Élisabeth

Élisabeth was married exactly 350 years ago today, on October 26, 1671. It was a Monday. Was it a cool and blustery day, as late-October days are wont to be in Québec? Or was it unseasonably warm? What did she wear? Was there a celebratory meal afterwards? But most importantly, how did she feel about the man she was marrying, a man she had known for just a matter of weeks? Unfortunately, we have more questions than answers about this important day in Élisabeth’s life.

We do know that she was married in the village chapel of the Seigneurie de Beauport, a short walk from the house where she would live with her new husband, Jean de Rainville. The ceremony was presided over by a priest from the Seminary of Québec and witnessed by a handful of local notables, including a prominent member of the Juchereau family, the family that would soon govern the growing community at Beauport. From the hill on which the chapel stood, attendees could look across Beauport Bay and see smoke from the chimneys of Québec City, five kilometers to the south. With the leaves coming off the trees in late October, the view must have been magnificent. For Élisabeth, the view probably reinforced the reality of her situation: A newly arrived immigrant from France in a strange and wild colony, about to marry a man she didn’t know and to start a life she could not possibly comprehend. Sent by the King of France as part of the 1671 contingent of ‘the King’s Daughters,’ Élisabeth was here to people the colony.

It must have been a frightening and disorienting experience to say the least, leaving the home she knew in France for an unknown life in the far-flung colony of Québec. Her disorientation would have been all the more acute given her place of birth. Élisabeth de Laguéripière was born in Paris, the largest city in Western Europe at the time. And she was from one of the most populous parishes in the city, St. Sulpice, on the Left Bank of the Seine. Growing up where she did, in the heart of the French capital in the middle of the 1600s, Élisabeth walked the same streets as Molière and the Marquise de Sévigné, Jean-Baptiste Lully and Louis XIV himself. Imagine the culture shock Élisabeth was experiencing as she walked to the chapel door in Beauport.

Of course, walking the same streets as the illuminati of seventeenth-century Paris did not put her in their unique and privileged world. Élisabeth was not well-educated; she could not sign her name to the marriage contract that decided her fate. She was not rich; the estimated value of her worldly belongings was above the average for the women who were recruited to come to New France, but she was able to contain all those belongings in a trunk that took the long ocean voyage with her. And, she appears to have been an orphan; historical records tell us that her father was dead and that her mother probably was as well.

Élisabeth was to live a long life in her new home near Québec City, and she certainly did her duty by the King. She gave birth to at least nine children, including twin boys in the spring of 1678. One of those boys would continue a line of Rainvilles whose name would evolve to become Renville, a name well known in the history of my home state of Minnesota. That line of Renvilles would also lead to the home of my dear friend in the suburbs of Minneapolis, a friend who is very proud of his Québec roots. Élisabeth could have had no idea on that day in late October of 1671 just how far her legacy would go.

Do you have a King’s Daughter in your family tree? Please tell us about her.

22 thoughts on “Élisabeth”

  1. Well happy anniversary to Élisabeth! What an amazing and sizable anniversary party that would be to see all her descendants in one place. And I’d be humbled to be among them. Thanks for such a well researched and illuminating tribute, Neil. You have a true gift. Miss you, my good friend.

  2. Janet Schomaker

    The story you tell makes me think of the uncountable number of connections between people, and, the effect of one life, lived. It’s mind boggling to contemplate.
    I enjoy your posts, Neil.
    Thank you.

  3. Hi Neil,
    Certainly one of the most emotive events of our rich and so beautiful FrenchCanadian history. All these 800 King’s daughters were so courageous…and they litterally made “Champlain’s dream” (I mean to found a strong French colony in North America) a reality. I already look forward to reading your next post. Thanks again prof,
    Denis

  4. That is such an interesting story! Thanks, Neil, for all this information. Your tour was certainly the highlight of our trip to your beautiful Quebec City.

  5. Merci Neil,
    Toujours aussi intéressant. Quelle belle histoire! Très touchant. Effectivement, au matin de ses noces, Élisabeth ne pouvait imaginer son destin dans ce Nouveau Monde qui lui était inconnu. Elle ne pouvait imaginer qu’une partie de sa descendance se retrouverait un jour aux Êtats Unis.

  6. Love the perspective you took in this post Neil. One that we don’t often read – from that of a Filles du Roy. Reading this makes one realize that their courage was as great as their legacy.

  7. Neil,
    Comme je ne maîtrise pas suffisamment bien la langue de Shakespeare pour exprimer toute l’admiration que j’ai pour ta plume, je conserve celle de Molière! Pour nous parler de cette femme dont on connaît très peu de choses, tu nous transportes dans ce qui était probablement ses appréhensions, ses probables inquiétudes et sa détermination à améliorer son sort.
    Je transfère ce magnifique texte à mes compagnes du Choeur des Filles du Roy et à mes guides de À la Rencontre des Filles du Roy qui toutes incarnent une de ces femmes venues de France pour nous mettre au monde.
    Tu es inspirant !

  8. Encore une fois, très intéressant! Je passe du temps depuis quelques mois dans ma généalogie familiale. Pour la famille de mon papa, pas de fille du Roy, je continue mes recherches, qui sait, je trouverai peut-être une femme aussi courage dans une des branches familiales…

  9. Thanks for putting some life into Elisabeth! It reminded me of my first ancestors that came to North America. My 7th great grand-parents came to Quebec around the same time as Elisabeth arrived, Mathurin Huau/Huot and Marie Letartre. Marie and Mathurin were married in L’Ange Gardien, not far from you Neil, on November 25, 1671. Marie’s parents Rene Letartre and Louise Anne Goulet settled in L’Ange Gardien. Marie had 3 sisters and a brother that immigrated from France to New France. As her parents and her family travled with her, I think that would rule out Marie as being a King’s Daughter. Her husband, Mathurin appears to be alone when he arrives some time before 1671. I have few details on Mathurin’s life, in one record I found him identified as a domestique and another record of a Mathurin Hot listed as a carpenter that I suspect is him. Mathurin and Marie had 11 children all born in L’Ange Gardien. My Huot ancestors lived in and around L’Ange Gardien until my great-great grandfather Louis Huot and some of his brothers came to Minnesota around 1850, starting in Saint Anthony with Pierre Boutineau, later moving to what is now Plymouth with a small community of others from Quebec and eventually settling in what is now Huot, Minnesota in northwestern Minnesota. My grandfather lived in a french-speaking house, as a result that connection back to Quebec was shared with me very early. It made it a place I wanted to see, as a result, my wife and I honeymooned in Quebec. We loved all of it and we will return some day.

  10. Millicent Broderick

    Thank you Neil, always interesting. I have been researching my family tree for some time and wish I knew more about my ancestors than their names and dates of birth and death.

  11. Thank you, Neil. Very interesting and very emotive for me. My ancestor came from France in the 1640’s(Jean Dumets’s house just aside l’escalier «cul-de-sac). He got married some years later with Jeanne Védier, from the Loire, as soon as he had built a house to welcome her. Jean and Jeanne ant their descendants had between 12 and 18 children to «make land» in the village that is now known as St-Nicolas on the south bank of the St-Lawrence river.

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