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1681 - The 'dragonnades' begin in France
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Royal officials in France invent the 'dragonnades' as a way to put pressure on the Huguenot minority to convert to Roman Catholicism. Dragoons (cavalry soldiers) are billeted in their houses and told to behave as badly as they like. The cost of feeding the soldiers and their brutal and destructive behaviour crush those families to whom this is done.

In this year, well over a thousand refugees present themselves at the French Church in Threadneedle Street. Many of them have sailed across the Channel in small boats, running the risk of being stopped and arrested by patrolling ships from the French navy. Those who are caught escaping from France are liable to be imprisoned, or sent to row in the king's galleys (a life of brutal hardship).

A large number of the new arrivals are accompanied by children. This is in response to a new decree by King Louis the Fourteenth. From now on, children over the age of seven in Protestant families may be taken away and placed in convents and monasteries to be 're-educated' as Catholics.

Between 40,000 and 50,000 refugees will arrive in England by the end of the century. At least half of them will settle in what we nowadays call the Greater London area.

Many thousands more will escape to the Dutch Republic. Others will go to Germany, Switzerland, America and Ireland.

The majority of those who come to England are from the northern coastal districts of France. Normandy sends much the largest number, followed by Poitou and Picardy. Huguenots in these areas can reach the sea quite easily. Once they have, it is a short trip by ship or boat to England. 

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