Florimonde Rableau, Fille du Roi
Today's celebration of International Francophonie Week involves one of the best exports of France, the Filles du Roi, also known as the King's Daughters. Despite the name, they were not actual daughters of King Louis XIV of France, but he sponsored their voyages across the Atlantic Ocean during the late 1600's. Why? He intended to populate the fledgling country of New France, now known as Québec. The King and his Intendant of New France, Jean Talon, wanted to make sure the new colony was successful. Most of the girls were either poor or orphans who had to undergo rigorous screening to ensure they were healthy girls of high moral character. The plan worked, because over 700 girls made the journey, leading to thousands upon thousands of descendants. Most of the Filles du Roi led long lives, and only one was charged with living a "scandalous life," thus disputing rumors to the contrary. Each girl could not leave France without a recommendation from the parish priest, whereas there were other programs where "wild" women were allegedly shipped to other colonies. For the most part, history tends to indicate most of these brave Filles du Roi were indeed faithful companions and good citizens of New France.
Like most other people with Québécois heritage, I descend from at least twenty of the Filles du Roi. Today, I would like to introduce you to one named Florimonde Rableau. Do you notice how her name is similar to Floramont? When I stumbled upon her name while doing genealogy research, I filed away her lovely name. It sounds like the world of flowers! While dwelling on her name, I eventually thought of Floramont, which sounds somewhat like a floral mountain. Either way, this is definitely a wink toward Florimonde!
Florimonde was born in the "Paroisse de Saint Méry" of Paris around 1644. So far, I do not have details of the circumstances behind her decision to become a Fille du Roi. Either way, she must have been extraordinarily driven to leave, and her bravery must have sustained her, just like the other Filles du Roi. Some girls were turned away when they asked to participate in the program, while there were others who were accepted, but changed their minds at the last minute. I wonder if she was in truly dire straits, or did she simply want a better life without the restrictive class system of crowded Paris? Even though these girls were expected to work hard alongside their new husbands, they were willing to make the change for more freedom and fresh air. Note, these girls were not allowed to be accompanied by family members. They had chaperones sanctioned by the King, along with a guaranteed dowry, but they had to leave friends and any potential family they left behind. That takes courage.
Florimonde Meets Pierre
Florimonde set sail for the Atlantic during 1665. She evidently found a husband during the first leg of the voyage, because she married in the region of Québec City, which was the first stop of the journey. Whenever a ship of Filles du Roi arrived, the men would stop their work and rush to the river to get a glimpse of the ladies. Luckily, the Filles du Roi were allowed to choose their husbands. They could even choose a potential mate, sign a pre-marriage contract, and then break it upon finding another man! And yes, that occasionally happened.
The Filles du Roi met each potential mate in a speed-dating style. The girls were placed in separate areas, and prospective mates were ushered into the rooms by staff and nuns tasked with looking after the girls. Based on written accounts, the girls were generally not bashful about asking questions. They wanted to know if the men had cleared his land, and whether or not a cabin had been built. They were quite pleased if a bread oven was already built. Otherwise, they would have to travel just to bake bread, which makes me wonder if that was part of the charm of her future husband. Enter Pierre Chamard.
Within just a few months of her arrival, Florimonde married Pierre Chamard (also listed as "Chamare"). He was a cultivateur (farmer) like most of the other men, yet he was also listed as a cuisinier (cook) and patisserie (pastry-maker). I was tickled to see that job description. Here, you have all of these men being chosen to settle New France based on the specific skills they can bring to the colony, such as carpentry, stone-cutting, and iron-working. Perhaps someone said, "We must have pastries!" That seems so French, and I would agree, it would be quite necessary to the success of a new settlement! Due to his job, I wonder if he already had his own bread oven. A husband who could bake his own bread? Yes, he would seem to be a good catch for this girl from Paris!
According to the marriage record above, Florimonde and Pierre married on October 13, 1665. The ceremony was performed by the parish priest, Henry Bernieres. Parents of the groom are listed as Jean Chamarre and Jean Pipette while the bride's parents were Mathurin Rableau and Marie DuBois. Witnesses included Mathurin Maurisset, Pierre Godin, and Nicholas Morin.
A Life Cut Short
Sadly, Florimonde passed away in her late 20's. According to her burial record below, she was buried on the same date she died, August 13, 1671, after a ceremony at the church in Charlesbourg. Her name is spelled differently than the first record, because priests often spelled names differently, but she was the only one in the settlement with this name.
Records indicate she had several children, but only two survived into adulthood. I wonder if she enjoyed life in this new country, or did it become too much for this girl from Paris? After all, the Filles du Roi program tried to recruit more girls from rural areas, because there were complaints that city-raised girls had difficulty adjusting to country life. Yet, the vast majority of Filles du Roi came from cities, and they must have adjusted at some point, leading to the rise of a thriving nation. Based on historical accounts, they had access to more food and a cleaner environment in North America. We may never know why Florimonde's life was cut short, but we know she left a lasting legacy along with the other Filles du Roi, and Québec is forever grateful!