In France, during the reign of King Henry IV (1589-1610), a series of recurring religious conflicts erupted and grew so violent they became known as the Wars of Religion. The war was between the ruling Catholics and a group of French Protestant reformers, who became known as Huguenots.
The Huguenots, adhering to the tenets laid down by Protestant reformer John Calvin, demanded equal rights, political and military autonomy and tolerance of their religion. As they grew in numbers, and became more insistent, the French government issued the Edict of Nantes. The edict granted their demands and the conflicts subsided.
During the reign of King Louis XIV (1643-1715), renewed religious warfare prompted the abolishment of the political and military privileges of the Huguenots. Louis progressively increased persecution of them until he issued the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685), which abolished all legal recognition of Protestantism in France, and forced the Huguenots to convert. While nearly three-quarters eventually were killed or submitted, roughly 500,000 Huguenots had fled France by the early 18th century.
In 1788, a young boy, the son of a Huguenot family who had fled the conflicts in France, left school at age 14 and ran off to sea. On one of his voyages, the ship ran aground and sank due to incorrect guidance information. Many of the sailors drowned, and the survivors, including the young boy, were shipwrecked. This life-altering incident left the boy with a keen, and lifelong, awareness of the value of accurate maps and charts for those risking their lives traveling the open seas, and prompted him to devote the greater part of his life to compiling detailed maps and charts still in use today.
Francis Beaufort was born at Navan, County Meath, on May 27, 1774. His father, Daniel Augustus Beaufort was a Protestant, from Navan, County Meath, and a member of the learned Royal Irish Academy. His mother, Mary, was the daughter and co-heiress of William Waller, of Allenstown House. He had an older brother, William Louis Beaufort and two sisters, Frances and Harriet.
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