Friday January 10, 2014 | 09:36 AM

             Robert Biette of Brunswick traced his family’s Franco-American Quebecois genealogy to Anne-Juliene Dumont, a 17th century woman was among a group of select Mademoiselles known as les Filles du Roi or “daughters of the King (of France).  She arrived in Noveau France (Quebec) with about 800 other women, choosen to help populate the French colony by marrying soldiers, primarily of the Carignan-Salieres  Regiment. Dumont was the mother of a woman who married Biette’s Quebecois ancestor. Dumont, was originally from Metz, a city in Lorraine, France. She married Rene Dubois and was the mother of Dorothee Dubois, who married Biette’s ancestor Etienne Biguet, in October 1691 in Quebec City.

In July 2013, a 350 year anniversary celebration of the arrival of Les Filles du Roi was held in Quebec and France, says Jeannine Sills, President of Les Society des Filles du Roi, in Chantilly, Virginia.  “Millions of people of French Canadian descent in Quebec, Canada, the USA and beyond can trace their ancestry to one or more of these 17th century women,” says Sills.

Les Filles du Roi arrive in Quebec

Les Filles du Roi arrive in Quebec - from Canadian Heritage Gallery

Richard Gay of Blue Hill, ME visited Quebec, and writes about the anniversary in Automne/Hiver “Le Forum” a publication of the University of Maine in Orono, published by le Centre Franco-Americain.

Richard Gay (Guay) of Blue Hill

Richard Gay (aka "Guay) of Blue Hill, Maine visited Quebec in July 2013. He wrote about the 350th anniversary of Les Filles du Roi in Le Forum.

In Gay’s report, he explains how the name “Daughters of the King” was first used by Marguerite Bourgeoys, the religious founder of La Congretation of Notre-Dame in Montreal. Bourgeoys insisted that only the women of good moral character and physical beauty could be selected to achieve the objective of marrying the soldiers in New France.  These ladies arrived in Quebec between 1663 and 1673, sponsored by Louis XIV.

Marguerite Bourgeoys Founder of La Congregation de Notre-Dame in Montreal

Marguerite Bourgeoys founder of La Congretation de Notre-Dame in Montreal

Prior to 1663, the ladies who sailed to New France were known as Filles a Marier, or “girls to be married”. Thomas J. Laforest writes about The King’s Daughters in Heritage Quest.  He says after 1663, the girls became known as Les Filles du Roi, because the King treated them as his daughters. They were awarded passage and dowries prior to leaving France for Quebec. Their dowries included a wedding dress and essentials for a young bride to start a new life.

            Jean Talon (1626-1694), Intendant in Quebec, (a managerial government official) recommended the government support Les Filles du Roi, because he saw them as essential to building families in the colonial frontier. Talon’s mission was to boost the growth and economy of the Quebec colony by making it self-sufficient. Obviously, these women were important to Quebec's prosperity.

Although les Filles du Roi were screened for their strength, health and good moral reputations, there are inaccurate accounts about them having questionable backgrounds. This was not the case, reports Gay in Le Forum.  In Quebec, he found some references of misinformation made about the women as “filles de joie” rather than “filles du roi”.

Nonetheless, extensive research by historians and scholars finds no evidence to support that any of the women who immigrated to Quebec were “filles de joie” or prostitutes. This is totally wrong. Remarkably, these women were “les meres de la nation”.

Filles du Roi were the women sponsored by King Louis XIV, who arrived in Quebec between 1663 and 1673, with an allowance and dowries from the royal treasury. 

A list of les Filles du Roi names is on the website http://www.fillesduroi.org/src/Filles_list.htm

Laforest writes about the determination of les Filles du Roi in their mission to populate New France.  “….would you brave a long and arduous (trans-Atlantic) sea voyage under (extraordinary) conditions, to achieve a life that lacks the amenities of living in France, to marry a stranger with the prospect of death in childbirth….?”

More than likely, these brave French women must have prayed, “Seigneur, j'ai fait ce que j’ai pu!” (Lord, I did what I could).  Ils on fait du bon travail.  

Contact Lisa Desjardins Michaud at the University of Maine at Lisa_Michaud@umit.maine.edu for information about Le Forum.

 

 

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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