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Jean Talon, Bishop François de Laval and several settlers welcome the King’s Daughters upon their arrival. Painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

The “Filles du Roy” or King’s Daughters

From the story of Madeleine de Verchères, we know that among Amerindians, there were “Noble Savages” and “Savages” who were not so noble. We know moreover that Madeleine’s father was a member of the Carignan-Salières Regiment. However, the story of Madeleine de Verchères has not told us about the Carignan-Salières Regiment itself, whose members started to protect New France in 1665. Nor has it told us that, during the 1660s, France sent women to Canada. This matter was discussed in a post entitled Richelieu & Nouvelle-France, but is again relevant. We therefore require more information.

In the above-mentioned post, I wrote that “between 1663 and 1673, 500 to 900 Frenchwomen, the King’s Daughters (les filles du Roy), were given a dowry by king Louis XIV and sent to Nouvelle-France, if they were deemed sufficiently healthy to survive the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.”

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The Sovereign Council, Charles Walter Simpson

The Sovereign Council: the 1660s in New France

The 1660’s were the early years of Louis XIV’s reign and he became interested in France’s North-American colonies. Since 1628, the Company of One Hundred Associates had ruled New France, but it was forced out of business in 1663 and Louis took charge. He in fact created a “Royal Government whereby France would run the government of New France through a Sovereign Council.” The Sovereign Council comprised a GOUVERNEUR (governor), a bishop, an INTENDANT and 5 councillors.[i]

In other words, to quote the Canadian Encyclopedia,

[i]n 1663 Louis XIV equipped the colony with a complete administrative system modelled on those used to govern French provinces.

However, hostile Amerindians, the Iroquois, were threathening the life of settlers.  Attacks, such as the attack that would make Madeleine de Verchères a heroine in 1692, were becoming a genuine obstacle to the growth of the colony.  How would the Filles du Roy and their husbands survive?  The remedy consisted in the deployment of the Carignan-Salières Regiment.

(please click on the picture to enlarge it)

Le Régiment

Le Régiment de Carignan-Salières

The Carignan-Salières Regiment combined two regiments, the Régiment de Carignan and the Balthasar Regiment. However, after the death of Balthasar, in 1665, the Régiment became the Régiment de Carignan-Salières. These were informal mergers. (Carignan-Salières Regiment, Wikipedia)

The Régiment de Carignan-Salières had fought against the Ottoman Turks in Hungary in 1664, but its main enemy as Régiment de Carignan-Balthasar had been the Spanish  However, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659), France no longer needed a large military force. Consequently, in 1665, the soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment were deployed to New France to protect the settlers from attacks by not-so-noble “savages.”

Rémy de Courcelle & the Marquis de Tracy

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s finance minister and chief member of the Conseil d’en haut[ii] suggested that a mere 100 soldiers be sent to Canada, but Louis was of a different mind. In June 1665, some 1100 men, perhaps more, were sent to New France.  Twenty companies left from France and four, from Martinique. This was a formal merger. They would serve under Daniel de Rémy de Courcelle, Sieur de Montigny, de La Fresnaye et de Courcelle (1626 – October 24, 1698) who was governor of New France from 1665 to 1672. It would also serve under Lieutenant General Alexandre de Prouville, Marquis de Tracy (1596 or 1603–1670) a military man who had driven the Dutch out of the West Indies in 1664.

The Regiment Engages the Iroquois

By November 1665, forts had been built along the Richelieu River, considered as the main invasion route. The French and Canadiens attacked the Mohawk Country in February 1666. Men were ambushed and the expedition had to retreat losing some 60 men on its return journey to Quebec City. It was midwinter, which seriously jeopardized the success of military operations.

The French attacked again in September 1666, but no Iroquois was to be found in Mohawk Country. Soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment burned the villages and cornfields and took possession of the Mohawk Country.  Alexandre de Prouville, Marquis de Tracy was ruthless. He forced the Iroquois to convert to Roman Catholicism and to speak French as taught by the Jesuit missionaries. A mission village was set up for Catholic Mohawks at Kahnawake, south of Montreal.[iii]

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia “[i]n July 1667 the Iroquois finally came to terms. The regiment was recalled to France in 1668, but some 400 officers and men chose to remain and settled on seigneuries along the Rivière Richelieu, greatly strengthening the colony’s defences, military ethos, and economy.”[iv]

Back to Madeleine de Verchères

Those 400 officers and men proved a godsend to a previously feeble New France.  It protected the colony, but they also settled New France. François Jarret de Verchères, Madeleine de Verchères’s father, was among the 400 officers and men who decided to stay behind. He was given a seigneury, married Marie Perrot, and built the fort his daughter defended on 22 October 1691.[v] 

The Iroquois were defeated, but a defeated Iroquois may well be a more dangerous enemy than a victorious one. 


Photo credit: Wikipedia & Civics Canada Online (Simpson)
[i] Civics Canada Online
[ii] The king’s Council were called “d’en haut,” because they lived upstairs at the king’s castle. 
[iii] Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy, Wikipedia
[iv] W. J. Eccles, “Carignan-Salières Regiment” Canadian Encyclopedia
[v] Madeleine de Verchères, Wikipedia
composer: Jean-Baptiste Lully (28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687)
piece: Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme)
performers: Skip Sempé (b. 1958)
ensemble: Capriccio Stravagante
© Micheline Walker 
17 November 2012