Chapter 2: Les Filles du Roy

Francois' future wife, Judith Rigaud was born in 1633 to Elie Rigaud and his wife Suzanne du Gast at Saint-Jean d'Angély in the Charente region of France.9

Over the years, records would also refer to her as Judith Rigault, Judith Rigaut, Marie-Judith Rigault and even Judicq Rigault.

In New France, early settlers recruited young, French women as domestic servants and enlisted only from families of good social rank. Later, the French King encouraged childless and unwed young women to emigrate to New France to assist in populating the new colony and to serve as wives to the soldiers and other male settlers.At times, the King would pay for the cost of transportation to the new world provided the young women were committed to meeting and wedding young French men in the new continent and provided they did not arrive in the colony pregnant (in which case it was a return trip).

Filles du RoyThese few young women (for so many bachelors), Judith Rigaud included, were to become known as les filles du Roy (the king's daughters). But Judith was a novelty if not a trailblazer: the larger influx of filles du roy would only begin a decade later, starting with a "shipment" of 700 in 1663. Similar migrations in the early 1700s to the then-French colony of Mississippi were not so careful and enlisted French prostitutes so the name was later changed to filles de joie!

Some historians have suggested that Judith was originally Protestant, basing their theory on her first name and that of her father.10

In any event, at the age of 23, Judith Rigaud agreed to emigrate, entering the service of Jacques Leneuf de la Poterie of Trois-Rivières, Quebec, and his wife, Marguerite Legardeur.

Judith's job: domestic servant. A paid slave.

The Legardeurs were desperate for domestic help and advanced Judith the 119 French francs needed for the boat fare to cross the Atlantic. A services contract was signed between the parties before Notary Tueleron of La Rochelle, France, on June 22, 1651.

New France (Nouvelle France) was still a small, unknown colony, populated as yet by no more than 2,000 Europeans. Judith probably arrived in Trois-Rivières in 1652. "Too much information" perhaps, but still, medical records show that while in the employ of the Legardeurs, she was administered an enema by a Trois-Rivières surgeon.11

Records also show that shortly after her arrival, Judith moved to Montreal for a nine month period.12

Writes one Quebec historian13 of Judith Rigaud's first years in New France:

"She settled at Trois-Rivières which, during the first years of the second half of the 17th century, numbered but a few dozen families concentrated inside a tiny fort.

"Judith was beautiful, self-centred, irascible and unconcerned about conventional social and moral respectability. Not one to hide her desires by subterfuge, she loved luxury and mocked those who would censure her. Eventually, she succumbed to the charms, without a doubt exceptional, of a soldier of the garrison, one Francois Lemaistre dit Lamorille et le Picard. He was a renowned talker, drinker and gambler."

In Trois-Rivières, on February 24, 1654, at the home of Jacques le Neuf de la Poterie, and in the presence of thirteen witnesses, notary Sévérin Ameau dit Saint-Sévérin presided over the signature of a marriage contract between François Le Maistre and Judith Rigaud. The wedding itself would have to wait a few weeks....

The Leneuf family was amongst the most important in the village of Trois Rivieres. The list of witnesses included most of the local elite including Marie and Michel Leneuf (the children of Jacques and Marguerite), Marie's husband Rent Robineau, and Jacques' older brother Michel Leneuf du Herisson.

Standing for François were four soldiers from the village: Lieutenant Quantin Moral, Sergeant Major Medard Chouart des Groseilliers, garrison surgeon Jean Madry14 and Claude Herlin.15

The guest list of their marriage reads like a who's who of 17th century Quebec. The most famous was des Groseilliers, who had been in New France since about 1641 and had married Helene Martin in Quebec in 1647 in what was then the first wedding in the French colony in years.16 In 1657, he returnbed to Quebec after an expedition "with much fanfare" bearing a huge cargo of furs after a three year expedition to the Algonquin Indians with Pierre Radisson.

In 1659, this coureur des bois des Grossiliers, would join with his brother-in-law Radisson and become the first white men to travel west of Lake Superior, establishing contact with the Sioux Indians for the first time.17 Radisson and des Groseillers quickly expanded their fur trade until their furs were seized on the grounds that they did not have a proper license by the French governor.

The duo then began an association with the English, which led to the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company, one of the oldest companies in the history of man. The French explorers were fondly known by their new English employers as "Mr. Radishes and Mr. Gooseberry"!18

Meanwhile, back at the Lemaistre-Rigaud homestead, Judith's employer, Jacques Leneuf became Seigneur de Portneuf, Governor of Trois-Rivieres and acting-Governor of New France.19 His older brother Michel landed in Quebec on June 11, 1636 and became a royal judge and later held the position of acting-Governor of Trois-Rivieres.1654 marriage record extract Judith Rigaud

Jean Godefroy's family is reported as being:

"... the most important in Trois Rivieres... it was likewise the oldest."

Rene Robineau de Becancour became Baron of Portneuf, chief road officer of New France and member of the Company of the Hundred Associates formed by King Louis XIII of France, to whom all land from Florida to the Arctic was granted in 1628 with a mission to improve colonization in New France.

And so it was in the presence of this august company, and according to the official marriage contract:

"Judith Rigaud has promised faith and loyalty of marriage to Francois Le Maistre who, for his part, has promised and does promise to take for his wife and loyal spouse, in the presence of said honest persons, Judith Rigaud, if God and Our Mother Holy, Catholic, Apolistic and Roman Church consents and agrees thereto."

The wedding was held in Trois-Rivieres on May 6, 1654 (image above is from actual marriage record and misspells Judith's surname as "Rigault").

Image is L’arrivée des Filles du Roy à Québec, 1667 by C. W. Jeffrey (1869-1951) held by National Archives, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.