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Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site of Canada

Jacques Cartier, Explorer and Navigator

Jacques Cartier Jacques Cartier aboard his ship.
© National Archives of Canada / Théophile Hamel / C-11226, 1860.

Jacques Cartier was born in Saint-Malo, France, in 1491. A Breton, Cartier is still considered by some to be the "discoverer of Canada". In 1520, he married Catherine Des Granches, the daughter of the "constable" for Saint-Malo i.e., a top-ranking official in the royal military administration.

Cartier began sailing at an early age. Previous to the three famous voyages to Canada, he had travelled to Brazil and Newfoundland, among other destinations. By the time he first set out for the New World in 1534, he had already gathered a remarkable degree of experience in the navigation arts, a quality which earned him the attention of the king.

Jacques Cartier's manor at Limoëlou, near Saint-Malo (France) Jacques Cartier's manor at Limoëlou, near Saint-Malo (France).
© National Archives of Canada / C-24150

After 1542, Cartier led no other voyages of exploration for the king. Although in 1541 he still bore the title of King's captain and master pilot for new territories, Cartier divided the remainder of his days between his home on Rue de Buhen in Saint-Malo and his manor in Limoëlou, where, on September 1, 1557, at the age of 66, he purportedly succumbed to an epidemic of the plague. He left no descendants.