The Huguenot Cross was likely inspired from the Occitan Cross by the Huguenots in the 16th century.
Before these early French Calvinist Protestants adopted it, however, way back in 1578 King Henry III of France founded the Order of the 'Knights of the Holy Spirit' and these Catholic knights were possibly the first to bear a Maltese Cross with a dove in its centre.
A similar design was used by Louis XV in 1759 when he founded the Ordre du Mérite militaire (Order of Military Merit), which differed in that it could be awarded to Protestants. (The Order was abolished during the French Revolution1 and re-instituted in 1816 after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1816.)
The Maltese Cross with a dove then became a common Christian symbol in France.
The Huguenots were severely persecuted by the Catholics and to show their contempt for Rome, they chose the Maltese Cross for their insignia, rather than the Latin Cross used by Catholics.
These Protestants were not keen on the monarchy either, but felt that recognising the king's authority would distance themselves from the papacy. So they added a royal Fleur-de-lis connecting each cross arm.
In some versions, the cross is adorned with a phial, or droplet, of anointing oil. In the one featured on this page, a dove descends from the cross, representing the Holy Spirit (see Dove Cross). The design is attributed to Maystre, a 17th century jeweller from Nîmes in the Occitan province.
The Huguenots originated in Lanquedoc, hence the alternative name: Cross of Lanquedoc. The Huguenot Cross is used in logo of Église Réformée de France, the Presbyterian Church of France.