Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Filles du Roy

By Michelle Renaud
Photos : Samantha Etane

 

A brown monochrome oil painting on cardboard created by Sister Rose-Alma Dufresne, CND, in the first half of the 20th century.

This painting recalls the moral and material support Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congrégation de Notre-Dame offered the Filles du Roy. Between 1663 and 1673, the 800 young women to whom Louis XIV provided a dowry, faced the perils of trans-Atlantic travel to come to New France to take a husband. Marguerite Bourgeoys took responsibility for those des­tined for Montreal, because she was certain of their importance for the future of the fledg­ling col­o­ny. She welcomed them herself at the river’s edge and lived with them in a house she had built especially to receive them (la maison Charly).

In the ten years during which groups of Filles du Roy arrived in Montreal, Marguerite and her companions offered them hospitality, prepared them for their new roles and taught them the skills and abilities they needed to survive and earn their living honorably in very difficult living conditions.

The main scene in this three-part painting shows a newly wedded couple signing, before a notary and under the benevolent gaze of Marguerite Bourgeoys, a marriage con­tract which undoubtedly listed their respective belong­ings. Indeed, between 1663 and 1670, many Filles du Roy were married in one or another house of the Congregation. The room seems spacious with other people performing different tasks.

 

 

 

On the left, we see Mother Bourgeoys welcoming suitors on the threshold of a house bearing a sign which says Filles à marier.

On the right, a scene from a Fille du Roy’s future: a young woman spinning yarn and, at her side, a baby sleeping in a crib. Through the open door, we can see her husband work­ing the fields with two oxen. While the furniture is simple, the curtains in the window and a number of details suggest a certain level of comfort.

We can see that the young woman has learnt good house­keeping skills and how to find fulfillment as the wife of a colonist and a mother.

 
 

Bibliography

Simpson, Patricia, CND, Marguerite Bourgeoys et Montréal, 1640-1665, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston, 1999, p. 183-186.
http://www.archivesvirtuelles-cnd.org/
Fact sheet (call number 2003.32), Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum / Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel.

 
 

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