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Somerset, Wisconsin: 125 pioneer families and Canadian connection: 125th year
(1990?)

The king's daughters,   pp. 93-98 PDF (2.9 MB)


Page 93

THE KING'S DAUGHTERS
It is almost impossible to be of French-Canadian descent and
not have among one's ancestresses at least one with the some-
what mysterious notation that she was a "fille du roi", "a
daughter of the king"
This was the title given to the women immigrants from France
who agreed to travel to the new lands in North America and
marry a settler there in exchange for a dowry from the French
king.
In attempting to get the atmosphere of a period of history in
which one's forefathers lived, the family historian should
always try to obtain as much knowledge as he or she can about
every condition of life in that era. Only then can the forces
that motivate our ancestors have real life.
A dowry in the period in which New France was being settled
was of crucial importance to a girl or women in France. Women
needed a dowry, no matter how small, to enter a convent as a
nun, or to bring to a marriage. In a period when positions
in life were bought and sold, the size of a girl's dowry gen-
erally determined her future position in life.
Without a dowry, a widow or an orphaned girl of this age had
only the dreariest of lives to look forward to.
There can be little doubt that the offer of a dowry from the
king awakened a wild hope and even wilder dreams in the hearts
and minds and breasts of many of our ancestresses in mid-17th
Century France,
The story of that dream, often shattered on arrival in  the
wilderness by the blow of a tomahawk; the names of some of the
over 800 women who are thought to have left France for the New
World with the promise of the king's bounty, the background of
the girls, their ages, places of origin, and other bits of
history not available in Tanguay or Drouin will be related here,
Unfortunately, a vast number of early marriage contracts have
been lost. When neither civil nor church documents can  be
found, other records have been substituted but the background
of the woman's family has been lost. Even some of the evidence
used to place girls on this list has been circumstantial, and
the results conjecture.
French Canadian historians, generally, but not always, limited
the women called "filles du roi" to those who arrived in New
France during the years 1663 through 1673, inclusive. Women
who arrived before the year 1663 were known as "filles des
marier" (marriageable daughters) and in general paid for their
own transportation or made their own arrangements. They were
encouraged to travel to New France but it was a private effort
and the number of women arriving in the New World were small
in comparison.
Remember, the average penniless Frenchman traveling to New


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