The Order of Good Cheer
To the left is a picture of French settlers spending their second winter in Acadia. They are at Port-Royal, now Annapolis Royal. In the winter of 1604-1605, Du Gua lost half his men to scurvy. So it came that Champlain founded l’Ordre de Bon Temps. Men died, but “[w]e passed this winter most joyously, & fared lavishly,” wrote Champlain.[i]
*C. W. Jefferys (25 August 1869 – 8 October 1951)
Samuel de Champlain[ii] (13 August 1574 – 25 December 1635)
There were fatalities during the winter of 1605-1606 but most men survived and Champlain’s Ordre du Bon-Temps may have helped. However, “[t]he Order’s practices were established by the first Chief Steward Marc Lescarbot.” Lescarbot, a lawyer, also established a theater: le Théâtre de Neptune, and wrote and published a History of New France (Histoire de la Nouvelle-France), in 1609.
However, Champlain is not the founder of Acadia. Pierre du Gua de Monts or Mons is the person who raised the funds from various merchants to travel to North America. He organized the expedition to the current Atlantic Ocean, or more precisely, Nova Scotia.[iii] As for Champlain, as written above, he was Du Gua de Monts‘[iv] cartographer and his lieutenant. He, Du Gua, and their men first settled on Isle Sainte-Croix, but moved to Port-Royal, today’s Annapolis Royal, where the Order of Good Cheers was founded and where Acadie (from Acadia or algatig, MicMac) rooted itself.
Champlain: a lack of records
We have very little information about the father of the nation. In fact, until the early 1600s, little can be ascertained concerning Samuel Champlain or Samuel de Champlain (Wikipedia). “As the parish registers of Brouage have been destroyed by fire, nothing is known of the date of Champlain’s birth or of his baptism; he may have been born c. 1570, perhaps in 1567.” (DCB) According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB), “Champlain claimed to be from Brouage in the title of his 1603 book, and to be Saintongeois in the title of his second book (1613).” In short, because of the fire in Brouage and conflicting statements on the part of Champlain, we do not know with certainty
- where Champlain was born;
- in which year he was born;
- whether or not he was baptized a Catholic or a Protestant;
- whether or not he was a nobleman by birth.
Samuel Champlain or Samuel de Champlain
However, Champlain left an account of his life as explorer, settler and fur trader. But was he or was he not a member of the nobility? “His 1603 volume gives ‘Samuel Champlain’ and the dedication to Admiral Montmorency is signed ‘S. Champlain,’ whereas in the privilège, in the same edition, there are the words ‘Sieur de Champlain,’ just as in the marriage contract of 1610 and in the 1613, 1619, and 1632 volumes.” (DCB) Again, as is the case with his place and date of birth and his religion, Champlain confuses posterity.
In 1610, at the age of forty, Champlain travelled to France to marry 12 year-old Hélène Boullé, a Protestant. That is on record. However, that marriage seems to have been a mere contract. After the wedding, Hélène remained in France because she was too young to be a wife. But Champlain collected 4,500 out of a 6,000-livre dowry the day following the wedding.
Hélène did sail to Canada in 1620 (DCB) but she spent very little time in her husband’s country of adoption and no mention is made of children born to her and Samuel. Hélène converted to Catholicism at the age of 14 and, about ten years after Champlain’s death (25 December 1635), she entered a convent, that of the Ursuline Order in Paris, which had long been her wish.
Given his name, Samuel, a protestant name, the two years he spent at Henri IV’s court in the early 1600s, his marriage to Hélène Boullé, his friendships, it would appear Champlain was a Protestant. However, it may have been in his best interest to call himself a Catholic. There was no official conversion, but he did as Henri IV did.
It had also been in Henri IV’s best interest to convert to Catholicism. His official mistress as of 1591, Gabrielle d’Estrées, told Henri IV that converting to Catholicism may lead to his being crowned King of France. He had been King of France since 1589, when Henri III (a Valois King) died, but had yet to be crowned.
On July 25, 1593, Henri IV (13 December 1553 – 14 May 1610), King of Navarre, is reported to have said that “Paris (being King of France) is well worth a mass,” or « Paris vaut bien une messe. » Gabrielle was right. He was crowned King of France on 27 February 1594.
As for Champlain’s religion, according to Wikipedia, “he [Champlain] belonged to either a Protestant family, or a tolerant Roman Catholic one, since Brouage was most of the time a Catholic city in a Protestant region, and his Old Testament first name (Samuel) was not usually given to Catholic children.” Moreover, why did he settle in North America? Henri IV had converted and married a Medici, but he was nevertheless assassinated.
I will list Champlain’s functions in the New World, before the birth of the Company of One Hundred Associates. He was lieutenant
- to Lieutenant-General Pierre Du Gua de Monts 1608–12,
- to Lieutenant-General Bourbon de Soissons in 1612,
- to Viceroy Bourbon de Condé 1612–20,[v]
- to Viceroy de Montmorency 1620–25,
- to Viceroy de Ventadour 1625–27.
By looking at the above list, we have a list of the persons who governed New France officially, although they may not have travelle to New France, until the Seigneurial System was put into place (1727) and the Compagnie des Cent-Associés chartered, in 1628. At this point, Richelieu took control of New France, but Champlain was one of the Cent-Associés the Company of One Hundred Associates (1628-1663).
So let us finish the list. Champlain was
- commandant at Quebec in 1627 and 1628, between de [sic] Ventadour’s resignation and the creation of the Compagnie des Cent-Associés;
- commander in New France “in the absence of my Lord the Cardinal de Richelieu” 1629–35;
- member of the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (founded when Quebec City had been captured by the brothers Kirke and was under British rule [1628 to 1632]) ;
- probably b. at Brouage, in Saintonge (Charente-Maritime);
- d. 25 Dec. 1635 at Quebec.
The Kirke Brothers in Tadoussac and Quebec City
In 1628, the brothers Kirke (see also Place Royale) captured Tadoussac and then Quebec City. From 1629 and 1632, Quebec City was under British control. So we have just learned, however, that after a failed attempt to settle Tadoussac in 1600, Tadoussac was later settled. Because of its location, at the confluence of the Saguenay River and the St Lawrence River, New France’s highway, Tadoussac is a beautiful place.
Before pausing, I will note that
- Du Gua de Monts settled Acadie, with the assistance of Champlain;
- that Champlain benefitted from calling himself a Catholic. He was not persecuted and could be named “father of Canada” by the Clergy.
- that Acadie remained, i.e. Du Gua did not fail, and that Quebec was settled by Champlain;
- that the Company of One Hundred Associates was founded in 1628 and dissolved in 1663;
- that a Sovereign Council governed New France from 1675 until the Battle of Sainte-Foy (28 April 1760);
- that the Seigneurial System was in place from 1627 until 1854;
- that although it was abolished some SEIGNEURS continued to collect rentes from CENSITAIRES;
- that France could not afford its North-American colony and failed to give it a self-sustaining and eventually prosperous economy;
- that under the Quebec Act (1674), Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester seems to have been the first person to give a voice in government to French-speaking Canadians citizens: Parliament. However, the country he governed was the country Champlain had founded.
- New France: Once Upon a Time…
- Pierre Du Gua de Monts: a Mostly Forgotten Founder of Canada
- Richelieu & Nouvelle-France (Filles du Roy)
- Une éminence grise: Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac (Huguenots)
- Dumas, père & Marguerite de Valois fictionalized (Huguenots)
- Poisson d’avril, pesce d’aprile, April’s Fools Day & the Edict of Roussillon, 1574 (Huguenots)
[i] James Marsh “Ordre de Bon Temps,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/ordre-de-bon-temps
[ii] “Samuel de Champlain,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_de_Champlain
[v] “In 1620 the king [Louis XIII] reaffirmed Champlain’s authority over Quebec but forbade his personal exploration, directing him instead to employ his talents in administrative tasks.” In C. T. Ritchie, “Samuel de Champlain,” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 09 May. 2012