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The Huguenots in London

King Henry the Eighth rejects the authority of the Pope and declares himself Supreme Head of the Church of England.

In many countries of Europe, Protestants are being persecuted. These are Christians who reject the authority of the Pope and want to reform the Roman Catholic Church. Some of these foreign Protestants start to come to England, hoping that they will be safe here.
King Edward the Sixth succeeds to the throne. He and his government are committed to the Reformed (Protestant) faith.

Many Protestants in the Netherlands are executed for their beliefs. Others take refuge in England.

Visscher’s View of
Visscher's View of London
Many refugees from France and the Netherlands come to England.

The French and Dutch churches of London are founded by royal charter.   

Map showing Dutch Church of the Austin Friars
Map showing Dutch Church of the Austin Friars

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Church of the Austen Friars
Church of the Austin Friars
Prices are going up. The craftsmen and labourers of London blame the refugees.
King Edward the Sixth dies. He is succeeded by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary.

Queen Mary begins to persecute Protestants. Many English Protestants go into hiding, while others take refuge on the Continent. Many recent immigrants also leave the country.
Queen Mary dies and is succeeded by the Protestant Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I
The English exiles return home. Immigration by Protestants from the Continent begins again. At this point, most of them are coming from the Netherlands.

The word 'Huguenot' is coming into use in France as a slang term to describe Protestants.

The French and Dutch Churches of London are re-established following a break during Mary's reign.

In France the Wars of Religion begin between the Catholics and the Huguenots. To begin with, the Huguenots are not very successful. Over the next couple of years many French Protestant refugees flee from persecution and massacres and arrive in England.

Protestants in the Netherlands rebel against their Catholic ruler, King Philip of Spain.

Map of the Netherlands
Map of the Netherlands

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King Philip sends an army to the Netherlands. The Protestants there experience a reign of terror. In this year and the next, huge numbers of Netherlanders emigrate.

Jean Carré, a French-speaking refugee, arrives in London from the Netherlands. He brings the art of making fine crystal drinking glasses.

Thomas Vautrollier, a Huguenot from Champagne, begins to print books at his press in Blackfriars.

The citizens of London complain to the Queen that many immigrants are ignoring the craft and employment laws. They call for these to be properly enforced.

As a result of the Massacre of St Bartholomew, thousands of French Protestants take refuge in England.

The war in the Netherlands goes badly for the Protestants. Many are massacred by the Spaniards. Others escape to England.

The government orders a survey of foreigners living in London.

Claude Holyband, a Huguenot refugee, writes the first proper textbook in English for students of French.

1,500 foreigners living in London who are found not to be Protestants are ordered to leave the country.

The Mayor and Corporation of London order that no citizen of London shall take as their apprentice anyone who was born abroad, or whose father was born abroad, or who owes allegiance to a foreign ruler.

London, 1560.
London, 1560.

Old Guildhall
Old Guildhall
Renewed persecutions of Protestants in the Netherlands drive more people to take refuge in England.

The government decides that there are too many foreigners in London. They order that the latest arrivals should be sent to other cities where there are Protestant refugee churches and communities.

A writer on the cloth industry argues that it has greatly benefited from the skills of refugee weavers

Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, a gifted French painter, comes to live in London.

The various French churches in different cities in England send representatives to a colloquy.

A survey is made of foreigners in and around London, to find out which districts they are living in.

Isaac Oliver is starting to establish himself as a fashionable painter of miniature portraits of the rich and well-born. Oliver is the son of a goldsmith from Rouen who settled in London in 1568.

A number of London craftsmen complain to the government that they cannot find enough work. They say that there are too many refugees in the area. English people are losing business to them.

In Southwark, the apprentices riot against the foreigners.

There is a census of all the foreigners in and around London and Westminster, with details of their trades.

The Edict of Nantes is issued by King Henri the Fourth of France. It allows French Protestants the right to worship publicly in their own way in cities where their churches are already established.

A synod is held by the French and Dutch Protestant churches.

Robert Thiery, a Huguenot, is the first person to have successfully produced silk cloth from silkworms reared in England. Following a special request from James I, he is admitted to the Weavers' Company and made a Freeman of the City.

Huguenot weavers introduce a new kind of loom for weaving ribbons.

Fighting breaks out in France between the Huguenots, led by the Duke of Rohan, and the French government. Refugees from Normandy start to arrive in London. They are the first of many who will leave France for England during the 1620s.

The musician and composer Nicholas Lanier, born in London to Huguenot parents, becomes the first holder of the title 'Master of the King's Musick'.

The large number of refugees arriving in London is a cause of concern to the government. They order a new census. This shows that a large community of immigrants has formed in Spitalfields, east of the City.

La Rochelle, the last Huguenot city in France, is besieged. King Charles I sends English forces to relieve it, led by the Duke of Buckingham. The expedition is a disaster.
Map showing Spitalfields, 1633
Map showing Spitalfields, 1633

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King Charles I sends a second military expedition to try to relieve La Rochelle. But after a long siege, in which many of the inhabitants die of starvation, the city is forced to surrender.

The Duke of Buckingham, the king's favourite, is stabbed to death by an assassin. His monument in Westminster Abbey is made by the court sculptor, Hubert Le Sueur, a Huguenot.

The Duke of Rohan makes peace with the French government. The power of the Huguenots has now been broken and they lose some of their political rights. However, they are still permitted to worship as Protestants.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, disapproves of the existence of the separate churches for foreigners. He wants to bring them under his control.

There is fighting in the Netherlands. Many refugees are arriving at Dover. The government orders that they should be dispersed throughout the country.

In London, there are new complaints that foreigners are taking business that should go to English tradesmen.

A census of foreigners in this year shows that there is a growing community of French immigrants in Westminster.

Archbishop Laud is arrested for treason. One of the charges brought against him is that he tried to put an end to the privileges of the foreign Protestant churches.

French Protestants in Westminster and Charing Cross begin to meet for worship as a separate congregation.

Cardinal Mazarin dies. From now on the position of the Huguenots in France becomes more and more difficult. Refugees begin to arrive in England.

French Protestants are given official permission for a church in Westminster.

Savoy Church Interior
Savoy Church Interior

Savoy Church Interior
Savoy Church

The original French Church in Threadneedle Street reopens in a new building. The old church burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Map Showing Location of French Church on Threadneedle Street
Map Showing Location of French Church on Threadneedle Street

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A bronze statue of King Charles the First is erected at Charing Cross. It was made more than forty years earlier by Charles's court sculptor, the Huguenot Hubert Le Sueur.
Charing Cross
Charing Cross

In Spitalfields the English weavers riot against the Huguenot weavers for keeping wages down by working for too little money.

The Huguenot scientist Denis Papin invents the first pressure cooker.


Royal officials in France hit on a new way to harass the Huguenot minority: the 'dragonnades'. In this year and the next, very large numbers of refugees arrive in London.

King Charles the Second orders house to house collections to be made all over the kingdom to raise money to help the refugees.

Many refugees are settling in Soho, a newly built up area north of Westminster. The French church at the Savoy opens a daughter church in Hog Lane.

The French Chapel in Wandsworth is founded. Between now and the end of the century, the small community of foreign Protestants there is swelled by the arrival of many refugee hatmakers.

Jean Larguier, a recent refugee, brings new skills in the art of weaving quality silk fabrics.

King James the Second, a Roman Catholic, succeeds to the throne of England. England remains officially a Protestant country.

King Louis the Fourteenth of France revokes (withdraws) the Edict of Nantes. He bans the Protestant faith and imposes very severe penalties on those who practise it.

Thousands of Huguenots abandon France, often leaving everything they have. In this year and the next, hundreds arrive in London. The majority are skilled workers in various manufacturing trades.

In France a number of Protestants are brutally tortured and executed.

A community of Huguenot refugees is developing in Greenwich.

Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park
King James the Second publishes a Declaration of Indulgence, suspending the laws against Roman Catholics and nonconformist Protestants. Huguenot immigration to England increases sharply.

The French Church in Threadneedle Street has become unbearably crowded. A daughter church is opened in Spitalfields, where many new arrivals have settled.

The Dutch leader William of Orange arrives with an army. His second-in-command is a Huguenot refugee, the veteran soldier Frederick, Duke of Schomberg. King James flees to France.

Weaver’s Houses in Spitalfields
Weaver's Houses in Spitalfields

Schomberg House
Schomberg House
William and his wife Mary are proclaimed King and Queen of England. James lands in Ireland with a French army.

A Toleration Act is passed by Parliament. It grants freedom of worship to Protestants but not to Catholics.

King James is defeated at the Battle of the Boyne. He goes into exile in France.

The Bank of England is founded. The first Governor, Sir John Houblon, is descended from French-speaking immigrants from the Netherlands.
Grocer’s Hall, used as the Bank of England in 1695
Grocer's Hall, used as the Bank of England in 1695

Sir John Houblon becomes Lord Mayor of London.

Mayor and Aldermen
Mayor and Aldermen
Persecutions of the Huguenots begin again in France. Over the next few years, a number of them arrive in London as refugees.
Map of Europe
Map of Europe

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The refugee writer Abel Boyer publishes his Royal Dictionary. For more than a hundred years it will be the standard French-English and English-French reference dictionary.

After the immigration of the last two decades, roughly 5% of the population of London are now Huguenot refugees from France. That is about one in every twenty Londoners.

The Spitalfields Mathematical Society is founded.

The French Protestant Hospital is founded to care for the old and sick.

A huge new church, Christ Church, is opened to serve Anglicans in Spitalfields. Many members of its congregation come from Huguenot families.

Christ Church, Spitalfields
Christ Church, Spitalfields
A Huguenot musician, Peter Prelleur, is appointed the first organist of Christ Church.

The Huguenots of Soho feature in one of William Hogarth's engravings of London scenes.

Louis François Roubiliac, a Huguenot sculptor born in Lyons, has set up his studio in London.

Detail of 'Noon' byHogarth, Showing Huguenots leaving Hog Lane Church
Detail of 'Noon' byHogarth, Showing Huguenots leaving Hog Lane Church
David Garrick, the greatest actor of the eighteenth century, makes his first appearance on the London stage. He is the grandson of a Huguenot refugee.
David Garrick
David Garrick

John Rocque, a surveyor of Huguenot origins, publishes a detailed map of London and its suburbs.

Map showing Christ Church, Spitalfields
Map showing Christ Church, Spitalfields

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The first Westminster Bridge opens for traffic. It has been built by Charles Labelye, a Huguenot engineer.
View of Westminster Bridge
View of Westminster Bridge

François Rochette, a minister, is the last Protestant to be hanged in France for heresy.

Following several years of protests by the Spitalfields silkweavers over their pay, Parliament passes the Spitalfields Act.
Apprentices at Their Looms by William Hogarth
Apprentices at Their Looms by William Hogarth

A Huguenot minister in Spitalfields gives a sermon in which he grieves over the decline of the Huguenot churches and the assimilation of the Huguenots into mainstream London life.

In France an Edict of Toleration is issued. It permits Huguenots to live and work in freedom. However, Protestant religious services are not allowed to take place in public.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man is approved by the National Assembly of France. These rights include freedom of religious belief and worship.

The Napoleonic Code becomes the foundation of the law of France. It establishes the right to freedom of religion.

The descendants of the refugees could now return to France in safety. But their home country is England. This is where they were born and where their jobs and families are. They speak English. Many of them now use English surnames: either English translations of the original French names or English-sounding versions of them. They have become part of English society.
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