To my mind, our early ancestors were swept along on a tide of events that most of them had little power over. When a king came of age to rule, he had been groomed for war. For all intents and purposes, he was a soldier. Even our romantic notions can be tested when we find that the fabled Knights Templar were ruthless soldiers, their mandate being to not leave the battleground until the banner fell. It is also interesting that a king would often be at war not only with his enemies but with the very men he had surrounded himself with, as in the First and Second Barons Wars. Land (and the people on it) could be tossed back and forth between various factions during a simple lifetime. Most of our families were ordinary people, not unlike us, just trying to survive day to day and revolution was often the only recourse.
With that in mind and because of my love of history, I try to plot my ancestors against a timeline of events for that country. If you were a technical whiz, you could probably fill in a digital timeline that would combine the two, but sometimes things are simpler on paper.
Francis I (1494-1547) is on the throne. In 1534, he sends Jacques Cartier to explore the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, looking for gold. In 1541, he sends Jean Roberval to settle Canada to encourage the spread of Catholicism.
The Protestant Reformation rises and in 1534 placards are placed by the Huguenots in the streets denouncing the Catholic mass. Thousands are executed and tortured for heresy.
Marc Beauchamp born in Nanteuil, Dordogne, Aquitaine, France in 1560.
Charles IX (1560-1574) comes to the throne in 1560. War breaks out between the Huguenots (Protestants) and Catholics after the Massacre at Vassey, starting the War of Religions in France. He marries his sister to Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France) who is Protestant, as appeasement. When this is not accepted by the people, he allows the massacre of Protestant people attending the royal wedding at St. Bartholemew.
The War of Religions in France sent many Protestants to America (along the east coast).They were only temporarily accepted in Quebec but after struggles broke out between the Protestants and Catholics they were forbidden entrance. Marc married Marguerite Collineau de Monteguerre, no marriage record to date.The family remained in Nantheuil, Dordogne during these years which is southwest of Limoges.
Jean Beauchamp born in Nantheuil, Dordogne, Aquitaine, France on May 25, 1583.
Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu born in Paris, France on September 9, 1585.
In 1589, Henry IV, King of Navarre and a Bourbon, came to the throne. He had been raised a Protestant by his mother, and was nearly assassinated during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. He passed the Edict of Nantes which allowed certain freedoms to the Huguenots and La Rochelle became a main centre for them. At some point during Jean’s life, possibly before, since we have no death date or place for Marc, the family began to migrate between La Rochelle and Nantheuil. In spite of the freedoms granted to the Huguenots by Henry IV, religious strife continued and he was finally assassinated by Francois Ravaillac, a religious fanatic in 1610.
The throne then went to Louis XIII, whose mother Marie de Medicis became regent because he was a minor. Later, because she was involved with “intrigues” at court, he had her exiled. Richelieu who had been her advisor, was also dismissed but when she escaped confinement and threatened to cause an aristocratic rebellion, the King called him back to attempt to reason with her. Richelieu was successful and Marie was restored as part of the court. Soon, he began a quick ascent to power, becoming Cardinal in 1622, then Chief Minister in 1624. In 1629, he became President of the King’s Council.
He had a brilliant political and military mind which he used to further the King’s interests. He saw that the Religious Wars were keeping France from being united as one power. When Charles I in England decided to support the Huguenot rebellion in France, Richelieu responded by placing La Rochelle (a Huguenot stronghold) under seige. For this he obtained help from the Dutch and Spanish. He also built blockades and a sea wall to prevent entrance to the harbour. Though the English tried to help they were completely held back. The seige lasted for 14 months.
La Rochelle was one of the larger cities in France at the time and the population was decimated, going from approximately 27,000 people to 5000 caused by casualty, famine and disease. Since Jean Beauchamp, the grandfather, was married and died in La Rochelle a few years after the siege, I am going to assume he was there with his son, Michel who married the same year his father died, 1630.
Michel Beauchamp born in 1612 in Nantheuil, Dordogne, Aquitaine. He would have been 15 or 16 years old at the time of the Seige of La Rochelle. During peaceful times, Huguenots and Catholics shared amicable relations and it would appear that there was intermarriage in the family. A record from the Fichers Origines website, states that the parents of Marie Roullet, Michel’s wife, were married in the Protestant Temple at La Rochelle. It also states that Jacques and his father Michelle were gardeners in “the New Town” presumably signifying the rebuilding after the seige.
Michel and Marie married in 1630 and had 5 children, Pierre, Jacques, Marie, Jean and William. Out of the 5, it would appear that only Jacques and Jean emigrated to New France.
Jacques Beauchamp was born July 8th, 1635 at St. Marguerite, La Rochelle, France. A war with Spain would break out that same year. In 1643, the year before Jean Beauchamp was born, Louis XIV inherited the throne. He would be instrumental in the success of the colony of New France. Jean was born May 7th 1644.
During their time in France, riots against Cardinal Mazarin (regent during Louis’ childhood) known as the “Frondes” would break out. Similar to the Barons wars in England, they were a result of pending absolutism on the kings part. In other words, there would be no “parlement”, something that the French had originated themselves. The Thirty Years War would end with Eastern Europe and in 1659, the year Jacques emigrated, the Franco Spanish war would end with France becoming the most powerful entity in Europe.
Would life in Canada seem difficult after all of this? We shall soon see.