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Camisards

From Academic Kids

After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, a revolt by the Camisards (Occitan camisa, 'smock' or 'shirtsleeves') broke out in 1702, in the rugged and isolated Cevennes region of south-central France, the traditional heartland of religious heterodoxy (see Cathar). Protestant peasants of the region rebelled against the official persecutions, called the 'Dragonades' (conversions enforced by Dragoons, 'missionaries in boots') that followed the Revocation, in which military forces terrorized scattered bands of Protestants, inspiring mass emigrations. Clandestine Protestant preachers were hidden in houses and caves, and Protestants were arrested, deported to America, and sentenced to the galleys. Several leading Protestant preachers were executed and many more were exiled, in some cases leaving the abandoned congregations to the leadership of less educated and more mystically-oriented preachers.

Open hostilities began with the assassination (July 24, 1702) of a local embodiment of royal repression, Patrick Cabanel, the Abbot of Chaila, at Pont-de-Montvert, who had recently arrested a group 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 and Roland Laporte, the Camisards met the ravages of the royal army with guerrilla methods and withstood superior forces in several pitched battles.

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 was restored. Scattered fighting went on until 1710, but the true end of the uprising was the arrival in the CÚvennes of the Protestant minister Antoine Court and the reestablishment of a small Protestant community that was largely left in peace, especially after the death of Louis XIV in 1715.

Cavalier later went over to the British, who made him Governor of Jersey

A millenarian group of ex-Camisards under the guidance of Elie Marion emigrated to London in 1706, and were said to have links with the Alumbrados. 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 and on Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement.

Camisard in France today refers to a white goat cheese made in Aquitaine, especially in spring and summer.

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