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Huguenots were mostly Calvinist Protestants in Old Regime France. They faced persecution, but were later protected by the Edict of Orléans in 1561. Further warfare and persecution followed. The Edict of Nantes in 1592 once again put an end to persecution, but it was revoked in 1685. Most Huguenots eventually fled France for other countries.

see Old Regime

United States

In 1564, the Huguenots established the first settlement in North America, at Fort Caroline on the St. John's River in Florida. It did not long survive.

Several thousand came to the American colonies, establishing a presence especially in Charleston South Carolina,. They supported the Patriot cause during the American Revolution, particularly in battles in New Jersey. In Massachusetts, Paul Revere's father was a Huguenot refugee who came to Boston as a child.

South Africa

Many Huguenots also settled in South Africa, starting as early as 1671, with the arrival of the first Huguenot refugee, Francois Villion (later Viljoen), followed in 1686 by the brothers Guillaume and Francois du Toit. By the time the main influx of Huguenots had arrived, between the years 1688 and 1709 (when state-subsidised emigration was halted), they comprised almost one-sixth of the total free burgher population and were in a position to leave a lasting influence on the young Cape settlement.[1]

The Huguenots were encouranged to emigrate to the Cape by The Dutch East India Company, not only because they shared the same religious beliefs, but also due to the fact that many of them were experienced farmers, specifically in viticulture and oenology (the growing of grapes and production of wine, brandy and vinegar), or highly trained craftsmen. Allowed to travel with only the minimum amount of luggage, they were expected upon arrival to make a living from agriculture or a trade. Free farms were allocated to those who chose to farm, along with seed, animals and implements. The cost of the latter, however, had to be reimbursed to the The Dutch East India Company in terms of produce or goods.[2]

Hard working and industrious, they not only improved the quality of Cape wines (a legacy which last to this day), but were also responsible for the proliferation of wine estates around the settlements of Stellenbosch (named after Simon van der Stel), Franschhoek (French corner) and Paarl (named after dew reflecting on the nearby granite mounds made them resemble giant pearls), increasing the number of planted vines from 100 in 1655 (three years after the arrival of Jan van Riebeek to 1,5 million by 1700.[3] To this day, many of the original French-named wine estates are still in operation.

Characterised by their intrinsic pride, diligence and honesty, they initially strove to maintain their own identify at first, but soon intermarried with the other colonists to eventually become just South Africans. Within two generations even their home language, French, had largely disappeared. However, their legacy lives on in the names found amongst the white inhabitants, such as du Preez, Theron, du Toit, Malan and others that have been localised such as Cronjé, Viljoen and Malherbe. Together with their Dutch counterparts and their shared Calvinist beliefs, they laid the foundation for what would later become the Afrikaner.[4]

see also Old Regime


  1. Pieter Coertzen: The Huguenots of 1688-1988, Tafelberg Publishers 1988
  2. JLM Franken: The Huguenots and the Cape, Government Printer, Pretoria, 1978
  3. Pieter Coertzen: The Huguenots of 1688-1988, Tafelberg Publishers 1988
  4. Lynne Bryer and Francois Theron: The Huguenots and their Heritage, Chameleon Press 1987