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The Kings 800 Daughters 1663-1673

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The history of New France striving to balance and grow the population of settlers.

Kings Daughters

Kings Daughters

the-kings-800-daughters-1663-1673
Ship to New France

Ship to New France

Settling New France

New France was first recorded on a map in 1529 when Jacques claimed the land for the King of France, and Samuel de Champlain founded a colony along the St. Lawrence River. At that time, it consisted of mostly men, soldiers, fur traders, and priests. The imbalance of men and women-led some of the men to take Natives as wives, but this was frowned upon. The colonies were worried about maintaining their claim to New France. In 1634-1663, a group of women called Fellis a'Mariner began arriving from France. This group was not recruited by the king and was given no dowry. The 262 women were cared for by various agencies and religious orders. These women would be the first women to settle in New France, but the next group was even more critical to settlement, known as the Fellis du roi, and the "Mothers of New France."

It would be in 1663 that the idea of 500 Fellis du roi was proposed by Jean Talon, Intendant of New France, to the king to sponsor these women to populate and grow the colony. The king was so thrilled with the idea that he increased it to 800 women. And so, King Louis XIV of France started to recruit these women.

The women would be carefully chosen and required a letter of reference from their parish priest. They wanted chaste women, single or widowed, able to become wives and start their families. The first woman chosen was Marguerite Bourgeoys , a French nun and founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal. She would serve as a protector and guidance counselor for the women.

The king would give a dowry to each woman of 50 livires along with a chest containing a pair of hose, a pair of shoes, a bonnet, gloves, ribbons, comb, belt, and sewing supplies.


Jean Talon

Jean Talon

Marguerite Bourgeoys

Marguerite Bourgeoys

Choosing a Husband and the Hardships of Settlement

The journey across the ocean in a wooden ship was treacherous and usually took about three months. The woman were crowded in their quarters with little room, poor sanitation, and food scarce and running low. Already frightened from leaving their homes and venturing into an unknown world, they were nonetheless eager to begin a new life. The ship was greeted by the men anxious to find a wife and someone to help farm. Many of the men had built their crude homes anticipating their arrival. It would be a plus for the men if they had a home already built.

Each woman would choose a husband, and a priest and notary were already on hand to solemnize the vows. After marriage, each couple would be given 50 livires along livestock and goods consisting of a pair of chickens and pigs, an ox, and two barrels of salted meat. The women were encouraged to have many children, and most would have at least ten. All the while, tending crops, milking the cows, cooking, cleaning, making their clothes and, endless chores while pregnant. Life was hard, yet these women were the salvation of the colonies.

A man had fifteen days to find a wife, and if he did not, his hunting and fishing along with trading of furs would be suspended.

Not all women found husbands. Some chose to return to France, some joined the convent and some simply remained single, But the Fellis du roi was hugely successful as the population grew from 6700 n 1672 to 10,000 by 1681.


The "Mothers" of French Canadians

Almost every French Canadian can trace their heritage to the 800 Fellis du roi women pioneers of New France. Indeed, a debt of gratitude for their ability to endure the cold, harsh climate, the Native Indian attacks, lack of medical care, and loneliness.

While researching this subject, I discovered so many websites that actually list the names of these women and their bios. Anyone doing genealogical research for your French Canadian ancestors would find a bonanza of information. Some of those websites include anglefire, greenerpastures, and lazarecote. Almost every French Canadians can trace their lineage to these 800 Fellis du roi women. Some of those include Hillary Clinton, Madona, hall of Fame hockey player, Bernie Geoffrion, and Louis Coutlee, founder of Ottawa, Ontario.

How many of us today would be so brave to embark on a journey to a new world?


Monument of Fellis du roi

Monument of Fellis du roi

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 23, 2020:

MG, thanks for reading. These pioneer women were remarkable.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 23, 2020:

Thanks for reading. They were extraordinary for sure.

Rosina S Khan on September 23, 2020:

"Mothers of New France" is an interesting account. How they ventured out to the sea in the hopes of finding husbands and new life with lots of children to populate New France is simply extraordinary. Good article, Fran.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 23, 2020:

What a fascinating tale and to top it is true. These women must have been courageous to venture so far into the unknown. Bless them