GET A FREE BOOKGet a free book

The King’s Command: For God or Country

A novel of French Huguenot history by Rosemary Hayes

Today I welcome author Rosemary Hayes as she shines a light on the fascinating history of the French Huguenots with her remarkable new novel, The King’s Command: For God or Country.

Rosemary has Huguenot ancestry herself, and researching the novel was an eye-opening experience in many ways. Read on to learn more about the Huguenots and discover the inspirations and history that underpin the novel.

Sixteen year old Lidie Brunier has everything; looks, wealth, health and a charming suitor, but there are dark clouds on the horizon. Lidie and her family are committed Huguenots and Louis XIV has sworn to stamp out this ‘false religion’ and make France a wholly Catholic country.

Gradually Lidie’s comfortable life starts to disintegrate as Huguenots are stripped of all rights and the King sends his brutal soldiers into their homes to force them to become Catholics. Others around her break under pressure but Lidie and her family refuse to convert.

With spies everywhere and the ever present threat of violence, they struggle on. Then a shocking betrayal forces Lidie’s hand and her only option is to try and flee the country. A decision that brings unimaginable hardship, terror and tragedy, and changes her life forever. 

Interview with the author:

AM: What’s the tagline or ‘elevator pitch’ for your book?

RH: ‘For God or Country’ is the tagline. This is to highlight the dilemma of the Huguenots. They didn’t want to leave France – being largely artisans and professionals they were invested in it in so many ways – but neither did they want to deny their faith.

AM: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

RH: I’d always known that I had Huguenot ancestry but a chance remark by a cousin – ‘You know they fled to England because they were persecuted?’ – made me want to learn more about them. Many of those who try to trace their Huguenot roots find the process laborious and frustrating, coming across contradictions and going down blind alleys, but I was lucky. A lot is known about my Huguenot forebears, Lydia and Samuel La Fargue. They feature in the Annals of the Huguenot Society and some meticulous research was done on them by an Edwardian ancestor of mine, so I had a head start.

Carving above Huguenot church doorway in London

I knew where they lived in France; in a small town in Gascony, not far from Bordeaux, originally called Castillon-sur-Dordogne and now called Castillon-la-Bataille. I knew what they did (they were predominately lawyers, physicians and minor nobles) and that they were friends with other prominent Protestant families in the region with whom they inter married and socialised. In the baptism records of the time, it can also be seen that they were godparents to one another’s children. The Edwardian ancestor states that they lived just outside the town centre in ‘the pleasant faubourg’ and, although I found no evidence of this, it seems likely to be true. They also owned land in the plains South of the town.

So, they came from the bourgeoisie, were committed Huguenots, following the teachings of Calvin, and their own ancestors had fought against the Catholics in the sixteenth century Wars of Religion.

Inside a Huguenot temple

AM: What inspired you to write about that particular era or character?

RH: Wanting to know more about the lives of these ancestors and why they left France to come to live in ‘the quiet village of Hammersmith’ in 1692. Although my book is only very loosely based on the experience of Lydia and Samuel La Fargue, they were definitely the inspiration for it.

AM: How did you create a realistic setting for your story?

RH: The bulk of the story takes place in South West France, in Castillon-la-Bataille where my ancestors lived. I went there and spent time talking to local historians, studying maps and old drawings, getting a feel for the layout of the place and visiting the land where the family farmed. I also had the help of two Huguenot experts who had in depth knowledge of the customs and circumstances of the time in which my book is set.

AM: What surprised you in the course of your research?

RH: Probably the level of hatred between Protestants and Catholics. There had been atrocities committed on both sides in the Wars of Religion and divisions continued to run deep even after the Edict of Nantes (in 1598) granted tolerance to Protestants.

AM: Do your research findings guide the plot, or do you plan out the plot first and flesh it out with research? (Or perhaps both?)

RH: In this case, my findings definitely guided the plot and I did a lot of research before I wrote the first line of the book. I was always going to base it on the experience of my own ancestors but I didn’t follow their experience very rigorously and invented a lot of peripheral characters to inject more jeopardy into the plot, some of whom became very appealing and demanded to have a much more prominent role than that which I’d anticipated for them!

AM: Name three historical facts or events that helped bring your main character to life.

RH: The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, by King Louis XIV which changed everything for the French Huguenots and made their lives impossible if they did not deny their faith.

Louis XIV’s decision to quarter brutal dragoons in Huguenot homes to force them to abjure.

At the time of the Revocation, Huguenot pastors were expelled from France but their congregations were forbidden to leave.

Dragoon forcing Huguenot to renounce his beliefs

AM: As historical novelists, we are often left wondering about tantalizing mysteries that can’t quite be solved with our research. If you could invite your main character(s) to dinner, what questions would you ask them, and what lingering mysteries would you hope to solve?

RH: I would ask Lydia what gave her the strength to refuse to deny her faith and not take the easy route and abjure. I’d also like to know the real cause of her husband’s death.

AM: Do you completely plan out your cast of characters before writing, or do you sometimes add new characters as you go along? What are some of the reason you’ve added new characters to a story?

RH: I usually have a draft plotline and plan out the main characters but sometimes I invent new characters; I needed to have a reason for a betrayal in the book, and I invented a new character (a naughty maid) to explain why it happened.

AM: Do you have any tips for other writers about keeping track of your historical fiction research?

RH: Not really! I keep loads of notes in labelled files but I’m not as organized as I should be.

AM: Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? If music, what kind and why?

RH: Definitely in silence! I work in an office in my house where there is no view out of the window so I don’t get distracted.

AM: What do you have planned for your next writing project?

RH: A trilogy of novellas set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, featuring a disgraced soldier who unwittingly becomes a spy.

AM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

RH: Lots of things! Reading, listening to music, singing, entertaining, being with friends and family, dog walking, visiting other countries.

Where to buy the book:

This title is available to read with #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Amazon AU:

Amazon CA:

About the Author:

Rosemary Hayes has written over fifty books for children and young adults. She writes  in different genres, from edgy teenage fiction (The Mark), historical fiction (The Blue Eyed Aborigine and Forgotten Footprints), middle grade fantasy (Loose Connections, The Stonekeeper’s Child and Break Out)  to chapter books for early readers and texts for picture books. Many of her books have won or been shortlisted for awards and several have been translated into different languages.

Rosemary has travelled widely but now lives in South Cambridgeshire. She has a background in publishing, having worked for Cambridge University Press before setting up her own company Anglia Young Books which she ran for some years. She has been a reader for a well-known authors’ advisory service and runs creative writing workshops for both children and adults.

Rosemary has recently turned her hand to adult fiction and her historical novel ‘The King’s Command’ is about the terror and tragedy suffered by the French Huguenots during the reign of Louis XIV.

Author Links:



Amazon Author Page:


1 Comment

  1. Cathie Dunn says:

    Thank you for featuring Rosemary Hayes today with such a fabulous interview.

    Cathie xo
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.