Norman conquest of England also resulted in the replacement of the old Anglo-Saxon or English land-owning class by a French aristocracy. The Domesday Book reveals that by 1086, 95% of the English landowners had been replaced by Norman Lords. William the Conqueror and his successors ensured that all of the nobility in England were of Norman descent. He divided the lands amongst the nobles, and knights that fought at Hastings, and to their kinsmen in France. From 1066 to the English Civil War, no one occupied large amounts of land unless his family could trace their lineage to the Norman Nobility prior to 1066. At the time of his death Robert Rives, the first known of the name in England, was a member of the noble class and peer of King Henry VIII's Court. Robert possessed a coat of arms and held considerable estates in Dorset and Somerset. The French spelling and pronunciation of his name and his standing as a substantial landholder, indicate that Robert Rives, Ryves was of Norman descent.
New Info:
Recently I found the following records of what appears to be two generations of Ryves living in Dunster county Somerset in 1347 and 1390. Note the use of "de Ryves" in the records from 1347 and "Ryves" in the record from 1390:
DD/WO 10/5/6 1) Wm. Sparke, of Dovery, senior. 2) Wm. Fichet of Peynton Feoffment of a tenement in Dunster in Weststret between ten. of Rich. Bokedhole and John Stangele. wit. Wm. de Ryves; Rob. Hamound; Rob. de Ryves; Gilbert le Chuseman; Richard Bokedhole Dunster 14 July 1347 tagged seal - device worn - a squirrel (in C19 wrapper)
10/5/7 1) John Sparke, son and heir of Wm., and Isabella his wife 2) Wm. Fichet of Peynton Quitclaim of rights to the tenement in Westrete (as above). wit. Wm. de Ryves; Rob. Hamound; John Hamound; Rob. de Ryves; Rich. Bokedhole. Dunster 15 Sep. 1347 tagged seal - device worn - a squirrel (in C19 wrapper)
8a 1/97 1) Adam Prous of Dunster 2) Patric Everard, John Benyn and Simon Ralegh Grant of a burgage in Waterstrete, Dunster with house, garden and meadow between tenement of Rob Ryves and burgage of John Osborn, which he had by gift and legacy of Simon Brodewode. wit. John Ryves; John Stowey; John Jeol; Walte Yarte; Rob Dyere 20 July 1390, at Dunster
Robert Reve/Ryve/Ryves of Blandford (Dorset). The first in England of whom there is record.
Purchased Randleston or Ranston in 1545 and Damory Court at Blandsford in 1548 and was the proprietor of several other considerable estates.
Damory Court was the seat of Roger Damory a descendant of the D’Amorie family who were given the lands by William I. Roger Damory was the last possessor of the Manor, and was a prominent figure during the reign of Edward II. He fought in the wars of Scotland, was Constable of Corfe Castle during the year 1320-1321, also Warden of the Forest of Purbeck and was summoned to Parliament as a Baron by the reigning King. Later, however, he took part against the King with Thomas the Earl of Lancaster and died in a march into the north. He was buried in the Priory at Ware.
Two pubs take their names from the Damory Estate, which from the 16th century to the 18th was owned by the Ryves family.
The D'Amory Arms in Salisbury Road opened in 1954 in the former D'Amory Court Farmhouse and bears for its sign the Damory coat of arms, a blue hand on a red and white background.
The Damory Oak which takes its name from the original Damory Oak was a huge hollow tree. During the 17th century Civil War and later, an old man sold ale from the cavity, which was big enough to hold 'near 20 men'. After the great fire of Blandford in 1731 the tree is reputed to have housed two homeless families in its hollow trunk.
Damory Court, which eventually belonged to the Ryves family, became a farm but is known today as the Damory Hotel and bears for its sign the Damory coat of arms, a blue hand on a red and white background.
But it is the little inn which perpetuates the memory of the gallant oak which after the great fire of Blandford in 1731 housed two homeless families in its hollow trunk.
The fire began on Friday afternoon at 2 o 'clock at soap boilers or tallow chandlers which stood where the four streets meet at the end of Salisbury street. The stiff northeasterly wind which was blowing at the time carried the flames all over the town. Twenty houses were on fire in a quarter of an hour and in half an hour three fire engines were rendered useless. When the direction of the wind changed to northwards, the fire was carried to Blandford St. Mary and Bryanston and these two villages with the exception of three houses, were completely destroyed.
The flames finally broke out of the roof of the Blandford Church, melting the bells and the lead covering the spire. By this time, the pumps and the engines had all been destroyed and the people of the town were exhausted with fighting the fire so that no attempt was made to save the church, which was completed destroyed. It was fortunate, however, that the townsfolk were able to move the goods, which had been stored in the church for safety, before the final collapse.
Small-pox raged in this ill-fated town at the same time as the fire, sixty families being stricken. It will always be to the credit of those who attended the sick and removed them through fields and gardens to safety outside of the town, that only one died by reason of the fire.
Altogether, four hundred families were rendered homeless and it was at this time, whilst wooden barracks were being put up to house the poor, that two families took refuge in the hollow of the Damory oak tree and lived there until they had other accommodation.
Thus it is the inn-sign depicts children playing around the hollow oak which was their home while their father looks from the doorway. Fortunately, the sign is still standing for, despite the glory of its name, the inn was known to the local people as The Hole in the Wall, on account of beer having been, at one time, handed through a hole in the wall to the stables at the back.
After the devastation of the town only three of the original houses were left standing, the Ryves Almshouses, a German doctor’s dwelling and an old barn, once part of a leper hospital, which stands about 300 yards from the Damory Oak.
In 1733, a year after the fire King George II passed an act to rebuild the town. His Majesty gave £1,000, the Queen £200 and the Prince of Wales £100 towards this end and so a new Blandford Forum arose including the beautiful church we see today, but it is this little wayside inn, The Damory Oak, which provides the most pathetic link with the tragedy of 1731.
The following information was extracted from "Our Reeves," by Beulah McGuire Reeves and Bessie Reeves Hoke (paraphrased quote):
"Robert was a French Hueguenot from the Languedoc area who emigrated to England. In 1545, he purchased Randleston, also called Ranston Castle and 1600 acres of land in Dorsetshire, England from Henry VIII. Three years later, he purchased Damory Court. Both properties were in Dorset near the village of Blandford. By the time that Robert died in 1560, he owned many large estates in England. Robert was buried in the Church at Blandford which was later destroyed by fire. However, Richard Simonds, an army officer, visited the Blandford Church in 1644 and wrote a description of Robert's tomb in his diary."
The Rives in England
The Rives, from the most authentic records we have been able to find, lived in France, at or near Lan- guedoc, prior to their settlement in England. There are still families of that name living in France and Spain. The French pronunciation is Reve, the I having the sound of E the S being silent. From "Hutchins History of Dorset" 3rd edition, Vol. IV, pp 95, 96, 97, we learn that Robert (Rives) Reve or Ryves, born about 1490 was the first of the name in England, of whom there is brief record, purchased Ranston or Randleston Castle from Henry VIII, King of England, and that he died there February 11, 1551. His wife, Joan died December 12, 1560.1
Ranston: "In former times a manor and hamlet, now extinguished and depopulated, consists only of the seat of Sir Edward Baker-Baker. Peter William Baker purchased it with the estate belonging to it of Thomas Ryves, Esq., in the year 1781, for 12,000 guineas. It is distant about half a mile south from Shroton." (Hutchins History of Dorset, Vol. IV, p. 92)
Damory Castle, Blandford, Dorsetshire England. Ryves—Seat of Sir John Ryves of Damory "Dame Mary Place."
Natives and Eminent Persons
(From Blandford Church, Dorsetshire, England)
(There is also a "Blandford Church" in Petersburg, Virginia. See page 14)
ROBERT RYVES (Rives) of Blandford in Dorsetshire, England
1490 - 11 Feb 1551.
(father of John Ryves)
Born: In France
Occupation: Unknown
Spouse: Joan (last name unknown)
Biographical: The following information was extracted from "Our Reeves," by Beulah McGuire Reeves and Bessie Reeves Hoke (paraphrased quote):
"Robert was a French Hueguenot from the Languedoc area who emigrated to England. In 1545, he purchased Randleston, also called Ranston Castle and 1600 acres of land in Dorsetshire, England from Henry VIII. Three years later, he purchased Damory Court. Both properties were in Dorset near the village of Blandford. By the time that Robert died in 1560, he owned many large estates in England. Robert was buried in the Church at Blandford which was later destroyed by fire. However, Richard Simonds, an army officer, visited the Blandford Church in 1644 and wrote a description of Robert's tomb in his diary."
His issue:
i. John Ryves= Amy Harvey
ii. Agnes Ryves = John Swayne before 20 Oct 1549
iii. -------- Ryves (daughter) = William Hunton about 20 Oct 1549.
Late in the 17th century, France declined from being the most powerful and rich nation in Europe to a country pressed to hold its own against powerful foes. Possibly, just possibly, one event above all helps explains this decline. On October 18, 1685, King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. In doing so, he drove hundreds of thousands of his best citizens abroad.
The Edict of Nantes was a promise of religious toleration. It was granted in 1598 to the French Protestants known as Huguenots after years of civil wars. The Calvinist Huguenots came into being around 1550 when preachers brought Bibles to France from Switzerland. The growth of this reform movement in Gallic lands was astonishingly rapid. Within five years the new church held its first synod. Within a century it boasted a million and a half adherents.
Conflict seemed inevitable from the start. The Roman Catholic church was concerned at its loss of control over souls; the government feared Protestant demands for local rule. The government's concerns certainly appeared justified when powerful nobles such as the Condés attempted to employ Protestant strength for their own political advancement against the powerful Guise family.
War began in 1562 when a number of Huguenots were massacred by the Guises in a church at Vassy. The Huguenots were only a twentieth of the total French population, yet fought so fiercely they were able to win concessions from the Roman Catholic majority. In 1572 a peace was arranged.
St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre
This was shattered when Catherine de Medici, the power behind the French throne, ordered the assassination of the brilliant Huguenot Admiral Coligny. The attempt left him wounded but not dead. Catherine panicked and ordered the massacre of all Huguenots, including Coligny. The slaughter began in Paris on the evening of St. Bartholomew's Day and spread to the countryside on the following days. Between 40,000 and 100,000 Huguenots were butchered in cold blood.
Surviving Huguenots fled to their fortresses. A weary round of wars followed until the Huguenot prince, Henry of Navarre, became heir-elect to the throne of France. In order to gain the throne, Henry found he must convert to Catholicism. This he did. The Huguenots saw this as a betrayal. To quiet their fears, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, protecting Huguenot rights.
The Huguenots continued to defend themselves with arms when necessary, but eventually they came to distrust the use of weapons. Their leaders decided that it is better to suffer than to fight for rights. Thus, when the rebellion called "the Fronde" erupted, the Huguenots refused to join their natural allies but instead supported the young Louis XIV. He in turn gravely acknowledged their loyalty and confirmed the Edict of Nantes.
All the same, he did not want France divided in faith. Bit by bit he gave ground to churchmen who called for him to strip Huguenot privileges. Laws were passed making it hard for Protestants to enter the guilds. If a child of fourteen converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, the child could leave its Huguenot parents who nonetheless must support it. Huguenots were forbidden to establish new colleges. For a Huguenot to attempt to leave France was made punishable by condemnation to the galleys. On the other hand, any Huguenot who converted to Catholicism was paid an endowment.
In 1682 Louis XIV threatened the Huguenots with terrible evils if they did not convert. His religious training, harsh upbringing, and cruel advisers, led him to believe he could not be saved unless he wiped out heresy. He destroyed 570 of the Protestants' 815 churches. Huguenots who met secretly in the woods were subject to savage reprisals and immediate death.
One of the king's officials protested. Finance minister Colbert warned Louis that he was destroying the economy by these measures which disrupted trade.
Unrestrained Savagery
The religious wars of France, once fought on battlefields, now moved into homes. The government sent dragoons, selected from the basest elements of the army, into Protestant areas with orders not to be gentle to the Huguenots with whom they were quartered. Being soldiers and also bullies, they were only too glad for a little "fun." They bounced old Huguenots in blankets, made the Protestants dance until they collapsed from exhaustion, beat their feet with rods and poured scalding water down their throats. They robbed Huguenots and raped their women. Huguenots had no redress from the law, for they were not permitted to bring cases into court.
To Louis' credit, when he heard what was being done, he ordered it stopped. The violence continued but the facts were hidden from the king. He was told that all Protestants had either converted or fled. Convinced by the lies of his courtiers, he revoked the Edict of Nantes. It had become little more than a scrap of paper anyhow, for church and state had conspired to evade its provisions.
With even the illusion of protection gone, many Huguenots felt they must flee their homeland. Conditions at home were so intolerable that the risk seemed worthwhile. Four hundred thousand escaped. Remaining Huguenots were forced to take mass. Any who spat out the wafer were burned alive.
1533 John Calvin flees Paris, becomes pastor in Geneva in 1536 and maintains strong ties
and influence with French reform movement until his death in 1564
1550’s Calvinism comes to France, wins thousands of converts
1559 First Huguenot synod held, in Paris
1559 Attempt to replace the Catholic Guises with the Huguenot Condé as regent
1560 Huguenots petition the king and threaten revolt if persecution persists
1562 Massacre at Vassy begins the French religious wars
1562 Huguenots sign a manifesto saying they were forced to take arms
1565 Huguenot colony massacred at St. John, Florida by Pedro Mendendez
1572 Catherine de Medici orders an attempt to assassinate Huguenot leader Coligny
1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre kills as many as 100,000 Huguenots
1585 Huguenots and other Protestants are ordered expelled from France (most stay)
1593 Huguenot Henry IV converts to Catholicism to gain the throne
1598 Edict of Nantes promises protection to Huguenots
1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes leaves Huguenots defenseless; 400,000 fleeTHEIR LIVES a POWERFUL TESTIMONY
[Sheldon's Church History provides a description of the Huguenots from Florimond de Raemond, a Roman Catholic historian in the late 16th century. He observed the life and behavior of the Huguenots and summarized his impressions.]
They comported themselves as the pronounced enemies of luxury, of public festivities, and of the follies of the world, which were all too prevalent among the Catholics. In their societies and at their banquets, one found neither music nor dancing, but discourses from the Bible, which lay upon the table, and spiritual songs, especially the Psalms as soon as they were brought into rhyme. The women, with their modest apparel and bearing, seemed like sorrowing Eves or penitent Magdalens, repeating in their lives the description which Tertullian gave of the (Christian) women of his age. The men appeared dead to the world, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Each was a John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. The outward demeanor expressed only humility and obedience. They sought to gain a place for themselves, not by cruelty but by patience, not by killing but by dying, so that in them Christianity in its primitive innocence seemed to be restored.
Mysterious Name
The origin of the name Huguenot is not known. It may be a French adaptation of the German word Eidgenossen, which means Confederates. Others speculate that it was derived from "a legendary King Hugon whose spirit was thought to haunt a part of Tours where Protestants met secretly in the early years of the movement," according to R. D. Linder in Inter Varsity Press' Dictionary of Christianity.
Double Blow to France (Editor's Notebook) 
The flight of Huguenots was a double blow to France. The hardworking Huguenots were among the most prosperous citizens of France. Their work ethic had made them masters of the crafts in which France excelled. When they fled, they left behind most of their possessions but carried with them their skills. France's enemies were taught techniques of weaving, lace-making, silk-work, and hattery, once the exclusive possession of the French. Many Huguenots enlisted in the English, Dutch and German armies and fought France.
Sadly, those people who might have put up the greatest resistance to the atheistic elements within the Enlightenment were expelled. The French Revolution was perhaps now almost inevitable. According to some historians, its cruelties were not nearly so terrible as what the Huguenots had suffered.
A church near the White House in Washington, DC has a memorial that claims 21 US presidents are of Huguenot descent. The National Huguenot Society, more modest, maintains that eight can definitely be traced as Huguenot descendants. They are:
  • George Washington
  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • William Howard Taft
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Gerald Ford
  • Lyndon B. Johnson

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