Henri Arnaud (September 20, 1641, Embrun, Hautes-Alpes – September 8, 1721) was a pastor of the Waldensians in Piedmont, who turned soldier in order to rescue, and who did rescue, his co-religionists from their dispersion under the persecution of Victor Amadeus II the Duke of Savoy. When the Waldensians were exiled a second time, Arnaud accompanied them in their exile to Schönenberg, and continued to act as their pastor until his death.
Arnaud was born in Embrun, Hautes-Alpes, France. About 1650 his family returned to their native valley of Luserna, where Arnaud was educated at La Tour (the chief village), later visiting the college at Basel (1662 and 1668) and the Academy at Geneva (1666). He then returned home, and seems to have been pastor in several of the Waldensian valleys before attaining that position at La Tour (1685).
He was thus the natural leader of his co-religionists after Victor Amadeus II of Savoy expelled them (1686) from their valleys, and most probably visited Holland; William of Orange, the ruler of that province, certainly gave him help and money. Arnaud occupied himself with organizing his 3000 countrymen who had taken refuge in Switzerland, and who twice (1687–1688) attempted to regain their homes. The English revolution of 1688, and the election of William to the throne, encouraged the Waldensians to make yet another attempt. Furnished with detailed instructions from the veteran Joshua Janavel (prevented by age from taking part in the expedition) Arnaud, with about 1000 followers, started in 17 August 1689 from near Nyon on the Lake of Geneva for their return. On the 27 August, the band, after many hardships and dangers, reached the Valley of St Martin, having passed by Sallanches and crossed the Col de Very (6506 ft), the Enclave de la Fenêtre (7425 ft), the Col du Bonhomme (8147 ft), the Col du Mont Iseran (9085 ft), the Grand Mont Cenis (6893 ft), the Petit Mont Cenis (7166 ft), the Col de Clapier (8173 ft), the Col de Coteplane (7589 ft), and the Col du Piz (8550 ft). They soon took refuge in the lofty and secure rocky citadel of the Balsille, where they were besieged from 24 October 1689 to 14 May 1690 by the troops (about 4000 in number) of the King of France and the Duke of Savoy. They maintained this natural fortress against many fierce attacks and during the whole of a winter. In particular, on 2 May, one assault was defeated without the loss of a single man of Arnaud's small band. But another attack (14 May) was not so successful, so that Arnaud withdrew his force, under cover of a thick mist, and led them over the hills to the valley of Angrogna, above La Tour. A month later the Waldensians were received into favour by the duke of Savoy, who had then abandoned his alliance with France for one with Great Britain and Holland. Hence for the next six years the Waldensians helped Savoy against France, though suffering much from the repeated attacks of the French troops. By a clause in the treaty of peace of 1696, made public in 1698, Victor Amadeus again became hostile to the Waldensians, about 3000 of whom, with Arnaud, found a shelter in Protestant countries, mainly in Württemberg, where Arnaud became the pastor of Durrmenz-Schönenberg, Northwest of Stuttgart in 1699. Once again (1704–1706) the Waldensians aided the duke against France. Arnaud, however, took no part in the military operations, though he visited England (1707) to obtain pecuniary aid from Queen Anne.
Henri Arnaud is among the later Waldensians who had joined the Protestant Reformation in Geneva.
Death and legacy
He died at Schönenberg, which was the church hamlet of the parish of Durrmenz, in 1721. It was during his retirement that he compiled from various documents by other hands his Histoire de la glorieuse rentrée des Vaudois dans leurs vallées, which was published (probably at Kassel) in 1710, with a dedication to Queen Anne. It was translated into English (1827) by H. Dyke Acland, and has also appeared in German and Dutch versions. A part of the original MS. is preserved in the Royal Library in Berlin.