The French in Prussia
The Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther spread rapidly in France, and as Protestantism
grew and developed there, it generally abandoned the Lutheran form and turned toward Calvinism.
The new "Reformed religion"established in France by John Calvin in about 1555 was practiced by
many members of the French nobility and middle-class, which placed these French Protestants in
direct conflict with the Catholic Church and the King of France. Followers of this new Protestantism
were soon accused of heresy against the Catholic government and the established religion of France,
and a General Edict urging the total extermination of these heretics was issued in 1536.

Nevertheless, the number and influence of the French Reformers or Huguenots continued to increase
leading to an escalation in hostility. They numbered at least a million by 1562, and may have peaked
to approximately two million, compared to approximately sixteen million Catholics during the same
period. Finally, in 1562, some 1,200 Huguenots were slain at Vassey, France, thus igniting the
French Wars of Religion which would devastate France for the next thirty five years.

In France, the Protestant persecution reached a height in 1572 at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s  
Day. In the Massacre, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris. Similar massacres took place
in other French towns in the weeks following. Almost 25,000 Protestants were slain in Paris alone
and thousands elsewhere. Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, King Charles's father-in-law, was
sickened, describing the massacre as "shameful". Protestant countries were horrified at the events.
An amnesty granted in 1573 pardoned the perpetrators.

The Edict of Nantes, signed by Henry IV in April, 1598, ended the Wars of Religion, and allowed the
Huguenots some religious freedoms in twenty specified towns of France. However, with the
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in October, 1685, the persecution of Huguenots
began anew. It forbade Protestant services, mandated that children would be educated as Catholics,
and prohibited emigration. Despite the ban, more than 250,000 people fled from France, and the
ensuing bloodshed and brain drain proved costly for France in times to come.
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, October 22, 1685
Louis, by the grace of God king of France and Navarre, to all present and to come, greeting:
King Henry the Great, our grandfather of glorious memory, being desirous that the peace which he had procured
for his subjects after the grievous losses they had sustained in the course of domestic and foreign wars, should not
be troubled on account of the R.P.R. [Religion prétendue réformée -- "the religion called the Reformed"], as had
happened in the reigns of the kings, his predecessors, by his edict, granted at Nantes in the month of April, 1598,
regulated the procedure to be adopted with regard to those of the said religion, and the places in which they might
meet for public worship, established extraordinary judges to administer justice to them, and, in fine, provided in
particular articles for whatever could be thought necessary for maintaining the tranquility of his kingdom and for
diminishing mutual aversion between the members of the two religions, so as to put himself in a better position to
labor, as he had resolved to do, for the reunion to the Church of those who had so lightly withdrawn from it.
As the intention of the king, our grandfather, was frustrated by his sudden death, and as the execution of the said
(288) edict was interrupted during the minority of the late king, our most honored lord and father of glorious
memory, by new encroachments on the part of the adherents of the said R.P.R., which gave occasion for their
being deprived of divers advantages accorded to them by the said edict; nevertheless the king, our late lord and
father, in the exercise of his usual clemency, granted them yet another edict at Nimes, in July, 1629, by means of
which, tranquility being established anew, the said late king, animated by the same spirit and the same zeal for
religion as the king, our said grandfather, had resolved to take advantage of this repose to attempt to put his said
pious design into execution. But foreign wars having supervened soon after, so that the kingdom was seldom
tranquil from 1635 to the truce concluded in 1684 with the powers of Europe, nothing more could be done for the
advantage of religion beyond diminishing the number of places for the public exercise of the R.P.R., interdicting
such places as were found established to the prejudice of the dispositions made by the edicts, and suppressing of
the bi-partisan courts, these having been appointed provisionally only.
God having at last permitted that our people should enjoy perfect peace, we, no longer absorbed in protecting
them from our enemies, are able to profit by this truce (which we have ourselves facilitated), and devote our whole
attention to the means of accomplishing the designs of our said grandfather and father,
which we have consistently kept before us since our succession to the crown.
And now we perceive, with thankful acknowledgment of God's aid, that our endeavors have attained their
proposed end, inasmuch as the better and the greater part of our subjects of the said R.P.R. have embraced the
Catholic faith. And since by this fact the execution of the Edict of Nantes and of all that has ever been ordained in
favor of the said R.P.R. has been rendered nugatory, we have determined that we can do nothing better, in order
wholly to obliterate the memory of the troubles, the confusion, and the evils which the progress of this false religion
has caused in this (289) kingdom, and which furnished occasion for the said edict and for so many previous and
subsequent edicts and declarations, than entirely to revoke the said Edict of Nantes, with the special articles
granted as a sequel to it, as well as all that has since been done in favor of the said religion.
I. Be it known that for these causes and others us hereunto moving, and of our certain knowledge, full power, and
royal authority, we have, by this present perpetual and irrevocable edict, suppressed and revoked, and do
suppress and revoke, the edict of our said grandfather, given at Nantes in April, 1598, in its whole extent, together
with the particular articles agreed upon in the month of May following, and the letters patent issued upon the same
date; and also the edict given at Nimes in July, 1629; we declare them null and void, together with all concessions,
of whatever nature they may be, made by them as well as by other edicts, declarations, and orders, in favor of the
said persons of the R.P.R., the which shall remain in like manner as if they had never been granted; and in
consequence we desire, and it is our pleasure, that all the temples of those of the said R.P.R. situate in our
kingdom, countries, territories, and the lordships under our crown, shall be demolished without delay.
II. We forbid our subjects of the R.P.R. to meet any more for the exercise of the said religion in any place
or private house, under any pretext whatever, . . .
III. We likewise forbid all noblemen, of what condition soever, to hold such religious exercises in their houses or
fiefs, under penalty to be inflicted upon all our said subjects who shall engage in the said exercises,
of imprisonment and confiscation.
IV. We enjoin all ministers of the said R.P.R., who do not choose to become converts and to embrace the
Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion, to leave our kingdom and the territories subject to us within a fortnight of
the publication of our present edict, without leave to reside therein beyond that period, or, during the said fortnight,
to engage in any (290) preaching, exhortation, or any other function, on pain of being sent to the galleys. . . .
VII. We forbid private schools for the instruction of children of the said R.P.R., and in general all things whatever
which can be regarded as a concession of any kind in favor of the said religion.
VIII. As for children who may be born of persons of the said R.P.R., we desire that from henceforth they be
baptized by the parish priests. We enjoin parents to send them to the churches for that purpose, under penalty of
five hundred livres fine, to be increased as circumstances may demand; and thereafter the children shall be brought
up in the Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion, which we expressly enjoin the local magistrates to see done.
IX. And in the exercise of our clemency towards our subjects of the said R.P.R. who have emigrated from our
kingdom, lands, and territories subject to us, previous to the publication of our present edict, it is our will and
pleasure that in case of their returning within the period of four months from the day of the said publication, they
may, and it shall be lawful for them to, again take possession of their property, and to enjoy the same as if they
had all along remained there: on the contrary, the property abandoned by those who, during the specified period
of four months, shall not have returned into our kingdom, lands, and territories subject to us, shall remain and be
confiscated in consequence of our declaration of the 20th of August last.
X. We repeat our most express prohibition to all our subjects of the said R.P.R., together with their wives and
children, against leaving our kingdom, lands, and territories subject to us, or transporting their goods and effects
therefrom under penalty, as respects the men, of being sent to the galleys, and as respects the women, of
imprisonment and confiscation.
(291) XI. It is our will and intention that the declarations rendered against the relapsed shall be executed according
to their form and tenor.
XII. As for the rest, liberty is granted to the said persons of the R.P.R., pending the time when it shall please God
to enlighten them as well as others, to remain in the cities and places of our kingdom, lands, and territories subject
to us, and there to continue their commerce, and to enjoy their possessions, without being subjected to molestation
or hindrance on account of the said R.P.R., on condition of not engaging in the exercise of the said religion, or of
meeting under pretext of prayers or religious services, of whatever nature these may be, under the penalties above
mentioned of imprisonment and confiscation. This do we give in charge to our trusty and well-beloved counselors,
Given at Fontainebleau in the month of October, in the year of grace 1685.
In view of the sympathy which we ought to, and do, feel for our brethren of the reformed evangelical religion in
France, who have been driven by persecution to leave their homes and settle in other countries, we, Frederick
William, etc., desire by this edict to offer them a free and safe refuge in all our lands and possessions and to
specify what rights, privileges, and prerogatives we are graciously minded to grant them. . . .
3. We particularly specify the towns of Stendal, Werben, Rathenow, Brandenburg, and Frankfurt in the electorate
of Brandenburg, Magdeburg, Halle, and Calbe in the duchy of Magdeburg, and Konigsberg in Prussia, as places
where living is cheap and opportunities for trade and other means of support abundant; and we command herewith
that when any of the said French people of the reformed evangelical religion make their appearance, they shall be
well received in the said towns, and that every opportunity and assistance shall be given them in establishing
themselves there. They shall, moreover, be free to establish themselves in any other place in our lands and
dominions outside the above-mentioned towns which shall seem to them more con­venient for the purposes of
their trade or calling.
4. They shall be permitted to bring with them any furniture, merchandise,
or other movable property free of all duties or imposts of any kind whatever. . .
6. In towns or other places where there are unoccupied or waste lands or properties, we ordain that these shall'
be given over to our said French brethren of the reformed evangelical religion, free of all and every incumbrance,
to hold and enjoy for themselves and their posterity.
We further ordain that the necessary materials for the cultivation of these lands shall be furnished them gratis. . . .
7. So soon as any of our said French brethren of the reformed evangelical religion shall have settled themselves in
any town or village, they shall be invested, without pay­ment of any kind, with all the rights, benefits, and privileges
of citizenship enjoyed or exercised by our subjects who live and were born in said town or village.
8. If any of them shall desire to establish manufactories of cloth, stuffs, hats, or other articles, we will not only
bestow on them all the necessary permissions, rights, and privileges, but will further aid them, so far as is in our
power, with money and requisite materials.
9. Those who wish to settle in the country shall be given a certain amount of land to cultivate, shall be furnished
with the requisite utensils and materials and encouraged in every way, as has been done in the case of certain
families who have come from Switzerland to settle in our country….
11. In every town where our said French brethren in the faith are established, we will support a special preacher
and set apart a proper place where they may hold their services in the French language,
and with such usages and ceremonies as are customary in the reformed evangelical churches in France.
12. As for the members of the French nobility who have placed themselves under our protection and entered our
service, they enjoy the same honors, dignities, and preroga­tives as our own subjects of noble birth, and several of
them have been given some of the most important offices at our court as well as in our army; and we are
graciously disposed to show like favor to all such of the French nobility as may in future present themselves to us.
Given at Potsdam, the 29th of October, 1685.
Huguenots fled to Holland, Britain, Switzerland and South Africa. Considerable numbers of
Huguenots migrated to North America, especially to Virginia, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and New
York. But in the direction of West and the North, the major site of transit was Frankfurt, Germany,
and the main places that welcomed the refugees were Brandenburg-Prussia, Hesse-Cassel, the Rhine-
Main region, the Electoral Palatinate and Franconia.

From 1524 to 1740, there were 200 Huguenot colonies and nearly 44,000 Huguenots established in
Germany, particularly in religiously tolerant Prussia where they were welcomed heartily by Elector
Friedrich Wilhelm, as is represented in the picture at the  left which shows the exiled Huguenots on
their knees and bowing before Friedrich Wilhelm in gratitude, and in the relief on this page above,
showing them in Berlin with the Prussian king.

The French refugees, attracted by numerous privileges besides free practice of Calvinism, brought
much capital into Prussia as well as 46 new crafts, for instance silk and other textile industries. They
also introduced certain vegetables such as beans, asparagus, sweet peas and Brussels sprouts.

In 1686, many persecuted French Huguenots went to the small city of Erlangen in Mittelfranken
(Franconia) which today is part of Bavaria, and they outnumbered the German residents 1,000 to
317. After 1715, when peace treaties after the War of Spanish Succession precluded a return home,
the refugee mentality changed to an immigrant mentality and the French influence subsequently
declined. By 1750, the French had adopted the German language and culture as they gradually
assimilated until, at the end of the 18th century, they were completely "German". In 1822, church
services in the Huguenot church in Erlangen were held for the last time in French.

Potsdam’s French Church (Französische Kirche) was erected in the 1750s for the Huguenot
community there, but it was said there was a French church in almost every town in Prussia. In
1700, it was estimated that every third Berliner was French and a significant proportion of Prussia's
population was French-speaking. The Berlin Huguenots preserved the French language in their
church services for nearly a century until they, loyal to the land which had given them freedom,
willingly shed it in protest of Napoleon's occupation of Prussia in 1806-07.

Friedrich Wilhelm had succeeded in enrolling Huguenot 500 officers and 1,500 Huguenot petty
officers and soldiers in his army, and the refugees continued to play an important part in the army of
Brandenburg-Prussia where at times they made up than one-third of the officers. Later in history,
General Hermann von François, the First World War hero of the Battle of Tannenberg and famed U-
boat captain Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière both traced their ancestry to the Huguenot refugees.

It was not until the Edict of Toleration in November, 1787, that the civil and religious rights of
Huguenots in France were even partially restored.
The Huguenots meeting with the Prussian Monarch
Recommended reading: Reaman, G. Elmore; The Trail of the Huguenots in Europe, the United
States, South Africa and Canada