Everyone in Europe is flocking here apparently. I look for evidence of it – but everyone looks the same.’
Immigration. A hot topic in this country but it has been going on for so long it would not be surprising to find that every one of us has some trace of non-English blood within us. Even just a little bit from hundreds of years ago.
During this period, the largest wave of immigration into the U.K was from the French. Protestant French to be precise, also known as Huguenots.
In England there has always been a conflict between the Catholic and Protestant church and the ones who got the better treatment was dependent on the religion of the king or queen. During the Tudor times for example, the three children of Henry VIII were of different religions and that had a huge impact on domestic politics. Edward VI was Protestant so continued work of The Reformation. His eldest sister was Mary I, daughter of King Henry’s first wife Catherine of Aragon, was a Catholic and did everything she could to undo all of her brother’s work as well as burning hundreds of Protestants. And finally, Elizabeth I was Protestant although she was interested in finding a middle ground.
Now, back to France. In 1598 the Edict of Nantes was passed by King Henry IV to restore peace in the country. There were conflicts, just like in England, between the two religions which culminated finally in 1572 with a massacre on St Bartholomew’s Day. According to a website titled Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, “nearly 3,000 Protestants were slain in Paris in five days, from the night of August 23-24 to August 29, 1572.”* It was during this time that the first wave of French migrants began to move to England.
The Edict of Nantes was created to give more civil rights to French Protestants, for example allowing them to worship in public, except of course in Paris. The King insisted that the country would remain Catholic, and Protestants must abide by Catholic laws. The Edict was not popular and there was a growing resentment between both sides. The King was assassinated by a fanatic Catholic in 1610.
The Edict was revoked in 1685 when King Louis XIV decided to take away all of the rights that were previously awarded to the Huguenots. Once again a wave of French Catholic immigrants entered England, bringing tailors, watchmakers, jewellers and silk weavers. According to the French Protestant Church of London, by the end of the seventeenth century around 50,000 Huguenots were seeking refuge.
* David El Kenz, Massacres during the Wars of Religion, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on 3 November 2007, accessed 1 February 2010, URL : http://www.massviolence.org/Massacres-during-the-Wars-of-Religion, ISSN 1961-9898