Year of publication 1995, issue 6
The Boissevain-Foundation is in good shape! At the end of the year 1995 I can and may say this. Our request for copy for the Bulletin and for financial funding for our Foundation got a good response. As far as the articles concerned, you will be able to read yourself the results in this issue and I like to thank the authors very much. Please keep on sending us short family stories or copy concerning our family history.
I also must thank the generous donors, who with their transfers, chouse and cash payments contributed very much to the funds of our Foundation. With that it will be possible to organize more activities. With the special Bergerac issue we could realize an extra 1995 issue of the Bulletin and now we are preparing a Boissevain neck tie and a family reunion. On both issues we hope to inform you soon. But also we took the obligation to show you the state of our financial affairs, starting in the next Bulletin. Hopefully we will be able to add your 1996 contribution to it, for which we will send you soon a special letter and the family in The Netherlands an acceptgirokaart.
Another remarkable fact in 1995 was our reunion in Bergerac last July. Finally 15 members of our family participated in it: may be not too many people but they had a lot of fun and experienced a "historic feeling".
Finally I will ask your attention for two things on which you will have to take action yourself. First, our counterpart in Connecticut (USA), Tice, finished his overview of all the descendants of Lucas Boissevain and in this Bulletin you can read how to get a copy. Well done Tice and I hope it will spread around the world! Secondly I like to point out that you can let us know in what language you want to receive this Bulletin. We send a Dutch version to the people in The Netherlands and an English language one to the inhabitants of all other countries of the world. If you want to receive another version as you did now, please let our secretary know.
Charles F.C.G. Boissevain,
chairman Boissevain - Foundation
Bergerac before the reformation
"Captured, lost, recaptured", such was the fate of Bergerac, home of our ancestors since long before there was any question of Reformation or Huguenots, though no lack of patriotism, as we shall be seeing.
It all started with two marriages and a divorce. Eleanora of Guyenne, wife of Louis VII, King of France, separated from him and remarried Henry Plantagenet who two years later became King of England and subsequently King of France. That was in 1154. That was how Guyenne, hence Périgord and Bergerac, a mere princess's dowry, fell to the British. As we all know, there lay one of the background causes of the so-called Hundred Years War (1339 - 1453), years during which Bergerac suffered grievously.
Yet in 1188 another King of France, Philippe-Auguste, was to supply Guitnne with fortresses before leaving for the Crusade: ten towers, according to historians, and eighteen gates linked by very thick walls and five great bastions. But alas all those walls proved of little avail when the city was restored to the British by Louis IX in the face of violent protests by the inhabitants. Such was their ire that they refused to recognize him as a saint and to join in the celebrations throughout France when he was canonized. You either know your own mind or you don't!
Actually the real masters of Bergerac were not so much the kings as its own feudal lords. Their disputes might be brought on by rivalry or greed, but they quickly resorted to arms, especially drawing the covers to their side of the bed and despoiling the citizens of the rights and freedoms granted them by the ... British! Fed up with the barons' quarrels about the boundaries of their manorial rights, King Charles IV stepped in. He took back all the forts of Aquitaine from England. Then in 1322 he consented to grant Bergerac 29 articles drafted as letters patent, setting out the communes in detail. Those letters patent re-established the consulate, the consuls (kind of mayors), authorized to appoint their own successors themselves. It was stated therein that the mayors could not only levy certain taxes but could also appoint one citizen per district to keep the eyes of the city. To quote a few words in the French of those days: "Les bourgeois et habitants sont quittes francs et immunes a perpétuité et le seigneur ne peut rien exiger ni prendre d'iceulx" ("The citizens and inhabitants are free and immune to perpetuity and the lord of the manor may demand nothing nor take anything back"). Said privileges deprived the lords of Bergerac of almost all their authority. We should not be unduly surprised to see the last of them, Archambaud IV, giving up his rights over the city in exchange for a rental of 1600 pounds paid to Philippe VI of Valois, who hastened to confirm the inhabitants' privileges, as was recorded in 1337. Determined to show their loyalty to the King of France, Bergerac soon found the opportunity to do so. In 1345 three British armies invaded the continent, the first through Bayonne and Bordeaux. After a terrible battle, Bergerac was captured and looted by the British. In 1360 their conquest was confirmed by the Treaty of Brétigny. That British occupation gave rise to widespread discontent. To appease ill-feelings in Bergerac, the Prince of Wales ratified an agreement previously known as Status and Customs. It mentioned purchases and sales, wills and inheritance, theft, adultery, etc... It set out the privileges granted by the rights of citizenship, giving an idea of life in Bergerac in the 14th century.
Thus, for example: "Should a non-citizen insult a citizen or owe him money, the citizen shall have him seized by the bailiff to obtain satisfaction", or: "If convicted of adultery, a women shall be sentenced to run nude once round the city", and: "No sergeant may seize a citizen for debt, nor the bed in which he sleeps nor his bedcovers, unless he owns two thereof, nor his spouse's dress if she only possesses one, etc.",
further: "Neither in Bergerac nor its suburbs may anyone sell cloth, salt, wine nor possess a salt attic nor tavern nor enjoy any of the city's privileges unless he be a citizen thereof". The foregoing demonstrates the importance which citizens will gradually acquire in cities which fought to conquer their privileges.
It can thus clearly seen that such citizen is a men to be respected. Most severe penalties are meted out to whomsoever harms him, especially where vines or wine are concerned. Let us ignore incidents in the following years. We come to the words of Christine de Pisan, one of the earliest women in French literature. She tells us how the Duke of Anjou, the king's brother, accompanied by the illustrious High Constable Bertrand du Guesclin, captured the Bergerac fortress, "a very fortified place", in 1374. Finally in 1450, with the city once more in British hands, as French relief was approaching, the citizens cut the throats of the British garrison, of which they were to boast proudly in later years. And the Duke of Penthieve rewarded their patriotism by granting them further privileges.
In the town hall's archives the following is recorded in latin: "Other cities may proclaim their ancient history and boast of having conquered and triumphed over nations ... For me I would look for no other city than this one, jealous of its purer glory, save in my loyalty to the crown of France; if per misadventure I was cut off from it by British arms I took the first opportunity to shake off their yoke by slitting the throats of their garrison, and by that heroic action I taught other cities to recover their freedom; to reward my velour our most Christian kings honored me with privileges and exempted me from taxation in perpetuity ... I have absolute confidence that future kings will adhere to that. As for me, I will at all times be ready to lay down my life and my worldly goods for my king and his laws". Alas, two centuries later they were doomed to disappointment!
I felt it worthwhile copying out those words for the benefit of the descendants of those valorous citizens of Bergerac. Over the ensuing centuries they have shown that they do not let themselves be trampled on (may I be pardoned for that somewhat familiar expression). Under British occupation they lifted up their heads to fight, not once, but many a time. Contrary to their overlords, they were no change-coats, shifting sides to suit their books. No. They remained loyal to the King of France, for which a certain descendant was to show little gratitude at the time of the Reformation. This text dates from 1450, precisely the time when the name of a lawyer signing BOUISSAVY DE BERGERAC appears on a document for the first time. He would seem to have paid some contribution to his city for some purpose unknown; thus he was a person of distinction, but there were others of that name in the surrounding villages, all from "Dordogne". By that we mean that, as was so often the case, they did not come from elsewhere but were of genuine Périgord origin. So their forebears had been through the same historic events we have been recalling. In the 15th century they can be regarded, with no fear of exaggeration, as laborious, brave and ready to fight, and so respected. They had to be, for the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem to entrust them with lands to farm, as did Leonard, Arnauld and Pierre BOUISSAVY in Landrivie of the parish of Sellieres in 1489.
When the "Révocation of the Edit de Nantes" came two hundred years later some of them had embraced the cause of the huquenots. Rather than foreswear their faith, those hardy souls preferred to leave their beloved Dordogne. Among them were three brothers, two of whom were pastors and the third, Lucas, our ancestor in Holland. But this is another story, we shall talk about another time.
D. de Uthemann
(translated in English by A. Mouravieff - Apostel)
An anecdote is true, almost true, of partly true. A fact is that an anecdote is a flashback in time. The past revives just a little.
One word, or actually two words, lead to this flashback in time. How I suddenly got to this idea I don't remember, but all at once it came to me: "Sour Expressiveness". I remember that my mother once spoke to me about this and I asked her about it. She was born in 1900 and still remembers a lot, and then she told me the following story.
Professor Brugmans, born about beginning 1800, had three daughters, but no sons. No grieving about that, his daughters were intelligent, stood their man, and he had little trouble teaching his studious daughters his own knowledge of the classics and whatever more he thought interesting and useful for their development. The result was developed daughters who cared a fat lot about the stereotype feminine behavior of that period. This to the dismay of the cavaliers who escorted them to the usual party's, for the 19th century chit-chat one was supposed to have with young lady's resulted in a failure. The young lady's answered with a sharp tongue, argued to turn the subject and when that did not work the cavalier concerned slinked off somewhat dismayed. That is how the expression "Sour Expressiveness" was born.
Naturally there were also men that sought the challenge. One of them was my great-grandfather Jan Boissevain (VIII A). He came to professor Brugmans to ask for his daughters hand Petronella, when father Brugmans, surprised, asked why he didn't ask for the hand of his younger daughter who he thought was much nicer. As we all know Jan sticked to his choice and married the sharpest of the three. The younger sister later married Mr M.J. Pijnappel. A few children were born. In 1870 both sister Brugmans were pregnant. My great-grandmother Boissevain had a strong baby-boy Matthijs. Two days later her sister gave birth to a girl Marie. Marie was tiny, the mother did not succeed in feeding her enough. Then the sisters decided to switch the babies during the nursing period. Thijs made sure he got enough and Marie had plenty with her aunt. My mother says that there was always a special bond between the two children, like brother and sister. Another observation about the two is that it was very remarkable that Thijs had the kind character of his foster mother and Marie was fierce like hers. Marie became a renowned fighter for women rights as we learned from the story about famous Boissevain women in Boissevain Bulletin no. 4, as she later married Charles H.H. (VIII C).
Vera ter Haar-van Oyen
(daughter of Mia Hopperus Buma-van Hall)
Reunion in Bergerac
In the last week of July our long existing plans for a family meeting in Bergerac became reality, favored by fine weather. It was a great success, although the number of participants - 15 - was somewhat below expectations. Of course Bergerac is for nearly all Boissevains, even those in France, not next-door. But several participants combined the meeting with a holiday, although some made the journey for this occasion only!
As announced in the Bergerac Special (Bulletin No.5) venue and time were restaurant Le Poivre et Sel on Thursday July 27, 7,00 pm. But already in the afternoon 10 Boissevains ran across each other in town and together enjoyed a drink at one of the many pavement cafes. During our walk to our meeting place we passed the statue of Cyrano de Bergerac. A slight inspection learned that none of our noses could rival with the one of De Rostand`s creation. The manager of Le Poivre et Sel laid tables at a square opposite the restaurant. Board member Anneke brought a number of T-shirts printed with a sketch map of Bergerac and surroundings (the Perigord) and our family device "ni regret du passé, ni peur de l`avenir". These met great demand during the aperitif and were put on immediately, curiously watched by the restaurant personnel. Treasurer Guus made a short welcome speech (president Charles wasn’t able to come). During the excellent dinner - where is gastronomy on a higher level than in the Perigord? - our previous president Ernst made proposals for the program of the next day. It was already midnight when after an animated evening the participants returned to the various hotels.
Friday we rode in 4 cars along the Dordogne river direction Couze and St.Capraise, where our common ancestor Lucas originated. Later on, living already in Bergerac - 20 Km away - he still had possessions there. Too far for a daily walk. It is not clear how he managed them. In his testament he left them to his brother Jean and sister Pierrette. As mentioned in the previous Bulletin no traces of these possessions have been found, contrary to those near the villages La Maroutie and Cours-de-Pille at the left side of the river. At Lalinde-St.Capraise we crossed the Dordogne on a narrow old bridge, trafficable for small cars only. Luckily ours were not large. Along small country roads Ernst led us to some spots described in the previous Bulletin where various cousins and uncles of Lucas once lived. A great achievement of Ernst that he discovered these places 2 years ago and refound them again. Guus, an architect, gave interesting information about the age-old farms. At the castle of Cours-de-Pille we ignored the sign "No entry, private property", much to the displeasure of the unkind chatelaine, mentioned by Ernst before. But by the time she told us to leave immediately we had discovered already, next to the entrance gate along the small river Rau, the remnants of "the" old watermill. At a nearby cemetery we discovered a "recent" headstone (2nd half last century) with the inscription "Famille Bouyssavy".
Next to it a much older weatherworn tombstone on which we could read with some effort and after some scratching the words "Tombeau de la famille Bouyssavy, concession à perpétuité".
As is known the name Boissevain became customary in the Netherlands. At the time of Lucas` flight from France the family was still called Bouyssavy; this name can be found regularly in Bergerac and other neighboring towns. On top of a hill near the wellknown Château de Monbazillac we had again an excellent lunch on the terrace (with a unique panorama) of restaurant Le Moulin Malfouret. After that we went to the winevaults of an other, smaller, castle: Le Barradis, where we extensively tasted (and bought) red and white wines of its vineyard. The owner is proud that no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used and that he is entitled to use the words "culture agrobiologique" and "nature et progrès" for his products. This ended the official part of the family meeting. However, most participants happened to have dinner on the terraces of 2 small restaurants next to each other in the center of Bergerac. And the following morning, too, several met again, inter alias in the one rested Huguenot temple in Bergerac (the other one is destroyed and now serves as a kind of mall), where an interesting Huguenot exposition was held named "Les 5 saisons du protestantisme bergeracois". These were: the rise during the tumultuous spring (mid 16th century), the prosperous summer heyday (1574-1621), the first still sumptuous but later gradually decaying autumn (1621-1685), the endless winter with its fierce persecutions (1685-1799), followed by a revival of a perpetual (?) spring. Summing up: the 15 participants enjoyed a pleasant meeting, perhaps to be repeated in a couple of years?
Robert L.(Bob) Boissevain