Frederic of Coninck Letters
Translation Project

Frederic's plans to rent a farm in England collapse; Frederic demands a
legal document for his wife; Frederic goes to Holland to look for work;
He accepts a partnership and prepares to leave for Schiedam;
Marthe Duval, wife of brother Jean, dies in London

1687 Timeline

24 March 1687 - Received Letter #117 from Mother in Rouen. Replied 7 April.

13 February 1687

My very dear son

I received yours of January 29 which saddened me to see your resolution go up in smoke. [The word 'caroline' appears often in these letters and has been variously translated to mean 'pub' or a 'cabaret named Caroline', but perhaps it means 'collapsed'. It may be an old French expression that has no literal translation. An English equivalent may be 'gone to pot!' or 'gone up in smoke!'. In any case, it always carries a negative connotation.]

This business you undertook while waiting for your mistress, about renting a farm, has all gone awry. I believe, however, that it must not have been done with his approval otherwise, my dear son and dear girl, my feelings are torn when I think about this estrangement and I don't know what to say to you on this subject. [There may have been some kind of disagreement with Daniel Crommelin over the plan to share costs of a large new acreage they were going to rent together. Perhaps Frederic couldn't afford to pay his share because his mother and stepfather (Mr. Oursel) were unable to repay the loan which Frederic had made them from money he inherited from his father. Or perhaps he realized that he might have to work more than his fair share while Daniel continued to work his own acreage. Being a businessman at heart, rather than a farmer, Daniel had a tendancy to try to get 'a good deal' from any transaction he was involved in. Unfortunately we don't have the letters that Frederic wrote his mother in this period, so we can only speculate based on Catherine Crommelin's replies to her son.]

Unless it were a sure thing, it would be better the deal were quite remote than to bear a grievous loan. I pray God with all my might that He inspires you to do what must be done - whatever the good Lord wishes you to do to succeed in your plans to your contentment and to His glory. If I could give you the satisfaction that you demand, I would do so heartily but it would be easier for you to kill us right now than for us to give you what you ask. In the end things will work out, but that will be by the grace of God. Myself, I've never been so ready to drop everything as I am right now. You can believe it, but we cannot go against the will of God. He makes me pass through all the trials, but God gives me the grace not to murmur.

I'm annoyed that you think that I wanted to have a receipt from my girl, your wife, by force. She can die before I would want that. I will send it back to her. I would never abuse it, neither would Mr. Oursel.

If your plan has definitely 'gone up in smoke' [aller a la caroline], leave your power of attorney to one of my friends to receive your balance - one to whom I will return your three bills and to whom you will leave the execution of it. [This may pertain to paying off an earlier agreement to buy land near London that Frederic had terminated before going to Greenway Court, Kent.]

My dear children, I'm overwhelmed with grief because this time of affliction crushes us. If I had the means, that is to say, the money, I wouldn't be here any longer, neither would your sisters. I'm told that at Dieppe prices are more fair than before but when I consider that I would have to leave without anything and stretch out my hand to reduce myself to servitude, I would only resemble the wife of Lot. To my great regret it would also crush you, my dear son. If God gave me the grace to flee toward you, I couldn't be more satisfied. May God have pity on us. We are strongly threatened next month. While there aren't any more of those who say nasty things about us, our enemies view this as a frustration of their expectations. Instead of going along with them, we grow further apart - something which God is doing to our hurt. They say that at the Conseil (government), they fear that the prophesy of Mr. du Moulin is coming to pass. [Mr. du Moulin believed the Church was re-established in 89 following prophecy. (2nd Part of the "History of the Reformed Church of Dieppe", Rouen, 1903, Vol.II,p.71). Mr. Garreta (ibid p. 162) believed there was a difference of opinion between Pierre du Moulin and Pierre Jurieu. This work on the "Accomplishment of the Prophecies" appeared at Rotterdam in 1686. Pierre I du Moulin and his sons Pierre II and Louis died before 1685.]

Miss Au Boing and Manon made you, my dear girl, several designs for hats. There are 6 for men and 5 for women on a piece of cloth they carried to the home of Mr. and Madam Hubert who said that among the purchases it was necessary to design one for her granddaughter. So from what was made you will find that I cut a bonnet from one piece and a doily. I advised them to get the highest quality cloth, but this is the best that one can get. I'm also sending you 5 remnants to enable you to make clothes. Two are for your husband. The remnant of assu is stained by rain water which can be removed with soap. There is a piece of batiste and a fragment from Holland that will be good for making sleeves for my son. I'm in no position to give you other presents.

My dear children, if your plans succeed, let me know of developments and whether things are going from bad to worse, as all things sometimes do, to enable me to take stock of your situation. Your brother Francois would like to be there. He's a miserable wretch, consumed with litigration and without getting ahead in anything. I'm leaving tomorrow for Le Havre. He's coming along. I'm also further along in the inheritance of my mother. As I believed on the first day, there's nothing in it for me, being the bastard of the house. There's a delay since most things are seized.

Touching the papers that you desire to obtain from Mr. Durand, he isn't in this city at the present time. I spoke with Madam his wife about it who maintains that he won't return them to you since he was so piqued against his niece by the callous letter which she and you wrote him, and which so surprised him by what it said. He knows some people who can return it to you but who will cause you to wait a while. His son owes you a lot of money, why almost 400# to a young man. I thought he would do some small favour, so ask him again in consideration of some reduction because if you leave you will lose as much anyway.

You will have learned about the death of poor Mr. Noe Camin [no doubt an uncle of Marie Camin] who died near Dieppe already some time ago. I learned that my poor niece Testard [Marie Crommelin, daughter of Louis, who married on 12 February 1682, at St. Quentin, Isaac Testard, of Blois, son of the minister Paul Testard, living in London] is left a widow with 2 children and no means. My sister, her mother (Marie Mettayer), is very upset. [Marie Crommelin married a second time to Nicolas de la Cherois.] I'm told that Miss Testard of Paris, my sister-in-law, is in prison with 2 children. We hope here for the liberty of the prisoners. Mr. Isaac le Febure is outside the Cordeliers under a nominal bail. I know only him to be out of those that did not sign [an abjuration].

A great festivity was made for the health of the King. Everyone in the trades was involved, in particular the fishermen and fodder-gatherers. You've never seen such a thing. May God incline the heart of the king to the peace of his people.

I don't know how to end. Goodbye, my dear children. I embrace you with all my heart and pray our Lord Jesus that He blesses and keeps you. I am your affectionate mother...

PS - I don't know if this letter will still find you seeing your brother Jean. I trust that you will have received the 3 packages that Mr. Hubert sent you via Captain Marechal to the address of Mr. Jean de la Chambre.


London, England
7 April 1687

Madam Caterine Crommelin

I received your letter of 13 February a little late, and the one of the 7th of this month arrived the day before yesterday. I also received the small packages which I was waiting for in which I found three pieces of cloth which it pleased you to send us. We thank you very much. When it will please God to bless us I will try to acknowledge your kindness by all sorts of means as you have done for us. I pray you continue your affection which I value more than any anything else.

I see that you didn't understand the sense of my last letter. My uncle [Daniel Crommelin] and my cousin de la Chambre asked that you send them a consent sample written like other relatives have made which they will also sign as Messrs. Daniel de la Chambre and Mr. Crommelin, and his sister, the widow Testart.


This is the easiest way I can do it because, knowing the nature of these men, I strongly doubt that you will have any satisfaction otherwise, and they will not want to take the trouble to write about it to Mr. Milsonneau. I would like to be able to do something else for your contentment but in a situation such as this, one must do what one can, and not what one would like.

I hope to cross over to Rotterdam in two or three days where I will go to the border to see if I will be able to establish myself there. I'm told that I'll be able to get along at least as well as here, and that there are several refugee families who have settled there in the country. May God prosper my trip and give me more peace than I have now, and less worry. My wife will stay here until I find out where I'll settle down. Afterwards I'll inform her, or else I'll just come back if there isn't anything to do there.

I'm pleased that you didn't pay on the letter which our relative sent. Please don't do it because I've heard some things that made me aware that he isn't honest in his dealings. The conduct of Mr. Durand confirms to me all the more that he is a deceitful person and an impostor. Those to whom I spoke about him confirm that he is the most dishonest individual one can find, and that his son is no better. I'll never have more duplicity than in what he owes. Several times I was of a mind to have him arrested but nobody advised me to do it because this would only be to throw good money after bad. What bothers me most is that he stole what he owes me because it was not a payment I gave him. So if it's God's will to humble me I'll just have to be patient and rest on His providence. I don't ask that my brother [Francois] puts himself in a poor standing with Mr. Durand, however what I ask is fair and for what little remaining the said Durand has coming to him, he will not be able to derive any benefit.

My wife greets you humbly and also my sister Manon. She thanks her for her fine letter and will send Manon a reply at the first opportunity. I pray God that it pleases Him to extend the tranquility that you have now, and that He delivers from captivity all those who will be faithful to Him.

London, England
7 April 1687

Monsieur Robert Oursel

It is true, monsieur, that I wrote quite earnestly to my mother regarding our affairs because I was about to undertake a trip from which I may never return. I had an earnest desire to finish up by covering myself but since my plans are disrupted, I will have patience until you will be in a position to vacate entirely. I am not unaware of the declarations that have been given against those who have left the kingdom. These are quite onerous but I also know well that it depends on you to withdraw from me this matter, besides you have the ability and prudence, and...


have in hand the pieces that can protect me from any insult. If they have safeguarded me until the present, they will be able to serve me again in the future. Thus, monsieur, I put myself entirely in your hands and subject myself to your generosity to see to it that I'm not disadvantaged.

Consider the little that I am reduced to. With regard to the final writ of execution, please find it good that I keep it until you wish to finish the affair after which time I'll send it to you as soon as you ask for it. It is just that I need something to safeguard me in case I suffer a blow of misfortune. You could die and this would give birth to more dissention in the family. Thus to prevent that it would even be necessary that you return to me enough of my bills or at least those of my wife which can't be that strongly prejudicial, and which are useless to you. Furthermore if it pleases God to afflict me again, I can console myself that this will be for His cause and that I have nothing to reproach myself for.

I believe that you are mistaken regarding what I am owed. For if you wish to make an end of it in the beginning of the fall as my mother led me to hope, it will return me about 200#. But that isn't what's in question right now. If I can be of service to you, please let me know since my greatest pleasure is always to be...

London, England
7 April 1687

Monsieur Francois de Coninck

I duly received your two letters of 13 February and 4 April. Following the last one I quickly sought to speak to Samuel Paquet with whom I maintained for a long time an acquaintance and had him give all sorts of quotations to try to obtain from him what you want. He swore to me on his portion of paradise that he had no order regarding the inheritance of father and son and that it had been only the bad times that forced him to discontinue. Upon his death, he said there is a certificate of his personal effects which he sent to Mr. Ernault. So that's what he told me to say to you, and what I've been able to do for you.

With regard to Mr. Durand, I would be upset if you put yourself in a poor standing with him. What I ask of him is just and equitable and for something so small that is reasonable, he will not be able to refuse you. If you don't find it appropriate to hand him the letter that I've written him, you can do it. Only I pray that you ask him that he returns to you the certificate and ticket that he has witheld unfairly. Kindly send them back to me as soon as you are able to acquire them. If he doesn't do it, I will not be in a very advantageous position. Besides, this grievous wrong largely damages his reputation. I would like to be able to render you some service...


Rotterdam, Holland
13 June 1687

Monsieur Jean de la Chambre

I received your two letters of the 27 and 31 of last month after which I will withdraw from you the maximum sum that you allow. To begin, I have today withdrawn from you for my account 52 3/4 pounds for eight days drawn on the order of Mr. Jean Camin valued by him that you will transfer over to my account. If things go normally, I will be able to withdraw the above. If you can, please send me an account so I can see how I stand with you.

My wife arrived here safely on Monday morning after having been extremely sick and having been stranded twice. I can hardly express the dire worry which I had believing that she had been amongst the Dutch who were seized by the Algerians. Praise God for her arrival.

I thank you very humbly for the pains and care that you took on her behalf. She is doing quite well now, and she takes the liberty to greet you affectionately. As for me, I indeed recommend myself to you. Should I ever be able to return service to you in any way, please let me know.

Rotterdam, Holland
20 June 1687

Monsieur Louis Crommelin

[This cousin of Frederic would be 'Louis of Lisburn' before he was invited by King William III of England to set up a linen industry in Ireland in 1698. He fled from France to Amsterdam, then went to Lisburn, Ireland. He was the son of Louis Crommelin (brother of Frederic's mother, Catherine) and Marie Mettayer. This Louis was born at St. Quentin, 22 February 1659, so he was a year older than Frederic. He married his cousin, Anne Crommelin, daughter of the wealthy Samuel Crommelin and Madeleine Testart.]

I well received the kind letter that you did me the honor to write on the 17th of this month. Thank you, and I'm infinitely grateful for your concerns with respect to the safe arrival of my wife as well as your opinion with regards to the area around Groningen.

I would not neglect using this advice in the event that it no longer pleased God to bless the business that I will mention when I have a chance to see you. I found upon my return here that the matter was concluded the day before and even that I am about to begin working. May God bestow His blessing on our plans and cause us to succeed to His glory and to our well-being.

Otherwise, monsieur my cousin, since I appreciate your well wishes and the affection that you have expressed towards me, it seems the least I can do under the circumstances is to acknowledge my thanks. Please, I pray, continue in your courtesy and be firmly persuaded that I will always have for you and yours a special esteem. We are now preparing to leave for our residence at Schiedam. Although the town is small and has little commerce, nevertheless I will be most happy if I can be of some service to you there. Please let me know how, and I will do so wholeheartedly...

24 June 1687 - Received Letter #118 from Mother in Le Havre addressed to Frederic de Coninck c/o Richard Mico, merchant in Rotterdam. Replied 1 September.

The Havre
18 June 1687

My very dear son

I received yours of the 5th of this month. With regard to what you have been waiting for, Mr. Oursel has always been well disposed in never having any hard feelings toward you, and he would have sent what you asked with every attentiveness a long time ago if he didn't foresee the ongoing vexations that happened shortly after the departure of so many people. Roudiere isn't sleeping on the job, and he's disclosed everything as you can see since the goods at Abbeville are confiscated. [Roudiere was in charge of inventorying the goods of the Protestant fugitives. In a manuscript of the Bibliotheque Historique Protestants (Bien des religionnaires fugitives) one reads: Account of Roudiere, art. 44: "Saw a garden at Rouen that belonged to Jean Camin, beyond the bridge on Rue d'Elbeuf, occupied by the sieur Nicolas Cousin, preacher."]

Mr. P. Godin who lost his wife, having died 12 days ago, is worried about the goods of his daughter Melle who has also been arrested. [Pierre Godin, of Le Havre, lived not far from the Oursels on Rue d'Estimauville]

I didn't return this to you unless you asked for it since I might still need it, therefore protect it as much as possible. Don't think that Mr. Oursel or I are deliberately mistreating you, and you would have done well to send us the executor dossier to duly receive what belongs to you at Rouen because I only know what testament (will) you have and what advice you have been given. We see things better than you, and honestly, it is only to protect you because if you lose it, I would have regreted it even more than if it had happened to me personally, and I would have returned your papers. I won't say anything more about it. You will say that I could die, and this is true, but one or the other can survive. Anyway, do what you want with these papers. We run the risk of losing what we have paid for since on them they make us a solemn oath. So that's all that I can say.

I see that you visited Friesland to look for a business there but that you found the country quite meager. Upon returning to Rotterdam someone proposed having you engage in a partnership. Take care that you're not left alone upon taking it and that the person who takes part with you isn't less of an investor than you are. It means living in Schiedam, 2 leagues from Rotterdam. May God pour out his blessing on your business and cause it to succeed to your satisfaction. I would have joy in that because I am surrounded by affliction every other way.

I don't know why your uncle is taking so long in sending you your clothes. You would be better off leaving them to your brother Francois who is staying with your cousin Jean de la Chambre or your brother Jean [in London]. Rather than having them shipped to Holland perhaps he gave instructions not to send them. He's a poor miserable boy who really has no sense. You have all refused to learn how to earn your living. Now you see what trouble you are in.

I will be pleased to learn if your wife has arrived safely in your midst and whether she has any misgivings or begins to grumble. You will have children soon enough. May God give them the grace to earn their bread. I would like to know what kind of work you are about to undertake. Goodbye, my dear one. I kiss you and my girl, your wife. I am...

PS - Manon has been at Volenitie 5 weeks already. I returned from there 2 days ago. I was there 3 days to bring her 12 pills in the hope to bring her some relief from a head cold. She prefers to be there than in the city. Terotte is with her.

We are being left in peace at the present time. The departure of so many people has been stunning. O Lord Jesus, have pity of us! I don't pretend to anybody, and I am stronger in my faith than ever in the religion of Jesus Christ and His apostles. God give us the grace to remain close in his holy alliance. Mr. Oursel greets you.

Catherine Crommelin's Properties


It would appear that Catherine Crommelin and her first husband, Francois de Conink, owned a house inside the walled city of Rouen. She continued to live there along Rue Vieux-Palais after her second marriage to Robert Oursel, but Catherine and Robert also owned a second house in Le Havre where they spent most of their time because Robert's whaling ships were anchored there.

Enlarge1 Enlarge2

In the above picture, the Oursels/de Conincks lived along Rue Vieux-Palais in the vicinity of the St. Elois parish area of Rouen (yellow). Just below the St. Elois gate you can see all the sea-going freighters anchored on the left side of the bridges. Some of these vessels were galleys manned by Huguenot galley slaves. They couldn't travel further upstream to Paris because of the bridges, therefore smaller barges were tied up on the right. They carried cargo back and forth to Paris and were dragged away upstream from Rouen by teams of horses.

When Frederic fled to England from Rouen in August 1685, he left directly on one of these sailing vessels without stopping at Le Havre to say goodbye to his mother. He must have felt sad passing by Le Havre on his way to London knowing that his mother, Catherine Crommelin, was unaware of his sudden plan to leave France. Letters continued until she died in 1694, but they never saw each other again.

Later, Catherine invested in some rental property across the pontoon bridge called the Jardin or La Pareille. This included a house occupied by a caretaker named Avril, and several other rental cottages. Catherine's dysfunctional son, Francois, also lived mostly at the Jardin with Avril and served occasionally as the proprietor of the rental properties. Francois kept the proceeds from the Jardin for his own living expenses but still charged his mother for all the repairs. Therefore she derived no net benefit from her investment.

A 'Jardin' owned by Jean Camin and Catherine de Coninck was located along Rue d'Elbeuf, a main street which still exists today. Perhaps it too was a rental property. It was occupied by Nicolas Cousin, a priest. They would have lost this property after they fled to Rotterdam.


The address of the Oursel/Crommelin home in Le Havre was 35 Rue d'Estimauville.

In Catherine's day, Le Havre was a small city inside fortified walls and moats. Today the location of the Oursel house is in the 'Centre Ville' or 'downtown' core of Le Havre. The city has grown far beyond the limited boundaries known by Catherine Crommelin and Frederic de Coninck.

When Le Havre was bombarded by an Anglo-Dutch fleet in 1694, one can imagine the loss of life and the amount of destruction that would have been done considering the small size of the city at that time.

The Galleys

The picture on the left appears to be ships at the entrance to Le Havre
with the sun rising in the East.

In his memoirs, a Huguenot named Jean Marteilhe wrote about his capture in 1701 as a boy of 17, and his experiences as a galley slave having been chained together with other deserters, thieves, smugglers, Turks and Calvinists for 6 years from 1707 to 1713. He managed to survive his ordeal and died in Holland in 1777 at the ripe old age of 93. His account is entitled Memoires d'un galerien du Roi-Soleil (Memoirs of a Galley Slave of the Sun King).


Rotterdam, Holland
24 June 1687

[It seems ironic that previously Jean de Coninck was in Rotterdam while Frederic was in England. Now their positions have reversed! Jean is now living in London while Frederic is in Rotterdam and about to leave for Schiedam to start up a leather tannery business.]

Monsieur Jean de Coninck

This morning we received one of your letters informing us of the sad news of the death of my sister, your wife [Marthe Duval]. It touched us all the more deeply since we hoped for a happy outcome of her illness following your earlier notification. I cannot extend to you a eulogy sufficient to cover her many virtues. Everybody who knew about them will help soften your pain. I only want to say that I have been deeply affected since I was completely unaware that her illness was so serious.

May God bless you and your children and send you consolations befitting the huge loss that you have suffered. I will be pleased to learn from time-to-time how you are managing to get along.

As for me, I didn't find the country of Friesland as good as I had been led to believe. Upon my return I accepted an engagement of which I will tell you the particulars when the matter is concluded. We are now preparing to go and live at Schiedam where we will be able to live more cheaply than here. I will have no bigger joy than to be able to be of some service to you there.

Rotterdam, Holland
24 June 1687

Monsieur Jean de la Chambre [in London]

I had the opportunity to write you on the 13th of this month. You approved that I draw on you this day 52 3/4 pounds valid for eight days on the order of Mr. Jean Camin. I have again withdrawn on you today for my account of f220 with regard to the order of said Camin. It was impossible for me to do otherwise than that, therefore I give you this accounting. Nobody wanted two instances. The one to whom Mr. Camin endorses is a Monsieur de Navire who is still here with his ship. He promised that the letter will only be presented to you in eight days after you receive this letter and perhaps that it will be advantageous if you follow his advice. I won't withdraw anymore on you soon. I don't doubt that you will be paying me interest on the remainder following your promise. Nevertheless I pray that you send me an accounting so that I know where I stand with you from this day onward...