A rich Kings’ daughter

The Kings’ daughters (Filles du Roi) who came to Canada between 1663 and 1673 under are often described as poor, orphaned or prostitutes.

Yet my ancestor Catherine Clerice doesn’t seem to fit that description.

Catherine was indeed recruited by Louis XIV’s team and she did indeed get a dowry of 50 livres from the King. Her goods also included an additional 250 livres of her own money, which would have purchased 10 arpents of land in New France at that time if Gerry Lalonde is to be believed.

So why did she leave her family, her friends and everything she knew at only 18 years old? It may have been a strong sense of adventure, a lack of prospects, a sense of duty or just a momentary teenage impulse with long-lasting consequences.

Whatever her incentive, she left La Rochelle, France in June 1671 on a 300 ton ship known as the St. Jean-Baptiste.

The ships were very crowded and sanitation was not top priority.  Disease was common among the women as bacteria and germs spread quickly among the crowded and filthy conditions.  Food was a scarce commodity on the voyage as three months was too long to keep perishable foods such as fruit, vegetables, and meat from spoiling.  Physical conditions on the voyage were terrible, but the girls on the ship also felt a great psychological burden during their passage.  These were very young women who left their families, their country, and most of their belongings behind in order to go to a completely new world.  Fear of the unknown left many of them uncertain about their future and even their survival.”[1]

She arrived in Quebec on August 15, 1671.

Within six weeks, she was betrothed to Jacques Lussier. Their contract “marriage act” was written by Romain Becquet on October 4, 1671 and the home of Anne Gasnier, who was a Kings Daughters’ patron.

The couple joined another nine couples to be married at Notre-Dame de Quebec on October 12. Toussaint Dubeau, Louis Denis dit Lafontaine and Rene Dumas witnessed their wedding. The first parish priest of Quebec, Henri de Bernieres, officiated.

Together, they had twelve children, including my own ancestor Louise.

The couple remained in Varennes, Quebec until both died.

According to Jerry DeKeyser, the property of Jacques Lussier was divided up after he died.

At that time, upon the death of one of the parents, the law obliged the survivor to have an inventory taken by a notary and to carry out the division of the property. On 13 March 1713, Catherine Clerice gathered her family before notary Adhemar and witnesses; she had the list of property, left by her late husband. All the furniture and real estate were written down on paper: the two tin chandeliers, the small earthen ware plates, the iron grill with seven bars, the very ornate wardrobe of Jacques Lussier, the farm with four arpents of frontage on which lived two oxen, four milk cows, three calves, three horses, and so forth. Then followed the deeds, papers and instructions. The ancestor had nearly 3,000 livres in ready cash, a fortune for that time.

Two days later, the Lussier family, very united, and very respectful to their mother, held a house auction. The disposable things were sold according to the best offer from the heirs and according to its portion of the inheritance. The paternal house and all that was necessary for her subsistence were left to Catherine Clerice.

The ordeal was too much. Ancestress Lussier, at the age of 68, went to join her husband on the first of March 1715. The pastor of Sainte Anne de Varennes, Canadian born Abbot Claude Volant de Saint-Claude, signed the registry after two witnesses; Jacques Girard and Jean Charbonneau.”[2]

[1] By Sarah Gahagan on her report “Les Filles Du Roi” at http://www.fawi.net/ezine/vol3no4/FASWST2003/Gahagan.html.

[2] DeKeyser, Jerry C. “Genealogical Details For: Jacques Lussier, B. 1646   d. Abt Oct 1712 — Ancestors and Descendants of the DeKeyser and Related Families.” Genealogical Details For: Jacques Lussier, B. 1646   d. Abt Oct 1712 — Ancestors and Descendants of the DeKeyser and Related Families. 2013. Accessed May 27, 2015. http://www.cs.iusb.edu/~dekeyser/familytree/vft_indpage.php?idno=4491.

8 thoughts on “A rich Kings’ daughter”

  1. Catherine was not my ancestor, but I am finding many fille de rois in my history. It has been exciting learning about my French-Canadian history, which is pretty much most of me. I was deeply saddened and humbled to read about the realities of the voyage and giving birth on a cold floor. No wonder so many children didn’t make it. I imagine it was then like it is now and forever will be, that some had very good lives and that some suffered in silence. Maybe for most, life was a little of both. Thank you for this information. It gives me more to read between the lines.


  2. Thank you for the story. Catherine Clerice was my 8x great grandmother. I appreciate the information you had in your story, especially the details about the voyage, will, and possessions the couple owned. You probably know that Catherine was Jacques Lussier second wife. His first wife, also a King’s daughter, Charlotte De LaMarche (Lamarche), he had married in 1669 and she died shortly after having their first child named Marie in Feb 1671. He then married Catherine in October 1671. I appreicate this site – and will “like” it for future reference. Thank you..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Allan, Catherine Clerice and Jacques Lussier were also my great xx grandparents! Charlotte passed away in a fire. Many in our family still live in the area, and I spent my summers there growing up. Thank you for the post. Very touching.

      Liked by 1 person

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