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Daughters of the King - Les Filles du Roi

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It is unlikely that you can be of French-Canadian descent and not have at least one female ancestor who was a "fille du roi", or a "daughter of the king." In a recent online discussion, several folks indicated they had multiple, and there were cases where the same name repeats several times.

A "fille du roi" is a woman emigrating from France to New France (North America) in return for a 50 to 100 livres dowry, a hope chest, clothing & other provisions from King Louis XIV of France. The motive was not just to improve the lot of Frenchmen in New France, but to improve France's ability to compete with the then burgeoning English colonies by building New France's population. Hence France not only subsidized the ~400 Carignan regiment soldiers who chose to settle in the country, but also provided them with brides.

And why the differences in dowries? Women who became officer's wives were eligible to receive the larger dowry. One direct result is the fairly large number of women of noble heritage who went to New France.

To understand the women's motive, one needs to understand the period. In the early years when New France was being settled, dowries were commonplace in France. A woman needed a dowry to marry, or even to be accepted as a nun. In a period when positions in life were bought and sold, the size of a girl's dowry generally determined her future position in life. Without a dowry, a widow or an orphaned girl of this age could look forward to only the dreariest of lives.

Of the approximately 800 women who undertook the journey during the 10 years (1663 - 1673) that the dowry was offered, about 770 made it to Canada. Many made marriage contracts with the men who had originally settled the New World or the Carignan regiment soldiers and often married within a few days or weeks of the contract signing, usually in the fall since the ships tended to arrive in late summer. Since women were in short supply, the women often broke these contracts, only to remake them or make new contracts with other men.

The "filles du roi" we are interested in, Marguerite Deshayes {Deshaies}, is listed among those women of unknown origin. in . We note Marguerite Deshaies was married about 1670 in Sorel to Pierre Menard while her sister, Marie Deshaies, was married about1668 in Sorel to Adrien Betourn dit Laviolette.

For more information on the subject, check, which offers an excellent & quite detailed discussion. Alternately, you can obtain a copy of "King's Daughters and Founding Mothers" by Peter J. Gagné, which describes much of the early setting as well as page 212 of the first volume for a discussion of both Marguerite Deshayes & her sister Marie Deshayes who came to New France two years before Marguerite. That source indicates:

" Marguerite Deshayes was born about 1646 in the archdiocese of Rouen, Normandy, though her parents' names are unknown. She came to Canada in 1670 at about age 24, preceded to the colony two years earlier by her younger sister Marie, also a Fille du Roi.

Some time during 1679 or 1671, Marguerite married Pierrre Ménard dit Saintonge at Sorel. A plowman and cobbler, Pierre was born about 1634 of unkown origin, through probably Saintonge. He enlisted 11 April 1656 at La Rochelle. On 05 October 1664, Father Fremin, SJ granted Pierre a plot of land at Cap-de-la-Madeleine. Pierre and Marguerite settled at Saint_Ours, whee Pierre worked as a seigniorial notary from April 1673 until August 1693…"

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Soldiers in the Carignan-Salières Regiment

In 1665 the first French regular troops arrived in Canada, the Carignan-Salières Regiment. About1200 soldiers arrived in Quebec, under the leadership of Lt. General Alexander de Prouville, Sieur de Tracy to fight Indians. They established forts established by the Regiment along the Richelieu River, and campaigned against the Mohawk Indians. The success led to a long period of peace for the colony, which permitted it to prosper. However, King Louis XIV's plan included the permanent settlement of many of the soldiers and officers in Canada. Over 450 of these troops remained in the colony, many of whom married the newly arrived filles du roi. Most persons of French Canadian descent can claim one or more of these brave soldiers as ancestors. See for more details, including a list of these soldiers in the regiment. We note that Pierre Menard was a member of the Saint-Ours Company in the Carignan-Salières Regiment..

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