What’s in a Name?

Brenda and I were having our French lesson, and I asked our tutor Anna for help creating a telephone answering message for our home phone. She suggested, “Vous êtes bien chez Brenda et Hugh. S’il vous plaît laissez votre message après the bip.” Knowing that in French the h is silent, I asked about how to pronounce my name.  Anna told me it would be pronounced [EWG], that in French my name is usually spelled Hugues, which would ensure that the G was a hard G rather than a J sound. She noted that Hugh after all is a French name that came from the Huguenots. I didn’t know that. Wikipedia says Hugh is a common English name, but if you look at the list in their article, the majority of people listed come from France. Who were the Huguenots?

The Huguenots were a Protestant religious group that sprang up in France in about 1530 after Martin Luther started the Protestant movement. They followed the teachings of the French theologian John Calvin of Geneva, Switzerland. They rejected the excesses and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the French Monarchy, which sponsored the Catholic Church as the state religion. There were many steps in the decline of the Huguenots, but suffice it to say they were in conflict with both the Catholic Church and the state. At first there were isolated incidents of attacks on communities. Later the opposition received the support of the King of France, Charles IX, who ordered the death of all the Protestants of France. Though there was a period of relative stability for the Huguenots in the late 1500s, this changed with the ascension of Louis XIII in 1610. His regent, Cardinal Richelieu, wanted to eliminate all the Huguenot communities. We’ve seen where Richelieu lived in the Marais, and the King then lived just down the road at a palace near the Louvre. History lives!

In the mid 1600s, Huguenot men and women were imprisoned, their children sent to be raised as Roman Catholic, and a period of forced religious conversion was begun. Many Huguenots were killed. The Protestant churches were destroyed. Of about 800 thousand Huguenots at the start of the period of oppression, approximately 550,000 of them recanted their faith (under pressure). About 250,000 left the country for Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and parts of Belgium. Others escaped to England, where they embarked for the West Indies and North America. The refugees were generally merchants, craftsmen, and weavers or skilled tradesman, including many well educated. Their flight was also France’s loss. The French King succeeded in ridding the country of the Huguenots, but the forces of unrest with the alliance between the King and the Catholic Church would continue, and within a hundred years both King and Church would fall in the French Revolution.

Though I’m not aware of having French blood, part of my family could have once lived as Huguenots in France and later escaped to elsewhere in Europe. Branches of my family, all Protestant, eventually came to America from England, Ireland, Germany, and Sweden. I’m hoping to do more with tracing the family roots in Europe while we are here.


Add Yours
  1. Brian Wilson

    You might find some interesting results at: http://www.23andme.com
    Their genetic analysis includes an interesting report of maternal and paternal population roots and the percentage of gene markers in various populations then converted to Countries…along with a lot of other cool and potentially useful information. You might find more surprises besides being a Hughonaught, I mean Huguenot….Phuque, I never have been good with French,
    Glad to see you are keeping up with your Blogging.

  2. Ed Forman

    A number of Huguenots also ended up in South Africa and mixed with the Dutch settlers to become the Africaaners (or Boers; together they were even bigger Boers!). You hear quite a number of French sounding names in South Africa, and that is why.

    It sounds like you guys are having far too much fun. Making the rest of us look bad. Keep it up!


  3. Ardis Morrow

    Wow, you are learning so much. Congrats and also thanks for passing it along. Of all the Hugeunots I am happy you are a survivor.
    Loved the maps also so I can see where you are in relation to Notre Dame. :You two certainly are the example
    of the perfect and FUN way to get an education. How wonderful you made the decision And thanks for being the ideal communicators I am enjoying each and every one.
    Brenda, we had our corned beef and cabbage Red Hat dinner last night. Your name was mentioned over and over. Only 7 of us and
    it was fun but we miss you.

  4. Daniel Fischer

    So ruling with an iron fist has never worked. The USA has benifited so many times from other countries oppressing thier people. The smart ones leave!!
    Ok I am going to take this oppourtunity to not rant and rave about religion. Any religion. Pick one.
    Keep the cards and letters coming and make sure to write when you find work! 🙂

  5. A short history of Paris - Much Ado About Paris

    […] The Protestant Reformation was also sweeping across Europe, and there were wars of religion from 1562 and 1598. This was a complex dispute between the English backed Protestant Huguenots, French Catholic League (a political group whose goal was to eradicate Protestantism), and the French King. Ultimately King Henry III is assassinated, and King Henry IV converts to Catholicism. The Huguenots were eventually converted or driven from France. […]

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