THE DE CROISETTE FAMILY

REASONS FOR LEAVING FRANCE

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The Edict of Nantes (revoked in 1685), which had granted considerable freedom of conscience and worship - and even some geographical independence - to the Huguenots in France, allowed them to flourish. Generally, Louis XIV (1638-1715), like Richelieu, took the view that tolerance was more likely to see the end of Protestantism than persecution. Yet he remained acutely aware that the schism in his society over religion and the absolutism of the monarchy held the seeds of further social unrest. He could not continue to ignore the acceleration of petitions and formal complaints against the Huguenots.

The De Croisette family were, it appears, closely involved at court as lawyers to the crown. More than most, they must have been keenly aware just how vulnerable they were to become. Yet to have been prosperous was an advantage: they at least could prepare to leave the country.

With enemies on all his borders, somewhere between 1679 and 1688 the King's religious beliefs took a turn towards deeper piety: his own religion was the only true one, and unity at home was now paramount. Until this point Huguenots had enjoyed a unique privilege: no other country in Europe tolerated the coexistence of two prominent national religions. But when the Edict of Fontainebleau was proclaimed not only were they prohibited from leaving the country, but they were fundamentally excluded from French society. Churches were abolished, assemblies forbidden - even among the nobility in their own homes - and all children were forced to attend mass. Protestants were expelled from Paris. This must have hit a family such as the de Croisette family very hard: they lost their positions and their Paris base.

Even though Protestants were supposed to be free to enjoy their property and continue their way of life so long as they did not meet together, there was a massacre of Waldensians in Savoy, burials were refused in daytime, fresh dragonnades (the punitive billeting of troops) were ordered, children were carried off, pastors hunted down. Six hundred people were executed for conducting 'assemblies'.

There was a mass exodus involving almost a quarter of a million Protestants. Almost half the Protestants of Picardie left the country, mostly workers in the cloth industry.

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