With this post we will begin a series of posts about the influence that several people and cultures had in the Boere-Afrikaners helping to create our people and our culture.
In this post we will talk about the influence that the French people and their culture had on Boer-Afrikaners. The French influence in the Afrikaners begin when in the end of the XVII century and the beginning of the XVIII century 200 French Huguenot families came to the Dutch Cape Colony. The reason because their came for a place so far away of their land was because the French catholics had persecute the Huguenots in the XVI century because of their Calvinist religion. In 1598 the Edict of Nantes guaranteed the freedom of religion to the French Calvinists but in 1685 the Edict of Fontainebleau done by king Louis XIV resulted in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and in the return of the intolerance towards Huguenots in France. Is good to remember that during the massacre of Saint Bartolommeo French catholics murdered thousands of Huguenots in one night and there were dozens another massacre against the Huguenots. The wave of French Huguenot immigration to the Cape Colony happened in the end of XVII century and the beginning of the XVIII century. 180 families came from France and 18 families from Wallonia the French speaking region of Belgium. These French Huguenot immigrants influenced a lot the Boer-Afrikaner culture. In the XVIII century they were integrated on the larger group of the Dutch speaking population. In this century with the arrival of German immigrants and minorities of other countries the Afrikaner culture was form. The French were then assimilated in this new people, by marriage with people of other origins and the obligation of the speaking of Dutch in the Cape Colony led to the lost of the French culture in South Africa. However they build and important memorial to honor their culture and people, the Huguenot Monument in Franschoek. Franschhoek means the French corner, was a town build by French Huguenots in South Africa. The French also introduce the culture of wine in South Africa, especially around Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.
Undoubtedly French Huguenot marked the live of the Boer-Afrikaner people and culture. Some of the most important Boer-Afrikaner of all time was descendent of French Huguenots, such as Piet Retief, Piet Joubert, Koos de la Rey even not having a French surname, Sarie Marais, DF Malan, Frederik de Klerk, Eugène Terre’Blanche or Charlize Theron. Without these people the history of our people would be much different because there were in some of the most important moments of our history. Some of the most common Afrikaans surnames are of French Huguenot origin as Nel, Du Plessis, Du Toit, Malan, Joubert, De Villiers or Pienaar which shows that a French Huguenot origin have a big relevance in the genetic of the Afrikaners. According to most of the studies, French origin makes around 15% to 20% of the Afrikaners genetics and could be even more. Is impressive how only 200 families make such a big impact in a people with around 3.5 million people. And that happen because French Huguenots were probably the most successful immigrants in South Africa because of their strong Calvinist working spirit and education levels that were among the highest in the Cape Colony. That explains the fact of existing many Afrikaner with a Huguenot French surname but not so many Huguenot surnames comparing with Dutch and even German. The Huguenot settlers were few but grown at a bigger rate than the others because of the factors that said above.
We could see that these French Huguenots and their culture influenced a lot the Boer-Afrikaner people. With the merge of different cultures including this one the Boer-Afrikaner culture emerged as a new culture a true African culture because was create in Africa and was influenced by several local factors.