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Camisards were French Protestants (Huguenots) of the rugged and isolated Cevennes
The Cévennes are a range of mountains in south-central France, covering parts of the départements of Gard, Lozère, Ardèche, and Haute-Loire.The word Cévennes comes from the Gaulish Cebenna, which was Latinized by Julius Caesar to Cevenna...

 region of south-central France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, who raised an insurrection against the persecutions which followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The revolt by the Camisards broke out in 1702, with the worst of the fighting through 1704, then scattered fighting until 1710 and a final peace by 1715.

The name camisard in the Occitan language is variously attributed to a type of linen smock or shirt, known as camisa, peasant wear in lieu of any sort of uniform; camisada, in the sense of "night attack", is derived from a feature of their tactics. Eventually the name Black Camisard came to refer to Protestants, while White Camisards (also known as "Cadets of the Cross") were Catholics organized to check the blacks. Both groups were known for committing atrocities.


The revolt of the Protestants followed about twenty years of persecutions. Protestant peasants of the region, led by a number of teachers known as "prophets", rebelled against the officially sanctioned 'Dragonnade
"Dragonnades" was a French policy instituted by Louis XIV in 1681 to intimidate Huguenot families into either leaving France or re-converting to Catholicism.- History :This policy involved billeting ill-disciplined dragoons in Protestant households...

s' (conversions enforced by Dragoon
The word dragoon originally meant mounted infantry, who were trained in horse riding as well as infantry fighting skills. However, usage altered over time and during the 18th century, dragoons evolved into conventional light cavalry units and personnel...

s, 'missionaries in boots') that followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in which soldiers were billeted in the homes of Protestants, to make them convert or emigrate. Clandestine prophets and their armed followers were hidden in houses and caves in the mountains; Protestants were arrested, deported to America
French colonization of the Americas
The French colonization of the Americas began in the 16th century, and continued in the following centuries as France established a colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere. France founded colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbean islands, and in South America...

, sentenced to the galleys; entire villages were massacred and burnt to the ground in a series of stunning atrocities. Several leading prophets were tortured and executed and many more were exiled, leaving the abandoned congregations to the leadership of less educated and more mystically-oriented preachers known as "prophets", such as the woolcomber Abraham Mazel.

Open hostilities began on 24 July 1702, with the assassination at Pont-de-Montvert of a local embodiment of royal oppression, François Langlade
François Langlade
François Langlade was the French Catholic "Abbé of Chaila" , "Archpriest of the Cevennes" and "Inspector of Missions of the Cevennes"...

, the Abbé of Chaila, who had recently arrested and tortured a group of protestants accused of attempting to flee France. The abbé was quickly lionized in print as a martyr of his faith. Led by the young Jean Cavalier
Jean Cavalier
Jean Cavalier, real name Joan Cavalièr in Occitan, , the famous chief of the Camisards, was born at Mas Roux, a small hamlet in the commune of Ribaute near Anduze .-Early life:...

 and Roland Laporte
Roland Laporte
Roland Laporte , Camisard leader, better known as Roland, was born at Mas Soubeyran in a cottage which has become the property of the Socité de l'Histoire du Protestantisme français, and which contains relics of the hero....

, the Camisards met the ravages of the royal army with irregular warfare
Irregular warfare
Irregular warfare is warfare in which one or more combatants are irregular military rather than regular forces. Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare, and so is asymmetric warfare....

 methods and withstood superior forces in several pitched battles.

Other Protestants, like those of Fraissinet-de-Lozère
Fraissinet-de-Lozère is a commune in the Lozère department in southern France.-History:Fraissinet-de-Lozère was one of the earliest communities of Huguenots in France....

, under the influence of village elites, chose a loyalist attitude and fought the Camisards. They were nevertheless equally victims of the destruction of their houses during the "Great Burning of the Cévennes" ordered in late 1703.

White Camisards, also known as "Cadets of the Cross" ("Cadets de la Croix", from a small white cross which they wore on their coats), were Catholics from neighboring communities such as St. Florent, Senechas and Rousson who, on seeing their old enemies on the run, organized into companies to hunt the rebels down. They committed atrocities, such as killing 52 people at the village of Brenoux, including pregnant women and children.

Other opponents of the Protestants included six hundred Miquelet
Miquelet (militia)
Miquelets or Micalets were irregular Catalan and Valencian militia. The name is a diminutive of Michael; it is claimed it comes from Miquel or Miquelot de Prats, a Catalan mercenary captain in the service of Cesare Borgia...

 marksmen from Roussillon
Roussillon is one of the historical counties of the former Principality of Catalonia, corresponding roughly to the present-day southern French département of Pyrénées-Orientales...

, hired as mercenaries by the King.

In 1704, Marshal Villars, the royal commander, offered Cavalier vague concessions to the Protestants and the promise of a command in the royal army. Cavalier's acceptance of the offer broke the revolt, although others, including Laporte, refused to submit unless the Edict of Nantes
Edict of Nantes
The Edict of Nantes, issued on 13 April 1598, by Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. In the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity...

 was restored. Scattered fighting went on until 1710, but the true end of the uprising was the arrival in the Cévennes of the Protestant minister Antoine Court
Antoine Court (Huguenot)
Antoine Court was a French reformer called the "Restorer of Protestantism in France." He was born at Villeneuve-de-Berg, in Languedoc, March 27, 1696. His parents were peasants, adherents of the Reformed church, which was then undergoing persecution...

 and the reestablishment of a small Protestant community that was largely left in peace, especially after the death of Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 in 1715.

Cavalier later went over to the British, who made him Governor of the island of Jersey
Jersey, officially the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France. As well as the island of Jersey itself, the bailiwick includes two groups of small islands that are no longer permanently inhabited, the Minquiers and Écréhous, and the Pierres de Lecq and...


A millenarian group of ex-Camisards under the guidance of Elie Marion emigrated to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1706, and were said to have links with the Alumbrados
The Alumbrados was a term used to loosely describe practitioners of a mystical form of Christianity in Spain during the 15th-16th centuries. Some alumbrados were only mildly heterodox, but others held views that were clearly heretical...

. They were generally treated with scorn and some official repression as the 'French Prophets.' Their example and their writings had some influence later, both on the spiritual outlook of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

 and on Ann Lee
Ann Lee
Mother Ann Lee was the leader of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, or Shakers....

, founder of the Shaker
The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers, is a religious sect originally thought to be a development of the Religious Society of Friends...


Further reading

Although most of the sources are in French and remain untranslated there are a number of excellent sources available in English:
  • Alexandre Dumas
    Alexandre Dumas, père
    Alexandre Dumas, , born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a French writer, best known for his historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world...

    , Massacres of the South
  • H. M. Baird (1895), Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes ISBN 1-59244-636-1
  • Napoléon Peyrat
    Napoléon Peyrat
    Napoléon Peyrat was a French author and historian from Les Bordes-sur-Arize .Peyrat was the author of . Published in 1842, English translation 1852...

     (1842). History of the Desert Fathers: from the revolution of the Edict of Nantes to the French Revolution, 1685-1789.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

     (1879), Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes
    Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes
    Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes is one of Robert Louis Stevenson's earliest published works and is considered a pioneering classic of outdoor literature.-Background:...

    . Travel literature.
  • Samuel Rutherford Crockett
    Samuel Rutherford Crockett
    Samuel Rutherford Crockett was a Scottish novelist, born at Duchrae, Balmaghie, Kirkcudbrightshire, the illegitimate grandson of a farmer....

     (1903), Flower-o'-the-Corn. Historical fiction.†

† The story begins with the allied armies at Namur
Namur (city)
Namur is a city and municipality in Wallonia, in southern Belgium. It is both the capital of the province of Namur and of Wallonia....

 following the 1704 Battle of Blenheim
Battle of Blenheim
The Battle of Blenheim , fought on 13 August 1704, was a major battle of the War of the Spanish Succession. Louis XIV of France sought to knock Emperor Leopold out of the war by seizing Vienna, the Habsburg capital, and gain a favourable peace settlement...

, before the scene shifts to the Causse du Larzac
The Causse du Larzac is a limestone karst plateau in the south of the Massif Central, France, situated between Millau and Lodève...

(Chapter IV).

External links