French Huguenots in the Spanish Netherlands (1556 - 1656)

Spanish Netherlands

The DeVoor/ DeVeaux family of d' Artois, France

Probably born in Picardy on Walloon soil. Also De Vaux, Devoe, Devoir spellings. Daniel is recorded as Daniel Vooren in the Tappan, Rockland CO. NY records. Daniel & brothers Frederick, Nicholas and Jacob, with their parents--Daniel DeVoor/DeVeaux was a son of Nicholas DeVeaux and Susanne Francois--left Annis (Anicy?), France, to escape persecution as Huguenots. Went to Mannheim, Germany, with king's murderous troopers at their heels. Almost captured. When Mannheim was invaded by Louis XIV, Daniel & Nicholas escaped to England. They came to NY with Sir Edmund Andros, when he became 2nd Governor of NY. Parents stayed in Germany and were killed. Jacob & Frederick came to New Harlem in 1675.

     Excerpted from "Devore Family 1500-1992, Betty Mann," <> 14 December 2014.

Our timeframe, 1556 to 1656, was one of continual religious wars between the predominant Catholic states and the newly Reformed and Lutheran states of Europe and state wars within the ranks of Catholic Europe. As a French Huguenot, life was perilous.

The Seventeen Provinces was a term applied to the Imperial states of the Habsburg Netherlands, a non-contiguous region of the Holy Roman Empire [HRE]. From the seventeen states, these lands now comprise the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the counties of Flanders, Artois and Hainault in France. And, our DeVaux family lived in Artois and Hainault. With the abdication of Emperor Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor in 1556, the Habsburg Netherlands were ceded to Charles' son, King Philip II of Spain, and renamed the Spanish Netherlands.

The Eighty-Years War (1568-1648) was effectively the fight for independence for the seven Protestant provinces of northern Spanish Netherlands (Holland) from the Spanish Habsburg rulers and the Catholic southern provinces of Spanish Netherlands (Belgium). And, Nicholas DeVeaux was born in about 1595 in County Artois, Spanish Netherlands.

Neighboring France tried to settle some of the religious strife within their realm. With the Edict of Nantes (1598), King Henry IV granted some autonomy and some religious freedom to the Huguenots. It wasn't until 1609 and the Twelve-Years Truce of Antwerp that hostilities quieted down for awhile; as the the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV of France in 1685. But Louis XIII at the behest of his mother, Catherine de Medici, persecuted Huguenots whenever possible.

The Thirty-Years War raged from 1618 to 1648, pitting France, Spain, the Papacy, and numerous German states against the Holy Roman Emperors. With the expiration of the Twelve-Years Truce in 1621, Spain began their push to retake the Dutch Republic. Their route of march would be north from their army's position in northern Italy, then west around Protestant Switzerland, through Alsace, down the Rhine River through the Palatinate of the Rhine to the Dutch border. The only state standing in their way was the Protestant Palatinate of the Rhine. One direct result was the devastation of the west bank of the Rhine and the sack of Manheim in 1622 by the Spanish Army and the Catholic League. 

In 1635 Cardinal Richelieu, First French Minister, declared war on Spain. The resulting Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659) pitted two Catholic states against each other. The early stage of the war focused on France's southern border with Spain. But by 1648, the war shifted to France's northern border with the Spanish Netherlands.

The breaking out of war between France and Spain in 1635 caused a considerable influx of Protestant refugees into England, from Picardy, Artois, Hainault and Flanders. Involving these provinces in all the perils and disasters of a pitiless border warfare, and lasting nearly the fourth of a century, it resulted in the conquest of Artois, and parts of Flanders and Hainault, and their annexation to France. . . 

While many left Picardy, the French advance and successes in Hainault and Artois were causing a larger migration of the Protestant Walloons; and among these also a number whose destiny led them to Harlem. We can make but brief allusion to such events, military or otherwise, in their respective localities, as seemingly influenced their removal. . . 

From Mons, the rich capital of [Hainault], seated to the north of Avesnes, and within the coal region called the Borinage, came David du Four, of the same name, and not improbably the same blood, as the martyr of Le Cateau, but whose posterity, which became numerous in his country, changed the form of their name to Devoor and Devoe.

    Riker, James, "Revised History of Harlem, 1904," p. 63-65.

At first, the armies would advance and retreat, taking and relinquishing territories from each other. But by August 1654, Arras, the capitol of Artois, had been seized by the French. In 1656, the fortresses of Landrecies, Conde' and Ghislain fell. And by July 1656, Valenciennes was surrounded. The war did not end until 1659 and the Treaty of the Pyrenees.

So by 1655, Spain had renewed the Eighty-Years War with the Dutch Republic; Manheim and the Lower Palatinate had been sacked;  the French Army invaded the Spanish Netherlands, doing to County Artois what the Spanish Army did to the Palatinate of the Rhine; and our brother Huguenots in France were being slaughtered. If watching your friends and neighbors fight a religious war while worrying for your family's safety wasn't enough to run you off, invasion and desolation by the French Army was. This is the point where our ethnic French Huguenot families began their flight to freedom.

In fear for their lives, the purported children of Nicholas DeVeaux fled to Sedan, France, and the towns of the Palatinate of the Rhine, the Dutch Republic, and even England, eventually finding refuge in America. 


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