Frederic de Coninck Letters
Translation Project

Jean is undecided about joining Frederic in farming; death of Rachel Tacquelet;
Mr. Oursel suffers a financial setback;
after hiding in Paris, Marie Camin prepares to leave for England from Rotterdam

3 August 1686 - Letter # 109A from Jean de Coninck at Rotterdam to his brother, Frederic de Coninck, at Greenway Court, Kent.

3 August 1686

Monsieur my brother

I received in good time yours of 17/27 June. I'm sorry about the worry I caused you by using a black seal. Thank God all is well at our place, although my wife brought into the world another girl since the last letter I wrote you. There is no longer a curtain around her bed since she had an easier childbirth than the first one in every way and, thankfully, she's a perfectly good wet nurse. One can say this is a blessing from God because wet nurses are exorbitantly expensive in this country and so few in number that one can get ruined trying to satisfy them. The mourning at our place was for my wife who lost her father suddenly after being struck for one or two days by a paralysis and apoplexy.

As for the things which concern you, I'm extremely sorry to hear about the long confinement of one who I already view as my sister. I indeed share in your affliction which I don't doubt is immense. You know that she experiences what I did, not that the one who is presently my wife was ever reduced to an equally grievous extremity as mademoiselle Mayon, but it suffices to love tenderly and then to see the obstacles to one's love - a love that grows in proportion to the hardships and cruel anxiety. God willing, He'll put an end to all your difficulties by returning to you the one for whom your heart aches. And may He bestow upon you His most precious blessings.

I'm pleased to hear that my uncle will apparently have such a good harvest. May it successfully live up to expectations. I'm most obliged that he offers me his house. God willing someday I'll be in a position to accept his offer. I would certainly spend my time better in every way near him than I do here. But as one says, 'a scalded cat is afraid of water'. Having left France because of the persecution, I fear the plans of the king of England because I'm not convinced that he has good intentions with regard to religion. Not that I think he'll ever make Catholicism dominant in England, but that despite all his efforts it will become factious and cause the country to be torn by civil war unless he clarifies his intentions. He may, on the other hand, get wise counsel which is pleasing to God and leave his kingdom in peace by upholding a religion that doesn't conflict with the laws of the State. Then there would be good beliefs without trouble, and life would be tranquil.

In any case, if I come it won't be until next spring. I can't say more at present. I'm not absolutely sure I won't be leaving Holland because of things here that displease both me and my wife, and plenty of other French people. Many of them have turned toward England, some having left for London and your area. I'm grateful for your kind offer to form a sort of society by having us buy some land together. Again, I can't reply definitely in the affirmative. In any case, if I cross over and we can't be together, I would make every effort that we be close neighbours so that we could be of mutual aid and company for each other. That way we could pass our days in peace, gentleness, and true brotherly harmony. I don't despair that this might not happen some day, God willing.

I've unrolled your paintings as per your instructions and will keep them until you ask for them. I also note that besides me you aren't getting any letters from our brother [Francois] either. I wrote him one when I arrived here [in Rotterdam] but haven't received any response. I thought he took a rather dim view of my exhortations to consider the misery he'll buy through neglecting to flee - something he was able to do, and something I again emphatically urged him to do when I said goodbye.

Since I returned from Amiens two days ago I learned that he wrote our cousin Le Prestre [Second husband of Maria Crommelin, daughter of Jean Crommelin and Elisabeth Marin. He was an officer in the service of the French king. He lived in Guise and had no children.] about his sad apostasy, undoubtedly to look favorable to them for having received some compensation. You and I know it's the end of his small inheritance, therefore he spun out this sad story about his abjuration. In any case, what bothers me most is not being in a position to help him any longer. I would like to do that while he can still leave that quagmire in which he has sunk miserably, and to see him live elsewhere. I know he isn't wanted by others, not just because they fear the extra burden they would assume, but because of the humiliation of seeing a brother here with no money but plenty of vanity, having reputedly brought with him more than 300,000#, although not justified. What wasn't left behind was his boasting and I who, by the grace of God, am not burdened by them who would rather believe it than see me make the least criticism.

I still have ten thousand francs in the bank with nothing owing to anybody which I still hope to get my hands on with God's help. I ask only that I'm able to earn enough money to live quietly and raise my little family honestly. If Mr. Oursel still pays me what he owes, which amounts to about 6000#, and if I get some satisfaction from the estate of my wife who is an heiress of her father, along with other brothers and sisters, I would consider myself fortunate compared to so many other refugees from France who had lots of goods but who travelled here with nothing. I know several who hardly have enough to buy bread which happens to be unusually expensive here.

But to return to our brother, I was hesitant to write him again but a letter will go out on the first vessel that leaves for Rouen in order to save him the cost of postage. I mean to reproach him mildly for his error and so get him to think more about what's best for him.

Like you I also have sympathy for our poor mother. She is presently in Paris near our grandmother who won her lawsuit to recover her costs and interest. She will soon be back at Rouen where I hope she'll begin working to retrieve my poor little 'Catin' from where she is staying so I can have her again. [Catherine de Coninck, Jean's 1-year old daughter, was being cared for by a friendly Catholic family in Rouen. She was unintentionally left behind when the family fled to Rotterdam. See 4 December 1685 letter.]

Miss Genevotte Lelarge [daughter of Mr. Lelarge of Dieppe], cousin of Miss Mayon who resides at Rouen with Mr. Camin, came here to do her renunciation of Papism and to declare the truth which she did in secret 8 or 10 days ago in the consistory because of fears that her father and other relatives might be informed at Rouen and that it brings about unpleasant repercussions for them. He always conceals somebody and hardly a Sunday goes by, or even during the week, that someone isn't recognized. There were four more recently.

I believe you're quite busy right now in this season and month of August helping our uncle while learning how to harvest and also hunting which I can't think about without some regret. I'm also spending my time peacefully and innocently in a country equally as pleasant as England.

My wife thanks you for your kind thoughts and good wishes which God has performed. She greets you affectionately. We pray you do the same for us to our uncle and Crommelin family. It may not be possible, my brother, to always live in perfect harmony or brotherly concord, but be sure that I'm not one who can hold a grudge over some grievance. Therefore it is I who pray that we might live together as true brothers ought to, and in every way I'll be useful if you'll be able to employ me since it will be my great pleasure to oblige you and show you that I am truly,

Monsieur my brother,
Your very humble brother and servant
Jean de Conincq

Death of Rachel Tacquelet

10 August 1686 - Frederic's grandmother, Rachel Tacquelet, widow of Jean Crommelin, died at Paris on Rue St. Bussy (Buci), at the home of Mr. Moivre, innkeeper of the 'Image St. Raimond'. She was 77 years old. She was interred in St. Sulpice cemetery 17 August 1686 in the time of persecution. Assisting were, son, Jacob Crommelin, banker at Paris and Jeremie Burgeat, merchant businessman of Paris and husband of her grandaughter, Catherine Crommelin (daughter of Louis Crommelin and Marie Mettayer). Rachel Tacquelet was the mother of the surviving siblings, Catherine, Jacob, Daniel and Esther Crommelin. Having abjured shortly before her death, she was eligible to be buried at this Catholic church. (See also Bulletin of Protestantism Francaise 1858, Bulletin p485, 495)

The building at No. 28 Rue de Buci also displays the old name for this street, Rue de Bussy.
Click to enlarge.

The adjacent building (on the left), No. 30 Rue de Bussy, is where Rachel Tacquelet lived, and died.
Presumably this is also where Marie Camin went into hiding after her bail expired.
From here she fled to Holland and then over to England to marry Frederic.
Click to enlarge.
Picture source:

[From Jay Robbins:
In 1684, Remond Cazaulx de la Salle put his house under the protection of his patron saint by hanging there a sign "L'Image Saint-Remond". Then, for fifteen years at least, he maintained his proprietorship and commerce as a grocer - apothecary.

His presence is indicated to us in 1652 by a receipt for the payment of property tax by him to the Abbey and, in 1658, by his assistant. As master grocer he performed an oath at the swearing-in of a new member of his guild, but by 1666 he no longer existed and his widow succeeded him.

A painter, named Louis Machre, no doubt living in one of the apartments of the house died in that year. The act of burial at Saint Sulpice mentions that his body was taken 'to the home of Madame de la Salle, grocer, rue de Bussy.'

Similarly, in 1670, the lady widow Cazaulx de la Salle, who again paid the property tax. But she soon died and in 1678 Miss Anne Cazaulx made her declaration as heiress of her deceased father and mother, and proprietor of the house having as its sign: "L'Image Saint Remond".

Source: BULLETIN DE LA SOCIETE HISTORIQUE DU SIXIEME ARRONDISSEMENT, Vol. 8 1905, Published by Maire VI Arrondissement, Place Saint Sulpice, Paris ]

Jacob Crommelin, who signed his mother's act of burial, completed a genealogical history of the Crommelin family in 1712, in his 70th year. This account appears in Scheffer's book that was published in 1878. When Jacob signed this, he was a banker at Paris. Meanwhile his wife, Elisabeth Testart, had already fled to England aboard the Huguenot vessel "La Rochelle" with 5 daughters. In 1708 Jacob and Elisabeth resumed their married life in Holland.

St. Sulpice, Paris - watercolor by Francois-Etienne Villeret

Rachel may have been buried in the 3rd cemetery of St. Sulpice located at the NE corner of the church [known as the Aveugles cemetery] that was opened in 1664 [below, bottom right hand corner]. This cemetery was closed in 1784 on the eve of the French Revolution during a period when all parochial cemeteries were being shut down. The act of her burial in this church is missing because all the burial registers were destroyed during the revolution. [It isn't known how the signed act above came to be housed in the Protestant museum in Paris.] During this turbulent period even the cemetery graves were looted for the purpose of stealing lead coffins to make bullets.

The human remains were exhumed and likely put into a mass grave without proper identification inside the crypt of St. Sulpice - a vast labyrinth of catacombs that exists under the main floor of the church at the level of its foundations.

Source of photos:

The crypt of St. Sulpice Church, Paris



Greenway Court, England
18 August 1686

Monsieur Jean Camin [at Rotterdam]

I indeed received your letter of the 6th of this month with a remittance of f30 on Mr. Jean Durand in your favor to the credit of what is owed to mademoiselle, your cousin. I sent it to London in order to procure what is necessary. I can't say exactly how much of the balance you owe. I believe that you can calculate it as well as me.

When I left Rouen I gave you about f2000 on my account for which you gave me your cheque which I have returned. On this you remitted to me last year f2330:18:68. The surplus is for the account of my mistress. She informed me that she received at Rouen recently from your part f600 besides 20 louis d'or that you gave her before leaving. You also paid some expenses for me which you deducted. So that's what I understand you will use in calculating your cheque for the balance outstanding. With regard to the currency exchange, I leave it to your conscience to tell us if it was more advantageous for us when you left Rouen than it is for us now, and with regards to interest you can give me whatever pleases you. I know that in London I could have had it all earning interest.

I can't help mentioning in passing, monsieur,


my surprise that this matter has been dragging on for so long. It's been over a year that my mistress strongly appealed to you to put an end to it. You would have pleased me to at least tell me the reasons why you hadn't done it. Nevertheless, I didn't want to press the issue for two reasons. The first is because there are certain nasty and dangerous individuals who are envious of my future happiness who spread several rumours that are completely false and who can only be inspired by a malicious spirit. But far from these sorts of people coming to realize their plans, their sordid artifices served only to unite us even more strongly and caused us to renew our solemn vows to be faithful to each other until death.

The other reason is for you to make known that even if mademoiselle your cousin shouldn't have any money, I wouldn't esteem her any less for that, and my love for her wouldn't diminish in any way. I would be even happier to possess a person like her who is endowed with excellent virtue and of such rare piety. I hope that it pleases God that I will soon have this good fortune for which I've been given some hope. Therefore, monsieur, I will await the outcome of your promises in response to this letter. In order that this affair might be finished once and for all, and never spoken of to advantage, or to cause us more grief, I will take care to return your cheque and if perchance my mistress needs any money, I can see that she gets it [from you] in the evening or by the next day. This must not embarass you.

With regard to our country, I live quite modestly, hardly spending anything. The only problem is that I'm afflcited by such a great sadness that it's a wonder I haven't died from it. Thanks be to God, He will do me the grace to return to me the one person who you know is so dear and precious. I intend to assume a quiet life, one that's tranquil, without a lot of anxiety, and at last to live happily because I need a good homemaker. As soon as she gets here, I'll plant myself in the ground so I won't be uprooted for a long time. She makes me hope that she'll be here before the St. Michel holiday and she gives me all the power and authority to begin my etablishment. It is in this view and fear of being supplanted that I have begun to talk business. Nearby there is a very beautiful and good piece of property that costs about f130 or 40 but since it's a bit big for me to begin with, my uncle who does wonders, and who wishes to expand, will undertake half. If God blesses my work as I hope, I'll be able to expand myself someday.

I was in too much of a hurry when I arrived in this country and I had the misfortune to confide in people who didn't give me faithful advice. Besides that, the captivity of my mistress put me in a depression that rendered me totally useless and defeated. I did well to have desisted from engaging in any business and I couldn't have gotten ahead. But now it's no longer like that. I know the layout of the countryside fairly well and I have the advice of remarkable friends who are plenty considerate and friendly to me. Now I won't undertake anything without prudence and, God willing, I'll succeed. All things considered, it would be most unfortunate if I don't find a life here with honor.

I will close by wishing you all sorts of felicitations, praying that you will grant me your friendship so that we might live in the future fraternally without any rancor. As for me, I look forward to being of service to you which I hope to do more than you think.


Greenway Court, England
18 August 1686

Monsieur Jean de Coninck [at Rotterdam]

I slipped this note in with the one for Mr. Camin to tell you that I wrote you on June 17 in response to one of your letters and because I haven't heard from you since this time I fear that my letter may have been lost which I find disturbing. Undoubtedly you will have learned that my mistress gives me more hope than ever, and she even makes me hope that she'll be here soon. That's why I'm trying now to get myself settled.

I'm about to take a property nearby consisting of more than 400 acres but since this enterprise is a bit too big for me to begin with, my uncle who wishes to expand will take half. We would have been most pleased if you had come to see for yourself as we had hoped you would. Perhaps you wouldn't regret it when you get a taste for how we live and then you could be enrolled in our partnership. In our neighborhood there are 2 or 3 farms for rent that would suit you very well. Talk it over and if your heart is in it, then tell us the news. I'm sure you will find here a certain peace and tranquility which you don't find where you are now. Waiting to know how you decide, I am...

"Kent, sir - everybody knows Kent - apples, cherries, hops and women" - thus Charles Dickens described Kent in 'The Pickwick Papers'. It was here that Julius Caesar landed in 55 BC and uttered the immortal line: "I came, I saw, I conquered". Under King Henry VIII The king's fruiterer planted the first apple and cherry trees in Teynham, establishing Kent's reputation as the 'Garden of England'.

This region was notable for growing grain. In later years hops became a major cash crop to service various breweries in England and led to the annual 'hopping' phenomenon that saw many unemployed people from London flock to the countryside in Kent to help bring in the hop harvest.

"Hopping" is a novel set in wartime London when some 250,000 war-weary East-Enders made their way to the hopgardens of Kent. Amongst them are two Crommelin sisters, Franny and Daisy, whose intrigues and love affairs with two Baker boys, Jack and Harold, provide the plot for the story. This book is a kind of 'docu-drama' because of all the factual information that provides the realistic backdrop for the novel.

24 August 1686 - Received Letter #111 from Mother at Paris to Frederic at Greenway Court. Replied 25 August.

21 August 1686

My very dear son

I am back in this city, my dear mother having summoned me to come immediately to assist her in her illness which had taken a violent turn. I asked for some details from your uncle who will do that for you. God took her home 9 or 10 days into her illness with an admirable steadfastness and resolute spirit on the 16th of this month. You can imagine, my dear child, how much this separation has hurt me, to see myself deprived of such sweet consolation which I have received in all my afflictions. I have no regrets because this would offend God, and she died the death of the just.

It worried me that I might see what I would rather not see, and that was the apprehension I had. However she didn't take anything because she was vomiting. This good mother gave to all her blessing - to all her children and grandchildren. She told me on my previous trip that your aunt du Chemin [Esther Crommelin] would give you the usual present [the 10 louis d'or] and that she had given her the instructions. I hope that she will have done it. I wrote her a word last Monday. My mother also wrote her last will and since she wished that it be divided amongst her children, I'll send a copy to your uncle which you can see.

As for your dear mistress, the bail was discharged and she received six hundred livres. Don't worry about anything, you know what I am. Keep the stub until someone asks you for it. It's enough that you have it. Believe that I'm looking for every opportunity but it's quite difficult, so be patient. God will finish his work when it pleases Him. Keep a firm hold of yourself. We must have patience because we see things that are going so much against us. However, our Lord will give us deliverance when it will please Him.

My dear child, when I return, I'll try to replace your clothing. Since you are in the country, it seems to me that you only need a black doublet, a hatband for your hat, and black bottoms. I can't make you a very big present being dealt quite a blow. I'm not ready to touch any of my inheritance. My portion is quite small since my mother lost a lot. It's necessary to work and try to remain pious with contentment. The spirit is a great boon. Nothing must get you down. Time will turn everything around. Goodbye my dear son. I kiss you. I am...

25 August 1686

Madam Caterine Crommelin

I duly received the letter you did me the honour to write on the 21th of this month which informed me with great regret about the death of my grandmother. My sorrow is all the greater since she tenderly loved all her children and because of her rare piety which was an admirable example to all. Nevertheless as you say, it would be an offence to God to regret it in a time when the Church is being so cruelly persecuted by the enemies of the truth. May God do us the grace to reach an equally good end and to prepare us to follow Him when He judges it appropriate. I can't admire enough the fact that this good woman had the kindness to remember to order my aunt du Chemin to hand over to me the usual gift. I know it's been more than a year and a half that she received the same instruction, however she hasn't done a thing about it. She's quite negligent and hasn't hurried up in any way therefore if you don't have the kindness to have me get it some other way, I'll likely never get anything.

I want to thank you most humbly for the nice present of clothing which you are giving me. If you have trouble getting it to me, please give it to my dear mistress who may need it, or she could even bring it over with her. Next week I'm going to have a suit made as per your instructions. I'll take care that it's a bit more decent than the usual thing so that it will serve at our wedding.

Last week we received a letter from Saint Quentin from Madam de la Vaisse who wished me all the best. Afterward I wrote to my mistress that she has to go immediately to P[aris]. I don't doubt...


that you had the kindness to recommend her to someone and to advise her where she can stay. In the name of God do all that you can for her so that I can see her again soon. If this business fails there won't be a quarter of me left. I will be inconsolable and I don't know what my despair will drive me to undertake. I hope nevertheless that God will do us the grace that all will succeed for His glory and our well being. It is in this hope that I continue to work on getting myself established. I have even begun to enter into discussions over land that is near here which serves our needs quite well. But I can't commit to enter into this before my mistress gets here because otherwise I would die of sorrow to see myself alone there. I need a good homemaker. May God keep you in health and prosperity for a long time to come. I am...

10 October 1686 - Received Letter #112 from Mother at Rouen to Frederic at the home of Daniel Crommelin at Greenway Court.

1 October 1686

My very dear son

I write you this letter on the advice of your brother who tells me that you write via your cousin Laurens of London who is away. Therefore I haven't written you. I was at Le Havre for nearly 3 weeks regarding the return of our unfortunate vessel which came back on the 12th or 14th of last month without carrying a single barrel of oil which devastates me. It would have been much better value for us if it had just sunk. I found Mr. Oursel in such a depression that I've never seen him in before. He hasn't been able to sleep for over 8 days because he had such hopes that this trip would be a good one. However, the good Lord who knows better than we do what's necessary, didn't find it appropriate. Blessed be His name. It seems that it's necessary for us to stay here and suffer.

I just returned yesterday evening because of the illness of your sister Manon [Marie Oursel]. Since I left them, all three have come down with chicken-pox. Since last Thursday when she began to get sick she's gotten a lot worse. I hoped she would be the only one to get it, but it spread around well. Anyway, man proposes but God disposes. Otherwise these concerns are the most disturbing ones right now.

It's been a long time since I've heard from our poor Mayon [Marie Camin]. I don't know if she's still in Paris. It's annoying that the opportunity doesn't present itself. I believed the matter was infallible - the one by whom you could communicate with her. I assure you that it's quite difficult. Those outside can't believe it. There are some happy ones and some unfortunate ones. Mr. Congniard, candy maker, was arrested in Paris and people are in anguish over him. My dear son, may God give you patience. The time will come when it pleases God, and when we least expect it.

I heard you say that you have rented a large farm in partnership with my brother. May God bless you by his grace. You know I enjoy seeing people outside so that it's good to send me a memento. You know what I mean, so don't doubt anything. Send it when it's convenient. Give my love to my brother and sister. I recommend myself to them as well. I wish ardently to embrace them all. Don't worry. One must have patience in all things. I kiss you with all my heart and am...

Greenway Court, England
18 October 1686

Monsieur Jean Camin

I'm so relieved I can hardly believe it. I received a letter from my mistress telling me that she arrived alright at Mons, and I believe that she's now at your place. I'm sorry to hear that she has injured her arm, however she gives me hope that it won't amount to anything and that consoles me somewhat. I'll leave tomorrow without fail following her instructions to get myself as fast as possible to Harwich which is where the paquet boat from La Brille arrives. Therefore I hope to be there before you get this letter.

Please make sure I'm not there for too long because I'm worried to death and if mademoiselle your cousin hasn't left yet, please recommend her to the captain. I am most grateful and thank you and my sister for the good wishes you have extended to me, and the affection you have shown by your invitation to come and visit you. I would very much like that, but this will have to be for another time if you don't mind. Besides I would have trouble leaving right now. I can't make a trip like this that costs so much. I have to be a good steward and spend as little as possible, but this isn't to say that it won't be possible after the first good harvest.

I wonder if my sister could request from Mr. du Chemin the 10 louis d'or [gold coins - the long awaited wedding gift from Rachel Tacquelet] which my grandmother gave him with instructions several times to give them to me. I repeat to you the same request. Since I believe him to be an honest man he only has to expedite what's on his conscience. If he gives in to reason, please give them to my mistress. Enclosed is a letter for her and if she has already left, please return it to me. I greet you affectionately and am...