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A Wedding at the “New Château St. Louis”

For the week of Monday August 29, 2011

On August 30, 1797, Rebecca Prescott and Captain John Baldwin were married at the “New Château St. Louis” (or Château Haldimand) in Quebec City. Rebecca’s father, Robert Prescott, was Governor General and commander of the British forces in North America from 1796 until 1799, and Captain Baldwin was his aide-de-camp, or assistant.

The Château Saint-Louis (the "Old Château") ca. 1778, as reconstructed by the British, appears on the right side of the picture
© Library and Archives Canada / C-001506

The story of the original Château Saint-Louis begins when Samuel de Champlain chose to build a fort on this site in 1620. Its strategic location on a plateau provided natural protection and its proximity to the St. Lawrence River allowed the colony to trade with ease. Charles Huault de Montmagny, the first official governor of the colony, built the château in 1648. As the colony’s capital, Quebec City continued to house governors of New France and British North America for almost 200 years.

In 1694, Governor Frontenac had the château rebuilt into an expansive two-storey mansion. As other empires vied for control of the St. Lawrence, Frontenac and successive French governors were prompted to construct fortifications around Quebec City. They hoped the eight-metre-high walls would ensure the safety of the château, and above all, the future of the colony. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), however, the British conquered New France, leaving the Château Saint-Louis badly damaged. While awaiting its restoration between 1764 and 1799, Governor Frederick Haldimand commissioned the construction of another château nearby. It was named after him, but also became known as the “New Château Saint-Louis.” Inaugurated in 1787, the “New Château” was the site of the Prescott-Baldwin wedding 10 years later.

Dance in the ballroom of the
“New Château Saint-Louis,” 1801

© Library and Archives Canada /
George Heriot Collection / C-000040
Why was this couple married at the “New Château?” The nearby church, L’Église des Récollets, had been reduced to ashes and the first Anglican church would not be constructed in Quebec City until 1804. The couple was married by Dr. Reverend Salter-Jehosaphet Mountain in front of the elite of Québec society. Guests were treated to a night of dancing, fine dining, and time in the massive gardens, which offered breathtaking views of the city’s landscape.

A fire devastated the restored Château Saint-Louis in 1834 and, in 1892, the Château Haldimand was demolished to make way for the Château Frontenac, which was built during the following year. The Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux was designated a National Historic Site in 2001, and is part of the larger Walls and Fortifications of Québec. Parks Canada conducted archaeological excavations between 1981 and 2011 that revealed an astonishing four forts, two châteaux, two gardens and three terraces at the site, a centrepiece of Québec’s more than 400-year history. The Château Frontenac was designated a National Historic Site in 1980. Samuel de Champlain, the “Father of New France,” and Louis de Buade (Count of Frontenac) were designated National Historic Persons in 1929 and 1974 respectively.

For more information on the Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux, please see its webpage on the Parks Canada Archeological Discoveries website. To read more stories about Old Québec, please visit: Castle Life, Americans Attack!, Québec Fortifications Unique in North America, The Creation of the Battlefields Park, and The First Intendant of New France in the This Week in History archives.
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