Posts Tagged ‘Filles du Roi’

The 1969 BBC series, Civilisation, opened with host and art historian Sir Kenneth Clark standing in Paris with Notre Dame cathedral behind him. He stated that the purpose of the series was to give examples in history of man showing himself to be an intelligent, creative, orderly and compassionate animal. He said he couldn’t define civilization in abstract terms but, turning to look across at Notre Dame, felt he would know it when he saw it.

And that might be so true. In the aftermath of yesterday’s fire that destroyed much of that cathedral, it felt not so much like a tragic fire in an old religious space but more like a greater loss of civilization, of history and humanity.

Watching yesterday, it was hard to not see it as being the symbolic burning of down of all things we hold sacred as a civilization. It was a place that for over 800 years had witnessed and survived plagues, wars and revolutions. How could it be so seemingly devastated in these modern times?

It’s burning seemed like the perfect image for the plunge back into the darkness which we often seem ready to take these days.

It was a sad day for us all and a test for our willingness to continue in light as a civilization.

I have never been to Paris, never gawked upon the cathedral. So my connections to that place are limited at best. I did have at least two great-grandmothers going back many generations in my paternal grandmother’s line who were from Paris. They came to North America as Filles du Roi, the King’s Daughters. They were young women with few prospects in France who were recruited in the 1660’s by the French crown to go to New France, which is now Quebec. They were given passage and a dowry in order that they might marry one of many young male settlers and populate that new land.

I can imagine those young women carrying a memory of that cathedral with them as they moved into the new wilderness. They would certainly know of it as it was even then an old cathedral, already 500 years old at that point. They may even have taken communion there. It might well have been the symbol for civilization that they held in their minds. Like Kenneth Clark. And like many of us who just felt a loss of part of our self as humans as we watched it burn.

It will be rebuilt but it will be a long and difficult (and costly) process. It should be a reminder of the fragility of many things that we take for granted and that we should take care of those things that show us to be an intelligent, creative, orderly and compassionate animal, as Mr. Clark put it. Some may rejoice in seeing them in flames but losing them may be a greater loss than any of us can imagine.


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GC Myers-  Icon: FrancoisMy current Icon series has been a real pleasure for myself in that it’s refreshing to work on pieces that I realize are only for myself, not worrying if they strike a chord with anyone else.  For me, it’s fulfilling to flesh out some of my ancestors and their stories, to give them an image that I an hold on to.  As I’ve said these are meant as symbols– I’m not trying to recreate their actual appearance.  In most cases, there is nothing to work with, nothing that would give me a clue as to how they might really look.  So, this is how I see them in my mind.

The painting at the top is a 12″ by 12″ canvas that is titled Icon: François.  He is my 9th gr-grandfather, born in 1640 in the area around Boulogne, France.  It is on the English Channel not to far from Calais.  He was a soldier in the Grandfontaine Company of the Carignan Regiment,  which was sent in 1665 to Quebec in what was then called New France.  The troops came in several ships, François arriving in August aboard the ship L’Aigle d’Or— the Golden Eagle.

These 1200 troops were sent to protect the new settlements  that France had established and to aide in fort construction along the Richelieu River.  They were also sent in order to help populate New France.  Some were offered money or land to stay in the new country and build a life there.  François, I believe, fell into that category as he showed up soon after in census listings as a master woodworker living in Quebec.  While I am not positive that he received any

incentives to stay in New France, such is not the case with his wife and my 9th gr-grandmother, Marguerite Paquet,  She was one of the Filles du Roi, or the King’s Daughters.  Between 1663 and 1673, King Louis XIV sponsored this program which offered young French women, all single and many orphaned,  free transportation and settlement to New France along with a dowry of money or land in the new land if they agreed to marry one of the men living there.  You see, the first settlers were overwhelmingly male.  I have at least two or three Filles du Roi in my line as do most French Canadians.

François died as relatively young man in 1675 but not before he and Marguerite had three children which set off a long line that runs through Canadian history to today, spawning hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of decendents.

I see François is this painting as an Adam-like character, naked and in a new world that he will help populate,  The brushstrokes radiating from the halo represent the generations that descend from the choice he and his wife made to seek a new life in the new world.  It’s a simple painting and a relatively simple story– at least as simple as you can make one’s entire life into a short tale.

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