The Glamorous Lives of the Filles du Roi in New France
Between the years 1663-1673, we all missed the greatest opportunity for a reality show.
Just imagine 800-1000 women being sent from France to New France, aka Québec, to get the opportunity to not die alone and have their choice of 2500 eligible bachelors.
In case you don’t know who the Filles du Roi were, definitely watch the highly requested and very totally accurate tv series called Barkskins. You’ll get the full, historical account there.
But if you don’t have time to watch the best show ever made, the Filles du Roi, or The King’s Daughters, were a group of young women who decided that life in France sucked enough to board a ship and travel across a whole ocean to be anywhere else in the world.
Okay, and also because King Louis paid for their dowries, transportation, a place to live with the nuns, and a trunk of other goodies. So it was a big deal to get handed all of these material things and the chance at a better life.
All they had to do from there was board a ship and be at sea for months on end in terrible, disgusting conditions that would make any of us modern plebs cringe.
You think you look like sh*t after a long-haul flight?
Just imagine stepping off that ship after months of eating stale hardtack with a maggot-filled center, batting flies away from the disgusting stench your body is reeking of, sleeping on a dirty bed of straw tucked away deep in the vessel, and this guy is asking you to be his wife.
By the way, let’s have 12 kids eh? That really puts the pop in repopulation.
Luckily, the women had full control over who they married. So yes, they could actually choose a man for themselves in 1663.
The nuns also did a lot for these women. They nursed them back to health after the worst ship ride of their lives and even taught them survival skills because they were now basically in the middle of nowhere.
Okay, so were the women just told to aimlessly walk around town and find men? No. The nuns would hold social hours for them to mingle with the men.
But the men couldn’t just roll in whenever they wanted and chat up the ladies. They had to prove to the nuns that they were capable of supporting their potential wife and the army of kids they were going to have together.
After the men were approved, they were allowed to try their hand at winning over the women. Even if a man chose his Filles du Roi, she could still say, “Yeah, nope…” and refuse to accept their marriage proposal. But if she said yes, then congratulations, it’s time to get busy......signing a contract.
Now, remember, there were a lot more men than women in Québec even after the Filles du Roi arrived. So if the remaining women weren't chosen by any men or didn't find a man they wanted as their husband, they would travel upriver and have flashbacks of their previous voyage by water, to arrive in Montreal and continue this actual old-fashioned dating game.
But the men of Montreal weren’t too happy about getting the remaining women because they thought they’d have slimmer pickings in their search for an attractive wife.
So everyone got to be shallow and refuse the undesirables. Now that’s gender equality.
But what happened to the women who didn’t find a man after all of that drama?
Well, she was tried for being a witch.
Nah, just kidding: not this time.
Actually, she just lived with a local family until she found a man. Even at that point, no one was forced into marriage, which is another surprisingly progressive aspect of the 17th century’s season premiere of The Bachelorette.
From there, the rest is history. The Filles du Roi became known as the Founding Mothers of Québec. And because of them risking their lives taking that trip across the ocean, most people of French-Canadian descent can trace their family tree back to at least one Filles du Roi.
So we credit the growth of the Québec population to them. Sure, they were given an amazing offer they couldn't refuse, but some of the women didn’t make it all the way to New France. Which no one today would blame them for, but through sheer grit and a boatload of hope, the ones who stuck it out made a difference that changed the history of the province forever.
The world was their sh*tty oyster and they made the best of it by repopulating the province for generations to come and not dying alone on the streets of France.