Bernard Livard’s name appears on an indictment
drawn up on 3 March 1573. An indictment is a
legal document setting out the case against
those listed. In this case it is a group of
tailors who have broken employment rules.
Bernard Livard, is the fifth name on a list
of six, all living in High Holborn. His name
is followed by the word ‘alienus’,
alien, foreigner, showing that he was an immigrant.
The tailors are accused of working for themselves
in their own houses, rather than for a master
Many French tailors settled in England during
the Elizabethan period. Some probably came here
for economic reasons.
Others certainly arrived as Protestant refugees.
Protestants had broken away from the Catholic
Church and had suffered persecution.
The date of Livard’s prosecution
is only a few months after the notorious massacres
of French Protestants that began in Paris in 1572.
Starting on St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August),
the massacres spread to other cities and went on till
late in October. During that time large numbers of
French Protestant refugees, known as Huguenots, sought
refuge in England.
In our voice-over we have chosen
to imagine that Bernard Livard was one of them.
Rooms in High Holborn
You know me, m’sieu. Bernard
Livard, your tailor. I made that gown you are wearing.
M’sieu, sir, I beg of you, will you grant me
the favour of a word in private?
Men in conversation
God bless you, sir. This is very
kind. But you have always used me with kindness. That
is why I am bold to come to you now. You know that
I am a stranger in your country, one of the people
they call Huguenots, a poor Frenchman called by the
grace of God to the knowledge of his word. And because
of this, I am a fugitive from my own country of France,
where the people of God are cruelly oppressed by the
Daily they are beaten, mistreated, murdered; and that
is in ordinary times. But last summer - oh, forgive
me, your worship, I cannot speak of it. I know you
have said you would gladly hear everything about that
time I can tell you.
You asked me to - to witness to
what I have seen so that you can write it down for
others to read - and I shall do that, your worship.
But I cannot do it yet. I cannot get the shrieks out
of my ears, you see. And the smell of the blood -
I cannot bear to think of it. Thank you, m’sieu.
You are kinder than I deserve.
Elizabeth I, 1588
Since I came to this country,
very many of your people have been kind to me. And
I pray to God daily for the health of your Queen Elizabeth
(may God bless her and keep her) who out of her favour
towards God’s people has permitted so many of
us Protestant exiles to settle here in safety.
But now I don’t know what
I am going to do. Sir, they tell me you are a great
docteur - doctor - of the laws. Can you explain to
me then what I must do to conform to this your Statute
of Art - art-if-icers?
I shall tell you what has happened.
In my own country, I was what you English call a journeyman
tailor - I had served my apprenticeship and was working
in the shop of a master, M’sieu Simon, a very
godly man. It was my hope to have a shop of my own
very soon. I was putting aside money from my wages,
and my uncle, he left me money in his will.
And there was a young woman -
we were betrothed, you understand. She would have
brought some money with her. But it is gone - all
gone. My master, my mistress, their children, their
two apprentices - all butchered, and the house looted,
and my money, which was in my master’s strongbox,
was taken along with everything else. I was the only
one to escape.
I was there when the crowd came
to the house, but I ran up the stairs to the attic;
and God prompted me to climb out of the attic window
and flee away over the roofs. I know his hand was
over me, or else I should have fallen to the street.
Sometimes I wake sweating in the night, remembering
that climb, that scramble over the roofs, the tile
that slipped from under my foot, the crowd roaring
in the street below and their faces in the torchlight.
And behind me the screaming. It seemed to go on for
a long time.
You will want to know what happened to Marie, the
woman I was to wed. I do not know. Like so many others,
she is gone. She disappeared that night, the night
of St Bartholomew, the night the Romish persecutors
came to kill us all. That much I have learned. Sometimes
I dream that I shall meet her again - that perhaps
we shall meet face to face on a street in London.
But I do not think so. I think that she is dead.
Well, sir, I hid, and I ran, and
I tramped across the country, and I made my way to
Calais. I had a little money in my purse to live on
- again, God took care of me - and I sold my good
doublet, that I made myself, and though by the time
I reached the coast I did not have enough money to
pay my fare, the master of an English ship took me
across to Dover in return for a little help on the
voyage - he needed a steward to look after the better
sort of passengers.
From Dover I came to London, where
my master, M’sieu Simon, had friends to whom
he used to write letters. One of them gave me a loan,
and with this I bought the tools of my trade - my
scissors, my yardstick, my goose and thimble, needles
and thread. I tried to find work with a master, but
none of your English master tailors would give me
a place. And my fellow Frenchmen who have shops of
their own have been told by your Worshipful Company
of Merchant Tailors that here in London they are not
permitted to employ more than two of us Frenchmen
at a time. That is the law.
But outside the city walls, the
laws are not so strictly kept - so I was told. I was
told that it was quite a common thing for your English
journeymen tailors to work for themselves in rooms
and garrets. Sometimes some of the masters will put
work out to them and pay for it by the piece. And
sometimes they work for themselves, making or altering
clothes for customers.
Map showing Holborn, C17th
So I rented a room here in High
Holborn, and for some months now I have never been
out of work. Pride is a sin, but I know that God has
gifted my hands with more than usual skill as a tailor.
But perhaps he is punishing me
for my pride. For this morn
ing, early, a knock came on the door to the street.
I heard steps on the stair outside my room. I was
afraid. The knocking was very loud: it woke me up,
and for a moment I was back in Paris. I thought that
the horror was beginning over again. Well, it was
not so bad as that. When I opened the door, I saw
one of my neighbours, a civil enough fellow I had
always thought him, but it seemed he had shown the
constable where to find my lodging. The constable
told me that I must go with them to the justicier,
I cannot deny it: I was shaking
with fear. But when we arrived, I found myself in
a room full of tailors. Several of them were known
to me: journeymen like myself, living in the streets
outside the city bounds and taking a chance by working
without a master. All of the others were English born.
We were kept waiting a long time for the justice to
come. When at last he came, he reminded us of the
statute, told us to find ourselves masters, and left
his clerk to write down all our names. He did not
even ask us for, what is your English word? bail,
that is it. He did not ask for bail; though from something
one of the others said, I think that he should have,
under the law.
Tell me, sir, of your goodness:
what must I do now? I have lost everything I had in
the world. All I have left is my faith and my work.
We are commanded by God to labour. In France, I had
a place in the world, a life to lead, an honest trade.
I would have stayed there if I could, but I dared
not for my life. In England I am safe from being slaughtered,
but there are those in this country, your Company
of Merchant Taylors, who want to keep me from working
at my trade. How then am I to live? My trade is all