Huguenot Influence in Quebec




The following monographs on the theme of Huguenot influence in Quebec reflect a striving after truth in the spirit expressed by John Donne. They make no claim to exhaustive research or historical scholarship. They seek to indicate, rather than detail, the vital nature and imprint of Huguenot activity and influence on Quebec.


Recall of the Huguenot experience in Quebec is given particular pertinence by contemporary political and social developments. Today, new and subtle forms of enmity and harassment are directed at minorities in Quebec and at the very structure and spirit of Canada.


In this context it is particularly appropriate that Quebec’s official motto, “Je me Souviens”, be invoked in recognition and recall of Huguenot influence and heritage


                                    Ken Annett   1979




The following monographs on “Huguenot Influence in Quebec” were motivated by a desire to recall the significant role of persons with Huguenot heritage in the history ofQuebec.


It is not surprising that the role of Huguenots is little known or appreciated. The early historians of Quebec, generally members of the Roman Catholic clergy and of the missionary orders of that faith, regarded Huguenots with implacable enmity. They were heretics to be persecuted and rooted out of New France. While their records faithfully document forced abjurations from the “presumed reform beliefs” their records are silent as to the role and influence of those Huguenots who maintained their faith and heritage in New France. Their pervasive and persistent nature of this attitude is well illustrated by the success of religious censors in removing objective references to Huguenots in F.X. Garneau’s “Histoire du Canada” from subsequent editions.


A brief outline of Huguenot origins and experience in France may provide useful background. The readers who are interested in details of Huguenot history will find valuable references to authors and titles in the publication of the Huguenot Society of Canada, “Huguenot Trails” A particularly rich resource is to be found in the libraries of the University of Toronto.


The origin of the Huguenots or Protestants of France is to be found in the religious reform movement of 16th Century Europe. In France, as early as 1512, the reform doctrine was enunciated by Jacobus Faber and found support and encouragement in the spread of Martin Luther’s teachings. Swift and drastic reaction to what it regarded as dangerous heresy came from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. As early as 1525 French religious reformers were condemned by Catholic courts and executed by burning at the stake. In thus providing the reform movement with early martyrs the Catholic Church authorities set the stage for a long and bitter struggle with the Huguenots.

For a time the French State did not intervene in the growing polarization of its Roman Catholic and Huguenot citizens but in 1535, King Francis I, at the urging of the Catholics, issued a formal edict ordering extermination of Huguenot heresy. Among the many who fled France as a result of this edict was the religious reformer, John Calvin. From refuge in Switzerland, Calvin published his influential “ Institutes” and provided the Huguenots with patterns of religious organization, faith and discipline that strengthened Protestant churches in France and enabled the Huguenots to survive successive persecutions.

 Religious strife was carried into the domain of national politics in the reign of Henry II, son of Francis I. A weak ruler, Henry II was dominated, in turn, by his wife Catherine de”Medici, his mistress Diane de Poitiers and the influential Duc Anne de Montmorency. A bigoted Roman Catholic, Henry II persecuted the Huguenots through financial extortion and by trial and execution before the notorious “Chambre Ardente”

 The successors of Henry II to the French throne, his brother Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III were all weak kings and unable to resolve the religious conflict within France. In the reign of Charles IX the Huguenot cause found an exceptionally able and distinguished leader in Count Gaspard de Chatillon Coligny who was able to check for a time the nefarious influence of the Catholic party led by the De Guise family. Alarmed by the growing influence of Coligny and the Huguenots, the devious Queen Mother, Catherine de’Medici plotted and perpetrated the infamous Massacre of St Bartholomew in 1572 during which Coligny and the leading Huguenots were murdered.

 There followed a convoluted and destructive period of civil war which rocked France until the death of Henry III and the accession to power  of a strong monarch in the person of Henry IV.

 With a background of protestant education and military training and service under the great Huguenot leader Coligny, Henry IV’s aim was to consolidate his position as undisputed ruler or France and to restore peace and prosperity to his kingdom. To that end he issued, in 1598, the Edict of Nantes by which the Huguenots were granted religious toleration and cessation of State persecution. With the help of his exceptionally wise and capable chief minister, the Huguenot Duc de Sully, France entered upon a remarkable period of reform and progress.

The accession of Henry IV and the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes had significant implications for Huguenot activity in New France. Though the St Lawrence Gulf and Estuary had been frequented by Basque and Breton fishermen and whalers from the 15th century and through Jacques Cartier had in 1534 claimed the land for France trade and colonization had been blocked effectively as a result of the protracted civil and religious strife within France. The ill-fated attempt of the Huguenot, Sieur de Roberval, to establish posts on the St Lawrence in 1541 had discouraged others to venture in New France. Now, as the 16th century strife came to a close the policies if Henry IV and Dully were responsible for a new era in France. A veritable outburst of interest and activity for overseas expansion and trade occurred in maritime France. Leadership and financial support came from the established Huguenot trading forms of seaports from Rouen to La Rochelle. The monographs that follow attempt to recall the important role of Huguenots in such historic foundations as those of  Tadoussac in 1600, Port Royal in 1604, and Quebec in 1608. From Quebec the Huguenot Etienne Brule was the first known European to penetrate the Algonquin Indian territory along the Ottawa and to voyage westward to the limits of Lake Superior. The association of the Huguenots with Quebec and Canada dates from the very first days of trade and colonization. Despite subsequent restriction and persecution it would continue throughout the entire French Regime in New France into the post -Conquest era.

 Only two years after the founding of Quebec by Champlain and his Huguenot associates in 1608, Henry IV of France was assassinated, leaving his great work of national reform incomplete. As his son and heir, Louis XIII was only nine years old at the time of his assassination, the Queen Mother Marie de’ Medici, acted as regent. Soon France was once again plunged into civil strife through political and religious intrigue. Following the death of the Queen Mother, Cardinal Richelieu became the power behind the throne and architect of French policy until his death in 1642. Richelieu was unremitting in his hostility for and savage persecution of the Huguenots. He warred against them and in 1628 captured the last Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle after a long siege made famous by the heroism of its defenders. Though Richelieu succeeded in breaking the military and political power of the Huguenots he failed to despoil their spiritual heritage and religious influence. Significantly for New France this new round of Huguenot persecution incited the sympathy and support of other nations, such as England, for the Huguenot cause.

 The rise to power of Cardinal Richelieu was reflected in the dramatic change of Huguenot fortunes in New France. Prior to Richelieu’s time the Huguenot traders had worked cooperatively and harmoniously with Catholic associates such as Champlain. Now in 1625, a year after Richelieu came to power in France, the first members of the Jesuits arrived in Quebec to begin a persistent campaign against Huguenot presence and influence. As militant champions of Catholicism the Jesuits were implacable enemies of Protestantism in general and the Huguenots in particular. No sooner had they arrived in Quebec but they were hard at work stirring up enmity towards the Huguenots. With the support of their Order in France and sympathy of Richelieu they mounted an effective lobby against the Huguenots of New France at the Royal Court in Paris. As early as 1627 they scored their first” victory” in securing the revocation of the trade privileges of the Huguenot De Caen Company in New France.Richelieu promptly awarded the charter to the exclusively Catholic “Company of One Hundred Associates”. Such “de facto” exclusion of Huguenot trading rights in New France anticipated by some sixty years the “de jure” revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685.

 In the adversary situation created in New France by the Jesuits and Richelieu the Huguenots were not without significant resources and power to retaliate. As established international traders, the Huguenots could enlist support from other nations, such as England, in the face of persecution and commercial loss. Charles I of England was sympathetic and supportive of the Huguenot cause. The merchants of Dieppe and other seaports along the English Channel, both English and French, helped the Kirke brothers to mount expeditions under English aegis to harass the maritime supply lines of the Company of One Hundred Associates and capture their posts in New France. An account of this actions is given I the pages that follow.

 The repossession of the Quebec colony from the hands of the Kirkes in 1632 and the return of Champlain as Governor did not mark an end t Huguenot presence and trade in New France. The commerce of the colony, and indeed that of France itself, depended in large measure on the initiative and resources of the Huguenot merchant firms. The annual visits of Huguenot ships to the Saint Lawrence and the agents they maintained in residence in Quebec remained a continuing source of conflict between the Catholic Clergy and Jesuits on one hand and the officers of the colony responsible for its commercial needs on the other hand, until the British Conquest of 1760.

 From 1635 onwards repeated references in the Jesuit “Relations” testify to the presence of Huguenots in New France.  Upon urging of the Jesuits, theVatican intervened with the French government in an attempt to put a stop to Huguenot activity and influence in Quebec. In 1659 the arrival of Bishop Laval gave new emphasis and authority to the anti-Huguenot campaign. But despite repeated petitions, letters and interviews directed at French authorities, including the great Colbert, Huguenots continued to live and thrive in New France.

 Huguenot presence in Quebec was not however, limited to traders and seamen. Many of the officers and men of the regiments of French troops sent to defend the colony were Huguenot, as attested by the historian Abbe Charlevois in his “Annals 1690”. Other records indicate that the Huguenots served the great need of the colonies for skilled craftsmen in trades such as ship building. The names of Huguenot women are to be found among the “Filles du Roy” who came to New France to become the brides of the men of the colony. It is known that the founders of Ville Marie (Montreal) desperate for colonists recruited Huguenots to settle that frontier post when their appeals to French Catholics fell on deaf ears.

 In view of the pressures and restrictions directed towards the Huguenots in New France, it is remarkable that the reformed faith persisted and that Huguenot faith and heritage survived. The Catholic clergy and Jesuits worked incessantly to seek out heresy and dissent. The civil authority supported the campaign of the Catholic cause. All marriages were required to be performed in a Catholic Church. Every child had to be baptized as a Catholic. Burial in consecrated ground was refused to Huguenots. The professions and all civil service posts were closed to them. Citizenship was awarded only to Catholics Assembly for religious service was forbidden to Huguenot and even their books were suspect. By official ordinance the dread threat of the “Dragonnade” – persecution by the obligatory quartering of troops (dragoons) hung over the Huguenots. The ultimate penalty for those of the reformed faith was executions. In at least one case this is considered to have been the major reason for an execution at Quebec in 1661.

 Despite all persecution and restriction Huguenots survived in Quebec from the earliest days of the colony to the Fall of New France. With the Conquest in 1760 began a new era of activity and influence by persons of Huguenot faith and tradition. The pages that follow reflect part of that aspect of the story of Quebec.

 Listing of Topics

For copies of the articles contact me directly at Richard@annett.ca

 Roberval                               France Royal at Cap Rouge

Tadoussac                             Foundation of Pierre Chauvin

Pont Grave                            Mariner and Pioneer of New France

Etienne Brule                         Explorer of Huronia

Guillaume de Caen                  Pioneer StLawrence Trader

David Kirke                            Pirate or Patriot

Jacques Michel                       Master Navigator- Jesuit Foe

Kirkes in Quebec                    Huguenot New France

Jacques Bizard                       Protégé of Frontenac

Gabriel Bernon                       Persecuted Huguenot Merchant

Sieur du Lhut                         Lure of “Le Pays d’em Haut”

Francois Havy                        Merchant and Shipbuilder

Nicholas Montour                    From Wilderness to Parliament

Rouffio Brothers                     Romance and Drama at Quebec

Jean Lefebvre                        Victim of Colonial Wars

The Golden Dog                     Behind the Romantic Tale

Pierre Radisson                      Trading into Hudson Bay

Francois Levesque                  Bridge over Troubled Waters

John Montresor                       Military Officer and Pathfinder

Alexander Dumas                    Learned Notary and M.L.A.

Pierre du Calvet                      Bete Noire of the Establishment

Alexandre Menut                     From Chief to Grand Seigneur

Frederick Haldimand                Eminence in War and Peace

Issac Barre                             A Man for All Seasons

Hector Theo.Cramahe              Able Confident of Governors

John Bruyeres                         Officer and and Civil Servant

Francis David de Montmollin      The First Anglican Parish of Quebec

Frances Maseres                      Brilliant Lawyer and Author

Pierre Guerot                           Influence on the Richileau

The Gugy Family                      Yamachiche and Beauport

Jacob Mountain                         First Anglican Bishop of Quebec

Frederick Heriot                        Foundation of Drummondville

Clement Fall Lefevre                 Eastern Townships Pioneer Minister

Peter Duval                             Jersey and the Fishery of Gaspe

George Prevost                        Preserving for the Crown

Pierre Stanislas Bedard            Fiery Champion of Nationalism

GeorgeJehoshaphatMountain  Archdeacon and Bishop of Quebec

Theodore de Pincier                A Star Crossed Life

Joly de Lotbiniere                   Huguenot Premier of Quebec





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