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The label Huguenot was purportedly first applied in France to those conspirators (all of them aristocratic members of the Reformed Church) involved in the Amboise plot of 1560: a foiled attempt to wrest power in France from the influential House of Guise.
The move would have had the side effect of fostering relations with the Swiss.
By the death of Louis XV in 1774, French Calvinism was almost completely wiped out.
Persecution of Protestants officially ended with the Edict of Versailles (Edict of Tolerance), signed by Louis XVI in 1787.
The "Hugues hypothesis" argues that the name was derived by association with Hugues Capet, king of France, who reigned long before the Reformation.
He was regarded by the Gallicans and Protestants as a noble man who respected people's dignity and lives.
The superstition of our ancestors, to within twenty or thirty years thereabouts, was such that in almost all the towns in the kingdom they had a notion that certain spirits underwent their Purgatory in this world after death, and that they went about the town at night, striking and outraging many people whom they found in the streets.
But the light of the Gospel has made them vanish, and teaches us that these spirits were street-strollers and ruffians.
Now, it happens that those whom they called Lutherans were at that time so narrowly watched during the day that they were forced to wait till night to assemble, for the purpose of praying God, for preaching and receiving the Holy Sacrament; so that although they did not frighten nor hurt anybody, the priests, through mockery, made them the successors of those spirits which roam the night; and thus that name being quite common in the mouth of the populace, to designate the evangelical huguenands in the country of Tourraine and Amboyse, it became in vogue after that enterprise." While this and the many other theories offer their own measure of plausibility, attesting at least to the wit of later partisans and historians, "no one of the several theories advanced has afforded satisfaction." The issue of demographic strength and geographical spread of the Reformed tradition in France has been covered in a variety of sources.
They also spread to the Dutch Cape Colony in South Africa, the Dutch East Indies, the Caribbean, New Netherland, and several of the English colonies in North America.
Small contingents of families went to Orthodox Russia and Catholic Quebec.
A series of religious conflicts followed, known as the French Wars of Religion, fought intermittently from 1562 to 1598.
The Huguenots were led by Jeanne d'Albret, her son, the future Henry IV, and the princes of Condé.