This Week in History


A Long-awaited Arrival

For the week of Monday September 16, 2013

On about September 22, 1663, the first King’s Daughters landed in New France. These young ladies, many of them orphans, had left France in the hope of finding a husband and improving their lot in life. Only about thirty Maries, Jeannes and Catherines arrived in 1663, but during the next 10 years, nearly 800 girls crossed the Atlantic, despite the perils of the voyage.

Jean Talon welcomes the King’s Daughters upon their arrival
© Library and Archives Canada / Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale / 1996-371-1 / 1927
The King’s Daughters played a crucial role in the growth of New France, since they promoted a natural increase in the population. In 1668, Marguerite Bourgeoys, founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal, took the King’s Daughters into her home, at the farm today known as the Maison Saint-Gabriel, in Montréal. She taught them domestic crafts and supervised the company they kept.

There was no lack of suitors and most of the girls found a husband within six months of their arrival. Upon marriage, they received a dowry from King Louis XIV. Those who regretted their first choice quickly received a second marriage proposal. Only a few remained single or returned to France. To encourage speedy marriages, Intendant Jean Talon withdrew the trading permits of single men of marriageable age who delayed taking a wife, while rewarding engaged couples and large families.

The immigration of the King’s Daughters to New France was designated an event of national historic significance in 2007, because it promoted the growth of a population formerly consisting of only a small group of men. Many Canadians have a King’s Daughter among their ancestors.

Exterior view of the Maison Saint-Gabriel
© Parks Canada / N. Clerk / 2005

The Maison Saint-Gabriel was designated a National Historic Site in 2005. It still houses artifacts belonging to Marguerite Bourgeoys, herself a person of national historic significance, and to the King’s Daughters, including spinning wheels and dishes that were part of the dowry provided by the king.

This year is the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first King's Daughters in Canada. To learn more about the King’s Daughters and their era, consult the Filles du roiThe First Intendant of New France and A Forward-thinking Saint sites in This Week in History. To learn more about the Maison Saint-Gabriel, consult the Directory of Federal Heritage Designations and the Museum site.

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