King's Daughters

King's Daughters

The King's Daughters (in French: "filles du roi", "filles du roy") were between 700 and 900 Frenchwomen (accounts vary as to the exact numbers) who immigrated to New France (now part of present-day Canada) between 1663 and 1673 under the monetary sponsorship of Louis XIV, to marry and start families in an attempt to further populate New France.


At the time there was a severe imbalance between single men and women because most female immigrants had to pay their own passage, and there were few single women who voluntarily came to settle in the harsh climate and conditions of New France, most of them as indentured servants or as employees of the Church. France had also for a long time considered New France as an outpost rather than a colony, and had not concerned itself with increasing the population. Jean Talon made a request to the King to send at least 500 girls to correct the problem. The King accepted, and eventually nearly twice the number were recruited.

The title "King's Daughters" was meant to imply state patronage, not royal or even noble parentage, and most of these women were commoners. They received monetary support from the King of from 50 to 100 "livres" and had the costs of their transportation covered. Many Daughters were poor, especially from Île-de-France and Normandy. They were considered "orphans" by virtue of having lost at least one parent, though not necessarily both. Some had both parents living.

Arrival in New France

A total of 737 Daughters were married in New France [ [ GÉNÉALOGIE (Filles du Roy) ] ] , mostly to farmers, and some to soldiers, most of them to soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment.

There were also some groups of non-French Daughters. For instance, Marie de L'Incarnation wrote [ [ Les filles du roi ] ] that in 1668, there was one girl each from Holland, Germany, Spain and Portugal. Most of the girls were from middle or lower class families, and the dowry plus a certain degree of greater social freedom were enough to attract them to New France.

Integration into New France society

The women debarked in Québec City, Trois-Rivières, and Montreal, and most had few difficulties finding a husband, as single men waited at the docks to begin courting them. If both parties were satisfied with each other, they would seek out a notary to draw up a marriage contract, and usually were married with a few weeks of that in a religious ceremony at the church. Many "filles du roi" were married within a month of their arrival in New France.

An early problem in recruitment was adjustment to the new agricultural life. As Marie de L'Incarnation wrote, the "filles du roi" were mostly town-girls, and only a few of them knew how to do manual farm work. This problem eased in later years as more rural girls were recruited, but remained a problem.

There were approximately 300 more recruits who did not marry in New France; some had changes of heart before embarking from the ports of Normandy, some died during the journey, some returned to France to marry, and a few never did marry.

Rumours and urban legends

There exists an occasional misconception that many "filles du roi" were recruited from among the dregs of the population of Paris, and that many were prostitutes. This story, while untrue, comes about from the fact that a few Parisian prostitutes in the 17th century were arrested and transported to a penal colony in the Antilles islands, and a few later writers mistakenly lumped them in with the "filles du roi", as if ridding France of criminals by banishment to Caribbean farms was part of the same program as recruiting women of childbearing age to help populate its Canadian colonies. According to author Peter Gagné, there is no record of any of those women having gone to Canada, and that out of nearly 800 "filles du roi", only one, Catherine Guichelin, was actually charged with prostitution while living in Canada; whether or not she was actually convicted is unknown. [cite web |url= |title=King's Daughters, Casket Girls, Prostitutes |accessdate=2007-11-02 |work= Library of Congress]


* "King's Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles du Roi, 1663-1673", Peter J. Gagné, 2 volumes, Quintin, 2000)
* "Les Filles du roi au xvii'ème siècle", Yves Landry (Leméac, 1992)
* "King's Daughters, The", Joy Reisinger and Elmer Courteau (Sparta, 1988)

External links

* [ La Société des Filles du roi et soldats du Carignan] : Organization for the descendants of the Daughters
* [ A list of the Daughters and their husbands]
* [ An article from "Morning Sentinel & Kennebec Daily Journal"]
* [ An episode description from the documentary "The Scattering of Seeds: the Creation of Canada"]
* [ A brief history of the "filles du roi"]

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