Frederic de Coninck Letters
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; Frederic remains distraught;
Jean de Coninck flees to Rotterdam; Frederic relocates to Greenway Court, Kent;
Marie Camin remains steadfast in prison; Frederic wavers; Francois abjures
This is when the mass migration of Huguenots
from France began in earnest.
22 October 1685 - Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
The fall of La Rochelle to Richelieu's army (1628) and the Peace of Alais (1629) marked the end of Huguenot political privileges. After 1665, Louis XIV was persuaded by his Roman Catholic advisers to embark on a policy of persecuting the Protestants. By a series of edicts that narrowly interpreted the Edict of Nantes, he reduced it to a scrap of paper. Finally, in 1685, he declared that the majority of Protestants had been converted to Catholicism and that the edict of 1598, having thus become superfluous, was revoked.
No French Protestants were allowed to leave the country; those who openly remained Protestants were promised the right of private worship and freedom from molestation, but the promise was not kept. Thousands fled abroad to escape the system of dragonnades, and several provinces were virtually depopulated. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes weakened the French economy by driving out a highly skilled and industrious segment of the nation, and its ruthless application increased the contempt in which England and the Protestant German states held the French king. Its object - to make France a Catholic state - was fulfilled on paper only, for many secretly remained faithful to Protestantism, while the prestige of the Roman Catholic Church suffered as a result of Louis' intolerance.
22 October 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
My incomparable mistress, my dear heart, I have just received your last letter. As soon as I saw the change in handwriting I couldn't help uttering a cry and showing those who were with me the grief that has gripped me for such a long time. Alas! My God, until your wrath descends upon us, O God, we pray for release, for the sake of liberty and benevolence, from this abominable place which I fear so much! And tell me, dear, will you always love me as much as I love you? I swear you an inviolable love that will last my whole life long. Yes, my dear sweetheart, I swear to you once more that I will never love anyone but you. My love is the most perfect one there is in the whole world. I die a thousand times each day I'm not with you. We had such wonderful plans to live together, and we vowed each other such tender affection. How can we be so far apart, perhaps never to see each other again!
Dear heart, what are you doing, and why are you being mistreated worse than the others? Please tell me why, and don't hide anything from me. Write me more. Tell me if you have any liberties and what anyone says to you. Tell me what you do and when you expect to leave. Love me always, dear sweetheart, and the promises I made you will forever be sincere. You vowed your love to me when we were together and we began to taste the sweet fruit of our marriage, but God ordained otherwise. He alone knows whether we'll ever see each other again. Alas! It can't be soon enough! I'll never be able to think about our last goodbye and separation without trembling and tears. But whatever calamity may befall us, or if God disposes of you, I promise that I will live as a perpetual widower and swear to you my eternal faithfulness. Promise me the same, my dear heart, and we will love constantly to the end.
You told me, dear mistress, that you don't know what will become of you, and that you're afraid you'll have to stay there for the rest of your life. Is this supposed to console me, or do you think I'm insensitive? Does this match with what you once told me that the greatest expression of love is to not leave one in deep sadness? No, I won't grant you what you ask. I won't promise something I don't intend to keep. Oh, my God, was I born to be so unfortunate? Nothing else but your coming here, dear Lover, will console me and calm my spirit. There is no misery in the world to compare with mine. I even have trouble taking food because I have no appetite. Meanwhile boredom and grief gnaws at my insides. There's no anguish and torment more horrible to equal the evils that I'm suffering. All I can say is that I can't go on living like this and I'm at the point of despair. Have pity on me, my dear heart. Restore my life. You know that only your coming will do that. So please come, I say. God will have pity on your indiscretion [to abjure].
If the Roman Religion wasn't so far removed from the worship that one must return to the true God, and abjuration was not a big deal, I would say go ahead and pull yourself smartly out of this wicked situation; undoubtedly God will forgive you. But, my heart, I won't give you this advice at all. I will sooner pray that God gives you a constancy and resolve that puts to shame such miserable people who always abandon or relax the truth.
Oh, my God, I succumb. Support me O Lord! I will go to spend some time in the country [with Daniel Crommelin] when I will be delivered [of my gloom(?)] and when my clothes have arrived from Hamburg which I don't know when to expect. However I won't be there for too long because I don't know exactly when I'll be getting news from you. Please continue, therefore, to write me and tell me everything.
I was told that you were only temporarily in the convent. Tell me your sentiments. Do, I bid you, tell me the truth. Tell me also if you received all my letters. I haven't missed writing you all my dispatches for a month. I must save you from there, my dear mistress, or die trying. Tell me exactly what state everything is in. Tell me where the convent is situated and whether I would be able to talk to you there. Tell me if there's any way to win over an abbess or other religious cleric. Let me know if you would be able to bear the fatigue of travelling by horse if we decide to flee by the post. Send me your measurements and I'll have some men's clothing made for you. At least give me some ideas that I don't have now and let me know what plan you believe to be better. We must have courage and resolve. If it doesn't succeed and we are discovered, I'll gladly suffer because it will be for you, dear heart, that I will risk exposure. Anyway, better to die than to stay a long time in the state that I'm in.
Reply to me about the above because I'm serious. My affliction is the worst I could receive in the world because if God had afflicted me by the loss of the few goods I have, I would already have gotten over it. But I lost a lot more. I lost you, dear mistress, who happens to be another me, myself. You, my dear heart, who are my total support. Come, therefore, to find me, my dear one. By any means come to find your dear and faithful Lover. Wipe away his tears. It is in your arms that I want to tell you all my hurts. Take pity on me and believe that I will always love you and that I am in continual anxiety for fear that you are being so mistreated that you won't endure the bitterness to the end. In God's name, write me often. Address your letters to Mr. Jean de la Chambre [in London] and take care to put an "F" ['Frederic'] in the corner... Goodbye, dear heart.
25 October 1685 - The first occurrence of the dragonnades in Normandy was at Rouen. Twelve companies of cuirassiers entered the town with swords drawn to force the heads of families to renounce their religion.
29 October 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
I passed last week in mortal anxiety for not having received your letters but, my dear heart, today I've just received yours of the 16th and 19th, the first one having been delayed. I received them with all the more joy, and seeing them written with ink, I assume you have that liberty. However this joy didn't last long because I see that you are still in the same state. Nevertheless they gave me a little consolation knowing that you are well. Please, I pray, continue to take care of yourself. Just think what state you'd put me in if you were to get sick in that cursed place! As for me, I'm not very well but it's only sorrow and sadness that causes me to feel this way.
I believe, dear mistress, according to what you wrote me that you will now have received your sentence. Consider, dear heart, the emotional state I'll be in until I know the verdict. Write me soon and tell me everything. May God by his Holy Spirit be present to touch the hearts of the judges. This is what I have prayed for continually so that I may see you again soon and declare verbally my ardent and sincere love for you. It's not something I can say anymore on paper because I can't find words strong enough to express my love. Come, my love. Come, and you will see by my caresses and my attentiveness how I will make you happy. You will see that the love I have for you is the purest and most sincere love in the world.
I will say better when you are with me the reasons that cause me to love you. It's true that your charms touched me from the first but the virtues I noticed in you thereafter touched me infinitely more. It's what made me vow to you a faithful and inviolable love that will last to the grave. Alas, my dear heart, I ask myself why must we pass the most beautiful period of our relationship in anguish and bitterness? If the hope that I still have of seeing you again someday doesn't sustain me, I'll inevitably succumb and will look for death as the price to pay. But my dear heart, please pray that God may forgive me for, assuredly, I have offended Him by murmuring against his holy providence and for not receiving the just chastisement it pleased Him to afflict us with. Pray that He might support me in the future with regard to your captivity by giving me more patience. May He bless us as we beg His forgiveness. I will end my appeal by praying for your liberty and that He brings you back in answer to my prayers. Then, dear mistress, may the winter not prevent you from coming. It isn't a big trip, and God will keep and support you. He will bring you to a safe harbor.
The 'North Downs' escarpment around Hollingbourne and Greenway Court where Daniel was living
I'm still here not having been able up till now to give up my transaction [to buy a large farm] although I offered to pay a half year lease not counting the down payment I made. I decided to offer nothing better. It isn't that the place isn't beautiful but the land of my uncle [Daniel Crommelin] is still better, not to mention his advice which would be a big help to us. Also it's too late to begin farming. We will take a smaller farm. Be assured, my love, that I will do nothing but for our common good. Yes, the loss saddens me a lot but, my dear heart, let's console ourselves by having each other again. By God's grace He will establish us and cause us to have a happy life. Meanwhile I'll spend as little as possible. I wish my affair were over. I pass some days in the country [with Daniel Crommelin] while waiting for you to come. If, however, I thought that your trial would put you at liberty, I would wait for you here. Happy will be the day when I see you again. I think I'll die from happiness.
You did well by not taking money from my brother. Allow me to state the reasons why you don't want to write him. He returned to me the letter I wrote you under his cover. I don't know why. He didn't even send Mr. Vanasseur a letter which I wrote him regarding you, much to my dismay. He says, however, that he appealed to the judges and that he took some pains which I have a problem believing. Finally he said that he would be coming here soon. This will be when it pleases him. I won't write him anymore. I begin to see, my dear, that I did well in not having returned the money to you [via Francois]. You can always request it from me whenever you want to be paid what is owing to you.
You will do well, as I mentioned in my last letter, to write your relative [her aunt who was contesting her parents' will] to make an end of her proxy at some price which it should be. Say that you are poor and that you don't have any assets because if you say the opposite, they will even keep what was awarded to you. Instead, when they see there will only be losses with you, they will simply put you aside.
I delivered to Mr. Cook the ring of mademoiselle de Caux. Now I'm patiently waiting to know from you what Mr. le Vanasseur had to say about me. I did myself an extreme oversight by not writing you about this instruction. I don't know how I can watch the post leaving without regretting how I'm unable to update you on the news and instructions but, dear heart, you know that you're the only cause of that. You've restricted me to writing you only every 8 days. I'll disappoint you by writing you everything that I'm doing here. Do the same, my dear sweetheart, and take care to have the postage paid to Paris. Give your letters to reliable people like mademoiselle Angloise. She was mistaken when she told you that I was complaining that I didn't get your letters because I did, in fact, receive all those you wrote me.
It isn't true that the Prince of Orange is now a papist. At least I myself haven't heard it mentioned, and there are very few who have changed [abjured]. There are some who did, but they are so few in number as to be insignificant.
I have been to the home of Madam Gaillard and that of Mr. Chardin who weren't home, therefore I don't know if Catherine received your letter. I would have gone back there again tonight but he lives one league [about 6 miles] from here at the other end of the city. Therefore I would have returned too late. However, I would have gladly written a complimentary letter as you requested but I would have had trouble forging your signature. She is quite bold to take such risks for a woman. You will get what you ask in your next set of instructions. I see you are alone in the place where you are, but that you're still quite happy despite your misfortune which leaves you a bit relaxed.
When I said to you, my dear heart, that there's no need for Mr. Camin to give me what belongs to you, it's because I believe it's safe with him, not for the reason you imagine. You pierce me, my sweetheart, to think otherwise and cause me to die. Alas! My God, if I thought I would go on living without you, I believe I would already be dead since I find the pain so overwhelming.
I wrote you on the 15th, 18th and 22nd which I believe you received alright. The last one was under cover of Mr. Loquin. Your cousin Camin at Faumur is engaged and I believe married in Holland. I still have several things to say but this will have to keep until Thursday. I don't know what to say now without shedding tears. Goodbye, my love, my dear mistress. Goodbye and please remember your dear and faithful lover, and take pity on him.
November 1685 - At Dieppe, eight companies of dragoons entered the town with swords drawn. Over a period of fifteen days of terror they forced over 4,000 Protestants to convert. 140 families escaped to Holland and England. Fifty citizens who refused to abjure their faith were imprisoned. After securing conversions in Dieppe, the dragoons dispersed into the surrounding country of the Pays de Caux.
8 November 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, in prison at Dieppe.
[Unbeknownst to Frederic, it would be exactly one year later that he would be able to marry his sweetheart...]
My dear sweetheart. My incomparable and very dear mistress. My burning love for you and my desire to see myself in possession of your dear person, who I love with so much affection for such a long time, was the cause of the advice I gave you which is the most pernicious that ever was. My crime is so black, and my bribe so big, that it is only with trembling that I hold the feather to write you. My fault is so much less pardonable since I don't think there's a man in the world who is as strongly persuaded regarding the purity and truth of our religion. Your admirable letters caused me to redden with embarrassment and rendered me so confused that I quickly detested with horror my perfidy and lack of kindness. The excellent passages of the holy scriptures that you employed so appropriately, and the beautiful rebukes you made me regarding the above caused me to return to them, and my eyes were opened. Therefore I beg your pardon with tears of remorse.
I am sharply touched at this very moment which causes me to believe that God will have compassion on me and that He will grant my prayer. My mistake was so big that I can't believe I made it, and for which I would carry all the blame. No, my dear heart, do not abandon this great God and He will not abandon you. He will support you in your struggles. It is for you to suffer with joy and patience all the evil to which you are called so that your steadfastness will be an example to those unfortunates who hastened to be crushed before they even offered any resistance. You support a noble cause which is that of the Savior of the world. Display your ineffable love for this same Savior who is the blessed eternal God along with the Father. Nevertheless He willingly became a man and took upon Himself flesh so that He might bear in our stead all the infirmities and sins of us wretches who are worse than dirt.
Ah, God, who will recompense you for so many good deeds! But again, this is not the whole Lord. He acquired for us the kingdom of heaven through the ignominious death which He suffered. He did this by taking upon Himself all the wrath and indignation of God that we deserved. After death He came back to life and ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us and to intercede for us until He comes to judge the world. You know what He will say to the evildoers, those whom He would have blessed, and the torments that are prepared for them. But He will also have consideration for those who loved Him until the end. He will have them stand amidst thrones and have crowns of glory placed upon their heads. He will have them taste exquisite delights and cause them to reign eternally with Him. Consider this, that if a God would do all this willingly for us, why would we ourselves not do it for Him - we who are but miserable worms of the earth! Our life is short. It is only a brief interlude compared to eternity.
Yes, dear heart, suffer constantly so that the interests of this world do not tempt you which are but threats and empty promises that form your prison. Suffering, death, and above all, our love, are nothing compared to Him, and what you owe your God. It is a mark of your election that you have so much courage and that God allows enemies of your well-being to be confounded by your words. Continue, dear heart, to pray that your faith does not weaken. This is the the whole object of my prayer, and also that I may be able to see you again soon. Be faithful even unto death and you will unfailingly have the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
I duly received your two letters of 24 and 28 October. I pray you to give instructions so that I receive exactly all your letters. I didn't receive one with the last post which bothers me and increases my sorrow. They are such a big consolation to me that I never get tired of reading them. Nothing in the world is better said or so scholarly. I take special care to keep them all so that posterity might know your virtues.
Continue, dear heart, to tell me all that you're doing and please don't hide anything from me for I suspect that you're telling me only a part of the truth. My dejection worries you so much that you won't tell me your sentence for fear of its effect on me. I note in your letters that you always look for some delay. I pray you in the name of God to tell me what it is so that I may be guided by it, or to see you once more before I die following which I will die happy. What makes me think you aren't telling me the whole truth is that I happen to know that the King's decree is for all the girls to be locked up for life. Therefore goodbye, my very dear lady. Goodbye my dear sweetheart. Only death now seems agreeable to me. Pray God that He recalls me to Him and cuts short my miserable days.
The most gracious thing I ask is that you send me your dear portrait so that in viewing it, and watering it often with my tears, I'll be able to end my life with something satisfactory and worthwhile. I'll take care to leave instructions that after my death it is to be put on my heart so that if I don't have the joy to see myself united with you in this world, I'll at least be satisfied that my body lies next to your dear and true resemblance. Yes, my dear heart, it reminds me how you once told me that you believed you would survive me, but in saying that you didn't realize that it would be you who would be the cause of my death. Since I can only like you by the principle of affection, my love is all the more extreme and I feel I'm consuming myself without being able to do anything about it. So come, my very dear sweetheart. Come, my dear mistress. Come and revive me. Come and bring life again to your faithful Lover. But in order that my letters aren't treated lightly, consult well my previous ones and come to some final decision because if you have the misfortune to be recaptured, you may well never write me again. On the contrary, you would have pity on me and you would be more kind to send an assassin to kill me for your sake. It would be my pleasure to spill my blood for him and thus be the happiest of all men.
I agree, dear Lover, that you stay where you are until the fury of the soldiers has passed [the dragonnades], or stay at the home of someone who is Catholic. [Perhaps Marie Camin was becoming eligible for some kind of house arrest outside the chateau or convent.] But to the end of time I hope you don't grow to like your prison and insensitively sets in to cause you to forget me. My dear heart, come to find me, I beg you in the name of our tender love, or at least permit me to go and see you either to serve as your guide or to say a last goodbye. God willing that in this moment I can expire in your presence so that you might be even more sure of the depth of my heart and the intense love I have for you.
You do well to say that you have no property. This is the the only way to have them put you outside. My brother Jean and his family are now in Holland and tell me I had been given all the courier dispatches. This letter will be the last one I write you from this city [London]. I leave before dawn on the day after tomorrow for the country [to reside with uncle Daniel Crommelin at Greenway court, Kent]. Take care to send me your letters there and in God's name grant me the grace to go and see you, and tell me in what manner I must do it. Tell me your thoughts and your final decision. Farewell, dear heart. I don't know what else to say because I'm in a hurry since the post is about to leave. I'll write you again tomorrow. I'll leave my letter here with Mr. Durand who will take care to have it put in the post on Monday. Farewell, my dear sweet mistress. I kiss you more passionately than ever. Remember your dear and faithful Lover. I fear the post is about to leave. Farewell, once more. Tomorrow the rest...
10 November 1685 - Frederic left London to reside in the countryside at Greenway Court, Kent with his uncle Daniel Crommelin, Anne Testart, and their two boys, Charles and Isaac.
Late November 1685 - In the last days of November 1685 the Protestants at Le Havre, terrorized by the imminent arrival of the dragoons, signed a collective renunciation.
4 December 1685 - Frederic at Greenway Court, Kent, England, received Letter #102a from his younger brother, Jean de Coninck, who had fled from Rouen to Rotterdam.
Monsieur My Brother
I just received your letter of 18/28 November by which I see that you know that by the grace of God we were able to escape the persecution of Egypt except for our little one [Catherine de Coninck ('Catin'), baptised at Quevilly on 4 February 1685.] She had to stay behind having been betrayed by a miserable wretch to whom we had entrusted her to take her away. What consoles me somewhat in this extremity is that some Catholic friends have taken her into their home and put her in a place of safety with a promise to have me take her as soon as the winter is over. I pray God that He allows this to happen.
Our miserable brother [Francois de Coninck] who preferred to stay and abandon the truth, has become somewhat of a hopeless case. May God be merciful to him as well as to our mother from whom I have just received a letter telling me that she was forced to do the same. [In the last days of November 1685 the Protestants at Le Havre, terrorized by the imminent arrival of the dragoons, signed a collective abjuration.]
We can only offer grateful thanks a thousand times over to this Great God who did us the distinct honour of pulling us out of that miserable country. Since this is nothing but the beginning of our preservation, we must continually pray that it pleases Him to grant us His protection to the end so that we might be faithful to Him even unto death.
I don't have any news from mademoiselle Mayon [Marie Camin], and to tell you the truth, she made me believe there's little that can be done to extract her from the misfortune in which she has fallen. She also deigned not to give me the honor of carrying any of her letters, or to solicit me directly or indirectly regarding any proceedings in her favor. This isn't to say that I didn't try to see some people to gain a more moderate judgment, but it can't be done this way in France where the devil is loose. May God strengthen her more and more and make her an example of steadfastness and perseverance as He did before. Rest assured that I will always pray for her to this end so that she might be able to leave that wicked prison to be united with you.
With regard to your suggestion that we form a partnership in the renting of a farm that seems to be close to our uncle, it would please me quite well to have him as our neighbor. However, all our friends here advise me not to cross quickly over to England but to spend the winter here and see how business in this country will go. Frankly, it doesn't seem pleasant to have gone out of one abyss only to be plunged back into another. Having decided to follow this advice I can't accept your proposition.
My wife is obliged to you for your remembrance. She greets you affectionately. We pray that you convey the same to our uncle and aunt, being quite sorry not being able to be in their midst. I myself would have liked that. Mister Camin has been at Rotterdam for two days. I am, monsieur my brother, your very humble and obedient servant, Jean de Conincq
5 December 1685 - Meanwhile, in Paris, Andre Crommelin, a banker, was arrested on this day and put into the Bastille for his affiliation with the R.P.R. (reformed Protestant Religion). His incarceration was to last until late December 1686 despite his early abjuration. He later fled to Holland.
12 December 1685 - Frederic at Greenway Court, Kent, received Letter #103 from Mother at Le Havre.
I received your last two letters with enclosures to which I couldn't respond because of the recent afflictions here. This mortal blow came down suddenly upon us so I couldn't say a lot on this subject. God is our fortress and our hope. May God give me the grace to persevere. You know what those at Rouen did. Most of them yielded and only a few remained steadfast. Those at Dieppe are resigned to await all. There arrived 4 or 5 companies at Harfleur and Montiviller. The fear was so great that they ran like crazy to sign [the abjuration papers] without anyone having to beat it out of them. There were vessels cruising along the coast up to Calais and smaller boats along the coast. I died myself. Pray God ardently for us that He rebukes the winds and calms the storm. I had quite a struggle for you but our Lord told us that we must lose all to follow Him.
In my opinion if I were in your place, I would prefer to undertake nothing this year and see how things turn out. I hear there is already some noise where you are. I've heard nothing from poor Mayon and I don't know where your older brother is either which bothers me a lot. Tell me if you use Mr.Lelarge as an address for your letters and if he does anything for Mayon.
My dear one, we await the grace of God so that no dragoons are sent to our house. There are plenty enough in this city to come.
Regarding what you wish, this is rather impossible at the present time. As for the letter of 1500 livres that expires next month, you must have somebody send it to Rouen where notice will be given in this city so that orders can be made at Rouen to satisfy it because I don't know what Godefroy can do. I don't know whether he'll be able to do it or not. Adieu, my dear one. I can't do it for you any longer.
I kiss you all, my dear, and pray with all my might that our divine Savior, who willingly died for us, blesses and keeps you. I greet my brother [Daniel] and my sister [Anne Testart] and all our friends, and we commend ourselves to their good prayers. Everyone is in mortal fright in all places, Paris also.
14 December 1685 - Jacob Crommelin signed his abjuration papers in Paris following an ultimatum that Secretary of State, Seignelay, made to a large group of Parisien businessmen.