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Commemorating 300 years of Huguenot history in South Africa

A large number of people in South Africa are descended from Huguenots. Most of these originally settled in the Cape Colony, but have since been quickly absorbed into the Afrikaner and Afrikaans population, thanks to sharing a similar religion to the Dutch colonists.


Even before the large scale arrival of the Huguenots at the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th century, a small number of individual Huguenot refugees settled there. The included Francois Viljoen and the Du Toit brothers.After a commissioner was sent out from the Cape Colony in 1685 to attract more settlers, a more dedicated group of immigrants began to arrive. A larger number of Frenchmarker refugees began to arrive in the Cape after leaving their country after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

On December 31, 1687 a band of Huguenots set sail from France to the colony at the Cape of Good Hopemarker, South Africa. Individual Huguenots settled at the Cape of Good Hope from as early as 1671 and an organized, large scale emigration of Huguenots to the Cape of Good Hope took place during 1688 and 1689. A notable example of this is the emigration of Huguenots from La Motte d'Aiguesmarker in Provence, Francemarker.

This small body of immigrants had a marked influence on the character of the Dutch settlers. Owing to the policy instituted in 1701 of the Dutch East India Company which dictated that schools should teach exclusively in Dutch and strict laws of assembly, the French Huguenots ceased by the middle of the 18th century to maintain a distinct identity, and the knowledge of French disappeared.


Franschhoek Valley

Many of these settlers chose as their home an area called Franschhoekmarker, Afrikaans for "French corner", in the present day Western Cape province of South Africa. The valley was originally settled in 1688 by French Huguenot refugees, many of whom were given land by the Dutch government in a valley called Olifantshoek ("Elephant's corner"), so named because of the vast herds of elephants that roamed the area. The name of the area soon changed to le Coin Francais ("Our Corner"), and later to Franschhoek, with many of the settlers naming their new farms after the areas in France from which they came. La Motte, La Cotte, Cabriere, Provence, Chamonix, Dieu Donne and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms — most of which still retain their original farm houses today.

Museum and monuments

A large monumentmarker to commemorate the arrival of the Huguenots in South Africa was inaugurated on 17 April 1948 at Franschhoekmarker. A museum dedicated to the Huguenot history in South Africa is located adjacent to the monument.

A smaller monument commemorating the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the Huguenots is located in the Johannesburg Botanical Garden.


There are many families, today mostly Afrikaans speaking, whose surnames bear witness to their French Huguenot ancestry. A comprehensive list of these surnames can be seen on the Huguenot Memorial in the Johannesburg Botanical Garden. Examples of the more common names are Blignaut, Cronje (Cronier), de Klerk (Le Clercq), Visagie (Visage), de Villiers, du Plessis, du Toit, Fourie, Fouche, Giliomee (Guilliaume), Hugo, Joubert, Labuschagne (la Buscagne), Lange, le Roux, Lombard, Malan, Malherbe, Marais, Nel, Pienaar, Roux, Terreblanche, Taljard, Theron and Viljoen (Villion).

Some of the descendants of these original Huguenot families became prominent figures in South African society, most notably F.W. de Klerk, the last State President of apartheid-era South Africa.

Some of the original forms of the surnames have been put in brackets.

Various French language first names have also gained popularity amongst Afrikaners, examples being Francois, Jacques and Eugene.

Some Afrikaans writers have Huguenot surnames, and were involved in setting up the Society of Real Afrikaners.

The wine industry in South Africa was greatly influenced by the Huguenots, many of whom had vineyards in France. Many of the farms in the Western Cape province in South Africa still bear French names, such as Cabrière, La Bourgogne, La Bri, La Chataigne and La Roche.

See also



  1. History of the French Protestant Refugees, from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to our own days. M. Charles Weiss (Translated from the French by Henry William Herbert), 1854. New York: Stringer & Townsend.
  2. Ces Francais Qui Ont Fait L'Afrique Du Sud. Translation: The French People Who Made South Africa. Bernard Lugan. January 1996. [ISBN 2841000869]

Further reading

  • Lugan, Bernard (1996). Ces Francais Qui Ont Fait L'Afrique Du Sud ("The French People Who Made South Africa"). Bartillat. [ISBN 2-84100-086-9].
  • Weiss, M. Charles (1854). History of the French Protestant Refugees, from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to our own days. (Translated from the French by Henry William Herbert) New York: Stringer & Townsend.
  • Memory and Identity: The Huguenots in France and the Atlantic Diaspora, Bertrand Van Ruymbeke & Randy J. Sparks, Published 2003 Univ of South Carolina Press, ISBN 1570034842
  • The Huguenots of South Africa 1688-1988, Pieter Coertzen & Charles Fensham, Published 1988 Tafelberg, ISBN: 062402623X)

External links

Huguenot families

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