French Refugees in Great Britain - Introduction

French Refugees in Great Britain in the early 1700s


Between the late 1500s and the early 1700s religious persecution in France caused many French protestants to flee their homeland and some ended up in, or passed through, Great Britain. These people were later referred to as Huguenots but there was no reference to this term in the source publications for this website.

In 1685, King Charles the Second declared 'That he held himself obliged, in Honour and Conscience, to comfort and support all such distressed Protestants, who, by reason of the Rigors and Severities, which were used towards them upon the Account of their Religion, should be forced to quit their native Country, and should desire to shelter themselves under his Royal Protection'. A report tabled in the House of Commons in 1688 found the money collected to assist the refugees , totaling sixty five thousand pounds, to have been faithfully employed in the previous three and a half years. An ongoing method of using taxes to raise the funds the future needs of seventeen thousand two hundred pounds per annum was proposed.

In 1691, Sir Robert Clayton presented a petition to the House of Commons detailing the circumstances of the French protestant refugees, which were estimated as upwards of thirty thousand at that time, three thousand of whom required assistance. In 1691, in another report, it was resolved to supply the funds to his majesty King William to assist the refugees. French and English committees were nominated to oversee the distribution of the funds.

Through the reign of Queen Anne funds from the Royal Bounty were being allocated to be distributed to the poor French refugees. Twelve thousand pounds in 1705 and in 1707.

After complaints against the distribution, from both the recipients and the general public, it was moved that the accounts be published for everyone to see the funds were distributed with justice and candor. At the end of the accounting period the accounts of distribution were received and reviewed by the English committee and the details of the payments were published. Publishing the accounts in 1705 was also seen as 'an authentick Monument of the Charity of Our August Queen and the English Nation'

During the reign of King James the funds distributed in the three years and three months 1721 to 1724 was thirty nine thousand. It was estimated upwards of seven thousand persons shared in the distribution of the funds in those years.

The accounts of distribution were published for the years 1705 and 1707, and for the three year and three month period of 1721 to 1723 ending March 1724.

The accounts consist of names listed alphabetically in different categories, such as class (Gentleman, Commoner, etc), pest-house (or hospital in the later accounts), schools, churches and orphans, and the payment received. Some accounts contain sub-headings for the localities of Westminster/Soho and London/Spitalfields. Some accounts are again sub-divided by district. These pages are a collation of the lists of recipients of payments.

Surname Sorting
French surnames often consist of two or more words and are not listed alphabetically by the first letter of the first word (e.g. 'de la Mare' is listed under M). Because these same names are often Anglicized to form one word, such as 'Delamare', I have listed all names by the first letter of the first word, regardless of the number. This way 'de la Mare' and 'Delamare' are listed together.
Sometimes the first word appears to have been dropped altogether, e.g. 'de Michaille' becomes 'Michaille'. This does not seem to be the usual practice but is something to watch out for.

Surname Spelling
The spelling I have used is what was published. There are a number of instances where it appears as if an error has been made - that is quite possible but it is not for me to decide what is correct. The original accounts would have been handwritten. These accounts from various sources, such as the pest house or hospital, and representatives from the different districts, would then have been interpreted and collated for the printer, and would again have been written out by hand. The printer would then have interpreted those lists to set up the printed pages. So there were many opportunities for mistakes to be made - interpreting different accents, different handwriting. Sometimes lateral thinking is needed.


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Website created & maintained by Elisabeth Burton. Last updated 11-Mar-2004 .