Four gifts the Filles du Roi gave the world

For as much as today’s naysayers choose negativity about Canada's founding mothers and that history has all but forgotten them, there are indisputable facts about their achievements.

With little exception, the Filles du Roi provided robust genes for millions of North Americans who descend from them. As a testament to their strength, each one survived a treacherous Transatlantic journey with famine, lack of potable water, and exposure to deadly diseases. Moreover, of the entire 768 Filles du Roi, only 15 died within two months of childbirth (including the two among our specific Filles mentioned previously), which was a significantly lower rate than similar deaths among women in France and the rest of the colony.

We all grow up with the weight of history on us.  Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.  Shirley Abbot

1.  Good genes   — Author Aimee Runyan observed in researching her extensive thesis that since one or both parents of many Filles died prematurely from disease, then if the Filles had inherited their parents’ longevity, they would also have succumbed at similar ages. But they did not. They well outlived them, proving that their parents’ deaths were not congenital. Thus we can conclude that in general the Filles introduced hearty stock into Canada’s fledgling population upon which their descendants were able to build a highly thriving nation.

2.  Adaptability   — Another quality of these women as stated by Runyan, and one evident in the characters of Lazare and Clarice, was adaptability. Not everybody has it. The majority of girls in the Filles sisterhood were city-born in a relatively temperate France. What the king asked of them was enormous — to transplant themselves into an isolated countryside on a continent a world away. That these valiant women not only survived the difficulties this presented but ultimately blossomed in the face of such adverse conditions is hard to comprehend by any standard.

3.  Morals   — Despite the slander of our Filles by historical revisionists, and for that matter the defamation of all our ancestors in early Canada, there is another characteristic that we can attribute to the Filles du Roi without equivocation: moral integrity.

Only a very scant number of illegitimate children are reported to have been born to the 768 academically recognized Filles du Roi, and none whatsoever for the 18 from whom we descend. Historians point out that the total number of questionable births and of premarital conceptions was a minuscule fraction of those in France, across continental Europe, and among other Canadian women of the 1600s. Thus we can deduce that the religious and moral education received by the Filles before departing France for Canada was profound and had lasting consequences. Until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, Québec’s demographic remained rigidly Catholic, due in no small part to the example laid by the quality women who were the Filles du Roi and their successive families. I for one can soundly attest to that culture. I’m sure other descendants of Lazare and Clarice also remember it well. Any semblance of premarital sex, unfaithfulness, parental disrespect, lack of honour, irresponsibility, or divorce — all were sternly rebuked by our parents, aunts, uncles, and especially by grandparents who were living examples of the very culture we are discussing.

4.  Language   — Finally, it appears that Canadians have vastly overlooked the contribution made by the Filles du Roi for the French spoken throughout most of Canada today. Most women of the Filles sorority had been sourced from larger urban areas such as Paris. Thus they brought a more sophisticated version of French to our culture that superseded the regional dialects brought by their husbands and other settlers who originated in the countrysides of rural France. The result is that their children and millions of descendants who followed embraced a unique French that was similar to, yet distinct from, the French of Paris.

We need to acknowledge these contributions. They are what we are. And they shaped Canada forever.