A Blupete Biography Page


Charles de Menou d'Aulnay "STUCK IN A FRAME"
(c.1604-1650): -- CLICK HERE --

To the English at Boston, he was known as "Monsieur Donny," a no nonsense French scraper who was to be found north of them, in the lands of Acadia.

Charles d'Aulnay was born into the French aristocracy, likely at the Château de Charnisay, located near Loudon, in the province of Vienne. He, likely because he was not the first born, as a young boy, was signed over to the French navy. D'Aulnay was to spend much of his time in Paris in his early years and we see him styled in a contemporaneous document as "Councilor of the King in his state and private councils."1 It was as young officer holding a royal commission that he was, in the winter of 1631/1632, appointed to join an expedition to Acadia. This expedition was being mounted so that these North American holdings could be taken over from the English, as it was provided by the terms of The Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye that the English should hand Acadia back as conquered territory. In July of 1632, we see him land at LaHave, together with his cousin, Isaac de Razilly, the commander of this French colonizing effort, the first of any substance to come to Acadia. D'Aulnay was the captain of the largest ship of the fleet, Esperance-en-Dieu. For three years d'Aulnay worked as de Razilly's faithful lieutenant in the establishment of the LaHave colony. However a big change was to come in these early days of Acadia, a change which was to bring upset and dishevelment.

De Razilly died suddenly during December of 1635; and, in the wake of this event, there followed, on account of this leadership vacuum, the baronial battles of early Acadia. For the next 10 years d'Aulnay was to pit himself against Charles La Tour in an effort to secure control of Acadia. The baronial battles that occurred during these times are a subject I take up at another place, sufficient to say at this place that with the defeat of La Tour in Acadia, enough to say that d'Aulnay was to become the absolute ruler of most all of Acadia.

D'Aulnay married Jeanne Motin. Now, Motin had a sister, married to one of these early Acadian adventurers, Sieur du Breuil. Du Breuil was de Razilly's lieutenant at Canso. At some point a romance blossomed between d'Aulnay and Motin; and, undoubtedly, proper arrangements would have been made with her father, Louis Motin, Sieur de Courcelles, who in addition to owning shares in the Razilly-Condonnier Company, was the controller of salt stores located at one of France's colonies, I think in the Caribbean.

D'Aulnay and Jeanne Motin, it seems, were a good match to one another, for all purposes. Jeanne Motin was to totally accept her traditional position as is prescribed in a French catholic family; she gave to d'Aulnay, her first husband, four boys and four girls. As for d'Aulnay, he thought his wife, Jeanne, to be a "devout and modest little servant of God."2

It has to be said, in connection with this short sketch on d'Aulnay, that for the next five year period, 1645-1650, there took place the most substantial development in the root stock of the Acadia people. This early growth took place at Port Royal, due, undoubtedly, to the foresight and industry of d'Aulnay. After defeating La Tour in Acadia, in 1644, d'Aulnay victoriously sailed back to France. It was that following spring, in 1645, that d'Aulnay brought families over from his mother's seigneury; families that were to form the most substantial nucleus of the budding Acadian population; families from the surrounding lands located near the villages of Martaiezé, Aulnay and la Chaussée in the province of Vienne.

So, as we have seen, d'Aulnay, stationed at Port Royal, as of 1645, was the absolute ruler of Acadia with establishments at Penobscot and St. John. However his rule was not to last long.

Suddenly, when out on the River at Port Royal, he or one his friends made a sudden lurch while they all were in a small boat; maybe one was responding to a joke, or a fish on the line, who knows: in any event d'Aulnay is thrown into the water. D'Aulnay was not to be fished out of the cold water for some period of time: he died on account of the event. The loss of their leader, d'Aulnay, had to be a huge blow to this first French Acadian community.

Mrs. d'Aulnay, the invincible Jeanne Motin, like so many wives on the frontier, simply accepted this awful blow and turned immediately to the business of filling in for her husband and picked up his traces: she had eight children of her own and a French colony which needed leadership.

We can see from our larger story and my short sketch on LaTour that d'Aulnay's widow, Jeanne Motin, was, in just a little over two years after her husband's death, in 1653, to marry Charles La Tour, for the "peace and tranquillity of the country, and concord and union between the two families."

In conclusion, then: To a person who felt his hand, as did Denys, d'Aulnay was to be remembered for his "rapacity, tyranny and cruelty."3 To one historian, Hannay, he was described as being "hard and cruel and revengeful." However one might want to describe him, d'Aulnay was a man of his times and knew how to bring his dependant people under his control, so to steel them for the rigorous frontier life of Acadia as it existed in the second quarter of the 17th century.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Hannay, p. 146.

[2] MacDonald's Fortune & LaTour, p. 69.

[3] Hannay, op. cit., p. 188.

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Peter Landry
(1997)