Fille du Roi


Fille du Roi



List of Fille du Roi

That are ancestors of Saul Morin and therefore YOU

From the time of the earliest French colonization of Québec in 1604 until 1663, there were only a handful of families living in that region. The majority of its small population was made up of hunters, trappers, French soldiers, a few explorers, a few priests, and some sailors. France and England, long at odds and in competition with each other, were then attempting to expand their new colonies, to exploit the land and its resources, and to establish stronger and more viable colonies in the New World.



In 1629, the population of Québec, then the only settlement in the present province of Québec, had a resident population of only 21. By 1639, that number had grown to 139 from new settlers and some births. By 1662, the population had increased almost 10-fold to 1,100. By this time, the English colonies in America were growing rapidly.



The pleas of the colonists of New France for assistance in their struggle with the Iroquois were answered in 1665 with the arrival of the first French regular troops in Canada, the Carignan-Salières Regiment. Between June and September 1665, some 1200 soldiers and their officers arrived in Quebec, under the leadership of Lt. General Alexander de Prouville, Sieur de Tracy.


The series of forts established by the Regiment along the Richelieu River, along with the success of its second campaign into the land of the Mohawk Indians, led to a long period of peace for the colony, which permitted it to prosper. However, King Louis XIV's plan included the permanent settlement of many of the soldiers and officers in Canada. Over 450 of these troops remained in the colony, many of whom married the newly arrived filles du roi.  Most persons of French Canadian descent can claim one or more of these brave soldiers as ancestors. In addition to the list of soldiers and officers on the official "roll" of the Regiment, there were many others who participated in the successful campaign against the Iroquois, including many militiamen who resided in the colony but whose names were not recorded for posterity.[1],[2]




About this time, the French hierarchy decided to adopt a new plan to help establish a stronger and more permanent foothold in its North American colony, which had, by then, expanded to three principle towns on the St. Lawrence River: Québec, Trois Rivières, and Montréal (known as Ville Marie back then). The plan was to encourage single and widowed young women to go to New France (Québec), marry one of the single or widowed Frenchmen there, raise a family, and establish themselves there as permanent colonists. Compared to France, the New World was a harsh place with its lack of amenities, its ever-present danger from rebellious Indians, its harsh winters, and its isolation from the rest of the civilized world. It took a considerable amount of planning, time, and salesmanship on the part of those pursuing this plan to convince young women to take part in this new and risky venture.



The recruitment program was initiated around 1661 and the recruiters went to a number of cities where there were large orphanages - a good source for potential candidates. Paris and other cities had several such orphanages where conditions, even in comparison with life in that period of time, were deplorable. As an incentive to enlist, the young girls were to be awarded with a gift (dowry) of from 50 French pounds and up. The Royal treasury provided the necessary funds and it was fully supported by the King of France. Thus, these recruits came to be called "les filles du roi" - the King's daughters.

See below regarding this dowry.


A number of those recruited also had money and property of their own, as much as 3,000 pounds, received as an inheritance from their deceased parents. Fifty pounds was a substantial amount of money in those days. For example, a common laborer would have to work almost a year to make such a sum and a surgeon made from 100 to 150 pounds a year. Thus, many orphaned girls saw this as an opportunity for adventure, money, marriage, and getting out of their situation. Recruited during the eleven years of this program were 414 orphaned girls . From 1663 to 1673 a total of 774 "Filles du Roi" made the journey to New France. The best year was in 1669 when 135 new "Filles du Roi" were enlisted. In 1670, 134 girls took up the cause. A total of 238 were from Paris, 175 from Bourgs, 46 from Rouen, 35 from La Rochelle, and the rest from other towns and cities. Three were from other countries -  England, Germany, and Portugal. Some of the girls who were originally recruited went only as far as the port of embarkation such as Dieppe in Normandy. When they saw what they were getting into, their minds quickly changed and withdrew from the "adventure."


In the ten year period from 1663 to 1673, a total of 852 of these King's Daughter are said to have arrived in New France. In the year 1671, it is believed that 700 children were borne by them.' 'The province of origin of these 852, as well as their names and husbands' names, are listed in 'The King's Daughter' by Elmer Costeau.  This article appeared in the magazine 'Lost in Canada' from April 1976 to April 1978'





The first stop in la Nouvelle-France was Québec (city) where most of them disembarked and remained. Shortly after their arrival, the girls were usually escorted to a place where they would meet eligible bachelors, and the rest is history. The number of single girls available to the French men in Québec were few and far between before this program was initiated. Consequently, some of the men married either local Indian girls or daughters of pioneer Québec families. The Church, seeing the need for female companions and wives for the growing number of bachelors in Québec, also supported this program. Within one year of their arrival most of the girls got married and the dowry promised them from the Royal treasury was received.  Some of the King's Daughters survived as many as four husbands. A few returned to France later on with their husbands. But, most of them remained in New France for the rest of their natural lives. The majority of these girls were "ordinary" in that sense, but a few were so-called "filles de qualité" from the bourgeois class, that is, daughters of business, professional or military officer families. They settled mainly in the Québec (city) area, raised their families, and led a relatively quiet but hard-working life.


Very few of these girls became societal problems. Only five ever got into trouble with the courts for reasons of adultery, prostitution, or debauchery. Only one, Marie Quequejeu, widow of Pierre Rivaut, was executed in 1684 by the authorities for a very serious crime (actual records lost). On the same day, her son-in-law, Pierre Doret, a "coureur de bois," was also executed. Civil and Church laws were very strict at that time. As a whole, these pioneer women faired quite well considering the new and unique obstacles, hardships, and environment they had to face and endure. They surely had to be a very hardy, courageous and resolute group of young ladies. Every Franco-American with roots in Québec has several of these King's Daughters as direct ancestors.



On the lighter side, the reason Québec girls are said to be prettier than those from the Trois Rivières and Montréal areas is that the ships made their first stop at the port of Québec. Consequently, the Québec boys had "first pick." All the left-overs were sent up-river to the other two settlements. This, of course, is a joke among the folks in Québec city.[3]



For those who wish to read more on this subject, one of the best volumes is the 380-page history and biography titled "Les Filles Du Roi en Nouvelle-France" by Silvio Dumas published in 1972 by the Société Historique de Québec. It is written in French but there should now be an English translation available. The book gives a history on the subject, details known about each of the girls, where they came from, their ages, their dowry, names of their parents, to whom, when and where they were married, and many other interesting facets about them.


Information recorded in the original records of Quebec includes the following:


We no longer wish to ask for only country girls, as capable of working as men are. Experience has shown that those who have not been raised to it  are not suitable here (...). »   Marie de l'Incarnation, 1668.


        There were 78 Filles du roi in the group of 1668. The vast majority of this group is of French origin, but there are girls of other nationalities present. According to Marie de l' Incarnation, there are among them a Moor and three others: Portuguese, German, Dutch...


        If they do not usually experience any difficulty finding a husband, some find it in adjusting  to the daily life of New France. The reason for this is simple since, according to Marie de l'Incarnation, these are town girls, little or not at all prepared to work on the land.


        From 1668 onwards, measures are taken to reduce the risk of others like this arriving. That is why Anne Gasnier, a woman from Québec, is chosen to go to France to take part in the selection of recruits who show the best potential for adaptability to the special context of New France. She will focus on charitable institutions, where orphans and poor girls are received and sheltered .


        The fact that almost half of les Filles du roi gave Paris as their place of origin or departure, does not exclude the hypothesis that they could have been born elsewhere. Research conducted by historians allows the conclusion that the majority of French provinces has seen one or more of its young girls leave for Canada.


        After l'Ile-de-France, the provinces contributing most to the movement are: Normandy, with 120 girls, Aunis, le Poitou, Champagne, Picardy, Orléans, and Beauce.


       Only Alsace, Dauphiné, Provence, Languedoc, Roussillon, Béarn, Gascony and the county of Foix did not participate.[4]


These were young women who had been selected by their parish priest to go to the colony as prospective brides. They were given a dowry of  50 livres for marrying a soldier or farmer (versus 100 livres for marrying an officer), a supply of household items and free passage aboard ship with the expenses picked up by the French royal treasury. In exchange, she was required to marry a soldier or settler and begin raising a family. These young women had fifteen days in which to choose a mate, after which time those who remained unmarried would be returned to France.




Britain and France were, at that time, engaged in a dispute over ownership claims and it was in the best interests of Louis XIV, King of France, to colonize the new land as rapidly as possible. The early French settlers took the King's admonition of being fruitful and multiplying very seriously. A family with ten or more children was common and this period in Canadian history would later come to be referred to as "The Cradle Wars."



     In the early days, recruitment focused on importing ’demoiselles;“ girls with a good background and even a little education, who were deemed best suited for the military officers and men of property. The ’habitants“ (farmers), practical as ever, asked that they be sent "strong, beautiful and intelligent girls of robust health, habituated to farm work." In those early years on the frontier, before draft animals became widely available, it was not uncommon for a wife to pull the plow while her husband pushed with one hand and carried a firearm with the other.



Life for these women was not easy. Many died young from the rigors of childbirth under primitive conditions with little medical help available. The harsh wilderness frontier, with its cold climate, diseases, food shortages and periodic Indian attacks also took a heavy toll. Many of the settlers, men and women, had second and third marriages due to the loss of their spouses.[5]



(...)Madame Bourdon was made responsible in France for one hundred and fifty girls that the king sent to this country in vessels from Normandy. They gave her plenty of exercise during such a long voyage, since they were of all kinds and conditions, there were some who were very badly brought up and very difficult to handle. There were others who were more well bred and who gave her more satisfaction. »  Marie de l'Incarnation, octobre 1669.


           The majority of les Filles du roi are unmarried and of modest birth. A good number  are from farming families, several are orphans. A few widows manage to slip in, some of whom have already given birth to a child.


It is difficult, if not impossible, to know to what extent they were educated. Like most women and men of their day, most of them would not know how to read or write. The good matches, those girls destined for officers of the Carignan regiment or for bachelors of bourgeois or noble origin, are « young ladies ». Their number is  known, since what was most required was robust women capable of hard work. In total, less than fifty Filles du roi would have belonged to that élite.


           On October 27, 1667, in a letter to Colbert, Jean Talon confirms the recent arrival  of the first «young ladies» whose number was to remain small:


                « Instead of the 50 that your despatch had me hope for, 84 young girls were sent from Dieppe and 25 from La Rochelle. There are fifteen or twenty from quite good families; several are real young ladies and quite well brought up (...) If you continue, he adds, in plans to send French  young ladies here with a fine and noble education, six or eight will be sufficient according to me (...) »


           On November 2, 1671, he expresses his disappointment to minister Colbert for having had to accept 15 rather than four young ladies of quality that he had  requested, for « unions with officers or the principal inhabitants of this place ».


If we  can believe Governor Frontenac, the colony is faced with a surplus of « young ladies ». « It is difficult at the present time, he writes on November 13, 1672, to find   appropriate matches ».




Though the French Government may have meant to give these girls dowrys with which to start their lives in the New World, it appears as tho' in reality, not many received what they expected.  A typical "dowry" or trousseau from the  Hôpital de la Salpêtrière at this time, ca 1680,  included  « 1 chest, 1 taffeta kerchief, 1 ribbon for shoes, 100 needles, 1 comb, 1 white thread, 1 pair of stockings, 1 pair of gloves, 1 pair of scissors, 2 knives, about 1,000 pins, 1 bonnet, 4 laces and 2 silver livres.



The term Filles du roi implies that these immigrants are the wards of Louis XIV and that as their protector, he assumes the duties of their natural father in taking care of them and providing them with a dowry. In New France, between 1663 and 1673, the question of dowries takes on a special importance since the authorities are going to urge, if not force men to marry them.


The conventional dowries of country girls are usually made up of furniture, household articles, silver, land or other inherited goods. Sometimes, to these  items, which are identified in the marriage contract, is added a prospective inheritance. Under normal circumstances, whatever their sex, all of a couple's children have the right to an equal part of the family inheritance. Even the poorest of girls can count on goods that, even if they don't belong to her at the time of the engagement, will come, one day, to enrich the estate of the family that she is preparing to start.


             In 1668, Jean Talon speaks of those among les Filles du roi, who harbour the expectation of a future inheritance:


                  « Among the girls sent here, there are some who have a legitimate and considerable claim to an inheritance from their parents, even among those who are drawn from l'Hôpital Général de Paris. »


The girls who arrived in 1663 had been endowed with 30 livres each. In 1664 and in 1665, they received the equivalent of 50 livres. The custom is established but there are times when it fails. Since the colonial authorities do not always have the money required, the dowry often takes the form of useful household articles or simply is not paid at all. That is what happened after the arrival of the last contingent of Filles du roi, in 1673.


Exceptions to the 50 livres rule were revealed by the historian and demographer  Yves Landry, who observed that « Only 250 of the 606 marriage contracts made by les Filles du roi, that is 41 per cent, carry any mention of a dowry granted by the king. In relation to the entire group of Filles du roi, this number shows that less than one third of the immigrants of the period from 1663 - 1673 really         benefited from the royal favour granted to newly weds. Among those, only five received 100 livres and two a dowry of 200 livres »


Surname list




1]"Fille du Roi part 6," online; Compiled by JeanClaude Saint Denis, Date of file 14 Mrch 1997; Filed as HD 2894.

[2]"Soldats du carignan, by company and rank.," online; Compiled by David Toupin, Date of file June 1998; Filed as HD 2896.  David Toupin @    9 Croydon Rd, Merrick NY 11566.  List of soldiers that are known to have settled in Canada  was developed using the following sources: Jack Verney, 1991. Additional  information is from 1) René Jetté, 1983 marked with an * in bold; and 2) Marie-Louise Beaudoin, CND, 1996, 4th edition, who drew from Régis Roy and Gérard Malchelosse, marked with an # in bold. The number in parenthesis after the soldier's name refers to his company.

[3]Robert Chenard, compiler, "The Kings Daughters, Les Filles du Roi"; Ancestral File (30 May & 14 April 1995), unknown repository, unknown repository address.  Downloaded from the LDS site on the Interent  unknown second date with no hard copy.

[4]"Notes on Filles Du Roi from the Virtual Museum of Quebec.," online, Date of file July 1998; Filed as No hard copy.

[5]Andre Morin, Dissertation by EMail Written by Brian Morren , 9 July 1998.