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Abbadie, Jacques [James]locked

(bap. 1654?, d. 1727)
  • Ruth Whelan

Abbadie, Jacques [James] (bap. 1654?, d. 1727), Church of Ireland dean of Killaloe, was born in Nay in Béarn; he is most probably the Jacques Abbadie who was the third child of Violente de Fortaner and Pierre Abbadie, baptized on 27 April 1654. He received his early education at the local protestant school, which was overseen by the pastor and writer Jean de la Placette, and in 1673 went to the protestant academy of Montauban-Puylaurens, and then to the academy of Saumur to study theology. The divergent ethos of these two academies—on the one hand conservative and on the other liberal—left its mark on Abbadie's theological outlook.

By January 1679 Abbadie was in Paris, attached to the French Reformed church at Charenton as a candidate for ministry. The capital city offered Abbadie many opportunities to hear the sermons of the great preachers of the day, and he was particularly taken by the pulpit oratory of the Jesuit Louis Bourdaloue, which he sought to imitate. The ornate style Abbadie acquired in Paris soon earned him a reputation as an able preacher, but it was later one of the many sources of tension between him and some of the French protestant refugees in Ireland. He was awarded his doctorate in divinity at the academy of Sedan on 19 March 1680 and shortly afterwards accepted the invitation of the elector of Brandenburg, conveyed by Louis de Beauveau, count of Espence, to serve the French church in Berlin.

Abbadie preached there for the first time, as a candidate for ministry, on 2 May 1680, and after ordination on 4 September according to the rite of the German Reformed church became the pastor. He spent nine years in this position, although his official discharge was actually issued on 17/27 June 1690, some months after his departure. During his years in Berlin he published a number of works: two volumes of sermons, three occasional sermons, a eulogy of the great elector, a treatise on the eucharist, and his highly acclaimed apology of the Christian religion, the Traité de la vérité de la religion chrétienne (1684), which went into some thirty reprints, editions, and translations into English, German, Dutch, and Italian. When the edict of Nantes was revoked (17 October 1685) the elector of Brandenburg issued the edict of Potsdam (29 October 1685) inviting the French protestants to settle in his territories. Abbadie was sent on an official mission to the Netherlands with instructions to encourage as many as possible of the Huguenot refugees to settle in Brandenburg, which had been seriously depopulated by the Thirty Years' War. His return to Berlin in the spring of 1686 was marred by conflict in the French church, which by that time had four ministers in charge of a much larger membership. Friedrich Herman, duke of Schomberg, had arrived in Berlin on 24 April 1687, and when the great elector furnished William of Orange with a regiment led by the duke for the invasion of England, Abbadie may have been invited to accompany him as his personal chaplain. Disenchanted with Berlin, he left in the summer of 1689 and joined Schomberg on 1 September, although he was officially attached to the French regiment of horse. Abbadie was serving as the duke's chaplain, as he later observed, when Schomberg 'was killed upon the spot att the Boyne' (LPL, Dean Abbadie, his case). Deprived of his patron, Abbadie left Ireland some time later for London, where he arrived on 10 or 11 July 1691.

Abbadie's reputation as a preacher and apologist had preceded him, and he was appointed shortly afterwards to a vacancy at the French episcopalian (conforming to the Anglican rite) church of the Savoy in Westminster. Abbadie remained in London for eight years and during this period published his treatise on moral philosophy, the Art de se connoître soi-même (1692), which he dedicated to Viscount Sydney, the short-lived lord lieutenant of Ireland. He also published three works in support of what he referred to as the 'hapy revolution' and the 'protestant succession' (LPL, Dean Abbadie, his case); the most substantial of these, the Défense de la nation britannique (1692), also contains a justification of the penal laws in Ireland. It was the third of these works, the Histoire de la dernière conspiration d'Angleterre (1696), an account of the assassination attempt on William III (15 February 1696), which brought him the preferment for which he had long hoped.

On William III's instructions, Secretary Sir William Trumbull wrote to the lords justices of Ireland on 23 January 1697, informing them that the king had 'a very good opinion' of Abbadie and was 'so well pleased with some service done by him as to design him a recompense', and urged them 'to confer upon him some benefice in Ireland at the first opportunity' (CSP dom., 1697, 21, 378–9). Unfortunately, the first opportunity was the deanery of St Patrick's, the national Anglican cathedral in Dublin, and Abbadie's poor knowledge of English excluded him from such an important position. Instead he was made rector of Aglishmartin and Castlecomer, and vicar of Odogh, Ballyragget, and Donoughmore in the diocese of Ossory (7 March 1699), and, on 13 May 1699, installed as dean of Killaloe, in co. Clare, a vacancy which arose as a result of the promotion of Jerome Ryves to the deanery of St Patrick's. Abbadie, however, had nourished greater expectations, and he maintained until his death that his transfer to Ireland left him at a financial loss, given that he did not reside at any of these charges and was obliged to pay his replacements out of a relatively low income. He initially settled in Portarlington (1699–1703), Queen's county, where he could enjoy the company of the Huguenot veterans who had been settled there by Henri de Ruvigny, Lord Galway. Following the bitter controversy which divided the French community when conformity to Anglicanism was imposed on the French Reformed church by the bishop of Kildare, William Moreton, with, it was alleged, Abbadie's collaboration, he moved to Dublin. There he became embroiled in further controversy when William King, archbishop of Dublin, involved Abbadie in fruitless efforts to bring the French Reformed refugees into conformity with Anglicanism.

It is clear that Abbadie's reputation as a writer and preacher meant that he was a spiritual figurehead for the refugee community in England and particularly in Ireland, but there was also something about his personality which irritated his contemporaries and undermined the authority and leadership the Anglican authorities expected him to exercise. In Berlin and London his fellow ministers attributed the difficulties they experienced to Abbadie's ambition, but in Ireland, where tensions sometimes ran high between the Huguenots who conformed to the established church and those who chose to remain faithful to the Reformed tradition, his fellow refugees thought of him as arrogant and high-handed. His florid preaching style merely reinforced their view that Abbadie was determined to lord it over them, leaving behind the sobriety of his own tradition. Disappointed by this lack of recognition, Abbadie divided the last years of his life between Dublin, London, and Amsterdam, where he supervised the printing of his two final publications—treatises on the Reformed tradition and on the apocalypse. He died in London on 25 September 1727, embittered by his fruitless attempts to acquire a more lucrative benefice, and convinced that he had not been rewarded, as he thought he deserved, 'for true and constant zeal for the hapy revolution and the succession in the illustrious House of Hanover' (Dean Abbadie, his case). He was buried in Marylebone cemetery.


  • minute books of the consistory of the French Church, 1672–90, Archiv der Französischen Kirche in Französischen Dom, Berlin
  • Abbadie's mission to Holland, report to the great elector, Französisches Kolonie-departement, Zentrales Staatsarchiv, Merseburg, 3b I, fas.7.1, fols. 20–22
  • ‘Dean Abbadie, his case’, LPL, Fulham MSS, Gibson 1, fols. 1–2
  • J. Abbadie, letter to W. King, 5 April 1704, TCD, MS, 1995–2008/1073
  • R. Whelan, ‘The dean of Killaloe: Jacques Abbadie’, Lias, 14 (1987), 101–17
  • R. Whelan, ‘Points of view: Benjamin de Daillon, William Moreton and the Portarlington affair’, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, 26 (1994–7), 463–89
  • R. Whelan, ‘The Huguenots, the crown and the clergy: Ireland 1704’, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, 26 (1994–7), 601–10
  • R. Whelan, ‘Sanctified by the word: the Huguenots and Anglican liturgy’, Propagating the word of Irish dissent, 1650–1800, ed. K. Herlihy (1998), 74–94


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