Daughters of the King

« We would have to name them all, aloud, call them by name, facing the river, from where they came out in the 17th century, to bring us into the world and the whole country with us. « 

Anne Hébert, Le premier jardin, 1988

Daughters of the King - Their history

  • New France is in a precarious situation

    Since the founding of Quebec in 1608, it has to be admitted that France’s desire to clear and populate the new colony had gone well after their work of evangelizing and trading. Despite the small increase in the population, the birth rate after 1608 was still more than 1000 births until 16631. But this fertile trend could only be surpassed by the arrival of many important immigrants. Especially since France was then the most populous country in Western Europe at the time, the authorities feared its depopulation2 and thought of New France as only a source of fur.

    Since the arrival of Louis Hebert, with his wife and three children in 1617, almost all the people recruited for the colony are men. Masons, carpenters, shoemakers, bakers, pioneers, and sailors were needed. Sometimes their families were brought in when their situation had become more stable.

    True colonization did not really begin until 1634 when several families from Mortagne in Perche, who had responded to the invitation of Robert Giffard to come and settle in his seigneury of Beauport arrived. Other small convoys landed in the following years, but immigration remained so low that in 1640 the total population would amount to only about three hundred persons3.

    During this period, 1634-1641 (8 years), colonization, which at that time was solely the initiative of the New France company or private companies, was minimal, if not non-existent! Immigration of females was done little by little. However, the founding of Ville-Marie in 1642 would slightly change the situation.

    Few women accompany Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance at the beginning, but they arrive a little more each year after 1649. Finally, about two hundred and twenty-eight (228) « marrying daughters » came to settle in New France between 1634 and 1662!4

    However, the French population remains inadequate.

    Informed people were concerned about the viability of the colony due to its meager population compared to the continually growing number of English and Dutch settlers further south. If New France consisted of 300 to 400 inhabitants in 1641, New England already counted 50,000 inhabitants for a total of 80,000 in 1663! The incessant war between France and England in Europe made people very nervous in the colony: the fear of invasion was constant.

    In France, it is still to advise the king « to abandon the St. Lawrence. »5 And the Iroquois aggression continues to undermine the morale of the inhabitants and to threaten its existence.

    What will happen to New France?

    In 1663, there are 6 to 14 men for every woman, depending on the place. In total, 2,500 people including about 200 women! How to create families and keep people from moving back to France after their three-year contract if they could not find someone to marry?

    Unmarried men were not entitled to a plot of land they could clear. This promise to obtain land in as a result of his marriage was nevertheless enticing. In fact, it allowed them to become an « citizen » a very enviable title at the time which was impossible in France for common people. Besides, in New France, they had the right to fish and hunt on their land, an inaccessible privilege in France. More­over, at the end of their lives, they could pass their land to their children! It was perfect! Yet a large number of men returned to France because they could not marry.

    1 Lacoursiere, Provencher, Vaugeois, Canada-Québec 1534-2000, Septentrion, 2001, p.61
    2 Under the direction of Yves Landry, Pour le Christ et pour le roi La vie au temps des premiers montréalais, Éditions Libre Expression, 1992, Chapter 3, Yves Landry, p. 78
    3 Lanctot Gustave, Filles de joie ou filles de roi, Étude sur l’émigration féminine en Nouvelle-France, Les Éditions du jour, Montréal, 1964
    4 R. Le Moine, Première immigration française au Québec, in la découverte de l’Amérique, Paris, 1968, Librairie philosophique J. Vrin, p. 144·146.
    5 Lapointe Camille, Chasse Béatrice, de Carufel Hélène, Aux origines de la vie québécoise, Les Publications du Québec, Collection Patrimoines, série Dossiers, 1995, p. 36
  • The king Louis XIV

    In 1661, at the age of 23, King Louis XIV decided to personally assume power over the government of France. At that time his mother, Anne of Austria, was in power after the death of his father (he was then 6 years old). He intends to reign with absolute authority.

    Insistent demands came from the colony to secure the king’s help in settling and defending the settlement. They were spearheaded by Pierre Boucher, the Lejeune Jesuit, Sieur de Villeray, Jean Bourdon and many others. In 1662 the king authorized the export of ships loaded with 200 soldiers, families and workers, and in October the provision of two ships of the royal navy. These temporary decisions are replaced in 1663 by others which will prove to be essential.

    Together with Colbert, his minister of the colonies, the king made two extremely important decisions for New France. First, the creation of the Sovereign Council, endowing the colony with a setup equal to that of all the provinces of France. This implies that, from now on, merchant companies will no longer have the final say over life in New France, nor on its development. King Louis XIV will take care of it personally, thanks to three governors and an intendant whom he will appoint to receive his instructions. Then, to solve the shortage of women, he decides to send the group of « marrying girls » with the mandate to populate the colony. A second period of female immigration is born!

    Thus, for eleven years, from 1663 to 1673 inclusive, a variable number of women will leave annually for New France. We now know that 764 women landed in the harbor of Quebec. This unique political decision to populate the colony thus saved New France from disaster!

    Ten years after the arrival of these women (1683), the population had tripled. During the census of 1698 it was home to 15,355 people.

  • The "marrying girls"

    A systematic recruitment, led by Colbert, was carried out by the emissaries of the King in the charity houses and general hospitals of Paris, La Rochelle, Rouen and Dieppe, where young, orphaned or widowed women were housed. Some of them could also come from « distressed » families or sometimes from families who wanted to « sequester » one of their daughters because of rebellion… These houses, founded since 1656, were under the guidance of religious communities and financed by the State. They were created to protect abandoned or widowed women. On the death of their husbands, women and their children found themselves in the streets most of the time. At the time there was no form of social security as we know it today. There were also specific places or wings for young children, men, old people, those « on the margins of society or in poverty »1. They wanted to shelter them, feed them and, if possible, educate the younger ones.

    Recruitment had also received a significant help from the parish priests of the surrounding parishes. For example, Monsieur de Bretonvilliers, pastor of the parish of Saint-Sulpice, recruited 46 of the 327 girls from Paris. The parish priests could talk about it in the pulpit and even go and meet families likely to benefit from this emigration program of King Louis XIV. They knew their parishioners well. When a family decided to let one of his daughters leave, the parish priest wrote him a certificate of good morals which would be required before embarking. We wanted healthy women, strong and clever with their hands, fervent Catholics. And pretty if possible!

    The king wanted a totally Catholic « New France ». However, a certain number of Protestant women succeeded nevertheless to leave on the king’s ships. Arriving at their destination, if their belief was known, they had to be converted before they could marry, such as Marthe Quitel in 1665 and Catherine Basset in 1667. Same treatment for men as well. This was the case for Jean Royer, Daniel Perron also known as le Suire and Bernard Faure. Others, such as Marie Albert, Anne Lepine, Marie Valade, Marie Leonard, Marguerite Ardion, Françoise Ancelin and Elisabeth Doucinet, were able to live without being disturbed. Even Marie Targer, who had two Protestant spouses. But these people had no right to worship and had to act exactly as the Catholics did, so as not to arouse suspicion.

    Moreover, among the women chosen by the recruiters, there were some girls of the bourgeoisie or daughters of nobles, but the great majority of them were of modest or even poor origin.

    Nearly two-thirds of the women were orphaned by their father, mother or both parents. The average age was 24 years. The younger ones could be 13 or 14 years old. They came mostly from the Ile-de­ France and the provinces near Paris, mostly in the cities, then from the western provinces of France (Aunis, Saintonge, Poitou and Touraine). Those originating from the countryside came mainly from Normandy.

    It must also be known that « some even came from beyond the French frontier, from Germany, Marie Vanzegue in 1673, from England, Catherine de Lalore in 1671, from Belgium, Marie-Anne Bamont in 1673, from Portugal, Esperance Du Rosaire in 1668, of Switzerland, Barbe Duchesne in 1671 ». Today there are more than fifty of whom we do not know their origins.

    Despite the ongoing debate, current knowledge suggests that the vast majority of them had freely chosen to leave for New France. They had little to lose. The orphans, without hope of marriage, had only the future to become servants or embroiderers for rich ladies. Those who still had their parents, but who lived in poverty, without hope of a better life, saw no other way out. The king’s program offered them the possibility of marrying, even of choosing their husband, of receiving a dowry at the time of the marriage, the payment of the expenses of passage on the ship, a reception upon arriving there and royal aid for the establishment of the couple after the marriage. Moreover, the unheard-of chance of being granted land after marriage.

    When a girl met the demands of the recruiters, she left with a heart full of hope. She was not afraid of work or of the demanding life that she was now allowed to see! These girls were women of honor, courageous and valiant women.

    They had come to marry, to make families, to work caring for the sick or to teach Amerindian and French children. It took a lot of nerve to dare such a venture, especially in Montreal when one knew the remoteness of Ville-Marie and the Iroquois’ fury for the young colony. It was necessary to have faith, but surely also a most optimistic and intrepid heart.

    We know very little of these unusual women, the very first visitors from France. Who knows their lives and the incredible contribution they have made to their adopted country? Most of them married, gave birth to many children, some of which died young, some had not been able to conceive a child but it is undeniable that they lived an extremely difficult life filled with hardship and anxiety.

    Some have experienced the attacks of the Iroquois, killing their husbands in the field or even the entire household. They often lacked the essentials of daily life. They rolled up their sleeves and still believed in tomorrow’s sunshine. They undoubtedly foreshadowed the strength of character of those which will follow some twenty years later whom will becalled the Daughters of the King.

    1 Gagnon Louis, Louis XIV et le Canada 1658-1674, Septentrion, 2011, Supplément d’histoire, pp.165·183
  • A malicious reputation

    Rumors about their respectability were not expected. They were born in France. On one hand, France being very hierarchical and therefore inclined to look down and judge people of the lower classes, the bourgeoisie of the time having no particular affinity for them, given the low social origins of most of them. On the other hand, from 1684, Louis XIV consented to send debaucherous women to the West Indies after being branded (unclear translation). This decision of the king certainly sowed much confusion. It was also said that they were sent to America… What America? Few people knew the difference between New France and the French West Indies.

    The rumors became absurd. Even if the sending of « marrying girls »‘ to New France ended in 1673, gratuitous accusations continued, despite people getting to know them and rubbing shoulders. Pierre Boucher, then the authors of the Jesuit Relations, the intendant Talon, Marie de l’lncarnation, Monseigneur de Laval, the ecclesiastical authorities of New France, and several Quebecois historians, including Gustave Lanctot in 1952 and Silvio Dumas in 1972, had sharply denounced these wild rumors. And yet it continued! Wasted effort!
    It will be the incredible fertility of the « Daughters of the King » that changes the minds of even the most resistant. In fact, current medical knowledge tells us that if these women had been « ‘street girls » », they would have been suffering from venereal diseases that would have made them sterile. Since antibiotics were not yet known, they could not be cured. But by giving birth to 9, 12, 14 or more children, the « daughters of the King » proved that they were « ‘healthy women.' »

    Moreover, we know that in France, as soon as the girls chose to leave, they are chaperoned until marriage by officers of religious communities or « wise and honorable ladies » or other people watching out for their protection. Travel to the emigration sites would most often be done by however was most convenient, on foot or by cart on the road, or by using barges on the waterways of the interior of France. Housing the girls during the long waits to finally get enough wind to allow a big departure, would be « dealt with » by religious communities.

    1 Landry Yves, Les Filles du Roy au XVIIe siècle, BQ, 2013, p.23
  • "Marrying girls" or Daughters of the King?

    These women who came at the request of King Louis XIV bore the nickname of « marrying girls ». Like those that came before or after them from other places as well. Excluding those who officially de­ vote their lives to God or unofficially like Jeanne Mance. However, the name « Daughters of the King », joining those from 1663 to 1673, would be the work of Marguerite Bourgeoys who first used it in her writings around 1698. She said that the benefits the king had shown them that he had acted as a father with them. This nickname was also similar to that which was given to children or orphans raised at the expense of the king. History has retained this nickname until today. It is true that the arrival of these 764 women, who came by political decision of King Louis XIV, deserves perhaps that these women have a distinctive nickname …

  • The crossing

    The crossing of the great sea was the first great challenge to face. Even though these women had never set foot on a ship, they had heard a crowd of people on the quays talking about the experience. For example, in La Rochelle, it was stated that, « to go to sea is more dangerous than to go to war ». We are less likely to return! »1 The women knew the risk they were taking. Those of the first contingent, in 1663, almost all arrived on the « Golden Eagle ». The ship encountered one of its worst crossings; It took 111 days to reach Quebec. That means three months, three weeks and three days! An extremely long and painful journey. We ran out of water and food, and scurvy broke out. Promiscuity and total lack of hygiene led to the spread of fevers, as well as several diseases. Of the 225 persons on board, six­ ty (60) died on the journey and twelve (12) others after their arrival, even if they were carried on board, and transported immediately to the hospital. This means that more than thirty per cent of the passengers of this ship died before seeing Quebec. During the long months of crossing, the conditions of life were particularly painful.

    Access to the bridge was permitted, but only during the day and when the weather was fine. A woman could never walk alone, neither on deck nor elsewhere, she always had to be accompanied. Onboard comfort and amenities were reduced to the minimum. In St. Barbara, where common people lived, the women were placed on one side with the children, the men on the other side, and the families in the center. With a height of one « toise » (1.94m = 6.4 feet), Sainte-Barbe was a dark place that lacked the space to move easily. When the ship did not carry passengers, the guns and provisions were piled up for self-defense. Now Sainte-Barbe is the patroness of gunmen.

    To sleep, people were assigned to narrow bunk beds, where all slept clothed, often two per bed. Some ships had hammocks. As the days passed, these places became smelly. The constant moisture produced mold. Salty air made the skin sticky. One had to bear the snores, the tears, the wailing, as well as the rumbling bellies and flatulence of one another. The odors coming from the floor below, where the captain kept the animals being brought to New France (oxen, cows, pigs, poultry, pigeons and sometimes horses), made the situation even more overwhelming.

    For the human needs of the passengers, there were two buckets, one bucket at each end of the Sainte-Barbe. A sailor emptied them into the sea when necessary. There was no water to « wash » if we had vomited. During storms, it was imperative to stay indoors for days at a time. In the darkness, because the hatches tightly closed and there was no question of lighting a candle! Imagine if a fire had broken out! One tried to hang himself post, one held his child tight or his chest to « brave the storm head on. When we were hungry, we ate dried fish, salted fish, peas, beans and sea biscuits. They were hard as wood and we had to soften them in liquid before eating them.
    It must be admitted that on certain days, there was no appetite at all. In addition to the storms that gave us all anxiety, the other emotions that followed; boredom, fear, anger, discouragement, uncertainty, often made people complacent. There remained the prayers and encouragement of the people who, on that day, still had the hope.
    Fortunately, not all crossings were as exhausting, nor so long. Generally, the journey to New France was approximately two and a half months. But it was still a severe test of endurance.

    1 On a small pillar on the top floor bell tower of the Bonsecours chapel adjoining the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum in Old Montreal, overlooking part of the port of Montreal, the inscription reads : If you go to war, pray once, if you take the sea, pray twice.
  • Arrival in Quebec

    One day, the ship entered the gulf, then into the St. Lawrence Ri­ ver. Everyone on board was once again hopeful. The thick forests, the mountains, the majestic rivers flowing into this immense river. What wonders! Finally, shortly after the island of Orleans, passengers finally saw Quebec. The captain dropped anchor in front of the small village. At that time, Quebec had at most 800 inhabitants.

    Boats approached in great numbers. It was evident that the ship and the people on board were greatly anticipated. Everyone, but especially the « marrying girls » were greeted by members of the Sovereign Council, the parish priest, Henri de Bernieres, and Madame de La Peltrie, the great friend of Mary of the Incarnation (the Ursulines were cloistered). The people on the shore demonstrated their un­ reserved joy. Many men glanced at the girls, but they seemed to have only one desire, to relax their legs and go up to the Ursulines. Finally, to have arrived in a friendly port! In the years that a lot of them had come over, they were be divided into their hosting families on the recommendation of those such Mrs. Anne Gasnier or, in some cases they were hosted by a family relation.

    All these people knew how difficult the crossing was and in what state the girls were in. As soon as they had reached their destination, their well-being being looked after: they could wash themselves, eat as many fruits and vegetables as they like, sleep in a real bed, alone, put on clean clothes, and regain their strength.

  • Now back on your feet, start looking for a husband

    When they have recovered their health, they are informed of the habits and customs of the region and given advice on the criteria to be used in choosing their husbands. Because the king truly promised them that they would be able to choose him. What luck! Mary of the Incarnation told them to take their time, not to take the first man who catches their eye, to learn as to who already had his land and who had already built a house as they would be a better choice.

    Quite often the case actually, because of the promise to marry as soon as possible. Once the husband was chosen, it was time to go before a notary for the drafting of the marriage contract. However, it often happened that one or the other … changed their mind and asked the notary to « ‘rip up the contract ». A good number of women have thus changed their mind and appear a second time before the notary. Some have even done it a third time! Most often, the notary came to the house himself. This signing of the marriage contract before a notary was very social event. Among the signatures of those present, there are often the names of the lord, Madame Gasnier, members of the Conseil Souverain or influential people of the town and even of intendant Talon in Quebec City, Jeanne Mance or Maisonneuve in Montreal before his departure for France in 1665!

  • Marriage

    One or two weeks later, after the publication notarized contract, religious marriage was celebrated. If the signing of the contract was an occasion to bring together nobles, dignitaries and a large number of people, the wedding was kept simple with some family and friends around.

    As a general rule, girls married within five months of their arrival. Some, after only 4 or 5 weeks and others, the following year or even 3 or 4 years later. For example, if, like Catherine Moitie in Montreal, a girl had signed a four-year domestic contract with an employer, she would not be able to leave her job before the expiry of her contract, to get married.

    Where we don’t fully know all the statistics, it is recognized that two-thirds of the girls lived in and around Quebec City, the most populous region. Thus, one-third of the girls went to Trois-Rivieres or Montreal. As soon as they felt able to do so, they would bid farewell. They had been together through wonderful and perilous experiences. Strong links had been established between several of them. However, it was very likely that they would not see each other again.

    Trusted men went to take them by canoe or by boat to the St. Lawrence, the only main route of the time. The men traveled by day only. In the evening they organized a makeshift encampment on a well-sheltered beach. Everyone slept under the boats, partly over­ turned, wrapped in a blanket. It took two or three days to reach Trois-Rivieres, depending on the weather. For the last part of the journey, we had to go much slower due to the shape and depth of the river. Thus, night camps were more numerous. The men were constantly on the lookout for the many Iroquois in this region. In Trois-Rivieres, a small town of less than 250 inhabitants in 1663, the few girls who landed there were received and lodged by the lord Pierre Boucher. In Montreal, it was often Marguerite Bourgeoys in person who welcomed them and lodged them until their marriage.

  • Life in New France

    Nearly 85% of the girls married a local and lived in a wooden hut. The intendant or his replacement gave « marrying girls » clothes for their first winter, provisions to live until the next harvests and precious seeds from France for their kitchen garden the following summer.

    In the first year, settling the land was a rough undertaking, especially if the young couple had just been granted land. Generally, the plot measured 3 acres in width by 30 in depth. Each one overlooked the river. If the couple had married in October or November, as was often the case, time was running short before the snow began to fall. It was necessary to get settled quickly.

    Louise Dechene explains: « His first task is to cut down the trees needed to build a log cabin of about fifteen feet by twenty, sharpening the small trees at one end and planting them into the ground. It is a rather tedious construction even without a floor or chimney, but which must be made sufficiently watertight to last at least one winter1. It uses barks grass (thatch) to make the roof and plug the slots. At the end of three to four weeks, he can bring his belongings and provisions to his hut, trying to perfect it before winter. This means, among other things, installing a door, trimming a window, and laying oiled parchment paper on the opposite side of the prevailing wind as well as building a stone fireplace. It will be a temporary dwelling, on clay, but which will have to shelter the family often for several years. The priority is « to cut down the standing wood, to tear up the stumps, small or of medium size, to burn the branches, to plow the ground. Slow work: it takes a year for a single colonist to clear and make an area of one and a half acres of land ready for cultivation, and again it will be necessary to work among the large stumps that must be allowed to rot before removing them. »2

    1 Dechene Louise, Habitants et marchands de Montréal au XVIIe siècle (essai), Boréal Compact, 1988, p. 271
    2 Trudel Marcel, Mythes et réalités dans l’histoire du Québec, BQ, 2010, p. 98
  • A new and enormous country

    All those who arrived in New France were astonished to discover a world where everything was so vast: the gulf, the river, the forests, the distances between the inhabited places, the lakes, and so on.

    Everything was so different. They quickly saw the four marked seasons, including a hard winter of 6 months, which implies the obligation to learn to work according to the rhythm of the seasons, so dis­ tinct from each other. They also noticed the presence of the Amerindians, the dispersion of houses, the absence of roads, the lack of ploughing oxen and tools for the structural work. All, but especially the common people I think, soon realized that they would have to adapt, and acclimatize! There was so much to learn. Above all, one should think of the most basic needs!

    The urgent need is : « learn how to winter ». Knowing how to adapt your house, your clothes, how to heat the house, think about getting firewood for the 6 months of winter, learn how to move on the snow in snowshoes and slides. Learn how to hunt, trap, fish, eat unfamiliar fish, game, find ways to preserve food and make tools as needed.

    In the spring, they will have to put the animals to pasture and pre­ pare the soil for sowing, take advantage of the passage of geese and ducks, learn to sow pumpkins, beans and corn, as well as the many uses of birch. In the summer, they will have to pick up the fodder, store barley and oats, harvest the peas, cut the wheat, beat the grain, and grind the wheat in the mill.

    In the autumn, plow the land, harvest vegetables from the vegetable garden. Pick up the priceless vegetable seeds that will be needed next spring. Build the huts, firmly insert each log in all the slots in the walls. Put the beets, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and cabbages in cellar, laid on pine branches under the house. Butcher the meat. Make your sausage. Make soap. Redo the straw mattress­ es with fresh straw. Prepare your vegetable dyes, and so on.

    It will take 5 or often 10 years of sustained work to ensure that a land provides the minimum subsistence to support a family. « At his death, 30 years after receiving his concession (his land), the landowner owns 30 acres of workable land, a meadow, a barn, a stable, a house that’s a little more spacious, a road in front of his door, neighbors, a bench in the church. » His life was spent clearing and building1.

    1 Dechene Louise, Habitants et marchands à Montréal au XVlIe siècie, Montréal, 1998, p.272-273
  • A tamed country

    The inhabitants had much to learn and to tame. They have set their hearts on it. They succeeded. They had valuable support from the Native Americans to learn how to hunt and fish, to conserve food throughout the seasons, to learn how to work the fur so that the clothes protect better from the cold, to walk on the snow, to carry heavy loads in winter, to discover the uses of a large number of medicinal plants and how to use them to heal.

    Many of them began learning Native American languages, enjoying the lives of Native Americans, their warm relationship with children, their independence, and their connection to nature. How many testimonies paid tribute to the striking influence they have had on their wellbeing! Mary of the Incarnation said that, « …it was easier to make Indians of the French than the opposite. » Like Champlain, Jeanne Mance and Sieur de Maisonneuve, she had dreamed of the reverse.

    In the same way, they quickly realized that they needed a common language, they had very different regional dialects. In the home, it is the mother who plays the greatest role in the transmission of the spoken language. Since mothers came mainly from the Ile-de-France and some other provinces close to Paris, where almost everyone had become familiar with French, it was French that quickly became widespread and became the common language. Especially since it was the language of power, that of the military and that of both civil and religious authorities.

    The inhabitants learned how to break their isolation, to forge relationships with neighbors, even if they were distant, to build a social network. They learned to develop their autonomy, to barter and together become self-sufficient.

  • Going through a hard life...

    Through all these tasks, the women gave birth to the children, nursed them, cared for them, made bread, went to fetch water from the river, made candles, knitted, patched together, and fed their families. They also taught the children since the school was non­existent, except in Quebec City and Montreal and still not accessible to all.

    There were very few midwives at the time. Women therefore gave birth alone or with the help of a neighbor, most of the time. They have had large families. They have lost several children despite their careful attention. And too many of them (5% of the Daughter’s of the King) died giving birth. Often at the birth of the first child or the last, when the body is exhausted from having given so much!
    They have worked hard. They lived courageously, with strength and generosity. With love! They had come from France with the mission of populating New France. They have kept their word! ‘They have given birth to the heart of life ». They « brought us into the world and the whole country with us »!1

    They gave us all that they carried in them: their culture, their customs, their belief, their language, their « beautiful language » as they referred to it, their values, their know-how. An invaluable legacy! They are the Mothers of the Quebec nation!

    We carry these women in us, whether we know them or not. It is high time to talk about them. To celebrate them! With pride!

    Thanks to them, among the few large cities in North America, such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia, which boast almost 400 years of history, Montreal is the only city of French origin and of course the French language.

    Danielle Pinsonneault, 2016


    1 Hebert Anne, Le premier jardin, 1998

Humble "marrying daughters" and their arrival in New France, now recognized as Mothers of the Nation!

The point of view of the History Society of the Filles du Roy

One may wonder with good reason what has happened to explain this major reversal. 

I would say it’s the result of a sequence of three events. First, we organized a Colloquium on the Daughters of the King in 2008, on the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. Surprisingly, more than 400 people participated, while we were told that history was of no interest to anyone. It should be mentioned that Yves Landry, demographer and current historian of the Daughters of the King, was in volved with the program.

Then, we founded the Historical Society of the Daughters of the King (SHFR) in 2010, during which our kiosk is present during the Festivals of New France, still in Quebec City. We have been faithfully involved since that time.

Finally, our company worked very hard to organize in 2013 the commemoration of the arrival of the first contingent of Daughters of the King in front of Quebec City. It was then 350 years ago that the first 36 Daughters of the King had courageously decided to cross the great sea, to marry there and to populate the colony that was in dire need of it. We put all our strength into it and alerted all theory and genealogy societies of the villages and towns along the river where the Daughters of the King settled from Bas-Saint­ Laurent to Lachine, so they could lend a hand. Like a well oiled machine! Multiple activities, conferences, the recruitment of women accepting to embody each of the 36 daughters of the King of the first group, a dozen trainings for them, the organization of a memory walk in the footsteps of our female ancestors from several regions of France and then to return, a sailing trip on the great river from Rimouski to Montreal. With stops of one to several days, in Ta­ doussac, Island of Orleans, Quebec, Trois-Rivieres, Sorel and Montreal. Our only goal at that time was to talk about them and make them known in the region. Make their true story known. Bring down those old prejudices hanging from them like wild thistles in the 21st century. With pride, have them recognized as our first grandmothers! During the twelve months of 2013.

Since 2013, we have been working hard with that in mind. Conferences, the creation of a magnificent commemorative souvenir box from the 2013 commemorations, documentary presentations, participations in various historic activities organized in all regions of Quebec by family associations and historical and genealogical societies. Our annual trainings since 2013 have enabled us to teach 86 women. Young and old. Who, if they are not passionate about history at the start, certainly become so along the way! It’s our story and it’s exciting! Thereafter, they transform themselves into as many ambassadors in their living or working environment.

We will begin a series of 5 of the same trainings in Montreal in a few days (September 24) and, in early February 2017, we will begin a fifth series of training sessions in Quebec City. We intend to actively participate in the celebrations of the 375th Montreal in 2017. The seventy-two Daughters of the King of Montreal will be there to celebrate the history of this city that they helped to grow!

Danielle Pinsonneault, 2016