The Intrepids Part II

Quebec was initially rejected as a site for permanent habitation.  De Monts, Gravé and Champlain determined to escape the competition of traders who refused to respect the French monopoly of the St. Lawrence fur trade. They sailed south to the Maritimes where the climate was milder. While they were there they continued the search for a route to Asia which people at that time believed existed. They wintered near the mouth of the St. Croix River where nearly half of the 79 men died of scurvy. Champlain called the place Port Royal. The company settled for 3 years at Port Royal while they explored and searched for minerals. This was the actual first agricultural settlement in Canada. De Monts,  realizing that he could not enforce his fur trade monopoly (80 ships had already poached on his land),  decided to abandon Acadia, which then included modern-day Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

It is interesting to note that the explorers, De Monts, Gravé and Champlain were French Protestants. Champlain had converted to Roman Catholicism some years before. One of the reasons for the burgeoning population of the eastern coast of America was the lack of religious discrimination. Only Roman Catholics were permitted into New France. When the Huguenots left France, they took with them their skills and affluence. At the same time the French left Acadia, the English established their first settlement at Jamestown in Virginia and for them, there was no looking back.

In 1627, the colony of New France was pathetically small compared to its southern neigbours who had a tobacco-based economy. What did they have to sell in Quebec? There was no market for anything but fur.  Richelieu, then prime minister to Louis XIII,  decided to end the colony’s dependence on fur and start up the mercantile system that worked so well in France. France would supply Quebec’s needs and a market for her manufactured goods. No other country was permitted to trade or ship goods from the colony. Only French ships could carry goods to and from the colony. To that end, Richelieu established the Compagnie des Cent-Associés or Company of One Hundred Associates, of whom Champlain was a share-holder.

The company became the seigneur of all the lands France claimed in North America and had a monopoly on all commerce including the fur trade. It could also cede land to settlers in tenure. In return, France would send 4,000 French and Roman Catholic settlers and provide missions for the conversion of the natives within 15 years. This coincided with the outbreak of the French/English war. French ships bringing settlers in were captured by English privateers, the brothers Kirke. Champlain surrendered in the face of starvation. In July, 1629, he and Gravè left Quebec but Champlain still lobbied for it’s return to France. That took 3 years since Louis XIII had not paid his debt to Charles I for his sister’s dowry.  As soon as that was resolved, English forces left Quebec and returned it to France. Champlain returned to build a fort at Trois-Rivieres. When he died, control of the colony passed into the hands of the Jesuits or “Black Robes.

In 1632, Cardinal Richelieu gave the Jesuits a monopoly over the Canadian mission field. They built and opened schools for the native children but encountered the same problems as the Recollet priests before them.  The parents would not let the children go until they were given gifts. Many of the children became ill and died or ran away. The use of corporal punishment was not a custom of the native parent.

The Ursulines opened schools for the girls in the colony with the same measure of success. Marie l’Incarnation,  founder of the Ursulines, even wrote of the problems with native girls.  We have observed that of a hundred that have passed through our hands we have scarcely civilized one. We find docility and intelligence in these girls but, when we are least expecting it, they clamber over our walls and go off to run with their kinsmen in the woods,  finding more to please them there than all the amenities of our French house.”  

Does this ring a bell for anyone?  Pictures of residential schools start to run through my mind along with my own memories of starting school with the Sisters of Charity. So we agree this problem lies in the very roots of our culture. The Ursulines did have better luck with their hospitals though, where the natives agreed to drop their elders at the “house of death“.

I think it is worth noting too that many if not most of the nuns and priests were from the nobility in France . The Jesuits were very well educated men. Many women would enter a convent during times of trial in their lives or when they were widowed. One thing is certain, they truly believed in what they were doing in the name of Christ.

Image result for ursulines arrive in quebec

Arrival of the Ursulines Marie de Jesus 1928

A Flash of Scarlet Part XI

Ironically, just days after the capitulation of La Rochelle, a great storm broke out which destroyed the moles or earthen works Richelieu had built to prevent the British from gaining access to the city.  Crossing the river Loire on his way back to Paris, the Cardinal nearly drowned along with his Chancellor. At the same time, the Duc de Nevers, Charles de Gonzague, was blockaded in at the fortress of Casale in Northern Italy by Spain and Savoy. With the siege over, France would finally be free to come to his aid.

Cardinal Richelieu at the Seige of La Rochelle- Henri Motte

De Gonzague was one of the great nobles of France and would have been heir to the throne of Constantinople. He had been on Crusade with Pere Joseph and was distrusted by the Queen Mother who voiced her displeasure at the thought of the King marching to his aid. This was not to mention the fact that Alphonse, Richelieu’s brother had been made a Cardinal in celebration of the victory against the Huguenots. The rule was that two brothers could not be cardinalized. Then France marched off to war against two Catholic countries, Spain and Austria. The Cardinal maintained his stance that the honour of France was at stake if they did not back the Duc’s right as hereditary ruler of Mantua.  He promised the King that the war in Mantua would be resolved by May so the issue of Rohan and the hold-out Huguenots in Languedoc could be dealt with. Again, Richelieu drew the withdrawal card and once again, Louis promised to support him in his cause. Marie was enraged.

Charles Gonzague-Duc de Nevers-Mantua

In January, 1629, Louis marched south to join the troops that had only a short rest after La Rochelle. The Cardinal met with Conde to discuss how they would strike a final blow to the Huguenots in Languedoc. Louis decided to continue into Savoyard territory in spite of the wintry weather to capture Susa. It took one month to get to the foot of the Alps and another to scale them. Susa was at the top of a fortified gorge and though others balked at the idea of climbing to the fortress, Louis showing himself as the bold soldier he was climbed through the snow. While he was finding a way up and behind the enemy barricades, the main body of the army drove straight at the enemy. The royal musketeers scaled the walls and drove them back down and towards Susa. After that,  with his usual energy and speed, Richelieu relieved Casale. Below, what Louis XIII may have been looking at as he approached the Alps.


Mount Genevre, French Alps

It did not take long to take Languedoc, though Rohan had made an agreement with Spain to keep up the rebellion. The Huguenots did not have a regular army.  The royal army over ran the area, destroying crops and driving the people into the mountains. The small stronghold of Privas  insisted that their commander St. André de Montbrun should make terms with the King but Louis emphatically refused. The surrender must be unconditional. The troops entered and sacked the town during which time a terrible fire broke out.

Louis’ character required him to hang the commander but his hand was stayed by Richlieu. He could be surprisingly humane once he had achieved his goals. Though he was ill at the time, the Cardinal rode to meet the inhabitants and placed twelve young girls in the care of the Dame de Chateau d’Autremont. He was presented with an infant who was found in his dead mother’s arms whom he found a nurse for. He ordered the child be called “Fortunat Privas”. Compared to the other atrocities in Germany through the Thirty Years war, this was quite exceptional.


Areas Involved in the Mantuan War

The King’s army continued to sweep south capturing all the small towns until they came into Nimes where a final victory in the Huguenot war was realized. Richelieu had achieved the first great end of his policy, to subdue internal rebellion and unite France. Once conquered, he offered a general amnesty. The Duc de Rohan retired to Venice as a free man.  Liberty of Conscience as laid out in the Edict of Nantes was reaffirmed but all  Huguenot fortifications had to be razed. All the Protestant towns submitted except for stubborn and determined Montauban. Richelieu was left to deal with this on his own as the King left for Paris. Though ill with fever, he spent weeks arguing with the town deputies until finally they submitted. He entered the town in the middle of August, harangued by the Protestant ministers and stayed long enough to see that the ramparts were being destroyed. He then returned to Paris to face his other enemies, the Queen mother, Marie de Medici and her court,  a court ablaze with resentment and jealousy.





A Flash of Scarlet Part X

The Chalais conspiracy, also known as the Affair of the Dames, increased Richelieu’s determination to crush the nobles and make the King supreme. To this end, he created two new edicts. The first, destroyed all feudal strongholds in Brittany and then all over France not needed for the defence of province or kingdom. Naturally, the peasant population was more than happy to help in smashing gates and tearing down walls six feet thick which had threatened their liberty for centuries, a signal perhaps of the revolution to come years later.

The other edict forbade dueling, previously ignored by the nobles who continued fighting day and night over the merest quibble. Richelieu brought royal authority forward once more. The penalty was death. In the face of this,  Francois de Montmorency, Duc de Bouteville, a famed duellist who was banned from France, undertook a duel with the Baron de Beuvron. It was a triple duel and both the principals survived but one of the adversaries was killed. Beauvron escaped to England but Bouteville stopped overnight on the way to Lorraine. The dead man’s mother arrested them. (note that you could make a citizen’s arrest at this time). The two were brought back and imprisoned in the Bastille until a short trial took place where both were sentenced to death. At the Place de Greve amid the voices of a public outcry, the two were beheaded. Paris watched in terror and disbelief at the power and relentless action of the Cardinal.

These executions were followed by another tragedy, the death of Gaston’s wife Marie de Bourbon,  after childbirth. The moment had been so awaited, joyfully by Gaston and his wife and trepidatiously by the King and Queen. A boy would be heir to the throne. However, a girl was born, Anne Marie Louis,  who would become the famed “Grand Mademoiselle”. The death of Marie once again released the young Gaston to his wild ways. He was only nineteen years old. Louis attempted to interest him in “the hunt” but that was not to Gaston’s taste, he was a Parisian. Then Louis bought Richelieu’s house at Limours for him to redecorate, a favorite pastime of royalty.

About this time, the threat of war with England began to raise it’s head. Richelieu had ignored the several pin-pricks thrown at him by Charles I, who was not happy with his new wife’s French retinue and replaced them with people he thought were more trustworthy. The English supported the Huguenots and the Cardinal was not yet ready to deal with that situation but found himself having no choice. Many people supported the idea of war against France, in order to rid themselves of him, Buckingham had not ceased his anger and ambition and there were quarrels and piracy on both sides of the sea. Enemies rose up, both Catholic and Protestant, Soubise in England, Rohan in Languedoc, Charles of Lorraine (influenced by the crafty Madame de Chevreuse), the Duke of Savoy and the Comte de Soissons, the duchess, Isabel of the Low Countries (the Dutch Republic) was trying to get Spain on England’s side. Richelieu did not trust the Spanish ambassador, Olivares. He knew an English victory would leave France divided and vulnerable against the rest of Europe.

In the winter of 1627,  England prepared her ships for war, her destination, La Rochelle. The islands of Ré and Oleron were the main defenders of La Rochelle. Louise had built new forts there since the last Huguenot revolt. That allowed Richelieu to divert his attention to the massive amount of letter writing he would have to do to mobilize the coast for attack, many of which can still be read today. The peasants must not be molested, many of them neighbors from his old Luçon days, just up the coast. Some of his letters, addressed to the Rochelaise, assure them that the preparations are for their own good and that as long as they are co-operative, they will have nothing to fear. While the funerals of Bouteville and Madame were carried on in Paris, ships were sailing from Portsmouth for the French coast.

As Louis travelled down to the west coast, Gaston was appointed lieutenant-general of the armies in Poitou. Later in the year, the Prince de Condé  and the Duc de Montmorency would  check Henri de Rohan in Languedoc.  By then, the English were blocking the Isle de Ré. The Huguenots had admitted the Duc de Soubise to the city showing their intentions although that may not have been the wish of all of her citizens. This lack of cohesiveness became a threat to the country and Richelieu, pushed on by the annihilistic Condé, was set to crush the rebels. Meanwhile, Louis had become so ill that he was forced to stop his travels to Orléans. Then he received word that the Marquis de Toiras was blockaded in on the fort of Saint-Martin by the Duke of Buckingham. This forced the Cardinal into a position he was not fully prepared for, having always worked under the King in matters of war.  As he sat by Louis’ bedside hour after hour, his mind raced with military matters and of how to relieve the isle from the threat of starvation.

He decided to use his own money in aid of the war and to send provisions by small boat to Ré. Then he invoked the treaty with Spain to gain aid but that country would not participate until the outcome was more assured. In October, Louis recovered and the two joined the army at La Rochelle where they were able to drive Buckingham back to England.

Louis and Richelieu at La Rochelle

Louis XIII and Richelieu at La Rochelle




The Struggles in France

The Reformation in France did not take the same shape as in Switzerland.There, the nobility were staunch Catholics and eager to maintain their power over any possibility of Protestant nobility gaining strength. John Calvin had sent out hundreds of missionaries to France resulting in a Protestant population of near 2 million by 1550 although it has been said that not all were followers of Calvin. Francis I had tolerated the Huguenots for much of his reign (1515-1547) until he realized that there was little they could do for him personally or politically. When he died, Henry II commenced persecution of the Huguenots, among whom were brilliant military leaders such as Gaspar de Coligny and Anthony, King of Navarre, their arch enemies, the Guise family. The young king, Francis II came heavily under the influence of this family.

When Francis II died in 1560, Catherine Medici became regent for her son, Charles IX. She being a foreigner, initially encouraged the rise of the Huguenots to balance her position against the Guises, who had ambitions for the crown themselves. Eventually, civil war broke out between the Guises and the Huguenots. Catherine, fearing Coligny’s influence on her son, sided with Henry, Duke de Guise.

In 1562, Henry de Guise was passing through the area of Vassy on the way to his estates and decided to stop for mass. He encountered a group of Huguenots gathered for service in a barn. Some of his men tried to enter but were repulsed. When a stone hit him in the head, he decided to burn the church, killing and injuring near 163 people. This attack was seen as a breach of the Edict of St. Germain which Catherine had proposed earlier to maintain peace between the two sides. The Huguenots set about creating forts along the Loire River preparing for what would become “The French Wars of Religion”.

One of the most notorious atrocities during these wars was the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572. It was actually only one of many “mob attacks” on the Protestants which spread across France in the days that followed. Catherine Medici and Henry de Guise are thought to have instigated it. The Protestant prince, Henry of Navarre was to marry Margarite de Valois in an attempt at reconciling the opposing sides.  On August 18, many Protestant nobles, including Gaspar de Coligny arrived in Paris to celebrate the wedding. This seemed fortuitous to Catherine and de Guise. On August 24, Coligny was captured at his lodgings and thrown to the street where the ritualistic killing began with castration and disfigurement. He was dragged through the street before being burned by the crowd.  An estimated 10,000 people died in the coming days.

The riots provoked further military action with sieges being laid on Sommierres, Sancerres and La Rochelle. In this seige of La Rochelle in 1572, the leader, Henry of Anjou was called away, to defend Poland against further Protestant attacks. The resulting Treaty of Boulogne resulted in La Rochelle , Montaubin and Nimes being allowed restricted freedom of worship.  Anjou failed to do what Richelieu did and that was to create a successful barrier into the harbor.

In 1588, Henry III, fearing the power of the Guise family, had  de Guise assassinated. He joined forces with Henry of Navarre who was Protestant. When he was killed, Navarre became king, France’s first Protestant king.  Under Henry, the Huguenots would gain some security under the Edict of Nantes. Freedom of worship was granted to 100 communities across France, particularity in the south. They were also given political independence but they could only worship in private. That political independence was lost when Louis XIII came to the throne in 1610. Their religious freedom was completely lost in 1685 when Louis XIV, France’s absolute monarch, reigned.

Jean Beauchamp, my 7th great grandfather, was born in Nanthieul, Perigord, France in 1579 and died in La Rochelle in 1630 as did his wife, Louise de Lanterna. They would have lived through the Great Siege of La Rochelle, dying just a few years after it was over. They are buried in unmarked graves, no cause of death known at present. They may have even caught a glimpse of “the Red Eminence” as he paraded into the city when it was all over.

Jean and Louise’s only recorded child, Michel, married that same year, a curiosity to me. It is noted at Fichier Origine that his wife Marie Roullet’s parents were married in the Great Temple in La Rochelle. One assumes that Michel would have been Protestant as well.  Marie and Michel had 6 children before they emigrated, 4 of whom came to Montreal, Quebec as pioneers. Before she came in 1559, Marie Dardeyne Beauchamp, had lost an infant, Marie (1658) and a son William, at 6 years (1652). She would have 8 more children in Canada.





A Teachable Frame of Mind

The period of history known as “the Renaissance” opened the door to inquiry, expression and not a little controversy. It had it’s roots in Florence, Italy between 1350 and 1400 AD. among the wealthy who had access to Roman and Greek writing. The idea of “humanism” began to develop. That is, the power of  critical thinking and evidence over acceptance of dogma or superstition. During the Middle Ages, most people felt that hardship and war were their lot in life but gradually the teachings of the great Latin and Greek books gained ground. Simply put, it created a ground for the Protestant reformation.

The Catholic Church had tried but failed to implement it’s own reforms. It continued using the Inquisition as a control against heresy. This was an official court within the church which handed out penalties of torture and death to anyone even suspected of dissent. In many cases it was used to dispose of people who were political enemies.  The most common punishment was burning at the stake. Out of this environment, a few unlikely men rose, Luther being one of them. Another was John Calvin.

Luther was about 25 years old at the time Calvin was born in Noyon, France in 1509, his birth name, Jehan Cauvin. His father, Gerard,  a notary for the church,  intended that he and his 2 brothers should become priests. By age 12, he was already employed as a clerk to the bishop. Under the patronage of a wealthy family,  he studied Latin and then Philosophy until his father decided that studying Law would be more profitable.

At this point he came into contact with a professor who sparked his interest in humanist ideas. He learned Greek in order to read the New Testament and  in 1533, he experienced a “conversion”.  In his description of it he describes God as bringing his mind into a “teachable frame”.  Calvin felt that he was being called to be part of the reform of the church and effectively broke away from it. In the autumn of 1533, one of Calvin’s friends,  a reformer,  gave an address on church reform which was pronounced heretical. Calvin was implicated and had to go into hiding . Eventually he had to leave France after Reformists came under heavy fire for posting placards denouncing the Catholic Mass (the Day of the Placards).

The manner in which ideas spread during these times was largely by publishing pamphlets which were spread around. If you were a theologian, you would write your ideas and publish them. In 1536, Calvin wrote an apologia or an explanation for his beliefs. This became  known as ” The Institutes of the Christian Religion”, which he regularly added to. Later he would set up the organization of the church which would become Presbyterian.

He traveled to Ferrara, Italy where he worked for Princess Renee of France and then returned home to Paris to sort his father’s affairs. He decided he could not live there anymore when it was declared that all people had to decide within six months to remain Catholic (the Treaty of Courcy).  He headed for Strasbourg,  a haven for reformers but had to detour to Geneva because the French army was present.

In Geneva, something significant happened in that Calvin was forced to make a decision by another French reformer, William Farel. Like so many called before him, Calvin just wanted to live quietly and in peace. Farel was having none of it. He demanded that Calvin stay and help the movement in Geneva. Let us say that Farel was able to persuade him. The two worked together until disagreements with the city council arose over bringing uniformity to church services. Calvin and Ferel were asked to leave after protesting the serving of unleavened bread for Eucharist.

On to Strasbourg (1538-41) where Calvin married Idolette de Bure, a widow and continued to revise the Institutes and preach. In Geneva, church attendance began to dwindle because of disagreements with Bern, their supporting city.  When they were asked to return to the Catholic faith, Geneva started to reconsider its expulsion of Calvin and asked him to return. Though this is not what he wanted, he felt the call of duty and agreed to a six month stay. When he returned,  he worked on setting up the actual church, working along side city council, each deciding what powers and duties it would have.  This is something that would never happen in France where royalty was staunchly Catholic. The reformed church also did not enforce celibacy, feeling that it distracted from giving full attention to church duties. Sadly, Idolette had a son prematurely and he died. She died a few years later leaving a vacuum in Calvin’s life.

One of the well known stories about John Calvin is his confrontation with a group of “libertines”. The Libertines, being ultra-humanist, used the idea of being granted “grace” to exempt themselves from church and civil law. One of them was brought to court for disobeying the law against dancing . The council overturned Calvin’s decision against them. When a group of them turned up at a service and approached the table for sacrament, he shouted “These hands you may crush, these arms you may lop off, my life you may take, my blood is yours, you may shed it; but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profaned, and dishonor the table of my God.”  They quickly left. The libertines had among them some very powerful people and this was a great test for Calvin.

Calvin faced another challenge in the person of Michael Servitus, a Spanish physician and theologian. Servitus was on the run from church authorities after he denied the existence of the Trinity. There were letters exchanged between him and Calvin. In fact Servitus had had the nerve to write in the margins of a copy of the Instructions annotating his differences with Calvin’s doctrines. This infuriated Calvin and when Servitus was finally caught and charged he only made a minor effort to have the sentence of burning commuted to beheading.  Some say that there was no scriptural backing for the final decision, a source of controversy to this day.

In 1553, two things happened to further secure the reform in Geneva. A decision was made that the church could continue to decide on excommunication and an uprising of libertines was put down, the leaders were forced to flee the city while the remainder were executed by Calvin. The issue of the libertines was resolved.

In Calvin’s final years, he did much to support the spread of Protestantism. He sheltered refugees from the reign of Mary Tudor in England and helped them build their own church from where they left to spread reform in England and Scotland. He had disagreed with Luther on how the Eucharist was to be viewed. He had set up a grammar school and advanced school which is today known as the College Calvin and Geneva University. To France he sent 100 missionaries funded by the church and tried to help build churches there. What the Puritan was in England, the Covenanter was in Scotland and the Huguenot was in France.  Today, you might call them Calvinists or Presbyterians.

In 1564, Calvin died at age 54.  He was buried in an unmarked grave although a commemorative one was erected in the Cimitierre des Rois , Geneva.  Below, a map showing Geneva in relation to Paris.

Map of Geneva