The Huguenots and the Camisard Rebellion
If you were a French Protestant anytime between the 1530s and the 1780s, save for pockets of “normality” that were far too short, you were subject to death or at least to bitter persecution and intolerance. The Huguenots truly were a “martyr church,” but when King Louis XIV stamped out Protestantism in 1685, many could not imagine leaving their homeland. Thus they settled in the mountains and gorges of the Cévennes region. These particular Huguenots are now known as Camisards, a term which seems to come from their clothing.
Their newfound life was less violent but far from peaceful. Eventually the Huguenots hoped to return home and to restore their rights, and with these goals in mind, they launched a covert attack against the hated dragoons. The dragoons embodied cavalier cruelty in Protestant minds. These men were well-known for destroying homes and human lives with equal indifference. In 1702 the “Camisard Rebellion” began. Hidden Huguenots sallied forth out of the Cévennes to detect and battle the dragoons.
The rebellion grew hot with the murder of François de Langlade du Chayla, a Catholic of high standing in the Cévennes region. He had taken it in mind to return Cévennes Huguenots to the Catholic fold, and his inflammatory statements against Protestants made him many enemies. A few very misguided individuals put Langlade to death. Suddenly, Catholics in the surrounding area were reminded that they had not been “cleansed” of the Protestant presence and thus took up arms against the Huguenots. The Huguenots, in return, put together a ragtag army and fought in many engagements without a clear idea of how to engage the enemy.
There were some Protestants who actually sided with the king’s army, ostensibly to avoid injury, but they were not spared. In 1703 much of the Cévennes was destroyed in raids in which the majority of homes were burned. The fighting in the Cévennes was small-scale compared to the kind of warfare there might have been if all France’s hidden Huguenots had rebelled, but here it was like a miniature battle of good versus evil. Of course, each side attributed the designation of evil to their enemies.
In the gorges and villages the guerrilla-like warfare was intense. Protestants refused to lie down and succumb as they felt they had been forced to do in 1685. A treaty known as the Calvisson Truce was finally ratified in May 1704. Soldiers fell into an uneasy silence. Many thought that, with the king having seen that they would not be repressed and that they would not allow their followers to be wooed away, he would allow them to practice Protestantism openly. This was not to be.
Fighting again broke out, and hostilities were not completely ended until 1715. By that time much of the Cévennes lay in ruins. Tensions ran high. The Protestants, who had experienced temporary euphoria with the belief that they could fight and win back their freedoms, were crushed. But they continued the ‘Church in the Desert,’ and they still met in the wilderness to sing and praise God. Such a spirit could not be crushed.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved