Patrick Delaforce & Ken Baldry

'The Delaforce Family History' - Chapter 15
The Huguenots at Bay

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Chapter 15

"We have a Calvinistic creed" WILLIAM PITT 1708-1778

The Huguenots at Bay

The historical background of this century is worth summarising as a backdrop to the influx of Huguenot refugees who swarmed into England either directly from France or via the Low Countries (usually Bruges). The Low Countries were not a haven for long as the Spanish Catholic armies and their masters (Alva in particular) made life difficult and dangerous for the Huguenot refugees.

The 16th and 17th centuries in France were times of total turmoil and terror. Since Jean Chauvin (Calvin) and Calvinism crept into the country after Luther's reforms in Germany, religious unrest increased year by year. It may be of help to show a table of the main events in which the Delaforce family were involved.

Timeline for the Sixteenth Century British events on green, French events on yellow.


John Calvin born at Noyon, went to University of Paris, studied law


Martin Luther nailed up his 95 Theses and the Reformation started. More about the Reformation in chapter 22.


King Henry VIII disported himself on the Field of the Cloth of Gold


Marguerite sister of Francis I the King of France, remarried aged 35 to 24 year old Henri d'Albret due to become King of Navarre. Henri was made governor of GUIENNE, established a minor court at NERAC near the Delaforce family town of Fourcès in Gascony. Calvin visited his Court. Many protestant radicals went to the stake in 1526/7/8.


Calvin at Orleans converted to LUTHER sermons, composed the "INSTITUTES". King Francis I persecuted first Protestants in 1534.


The appellation 'Protestant' originated.


James De La Force came to London in 1532. Born in Paris. In 1554 was servant to Robert Snellying Esquire in Westminster.


Henry VIIIs Act of Supremacy, asserts control over the English Church. 24 Protestants were burned alive in Paris despite the Pope's protest to Francis.


A royal Edict against the French Protestants. Calvin went to Geneva, wrote and preached there until 1564 until he died, although he had to leave for Strasbourg for a period.


John Calvin regained authority in Geneva


In 1543/4 BERTRAN de FOISSY, also shown as Le capitaine BERNAROIN FORSE, or BLAN. FOSSE, the Seigneur de CRENE (possibly CHESSY) was fighting valiantly in Picardie. One battle involved a river bridge near the Abbey of BONHOURIE when he led his squadron of ARQUEBUSIERS a CHEVAL. The next year he escaped from a prison camp "des mains des IMPERIAULX". In 1554 Capitaine FORT and his lieutenant COURCELLES were taken prisoner but in 1558 he was fighting at AMIENS as Captain FORCES (Memories de MARTIN du BELLAY)


Henry VIII invaded northern France. Two brothers 'Captain De Fosse' fought gallantly for him' (John and James)


Further massacres in Provence, Burgundy and thousands of Protestants were tortured, burned and killed and many were sent to the infamous galleys. Edict of Chateaubriand: printing, sale or possession of heretical literature was punishable by death.


Henry VIII died and was succeeded by the boy King Edward VI


Lady Jane Grey briefly became Queen, but Mary succeeded in the same year. Following five years severe persecutions in England by the Catholics of the Protestants


Jakys Delafowsse of Dorchester in Dorset. Aged 60 years is stated for his age: 1 July 1554: came from France.


Geneva sent 161 Calvinist envoys to France, many of whom were martyred.


Calais lost to the English: Duke of Guise recaptured it and in 1562 Rouen and Dieppe. Mary died, succeeded by Elizabeth.

Catherine de MEDICI, mother of Henri who would become King Henri III, and was herself perhaps the most influential woman in France, was the patron of JEHAN FOURCAULT, a 'doreur sur cuir', a goldsmith specialising in leatherware. He lived 'en hostel de NESLE' in Paris. She paid him 300 livres Tournois and ordered from him a 'tente de chambre faicte sur cuir de mouton, argentée, garnie de figures, de rouge, pour servir en la chambre et cabinet du ROY (her son) à MON CEAUX'.


The main Huguenot leaders were Admiral de COZIGNY, his brother Francois d'ANDELOT Prince Louis de Condé.

Henry II died in a jousting tourney: succeeded by Francis II aged 16 & the 1st husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. The nobles in Normandy, Brittany, Poitou, Anjou, Maine and Saintonge in addition to Gascony, Bordeaux, La Rochelle were now leading the defection from the Catholics to the Huguenots. Henry II had ordered all judges to issue the death penalty against persistent Protestants. King Francis II, urged by the Duke de Guise, the leader of the powerful Catholic party renewed edict of the death penalty against all persistent Huguenots. Hundreds fled to Geneva where CALVIN succoured them. Preparations for civil war: Caen, Poitiers, La Rochelle, Provence and Guisne were Protestants.


Frances II died and was succeeded by young Charles IX.


Mary Queen of Scots (widow of Francis II) returned to Scotland.


There were now 2000 reformed or Calvinistic churches in France.


First war of religion started in France (ended in 1594).

(France in 1515 had a population of 11 millions and Paris with 300,000 was the largest city in Europe. England had a population of 3 million and Spain of 7 million.

The religious wars began with large armies fighting on both sides. Spain aided the Catholics and England and Germany supported the Protestants. The first major pitched battle was at Dreux in Normandy where Condé was captured. CAPTAIN DEFFAURS was fighting in the DAUPHINÉ.

In the Archives of Auch, a parchment MSS shows JEHAN de FORCEZ, Capitaine of Company (whose names are given), Sieur de la Force, at Fourcès in Gascony. The company consisted of about 90 men.


The catholic Duke de Guise was assassinated in Paris by a young Huguenot and this set the pattern for another 100 years. The Edict of Amboise in 1563 ended the first Religious War, but local massacres went on as before.

First great Plague of London 22,000 people died


the Netherlands revolted against their Spanish oppressors


In 1567 In France, the second war started. A bloody pitched battle took place outside Paris, but peace was signed at Longjumeau in 1568. The Protestants controlled most of France south of the river Loire.


Later in 1568 the third war started in France.


The Huguenots were defeated at the battle of Jarnac, near Angeulene. The Huguenots were beaten, Condé died of wounds and Admiral Coligny took command. Despite a defeat at Monconfour the Huguenots advanced on Paris and the young King Charles IX signed a peace in 1570 which gave the Protestants more than they had ever had before. The young King was greatly taken by Admiral Coligny, called him 'mon père', appointed him Commander of the fleet and a grant of 100,000 livres compensation.


King Charles IX ordered from JEHAN FOURCAULT, or ferre, for 24 livres 'une boiste d'argent pour servir à mettre la poudre avec sa cuillet'. A silver powder-box from a goldsmith.

The Catholics obtained their revenge for the political defeat of 1570 with the secretly organised Massacre of Saint Bartholomew which started in Paris and spread across the country: at least 70,000 Huguenots were killed and emigres poured into England usually through Dover and Canterbury. Even in the South at Toulouse there were terrible massacres and yery many thousands of peaceful Huguenots were brutally slaughtered. FRANCIS de la FORCE and his two young sons, aged about 8 and 12 were killed. Francis was born about 1540 and related to the JAQUES who had fled to London.

M. LEFFAUT "Huguenot, or ferre et lapidaire de la Reyne mère" was reported killed along with his wife, his children and his lodgers, 'locataires'. But, just possibly, the eldest son escaped the Catholic mobs. Because in 1642, seventy years later, the Queen Mother MARIE de MEDICI left a will. Amongst the beneficiaries was the huge sum of 4000 livres to S. JEAN de FORCAN, of Sainte-Colombe 'clerq du guet' -in effect her "magistrate of security". Jean, the security chief, was possibly grandson of the Huguenot massacred on St Bartholomew’s Day.
Although the Queen Mother, Mary de Medici, clashed often with Cardinal Richelieu, they had many things in common; such as the security of the 'status quo' whereby both of them in their separate ways controlled France.
When Cardinal Richelieu died on 23 May 1642, he left 6000 livres to SIEUR de FORT, escuyer/squire. Perhaps he knew the Queen Mother was leaving 'only' 4000 livres and felt that he would defeat the indomitable old lady. There is no doubt that JOHN when he arrived in GUISNE was a very rich man with largesse from State and Royalty having been showered upon him. (Source Archives Cuneux de l'Histoire de France)


The Siege of La Rochelle, bastion of the Huguenots, by the Catholic armies. Charles signed the peace of La Rochelle guaranteeing religious liberty to the Huguenots - the massacre had achieved nothing. A fifth war started, then a sixth, and 7th and 8th.


Captain LA FOSSE was a minor witness in a major trial in Paris. The King Charles IX was prosecuting Seigneur La Mole and the Comte de Coconnes. They were the 'premier presidents en la cour de Parlement à Paris' and had incurred his displeasure. The Captain lived at Moulin à vent, rue des Petits Champs in Paris. His brother was 'le sieur de Grandchamp'.


The Dutch republic of 7 northern provinces of the 'Spanish Netherlands' founded modern Netherlands).


Henry, King of Navarre was recognised as heir apparent to the throne. Charles IX had died in 1574 and was succeeded by the Duke of Anjou who became Henry III, the last Valois King of France.


Mary Queen of Scots was executed


The second Duc de Guise (Catholic leader) was assassinated in Paris


Captaine LAFOSSE, greffier (Court Clerk) was a witness at the trial of enquiry of the massacre of Protestants at BLOIS by the Duke of GUISES and the Catholic supporters.


Henry IV at Navarre decided Paris was worth a Mass, became a Catholic and then King of France


the Edict of Nantes was signed guaranteeing Protestants liberty of worship and the wars of religion ceased - for the time being

Above: Henri IV's castle at Nerac
Below: His house in Cahors

Henry of Navarre is a key figure in this chapter. A dedicated Huguenot, a man of great talents, he was the grandson of the indomitable Marguerite of Navarre, son of Jeanne d'Albret. A Gascon brought up at the minor court of Nerac he counted the Delaforce family amongst his friends. (Readers should not be confused here: Haques Nompar de Caumont, who married Dame LA FORCE (a widow) took a title of the same name, was one of Henry of Navarre’s most trusted generals. He became a Marshall and was made Duke de la Force in 1622. He appears in all the French history books and created a famous dynasty. They were CAUMONTS although their senior title was Duc de la Force.) King Henry III was privy to the assassination of the Duc de Guise on 24 December 1588, (perhaps so too was Jean de la Fosse who was in Paris that day) but was himself assassinated in 1589. Henry of Navarre was now effectively King but two thirds of the French population were Catholic. The Parlement of Paris recognised Cardinal de Bourbon as King, not Henry. War was inevitable again, and a battle was fought at Arques near Dieppe. Henry sent this marvellous message to his absent friend "Pends-toi, brave CRILLEN: nous avons combattu a' Aiques et tu n'y e'tais pas." (Hang yourself, brave CRILLON, we have fought at Arques and you were not there. Presumably CRILLON hung his head in shame.) Caumont LA FORCE fought magnificently on this day. It is possible that "Captain LAFOSSE of Bourg/Bordeaux" fought for the Huguenot King of Navarre on that day. He certainly did in 1590 when the armies met again at IVRY on the river Eure. Henry of Navarre put a white plume in his helmet and said "If the heat of battle disperse you for a while, rally...under those pear trees you see up younder to my right: if you lose your standards do not lose sight of my white plume - you will always find it in the path of honour and, I hope, of victory too." He won.

In 1590, after an unsuccessful siege of Paris thwarted by ALVA's Spanish troops from Holland. Henry of Navarre gave serious thought to the pragmatic possibility of becoming a Catholic and possibly re-uniting the country. In 1595 he sent word to the Pope that he desired instruction in the Catholic faith. He went to the abbey of St Denis, confessed, received absolution and heard Mass. Although minor battles continued, Henry marched into Paris in 1594 and was crowned King in Notre Dame. In the same year Sieur Jean De La Fosse was promoted from 'greffier' in Poitiers to the office of the general treasurer of war and Bernard de LA FORSE his brother received 555 ecus as Governor of the pages of the royal household of King Henry IV. In the next years until King Henry's assassination in 1610, the Delaforce family had major positions around the King who had rewarded his friends who had followed and fought for him on the way to Paris. In 1598 the Edict of Nantes was signed which brought total equality to the Huguenots.

After Henry's death the young weak Louis XIII succeeded but the powerful Cardinal Richelieu ruled in all but name. In 1617, rather out of character, Louis led an army into Bearn and Navarre (his father's realm) to subdue them. The next year four armies were despatched against Huguenot cities but Montauban held out as did La Rochelle, the main Huguenot stronghold. The English fleet tried to help protect La Rochelle in 1627 when it came under serious attack but in 1628 Richelieu entered the city in triumph. In 1629 yet again Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes was confirmed by Richelieu's Edict of Grace. Louis XIV aged 5 came to the throne in 1645. Cardinal Mazarin immediately reconfirmed the Edict of Nantes. The first civil war (FRONDE) took place in 1648/9, and another in 1650/55. Louis confirmed the Edict of Nantes again in 1652 and appreciated the Huguenot support (still 1.5 millions) during the civil wars of the FRONDE. The Catholic church however from 1655 started to put pressure on the King. The last straw was the affair of the Dragonnades in 1681 with the forcible billeting of dragoons in Huguenot homes.

In 1685 the King revoked the Edict of Nantes and soon 400,000 Protestants left France to go to England, Holland, Germany and Switzerland. The Huguenot temples throughout France were destroyed. There is no sign at all of the large temple at Guisnes. Lyon and Tours lost three-quarters of their silk looms, Caen its textile manufacturers, Tours its tanneries. Although the French Catholic Church was triumphant the French economy suffered enormously.

It was estimated in 2001, that the French economy did not really recover from this self-made disaster until the 1950s. But it is now time to return to England to see how the refugees fared there.

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Contact: Ken Baldry for more information, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 but best to e-mail him
©1980-2004 Patrick Delaforce & Ken Baldry. All rights reserved Last revised 17/12/2005