The Huguenot Society of Maryland

The Great Dispersion

The persecutions intensified, and the Huguenots left France in the thousands, despite the severe consequences if they were caught. By the terms of the Revocation of the Edict, all of the Huguenot temples were to be destroyed. The Huguenot pastors had two weeks to get out of the country. All other Huguenots were prohibited from leaving France. If caught, the penalties were horrendous. They could be killed. Men might be jailed or, if really unlucky, condemned to the galleys where they were chained to heavy oars that moved the great ships. They lost all their property. Women might be sent to jail or a nunnery. Children were taken from their Huguenot parents to be raised as Catholics.


Just before and after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the Huguenots’ dispersion rose to over 100,000; some authorities estimate nearer 250,000. The greatest number , between 50,000 and 60,000 went to the Dutch Republic. Britain received between 40,000 and 50,000, and Germany between 25,000 and 30,000. A few hundred went to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and the American colonies.


Many Huguenots who emigrated to the Netherlands later moved to Britain and then to America. Within America, the largest concentrations were in New York, South Carolina, and Virginia.


The numbers in Maryland were comparatively few. Many of those who came decided not to stay. To date, no original source materials give the reasons for their leaving.