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The Filles du Roi


(daughters of the king)


Filles du Roi




In 1665, there were only seventy houses in Quebec. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Secretary of State for Louis XIV's navy, dreamt of making his country the dominant European power and mother country of a great world empire.

"Monsieur Talon made it evident to us at the outset that the King loves this country, and has great plans for its development. .. By his personal qualities, he makes us already taste the sweetness of a governance so guided by reason,." wrote François Le Mercier, Jesuit superior in Québec.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, wanted the already established colonies, such as New France to grow:

"The King has formed companies, which like the army, attack everywhere???, and as the important part of this business consists of foreign colonies, we thought it necessary to think of maintaining, protecting and increasing those that we have already established."

Jean Talon, the Intendant, thought the colony had good chances of flourishing:

"I believe that Canada has never been looked upon as it should be... in fifteen years there will be enough overabundance... to supply the West Indies... I don't say this lightly and I express this opinion after having closely examined the strength of the earth."

In order for New France to prosper, people were needed. Thus the King decided to send women to the colony.

For a period of seven years, the King of France sent at his expense, several thousand young women to New France, whom, the majority of, came from the Paris area or the diocese of Rouen. They were poor, abandoned, with no future in France. The King bestowed upon them a dowry of between 50 and 300 livres.

"The 100 girls sent over by the king this year have only just arrived," wrote Mother Marie de l'Incarnation, on October 29, 1665, " and already they are almost all accommodated. He will send another 200 next year, and even more in the years following, in proportion to the need. He will also send men to marry withstanding those who are in the army. Truly, it is an amazing thing to see how the country is becoming populated and multiplying."

The recruiting was often carried out by guardians, such as Anne Bourdon. She witnessed thirty marriages.

Marguerite Jourdain married Bernard Delpeches dit Bélair [Bélair Ancestors] of the Cariganan regiment;

Marie-Madeleine Boutet married Rene-Gervais Bisson;

Catherine Dupuy married Charles Martin;

Anne Perrot married Pierre Blais;

Marguerite Paquet married Francois Biville dit Le Picard [Girard Ancestors] of the Cariganan regiment

& Marie Bonheur Bonneville married Paul Isnard dit Provençal [St-Onge Ancestors] also of the Cariganan regiment.

In 1665 the seigneury of Neuville, near Quebec, was virtually uninhabited. Two years later, 40 married couples lived there. 37 of these brides were filles du roi.

There were rumours that some of the girls sent to the colony had been prostitutes in France, but Pierre Boucher defended the honour of his new compatriots.

"It is not true that this sort of women come here and those who say this are greatly mistaken," he wrote, "if, by chance, it happens that there are a few among those who come who are discovered, or that during the crossing they behaved badly, they are sent back to France."

It was hard to live a scandalous life in such a small colony. What these young women had in common was their poverty. Their fertility was proof of their good health.

Jean Talon
Intendant Jean Talon


"The girls sent last year are married and almost all of them are with child or have had children already, a sign of the fertility of this country," wrote Jean Talon to the king, in 1670. Jean Talon actively encouraged their fertility, decreeing in an edict on April 5 1669 that all inhabitants having 10 living children, born of a lawful marriage, "will be paid a pension of 300 livres a year; and for those having 12 (children), 400 livres more; furthermore, all boys who marry at the age of 20 years or less and to girls of 16 years and less, will be paid 20 pounds each on their wedding day."

This policy of increasing the birth rate did not take long to produce results. Catherine Ducharme and Pierre Roy dit Saint Lambert had 18 children. Marie Hatanville, a widow with 11 children under the age of 15, married for a fourth time to a widower with 7 children. Marie-Claude Chamois and François Frigon had 7 children. They are the ancestors of every Frigon in North America.

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- from CBC - Canada: a People's History - The filles du roi

RELATED LINKS:

The Virtual Museum of New France - Les Filles du roi. - very good; take a look