In October 1685 Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’ of France, revoked the Edict of Nantes. Protestantism was once again declared illegal, and the French army began pulling down their churches and schools.
The State-sanctioned persecution resulted in the exodus of at up to half a million Huguenots. Many of the refugees were from wealthy families or highly skilled in working with silk, plate glass, gold and silver, as well as the manufacture of watches and furniture.
Among those Huguenots who fled from France to Ireland was Jean Chaigneau, the owner of the ancient “La Bellonniere” wine estate that stood midway between Rochefort and St Savinien near Cognac. He was the son of Jacques Chaigneau of St Savinien, “Capitaine de Marine a La Rochelle”, who was the father of at least three sons. Perhaps a connection exits with the present-day Chateau Canon Chaigneau in Lalande a Pomerol?
Jean, his wife and sons headed to La Rochelle in search of a fishing boat or skiff, at the time there was an active trade between La Rochelle and Dublin for apples and dried herrings. They were successful and amongst the first who entered their names in the register of the French colony in Dublin city.
The Chaigneau’s established a successful mercantile network in Ireland, settling in Dublin, Carlow and Cork. The family became wine importers and merchants operating from the port of Youghal. Meanwhile the French authorities confiscated the Chaigneau estate of “La Bellonniere” on the grounds that’s its owners were religious fugitives, or “religionnaires fugitifs du royaume pour cause de religion”.
Interesting to think, that over three centuries later we could be stocking the same wines they imported from a family relation in Chateau Canon Chaigneau, Bordeaux all those years ago. Well, if we had some of that wine, it certainly would be well-aged.