A long time ago – a very long time ago – I had to take a course in Canadian History. Like a lot of compulsory history courses, it mainly consisted of names, dates and battles. Not particularly interesting.
One of the groups we studied were “Les Filles du roi,” the king’s girls. I took a mild interest in these “girls for marrying” – enough to remember the relevant facts for the final exam – but it really didn’t mean much to me at the time.
I didn’t begin to enjoy history until my university days.
Then, about 15 years ago, my cousin did some genealogical research on my mother’s side of the family and discovered that, in the 17th Century, an ancestress of mine had been one of the filles du roi.
The term “filles du roi” was exclusively applied to the young women of marriageable age and capable of bearing children, who emigrated to New France – now the province of Quebec – between 1663-1673. They were so called because their transportation, settlement expenses, and dowry were assumed by Louis XIV’s royal treasury. They were destined to marry the habitants, or settlers, of New France.
The dowries of these girls were quite interesting when you consider all the hardships these girls were to face – setting up housekeeping in such a harsh new land. Here are some of the items that were given to a typical fille du roi:
1 velvet-lined 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.
Upon arrival in New France, the girls were taken by nuns, either to Ville Marie (now Montreal) or to Quebec City, where they received training for marriage.
Since I live in the Montreal area, I wanted to find out as much as possible about these girls, particularly my ancestress. There’s a wonderful museum, the Maison St. Gabriel, where the girls who arrived in Montreal lived before their weddings. It’s now a museum, and I’ve been there many a time. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet been able to locate my ancestress, leading me to the conclusion that she probably arrived in Quebec City, rather than Montreal.
It’s a bit of personal historical research I plan to delve into as soon as possible.