This name is an heritage from Languedoc families that intertwined across the centuries and that embraced the 16th century Reformation.

 

Our Huguenot ancestors were all involved in the French Wars of Religion, a century of political battles, intrigues, and civil wars, that included the Catholic League the Fronde and that spanned the reign of Louis XIV.

During this period, Jean Bouffard de La Garrique escaped from St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572. His son, Jean de Bouffard Madiane, a close friend of the Duke of Rohan and Marguerite de Béthune, Sully’s daughter, negotiated with Richelieu and Louis XIII at the end of the Siege of La Rochelle. French Protestantism was badly affected and would never recover.

 

Until the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the family practiced its faith openly, especially near the Protestant Academy of Puylaurens, with its illustrious faculty, including Pierre Bayle, a founding father of the philosophers of the Enlightenment.

 

However, in 1685, the Sun King, Louis XIV, Louvois, and Father Lachaise designed the ill-fated dragonnade project forcing a million Calvinists to convert or to leave France. Six hundred thousand Protestant fugitives left in exile, among them several of my ancestors who found refuge in Switzerland, Denmark, and England. Among them was Antoinette de Gineste, who died in 1713 in Southampton. Their exodus from the country was a massive loss for France: these Huguenots who chose the Refuge took with them their agricultural methods and skills in manufacturing hats, sheets, paintings, papers, and glass. All these skills enriched France’s worst enemies for centuries.

 

Most of those who remained in France, such as Henry de Bouffard-Madiane, officially renounced Protestantism with the Edict de Fontainebleau (1685). In reality, though, they adopted the "Nicodemite" position: nurturing their faith in private while publicly pretending to be attached to the established religion, thus avoiding prosecution. They weathered the storm and bode their time, waiting for the right moment to rise: Henry and his wife Esther de Mordaigne, for example, gave their children Protestant names such as Samuel, Isabeau, and Esther.

 

With the advent of Louis XV in 1715, they began to hope for better days. Yet it was all for naught; the new king was even more harsh than the great-grandfather who preceded him. Louis XV condemned anyone who was even suspected of having attended forbidden religious services to the galleys or to prison. Among our relatives were many death row prisoners and also alumni of the clandestine seminary of Lausanne, including Jean Paul Rabaut Saint Etienne, defender of "freedom of thought and opinions" in the Declaration of Rights of the Man and the Citizen; André Jeanbon Saint André, the man who made the blue, white, and French flag; and Pierre Durand, Marie Durand's brother, who was locked in the Tower of Constance.

 

One of our ancestors was arrested alongside Jean Calas, a Protestant who was beaten in 1762 for a crime he had not committed. The episode inspired Voltaire’s Treatise on Tolerance; Voltaire also applied public pressure that led to Jean Calas’s being pardoned.

 

In November 1787, Louis XVI published his famous Edict of Toleration, which legally ended the Protestants’ persecution. The subsequent Revolution led to the proclamation of Human Rights, which affirmed religious freedom by decree of the Constituent Assembly.

 

The Revolution -- "foreign to the life of God" -- was tumultuous, a frightful storm unleashed on France. Not just Protestants who had been persecuted for centuries, but this time also Catholic clergy found themselves on the defensive. The castle, as a target against the nobility, was partly burned, and again some of our ancestors were led to exile. Paul de Bouffard-Madiane answered the call of the Prince of Conde to join the army of the emigrants of Worms on the banks of the Rhine.

 

However, the Revolution finally authorized the freedom to practice different religions in France, through the decree of 3 Ventose, Year III (the date in the new calendar of the French Republic, representing February 21, 1795).

François, Guillemette and the Plague of 1563 

 

François de Bouffard of the Garrigue, First Consul of Castres and his wife Guillemette of La Garde de Rotopoly dedicated themselves to those who needed assistance. They visited the most miserable homes within the district of Castres that was most ravaged by the epidemic, and brought many of the most unfortunate to their home. They served the people as their doctors, benefactors and friends. Exhausted from fatigue and poisoned by the fetid bedsides of the dying, they succumbed in their turn. Both died with glory.

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Ref. "Bulletin of the Society of the History of French Protestantism,"published in 1873.

 

Marguerite, the Revolution, and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy

 

In the aftermath of the Revolution, in 1789, the property of the clergy was nationalized. The following year, the Constituent Assembly adopted the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy" signed by Louis XVI in his final years before his execution. Archbishops, bishops and parish priests were declared to be elected officials, paid by the state, thus ending pontifical feudalism. All clergy were required to take the Obligatory Oath, promising their allegiance to France over the Church. The Recusants (clergy who refused to accept the Oath) went into hiding.

Marguerite de Gineste de Najac (married in 1750 in England, to Étienne de Gineste, Lord of Appelle), by solidarity, hid in her own bed a persecuted priest.

Charlotte Geneviève de Gineste de Bouffard-Madiane is my great-grandmother. 

[1] Antoinette de Gineste morte en 1713 à Angleterre (Southampton)

[2] Leurs huit enfants sont tous nés avant la Révocation de l’édit de Nantes, Esther, leur mère, étant morte trois ans avant, en 1682. Henri mourra en 1709 à Castres.

[3] Né en 1748

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