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Charles Fort National Historic Site of Canada

Cultural Heritage

Finding Proof

Archaeological excavations carried out during the summers of 1989 to 1992 on the grounds of Fort Anne National Historic Site of Canada confirmed this as the site of Charles Fort.  During their excavations, Parks Canada archaeologists unearthed artefacts likely associated with the early Scottish settlement, including Rhenish stoneware sherds and, more importantly, a royal bale seal (1). The lead seal is of interest because the crown and thistle Royal Arms of King James I, or of his son and heir, King Charles I, marks one side of the seal, while the other side bears the impression of the Arms of the port of Bristol. These stamped impressions are significant for they are datable. The crown and thistle motif indicates that the seal dates to c.1600s-40s, during the reigns of James I and Charles I. (It is not possible, at present, to determine whether the crown and thistle stamp relates to James I or Charles I, as both kings used the same motif.) The presence of the Bristol arms on the other side of the seal is not in conflict with this date for English legislation had been in place since about 1483-4 requiring the arms of the county or city to be on one side of the seal, with the royal arms on the other side.

Royal bale seal with crown and thistle motif
Royal bale seal with crown and thistle motif
©Parks Canada

The excavations also support historical texts, which indicate that, after the departure of the Scots, the French occupied the fort and later dismantled it to build a new earthwork fort. The date of the new earthwork is known to have been 1643. The French had taken over the Scottish Port-Royal and, following Razilly's death in 1636, Charles de Menou d'Aulnay(2) had relocated the settlers from La Have to Port-Royal, making it his headquarters. The 1643 fort was the first of four French fortifications to be built on the site. The fourth, which fell to British and New England troops in 1710 during the War of the Spanish Succession, became known as Fort Anne in the early years of the nineteenth century and was garrisoned by the British until the fall of 1854.

Rhenish stoneware sherds
Rhenish stoneware sherds
©Parks Canada, 2008

1. Lead seals were used throughout much of Europe from the late 1300s to the early 1800s as a way of regulating the production of cloth and assuring quality control.  A seal would be attached to cloth to indicate that it had been inspected and, in the case of England, that appropriate taxes had been paid to the Crown. (Source: Geoff Egan, “Lead Cloth Seals and Related Items in the British Museum,” British Museum Occasional Papers 93 (London, 1995) 1, 23.)

2.  Charles de Menou d'Aulnay (ca. 1604–1650) was an eminent French sea captain who played a key role in the settlement of Acadia.  He commanded La Hève (LaHave) and Port-Royal in 1636 and became governor of Acadia in 1647.  Over a fourteen-year period, he oversaw the construction of forts, mills and schools and ventured into shipbuilding.  He drained marshes with a system of dykes and tide gates, enabling settlers to survive through agriculture.  One of the great architects of French settlement in Canada, D'Aulnay was designated a person of national historic significance in 1972 and is commemorated by a plaque at Fort Anne National Historic Site of Canada.