A Prison Letter From Huguenot Marie Durand

The “French Religious Wars” describes a series of eight civil wars fought out between 1562 and 1598. An estimated three million people perished, fifteen percent of the French population. Although the antagonists wore their inherited religious labels of “Protestant” or “Catholic,” social and political struggles were the true causes of these wars. A right devotion to the religion of the Bible—which brings reconciliation with God and our enemies—would have extinguished the flames of war.

French Protestants saw these wars as the necessary armed defense of their property and lives from Catholic aggression, of their right to live and worship as Protestants. French Protestant scholars agonized over God’s purposes in these violent struggles and what form resistance should take: whether to passively and patiently suffer persecution, whether to take up arms against tyranny, or whether to flee. This practical-theological struggle continued well into the eighteenth century and is manifest in a number of Marie Durand’s letters and the dreadful decisions that she was required to make…

[Written to her orphaned niece Anne, born 1729, after twenty-one years of imprisonment. It describes clothes that Marie had made for Anne and instructions about some complicated family finances. She assures Anne of her love.]

To Monsieur Chiron, at the Taconnerie, in Geneva,
to pass on, please, to Mademoiselle Durand,
in Onex, Geneva, with a package

The Tour de Constance, June 22, 1751

You are no doubt surprised, my darling daughter, that I have been so slow to reply to you. I wanted to sew you six blouses, and this was the cause of the delay. Be assured that I love you as much as if you were my own child, and so long as you are always very modest, you will find in me all the tenderness of a true mother. I have plans for you that you cannot imagine, and I hope, with the help of God, to make you happy one day. Pray to the Lord that he will bless and meet the needs of those who work for my freedom, and then I will bring you near to me. And I will do my utmost to ensure that you do not lack anything.

Your letter gave me great pleasure, for I feared that you no longer lived. The Lord returned you to full health; I am told. I give him thanks and pray that he will continue to do this for you…

…Charge the bill for this letter to me, so that it doesn’t fall into your aunt’s hands, nor those of your uncle Brunel, so that you will not owe them a cent. As I told you, they are not by any means on your side, not even your grandmother. Do not repeat anything of what I tell you; do this for your own good; you only have me to support you. It will be better if I repay your grandmother, supposing they haven’t paid.

They tell me that you have married. I don’t believe this at all, and I will not advise you about this again. God will provide. Only be modest, and I will never abandon you. Be totally convinced of this my darling child, for my whole life I will make it my inviolable obligation to be your good and sincere aunt,

La Durand.

Read More»
Campbell Markham | “Marie Durand — Part 3: The Indelible Legacy of the 1572 Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre” | July 14, 2022



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