Frederic de Coninck Letters
Translation Project

Jean de Coninck waits for news about 'Catin'; Marthe Duval gets sick; Robert Oursel looks for work;
Mayon and Fredric finally get married; Manon contracts chicken-pox; Catherine thinks about fleeing

2 November 1686 - Frederic at Greenway Court received Letter #113A from Jean de Coninck in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam, Holland
28 October 1686

Monsieur my brother

Since the 3rd of August I didn't have the opportunity to write you. I benefited from the letter of Miss Mayon who pleasantly surprised me eight days ago when she disembarked directly in front of our house. I assure you that I was extremely worried by the news that one receives here continually about the people who have been arrested at the borders, but fortunately she has proven her trust in God who remained faithful in protecting her. It is indeed glorious for her thus to have gotten out so favorably and through her patience and perseverence overcome so many obstacles. Thus, then, your wishes have been granted, and ours as well. This will put an end to all your sighs and trouble forever, and crown your constancy. I pray God that He may bless you together abundantly in order that you may both live happily and content, and cause whatever business you undertake to succeed. My wife [Marthe Duval] greets you with similar affectionate wishes for your prosperity and contentment.

As I have decided to make a trip out your way, I would indeed wish that it would coincide with the big day which you have longed for, so that I might be there to witness your joy, but this is a vain hope for several reasons. I understand your impatience which is legitimate, especially after so many fears and apprehensions, and I know exactly how you feel. It's when days seem as long as years! However I still have work to do in trying to get our poor unfortunate 'Catin' out of France. This is something I'm having trouble getting done. I anxiously await the mail with any news. God willing the news is good and that I can recover her from the cruel hand of our persecutors. It is our mother who involves herself in this matter. I have already sent a woman once from here to retrieve her but she betrayed me. While taking my money she brought the child to Godefroy, brother of Pierre [Pierre Godefroy of Rouen fled to Amsterdam where he set up a house of commerce under the name of 'Godefroy, Du Long and Co.' Frederic later used his services when Frederic moved to Schiedam, Holland and became a tanner.] and again I offered someone two hundred francs in payment if only he would take her as far as Ghent. Now I'm awaiting the outcome of that, together with other sorrows that overwhelm us. I think my wife was about to die having become extremely ill, but she has recovered somewhat, thank God.

We are indeed happy that you are getting established. I understand you are now a qualified student of agriculture! That's not bad at all, and you also have a good associate [Daniel Crommelin]. I'm pleased to see that you're such close neighbours. That must contribute a lot to your finding the country agreeable, which happens to be perfectly beautiful in your area.

I quite regret not having followed my original plan rather than staying here where I can only consume what little savings I have left. What bothers me most is that I made this big mistake with the advice of my friends, and because of the troubles which also seemed to threaten England - advice I regret having taken because, like you, I also see myself having to do something instead of sitting around here with my arms folded.

As per your instructions I will keep your paintings which I will send to you when you ask for them, except for the one of our father which I was told to keep until it gets asked for again [perhaps by his sister, Catherine de Coninck, or brother, Francois] - an instruction I showed to Miss Mayon so she can verify that. I have no news to give you from Rouen about what's going on over there. What you get from the carrier [of this letter] is probably more certain. That is why I will close, bidding you to give our affectionate regards to our uncle and aunt Crommelin, and to be persuaded that I am

Monsieur, my brother,
Your very obedient servant and affectionate brother
Jean de Conincq

3 November 1686 - Frederic at Greenway Court received Letter #113B from Robert Oursel Jr. [his half-brother by his mother's second marriage to Robert Oursel Sr.] at Rotterdam. [Snippet of letter only...]

29 October 1686

In truth, my dear brother, I can't express what joy we all had, which I felt in particular, seeing Miss Camin here after so much trouble and hardship, having escaped from the shipwreck, and victorious over the cruelty and tyranny of our enemies.

Now it's necessary that I look for a way to earn my living since my father can't devote himself to me anymore. I will be eternally obliged if you would take the trouble to inquire about it, but I fear strongly that it won't be pretty over there because I think it will be much the same as here: 10 boys for every job vacancy. I know how to keep books [accounting]. I know Dutch and and a little German. With regard to English, I'm learning some everyday...

8 November 1686 - Wedding Day of Frederic de Coninck and Marie Camin at All Saints Church, Hollingbourne, Kent.

Picture Source: and Marriage Record:

11 November 1686 - Received Letter #113 from Mother at Rouen. Replied 26 November.
[Addressed to 'Miss de la Tour' c/o Mr. du Hamel, merchant at Rotterdam. This 'Miss de la Tour' is, in fact, the assumed name for Marie Camin that she used while she was in hiding in Paris. Catherine still used this pseudonym because she was worried this letter might be intercepted by French authorities.]

27 October 1686

Dear girl [Marie Camin. She was already happily married at Greenway Court, Kent, when this letter arrived two weeks later.]

I don't know how to thank God enough for His goodness in sending you to the country of blessings. God be praised! I'm sorry to hear that you happened to fall and injure your arm. I hope that in time it will heal, and I look forward to hearing about it. It began to bother me a lot that I didn't get any news, so you gave us a most welcome surprise. My daughter Camin [Catherine de Coninck, wife of Jean Camin] was delighted to see you and undoubtedly the rest of our friends were as well. I suspect my dear Frederic is in great expectation hoping to soon possess the one for whom he has been waiting for so long. God willing He will soon join you together to His glory and your good fortune.

When you arrive at your intended destination, please remember me and my daughters to see if we could earn our living in a city by setting up a boutique, or in the country where you are. I also recommend my poor son Oursel to you, asking that you mention him amongst all our friends when you arrive so that he can get settled, maintain himself, and pay his own expenses. Please do this and someday you can give me your assessment. It's necessary to encourage him so that he doesn't get frustrated and then leaves. So high and so far, his father can't do him any good now. I have two boys like this, but that's just between you and me.

Manon [Marie Oursel] asks that you don't forget her. She has gotten over her chicken-pox but it left her with a weeping in one eye. We do what we can. There was much rejoicing at the home of Mr. Hubert about your arrival [in Rotterdam]. [Mr. Etienne Hubert of Rouen is where Marie Camin resided after she was released from the convent in Dieppe]. I kiss you with all my heart. When you get a chance, please tell me how much your trip has cost you and if there is any ongoing risk. Until now nobody has said anything to us here. [Nobody seems to be searching for Mayon to take her back to the convent, so Catherine is wondering if she still has to go on using her assumed name of 'Mlle. de la Tour'.] The grandson of my brother Jacob at St. Quentin has died. So that's the latest misery from outside.

My daughters greet you. Please give my love to all our friends. Yours affectionately...

PS - Tell Oursel [Robert Oursel Jr., her son in Rotterdam] that I'll write him a letter addressed to Mr. Mallertie to be sent by boat.

25 November 1686 - Received Letter #114 from Mother at Rouen to her new daughter-in-law, Marie Camin, at Greenway Court c/o Mr. Jean de la Chambre in London. Replied 16 December.

15 November 1686

My very dear daughter

It's with joy that I received yours of the 4th current. I praise and thank God for all the mercies He did you in preserving you from all dangers and that He led you to your intended destination where you found my dear child in good health [at Harwich] where he went to await your arrival. I have no doubt there was inexpressible joy between the two of you after waiting so long to see each other. You see, God mends all things in His good time.

My very dear son and my very dear daughter, since I believe this letter won't arrive before your marriage, I therefore pray God, my dear children, with my utmost love that our good Lord ratifies your marriage in heaven. May He combine the most precious and holy blessings of heaven and earth, and settle them upon you, giving you both long and happy days together to live and die in His fear. My dear girl, may you praise the Eternel for your deliverance, and pray God continually for me that He does not abandon me and mine.

I believe you received before leaving Holland the letter I wrote you as soon as I knew about your arrival at Rotterdam. Otherwise, ask me for it. I hope that your arm is all better now. Please tell me how long your trip took, how much it cost, and by what route. This is for my daughter Manon who's pondering a similar plan for this year. She's all over her chicken-pox now. Not having had it too bad, she won't be marked by the pox. Her face hasn't changed at all. The redness has begun to subside but one eye still gives us some concern. There's a spot there with some emission. She can still see through it a little which gives me hope, but when she tries to eat it causes her a lot of pain. You can imagine that I'm worried to death about this.

My plans won't amount to anything because for this business it's necessary to have money, and I don't have any. For only one it cost Madam le Ballit more than 50 louis. She did well and her company remains. If cousin Laurens [Pierre Laurens, son of Thomas Laurens, married at London, 11 March 1655, Sara de Leau, daughter of Jacob de Leau, and granddaughter of Jean de Leau and Jeanne Crommelin who was born at Ingelmunster, 1546] wanted to come here, it would have pleased me because for one it wouldn't cost so much. 'Terotte' [Esther Oursel] was all ready for it. She spends a lot of her time looking for any opportunity to work amongst friends. My dear children, please let me know what I can do to get established, if not in the country then perhaps in some small town where I can sell something or have a shop. That would be very nice for me. Your sisters could then teach their daughters. Let me know what you think. Mr. du Chemin [husband of Esther Crommelin, Catherine's sister] insists that she must only sell. But if I can't use her to cut the workload, what good is she? My mother was always astonished at my sister. God give me patience. I'd like to divest myself of them all.

The parlement has reassembled. Mr. Le Gerchois [The prosecutor general at the Parlement of Normandy, Le Guerchois was one of the most fanatical opponents of the Protestants] delivered another one of his great harangues to the ministers, that they shouldn't have been allowed to leave which was a tragedy. They took it as a joke which strengthens us. The counselors turned the episode into a laugh. The rumour is that the people will be left alone and that the clergy are ordered to bury the dead. There's also a rumour that things are worse where you are than here.

Please write me a word and let me know what you're going to do. I'm told that you are sharing quite a large farm with your uncle. May God bless your enterprise. May our Lord abide with you eternally. Goodbye. I kiss you...

PS - Please write my son Francois. My girls send their affectionate greetings, especially Damenotta.

PPS - I recommend to you your poor brother Oursel. Try to find him a job so he can earn enough to pay his expenses. I'm hoping that by next Sunday I'll have our little merchandise ['Catin' (Catherine de Coninck), daughter of Jean, 1 1/2 years old, whom her parents were trying to get out of France]. I believe her father will have mentioned it enough at Rotterdam. The homeowner where she is now is a rascal. My brother Jacob is living at St. Quentin. [Formerly he was in Paris.] You can write him there. Your letters to me can be addressed to Mr. Pierre Lefebure near the Porte de Paris. [Pierre Le Febure, a merchant at Rouen, married Rachel Testart, a niece of Catherine Crommelin, in 1677. Rachel Testart was a daughter of Rachel Crommelin, Catherine's sister. Rachel Crommelin was the second wife of Pierre Testart. Rachel Testart was an older sister of Jean Testart who died at Mauritius while trying to escape from a prison islet in 1696. Pierre Testart married a third time to Anne Baullier after Rachel Crommelin died giving birth to their 8th child. See Testart family chart.]

No. 48 is the Porte de Paris, so Pierre LeFebure and Rachel Testart
likely lived somewhere in the yellow area near the bridges and l'Eglise Saint-Martin-du-Pont.

23 December 1686 - Received Letter #115 from Mother at Rouen. Replied 29 January 1687. [A clipping pinned to this letter prevented accurate translation of the first 3 paragraphs. Some 'guesswork' was used here to try to make the visible portion make sense.]

13 December 1686

My dear son and very dear daughter

I duly received your recent letter. I hope you got the one I wrote you addressed to Mr. Jean de la Chambre in response to the one in which my dear Mayon mentioned her arrival at London. I see from your letter that God has begun your married life together after waiting for such a long time. May God bless you with days that are long and happy and give you His peace. You have come through a lot of difficulty, may the rest be mild in comparison.

What you have done, my dear children, is an example of working together and must be seen as your readiness to face the challenges that you will have shortly. I believe that you were, my son, ready to undertake a farm but that it isn't your plan for this year. With regard to what I've been told it might be convenient if I wished to live like you in the country which a larger farm would make possible for us two, provided that it wouldn't be any trouble. I don't know when it might please God for us to leave here. We would be 4 in number and that couldn't be done without knowing your thoughts. You know, no doubt, that Jean talks about taking a farm with you. I think I would be happy to end my days earning my living there and your sisters feel the same way. All things are turning my mind around such as the bad success of our vessel and the illness of Manon who still has a spot on her eye.

The inheritance of my mother is still like it was on the first day. Monsieur du Chemin isn't sure what he will do because if your sisters receive one thousand ecu then his portion and that of the children would affect me adversely. Our dear Lord Jesus knows what each should get of all those who belonged to her.

Nobody has said a single word to us until now so we live in hope. [This probably refers to the fact that nobody has come around asking for Marie Camin, seeking to bring her back to the convent prison now that her time out on bail had elapsed.]

I'm astonished that you haven't received from my sister du Chemin the 10 pistoles [louis d'or] that my mother gave you. My sister wrote me about it and is most surprised that you haven't received them yet. She said that she gave them a long time ago to Mr. Camin to hand over to you. She told me that by a letter she wrote last October 10th. Write to one or the other so that you can finally get your hands on them.

In my previous letter to you I enclosed one for my brother Daniel informing him about the conduct of Mr. and Madam du Chemin [Esther Crommelin]. Alas, I have just cause for complaint because, in truth, I didn't think they had the audacity nor the idea to dispute a will written with so many exhortations for peace, and all written by the hand of my mother. She was the one to whom my mother awarded so many bonuses and who dedicated me to her but who today renders me most miserable. This has given me great dissatisfaction, the more so seeing I'm in no position to be able to bestow favors on any of my children. You can imagine how hard this is on me and you will lose here along with the others.

Your poor unfortunate brother here has great need. I fear that all his trouble and poor behaviour won't go away. There's no longer any justice and he always has to have money in hand.

Tell my sister Crommelin [Anne Testart] that I have already looked for that special long-lasting seed without having found any. I will look everywhere and if I find some I'll give it to madam Hubert to put with what already belongs to you. There is a master here who they will give it to [ie. perhaps a seaman who will bring it over to them].

I'm very sorry to hear that Miss Mettayer with her 2 young daughters were arrested at Valenciennes [see 27 April 1686]. The poor van Emmerique was also. [Francois Van Emmerick, of Rouen, had married Anne Vanderschalque, baptised January 1, 1658 at Quevilly, daughter of Albert Vanderschalque, a merchant at Rouen, and Anne Crommelin.] I hear that prisons have been opened all long the border. I don't know if they will be in one of those. Goodbye my dear children. I embrace you with all my heart. I greet my brother and my sister [Anne Testart]. My girls do you the same. I am...

PS - My girl, I handed your letter over to Mr. Durand myself who read it to the end. He didn't say anything about it to me and he said nothing more, having closed the letter. I don't know why you asked him again for your papers. It is necessary in times such as this to have confidence in one's friends. You don't have this. When you write him, it should be done directly to him otherwise he'll begin to regard me badly. Miss Madeleine Aubourg didn't want to say anything to him because of friends who could become enemies. I won't linger in this city for too long. Manon's eye is healing quite well. It's a sad life...

19 January 1687 - Received Letter #116 from Mother at Rouen. Replied the aforementioned day.

31 December 1686

My very dear son

I have yours of the 16th of this month. In reply I can only say that Mr. Durand isn't of a mind to return to you the papers you want, neither is your brother because he holds you in suspicion. But as for me, I don't know how to do it without making an enemy. To tell you my thoughts, you didn't do one thing or another very well because he complains that your wife wrote him scandalously. Instead of thanks for all the trouble he took for her, she hasn't shown any gratitude and it's a matter for complaint having stood bail for her, and Francois having gone to Dieppe. There should have been some recognition for that, or at least some semblance of it while you were trying to retrieve from him what you wanted.

Omitting to write a word of thanks mocked his profession and his daughters and you should, my son, have written him also out of respect since he's the uncle of your wife. If you had done that you would have obtained what you desire. I'm sure of that. You have failed both of them. Write him therefore artfully for I have to return shortly to Le Havre and I'll try to fix the mistake you both did them. Keep to yourself any mention about your plans because this will go to the "Caroline" [a cabaret or pub where Francois frivolously spends a lot of money and spreads his gossip]. That would be the way to get what he has and, in truth, I'm quite surprised at these new plans having thought that you had decided to have a farm. My dear children, I don't know what to say to you or what advice to give, only that I hope that it won't be the place you mentioned since I'll forever be prevented from seeing you, which worries me.

There's hope that shortly we will see our deliverance in France. Reliable people assure us of that, but nevertheless one must trust only the good sort. At least, my son, wait a while longer, or a year, and try applying yourself to learning something. I have friends in Holland who have learned how to print on cloth like that from India, thus you can learn to do some trade which is easy and which isn't being done in France because who knows if you won't return? By leaving you lose everything. I understand there's 200# of revenue at Abbeville. Perhaps you could establish yourself there if it's God's good pleasure to give us His peace again. Do everything for the best and don't do anything rash.

A seaman said to me that things aren't all rosy at the cabaret. Your wife, being virtuous, could get a paid job there and do something. Once you told me that being where you are, I could get myself established making embroidery. Given to work, why not go to some small town where living is cheaper and where a small business can be set up? That would be the most secure. My children, there's no shame in having to work! I'm sad to see you at four [perhaps referring to Frederic, Mayon, Daniel and Anne Testart] not knowing where to apply yourself. It pierces me to the heart.

Oursel [Robert Oursel Jr. in Rotterdam] couldn't ask for better than to follow you if his father would have been able to give him something. But he wasn't able, so that ended when he said farewell. Then if our vessel had left, we might be able to do what you desire but this won't be soon, and if we had been able to save for some land then we would have done that a long time ago.

You suggest that all I do is for my Dotte [perhaps Francois] and that he can't be hired. Nobody will give him another sou. One has to watch these crafty folks and if Mr. Dupree had little to exist on in Holland he shouldn't have gone to the cabaret. I think he was taken to the right place. I'm told there are other places where he assumed a nasty attitude.

Touching our 'Garden' you know there was a claimant who attacked us in a lawsuit spanning 18 months demanding from us 25 years worth of payments. [Several cottages in a rental property across the Rouen bridge was called the 'Garden'. Catherine had a caretaker who ran this as an investment.] We produced a general discharge since it had been paid. We won at Mendreville with expenses. It's unsettling to be called to the parlement [court] and all the costs associated with it. Also you know that the gate between the Garden and the coast collapsed. I had it rebuilt. The door also needed work and the windows in front and above the door. If it returns anything I'll be sure to let you have it. My dear son, be assured that my love for you will never languish and that you are always close to my heart. I would willingly pay my obligations if I were able to find the money. You probably imagine that we live a life of ease, God make it so!

Miss Etienne Hubert told me that she gave 3 small packets to a ship's master to hand over to Mr. Jean de la Chambre. His name is Captain Marechal. Inside is long-lasting seed that was difficult for me to find. Remember to ask for it from your cousin whom I greet affectionately as I do you and my girl. I wish them both a happier year than the one now ended in this country. May God bless you by His Holy Spirit and guide you through all the course of your lives. Goodbye. Your sisters greet you. Manon is all better now. Your very affectionate mother...

PS - If we keep your papers, it's only to cover you in case someone comes around to investigate. Therefore Mr. Oursel says that you would do well to send him back the paper dossier of the remaining receipts dated the day before your departure from Rouen, and he'll do everything possible to satisfy that quickly. If we have the misfortune to live here always in the way we are now, and if there's no hope for improvement, I'm resolved to abandon everything and to put myself in service in a foreign country. There's much talk that the ports are about to open again [ie. the doors or gates through the wall of the city will now be unguarded].. This gives us great encouragement. The king sees that his kingdom is lost.