French Renaissance Paleography


Quebec City, 1 July 1638
Investiture de l’Ile d’Orléans donnée au procureur des concessionnaires par le gouverneur général de la Nouvelle-France
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT box Ayer MS 132


This document records a symbolic moment in Quebec’s history: a ceremony that took place at the southwestern tip of the Ile d’Orléans on July 1, 1638. In the presence of local officials and witnesses, Jean Guitet, a notary and clerk in the fledgling colony of New France, read aloud the deeds that accorded two large seignories – land grants – to a newly-formed association of eight French business partners. The document reveals that one part of the ceremony included breaking some branches and pulling up some grass, as a symbol of taking possession of the land.

The trading company chartered to develop the fur trade along the Saint Lawrence River, the Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France _or Compagnie des Cent-Associés_, had originally issued the deeds of concession two years earlier, in Paris. The Compagnie assigned parcels of land in New France to members who would engage in colonization. Eight of them established a partnership and were granted the seignories of Beaupré and Ile d’Orléans. Their association, known as the _Compagnie de Beaupré, _would administer those two seignories until the bishop of Quebec, François de Laval, would acquire most of the land in that region, in the 1660s. He needed properties to provide subsistence for the seminary that he was founding. The Seminary of Quebec still owns the seignory of Beaupré, and it still generates revenue.

The document reads like a who’s-who of men involved in the early establishment of French commercial interests in North America. It certifies that Guitet read aloud the Paris deeds of concession on site, in the presence of Charles Huault de Montmagny, lieutenant-general of New France. Also present were Huault’s lieutenant, Bréhaut Delisle; a representative of the _Compagnie de Beaupré, _François Derré de Gand; and three witnesses: Juchereau, Pierre Le Roux, and Olivier Le Tardif. Derré took possession of the seignory of the Ile d’Orléans in the name of Jacques Castillon, bourgeois of Paris, and his associates.

Although the associates were not present, the document identifies them: Antoine Cheffault, seigneur de la Regnardière and lawyer in the Parlement of Paris; Nicolas Fouquet and Jean de Lauson, Councilors of State; Georges Berruyer, sieur de Manselmont; and Jean Rozée, Jacques Duhamel, and Noël Juchereau des Chastelets, all merchants.


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