The History of the Huguenots
References in seventeenth-century Huguenot records suggest that our family came to England from France, sometime after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Through savage religious repression instigated by Louis XIV upwards of 50,000 Huguenots (French Protestants) sought refuge, mainly in England. For the most part they formed the artisan and craftsmen class, and their flight both impoverished France and enriched England. For an insight into the history of the Huguenots or a wider study into their achievements Huguenot Diaspora visit The Huguenot Society website.
Many, like our family, settled in the Spitalfields & Shoreditch areas of East London, bringing with them their silk-weaving skills. Records show that most Gevaux's were living in this narrow network of streets until well into the nineteenth century before gradually spreading across the other East End parishes. Most English-speaking Gevaux's alive today are descended from this small group.
The following contemporary images show aspects of Louis XIVth of France's persecution of the Huguenots, and his crude attempts to force them to recant their Protestant faith. By the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685, nearly a quarter of France was worshiping in Protestant temples. At a stroke, this royal decree took away their legal rights and opened them up to persecution and imprisonment. Some stayed, abjured their faith and accepted the Catholic yoke, others chose the dangers and uncertainty of exile.
We are the heirs of those who chose freedom
The Dragonards of the 1680s were instigated to cause financial ruin by forcibly billeting soldiers on prominent Huguenot families.
All Huguenots had to convert to Catholicism. 'Bend your knee to Rome or risk spending the rest of your life in the galleys'.
Up to 200,000 Huguenots are thought to have fled France in the years after 1685, ending up in places as far afield as North America, South Africa, Germany, Switzerlad, Holland and England. The engraving above by the Dutch artist, Jan Luykens made in 1696 shows one such group making their way to the port of La Rochelle, on the south-west coast of France. The last known reference to the Jouveau family in France is from a city official in La Rochelle. Like the beggarly procession above, our distant ancestor took ship to England from there. Sadly, neither he nor his son made their fortune as silkweavers in Spitalfields. The records show these our earliest known ancestors, lived out their final years on charitable hand-outs, death in the poor-house and a pauper's grave.