Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14, 2012

France in the New World: Nicolas le Challeux of La Caroline

Who was Nicolas le Challeux? Perhaps he was known in great detail only to his friends. History has certainly kept silent about this Huguenot gentleman who survived the raid of the French colony of La Caroline in September 1565. He must have been permanently scarred --- emotionally if not physically --- by the bloodshed he witnessed, by the visions of friends being slaughtered while half-asleep. He mentions in his memoirs that, at age sixty, he did not believe himself to be of any particular strength, but that he was able to leap over a nearby wall when the Spanish soldiers drew near. That visual has always intrigued me. It must have brought a ghost of a smile to the lips of those who watched, even as their terror urged them to defend themselves however possible.

Little is known of le Challeux’s previous life. He would have been born around 1505, thus, would have been baptized a Catholic. It must have been exciting and perhaps frightening to watch as Protestant thought spread throughout France. Did he convert to the Huguenot faith as a child, as a young man, as an older adult? Who were his friends and family? Did he ever have a wife or children? While this information is near impossible to find, the extreme pathos of his situation at La Caroline --- his raw fear, momentary strength and resolve, and dogged determination to survive --- makes him come alive even with so many facts missing.

In his Discours, le Challeux writes of his escape from La Caroline to wherever safety might be found. “And when we really thought we were at the last period of our lives we hugged one another, and with communal affection we began to sigh and to cry to the Lord, complaining of our sins, and recognizing the rigors of His judgment upon us.” This is telling. This mirrors the Huguenot spirit. These rain-drenched refugees, having escaped one of the worst situations they could have ever imagined, do not erroneously blame God as many men both past and present have done. Instead they trust Him to protect and guide them no matter the circumstances, and they lament their own sinful natures. Thus is the Christian spirit. 

Nicolas le Challeux returned to France after an arduous journey he would have preferred to forget. It must have been immensely difficult to take a stab at a “normal” life after everything he had seen and endured, but somehow he persevered. I have no doubt it was his faith that carried him through.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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