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The name Huguenot - originally a derogative term used by their opponents - is a common term for the French protestants since about 1560. Calvinism originating from Geneva won more followers around the middle of the 16th century in the aristocracy and in the middle class of France. 

Johannes Calvin (1509-1564)

The propagation of the Protestantism and the economic strength of its  followers caused uneasiness and hate among the Catholics of France. Catherine de Medici, widow of Henry II, who governed for her son King Charles IX, allied herself occasionally for political reasons with the Huguenots, but most of the time she fought them. The Huguenots fought for the free practice of their faith and the acknowledgment of their political and civil rights. The king tried to suppress it. Finally it came to open civil war. Between 1562 and 1598 eight wars were fought between the Catholics and the Protestants in France. Leaders of the Huguenots were Admiral Coligny and the Prince Louis of Conde. The Huguenots received support from England, Germany and Switzerland. The Catholics under the Dukes of Guise were supported by Spain. The peace treaties at the end of each war granted a certain measure of religious and political tolerance to the Huguenots, certain safe places were granted. Already during these Huguenot wars many families left France.  
At the Bartholomew's Night on August 24th, 1572 thousands of Huguenots, who had met for the wedding of Henry of Navarre in Paris,  were killed by arrangement of Catherine de Medici and by agreement of Charles IX. Among the dead was also the Admiral Coligny.

The Bartholomew's Night

The Bourbon prince Henry of Navarre succeeded him as leader of the Huguenots. After he inherited the French throne in 1589, he converted to Catholicism 1593 for political reasons: "Paris is worth a mass!" In the edict of Nantes on 13 April 1598 however he granted his former 'comrades in faith'  freedom of conscience, the citizen rights, locally limited free worship and about 100 fortified 'safe places'.  
War broke out again under King Louis XIII and his Cardinal Richelieu. In its process the Huguenots finally lost their last 'safe place' when La Rochelle was defeated in 1628. They lost their political rights, but kept some religious liberties. These were extremely limited under Louis XIV and the practising their religion was restricted even further. By the so-called Dragonets, when catholic soldiers were quartered in Protestant families, it came to forced conversions. These pursuits culminated finally in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes on 23 October 1685. 
But although the escape from the country was forbidden under strictest punishments, about 200.000 Huguenots fled to England, Germany, into the area of the Netherlands, to Switzerland and the English colonies in North America. Particularly Brandenburg-Prussia promoted the settlement of the Huguenots.

The Flight of the Huguenots

Jan Luyken, 1696

The Huguenots, who remained in France, established themselves mostly in the Cevennes; these so-called Camisards were fought and finally subjected in the Cevennen war 1702 to 1705. In the course of 18th Century, the French Protestants gradually received  many of their rights back. In the 'Edict of Endurance' of Versailles in the year 1787 the Huguenots where endured, in the code Napoleon from 1804 they received full equal rights.  
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